The sound of Tibetan monks chanting lovely, rhythmic prayers reaches my ears as I round the corner to go down the back path to the Tibetan pavilion. I am coming from an hour and a half massage on the beach and this relaxing music seems to be the perfect way to continue my feeling of contentment and connectedness. Tonight is very special for our little home away from home, the Tibetan Pavilion is to host “A Prayer For Unity”, a collective meditation ceremony that is usually done on New Year’s Eve. This year, however, it will take place on the night of the full moon as Kalsang and her family had to cancel the New Year’s Eve ceremony due to cyclone damage.
As I pull in to the circle driveway, I can see and feel that the place has been transformed. Children play as neighbors, friends, and members of our group fill little pots with oil and lay them on the pre-drawn patterns. Everyone is quiet and smiling, it is as if the meditation has already begun. Eager to help, I hurry to put down my things and join in the preparation. As I pour oil into the little pots alongside my friends, I can’t help but feel that I am taking part in something special. It is hard to imagine that in a matter of hours, all of these candles will be lit and there will be people meditating everywhere, joining together to welcome a new year with serenity and open hearts.
As soon as all the candles are laid out a few of us hurry to the Visitor’s Center for an early dinner. Our table is abuzz with excitement as we quickly finish our meals. We know that by the time we go back the transformation will be complete and the Tibetan pavilion will be filled with people and lit up with candles.
Coming back from dinner the road is busier than I’ve ever seen it and the pavilion is more beautiful than I could have imagined. Candles light the path from the road to the circular driveway guiding our way through the darkness. People quietly smile and greet one another as they slowly drift in to the courtyard, which is full of people sitting in different meditation poses and concentrating on transcendence.
We are so fortunate to have been able to participate in this event that is known and anticipated throughout Auroville. I ask Kalsang, our hostess at the Tibetan Pavilion, about the event and her eyes light up. She and her family started the meditation ceremony in 1997 and 2012 was the first year that it had not taken place on the new year. She explains that the ceremony is based on the Tibetan Festival of Light which takes place in October. Like many things in Auroville, it is taken from an existing tradition and made unique to fit the community. Kalsang says that she chose the new year, “to unite people in the last and first moments of the year” and that it is about togetherness and, as its name suggests, unity.
I climb to very top of the roof with some other classmates to get a bird’s eye view and the scene below is spectacular. We sit together, only speaking to one another in whispers and take in the spectacle around us. The flickering candles reflect the stars and the light of the full moon makes the sky a dusky blue. The “ohm” in the monks’ chant flows through the night air like a pulse and I can almost feel my own heart beating in time. As I gaze upon the serene group of strangers and new friends below, I think of the uncertain months to come. Like many of my classmates, the path ahead isn’t quite clear to me yet, but moments like this make me realize that wherever I go, whatever I do, I won’t be alone. We are praying for unity and we have it, at least for now.