The annual meeting of the Auroville International (AVI) Centres took place at Conference Centre Venwoude, at Lage Vuursche, The Netherlands in the first week of May. It was attended by representatives of Auroville International Canada , USA , Spain , France , England , Germany , The Netherlands , and by Aurovilians and a member of the International Advisory Council of the Auroville Foundation.
Aerial view of Conference Centre Venwoude
The seven days of activities had been rigorously organized by our Dutch hosts. Information sessions on Auroville alternated with presentations of the work done by the Auroville International Centres, introductions on the significance of Sanskrit mantras, and meditations on Sri Aurobindo's Savitri. Discussions were intense and often went on late into the evening. Aurovilians Aloka and Joan guided some of the participants through ‘Awareness through the Body' sessions, which were appreciated as a timely gift from Auroville to a world desperately in need of techniques for self-understanding and observation. There was a well-organized trip to Amsterdam which included a visit to the Van Gogh Museum . All enjoyed an evening of puppetry presented by Puppet Theatre Koekla. And Nadaka and Gopika gave a concert on the theme of Shantakaram – the Sanskrit word for ‘embodiment of peace'.
One day called ‘Connectivity Day' was open to the public and it filled the room to capacity. Over 80 attendees were shown the latest videos ‘Vannakkam Auroville/Welcome to Auroville'. Auroville Radio provided a live video link between Loes Keysers and Linda-Grace Mosselman in Venwoude and Shraddhavan, Deepti and Margarita in Auroville on the theme ‘How can the Dream become reality?' concentrating on today's priorities. Lastly, International Advisory Council (IAC) member Dr. Marc Luyckx Ghisi gave a speech on contemporary capitalism and its painful transition into a post-industrial phase.
The sessions on Auroville included a presentation on the arts in Auroville with a request to the AVI centres to organize exhibitions to promote the work of Auroville's artists and photographers. A video was shown about New Creation Bilingual School and its success over the last few years. Vani spoke about the work done at Sadhana Forest and Shivaya updated the audience on work in the International Zone. The work at the new Health Centre at Kailash was explained, as well as Auroville's work for village dental projects, for which an American dentist donated $16,000. Videos on the Inuksuk and the visit of HH the Dalai Lama were screened as well as presentations on the Realization housing project.
Luigi, the Fundraising and Networking Coordinator of L'Avenir d'Auroville, gave an overview of latest developments in Auroville. He spoke about the urgent necessity to protect the lands included in the Master Plan and the need to create housing for the increasing number of people who wish to join Auroville. A major part of his presentation and ensuing discussion centred on Auroville's International Zone; are the Centres ready to actively participate in its development? This question was countered with the question ‘Is the Master Plan of the Zone sufficiently developed so that the pavilions can be built?'. “Suppose we have the money,” said Wim from AVI The Netherlands, “Can you show us where the Dutch pavilion can be built?” There was no answer to this question and a lively discussion followed. Some centres mentioned their frustration that in the past their proposal for a pavilion had been rejected. Others questioned why each country would want its ‘own' pavilion. Is this in accordance with The Mother's ideas? Is it an approach which leads to division? Should we aim at a more collective approach? Would it help if the Unity Pavilion were completed first, bringing a sense of unity?
Mia suggested we should lean more towards a living dialogue as an alternative to pavilions as the need for education in the world is of the utmost priority. “We should look towards the future, not the past. True, the Inuksuk monument is magnificent, but it does not inspire me to think of the future, which is something Mother emphasized all the time.” Someone suggested that instead of elaborate pavilions, building spiritual symbols such as the Inuksuk monument would be more appropriate and inspiring. Opinion was also divided on the different geometrical forms for the various pavilions as determined by the late Roger Anger (a square for Europe, a circle for Africa, a triangle for Asia, a hexagon for the Americas , and a mixture of a hexagon and a triangle for Oceania ).
These discussions also pointed to a change of focus for the Auroville International Centres themselves. In the early years, providing information on Auroville was a major task. But today information is extensively available on the Internet. Auroville has entered a new phase in its development now that the Matrimandir is ready, and for these reasons the Working Committee and L'Avenir d'Auroville had jointly proposed to the Centres to concentrate now on four other activities which are very much in line with AVI's previous and current efforts.
The first is to start study groups – or strengthen the groups if they already exist – to study the fundamental genius of the nation to which they belong and determine in which way one's country has contributed to the evolution of humanity. As The Mother said, “Just as each individual has a psychic being which is his true self and which governs his destiny more or less overtly, so too each nation has a psychic being which is its true being and moulds its destiny from behind the veil: it is the soul of the country, the national genius, the spirit of the people, the centre of national aspiration, the fountainhead of all that is beautiful, noble, great and generous in the life of the country.” In response to this suggestion, AVI USA said that it has plans to organize a seminar on Searching for the Soul of America next year.
The second is that all AVI Centres investigate the possibilities of helping to complete the Unity Pavilion complex, which is central to the development of the International Zone. This complex provides a space in the International Zone which everybody can use until their own National Pavilions are in place. The Unity Pavilion will also have the Hall of Peace where the Peace Table of Asia will be housed. For completing the Unity Pavilion complex, Rs 60 Lakhs (Euros 92,000, US dollars 120,000) is required.
The third request to the AVI Centres is to start identifying government and non-governmental organisations in their country which would be willing to participate in the financing of the pavilion of their country. Also, as big amounts of funding will be required for the development of Auroville – for building houses, infrastructure and institutions – each Auroville International Centre was invited to set-up a task force to identify government and/or non-governmental organisations in their country that are willing to help and sponsor the development of Auroville.
Lastly, the Centres were asked to contact universities and institutes of higher learning in their country to invite them to send their students to Auroville for internship and to initiate student-exchange programmes.
The representatives of the European AVI Centres agreed to collaborate in fund-raising for the creation of a European Plaza in the International Zone. In October 2009, a meeting on this topic will take place in Berlin , organized by AVI Germany.
In order to effectively respond to these proposals a higher level of professionalism will be required both inside and outside of Auroville. Martin Littlewood was appointed Executive Director and will act as part of a new Executive Committee to make AVI more effective and timely in its decision-making. Martin recently put together a new AVI brochure for dissemination throughout Auroville for visitors who want to work for Auroville back in their home countries. AVI will be reaching out to India and Africa in its coming meetings to empower and diversify participation. A redesigned AVI website, by Martijn Boomsma, is online at www.auroville-international.org
Finally, it was time for laurels. On behalf of the AVI Centres Wim, the Dutch AVI chairman, expressed deep appreciation to Mia Berden, who had just celebrated her 95th birthday, for all her work over the years and presented her with an Auroville-made silk stole. Wim also thanked Jan Lohman for his many years of quiet devotion and presented him with mint coins celebrating Sri Aurobindo's anniversary. Julian Lines, who was recently appointed to the IAC and was re-elected as Chair of Auroville International, remembered Ruud Lohman and thanked Jan for his family's service to Auroville. An outdoor bonfire with toasts and laughter ended a very intense week with a deep appreciation of all the hard work put in by our Dutch hosts. It was a happy ending to a very successful AVI meeting.
The participants of the Auroville International meeting. Seated in front, (from left to right): Anuradha, Devasmita, Satyakam, Dianne, Vani, Loes, Linda. Middle row: (from left to right): Francine, Sonia, Ursula Ernst, Shivaya, Kamala, Friederike, Wendy, Mia, Christian, Martin. Back row: (from left to right): Helmut, Anil (behind Sonia), Wim (behind Fanou), Fanou, Isa, Jet, Alfonso, Tekeste, Adri, Jan, Julian, Bryan.
See also: AVI Holland 2009 meeting report on our website