Madhukar Thompson visits enchanting Auroville
Pondicherry/Auroville, January 18-20, 2009
From a letter to a friend
“Thank you for the prompt reply with all the info on Auroville.
“Sadly, Banu does not work at the Nivas Bhavan guesthouse any longer. Furthermore, I didn’t go visit Jeanethi. Instead I stayed at the Center Guest House which is located bang in the middle of Auroville, some 500 meters from the Matrimandir. It is nestled under and around a hug, old banyan tree. It must be one of the oldest guesthouses in the “city” since a Dutch woman/coordinator is working there – she’s already been there for 25 years. And it was dirt-cheap: Rs. 500 (without attached bath room and shower) including all great and tasty meals and laundry service. Who can beat such a prize? I had a loft all to myself. The entire place was spanking clean.
“On my last day I met with Paola di Paolis at my guest house. We had lunch together. In the beginning she was a bit closed. But as soon as we spoke about Rasha’s book Oneness, she opened up (See www.onenesswebsite.com – please note that Rasha has nothing to do with the Oneness movement). More so, because I put her in touch with my Italian publisher, Laris Editrice. (He published my Odyssey of Enlightenment). I believe Paola has a very good chance of getting the book published with Paolo from Laris. She got really exited about the prospect. She is dying to get the book translated and published. Before I forget it, I am to forward to you her heartfelt greetings!
“I would like to encourage you. As you know from your own experience it is very normal to get a bit frustrated, here and then, during the writing process. Just remember you will harvest the glory once you are done. What I have heard you say about your book project sounds so good! I am certain that you will become renowned and very successful once your new book is on the market. I believe that more books will come through you. Soon you will get “pre-paid” for your work. Believe me! So please keep going a little longer.
“If I can support you in any way, please let me know. Don’t be shy to tell me how!”
From a report to a friend
Sunday, January 18
After a two-and-a-half hour bus trip I arrive in Pondicherry on Sunday, January 18 at 12 noon. First I visit Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s samadhi shrine, thanking them for creating their teaching and the beautiful ashram. Besides the usual ashram buildings (including Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s quarters), they have an exceptional cactus garden there.
After that visit I go sightseeing in Pondicherry. Pondy (as it is also known) – I mean the “white”, the French part, on the ocean side of the canal – must be one of the quietest places in all of India. As you know the streets have French names; there is French food available; one can often hear people speak French... Then I cut down to the beach which, in fact, is a kind of a slightly elevated dam. The ocean boulevard runs parallel to the ocean/beach. Here, too, there is hardly any traffic on this Sunday. The small side streets seem to be sleeping as well. Pondicherry is so laid back! I love it. Soon I am having lunch at ‘Le Café’ – the only building directly at the beach. French quiche with French fries and salad. It is delicious. I book myself for the half-day (four hour) sightseeing tour which costs 100 rupees. Part of the tour includes a visit to Auroville. (Not to speak of the cost for a taxi, a simple autorickshaw ride in Auroville costs Rs. 170!). At 16:00 I arrive at the guesthouse.
Right after signing in, I apply (via telephone) for a pass for the next day’s meditation at 9:30 am in the Matrimandir. Miraculously I manage to get one. In 1993, I had seen the Matrimandir for the first time; it was shortly after its construction had begun. Sixteen years earlier the “building” had looked very ‘Indian’, meaning, it appeared to be already old while it was under construction. But now! I couldn’t believe my eyes! What I encountered was brilliance, splendor, a gem, a diamond! Truly, the Mandir must be one of the most beautiful creations on the planet. (For details visit www.auroville.org)
Monday, January 19
My meditation is a deep and happy one. Towards the end of the session the following thought came to me: “What would happen to me if I would die at the end of this session? Let me pretend it will be so! Which thoughts will come up? What will I do with the last minutes of my life?” Interestingly I witnessed that thoughts occurred normally; nothing special appeared on the screen of witnessing. There were no “last minute things” to be accomplished, cleared or clarified. There was no panic, anxiety or last wishes. I seemed to be only interested in the actual process of the dying. I was looking forward to experience of dying. What was going to happen along with each breath? How much I wish I will be awake and aware when THE time actually arrives...!
After lunch the guesthouse’s free-of-charge bicycle takes me to the Indian Ocean. It is 7 kms east of central Auroville. Big waves await me; they are similar to the ones at my home beach, the Baldwin Beach, on Maui’s north shore. I swim and swim in the current that travels south. ‘Auroville Beach’ must count as one of the undiscovered beaches in India. Bordering the beach are Auroville-connected guesthouses like ‘Waves’ and ‘Repos’. Thatched-huts with balconies overlooking the sea cost Rs. 500 and up per day. While Auroville (and Tiru!) are alcohol- , drug- and meat-free zones, the beach serves fresh fish and at some places, alcohol. I enjoy both, an Indian Kingfisher beer and a delicious portion ‘Fish Garlic Fry’. On my way home, a few hours later, I visit several Auro communities so as to get an idea of the architectural diversity of the numerous living quarters.
Tuesday, January 20
After breakfast I pedal my way to the Tibetan pavilion in order to check out the locality which His Holiness the Dalai Lama was going to inaugurate later on. The brand-new Tibetan-style building has been tastefully decorated with huge colorful Tibetan Mandala paintings and many Tibetan flags. In a distance from HH’s throne-like seat, the area for the common public is fenced off with bamboo poles. Plastic chairs are awaiting the 200 VIPs. The ordinary people are expected to sit on the floor covered with blankets. A multi-colored tent roof provides shade. All 200-or-so nations on planet Earth are expected to build a structure on the ‘International Field’. But so far, only India, Tibet and the USA have built a presence/building.
Before lunch I check out the visitor’s center where I watch a short but beautiful video about the Matrimandir, its symbolism and function. The bookshop, boutique and café are next on my list followed by a visit to the nearly finished old people’s home at the Arka locality.
Perhaps 3000 people line up to hear the Tibetan worldly and spiritual leader speak. Each person has to pass through one (!) single metal detector. The security check slows down the movement. Some people have waited for hours in the hot sun in order to get a front seat on the floor. Therefore HH’s lecture on ‘Human Unity and Universal Responsibility’ begins late. (Please read details of the teaching at www.auroville.org ). Standing near the entrance of the venue I listen to the talk (HH was assisted by an interpreter) from a spot quite close to His seat. I must say I was much more inspired by HH’s presence than by what he had to say.
Two bus-rides later, I am back in Tiru at 21:00. I find a room in the Nilayam Niketan ashram. The next morning I move to my new home. It is located next to the Ramanashramam – on the slopes of the holy hill.