Sunday, February 22, 2009

Day Five – Auroville and Aurobindo Ashram

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Today was a bit of a departure for our group. Instead of looking to the physical and organizational backbone of Aravind, we explored some of its philosophical underpinnings. Aravind’s founder, Dr. Venkataswamy, was a follower of the scholar and spiritual guru, Sri Aurobindo. His teachings, and those of the Mother, one of his followers, were an ever-present guidepost for Dr. V in his pursuit of a more effective health system for eye care.

Our first visit was to Auroville, the Utopian realm envisioned by the philosophers. About 2,000 people live there now – approximately 1,500 adults and 500 children. Through a national mandate, residents of Auroville are not considered residents of India. Rather, they retain citizenship of their home countries. Auroville’s residents work in the community where all is provided for in exchange for a percentage of their income. Everyone there is focused on change: spiritual, global and internal.

After watching the video describing Auroville and its goals, two of its residents gave us a tour of their community. We visited a newly-built clinic, devoted to working with all types of medical treatment including traditional, ayurvedic, homeopathic and more. The doctor in charge is from Kazakhstan, and already has a number of practioners of various forms of healing on staff. We then had lunch with our hosts in their solar-powered Community Kitchen.
Later that afternoon, we visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in downtown Pondicherry where both the Sri Aurobindo and the Mother lived and are now enshrined.

After a bit of shopping, some of us walked along the Indian Ocean beach, stopping to admire the statue of Gandhi. Having the opportunity to explore the spiritual background of this amazing organization and country is tremendous. It gives me just a bit more insight into the incredibly altruistic actions of the leadership team. Tomorrow is our last day in India, and we will be closing with a bang – an eye camp in a village known for its cashews and longevity of service to Aravind.


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