Shakti joined Auroville in 1994 and worked for the Visa Service and the Solar Café. Here she tells of her story and shares her perspectives on what it means to belong to the Auroville community
My daughter Olga was only eight. One morning, when I was preparing to go to work, she said ‘Mama, you are Shakti.' I was surprised and asked her what she meant. She replied that it was written on my forehead. I smiled, and then forgot about it.
Three years later I came to Auroville. I went to the Entry Group. Someone asked me if I had a Sanskrit name. I said no, my name is Tania. But I had hardly stepped outside when the name ‘Shakti' struck me like a bolt from the blue. I phoned my daughter, who was still in the Ukraine . She immediately confirmed that she had called me Shakti so many years earlier. And I understood that something in my life was changing and that I was being blessed though this name. It was like an initiation for coming to Auroville.
I had grown up in Uzghorod, in the former USSR , a small mountain town on the border of Hungary and Slovakia . We led a basic type of life, but with a beautiful exchange of people who all lived in similar conditions. It was a bit like a community. I had studied accounts at the local university. I. got married early, and my daughter Olga was born.
But something, unconsciously perhaps, was looking for deeper things. Then my brother Vladimir, who was studying Sanskrit at the Leningrad University , showed me some translated works of Sri Aurobindo. This had been done illegally. The translations had been copied by hand or on old typewriters, and were circulated as sacred and very precious documents.
They opened a door deep down in me. Somebody had given answers to basic questions of life. Then, one day in 1988, the paper of the communist youth union, the Komsomolskaya Pravda, published an article about Auroville. It became my dream. How could I get there? We couldn't even go over the nearby border to Hungary . So I sat with my friends and talked about how this place would be…everybody at 7 a.m. would go to the Matrimandir, wearing white clothes, and meditate, and people would only speak about beauty and live in peace … and we were dreaming like that for hours.
Meanwhile Vladimir went to Pune University in India to get his diploma. We did not hear from him for over a year. Then, one day, I suddenly got his phone call: I am in Auroville, you can come! I was too stunned to speak. At the time, my life was in turmoil. I had separated, and this and other issues had brought me to a point of desperation. I was willing to die. I had prayed to The Mother to please let me go … and then it happened! She took me in her arms and all the barriers suddenly gave way–– I got a visa, obtained a ticket and flew down.
Entering Auroville felt like entering a vibrating presence. For months I stayed indoors, getting used to that vibration, the climate and all those Indians and other foreigners. They did not wear white clothes, but there was often an unusual depth to the people I met–– the Russians first, of course, as I hardly spoke English. The experience was overwhelming, and it became clear that Auroville was my path.
I returned to the Ukraine to collect my daughter and move to Auroville permanently. Though Olga had at first been frightened of joining me––the snakes and all that––she now was determined to go, as I had often written to her how beautiful Auroville was and about the birds and the flowers and the friendly people. But I had not anticipated the resistance I would meet back in the Ukraine from people who did not want me to go. In fact, if it had not been for Olga's persistence, I might not have returned to Auroville. But she pulled and pushed me to come to Auroville––even if all I could carry with me was a single towel and her bag of toys.
I've been living in Auroville now for about 12 years. And I am slowly beginning to understand what it means to belong to the Auroville community. This is no longer an abstract concept, but a strong reality––though perhaps more on an energetic than on a physical level. We all are small parts of one mechanism which is finding its way. It is like the cells of a body. If everything is in place, the body is healthy. If some part is ill, all the other cells have to give energy to the sick part, so that the body can become healthy once again. Everything has its place, even mistakes, for how else can we discover what is true?
Coming to Auroville without financial means has also given me a special take on everything the Mother has said about a community without money exchange. I deeply believe in the ideal and was initially thinking that it should be implemented immediately. I joined the sharing experiment known as ‘the circles', but it collapsed. I believe it collapsed because too few people chose to participate.
This, I believe, is also the defect in the proposed Pour Tous Distribution Centre pilot project. Too few people have yet proposed joining. And once again, it is an experiment where those without money will be the guinea pigs. Those who have money of their own can stand aside–– or, if they join, know that their participation won't really affect their lives. It is not so much about finance, it is about spirit. Mother's ideals apply to the entire Auroville society, not only for those who live on a community maintenance.
The solution does not lie in a centralised authority. I came from that society and know it doesn't work. Instead, we have to find our common values and unite on that level to build Auroville towards the ideals. In a recent seminar I learned that 70% of the people in any society will never speak out in public, but will criticise the 30% that takes the decisions. In Auroville it is the same.
I think that we need to hire specialists, or find suitable people amongst ourselves, who are willing to do surveys to find out how people are actually living and what they their ideals and their fears are, so that we can discover our shared values. Where is the common ground from where we can hear each other? To bring that out will heal and unite the community.