the bonfire was really quite spectacular, and there was a group of people with chimes that they played once the sun had risen. a procession of children in white made their way with little lights to the urn in the center of the ampitheatre (which contains soil from 120 countries around the world, put there 40 years ago by representatives), where they placed them, and then received more soil (im not sure where from) to place in a large golden bowl a little bit away from the lotus-urn. the matrimandir (this really incredible structure and meditation - or rather place devoted to the concentration of consciousness, more on it later) was lit up and glowing golden behind me, and on our way in we passed a huge banyan tree, with jasmine tendrils tied to its many branches and chrysanthamums scattered around the ground and little ghee lights lit at the base of each root - a really enchanted and breathtaking sight. what struck me was the number of people (the ampitheatre was almost filled) and the incredible silence. i had never been a part of such a large group that was so quiet and still. truly amazing. afterwards, i went with gaia around, socializing, and meeting people. we went under the banyan tree, and i went up to one of the roots/trunks and leaned against it. that tree is really something else - it is vibrating at such a high frequency. i felt as if i was in another world entirely.
the rest of the day was spent at the symposium for the ideal of human unity - the main purpose of auroville is to realize human unity. they had dignitaries speak in the morning, and then the afternoon was filled with aurovillians giving their personal perspective on just what human unity is and how it is realized. the consensus seems to be that it is not something that can be intellectualized or thought through, rather, it is something that needs to just happen, we need to just do it. a lovely image was given related to this topic, a parable from african culture - humanity is like a tree: all the branches are fighting while the roots are kissing. what we must realize is that we all come out of the same trunk and the same roots - even though we may be worlds apart in culture, language, and physical appearance. it was really touching to hear each aurovillian express their view on this matter, which is very central to each of them, as they have devoted their lives to realizing this ideal.
the rest of my time in pondy, i have been shopping (for bannanas mostly), and meditating in the samadhi shrine of sri aurobindo and the mother. i have taken many meals at the ashram, which is quite an experience. you can eat all three meals there for 20 rupees (incredibly cheap), and lunch consists of rice, dal and veggies, curd (a lightly cultured yogurt), 2 banannas and bread. it is quite delicious, and the curd is absolutely amazing (especially with a bit of sugar and a slice of lime!) and the perfect thing to cool your mouth down after eating the dal and rice.
i have also gone into auroville to check out some commuinities: the one that is the most amazing is sadhana forest. this couple from israel put all of their life savings into this chunk of land on the outskirts of auroville, and what they are doing is replanting the native dry tropical jungle that used to be here - everywhere in fact, before european (read brittish and french) 'invaders' clear cut it all. 40 years ago, auroville was literally a desert wasteland. there were no trees, just hard red soil that easily eroded when it rained - resulting in large ravines. when auroville started, they began by planting trees to date over 2 million have been planted. auroville itself is a jungle now (someplace i feel so much more at home wandering around, compared to the city streets of pondy). sadhana forest did not have that extensive tree planting project take place because it is outside of auroville. about 6 years ago, when aviram and his wife (bless her soul, i can't remmeber her name!) came, they begain by replanting the native forest. they also work with water conservation - they are terraforming the hills (very slight hills, mind you) to capture every last drop of water. to date, their work has raised the local water table 6 meters!!!!!!!!!
that is truly incredible and significant. aviram reminds me so much of roel (of windy corner's farm in charlotte, vt) and he is jolly and led a group of ladies from the mother's house around the property and showed us the solar system, with bike powered back up, and the water tank (incredible water there - soo soo soft! and most excellent for drinking too! (yes, its been tested extensively) and the gardens and the various open-air houses - in short tropical paradise that is UBER sustainable. they want to leave as small an impact on the land as possible, while doing as much good to the land as they can by regrowing the native forest and conserving the oh so precious water. Posted by Luella Strattner at 2:27 AM Sri Aurobindo Ashram What is Enlightenment? Why Sri Aurobindo is Cool Embracing Paradox