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Auroville and UNESCO

by M.S. Adiseshiah, Deputy Director General of UNESCO
at the Auroville-UNESCO symposium in Pondicherry, March 1968

We in Unesco have tried other ways of living together and we have seen them ending in stark tragedy... We have tried in Unesco, in the Unesco world, which represents the plusses and minuses of humanity, which represents the world as it is, and not the world as it can be, or should be – we have tried every way, and we have failed.

And so now we turn to Auroville, and to its foundations, the firm foundation on which its human unity, its universal harmony, is to be built. That foundation is Man... Man in all his glory, in his divinity, in his unfathomable depths which he can reach, and which Auroville will make it possible for man from everywhere – from Africa, from Europe, from Asia and from the Americas – to achieve. It is not surprising therefore that Unesco has embraced Auroville as a programme which embodies its major and fundamental purposes...

Education, which is the special domain of Unesco, which deals with men's minds, with men's spirits – even education, as it has so far been practiced, has not led to peace, has not led to harmony and understanding.

The people who start wars are not the illiterate or the ignorant in Europe or America; the people who burn buses and trams in our country are not the illiterates, and since the torch-bearer of this confusion is the educated élite, Unesco's responsibility for seeing what kind of education should be developed is an urgent one. When I spoke of Auroville as being a hope, I had this very much in mind.

The Auroville system of education, by the way, is not a paper plan; it is already being worked out in the International Centre of Education of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry.

The educational system that Auroville will have, which is now already being developed and perfected, is the system in which every man, woman and child will learn to live, and live to learn, freely and harmoniously... in a world which is frighteningly progressive.

It is the Aurovilians whom I met who are the basis of my hope. They remind me of the astronauts and the cosmonauts, who as you know, spend years training themselves for the tremendous task that they have to undertake. The Aurovilians are the cosmonauts and astronauts of this new international city of hope, of development, of prosperity and of charity. And it is their spirit which I have seen for myself, the training which they are undergoing, and the concrete pilot-work which they are doing now in actually digging the foundations of this great city, that are for me the basis of what you can call my hope for Auroville.

The first task is for every member-state, and every man, woman and child in the member-state, to understand Auroville as the international city where the ideals that we have been so long seeking for, of peace and harmony, of human unity, will be realised – realised very concretely, not simply as resolutions, as declarations, flag-waving, but through the schools, through the colleges, through the workshops, through the factories, through the farms and through the international airport which will bring men and women from all over the world.

So the first thing that Unesco will help member-states do – and is already doing – is to understand the Auroville programme, and then see what of this programme would be the responsibility of a government, or an organisation, or a university, or an individual. We are proud of the fact that most of the member-states of Unesco sent part of their soil, exactly a year ago, for the foundation ceremony. That symbolic action in giving a part of their land, land over which man through the ages has fought, fought bloodily, fought at the cost of lives, in the creation of a new city is a hopeful augury of the time when Unesco and all its member-states would make their contribution – financial, material, and spiritual – for the building of Auroville.

“The world will turn towards Auroville – or rather the Aurovilles – because Auroville will have to spread. Auroville will not be confined simply to Pondicherry. It will be a world movement.”