Last week I was working in the forest, clearing up after the recent cyclonic storm. I have a low threshold for disorder so initially my energy went into furiously sawing up fallen trees and clearing away broken branches. As I worked on, however, I slowed down and gradually entered another mode. I rediscovered the skills of the kati (small hand-axe) and of the most energy-efficient way of sawing and chopping wood. I relearned the dynamics of working with unknown helpers from the local village. Above all, I discovered another kind of order that had much less to do with my ideas about neatness and decorum and more to do with something that seemed to emerge from the forest itself.
I began to feel, for example, that this particular area wants to remain wilderness, untidied, while over there that tree is calling for space; that this seeming chaos of trees, vines and bushes are at ease with each other while that innocent-looking creeper wants to strangle everything in its path. And, on a larger scale, that there is a kind of wisdom in a storm which uprooted so many trees that were non-indigenous, not fully adapted to the specificity of local conditions which require slow, unflamboyant growth and deep rooting.
In a word, I was beginning to experience the presence of the forest, something much more than the sum of its flora and fauna. I was discovering that the forest is a being with its own rhythms, its own wisdom.
It reminded me of what Mother wrote about India . India is not the earth, rivers and mountains of this land, neither is it a collective name for the inhabitants of this country. It is a living being…
And what is true of India is surely true of Auroville. I don't know how many of us relate to Auroville like this, as a living being which is something quite other than its inhabitants, forests and buildings. I can't say I do, yet my experience in the forest gave me a hint of what it might be like to live with that constant sense of presence. It's a fuller, more complete contact than is possible through the mind alone. There's a sense of deep stability, yet also of infinite flexibility and infinite wisdom in the unfolding of its manifestation. If my forest experience is anything to go by, such a contact steadies the mind and heart by tuning them to larger rhythms, larger realities.
Finally, what I understood while working in my little patch of forest was the primacy of experience over dogma and our well-meaning plans.
But how does one contact the being of Auroville? There is no road-map. If, at moments, I've had intimations they have tended to happen while I was wandering the canyons and forests. But there's no reason why it can't happen anywhere, at any time. It's a matter of listening deeply, of looking through, behind, beyond, the words and actions with which we fill our days, for something infinitely gentle, infinitely wise.
If we contact that ‘other' Auroville, who knows what will follow? But one thing is clear: once the contact is made, you no longer need guidelines or mandates or any of the paraphernalia of community regulation or control. For now you are drawing from a deeper, clearer well.