Auroville as a Religion

By: Vanessa Charlot 

So I will admit that I came to Auroville having done no research on this utopian township that I didn’t even know existed. Needless to say, it is quite a mind-blowing experience coming to Auroville for the first time with no prior knowledge. Throughout my childhood, my parents used to tease me about how I didn’t like to leave my “happy place.” Happy place can be defined (by me) as a hypothetical space where you and all the people around you are always happy. Who would want to leave? But reminiscing on the ease in which a child can put all the negative factors of life aside and find the beauty, joy, and tranquility in the moment; I found this same notion to be my immediate impression of Auroville. Could Auroville be the world’s happy place?

Auroville for Dummies:

  • Experimental township in southern India
  • Founded by Mirra Alfas aka “Mother” in 1968
  • Intended to be a universal town for men and women from all countries to live in progressive harmony  
  • Purpose is to realize the power of human unity
  • Four point-Charter/vision for Auroville
    • Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville, one must be the willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.
    • Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
    • Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.
    • Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual Human Unity
  • Matrimandir, a very large golden metallic sphere, is at the center of Auroville and serves as “a symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection.
  • Aurovilians must let go of all pre-existing beliefs and surrender to divine consciousness

matrimandir

The points listed above are some of my key take-aways regarding Auroville in my first few days of being here. And much to my surprise all of the Aurovilians I’ve met embody the Charter as well as this zen, self-conscious, “happy place” vibe. But as I spend more time in Auroville, being open to everything this township has to offer, I find myself drawing very clear parallels between the culture of this idealist community and religion.

Exhibit A – They call her the Mother.

Americans don’t call George Washington the Father, but Christians call their God the Father. Not only do they call her Mother but I have frequently heard “the divine Mother.” Definition of divine? Of or like God.

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Exhibit B – Mother’s photo is in roughly 99.99% of the establishments I have been in.

Grocery stores, restaurants, bookstores – everywhere! In many Christian countries, homes, and establishments, it is common to see a cross or image of Jesus Christ on the wall, the same way Mother is mounted on the walls of Auroville.

Exhibit C – Aurovilians worship Mother

The way I have heard Aurovilians talk about Mother suggest that she is more than just the founder of this township. For example when we listened to a presentation from one of the founders of the Probiotics House, she referenced Mother as some sort of higher power on multiple occasions. She even mentioned how Mother spoke to her in a dream once. Divine intervention?

Even at the guest house where we are staying, there’s a new Mother quote on the chalkboard in the common area everyday.

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It’s quite ironic that a community that is seemingly anti-religion can be interpreted as a sort of informal religion. But contrary to popular opinion that one should not practice any sort of religion in Auroville, I was informed of a conversation someone had with Mother regarding the matter. Early in our trip I spoke with an Aurovilian man and told him about my anti-religion impression of the community. He told me about someone he met in Auroville shortly after he arrived about 30 years ago. She was a practicing Muslim but wasn’t sure if she could practice in Auroville, so she went to talk to Mother directly. Apparently Mother told her “why not?” and continued to say that if it helps you and your inner consciousness then it’s fine, but don’t let it limit you.

Is her intended message about religion getting lost in translation?

“But to live in Auroville, one must be the willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness”

– The Mother

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