The Creation of the Aura (Radio program)
Rebecca: Ok, so I'm here with B today ‒ I'm at the Matrimandir, it's a gorgeous day today. So hello, B.
B: Hello, nice to see you here.
- So B, just tell me a little about Auroville's new currency, the Aura ‒ basically, like, where it's gone from the last time that there's been an update on this whole project ‒ and what's happening today, since just at the turn of the year it was introduced.
Right. It was introduced on 01-01-12. And the situation is that we had the cyclone (!), as everybody knows. So that also impacted the Aura as well. The whole focus of the community, of course, shifted to the cyclone recovery; and even the Financial Service was very stressed at that time. So they were not very open to, you know, introducing something new at this point. So they wanted to take some time.
So ‒ but Otto was very good about it, and he said that he would keep the Auras with him, at his desk, so that if anybody wanted to get some Auras, they could go just to his desk and take care of it. And there is an Aura account; it's open and functioning in the Financial Service. So, administratively, it's totally set up as far as Financial Service. It's just that if you go to the front counter, and you ask them about Auras, they won't ‒ they're not informed, or they don't have them, but just go around and talk to Otto, and you can get your Auras.
But the Auras, of course, many people still have many questions about them. And they don't know the background of how Auroville has really struggled ‒ I would say from its very beginning ‒ to do something about an ‘Auroville bank’, a way to deal with money. And Mother's messages about money and all these things have always been (almost) in many people's minds. But we've never been able to do something. Many great attempts were made by Olivier and other people; but to actually get it happening in a real sense ‒ where you had a piece of paper that was something, that had some value ‒ we finally could get there. And it's not a big step; but still for most people, the money thing is very connected to their ‘survival’. And they're so habituated by conventional use of currencies that to shift out of that mode seems to be really hard for people. Even though it's happening, generally in the world, more and more ‒ there are the ‘new towns’, the so-called ‘Transition Towns’; there's the Toronto Dollar, and in Ithaca (Ithaca, New York) they have a currency. All those places.
But this, technically, is not a currency. It is not a currency; it's not an alternative kind of something. It's a totally Aurovilian concept. And it's based on shifting our attitudes about money, and that money doesn't rule our lives. Because an alternative currency is just another currency ‒ you're still in the same boat, in the same attitude. So this was to shift to values that we relate to.
So the Aura is made out of paper ‒ waste paper ‒ from Auroville, that would have ended up probably in the landfill. And it was recycled by Auroville Papers, and made and printed at the Auroville Press. And on the Aura itself are our symbols: we have the Banyan Tree on one side, and we have the Urn on the other. Then we have of course Mother and Sri Aurobindo's symbols, and the Auroville symbols are all there. And a quote from Savitri is on that little piece of paper.
So it's something very Aurovilian. Now in order for people to accept it, we had to give it a value that they could relate to. So that is the rupee value. And also we have to be careful in the Indian context, with legalities; because the government ‒ any government ‒ is very sensitive to anybody printing something that resembles currency. So this is more what you would call a ‘gift card’. So it's a debit gift card. And debit cards are common enough all over the world; and in India debit cards, credit cards are used everywhere. So we should put it in that category; it's just that it's an impersonal one. In the sense that you can give it to anyone, and then anybody who will accept it in Auroville can use it. You know: anybody providing a service, or some goods or whatever; shops.
And what has happened though, in the last months, is that because of the cyclone, there's only a few places that you can go right now that are really familiar with it. Like for example, the raw food restaurant in Kottakkarai ‒ Nandini's place [Satchitananda Raw Food Restaurant]. There's a little sticker right on the back of her computer, where you're standing there to pay your money, and it says “Aura sharing”. And it's got a little logo that is from the actual piece of paper.
So, other places, like the Visitors' Center ‒ everything is under consideration there. I have talked to Nicole and others, and everybody is still trying to figure out exactly how they're going to do it. And several other people I've talked to would say, ‘oh yeah, wait until (this guy) comes back, or until we have this set up...’ And so...
I want it to be ‒ not managed by me. Or anybody else. I mean it's part of our financial system. It gives everyone an alternative to using other currencies. Of course we have our number system, which is already good. But if you need to give something in paper, you can use this paper. And people can give it as a birthday present... and some people, like Daniel at Tanto Pizza, he has an idea, and I think it's a great one (it's his idea) ‒ is to offer an ‘Aura meal’, so that you can come in with your Aura and have your pizza. You have a whole meal just on that.
So to try to de-link it from a particular value ‒ it is now valued at 100 rupees. So to get one, you need to deposit a hundred rupees in the Financial Service, in the account, and they will give you as many Auras as you would like. And those rupees are kept in the Aura account.
So then those Auras will circulate back and forth, and if somebody wants to opt-out of the system ‒ doesn't want to continue to use the Aura ‒ they can always take it back to the Financial Service, and say, “look, I have this Aura; I don't want to use it anymore; I don't want to give it to anybody. I want my 100 rupees back!” And they will get it.
So you see, there's no risk. This thing is basically foolproof. And it's just something to help us in our discussion and in our evolution to get to a truer understanding about exchange, and value, and money, and economy. And this is a result of a lot of other trials and errors; so now we have it. Here it is!
- Great! Great, so, just as a last question: what is your hope for the Aura, as far as its own evolution?
Okay. I don't really have any hopes for it. What I do is ‒ I want it to be used as driven. I want somebody to take an Aura and say, “my God, what is this thing?” And then think through what it means. And then they will come up like Daniel did: “Okay, I offer a meal for this.” Or somebody who gives massages says, “I'll give massages for an Aura.” Or haircuts, or anything. Something like that. Or somebody goes to see people and asks about change ‒ you know, change back from a hundred. Say you're considering it to be 100 rupees; you go to a shop, and your bill is 285 rupees. So do you want your 15 rupees back? Or would the merchant give you the 15 rupees? Or you give him 300? Whatever ‒ that's for you to negotiate, between you and the person.
So it completely gets out of an administrative procedure; it gets into the hands of the people, and they can do with Auras whatever they want. Some people might just hang them on the wall! Who knows.
- Keep them in their wallet!
Yeah, in their wallet! Or give them to their children, or their parents, or their friends. Or anything, you know ‒ it's another symbol. And how Auroville is all symbolic: Matrimandir, a symbolic structure that's trying to raise some kind of change in consciousness. This is another symbol ‒ it's just paper, but it's our paper. It's recycled paper. And it's artistically done, and it has the symbols that we recognize. And so let's exchange those values. So that it's more comfortable.
And of course it keeps everything local ‒ it keeps everything in Auroville. And it can work. And you never know about the International Monetary Fund ‒ the whole thing might collapse any day! But the Aura, we have it.
- (Laughter) That's true. That is very true. Well, awesome. Thank you for your time.
Thank you so much.
- You're welcome.