It was clear that I needed to go through the process of leaving to see if and how my path would lead me back.
“I was born in Pondicherry, in the Cluny hospital, in 1988. My mother grew up in the Ashram, and my father is German. He came here in the 1970s already and lived here for quite a while. My mother joined later. My first years, until I was 6, were spent in Udayan, it’s near Adishakti. At that time it seemed far away to go to Kindergarten and school, so we lived quite secluded for a while. I remember I enjoyed school, but it was difficult for me in the beginning because I am more quiet by nature. It was hard to make friends and find people to relate to.
When I was growing up, Auroville, its purpose, was very big in our house. My mother came from the Ashram and her dedication to the ideals is very strong. I grew up with a lot of Mother and Sri Aurobindo – my mother would talk about what they said, their philosophy. I saw this devotional aspect in her. But for me to start relating more consciously, that was maybe from 16 onwards. You often hear Auroville kids saying: ‘I can’t hear anymore Mother said this, Mother said that.’ I had that too, but I also wanted to understand more for myself what Mother and Sri Aurobindo were about, what they were saying. We actually had an Auroville philosophy class at the time, which really helped. I felt already a real inner resonance back then, a sense of, this feels true.
But I was on a path of needing to leave the community. I really wanted to go to university, and I also wanted to go because for me, to experience more and explore. If you grow up in a little village, it’s like anywhere – you need to go out at some point, see more of the world. And it was clear that I needed to go through the process of leaving to then see if and how my path would lead me back.I wanted to experience that process for myself, to get a different perspective on Auroville.
Because we were a few of us who really wanted to go out, our batch was one of the first to do the whole exam system. We were so motivated, I remember us calling up our teachers and being like: ‘Hey, why aren’t you in class?’ [laughs]. There was resistance to that, a lot of people felt it was antithetical to the ideals of Auroville, to how education should be here. My mother also would be one of those people because the ideals of Auroville are so strong for her, but she supported me. I am really grateful for that.
I went to Berlin, to the University in Potsdam. I was there for a long time, and it was my base for about 8 years. I studied geo-ecology, a form of Environmental Sciences. For me, Auroville became much more concrete in this time. I got more inspired by it and what it is trying to do, beyond the fact that it is my home. It is also spiritually my home, in the sense of its ideals, its aims.
By the time I came back, the biggest change was in me, and my relationship to the spiritual dimension. It’s very much alive, I am going through a process where I really need to connect to that. Without that I would be swimming blindly, not knowing where I am going. It gives me direction, purpose, and it sets the foundation more in myself and my inner being, and not in anything outside.
What I miss sometimes is that we don’t have a culture of sharing on this topic. Of course there are rich exchanges, one-on-one in different conversations, or maybe even in small groups. But it’s hard to communicate about spiritual topics, they don’t translate well into words. It’s a very sensitive, tricky topic, and I think it can only successfully come into the collective arena when it’s really genuine and it feels like the right thing in that moment. Whenever there is the slightest hint of the spiritual ego coming in, you notice it immediately, it changes the conversation. So we would need to be quite advanced to do that in a group or a collective level. Still, I think it has the potential to be a conscious practice that we can develop among ourselves, to talk about this dimension of the inner world.
Because we don’t talk about spirituality so much as a community, I am not sure… But I get a sense that the older generations might relate to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo in a different way, maybe more devotional, loving – of course this is different for different cultures. For me it’s more that I am trying to feel it, what it actually feels like on an energetic or experiential level. Like, what is the Mother’s force, that universal force that is there, how does it live in me? As far as I can see, kids who grew up in Auroville have more of a tendency towards this kind of experiential or embodied spirituality. Or they resonate more with that.
There is value in both, I am not putting one down over the other. I deeply respect the words of Mother and Sri Aurobindo, and I can obviously learn something from them, these people who have these high spiritual states and who embody divine forces. But I am also going on my own discovery and feeling into what it means. And that doesn’t really translate into words. So it’s not like it’s a competition between the two or anything, it’s more like, from where am I approaching it? And what am I tapping into in that process?
To me, it’s complementary to the words, because they can tell us different things, more concretely. Even us who grew up here, we need to be reminded sometimes of the ideals of Auroville, of why we are here. We might tend to forget, because it is our home. We relate to it on different levels.”