Aspiration (community)

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(Janaka:) “We were in mid July '68. Then came the project of a caravan of cars and vans to bring tools and equipment to start the first community in Auroville. Vincenzo, coming straight from Pondicherry, was the person in charge. I was asked if I wanted to join the caravan. Naturellment! We were to leave Paris on the 15th of August 1969.
         It took us a few months to purchase secondhand vehicles, to repair and paint them. On the 14th of August at exactly midnight, the caravan started from the Place des Invalides in Paris. Sixteen crazy people, most of whom had never opened a book by Sri Aurobindo or the Mother, and who hardly knew each other, pretending to themselves they could build a shelter for aspirants to superhumanity!
         How!? Forty-eight days later, after twelve thousand km through roads, dirt tracks, deserts, accidents, incidents and conflicts, we at last were driving on the last straight stretch of road from Tindivanam to Pondicherry. We could see the end.
         We thought we would have to sleep in tents, but to our great surprise real huts, brand new huts, were waiting for us in a community which later would take the name of ‘Aspiration’. There, five or six Aurovilians lived and worked, among them Bhagwandas (Jean-Pierre in those times) and Claudine. The collective experiment was starting. It was not easy! God, you should have seen us! Who wants to cook? Who wants to wash the plates? Nobody? “I want freedom,” “Don't order me around, please!” Two groups formed, the ‘vital people’ and the ‘supramental people’. We, the builders of a new world? Really?
         The Mother had to intervene. Work was going to become the cement of our unity. Individual and collective work. Projects were plentiful: a road from Kuilapalayam to Pondy beach road, a macramé workshop, a metal and fiberglass workshop, an engineering workshop, a kindergarten, etc.
         My birthday was getting close. Soon I would be 28 years old.”[1]

(Bhagwandas:) Until the arrival of the caravan it was a pretty easy life. We were waiting for its arrival, waiting for the beginning of the adventure of a collective life. But after it arrived, we went into a free fall. These people had come full of inter-relationship problems, they were very tired. The material conditions were difficult. We did not have even a collective kitchen. There was no fence – we did not want fences – so all the ladies of the village going to fetch water every morning would peep into the huts... There was no nature even. We would plant a few trees and then the goats would come and eat everything. Only parrots passed through the sky. They could not even stop anywhere, there were no trees to sit on. So there were no birds. It felt as if we were descending into the cave age. Nobody was there to guide us. Of course there were Mother's writings, but practically, what should be done? We sometimes spent entire nights discussing how we should organise ourselves.
         Some of us said, “We should go and see Satprem, maybe he could give us some advice.” We went one evening. He stayed silent, then looked at us one by one, and just said, “I cannot, it is not my work.”
         We wrote to Mother with our questions. The following day she asked us to come. Our first question was about work. There was pressure from people [Navajata, Shyamsundar and Roger Anger in particular] that we should set up businesses, earn money, that everybody should work in a productive unit. But it did not correspond to our inner aspiration and we felt ill at ease. We did not want to be obliged to do certain things. It did not mean that we did not want to work; most of the people were ready to work. So we (three of us, Christof, Alain M. and me) went to see Mother and she gave us the first answers. Her answers were deeply satisfying, because she could harmonize the need for the things of the spirit with the need for common sense. First of all she insisted on the fact that we had to be very clear about what we wanted. Our objectives had to be clearly defined. Mental clarity was indispensable. The quality of the action would depend on how clear our goal was. Then she said that each one had to find what he needed to accomplish: some will build houses, some will plant flowers, some others will work in an enterprise, others still with cycle or will work on their body. The importance was no in what we did, but in the attitude with which we did it. Each of us had to have the freedom to express his inner aspiration in the work he did, so this work would help him to get to know himself and evolve. The third element in her answer was the harmonization: To harmonize the different motivations so that the result of the action, if it was a collective, would be as efficient as possible.
         Later I realized that first she always gave an answer at the highest level, addressing conscious beings. But in the reality, when, after some time, again concrete problems were presented to her, obviously then she would say, “All right, si vous en êtes encore là, then we have to have rules.” Otherwise it will be chaos. So at the end, she remarked that each Aurovilian had to give a minimum of four hours work to the collective – which was not the case at the beginning. There had been too many abuses. The same thing happened in relation to drugs. At the very beginning, she was counting on people who were coming more conscious, with inner maturity, people for whom the inner work, the yoga, would come first. In that case obviously outer rules would have been unnecessary.”[2]

(Gérard Maréchal:) “Twice or thrice I went with the Aspiration group to meet Mother. One day we were sitting around her and she asked, “So, what about mental silence? What have you achieved? Have you succeeded?” We were stunned (laughs). She laughed. But even then already she wanted us to be able to go far. In front of her I was on another planet, there was no... It was very difficult to ask questions, it was so powerful. It was as if time stood still. I would emerge knocked out.”[3]

(Gérard Maréchal:) “One must say that at that time in Aspiration we were going round in a circle. We didn't have much to do. Planting trees, cooking breakfast, cooking lunch, cooking dinner... We didn't know what to do. There was no money, there was nothing. We were just tinkering about. At a certain point the need to do something was felt. I think it was Rod who expressed this [to the Mother]: what can we do in order to be together (because we were disseminated a little everywhere)? So that there would be some unity? She said: Matrimandir has to be built. She was preparing.”[4]

  1. Turning Points: An inner story of the beginnings of Auroville, First Edition, p.27, “What is Truth?”
  2. Ibid., p.46, “On the edge of another world”
  3. Turning Points: An inner story of the beginnings of Auroville, Second Edition, p.18, “So, what about mental silence?”
  4. Ibid., p.19