Some people suffer wondering about the purpose
of their life. I have the inconvenience to know mine since childhood:
'The City the Earth needs'
What is it that the Earth needs? How can 'the-city-to-be' respond to these needs? Where can I be of most effective service in this scheme of dreams, aspirations, and evolution?
I usually share thoughts with the full moonrise on the ocean. This is where I am at, now.
I am the third and last boy of a Vietnamese couple, but grew up in Chinatown, Paris. I was a baby when we fled a war-torn Vietnam.
The family left enormous domains and possessions behind. We came from a four centuries long lineage of mandarins, warlords and spiritual leaders, who had first reclaimed the swamps of the Mekong delta into paddy fields. Freedom fighters and aristocrats. They had to start again from scratch in the 'democratic' suburbs of Paris.
The romanticised imagery of this family past remained, but I understood that fame and riches are mere eventual by-products of serving a higher purpose. From the ups and downs I retained neither pride nor regrets, only the necessity of a truthful spirit of service to society.
This aspiration led me to study politics, philosophy, economics, journalism..., and finally the city boy chose to study Agriculture, let's say, in order to "feed the world" to cut a long story short. Six years of Agricultural College brought me all over the place: Europe, Asia, America… And all the while my understanding of the intricate relationships between environment, development, economics, culture, human groups and individual consciousness grew, and grew.
In this learning cycle, the last destination was Auroville.
India is the last place I would have chosen to go to. Auroville came to me and I didn't have a choice: I was looking for a placement in Malaysia (for M.Sc. thesis), but nothing worked out. On the day the school director was directing me to look into "meat quality control in a slaughterhouse", a friend, Stephanie, came along with an interesting subject received by fax: water management, environment regeneration, in an international township, Auroville, India.
Stephanie had been looking for a thesis placement in Pondicherry. The French Institute had forwarded her query to AGRC, which forwarded it to Harvest, where Tom answered immediately. But 3 months had already passed: it was too late, and Stephanie signed up for forestry in Ulster instead. [By the way, she is today in charge of the organic agriculture programme of Harvest, here in Auroville.]
First visit to Auroville
But now I had heard about Auroville, so I found
the Auroville website, read the Charter, and then I knew "This
During this first stay, I worked on an irrigation study, and then I initiated a possible coordination approach for all groups working in Auroville's bio-region. By the time I left again, half a year later, it was just coming off the ground.
Once back in France I noticed that my mother actually had all the books of Sri Aurobindo, Mother and Satprem. It was part of a library inherited along with the secretariat of an old spiritual association. Jacques de Marquette had founded it in 1911. Years earlier, I had picked out one of the pictures of De Marquette's archives and placed it in my room. It featured a nice and intense looking young man with a dark beard: Sri Aurobindo had been sitting on my desk for years and I didn't have a clue at the time.
I had then nothing else in mind but to wrap up my thesis and come back. However, National Service was compulsory in France, so I tried to find a way out. Instead of preventing me from meaningful work, how could my service period get me back to India? After a year of exploring procedures and filling up files, it worked out: in October 1998 I came back to Auroville as a Foreign Affairs volunteer-serviceman in the context of Indo-French technical collaboration.
The subsequent two years, to September 2000, I spent again in Harvest, first working on communication and fundraising, then on the organic agriculture programme.
As I had a consular Entry Visa, from the Auroville Foundation's point of view the Newcomer process was not possible. But I consider these two years as an introduction to Auroville. Working in Auroville, being maintained by Harvest, and shifting places 12 times over 2 years, I lived in Bharat Nivas, Prarthna, Verite, Adventure, Dana, Repos, Kanya Nagar... All along the path, a lot of experiences sprouted up. Loads of difficulties at different levels made spiritual study and practice an evident 'must' in order to find a deeper understanding of life.
After these two years, there was only one thing left to do: go to France, wrap up things, and come back to Auroville. In a couple of months I was back, to stay.
Where are the people with the sparkle of light in life?
One of the difficulties in development work is the human resource: where are the people with the sparkle of light in life, and where is the positive energy to bring things up to the next level? This question brought me to reflect on education and learning, and what is Auroville to do in regard to its duty of service to the world. Perpetual research and "unending education" says its Charter..
Presently, the intertwined CIRHU and SAIIER objectives compel me to take up some work in SAIIER. I wish we could make it possible for many more young people to come to Auroville, to learn/serve/evolve, and go back to change their communities. I wish we could make it possible for the Auroville youth to empower themselves in the community, provide themselves with deeper learning opportunities and channels to go out, and to visit the numerous places on the leading edge 'out there'.
There are two unique qualities with the kids here: they are 'trans-culturally conscious', and have grown up in a community geared towards material and spiritual higher aspirations. I hope we can find a way to make them more aware of this uniqueness, and get them to spread this wealth all over the planet.
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