On July 2nd Serge Brelin left his body at the age of 53. He had been suffering from a cancer of the liver. In an interview with Doris and Francis in March this year, he looked back on his life.
I first came to Auroville in 1975, from France . I was 18 years old. A friend of mine had told me about the silent mind and of a certain Sri Aurobindo. I was immediately hooked. A few weeks later I chanced on some books written by Sri Aurobindo. I did not understand anything I read, but I knew that this was what I was looking for. Shortly afterwards I came to know about a city called Auroville. Together with a friend I decided to go to India , and go to Auroville. When we arrived in India , immediately, I felt, oh, it's my home. A couple of weeks later we were in Pondicherry . I went to the Samadhi, and had a very powerful experience of that silent mind – something close to the silent mind I was reading about. The next day, we went to Auroville and stayed at Udavi for 6 months. And here, day after day, I had experiences. I would just sit down, have a cup of tea, relax, and I would have an experience. Those were perhaps the richest days of my spiritual life. Day after day, ready for anything, knowing nothing. The whole period I stayed at Udavi and didn't feel the need to visit the rest of Auroville – that happened only during the last two days. Then I left, went back to France for military service. It took me 6 years to come back.
At the end of those 6 years, it all came back to me one night. I was feeling lost, at the end of my rope – I used to live a very marginal life. At one point I couldn't take it anymore, and Auroville came back very powerfully, through books. Night after night I questioned my life. I felt an urge to go to a nearby city, which I usually wouldn't go to, and go to a bookshop. In that bookshop, I was led to a shelf where Satprem's books were stored. I bought three of them. One was The Adventure of Consciousness, and the other ones were the Trilogy on the Mother. I opened them and immediately it fell on me. The Presence. The next day I decided to pack and come back. That was in 1981.
The need to stop judging
I found a totally new situation in Auroville. My first instinct was to go to Udavi. But everything had changed due to what had happened [the difficulties with the Sri Aurobindo Society, eds.] I took sides. (laughs). I had seven very intense years. Very intense. And, yeah it is true, I think that I took a position that was, often, quite extreme. But I believed in it, very strongly. In this sense, I believe I was sincere. But at one point we had to leave, because actually we were living in a situation that was becoming inwardly impossible to bear. The perpetual tension of being in conflict with what you don't believe in, or what you thought is not right and not true, was actually becoming impossible to sustain. At that time I was living with Luisa. We took a break, in 1988.
We came back in 1991. When I was in France I sincerely tried to live my life there, live life as it is. Then I realized how much I was missing Auroville. I was missing... (laughs) oh, everything. I tried very hard to stay there, but whatever I tried to do failed. And in the meantime I reflected a lot. And I realized how my perception of Auroville, and the truth of Auroville and its ideals, were not exactly true. That something had to change, so that I could come back. And I realised that I could come back only on one condition: that I would stop judging. I felt very deeply that I had to have a positive attitude. Not in the sense of seeing everything as beautiful, but deeper than that, that the only positive thing is the divine, finally. And the rest is, well, what it is, and it can only be changed by the divine. We can contribute a bit, by lending ourselves to that consciousness and that force. But we have the tendency to make it worse by wanting to change others who do not conform to our view of the truth. I had to reflect on that very profoundly, and it became evident to me, and this is how I could come back. Otherwise I would not have come, because I could not come back and be my old self. That would not have been fair for the others, and for me. And, from the day I came back here, I have been trying to be somebody new. That has been hard work, and I'm not yet that new (laughs). There is still a long way to go.
Changing one's nature
I went through certain experiences lately, and certain challenges, which actually have confronted me with my need to change my nature radically. It's not a question of a moral choice; it's just a question that if I don't change, I will not be able to make it. It's almost a question of life or death. Not necessarily physical death, though that might also happen. Two years ago, I just felt that, well, I had come to the end of a road. That I had exhausted all that I felt was right and true. I had always been obsessed by how to manifest these ideals, so when I came back, my approach was different from the first [time], but nevertheless I was still passionate about Auroville. I am a passionate man and I tried to make this Dream alive. But again, I realized that I was trying too hard and was missing the point. Whatever I felt was right and true didn't work, again. This Auroville; where is it? This consciousness; where is it? In myself, not in the others, because this I had understood. Where is it? Again at one point I was considering perhaps that I had to leave. Not because of Auroville, but because of my incapacity to progress. I want to progress. I am here for progress. If I cannot progress, maybe it is a sign that actually I have to go somewhere else, because you can also progress outside Auroville. I was thinking since I cannot progress here anymore, maybe I have to experience the world, again, but with a new perception.
“I wasn't practicing Sri Aurobindo's yoga”
We went to the Himalayas to try to get an answer and came back with another answer which was actually (laughs) the physical challenge …[the discovery of cancer, eds.] This has accelerated the process. And it has been, actually, a blessing. It has been wonderful because in a few weeks everything has been demolished. Everything. In a few months, I had to withdraw from my work and all the collective projects in which I was involved. And again I had a few solid months to reflect, you know. And it all became very, very clear. I realized that I have been living in the ignorance for actually my whole life, and even all the years I have lived in Auroville, have been lived in the ignorance. I thought, like everybody else, that part of me is in the truth and part of me is in the ignorance, and well, let's manage. (laughs) But I realized that I was completely in the ignorance and that, after all these years, I was not practicing Sri Aurobindo's yoga. It was a fake. If you want to truly change, and if you want to make it, you have to make a quantum leap. You cannot just be happy to live and just hope that someday something will happen. This came to me very powerfully these months.
Somewhere I thought that I understood what had to be done. What was finally for me an impossibility for so many years became extremely simple. Everything is here. It's not far away, behind. And not far away, above. And with a bit of effort, it is not that difficult, if we consent to keep quiet a bit. To be in contact with what truly can manifest Auroville. So, I'm not saying I'm doing it. I just say that during all these months it appeared to me that yes, it's possible, with a bit of effort, I can do it. And it came to me very powerfully that it was possible for all of us. Because during these months, I thought a great deal about everybody. Without exclusion. I felt very close to everybody. And I said, but we can make it. It's here. It, perhaps, doesn't require much.
The possibility of a collective individuality
At one time the Mother spoke of the need to realize the collective individual, or the individual collectivity, through a fact of consciousness. During these last months, I had the very strong perception that this collective individuality is a possibility. Meaning that suddenly, we are one. You and I and others. We are one being, feeling together, thinking together, living together. I felt the very strong possibility of it. I don't know what it requires from others. I think I understand a bit what it requires from me, to actually be in a state where we are truly one. Not up there, but in our life. Meeting, working, living together. I had this very strong perception, and my feeling is that, I don't know why, this year is a very important year. I feel it's the year of unity. Of true unity. The unity in which all the opposites will be reconciled. What has hurt me the most, what has almost killed me, is the fact that we are in this constant separation, in this constant opposition, in this constant state of conflict, whether we like it or not.
Whenever you want to do something with other people, it becomes a nightmare. We all have come with the same aspiration, though maybe with a different perception and understanding. But as soon as it comes to collective organization or collective actions, we cannot make it. And this has been killing me.
I came to the conclusion that it is humanly impossible, that humans are not equipped, and need to become equipped with other tools, other organs, which will allow us to realize that unity. Our only power is the need to find that something else. Sri Aurobindo has given many names to that. But we need to make it a reality now. And my feeling is that now it is possible. Collectively.
Fulfilling Auroville's purpose
You know, the problem I had [doubts about staying in Auroville, eds.] is gone. And actually, whatever happened is not important. We are facing many problems nowadays. With our whole internal organization, with an increasing bureaucracy, with an increasing intervention of governmental agencies and governmental mindsets, but this doesn't matter to me anymore. I look at these things but don't want to react to them. I would like to call instead, each time I see these problems.
There is another thing which came to me very powerfully, and which, maybe is complementary. I realized that maybe the purpose of Auroville is not fully fulfilled. Individual work is one thing. Everyone is coming here to develop his or her personality more integrally and become more and more divine, and create a collectivity which provides a space for the individuals to grow into that higher truth. But it's perhaps not enough. Then I remembered why Mother had created Auroville. Firstly, she had this revelation of the condition of the world. She saw all nations, you know, growing on the basis of falsehood. And she saw that if they could actually come together and work together on something based on truth, that would create a human unity that would prevent another world war. Later, she had another revelation that India was a symbol of all the difficulties of the world, and that it was here in India that the cure actually could happen.
Need to recover world meaning
Lately, I've become acutely aware of the situation of the world – this question of global warming and all these things. And I saw that we were not actually the laboratory that was envisaged for Auroville where we could develop solutions to the challenges of humanity. I found that we were living in too small a village. I realized that unless we recover our world meaning, our true vocation of being an experimental field of evolution for humanity, we would not be able to truly progress. Perhaps that is the reason why we have all these interferences from the outside. This is what I feel to communicate, actually, to everybody nowadays: the need that Auroville actually grow into its truly international and universal dimension. That all nations unite around the necessity to find the next step. Because if you don't find it, there is no more Auroville. There is no more a new humanity, a new world. That, I believe, could help us tremendously. That each of us feels part of a human effort to find the next step.
You know what I truly dream... You know this expression: divine anarchy? This makes me dream…that we are all so much connected within our divine reality that we all spontaneously live a divine life, in which everybody, everything, is at his or its perfect place. This is what I dream of.
The good news is that quite a number of people I meet have had similar experiences. This gives me hope that something is happening at the level of our collective yoga, without us knowing it perhaps. What is important is a fire, an intensity. If there is fire, if there is intensity, passion, the response will be given to us. A living one, not only individually, but collectively.
We have not understood what a collective being is. Our understanding is mostly political, and that takes over. It should not. This is what I understood. A community, or a collectivity, is just a space for the individuals to grow, but in which they are all one, thus creating a being. But this being is not political. It is not something that can be expressed in institutions, in rules and regulations and all these things.
Sri Aurobindo used to say that he had repeatedly broken all that he believed was true and started afresh. Of course, we cannot undo what has been done on the ground. But we can certainly make our mindset blank. What makes us die is this constant repetition of all that we believe is true, all our habits. So if we would succeed, individually and collectively, just to make blank, to switch off, for a while, I believe that something will flow in. And that suddenly our relationship with all that is here will change, and that we will see new solutions, new ways of dealing with our so-called problems. And maybe, these problems will even vanish. But the machine has to stop. And I do believe that it has to stop first in our heads. If more and more individuals take it upon themselves to switch off the machine in themselves, something new will flow in.
Interview by Doris and Francis
An earlier interview with Serge titled “In relentless pursuit of Divine Anarchy” appeared in AVToday # 176, September 2003
Photo credit: Photo courtesy Doris and Francis