Ritam "International Zone - A Living Image of a Human Unity"

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February 2004

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International Zone - A Living Image of a Human Unity

By Sergei Tretiakov

“The ideal would be for every nation with a well-defined culture to have a pavilion representing that culture, built in a style that is most expressive of the customs of the country; it will exhibit the nation’s most representative products, natural as well as manufactured, and also the best expressions of its intellectual and artistic genius and its spiritual tendencies. Each nation would thus have a very practical and concrete interest in this cultural synthesis and could collaborate in the work by taking responsibility for the pavilion that represents it. Living accommodation, large or small according to the need, could be attached, where students of the same nationality could stay and thus enjoy the true culture of their native country and at the same time receive at the university centre the education which will introduce them to all the other cultures that exist on earth. In this way, international education will not be merely theoretical, in the classroom, but practical in all the details of life.”

The Mother, “An International University Centre”, Bulletin, April 1952

People, who in this or that way got under the influence of the International Zone in Auroville, find themselves in a peculiar situation. They are asked to build pavilions representing in a living way cultures of their respective countries. This is one of the rare cases where Mother’s indications of what is to be done in Auroville may seem to be outdated. Pavilions of cultures in Auroville – but the world has changed, hasn’t it? What about already existing pavilions, pavilions of countries and groups of countries, at many other places of the world? What about television, internet, easy access to international travel, what about the interpenetration of cultures? All this happened in a few recent decades after the departure of the Mother. Now what can be the use of constructing all these pavilion buildings, trying to represent different cultures of the world, in a city, which is already multicultural? There is enough information on different nations and cultures, there are a lot of analogous attempts in the world. So what is the need for the pavilions and for the International Zone in Auroville?

One possible answer to this question is: “There is no need for it. The time of nations is gone – we are in another period, cosmopolitan and global. And if one wants to know about different cultures one can do it otherwise, without a need for wasting a quarter of Auroville territory for this redundant enterprise.” This solution, though clear cut and honest – if it is honest, and not used to get rid ourselves of the trouble – is somewhat unsatisfactory. Auroville attempts to be a living embodiment of human unity – as the charter says it – and probably we cannot dispense with the main representation of this aim in the plan of the city – the International Zone – without thinking twice. Also the fact that the Mother was insisting on the idea for more than 20 years (first in the articles in the Bulletin[1] and later all the way through the planning and the beginning of Auroville) can warn us against the easy solution. It seems that we have to research the question deeper and to find a deeper reason for the need for the International Zone.

Another possible – and positive! – answer is: “Mother said that we should do it. What is required from us is to execute her will thoroughly, without too much mental questioning and doubting. She will see to it that it would be a success.” If you have the faith, surrender and openness so that the Mother is able to “see to it” using you as an instrument, this is one of the best possible attitudes. But not all of us are so lucky; may be our mind is troubled by doubts or we cannot trust our receptivity. But even if you have a strong faith, a deep and clear mental understanding, if it is not too rigid, is always of help.

Here we are brought to the third possible attitude towards the problem of the International Zone, that of research. This attitude is complimentary to the previous one. And when we turn to search for a deeper meaning, for “why” and “what for” of the International Zone, wonderful revelations await us.

Education and the Auroville University

If we study the origin of the International Zone and the works of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo connected with it, one of surprising discoveries is that the idea of the International Zone is inseparably connected with education. The very first time when the Mother mentions national pavilions it is in the context of the University Centre (the beginning of 1950s). The inspiration for this University has come from Sri Aurobindo. Human unity, the main topic for the International Zone and for the whole of Auroville, had to be the main topic for the University:

A few broad ideas will serve as a basis for the organisation of this university centre and will govern its programme of studies. […] The most important idea is that the unity of the human race can be achieved neither by uniformity nor by domination and subjection. Only a synthetic organisation of all nations, each one occupying its true place according to its own genius and the part it has to play in the whole, can bring about a comprehensive and progressive unification which has any chance of enduring. And if this synthesis is to be a living one, the grouping should be effectuated around a central idea that is as wide and as high as possible, in which all tendencies, even the most contradictory, may find their respective places. This higher idea is to give men the conditions of life they need in order to be able to prepare themselves to manifest the new force that will create the race of tomorrow.[2]

After a few lines the first ever description of the pavilions of countries follows (it is presented at the beginning of this article). The Mother writes:

That is why the international university centre will be international; not because students from all countries will be admitted here, nor even because they will be taught in their own language, but above all because the cultures of the various parts of the world will be represented here so as to be accessible to all, not merely intellectually in ideas, theories, principles and language, but also vitally in habits and customs, and in all its forms – painting, sculpture, music, architecture, decoration – and physically through natural scenery, dress, games, sports, industries and food.[3]

This was the idea of the pavilions as it was expressed in the beginning. These pavilions were to constitute a large part of the University. It means that to understand the meaning of the pavilions, it can be of help to look into the idea of the University more carefully.

Attempting to establish the University Centre in Pondicherry the Mother said that this University is the one “which for years he [Sri Aurobindo] considered as one of the best means of preparing the future humanity to receive the supramental light that will transform the elite of today into a new race manifesting upon earth the new light and force and life.”[4] About the ideas which were to serve as a basis for the organisation and the programme of this university Mother says that “most of them have already been presented in the various writings of Sri Aurobindo and in the series of articles in this Bulletin.”[5] This was written in 1952. By the time the series of articles on the mind of light by Sri Aurobindo (collected later under the name “The Supramental Manifestation”) and the series “On Education” by the Mother (started in November 1950) had been published. Some other articles (probably the most important is the series “The Four Austerities and the Four Liberations”) will follow. One of the latest was “A Dream”, expressing the dream of the Divine which in 10 years formed itself into the idea of Auroville.

The idea of the University was not reserved for Pondicherry exclusively and was not limited in time by the middle of the 20th century. Regarding time Mother said that the creation of the University “may take fifty years, it may take hundred years, and you may doubt about my being here; I may be there or not, but these children of mine will be there to carry out my work.”[6] Later, after a span of 15-20 years, the idea of the University became the central one for Auroville: “The permanent university will be the key to Auroville’s raison d’être. It must be a leap forward; so that it can hasten the advent of the future, of a world of harmony, beauty and union.”[7]

The whole world of meaning is opening for the International Zone if we look at it in this aspect. Mother has given us only a brief outline and some inspirational hints and the depths we should explore and discover ourselves.

From the beginning, we have to be on guard against a mistake of identifying “the university” as it is understood and as it exists in the world today with the university (and, therefore, with national pavilions and the activities of these pavilions) conceived by Sri Aurobindo and being manifested by the Mother. The aim of education is a progressive evolution of the being, guided by the soul; in the end it is the movement which is psychic and spiritual. The activities, the nature of education, the structure of the future Auroville University for Human Unity and its national pavilions we have to discover, not to copy. It is not an easy task because:

We are not here to do (only a little better) what others can do.
We are here to do what others cannot do because they do not have the idea that it can be done.
We are here to open the way of the Future to children who belong to the Future.
Anything else is not worth the trouble and not worthy of Sri Aurobindo’s help.[8]

It looks like the Auroville adventure has just begun.

The Future of the Nations

The nation, of which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother speak, is a being with a soul – this is the next discovery. That is why we can compare a nation to an individual. Like a human being it takes birth, develops, searches for its true self - a psychic being guiding its evolution from behind the veil. The state is a mechanism, but the nation is a living being. That is why there is no danger of its being dissolved in a unified humanity: the nations are real living entities. As a nation discovers itself and begins to manifest its true self in life, the more is its real development and its input in the evolutionary pool of humanity. Real achievements of a nation have an effect on all peoples of the world.

The natural task of a pavilion in the International Zone is to look for the soul of the nation, research into it, present it – or invite it. The International Zone will fulfil its role if it will be the place where the souls of the nations will be present and help the nations to participate in the experiment of Auroville. Human beings can realise oneness only when they have found their souls and when their consciousness is spiritually transformed – all beings are one in the spirit. The nations have to do the same work – we may say even that they have to do yoga – to achieve the real unity of humanity.

The unification is therefore in the interests of all, and only human imbecility and stupid selfishness can prevent it; but these cannot stand forever against the necessity of Nature and the Divine Will. But an outward basis is not enough; there must grow up an international spirit and outlook, international forms and institutions must appear, perhaps such developments as dual or multilateral citizenship, willed interchange or voluntary fusion of cultures. Nationalism will have fulfilled itself and lost its militancy and would no longer find these things incompatible with self-preservation and the integrality of its outlook. A new spirit of oneness will take hold of the human race.[9]

Human Unity and Evolution

The idea of human unity meets us on every path we are taking in our search for the meaning of the International Zone. The University is necessary for Auroville because it is just another instrument (considered by Sri Aurobindo being one of the best means) for the work aiming at human unity.

But what does human unity mean? Why was it so strongly insisted upon by the Mother and by Sri Aurobindo? It seems that it is one of the main imminent practical aims in the evolutionary movement of the earth. It is a great signpost in the advance of humanity – real human unity cannot be achieved without spiritual transformation – and is the sign of the victory. The outward human unity – social, political, economical, cultural – is the condition allowing humanity to focus its forces on the preparation for the real transformation. Here we are approach the next broad idea of the International Zone, that of evolution.

We look at the world as it was when it came into being and as it is now and see the evolutionary movement everywhere. The evolution of matter so that life can appear, the evolution of life towards more and more complexity and towards the possibility of housing the mind, and the evolution of mind – and of the man as an edge of this movement at present – what is it pointing towards? We look at the history of humanity as a record of the gradual, even cycles of search and development, of search for something real and something greater and greater all the time. And what is the direction of our movement, if any? We are speaking about the world – what is the history of the world?

One possible outlook is that of evolution of consciousness. On a collective level, the level of humanity, every nation is trying to express itself and to make an input to the same work through its unique aspect, from its unique personality, at its particular place and time in history. All the nations are necessary for the process, all findings and all mistakes are inputs to the common pool of experience of the one soul of humanity. Nations as well as human beings can consciously participate in this evolutionary movement. We have to look into ourselves, using all the instruments we have to find the real mover and doer of the work, our real self, the spark of the Divine in us.

India gave humanity yoga as an essential tool for this conscious self-search and self-development. All modern findings of humanity should also be utilised here.

All countries are equal and essentially “one”. Each of them represents an aspect of the One Supreme. In the terrestrial manifestation they all have the same right to a free expression of themselves. From the spiritual point of view, the importance of a country does not depend on its size or its power or its authority over other countries, but on its response to Truth and on the degree of Truth it is capable of manifesting.[10]

If essentially humanity and the peoples are one, we do not have to create this oneness anew, we only have to find this deep inner oneness and realise it in life. Here in Auroville we feel that only this can bring human beings and nations a real hope for peace in the world and harmony between people and between peoples. Auroville is not an ordinary city – it is a city with a soul. This soul aspires to work for the manifestation of Human Unity.

In the International Zone of Auroville we plan to create Pavilions of different nations of the world. Each Pavilion will be expressing the contribution of the country to the evolution of the human consciousness. Another side of the work of the Pavilion is searching for and expressing the soul of the nation – the prime mover of evolution. The activities of the Pavilions are research-oriented, educational (in collaboration with the future Auroville University) and cultural. The Unity Pavilion is expected to coordinate and help the manifestation of the International Zone and to search for and represent the soul of the unified humanity.

We came to Auroville to explore this possibility of this future Human Unity. Auroville and its International Zone are inviting all nations to take part in this experiment, to help us in the movement on this particular path to the future. Here is the atmosphere and intent and capacity to facilitate the search in this direction. It is the practical research, the research in life. The International Zone in collaboration with the CIRHU (Centre for International Research in Human Unity) – the developing university of Auroville – aspires to work along these lines. We invite all countries to participate in this adventure!

  1. “An International University Centre”, On Education pp.37-42
  2. Ibid., p.40
  3. Ibid.
  4. Message of 24 April 1951, Words of the Mother - III, p.112
  5. “An International University Centre”, p.40
  6. On Education, p.112
  7. One of several quotes typed on a paper. Original language: French. Source: Auroville Archives
  8. On Education, p.113
  9. Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, p.405
  10. Words of the Mother - I, p.383

See also