Aster Patel was one of the first students of the Ashram school. She grew up at the feet of The Mother, with Sri Aurobindo’s presence in his rooms. She moved into the Auroville experience in its early days and is now one of the members of the Governing Board of the Auroville Foundation.
The work of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother started almost a hundred years back. The Ashram was the centre of the action of the Force They brought down, of the experiment they were making, of their work for a new step in evolution. The Ashram, in their words, was a laboratory of people gathered around them. I was amongst the first group of very young ones who joined the Centre of Education started by The Mother. With Her, we children had a personal contact several times a day. I had the immense grace to have Sri Aurobindo's darshan for several years.
As I grew up in the Ashram, I saw how Mother created each department and activity, how She was physically present in each place, and how meticulously She ensured the running of each department, getting daily reports. These departments were imbued with Her Presence and sense of perfection. Their outer activities developed slowly and gradually and as the inner fullness of experience of the people progressed, the outer activities did so as well.
The descent of the Supermind in 1956 was a very great turning point in our young lives. Not long afterwards, we saw tremendous changes in the world. The big upheaval of values, ideas and perspectives of Europe exploded in May 1968, when a whole world of young people looked for something new. A few months earlier Mother had founded Auroville, a spiritual environment, another quality of ‘space', where the young could come and work and experiment with new structures of life. It was, perhaps, a pre-vision, an earlier action and it was amazing that the two dates are so close.
Auroville was very fragile in those early days. Mother wanted it to find its own moorings. There were lots of problems – but they helped Auroville to find its own base. But how many times was Auroville nearly wiped out! And why, I wondered, did Mother create Auroville so close to the Ashram?
My answer to these questions is that the deep concentration of Force and spiritual energy that are present in the Ashram has sustained Auroville and helped it to grow. If the ‘well' of Consciousness there was not so deep, Auroville could not have flourished. Auroville is an out-flowing of what is held there in the Ashram. Without that source, Auroville could never have got started; and without that inner connection, Auroville could never have been sustained.
When I look at the world now, I see a tremendous change taking place due to the presence and the dynamism of a Supreme Action. People all over the world are looking for new ways to live, new ways to be, very much what we are trying to do in Auroville. For those who have read about Sri Aurobindo's work, the changes are obviously the result of the Supramental Action spreading over the world, due to the work of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. ‘Evolution of consciousness' are no longer foreign words, they are being used everywhere now!
In Auroville, I witness an increasing stability since some time. I have a sense of fullness about the experiment. If we are facing a lot of problems on the surface, it is perhaps because they were hidden and are now thrown up into the limelight because the time has come for things to change. Naturally one thinks about the need to become that ‘willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness' mentioned in Auroville's Charter. It means that Aurovilians have to actively pursue ‘freedom' in the spiritual sense: freedom from the ego, from desire, from one's own natural propensities, from one's mental preferences, and to intensify their understanding of why they are here. For Auroville to grow, it needs to turn its attention to the deeper consciousness within at the same time as it sends out widening ripples around the world. Only so can it effectively change its structures of life and move closer to the ideals expressed by The Mother.
The Ashram and Auroville are creations of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother – founded by them – to take evolution further. The Ashram has a solidity of inner consciousness and a deep reservoir of spiritual energy, so deep that it cannot be sounded. My experience of meditating near the Samadhi is of reaching out to that essence, which touches the psychic in you directly. The mighty Presence of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother seeps into one's being – as concretely as can be.
In Auroville, Mother has created a world setting, a total setting of life in all its aspects, with an incredible diversity of people. Meditating in the Chamber has given me a different experience than at the Samadhi – there is a transparency of consciousness in which a certain action takes place.
The Ashram and Auroville complete one another at the level of consciousness, experience and action. The Ashram takes one to the depths, Auroville to the wideness. There is a ‘sense of matter' in the air of Auroville, which is original. If totality is what one seeks, the path is incredibly rich – and one is deeply grateful.