AVI UK: Martin
AVI Netherlands: Jettie, Josee
AVI Spain: Alfonso
AVI Liaison Switzerland: Camille
AVI Liaison Ireland: Jürgen
AVI Germany: Isa, Muna, Susanne, Friederike, Thomas, Georg, Frank
AVI France/Auroville: Devasmita and Satyakam
Auroville: Vani, Dominique and Rakhal, Peter A.
Notes: Friederike and Josee
Minutes of the European Pavilion Meeting in Berlin
June 10-13, 2011
The day before
Most participants had already reached Berlin during Thursday, June 9 and were welcomed by the Berlin team of AVI Germany, which managed to host everybody in private homes. The full Friday was reserved for an outing. We first visited the Glienicke Bridge on the edge of Berlin spanning the Havel river to connect the cities of Potsdam and Berlin . This bridge, also called The Bridge of Spies, was used during Cold War times by the United States and the Soviet Union to exchange captured spies. Interestingly this bridge has been called, by former East German authorities, “Bridge of Unity”, even if it actually was quite the contrary: For 40 years a white line across the bridge marked the division of East and West, Warsaw Pact and NATO.
From there we went to the Glienicke Castle, built in Italian style by the famous 19 th century architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. There we had our picnic lunch and then we had a long walk across the Sanssouci Castle gardens in Potsdam. Sanssouci is the name of the former summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, today a World Heritage Site under the protection of UNESCO. It was a beautiful sunny day and at the end we enjoyed high tea with homemade cake in a typical Potsdam coffee garden, run by friends of Peter.
I. Reflection on the soul levels .
On Saturday morning the meeting started with an introductory speech by Georg , who gave a summary of what Sri Aurobindo has said about the relationship between the individual soul, the group soul and humanity as a whole, mainly in his book “The Human Cycle”. Georg´s manuscript will be added to this report.
II. Reflections on our individual “search for the European soul” and on how Europe could possibly be represented by a symbol in the International Zone of Auroville. Here are some ideas expressed during our first morning session on Saturday, June 11:
Europe should be represented by a female symbol, by a mother, a woman. It may be seen as a strong representation of the “Shakti power”, the soul power. Mother, as the Divine Shakti, was born in Europe.
Humanity saw a first wave of unifications/empire buildings by force, 2000 years ago or more, (Ashoka unifying India, the Chinese and the Roman empires). The European Union was founded according to Jean Monnet's vision to prevent future wars, as a first example of a peaceful unification of nations.
It is easy to see the manifestation of a nation, but still not so easy to make out properly what is the particularity of Europe, especially when there are so many different cultures. As an image “Europa riding the bull” appears, perhaps as a symbol of Europe having developed outstanding, “taming” justice systems.
Looking at the soul level of nations it becomes their natural task to help each other. Can we, in our work in and for Auroville, become channels for this awareness process if we look upon ourselves more consciously as representatives of our individual nations?
There are different approaches in Europe towards the question of national identity, in Eastern Europe you find a more mythical, in Western Europe a constitutional approach.
What do we create in Auroville? A kind of nation? Which kind of identity feeling will kids develop who are grown up in Auroville? Many children have parents with different nationalities.
The experience of living or travelling outside Europe makes you feel your strong European cultural roots – or vice versa, being Indian and living outside India makes you want to find out more about your own culture. Aurovilians spoke about their experience of losing the inner connection with their country of origin. The experience was shared by everybody that coming to India for the first time made us feel like “coming home”.
It is important to explore the relationships between ourselves and our nation and ourselves and Europe . What are the qualities of your nation that you can identify with? To explore this, we agreed to do a game with Muna in the afternoon.
III. What are the qualities of your nation that you can identify with?
Our afternoon session started with the game , which Muna had offered to play with us. We were given 12 slips of paper and a pen and then asked to sit in pairs, name and write down spontaneously, without too much mental involvement, 12 qualities of our nation soul.
After a little bit of chattering in some of the groups and quick, concentrated exchange in others we were asked to lay out the 12 slips before us and then take away, one by one, the quality that was of lesser importance to us, until there were only three left. These were finally read out to the audience and written on a whiteboard by Rakhal. There were some surprises in this list and a lot of consensus. We thanked Muna for leading us into this great experience of spontaneous contact with the positive side of our national identity. – A file with all the qualities will be attached to this report, the three remaining, most important ones listed on top.
IV. Report and sharing of Wolfgang´s and Soleil´s workshops in Auroville and Berlin ,
which had started with an introduction by Wolfgang on Sri Aurobindo´s understanding of “nation soul”, on the Spiral Dynamics approach and the distinction of national soul versus national ego, and by Soleil on her “three layers of the heart” technique:
It was a powerful, intense experience. The mental was only there to express what you felt. The 3 layers of the heart technique is important for getting deeper into the being, and it was revealing how positive aspects can counter the negative aspects of one's national identity. And also revealing how your own aspiration can merge with the soul of your nation.
The raison d'être of the International Zone became clearer and also what we will have to do for the IZ. An educational setting should be created to welcome people from the world investigate about their individual and collective link to their nation's soul.
It helped to get clarity about why your own soul chose to incarnate in the given environment and also about what to bring to Auroville.
It brought a better understanding of different national identities.
At the end of the experience, after listening to different life stories, there was a feeling of serenity and togetherness.
It helped to release blockages in the body. If you are more faithful to yourself you are able to open up to the collective.
It was a 2,5 day workshop with 20 participants representing 12 nations. (BOOK: Soleil Lithman: “Inlighten the Body – The Hladina Method, ASIN B002AD9KH4 )
It was mentioned that some people may not feel comfortable in the described surrounding and setting which allows for a kind of “emotional clearing” process, so other approaches may be as valuable.
The question then was raised which kind of practical expressions this experience will find in our planning for the development of the IZ. Rakhal mentioned that he is now offering, together with Shivaya and Sonia, who is trained in the “3 layers of the heart” technique, half a day experience about their national identity for newcomers. The IZ coordination group also has to get concrete very soon since it was asked by L'Avenir d'Auroville to issue a “mission statement” for the IZ.
V. Development of a university campus.
The Governing Board, too in its April meeting has asked Auroville to work out a 5 year plan for the development of a university campus . The impression was expressed again that, in order to start planning for a university, already existing programs, activities and initiatives in the vast educational field of Auroville have to be pooled together. Progress can only be reached by better communication and awareness of each other and by collaboration.
We were reminded that the European Union, in its early stages, has been envisaged and created out of a dire need – to prevent another war. The pressing needs of Auroville – higher education for the Auroville youth, increase of population, income generation, fundraising for city and housing development, outreach activities, visa issues – might find an answer and solution in the creation of this new institution of a university, thus acquiring a different, internationally acknowledged status for Auroville under the umbrella of UNESCO.
Dominique then spoke about the real need for this different status and institutional framework: The AVIS service, which was created as a doorway for volunteers to Auroville, has been renamed to SAVI , the Tamil word for “key” (to this doorway). Need number 1 is the accommodation for students. It is one of its aims to bring Auroville units and volunteers together, becoming a service more and more acknowledged by the units. Dominique observes a big lack of principles and guidelines regarding:
Dominique stresses the importance of a comprehensive vision of the educational campus based on already existing activities and educational events to make it a real offer to the world.
There is an overwhelming amount of work on several levels, like the planning of a volunteers hostel, educational programs, handling of applications etc. The present visa problems created a deadlock situation, only Indian nationals can be admitted now as volunteers. Main problem is the classification of many units who accept volunteers as “commercial units” by the visa authorities. This makes no sense since nearly all of these units have to maintain commercial activities to safeguard the income generation of their Tamil workers.
VI. Next AVI meetings/Ethiopia and Auroville/Gujarat.
Later we started a discussion about our next AVI meetings . This discussion was continued in the late hours of the second evening. Following is the summary Martin made for the AVI Board:
“ A group of AVI board members and other AVI members met on 11 th and 12 th June, during our European AVI meeting in Berlin, to discuss the planned meeting in Ethiopia in October. The history of the process so far was reviewed, and our aspirations for this meeting discussed. The recent and ongoing difficulties of communication and cooperation between the AVI/Auroville group and interested parties in Addis Ababa were discussed in detail, in particular the difficulties experienced by Satprem leading to him pulling out of the process, and the difficulties in obtaining information from our contact there, Mr Shimelis. The offer to send Jaya to Addis in a fact finding exercise in the near future (estimated now around the middle of July), was discussed. We also counted the number of potential participants from Auroville and AVI at around 18.
The majority of the group agreed (with the exception of Friederike – see below), that these difficulties constitute a serious threat to the success of an appropriate mission for AVI in Ethiopia, and that we needed to consider seriously if the event should go ahead at this time, and in the form originally envisaged. We agreed that the proposed visit by Jaya would be too late for us to be able to cancel the event and schedule another in another location in a reasonable time if the results proved negative, so we questioned if this visit would be of any real value.
During this meeting, two possible alternative locations were reluctantly discussed: The first, Argentina, where our AVI liaison person Maga has offered to host a meeting at short notice towards the end of the year, and the second, Southern Ireland, where our liaison person Juergen, present at the meeting, offered to host a meeting in September.
However, there was a considerable reluctance to cancelling the meeting in Ethiopia, as all agreed that it is essential for AVI to expand its work into Africa and there seemed to be equal reluctance to continue with the present arrangements.
A third option was then proposed, which it is believed could offer a solution to the present dilemma and indeed may offer greater possibilities for the future. It was proposed that for this year, a delegation of three or four persons from Auroville and AVI should be sent to Addis to give presentations to those groups available, and to meet with representatives from organisations who may be of value for future relationships, including friends and former colleagues of Tekeste and representatives of the university and the African Union. The AVI meeting would be held separately in September in Ireland , hosted by Juergen, our AVI liaison person there. The meetings would be scheduled to allow any person who attended both events to be able to do so. Funding is already available to send two or three people to Addis, and it was not considered a problem to raise funds for a fourth person if needed.
The majority agreed that this option should be taken up, and it was agreed that it should allow for the possibility for a future full AVI meeting in Ethiopia in the next few years, following the work done by the smaller delegation.
Friederike expressed a diverging view that the Addis Ababa meeting should be held this year. It is her impression that we do not only go to different places of the world to strengthen existing centres or liaisons but that there is a deeper, “occult” reason for us going. And if we understand Auroville as the representation of humanity for the success of Mother´s work we have to make conscious efforts to include Africa as a continent very much underrepresented in Auroville so far even if there are greater difficulties in organizing it. If the majority of the board, however, would vote for another decision she would of course accept this new option.
If this new option is to be taken up, the remaining board members need to respond as soon as possible to give their input. The three options are as follows:
1. Continue with arrangements for the AVI meeting in Addis as planned.
2. Cancel the meeting in Addis and make arrangements for another in Ireland (or Argentina)
3. Send a smaller delegation to Ethiopia to make presentations and establish contacts with the view to holding an AVI meeting there in the next few years, and hold the AVI meeting in Ireland.”
Note: probable dates of the AVI meeting in Auroville: 6-11 February next year and Gujarat 13-19 February, to be confirmed by Satyakam and the AVI Board.
VIII. Presentation Thomas: Exploring the European Field.
The Sunday morning discussions started with a very interesting PPP, which Thomas had prepared, titled “ Exploring the European field ”. It started with a quotation of Sri Aurobindo: “In the historic ages of the present cycle of civilisation the movement has been almost entirely centered in the twin continents of Asia and Europe”. It can be downloaded from Friederike´s i-disk under http://public.me.com/fwerner2
Thomas mentioned that his presentation just gives a basic structure, open for further elaboration. He added that for time reasons he had left out our common Celtic heritage, which helped Europe to become receptive for the spiritual quest.
A very lively discussion followed, highlighting several ideas:
It could be interesting to include further research in European languages (Sanskrit as the common root), arts, music, dance, philosophy and religious debate. How was Europe becoming receptive for inner growth and higher values?
“Thought as a tool for action” was developed in Europe while India “sought for the truth through introspection”.
The sense of the sacred was there until the Age of Enlightenment.
Parallel to the European mystics and heretics like Jakob Böhme there were scientific heretics like Giordano Bruno.
The agora has been developed as the greatest and most common achievement in European cities, not only in an architectural sense: as public meeting places outside and complimentary to churches and temples. Democracy is based on this public space for communication. Agora means place of meeting and dialogue.
In the outbreak of war in former Yugoslavia we have seen an outbreak of national ego. Peace was made through integration into the EU, linking the fighting parties up with their common European heritage.
The evolutionary Shakti has fought in Europe for the freedom from restrictions on all levels. The heretics and revolutionaries are our true heritage.
It would be interesting to explore European heritage further and to relate the threads to what we did yesterday with our nation soul research, to link science with inner experience, consciousness, these things are interconnected.
Many people have a negative image of Europe, it's important to work on a positive view. About the richness and beauty of Europe. We need to focus on who in Europe moved the evolution and revolution: Luther, the trade unions and the heretics.
IX. European festival
Our next topic for discussion, moving from the “theoretical” to the concrete, was the European cultural festival in the IZ. Dominique and Rakhal's sent their notes on this:
Why a European Festival?
Various ideas on the “what”
Various ideas on the how
X. The Symbol of Europe in the International Zone. Here are some ideas:
The celtic cross
A fountain, water brings things in a flow
A woman with 12 stars – the Shakti aspect of Europe. (Mother was recognized in Tlemcen as the woman with twelve pearls.)
Something living like specific plants or (fruit) trees, that change and develop.
Something of a similar strength of expression like the Canadian Inuksuk while it has to be taken into consideration that the Inuksuk is not respected enough. So the question arises whether it is the right time for the installation of a European symbol.
The plaza is a symbol in itself – following the 12 stars symbol we could try to name 12 gifts of Europe to humanity.
The focal point of an agora could be the symbol. Artists could be invited to design and create it.
The establishment of a symbol should be linked with the festival, to leave some kind of “energy concentrator” behind.
Create something of use for Auroville!
Link it with the protection of the International Zone!, like a hedge of bougainvilleas.
Protection is not enough – it has to be used!
Plan for a ceremony including the Tamil neighbours to consecrate the land, help them to better understand and respect the area. Perhaps a “chain of light” ceremony?
Alfonso mentioned during our discussion the interesting film “Agora” by a Spanish director about the life of Hypatia of Alexandria, a Greek female scholar of the 4 th century AD who was murdered in a church by Christians. ( Addition Friederike, after consulting Wikipedia: Her father´s name has been Theon of Alexandria!)
XI. University in Auroville.
Finally Dominique spoke about the initiatives to create an educational centre (University) in Auroville. She mentioned several important questions, which have to be clarified first:
Who will be the audience? Who is going to come for studies?
The youth of Auroville
Youth from all over the world
Professionals and volunteers from all over the world
People from the bioregion, like farmers, youth, women
What are the goals and objectives?
It has to become a “multi-versity”, multi-polar, multi-cultural
It cannot just replicate what is already taught in the world
The uniqueness of Auroville and its ideals have to be the basis
We have to show what a “learning society” means
Which educational departments can be identified?
At the center: “Human Evolution and Consciousness” (Architecture would fall under this)
Five departments, like in the Auroville symbol:
Sustainable Technology (for instance Earth Institute)
“Green” activities (re-afforestation)
Education and culture
Social and community activities plus sports (AVAG falls under this)
Creative production and handicrafts (Commercial units of Auroville as learning base)
What is the first materialization?
The plans for the “Cité Universitaire” with its first building, the students/volunteers dormitory
What is the development strategy?
A study group has been formed, with Dominique, Chali and Jean-Yves as its members, to prepare a paper for the Governing Board and an estimate
A pilot program is planned to start soon, a team of mentors will be created
Logistics, like housing, have to be studied, as well as the economic impact
Outreach activities have to be planned, also for fundraising
What is the present situation with regard to L'Avenir planning and other Auroville groups?
A site has been given for the dormitory project (150 beds, first phase of 50 beds), to relieve the present bottleneck situation.
Due to problems with neighbouring Auroville sites L'Avenir is looking for an alternative site for the project.
Hemant from the new Fundraising Group gave the advice to create a “client group” which could formulate the educational purpose and need of the project.
AVI should be part of this group, since we are sending students and volunteers. We could become more involved by assisting in the pre- and after-mentoring of volunteers and students.
Dominique's presentation inspired us to more ideas:
It could be started as an “open university”, like in 68 times, for instance in Berlin.
The Mother wrote a lot about her ideas of an International University, this has to be studied. It is important to “extract the honey” from it and adapt it to our century.
Kireet Joshi wrote an interesting booklet “A philosophy of Education for the Contemporary Youth”.
The CIRHU project should be integrated in the overall planning, not carry on as a separate project.
Fundraising should not be based on promising certificates for studies. Pondy university already cooperated last year, sending student groups for an Auroville experience. They did not ask for certificates.
We finished the discussion by promising our AVI support for this promising and forward-looking undertaking.
XII. Satyakam's “insider experience” & housing issues.
Finally Satyakam gave a little report on his fairly fresh experience as a new Auroville “insider”, which offers him a different perspective than before. He can appreciate even more the hard work that is being done in so many fields, recently especially in the field of outreach, like in the villages, in Chennai etc. Land issues are a big challenge, with 65% of the land still having to be acquired in the greenbelt. Another main issue is the still too slow increase of the Auroville population, with its connected problem of entry process (presently 390 applications pending!) and housing. Recently 120 flats have been procured but the situation has hardly changed. Many newcomers come without funds or do not want to give their money for housing, even if there is a new policy that newcomers, if they decide to leave Auroville, get reimbursed for money they have invested.
Again an interesting discussion followed with the following input:
A new funding campaign for housing should be started, like the 1 Mio Dollar campaign for land, which found such a good response. Find somebody like Paul to start it!
Make it easier for young people to join Auroville!
The flow of money is impeded by the state of consciousness of Aurovilians. We should stop playing church. Meditating in Matrimandir is not enough, we have to work on inter-community communication. A unified vision of the next bigger steps is needed in Auroville, in order to unblock the situation. There is a great lack of forward thinking in Auroville. Fresh energy is needed to open up petrified structures. We have to learn to go inside and at the same time reach out, like the IAC has said several times: the world needs you!
AVI can help by bringing Auroville into contact with state of the art techniques of communication and planning. The support of AVI Germany for the workshop on regional sustainable planning was great!
Luckily L'Avenir has opened up to accept temporary housing projects, like in Sukhavati, where a 90 sqm house has been erected in two months. Why not create a new “pioneers village”?
The leasing or renting of houses is being reconsidered, FAMC is studying its possibilities. A big problem lies in the lack of executive power against misuse.
It is still difficult to carry out sustainable building projects. “Luminosity” for instance, which was built with a lot of idealism as a pioneering project from the Dreamcatchers' spirit has a lot of financial difficulties to get finished. It wanted to prove that the monsoon rainwater is enough to cater for the water need of its inhabitants, but now 19.000 € are still needed, due to the rise of building costs.
Even if we had reserved two full days for discussions the meeting only finished after midnight. One of the reasons was the “Carnival of Cultures” with a long “Move of Cultures”, which was taking place right in the neighbourhood of the Sri Aurobindo Center, our meeting place. Some of our participants were eager to watch the move and the huge crowds made it difficult to find a place for our dinner. But it definitely supported the light and joyful atmosphere of our whole meeting. Our Berlin friends were warmly thanked for all their efforts again to make us feel welcome and well taken care of !
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