I don’t look up, but feel the table vibrate as a chair is pulled out from under it and curious arms fold themselves across from mine…
Although my eyes are reluctant to pull themselves from the egg hunt of inspiration that I have found in the book between my hands, I put a final exclamation point in the margin of my most recent golden revelation, close the book, look up, and return the greeting…
His dark arms uncross and reach across the table to tilt the book to a title-reading angle.
“Sri Aurobindo, The Adventure of Consciousness,” he reads aloud and continues, “you like this book?”
“It might be the best book I’ve ever read,” I reply.
“Why?” he asks.
“Because after five years of intense spiritual searching, I can only stutter and sigh when trying to translate my learnings into words. But what I have come to know from my direct experience and experiments with Truth, Satprem seems to have captured here in this book; and with perfect grace and eloquence I believe he’s really transcribed messages divinely inspired.”
He smiles like he might know something I don’t.
And then he continues, “So, how did you find out about Auroville and why have you come here?”
I look to the left bottom corner of mind, where my fondest memories seem to be kept, and after reveling in the essence of the experience for a blissful minute, I tell him, “Nine months ago, I met a boy in Ecuador. As soon as I saw him I knew he was an important messenger in my life. I approached him while he sat alone on the beach, and two sentences later he said the word, “Auroville.” And when he said this name, chills ran up my arms. And for that reason, the chills of recognition, I’m here now.”
His smile, this time, is completely transparent to something inside of him that he judges it now safe to share. Another question slips through his smile, “And now that you are here, what do you think?”
“I think I’m going to live here.”
These words — MY words — startle me. There is confidence in them from which source I’m unable to identify. And my ego, unprepared for the treason, stands aghast and open-mouthed staring back at me.
The tone of confidence apparently carries itself all the way to him, for without jest or doubt, he sincerely asks, “And you discovered this by coming here?”
I look inside for a second to see if this statement is true and then reply, “No. I didn’t discover it. I re-covered it. And embraced the revelation like a long lost and beloved friend who’s been patiently awaiting my arrival at its recognition.”
While he reflects on my comment, he looks past me and, from the bottom of its protruding roots, follows the trunk of a mighty Banyan tree up to its outstretched leafy limbs that are shielding us from the sun-reining sky and blanketing us in a bath of cool shade. His gaze falls upon the gardens and I follow it. Chipmunks tear around the grounds in a mad game of touch tag while a thousand butterflies loft and land on the sweet of their choice in this blooming flower candy-land.
He continues, “So what have you found here that makes you realize you have a place here?”
I tilt my head for the delivery of my questions and ask him, “Do you know what “integral yoga” is and the philosophy behind it?”
“Of course,” he replies.
So I continue, “Do you know what, “ahimsa” is? And do you understand “voluntary simplicity”, “self sufficiency” and “human unity?” How about the terms, “organic”, “higher consciousness,” and “inner spirit”? And the concepts of, “the interconnectedness of all life”, “transparency to the divine within” and “synchronicity”?
“Yes. Of course I am familiar with all these things,” he says plainly.
“That is why I want to live here. Because I have spent a long part of my life searching, finding, defining and adopting these words into my practical living lingo. And because here in Auroville, for the first time in my life, I have found a place that not only shares my “speak,” but has these terms written into the very constitution of the community.”
He looks hesitant and I know what he is thinking, so I continue, “And I know that words are only words and that this place is so very FAR from perfect. Auroville is young. But have we not all gone through puberty? It’s the clumsiest stage of life: conflicted, rebellious, undirected, awkward, ungraceful, ugly, reckless, immature, blundering and sometimes plain scandalous!
But the potential of puberty is worth every toe-stepping moment of its dance with adolescence. For in this same youth there is endless energy, passion, possibility, hope, courage, compassion, vitality, adaptability, risk, undefended love and vision!
There is vision here in Auroville.
And for the same reasons that I love to work with 18-year olds, I want also to invest my hope, love and energy in the mission and vision of young Auroville,” I end.
“How can you be so certain?” he asks.
“I’m not. I’m not certain of anything in this life except for the certainty that nothing is certain. But do you see that painting?” I indicate to the garden.
He turns around, looks and nods his acknowledgment.
Embracing even my own curiosity in my voice I reply, “Nine months ago, on the back of a restaurant placemat, I drew that exact same image.”
…and it’s only one of a dozen synchronistic omens that have fallen into my lap since I arrived here. I feel like the Tetris game of life’s divine mystery just jumped to a bonus round and the puzzle pieces are falling with a sudden speed that I can only respond to on intuition.
And that is why I want to live here…
…because someone is jumping up and down inside of me at the excitement of being found.” As I deliver these words, I feel the jumping cease for the single second of time it takes for the mysterious “someone” inside of me to sigh in appreciation of my external expression and recognition of inner self. (And in the corner, my ego resorts to sulking.)
Perhaps my new friend sitting across the table meets quacks like me all the time for he accepts my story with honest interest and little surprise.
After a minute of comfortable silence he asks, “So then, do you know the legend behind Auroville?”
I open up my mouth and rally off that which I’ve recently read, “Of course. Auroville was Sri Aurobindo and The Mother’s inspiration to create a community that belongs to humanity as a whole; a place of unending education, constant progress and youth that never ages; a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of actual human unity; a center of accelerated evolution where a person must begin to change her world by means of the power of the inner spirit.”
He smiles and replies, “Yes. That’s the West’s version of the tale. But do you know what the Tamil people native to the land, my ancestors, know as the legend?”
I tilt my head in curiosity and beg him politely to tell me the other side of the story that I haven’t yet heard.
He obliges, “Let me tell you…”
There once was a kingdom here that was lush and lovely and plentiful. And on the outskirts of this kingdom lived a great yogi who spent all his days and nights investigating and navigating the spiritual realms. Well one day, this yogi went very deep into meditation; so deep that he stayed in this meditation for many, many weeks and months. And oddly enough, when he did so, the sun came out and decided not to leave; so for many, many weeks and months, the sun shone down on the kingdom while the great yogi meditated.
But after some time, with no monsoons on the horizon, the people of the kingdom began to worry, for their crops were starting to dry out and their animals becoming weak with thirst.
The King, quite wise and making the connection, realized that the rains had not come since the great yogi had gone into retreat. Wanting to wake the yogi, but knowing that no matter how unlucky you are things can always get worse with the curse one receives from disturbing a meditating holy man, he knew he needed a good plan. So he sent for all the best musicians in his kingdom and instructed them to approach the cave of the great yogi and play music so beautiful that would lure any soul back from the divine.
The musicians went. And they did indeed play truly beautiful music.
But the yogi did not wake.
So the King scratched his chin and came up with a new plan. He instructed his attendant to find the most beautiful and talented dancer in all the land and to bring her to the palace. When the woman, belonging to one of the lower castes (as all dancers were) was found, she was obviously the most beautiful woman and talented dancer in the whole kingdom if not the world. The king kindly instructed her in her task..to dance beautifully, and with equal grace to capture the great yogi’s attention and bring him back to the reality of the world.
So the dancer set out to the yogi’s remote home on the outskirts of the kingdom. And when she arrived, she put on her best bangles and began to dance all around him.
And she did indeed dance divinely.
But the yogi did not wake.
So the dancer stopped dancing and sat down to watch the yogi. She waited and watched, and watched and waited, and finally, after sitting with the silent yogi for many hours, she saw a nearby tree shake a branch and from it fell a single lush little green leaf right into the palm of the yogi. The dancer watched with disbelief as the great yogi, while still in trance, moved it to his mouth and ate the single leaf; his one and only daily meal to sustain his body while his mind was afar.
And the dancer came up with an idea!
She returned to her house and cooked up a very special and deliciously spiced curry. And from it she made one small and especially delightful bite that would awaken the excitement of any taste bud. And with this treat in her hand she returned to the great yogi the next day and waited. This time, when the tree shook its branch, she stood behind the yogi and dropped into his hand, in the place of the leaf, the tongue-tantalizing morsel.
The yogi, still in trance, gracefully accepted the offering and put the delicious truffle into his mouth, delicately chewed it, smiled…and woke up!
As soon as he opened his eyes, great grey clouds broke over the hills and into the sky, and as they smashed up against each other, they let out deafening roars of thunder and water poured down upon the entire kingdom!
And the people ran out into the rain and filled their troughs and watched their seedlings sprout and danced, and laughed and sang their thanks to the great yogi, the wise king and the rain gods who’d finally been awoken from their long hibernation.
The King was so happy that he sent a fine carriage to the cave of the yogi and humbly invited both him and the dancer immediately back to the palace for a jubilant celebration. The yogi and the dancer accepted and soon were in the palace with the whole of the kingdom celebrating on the estate. And the King asked that the beautiful dancer might perform to honor the great occasion.
And so the beautiful dancer did exactly as she was instructed, and danced.
But while she was dancing, one of the bangles of bells tied around her ankle fell off. And the great yogi, noticing that it had fallen, picked it up and touched her foot to tie it back on…
And when he did, a great hush fell over the crowd of the kingdom, for it is very much against all rules of caste for a great spiritual man to touch the foot of a mere dancer from the lowest of the castes. And the people who did not scorn, they laughed! Out loud and obnoxiously the whole kingdom laughed!
The great yogi stood up. And suddenly a great bolt of lightning from the thundering skies above shot down to the earth and stuck the great lingam (stone symbol of worship to the god Shiva) cracking it completely in half!
And the people were suddenly silenced in enormous fear.
In the midst of the pervading quiet, the great yogi explained that caste meant nothing, that all human beings were equal and united, and that since the kingdom had failed to recognize and appreciate this, he had therefore placed a curse on the land that it should dry out and turn to nothing but red dust.
The people of the kingdom were of course terrified for they had already witnessed and knew very well the power of the great yogi. And so they threw themselves down to the ground in prostrations and asked for his mercy.
The yogi listened to their lamenting and felt that they were sincere in their apology. But he knew it was impossible to remove a curse once it is given. And so he explained to the people, that indeed the land would still turn dry and die, and become nothing but red dust.
BUT…one day, far, far into the future, he explained…
“… one day people — different looking people with strange languages and unfamiliar behaviors; people from distant countries and cultures — will congregate on this one spot and share this same piece of land. And when they do, when the footsteps of people from all sides of the Earth converge and make their unified mark upon this land, without regard to caste and respectful only of their shared human unity — then, and only then — will the red earth sprout green anew.
And the land will once again — become lush, lovely and plentiful.”
(Auroville in 1965)
(Auroville today; with a population of 2000 citizens coming from six continents and over 30 different countries.)