Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In India, affection between males of all ages is much more acceptable

Home > Response to BBC broadcast - Joya Skye
May 27 th 2008
Dear BBC,
I have always held the BBC in high esteem for its superiority in reporting and have trusted its perspectives more than that of the media here in the U.S. That trust was just crushed under the weight of the report on Auroville by Rachel Wright. Ms. Wright saw a great, dramatic byline and went for the jugular without regard for or perspective of the truth of life in Auroville.

I went to Auroville first in 1971. At that time, the villages surrounding Auroville were the poorest of the poor. Westerners who have never seen this kind of poverty can actually look at the video shots taken for this article and think THAT is poverty. They would be surprised if they could view the contrast between the early years and now. There were no schools, people lived without sanitation or any amenities above the barest necessities for survival. Children played in the dirt, with the dirt, when they played at all. I worked in the first crèche in Auroville, (and built and started the second one). The village children who came to the crèche took a very long time to be able to engage in play, even with a rich array of toys and a beautiful environment. They would sit in the dirt and stare, unable to engage. Our work was hard at that time as they were all malnourished and socially repressed and much of what we did had to do with getting them fed, healthy, clean, and happy.

The life of the current villagers compared to the lives of their parents and grandparents are so far elevated as to make laughable the complaining about their poverty, sitting in a beautiful setting in tailored clothes, driving around on their motorcycles with their cell phones. Their standard of living has improved immeasurably, as has the whole region due to the massive work done by Auroville in the reforestation of a depleted and dying land - work that would never have been done without the dedication of those who built Auroville. If the BBC really wanted the truth, they should look at the 40 years of documentation of the change in the face of the land and the life-style of the indigenous people. It is certainly available. I am a living witness to this transformation, having been a member of the community since nearly the beginning, and having lived there, most recently, for two years, 2001-2003. I would be happy to share more of my experience of Auroville, if it were desired. Three of my five children were born there and return as often as possible.

There was just so much left out and such a bias in this article and an alarmist approach, that taken out of context could do irreparable damage to a project from which India, the surrounding villages, and the world have mostly only profited. There is so much I want to say here, but I realize I must also make broad statements as you can't condense such a huge endeavor into such a short space.

Before I left Auroville in '03, I wrote (but never published) an article directed specifically to the young Tamil Aurovilians and all the young Tamilians living and working in Auroville. They have no idea what their lives would look like now without the tireless generosity and compassion of Auroville. We did not live a life of colonial luxury surrounded with impoverished slaves. We worked our tails off to save the land and build a "living laboratory of human unity". That's what Auroville is supposed to be. As Gilles so articulately pointed out, "an ideal society requires ideal citizens." (paraphrased)

Humans are still a long way from that, wherever they are. Auroville aspires to it, but humans are humans and not everyone who lives in Auroville today is there for that reason. Auroville is very "microcosmic." Idiots and liars like that Raj fellow come there all the time. Two of my daughters had a very nasty experience with him and his word is not to be trusted. But there he is, big as life, expounding on Auroville like an expert, and being taken as one.

I need to say here that I was a sexually abused child. I have worked with sexually abused children and other adults, like myself, who had no voice at the time. This subject in particular is, with good reason, highly charged and as any intelligent and reasonably informed person knows, exists EVERYWHERE, and by my judgment, much less in Auroville than here in the States and elsewhere, where it is often covered up and still presents an enigma in terms of what to do about it. We have yet to come up with something that transforms this sickness in people, and we have yet to take global responsibility for its existence and quit pointing the finger at everyone else and pretending that it isn't a problem where WE live.

There is also a more subtle cultural tendency in India , where affection between males of all ages is much more acceptable and it becomes difficult for those from different cultures to see clearly and respond appropriately. I can see where this in itself would attract pedophiles. But to allege that because an adult male went into a hut with a Tamil boy meant that the child was being sexually abused is simply irresponsible and inflammatory reporting. Many Aurovilians have taken Tamil children into their homes and many of us have family-like relationships with our Tamil friends. The BBC needs to do more in depth research before releasing to the whole world such a potentially harmful report. For all our imperfections, Auroville has done infinitely more good in the world than harm and if Auroville were to meet its demise due to this immature and short-sighted reporting, the world would really get to see the poverty in the area that they think they see now.
Respectfully submitted,
Joya Skye
USA Home > Response to BBC broadcast - Joya Skye

Monday, June 23, 2008

For laundry we use soap nuts from the Sapindus trifoliatus tree

Home > Journals & Media > Journals > Auroville Today > Current issue > Archive copies Auroville Experience May 2008
A Day in Sadhana Forest
- Elle Rasink

A birdsong wakes me up. It's not yet dawn, the moon is still full. There are no walls in the hut where I'm sleeping. It's a frame of granite pillars and logs with a steeply raked canvas roof. All sounds float through. Besides the birds – there are many different songs whose creators I don't know – there are cockcrows from villages which surround Sadhana Forest . The forest covers 70 acres of land west of the Puducherry-Tindivanam Road and is a new Auroville project. It was started by Aviram and Yorit who, together with their daughter Osher, settled the land in December 2003 to start a water conservation and tree planting project.
A volunteer transports soil for building bunds in the early morning

Around me people are asleep on wooden charpoys, framed beds with braided rope base. These are surprisingly comfortable. I lie under my mosquito net listening to the birds and watching the mist in the trees a few metres away. My world right now is both beautiful and peaceful. It's still dark when the first sounds of a tabla come drifting into the sleeping hut. It's our wake-up call. The instrument varies but the time is always the same. A quarter to six in the morning and Aviram is about to start his morning chant and meditation session.
Those joining, hurry off to the hut we call the living room, others roll over for a bit more sleep. The first working session will start at 6.30, after the meditators finish. Then we'll all go to the tool shed, gather what we need, and make our way into the forest. It's only just light and dew still lies heavily on the ground. Those who didn't cover their clothes the night before find the damp has penetrated our wall-less hut when they reach for them in the morning.
In the forest, right now, we are making bunds. To be more exact we're digging ponds and making bunds. The earth that comes out of one goes into the making of the other. We are quickly learning that reforestation is also about increasing water supply and preventing erosion. Planting new trees is only part of it.
At the work area those with rakes and bags collect old leaves and other plant debris from the ground for spreading around newly planted trees. Those with crowbars use gravity to chip away at the sides of the holes that will become the new ponds.
Make them beautiful shapes, urges Aviram, people will walk past here and they must see beautiful shapes.
The volunteers scratch their heads. What is a beautiful shape? A coiled circle, like a snail's shell? A loose figure eight? A freeform heart?
Different ponds start to take shape. Inside the hole a volunteer breaks the heavy clay with a pickaxe. The loosened dirt is scooped up by mumptys into chettys and baskets and passed by a human chain to where the bund is being created. There it is tipped out, spread evenly and then tamped down by many feet shuffling sideways along the top.
After two hours of work we go back to the compound. Another group has spent the past hours peeling and chopping fruit and making ragi, or maybe a rice porridge. Whatever, it will be hot and have bananas and peanuts in it. The rest of the fruit – pineapples, oranges, papaya, pomegranates, mosambi, tangerines – becomes a fresh fruit salad, bowls of which will be consumed by hungry volunteers.

Everyone here, other than Aviram and Yorit, is a volunteer. There are over 60 people from around the world, all of them staying for at least two weeks. Many stay longer, some for many months. Whatever length of time a person stays, though, he or she is warmly welcomed into this forest community. Accommodation is provided in a series of huts and dormitories. Everyone contributes Rs100 a day to cover the cost of three generous meals and each newcomer is issued with environmentally friendly soap, shampoo and toothpaste.
The environment is a constant presence. Everything is set up to minimise harmful effects in ways both large and small. All the food is vegan, there are very few waste products that can't be composted or recycled, efficient wood-burning ‘rocket' stoves are used for cooking, and solar panels provide energy to run lights and computers and to allow the recharging of the numerous gadgets the volunteers bring with them. For laundry we use soap nuts from the Sapindus trifoliatus tree. After 24 hours of soaking the nuts they release a soap-like substance which cleans even the dirtiest of stains.
Breakfast over, it's time for another couple of hours of work. Second work is often in or around the compound. It might be maintaining the showers, toilets, laundry areas and kitchen, tending the vegetable gardens, cutting the grass, or clearing runoff drains. Any of the hundred and one things that need care and attention for the project to succeed. By now the sun is high in the sky and water bottles are kept within easy reach. We filter groundwater for drinking, it's very soft and sweet.
Somewhere between 11.30 and mid-day most people have finished their rostered work for the day. There are still individual tasks to be done and calls for volunteers go out as incidental jobs crop up. For the bulk of us, though it's time to relax. Maybe a shower before lunch, or a swing in one of the hammocks. There's always someone on the computer, catching up on mail or doing a bit of research. Plans are made for the afternoon – maybe the beach, or the mud pool which is said to be very good for the skin. Or a jaunt into Puducherry or around Auroville.
But first there's lunch. It's the main meal of the day and we're lucky to have Nadav in charge of the kitchen, he's a wizard at creating tasty meals with a variety of flavours, day after day. There's always a big crowd. All the volunteers, newcomers who have arrived that morning, any other visitors who are around. Lots of chat – there's no hurry to go anywhere – who won't be here for dinner? Andrew is giving a tai chi lesson at two, there's yoga at four, a workshop tomorrow. Will the people in charge of filling the water filters make sure it's done?
So the day winds on. Time to read, time to exercise, time to snooze. Mopeds and motor scooters are hired. Bikes are available for those with the energy to pedal. Although we're away from the centre of Auroville it's not hard to get in and out, we're not far from the main road to Puducherry or the beach, so there's no shortage of places to go for those who want to explore the area.
Dinner is usually a smaller affair. A number of us will be out. It's eaten in the dining room, another open-walled, thatched-roofed structure, where we sit on mats on the tamped earth. Afterwards it's a short stroll to the living room, where there's conversation and laughter until, eyes drooping, I wish people goodnight and go to my bed for another deep, dreamless sleep until the pre-dawn chorus of birdsong again starts a new day.
Elle Rasink
Photo credits: Photo Elle Rasink Home > Journals & Media > Journals > Auroville Today > Current issue Archive copies The Auroville Experience

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Remaining Silent is the art that has to be learnt

Ambimama - India
Annai Pondy Meditation center at West Mambalam
June 17, 2008 at 12:04 pm · Filed under India
Love is what Annai of Auroville has given to us. Loving the flowers, people, nature and mediate on God comes easily. Goal of Meditation is to be at peace and joy with myself. My happiness shows itself to others and they are happy. They say “Hey He is good! Soon there will be a Halo behind him”. But we all know I cannot become a saint. I will be a sincere follower of already taught things and will be joyful and peaceful.
I visited some yeas back the Annai Meditation Center at Pondy. There was a huge crowd and many Bengalis were present. I got the chance to sit near the Annai Samadhi for 15 minutes. I was peaceful.

Typically an ANNAI MEDITATION Center will have a clean room with full of flowers arranged orderly and neatly. We just enter and sit on the floor and remain calm for 15 minutes. No one talks. Just I have to be with myself and Annai or Flowers or anything I like. There is no money collected. Remaining Silent is the art that has to be learnt. More than that, the joy, peace, spiritual experience need not be diluted by boasting about it to others. I must digest the experience and enjoy Annai, Flowers, People, Music and the World more. My family will be taken care of by Annai of Aurobindo and GOD.
I get peace when I do all the above and I sit peacefully in a meditation center of Annai. But many centers are not available in Chennai City. With Annai’s love for us and the World, a center is there near my house. It is the Annai Pondy Meditation center at West Mambalam.
Nice place. Nice blessings. My mother takes care of me.
Annai Pondy Meditation center at West Mambalam:
II , 15/3 , Babu Rajendra Prasad
Ist street, Annai Illam,
West Mambalam , Chennai 600 033,
*Timings:* Opens at 8.00 am and Closes at 9.00 pm.
West Mambalam Meditation Center has a website. You can do shopping online or go directly there for books, Annai photos and devotional songs:
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