A photo of a stone-slab painting of Sri
Aurobindo published on the front page of our August issue brought
a number of objections from foreign subscribers, varying from
publishing religious kitsch to harming the work of the AVI Centres.1
It was a surprise. None of the Auroville Today editors had raised
any objections to the proposed publication of the photo of Emanuele's
rock-slab painting, which was judged as 'beautiful, a bit like
an early Renaissance miniature.' The notion that it might be considered
a religious picture didn't occur. Have we, the editors, become
Indianised? For none of our Indian readers raised a concern and
perhaps not even an eyebrow as living with images of gods and
goddesses or of swamis and yogis is such a daily occurrence. In
the West, however, it is different. It is a common experience
for all those who endeavour to raise funds for Auroville's projects
that one has to be careful in describing the city's spiritual
aims. Funding agencies, particularly Western funding agencies,
take a somewhat jaundiced view of anything that might appear a
cult. So do income tax authorities in some countries. A few years
ago, Auroville International Germany successfully defended in
court that Auroville is not a sect, in order not to lose the income
tax exemption German donors enjoy for donations to Auroville projects.
The times are changing. A number of large foreign institutions
such as the Indo-Canadian Environment Facility and the European
Community are now funding Auroville projects. And during the recent
presentation of Auroville at UNESCO no issues were raised when
Dr. Kireet Joshi and Dr. L.M. Singvhi talked about the spiritual
aims of Auroville and the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and The
Mother. For Auroville's unusual aims and ideals do not make it
a religion, even though there is a tendency amongst Aurovilians
to frequently quote what Sri Aurobindo and The Mother have said
and to widely display their photos.
The Inner Divine
It all starts, of course, with The Mother's statements. Her first
public message on Auroville, on September 8, 1965, seems
innocuous enough for all those who are averse of any form of religiosity:
Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of
all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony,
above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities.
The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity. 2
Striving for human unity, after all, is now a universally accepted
creed so this message doesn't meet with objections. It might if
it was known how exactly The Mother envisaged that human unity
should manifest. As early as 1912, Mother wrote in the essay An
Ideal Society that human unity is to be realised "through
the awakening in all and the manifestation by all of the inner
Divinity which is One. In other words - to create unity by founding
the Kingdom of God which is within us." Among the most useful
works to be done She listed 1) For each individually,
to be conscious in himself of the Divine Presence and to identify
with it; and 4) Collectively, to establish an ideal society
in a propitious spot for the flowering of the new race, the race
of the Sons of God. 3
So when Mother laid down, in 1967, the 'conditions to live in
Auroville': 1. To be convinced of the essential unity
of mankind and to have the will to collaborate for the material
realization of that unity; and 2. To have the will to
collaborate in all that furthers future realizations,
She essentially gave as condition the need to become conscious
of the Inner Divine - the psychic being. This was made more explicit
in the first line of Auroville's Charter: 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.5 And she added to Satprem,
when writing down this first line "They are all going to
wince at "Divine", but I don't care! You know, it's
the explanation of the Matrimandir at the centre. The Matrimandir
represents the Divine Consciousness. All that is not said, but
that is the way it is." 6
In numerous other statements She told Aurovilians to find their
psychic being, be guided by it so that the ego's authority and
influence can disappear.7
The Ideal Society
The need to create an ideal society is also amongst Auroville's
ideals. In a message for a UNESCO committee Mother wrote:
"The task of giving a concrete form to Sri Aurobindo's vision
was entrusted to the Mother. The creation of a new world, a new
society expressing and embodying the new consciousness is the
work she has undertaken. By the very nature of things, it is a
collective ideal that calls for a collective effort so that it
may be realized in the terms of an integral human perfection.
The Ashram founded and built by the Mother was the first step
in the accomplishment of this goal. The project of Auroville is
the next step, more exterior, which seeks to widen the base of
this attempt to establish harmony between soul and body, spirit
and nature, heaven and earth, in the collective life of mankind."
Earlier She had said that Auroville was meant to be "the
cradle of the superman"9, the transitional being between
mankind and the supramental being. And in December 1972 She wrote:
"Auroville has been created for a super-humanity, for those
who want to surmount their ego and renounce all desire, to prepare
themselves for receiving the supermind. They alone are true Aurovilians."
"(Auroville) is a centre for transformation, a small nucleus
of men who are transforming themselves and setting an example
to the world. That is what Auroville hopes to be."10
In numerous writings and discussions She explained how such an
Ideal society could take form at the level of education, economics
Quoting and photos
The profound ideals expressed by The Mother are often quoted by
those who endeavour to manifest them wholly or partly, or just
to corroborate their own ideas. This is not to the liking of all
Aurovilians. One reason is probably the large gap that exists
between where we are and what She envisaged and our inability
to find ways to bridge that gap - or even to foresee a step-by-step
approach. Another reason might be that excessive quoting serves
as a constant reminder what we are here for and prevents us to
accept approaches that might be satisfactory in others, less idealistic
For some people another sensitive issue is that of seeing Sri
Aurobindo's and The Mother's photographs all over the place. This
issue became a topic of a wider debate when someone raised the
question if in the Town Hall Their photographs should be displayed
in the lobby or be restricted to the workplace of the individuals.
Given the fact that there is hardly any place in the Town Hall
which does not offer a prime view on the Matrimandir - literally
meaning The Mother's Shrine - the question is perhaps a bit overdone.
The responses varied from "These photos carry the Force in
them …. All those horrible meetings, I had to submit to in the
past four years have often been softened by Their presence on
a nice large picture in this or that office, which would come
as a refreshing reminder that something else than our petty quarrels
exist on earth." "Each picture carries a distinct vibration
and creates a very harmonious atmosphere, which helps a lot in
the place where you work." "What do outsiders know or
care about Mother and our relation to Her and why should we care
about what they think of us?" to "There should be no
big pictures of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo in public places.
We don't want to encourage or give the impression of religion."
The issue has not yet been resolved.
This question is not a new one. In May 1970 Mother spoke to Satprem
about what happened in Auroville.
"They have gatherings in Auroville, at 'Aspiration'; I think
it's meditations, or something of the sort, I don't know. One
of them came and put my photo; so another rushed to his room and
came back with a cross!... And he said, 'Well, if you put a photo
of Mother, I'll put my cross.' They told me that story… Afterwards
there came a whole series of things." She proceeded to write
a note on Auroville and the Religions11 and define the
word 'religion' a few days later.12 And when, a few months
later, a French disciple intended to distribute a reproduction
of the portrait he did of The Mother, She cautioned: It would
be better not to introduce in this gathering anything personal
that might suggest the atmosphere of a nascent religion."13
Let's finally have a look at what Mother replied to a question
Question: Many people say that Sri Aurobindo's teachings
are a new religion. Would you call it a religion?..
Mother to Satprem: "You understand, I began to fume! I wrote:
'Those who say that are simpletons and don't even know what they're
talking about! It is enough to read everything Sri Aurobindo has
written to know that it is IMPOSSIBLE to found a religion upon
his writings, since for each problem, for each question, he presents
all aspects and, while demonstrating the truth contained in each
approach, he explains that to attain the Truth a synthesis must
be effected, overpassing all mental notions and emerging in a
transcendence beyond thought…Let me repeat that when we speak
of Sri Aurobindo, it is not a question of teaching nor even of
revelation, but of an Action from the Supreme; upon this, no religion
whatsoever can be founded.'
This is the first blast.
The second is: 'Men are such fools' (laughing: it doesn't get
any better!) 'that they can change anything at all into a religion,
so great is their need for a fixed framework for their narrow
thought and limited action. They don't feel secure unless they
can affirm: "This is true and that is not" - but such
an affirmation becomes impossible for anyone who has read and
understood what Sri Aurobindo has written. Religion and yoga are
not situated on the same plane of the being, and the spiritual
life can exist in its purity only if it is free from all mental
People must really be made to understand this.
They are all always ready - even in the Ashram - ready to create
a religion." 14
If any legal proof would be required that
Auroville and the teaching of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother represent
no religion, there is the verdict of the Constitution Bench of
the Supreme Court of India on 8 November 1982 in the Auroville
case "…there is no room for doubt that neither the Sri Aurobindo
Society nor Auroville constitute a religious denomination and
that the teachings of Sri Aurobindo only represent his philosophy,
not a religion…"
Auroville and the Religions
We want the Truth.
For most men, it is what they want that they label truth.
The Aurovilians must want the Truth whatever it may be.
Auroville is for those who want to live a life essentially
divine but who renounce all religions whether they be ancient,
modern, new or future.
It is only in experience that there can be knowledge of
No one ought to speak of the Divine unless he has had experience
of the Divine.
Get experience of the Divine, then alone will you have the
right to speak of it.
The objective study of religions will be a part of the historical
study of the development of human consciousness.
Religions make up part of the history of mankind and it
is in this guise that they will be studied at Auroville
- not as beliefs to which one ought or ought not to adhere,
but as part of a process in the development of human consciousness
which should lead man towards his superior realization.
Research through experience of the
A life divine
Our research will not be a search
effected by mystic means. It is in life itself that we wish
to find the Divine. And it is through this discovery that
life can really be transformed. 11
|We call religion any concept of the
world or the universe which is presented as the exclusive
Truth in which one must have an absolute faith, generally
because this Truth is declared to be the result of a revelation.
Most of the religions affirm the existence of a God and the
rules to follow to obey Him, but there are also Godless religions,
such as socio-political organisations which, in the name of
an Ideal or the State, claim the same right to be obeyed.
Man's right is a free pursuit of the Truth with the liberty
to approach it in his own way. But each one must know that
his discovery is good for him alone and it is not to be enforced
1 See Avtoday September 2003 p. 7; 2 8 September 1965, Collected
Works Mother (CWM) XIII, p. 193; 3 7 May 1912, CWM, II, 47 - 48.
The other two works are: 2) To individualise the states of being
that were never tilv l now conscious in man and, by that, to put
the earth in connection with one or more of the fountains of universal
force that are still sealed to it; and 3) To speak again to the
world the eternal word under a new form adapted to its present
mentality. It will be a synthesis of all human knowledge.;4 CWM
XIII p . 198; 5 CWM XIII p. 199 - 201;6 Mother's Agenda (MA) Vol.
9 p. 52; 7 see for example To Be a True Aurovilian, CWM Vol XIII
p 213.;8 CWM XIII p. 210, written in 1969; 9 CWM XIII p. 197;
10 CWM XIII p. 223; 11 MA Vol 11, May 2, 1970 p. 170 - 181 and
CWM XIII p. 212.;12 MA Vol 11 May 13, 1970 p. 1188, CWM XIII p
213.;13 MA Vol 11 May 2, 1970 p. 170 footnote; 14 MA April 29,
1961, Vol II p. 190 - 191.