Aurocracy: An Auroville-specific governance model

Over the period, Auroville has developed a unique governance model, which can be called Aurocracy, which is based on the principles of collaboration, self-governance, and self-awareness. In this article, we will explore the Auroville specific governance model – Aurocracy. The Aurocracy governance model is based on the principles and purpose of Auroville as outlined in the Charter. It is a unique model of governance that seeks to promote harmony, unity, and progress among the residents of Auroville.

The term “Aurocracy” is derived from the Greek word “kratos,” which means “power” or “rule.” In Aurocracy, the power or rule is not vested in any individual or group, but in the Divine Consciousness that is said to guide and govern Auroville.

Aurocracy is a decentralized form of governance that is based on the principle of self-organisation. It is a system where decisions are made collectively and where the individual is empowered to take responsibility for his or her own actions. The aim of Aurocracy is to create a system where each person can live in harmony with others and with nature, while being able to contribute as a willing servitor to the well-being of the City as a whole.

The core documents of Auroville like the Auroville Charter, a Dream, and To be a True Aurovilian serves as the basis for the Aurocracy governance model. The Auroville Charter which was adopted in 1968 and outlines the vision and values of Auroville. It clearly states that Auroville is meant to be a place where people live in harmony, where the emphasis is on inner development and where there is no discrimination on the basis of race, nationality, religion or political beliefs.

The Aurocracy governance model is based on three key principles: collaboration, self-governance, and self-awareness.

  1. Collaboration is a fundamental principle of Aurocracy. It is the principle that underpins all decision-making processes in Auroville. In Aurocracy, decisions are made collectively, with the aim of finding the best possible solution for the City as a whole. Collaboration is seen as a way to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and that decisions are made in a transparent and inclusive manner.
  2. Self-governance is another key principle of Aurocracy. It is the principle that empowers Aurovilians to take responsibility for their own actions and to contribute to the well-being of the City as a whole. Self-governance is based on the belief that Aurovilians are capable of making decisions for themselves and that they have a responsibility to contribute to the well-being of the City as a whole. Working groups are led by 4-8 individuals with intuitive intelligence. Each individual is expected to take responsibility for their own actions and decisions, and to work towards the common good of the City .
  3. Self-awareness is the third principle of Aurocracy. It is the principle that emphasizes the importance of inner development and personal growth. Auroville is seen as a place where individuals can come to explore their inner selves, to develop their own consciousness and to contribute to the growth of the City as a whole.

Aurocracy is a system where decision-making is decentralized and where power is distributed among the residents. The system is designed to encourage participation and collaboration among the Aurovilians. Decision-making in Aurocracy is based on the principle of consensus. In a consensus-based system, decisions are made after all City members have had the opportunity to express their opinions and concerns. Aurovilians are expected to take ownership of their lives and their work, and to contribute to the City in a way that aligns with the ideals of Auroville. This means that decision-making is decentralized, and there is a great deal of trust placed in individuals to make choices that are in the best interest of the City as a whole.

The Aurocracy governance model is based on a series of working groups, each with a specific mandate. These working groups are responsible for various aspects of City life, such as governance, education, environment, and economy. The working groups are made up of volunteers who have nominated themselves to the public service and vetted by the Foundation. From amongst the pool of self-nominated volunteers, a handful are selected by some randomised selection process. As each working group is responsible for making decisions related to their specific mandate and for implementing those decisions, the new volunteers naturally join the group and contribute to its purpose.

The Aurocracy governance model is also based on a series of committees, each with a specific mandate. The committees are responsible for overseeing the work of the working groups and for making decisions related to City -wide issues. The committees are also responsible for maintaining the Auroville Charter and for ensuring that the principles of Aurocracy are upheld. The committee members are nominated by the Governing Board of the Auroville Foundation and they ensure checks and balances on the working groups.

Another key feature of the Aurocracy model is its emphasis on collective decision-making. In Auroville, decisions are made through a process of consensus building, where all members of the City have an opportunity to participate and share their ideas. This ensures that all perspectives are considered, and decisions are made with the collective interest of the City in mind. According to the Aurocracy governance model, decision-making is based on the principle of consensus. This means that decisions are made through a process of dialogue and discussion until a consensus is reached. This process is designed to promote harmony and unity among the residents of Auroville.

Another important aspect of Aurocracy is the emphasis on transparency and accountability. Auroville operates on a system of open meetings, where all City members have the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns. This helps to ensure that decision-making is participatory and engaging, and that everyone’s voices are heard. Additionally, Aurovilians are expected to be transparent in their actions and to hold themselves accountable for their behavior.

One of the challenges with this model is that it can take longer to make decisions since it requires input from all members. However, proponents of the Aurocracy model argue that the benefits of having a decision-making process that is inclusive and engaging far outweigh the potential downsides. While Aurocracy is often praised for its democratic and decentralized approach to governance, it is not without its challenges. For example, the emphasis on individual responsibility can sometimes lead to conflicts between City members who have different ideas about what it means to contribute to the City. Additionally, the lack of a formal hierarchy can sometimes make decision-making more time-consuming and difficult.

Despite these challenges, however, many Aurovilians feel that Aurocracy is a highly effective governance model that allows them to live in a City that aligns with their values and ideals. By placing a strong emphasis on individual responsibility, self-governance, transparency, and accountability, Aurocracy has created a unique and thriving City that continues to inspire people around the world.

In addition to consensus building, another important aspect of the Aurocracy model is its focus on self-governance. In Auroville, there are an external authority of the Government of India which ensures the manifestation of the idea of Auroville. However, the City fully relies on its own internal mechanisms to maintain order to manifest the ideal of Auroville.

One example of this emphasis on individual responsibility is the way in which Auroville handles conflicts. Rather than relying on a hierarchical system of authority figures to mediate disputes, Aurovilians are encouraged to work out their differences through open communication and dialogue. This approach not only empowers individuals to take control of their own lives, but it also fosters a culture of mutual respect and understanding within the City. While handling the issues of conflicts and disputes, the self-governance model is supported by a system of conscious justice that emphasizes mediation and reconciliation rather than punishment. When conflicts arise, members of the City are encouraged to come together and find a solution that is acceptable to all parties involved. Often, the surface conflicts are the result of deeper issues, and in Auroville, we attempt to got the root problem and heal rather than provide superficial band-aids.

The Aurocracy model represents a unique approach to governance that places a strong emphasis on collaboration, collective decision-making, and self-governance. While it is not without its challenges, many members of the Auroville City believe that this model has been instrumental in fostering a sense of unity, purpose, and shared responsibility among its residents. The Aurocracy model represents a compelling alternative to traditional forms of governance. Its emphasis on collaboration, inclusivity, and self-governance has helped to create a strong sense of City and shared responsibility within Auroville. While it may not be suitable for all communities, the Aurocracy model serves as a powerful example of what can be achieved through collective action and distributed decision-making.

Radical Resistance to Real Reset: Auroville’s Bold Step Forward

The recent move to reset the assets and entities of Auroville has been met with mixed reactions. While some see it as a necessary step to shake things up and move towards the ideals of the community’s founders, others view it as a power grab and an attack on the community’s independence. In this article, we will explore why this reset is necessary, what it could mean for the future of Auroville, and how the community can move forward from here.

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Copyright should be left out of Auroville

The Auroville Charter

  1. Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But, to live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.
  2. Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
  3. Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.
  4. Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity.

If the above is what we abide by as committed Aurovilians, I think we need to seriously revisit Auroville’s ‘copyright’ doctrine. If Auroville belongs to nobody in particular, how can the ideas, insights, and innovations that come out of Auroville be with strings attached?

We need to declare outright openly that the outcomes, outputs, and outflows borne out of Auroville are selfless offerings towards humanity, and that we do not require royalties, commission, and dividends for our love. 

Ethically, it also makes sense, as one cannot claim total ownership rights to anything in Auroville. Every effort in Auroville is built on previous efforts of Aurovilians, countless hours of volunteers, goodwill of the locals, funding of the donors, support of the governments, etc. 

Auroville should adhere to the copyleft principle. Copyleft is the legal technique of granting certain freedoms over copies of copyrighted works with the requirement that the same rights be preserved in derivative works. 

The ones who do not want to adhere to this collective commitment should voluntarily move out of Auroville, to perpetually profit from ‘their’ idea, insight, or innovation. 

Absurdities in Auroville RADs


I’m no expert on political democracies, electoral methodologies, or psephology. I am merely pointing out as a layman, the glaring gaps in the ongoing RAD. I understand that we need some systems to organise ourselves, and the voting system is a stepping stone. I am only trying to point out the blatant absurdities inherent in the ongoing process. The ongoing RAD is flawed at multiple levels and I’ve thus publicly posted my statement, announcing my abstination.

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RAD: What is this win worth?

Let me begin this article by congratulating the ‘Be Here Now’ team for pulling off a stupendous victory. In the recently concluded Residents’ Assembly Decision-making referendum, they won by a landslide margin. Out of 899 votes cast, 803 were in favour of the motion – “To pause all clearing, infrastructure laying and permanent construction work on the Right of Ways of Crown, Radials and Outer Ring in order to enable the community to define a way forward for Auroville’s development…”. Only 90 went against the tide. The number of people participating in the exercise is, by the way, the record in Auroville’s history. Altogether an incredible win, indeed!

Though, this did not come as a surprise to me, personally. I never doubted the outcome of the RAD, I always knew the BHN team would win. The narrative of ‘saving the trees’, ‘standing up against violence’, ‘fighting for freedom’, etc. looks luscious, romantic, heroic even. If I did not have the all-around information, I’d have myself rooted for it. After all, who doesn’t like to be a hero warrior? But, here I’m, risking the wrath of the community, sticking my neck out once again, saying what I think needs to be said. What is this win worth?

The numbers do not say everything

Even though the numbers seem the highest ever, it does not mean, we as a community are unanimous about the notion around progressing or pausing. I, for one, do not equate everyone who did not exercise their voting rights to be against the RAD topic. In the same breath, I wouldn’t also draw conclusions that only 90 are in opposition. It is a reality that many abstained from voting, me including, and I request the community to not overlook this fact, under the influence of the winning high. Out of 2427 eligible residents (above age 18 and confirmed Aurovilians) 899 have explicitly made their opinion known, the remaining 1528 residents also have a viewpoint and cannot be easily discarded. Many refer to them as the silent majority and both sides claim they are with them. We do not yet know their version for a fact and in future actions, their role, depending on where they swing, can be crucial.

The smokescreen of consensus is cleared now

Until now, there was an unwritten understanding within the community that a brash show of numbers to make a point was considered unacceptable. The tyranny of numbers may not always present an amicable solution. At times, mere numbers can prove to be cruel for conscious decision-making. Thus, we as a community have always relied on a semblance of consensus rather than the brute force of the numbers. We have trusted the quality of the arguments more than the quantity of arguers. With the present victory, without worrying about listening to – forget including – the other side of the argument seems unprecedented and unfortunate. All the claims and calls for collaboration seem an eyewash and posturing for an audience. Most of the effort during the lead-up to the RAD seems to have been on booing & demonizing the residents who presently hold offices, instead of genuinely listening to their side of the story. Most of the effort has been towards proving the madness and little to no effort towards understanding the methods behind that ‘madness’. At least, we’ve been true this time to act as we believe, and the chimera of courteousness has lost its sheen.

The crisis is the glue, not the purpose

If one looks closely at the occasions, in which we as a community have participated in relatively high numbers, we find they have been moments of crisis. May it be for Highway or Crownway. We do not come together with such enthusiasm when the matter is not of controversial nature. Moreover, coming together and finding consensus to do anything new in Auroville is usually an uphill task, given the number of personal opinions and perspectives on the subject. So, rather than doing anything boldly for the future, we as a community seem to find solace in maintaining the status quo of the past. Doing anything new requires debates, discussions, dialogues, and the synthesising of opposing views, which is far more difficult than mediocre continuity of the same and familiar old. The state of our economy, organization, education, social interactions, living standards, town development, and even environment-related activities, etc. in the last 20 – 30 years stand as a testimony against courage for change. We as a community claim to strive for actual human unity, however, we continue to cling to our personal point of view. We need to find purpose in various fields of Auroville and see how we can translate our newly found unity into something positive, not merely against a bogeyman.

The actual meaning of the RAD

The Residents’ Assembly will (may have already) present the results to the Working Committee, which, in turn, shall present the ‘Decision’ to the Governing Board. Here’s where the difference of perceptions creeps in. The residents who voted for the motion may expect the GB to honour their ‘Decision’ and order Auroville entities to ‘Pause’ all work. Whereas the GB may look at the ‘Decision’ as a request or advice only. The working group of Auroville – ATDC – has already requested the GB for support and resources to carry forward their long-pending work, which the GB has already agreed (refer to the Minutes of the Meetings published on 3rd Dec 21) and declared. Given their prior commitment to the ATDC and their recent focus on development – on the occasion of Sri Aurobindo’s 150th Anniversary – they may continue to support ATDC and decline the recent RAD request to pause.

How would the community respond then? This may rile up a few residents and many more may rally around the riled. Will it matter? For us, residents, yes! Will it matter to the Government of India? Perhaps not. From their perspective, they’re only supporting Auroville’s progress and helping the community finish long-pending – community-approved, gazetted by previous governments – work. The Government of India may see few emotionally charged residents as rabble-rousers, hellbent on obstruction of work. Long story short, consequences for us residents may be quite unpleasant & then, what will have been then the purpose of the RAD? Make the GB listen to the requests of some residents? Fair purpose but perhaps too crude and blunt an instrument.

I have been vocally against this particular call for a RAD all along, for it posits the community against the GB. The RAD then presents itself as confrontational rather than collaborative. Even if we believe few individuals are misusing the Government system, it is juvenile of us to be assuming this antagonistic posture. Multiply the RAD with political name-calling, embarrassing narrative placed in the international media, etc. leading up to what? A little attention and outrage? I believe we could have found an ear and solutions through other means. I am afraid this RAD victory may not mean much, apart from it being used to dial up the temperature a notch higher.

I request the BHN team to show magnanimity in the moment of victory – Be Humble Now! Please do not push the boundaries, we’ve already gone far enough. I request them to find solutions within the community and allow the ATDC to do its work. If possible, partake in their participatory actions. But, by all means, come back to the table, dialogue, discuss, debate, and find a way forward, with each other.

– Lakshay Dharan

Auroville – Utopia Based Inspiration 

“What (If Anything) Can Justify Basic Income Experiments?”

Author and the Aurovillian

Before I begin with the topic, I want to explicitly state that I am authoring this article in a personal capacity. After working as a communication professional in the field of upliftment for the last 15 years, inspired by the ideals of Auroville, I shifted to Auroville about 5 years ago and made it my home. More recently, after attending the BIEN conference last year in Hyderabad, I feel completely convinced that UBI could be the panacea that has the potential to set many wrongs right. 

The views expressed throughout are purely personal and draw inspiration from the experience of working in the social sector and as a resident Aurovillian. Even when I’m referring to the community as ‘us’ or ‘we’, I’m taking unacknowledged liberty as an author to explain the unique concepts. By no means, this article should be considered as the community’s collective opinion or an official stand of the Auroville Foundation. 

My humble intention is to inspire my readers regarding the possibilities, with the help of my individual point-of-view, community perspectives, and global narratives. I’ll be straddling freely between these three angles, frequently through the article. I have earnestly tried to be factually accurate, and any mistakes, omissions or misrepresentations are absolutely unintentional. 

Finally, I sincerely hope Auroville serves as an inspiration towards realising the utopian idea of Unconditional Basic Income. 

Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) and Auroville: Setting the Context

This paper enumerates the aspirational aspects of Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) and in doing so attempts to present Auroville as an exemplar to the outside world. Auroville has been in existence as an intentional community for more than 50 years now, we are however yet to implement a UBI in its truest sense. But, what makes Auroville a compelling context for UBI is its existence grounded on the ethos of unity in diversity, constant progress, and a research-centric futuristic approach. Each of these provides a fertile ground for a multitude of ideas to sprout and flourish, which can then be transposed to a larger context. 

The ideals foregrounding Auroville are fundamental to humankind and therefore appeal to people across the world. Though a small community of about 3000 residents, it is represented by more than 50 nationalities making it a microcosm of the world. And, it all began with a dream. A dream of a spiritual visionary named Sri Aurobindo, who apart from being a reformer and educationist was also a poet and a prolific writer and sage whose vision of progress of human civilization, a world-union forming the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all continues to guide the community at Auroville. Sri Aurobindo saw India as a spiritual gift to the world, a step in evolution that would raise humans to a higher and larger consciousness, and provide solutions to problems that have perplexed and vexed us since we first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society. A dream so perfect that it first came across as a utopian idea, but was taken forward and built upon by his spiritual collaborator, Mirra Alfassa, fondly called ‘The Mother’ in the community, who worked tirelessly towards turning it into reality. 

From the onset, Auroville has been about doing the things that were supposedly considered impossible. Conceived as a city to be built at a deprived location in south India itself was an impossible idea, but with the generosity and goodwill of early supporters, land was procured and the foundation of Auroville was laid on 28th February, 1968. From an arid and deserted piece of land with a few resources to building a city was like chasing a mirage. Yet, the pioneers’ labour of love in setting up initial settlements, and continued with the residents’ offering of work led to the fruition of the city in all its dimensions. 

The aim of this publication is to provide a case for experiments related to Basic Income and how UBI fits into the larger purpose of Auroville. This article will probe into multiple aspects of socio-cultural, economic-political, techno-ecological life in Auroville and will illustrate how UBI can influence these and the implication thereof. Finally, we will highlight the immediate as well as long-term potential of UBI which has the potential to alter the discourse around questions of meaningful work and employment precarity – a global challenge by now. 


The ideal of human unity

The magic of a vision lies not on grounded reality but in its grandeur, the one that truly inspires and promises exponential potential even while it stands to negotiate space for itself. Auroville, in that sense has always had a high ideal towards realising human unity in the spiritual sense, not to be mistaken for any physical, cultural, intellectual or mental oneness. 

Aurobindo writes – 

“With the present morality of the human race a sound and durable human unity is not yet possible; but there is no reason why a temporary approximation to it should not be the reward of strenuous aspiration and untiring effort. By constant approximations and by partial realisations and temporary successes Nature advances”1

It is this reality that stands central in Auroville and acts as perpetual encouragement for the residents to persevere. During all our meetings, deliberations and plannings, the participants are acutely aware of how vast and high our aim is, for “— in it must be found the means of a fundamental, an inner, a complete, a real human unity which would be the one secure base of a unification of human life. A spiritual oneness which would create a psychological oneness not dependent upon any intellectual or outward uniformity.”2 

This global UBI movement, by aiming for an unconditional basic income for everyone, would facilitate the attainment of the aforementioned vision of human unity. For this vision to take root and act as a great unifier, we must think beyond borders and look at equality in the united sense. Its aim should not only be equality for every citizen, but also between nations and communities. The problems of the globalised world affect everyone differently, but surely, irrespective of the divides. Then, the solutions must also move beyond the divisions. 

UBI thus becomes a crucial instrument to realise this goal of human unity, and the attainment of freedom therefore is indispensable for this purpose. But what does ‘freedom’ mean and how can it be realised for both the individual and in the collective life of a nation? How do we strike the right balance between individual freedom and the collective interests of a society or nation? Why does the struggle for freedom, fuelled by brave and inspiring words, so often end in a bloodshed and new kind of tyrannies if one were to examine historical moments of our human existence?

In the course of a lifetime devoted to finding answers to these questions, Sri Aurobindo gradually developed an integral vision of human freedom. For him, freedom was more than just ‘a convenient elbow room for our natural energies’3; it was an eternal aspect of the human spirit, as essential to life as breath itself. But he was also aware that even though Freedom, Equality, and Unity are the eternal aspects of the Spirit, the union of liberty and equality can only be achieved by the power of genuine human brother(sister)hood. It is the practical recognition of this truth, the attempt to get people to live from their soul, and not from ego, and it is that to which humanity must also arrive before it can fulfil itself in the life of the race.

Sri Aurobindo kept before him the ideal of freedom and knew from experience that true freedom has to be discovered within the human heart, through the acceptance of ‘the other’ as brother or sister, not just in theory but in practice. 

An alternative way of life

The Auroville charter provides a new vision of power and promise to people choosing another way of life. In the pursuit of realizing human unity, it is not enough to do more of the same, or some of the new. There is a need to pursue a more holistic approach and that is where the charter works as a great guiding force, the north star. Aurovilians apply the ideas of the Auroville Charter4 in their daily life, in policy-development, and decisions, big and small. The Charter thus forms an omnipresent referent that guides those who choose to live and work for Auroville.

  1. Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But, to live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.

Auroville has been established as an experiment in human unity. The results could be wide-reaching and not limited to a particular geography or demography. Though it espouses non-ownership as a concept, it could also be viewed as a reposement of belief in diversity. This also encourages the individual to think beyond the self and to consciously cultivate the belief to serve the higher purpose of the collective. 

  1. Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.

In Auroville, we believe education is not merely for the instrumental end of securing employment but for the purpose of inner development. When concerns about livelihood and sustenance are out of the equation, learning has the potential to become an unending quest, a means for constant movement towards our higher purpose. This unquenchable thirst may lead us to live an ever youthful life. 

  1. Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.

Being in Auroville, one is expected to tread time and space eloquently. Discovering the past and deliberating the future becomes part of the course of life here. This does not happen in a silo though, residents also stay abreast with happenings in the world around, striking a fine balance with the experiences of everyday existence and inner spiritual discoveries. With the help of the learnings from these two realms, intuitions about future realisations are harnessed through. 

  1. Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity.

For actualising human unity, manifestation of ideas on ground are equally important. While articulating intelligently or making mental strategies is part of the process, it is extremely important to embody the concept by incorporating it as an essential part of life at Auroville. Before we go on to make a case for humanity as a whole, we ought to practice what we preach and in doing so we internalise and embody the idea in a way that our life becomes an inspiring lesson for others to emulate.

For Basic Income to be successful, the movement should have roots in diverse locations with wider humanity and the environment as intended beneficiaries. Here, constant learning and adapting should be part of the process., and long-term view and broader perspectives ought to be taken into account for every step undertaken. It is pertinent to say that any narrow or short-sighted pursuit may jeopardize the purpose. To enable meaningful implementation of UBI, it is proposed that multi-faceted research along with multi-dimensional lived experience to be adopted which can eventually be transposed for implementation on a global scale. 

Redefining the meaning of work

Apart from the vision of realising human unity, Auroville is also inspired by the philosophy of Integral Yoga5, propounded by Sri Aurobindo. Integral Yoga focuses on the union of spirit and matter, realising consciousness through action. The concept proposes that any work, if done with concentration and purpose, seeking beauty and perfection, can lead us to higher consciousness, where work becomes meditation. Certainly, in striving for such unity, the nature, type, status of work becomes secondary when the striving is for union of form and substance. Fundamentally, it changes the way we look at work itself. It is no longer a chore, done out of necessity; not an assignment, ordered by someone higher than us in authority. It is not a task undertaken out of competition, nor a career, that one blindly chases. Here, work is not means to a reward but the reward itself. In Auroville, through this philosophy, the very meaning of work has been redefined as a source of joy, happiness and contentment. In our community life, we all pick up work that we connect with and that completes us while we accomplish it. As we choose our work based on our proclivities, we tend to apply ourselves and pursue perfection in the chosen field. 

Even though the above-mentioned philosophy is supposed to be the ideal living model, for some, there are compulsions imposed by financial precarity, and they choose to work based on monetary rewards being offered. This is where some of us in Auroville believe that some form of basic income could bridge this gulf. 

One argument against basic income is that people would be lazy and complacent when money comes free and without conditions attached to it. This itself emanates from the belief that we only work when there is a monetary incentive. However, multiple pilots and researches4 have proved that this cannot be farther from the truth. Our innate urge to do, be productive with our hands, and do something meaningful in life cannot be simply dismissed on based on misguided assumptions. Auroville’s past and the continuing present can be a great inspiration for critics to understand and redefine their motivation for work. Our trust in the collective good, faith in the human spirit, and belief in each others’ intention for work can infuse confidence and allay doubts related to the meaning of life.

Another constraint that stares us in the face comes with the conventional definition of work as something solely looked at from the economic perspective: the translation of time, skill and energy into its monetary worth, further, not accounting any (monetary) value to care work such as, a parent caring for their children and elderly, which is also a form of work but does not find any place in our conversations around “productive” work. Someone worried about nature, and looking at ways to restore flora and fauna is also work. An artist or a poet, reflecting on a society and imagining a better future is also a form of work and so is the one who is drawn toward academic research or scientific experiment, a critical mind that stands up to an authoritative regime and acting as conscience-keeper is also work. Freedom from the drudgery of working solely for individual sustenance, would enable us to look beyond the self and look after one another. The idea of equality, embedded in the Basic Income recommendations has immense potentiality to liberate us from the shackles of working for money, and to promote a feeling of fraternity among people on the planet.  

Auroville for the last 50 years, is a living example and offers an alternative paradigm about the nature of work itself. The philosophy of Integral Yoga has inspired research and practice in multiple fields in Auroville, which shows how these ideas can be implemented on the ground. The following sections, illustrate through different examples, how the concept of Integral Yoga has taken shape in the fields of social, cultural, economical, political, technological and ecological terms. 


Our way of life 

The philosophy of literally tending to our own work has reaped immense results in the social and cultural aspects of Auroville. For a visitor, this is a clearly-evident dimension of our township. It is very common to spot a scientist working in a garden, an artist running a cafe, an accountant teaching, or a medical doctor making ceramics, etc. Here, individuals from diverse backgrounds, adopt Auroville as their new home, and engage in work that responds to their inner calling. With people from more than 50 nationalities, it is mutual love and respect for the larger community, and a quest for perfection in one’s work that unites the inhabitants of Auroville. Simultaneously, there is an appreciation for differences too. We all understand that our choice of work or interest may vary a great deal, to be balanced with time at hand and other responsibilities. We are also mindful of opposing perspectives, and co-exist in spite of our disagreements. Individuals differ with respect to interests, capacities, abilities, and tendencies, etc. These differences do not imply conflict; instead these varying beliefs further strengthened the organisation of society.

In the tapestry of our societal life, interdependence and cooperation are finely inter-woven. As our interests are rarely one-dimensional, we undertake multiple vocations and multitude of overlaps under different layers are inevitable. This essence of comity is not only among the residents, but also vis-a-vis the people belonging to the surrounding bio-region. Our social evolution doesn’t happen in a silo or in a secluded way. We work closely with the outside world and yearn for co-evolution. It may even sound like a very utopian way of life, but conflict is also an ever-present phenomenon. Cooperation and conflict are necessarily imbricated for the formation of society and must coexist in any healthy society. Conflict is a process of struggle through which all things have come into existence. A conflict free harmonious society is practically an impossibility. There is no denying the fact that any society for its formation and growth requires both harmony and disharmony, cooperation and conflict, a movement and countermovement. We at Auroville, have our own conflict resolution mechanisms and a local governance model, and we do not rely on the external state machinery. When everyone looks inwards and finds work that accords with them, extraordinary things happen in the collective evolution. There are takers even for jobs that are generally considered mundane, as some find meaning in carrying out those. They believe what goes around, comes around. People know they have themselves benefitted from others’ goodwill and generosity. A series of actions help things settle, and eventually the system works in unity. With time, our faith in the universality of actions and collective good grows and keeps us together. 

Culturally, the idea of integrality has taken an interesting parallel roots. As the nature of work in itself has been redefined, the educational institutions which usually work as a feeder system for the industrial world, also stand fundamentally reformed. Auroville’s education model is called ‘Free Progress’ and each child is encouraged to progress at their own pace and are free to choose the subjects as per their liking. We do not have exams to qualify for the next, nor are we limited by time to achieve any preset goals. When the target is inner development, the limitations and boundaries disappear and the onus is on oneself to set and reset targets. It is in such moments that the margins of learning and work get blurred and the process of lifelong, unending, constant progress becomes second nature. We look at the holistic inner development through the enrichment of our physical, intellectual, mental, vital, and spiritual being: a wide canvas in itself.

Another important off-shoot is our pursuit of beauty and perfection in all kinds of works we do. The aesthetic sense of the society has expanded exponentially and creativity has become our way of life. When one arrives in Auroville, the underlying appreciation for beauty is hard to miss. There is beauty in the food we eat, houses we live in, clothes we wear, our gardens, our road signs, the city planning, and every other small thing. Of course, it goes without saying that we boast of a high percentage of our residents being art-inclined, like, architects, painters, sculptors, illustrators, writers, poets, ceramicists, dancers, singers, musicians, conductors, theatorists, actors, film-makers, printmakers, photographers, fashion designers, interior designers, landscape designers, etc. There is no doubt in our minds that when money is removed from the equation, the very nature of work transforms. When one does the work, which they love without bounds, the result can only be transformational for the maker and the audience. 

Our take on power

We, in Auroville, view economic and political power quite differently from the outside world. The power of money has little or no influence over people who do not chase it. The ones who have it enslave the ones who need it. It becomes a means to manipulate and control the people whose basic needs are somehow yet to be met. People at the bottom of the pyramid do not have a choice but to get exploited knowingly or unknowingly. One could argue that if money is required for fulfilling a desire or want, it still can be foregone or postponed for the sake of doing the work that they like. However, in the case where money is required to take care of basic expenses for themselves and the loved ones, there is little choice in the matter. 

This predicament related to money was clearly understood by founders well before the beginning of Auroville. Thus, while putting forward the idea of Integral Yoga, money was purposefully kept out of the equation. In the pioneering days, food, shelter, clothing and basic needs of all the members were taken care of by the extended community (initially Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville were conjoined entities) and everyone actively took part in the collective life. Later, when the community grew, providing for everyone became untenable. Nevertheless, we still have the concept of maintenance where people take up different jobs and roles, and irrespective of their experience, role or importance, everyone is provided a similar maintenance of little more than 200USD per month. It also comes as a mix of cash transfer, in-kind (financial capital that cannot be withdrawn as INR, therefore acting as a local currency), and ‘kind’ vouchers for home supplies and healthcare. In Auroville, if one is working within an Auroville Service, one could be a director or a guard, farmer or a town planner, front desk manager or a designer, they all draw home the same amount of money. The power of money is denuded and is put to its appropriate use – to serve us rather than we being slaves to it. Though, this is not the case, if someone is exerting these professions as a commercial activity registered as a social enterprise. 

Another important concept that prevails in Auroville, is to devalue and discourage private ownership. It is worth noting, that non-ownership is also legally enshrined in the Auroville Foundation Act, 1988. The immoveable assets are the property of the Auroville Foundation, and collectively utilised by Auroville residents, may it be the land, buildings, enterprises, etc. A person can be a steward of a particular asset like a house or a enterprise temporarily, or to the max, till the end of his life. As we own nothing, there is no legacy to be passed on to the next generation. Even social enterprises that run under the banner of Auroville are all based on this model. One becomes an entrepreneur because they like the enterprising energy, not because it brings any big personal reward. This concept has unburdened us from the habit of accumulating, hoarding out of constant fear for the unknown tomorrow. In general, throughout the world, there is this sense of scarcity, amongst rich and poor, old and young, men and women, alike. Nothing is ever enough, as we tend to collect for the foreseen needs and unforeseen wants. This accentuated habit over time has resulted in extreme inequalities in societies world over. People have become self-obsessed, individualistic, narrow-minded, that there is a complete contempt for the ‘other’. The other could be a neighbour or a stranger, believer in other faiths or political ideologies, other race or nationality, other species or life forms. When one switches off this conditioning for ownership, a lot happens, organically. 

When one doesn’t want to make more money or be lured to own something bigger, what good is the power of position. In Auroville, we gain power, rather influence by doing. And, this power is entirely internal. The power to do one’s work with an eye on perfection has no effect on others. The more one does for the community, naturally they raise their inner strength. The outer rise is limited to appreciation, respect and love. When there is no authority or monetary draw in the work, the quality and amount of work sets one apart from the other. We govern ourselves with this kind of intentional anarchy and it works. Hopefully, when UBI becomes a global reality, the power of money and position would subdue too. To imagine such a world where people are driven by compassion, camaraderie and care and concepts like competition, corruption and control would become obsolete is a sheer joy to conceptualise.

Our line of force

With liberation from the clutches of money, people in Auroville can afford to realign their forces with nature. Since its inception, our line of focus has been on reforestation, restoration, and rehabilitation as a primary mission. Ecology has been the centre of our radical living strategy. In fact, an old surviving banyan tree is the geographical centre of Auroville. A symbol that denotes how we’re pivoted around nature and our lives are woven with it, not over it. Fifty years ago, when Auroville came into being, this land was a barren deserted space. At the behest of The Mother, the master plan of the city was made in the shape of a circular galaxy. It was further divided into zones like residential, industrial, cultural, and institutional with the banyan tree and Matrimandir at the centre and a vast periphery of green belt around the galaxy. During the pioneering days, people chose to focus on first fixing the ecological situation. They experimented, toiled, and persevered, and today it’s a lush green tropical forest area. Many lives have returned to its original habitat and made it their home again. When people are close to nature, they understand the cyclical model of life. The notice, appreciate, and imbibe the sweet duel between independence and interdependence with nature. The linear assembly line of the industrial and machine world does not yet fully understand this. Some have started to talk about the circular economy, but the inspiration should come from the purpose and not diminishing profits. 

As mentioned at the outset, Auroville being an intentional community, everything you see here as tangibly existent is an outcome of conscious effort. It is part of a human design and the result of a collective consciousness. When one looks at life and lives it with spiritual consciousness, it manifests beautifully as consciousness in matter. The inner affects the outer, and in turn the outer inspires the inner. One enters a blissful upwardly spiritual spiral, where, with light, love and truth, he or she happens to unpeel the layers out of larger and deeper questions like purpose of life and existence. Along with the closeness with nature, consciousness also influences all aspects of a day to day life. It makes us look consciously at the origins, production, consumption, stakeholders, and implications of each of our acts. Consciousness directs the kind of food we grow, transport and eat. The attire we buy and wear. The music we hear and the movies we watch. The way we travel and transport. The electronics and electricals we use. The way we build our abodes and live in them. The method of our communication and modes through which we connect with each other. Everything changes. The conscious choices we make, make all the difference in our world. And, freedom from money gives us that room for freedom of choices. 

Luckily in Auroville, global technology fads have not implicitly gained footing. On the other hand, we have always been early adopters or pioneers in many alternative tech fields. We do not look at technology as an end in itself, rather as a means towards making conscious choices. During the initial years, electricity was a luxury and they had to find other sources through wind and solar. This way, Auroville has become a pioneer of sorts in harnessing alternative energies. This happened long before talks of renewable energy and recycling were fashionable. Transportation and mobility is another field where we’ve consciously adhered to non-polluting means. Our city has a wide and picturesque network of cycling tracks. We have also been early-adopter of electric vehicles and now have a whole range of electric vehicular options to showcase, right from motor-assisted bicycles, Ebikes, e-rickshaws, electric cars, and a fairly good public transport system. Apart from these, we have also made great advances in waste management, water conservation, sustainable farming practices, and numerous other small yet important innovations. We’re an early proponent of organic and fair trade practices too. 

With UBI in place, one may pause the hectic life for a moment and take a deeper look at their life and other lives of our planet. It may rekindle people’s love for nature and in turn compel them to make conscious choices in their personal, public, and professional life. With insights from socio-cultural, econo-political, eco-technological aspects of Auroville life, we may now look at the further potential of unconditional basic income in Auroville or elsewhere in the world. 

Experiencing overall true unconditionality

Unconditional is the first word of UBI. It is also the first commitment, a promise that support be provided unquestioned, unchecked, and unhindered. The only condition should be to be alive. Money should be given irrespective of the recipient’s gender, age, class, sexual orientation or preference, race, religion, etc. It should be given without any strings attached. Usually, money is paid in lieu of an offered work, making it an economic condition of exchange. When money is paid without it being means-tested, it compels us to change the way we think about these interactions. Politically, unconditionality may translate as an action that reaches out to all sections of the society. Our political conditioning may compel us to view it as an act of pandering to a certain class. However, we must rise above looking at these reforms as an electoral imperative and condition our minds to think positively with a long-term view in mind. UBI is not a freebie, or about giving doles, its intention is not to serve as a buyout package for influencing voting behaviour. 

It is one thing to relook at our economic and political perspectives, but is that enough? Will it suffice to say to a person below the poverty line that ‘regardless of your work, your basic needs will be provided for’? We do know that one does not work only for money. There is a social stature attached to it. There is a cultural aspect to it. The emancipatory effects of work, sometimes reserved beyond the reach of the supposed lower castes may hold different meanings for different individuals. Women may look at work as a means to escape from stifling environments in their homes. For e.g. the UBI transfers should not perpetuate patriarchy in any form. Unconditioning must happen at social and cultural levels too. Traditionally, giveaways are treated as charity, aid or akin to giving alms. Unconditional Basic Income should be considered as the most basic of human rights, and not as a distress-support mechanism. Effectively, the argument should go beyond poverty alleviation and emancipatory narratives. 

To experience complete unconditionality, one may have to learn to discern between working for wage, vis-à-vis, working for worth. Our individual conditioning, right from childhood is typically around working for a wage. The greatest leaps we need to make are in our minds and position it around working for a worth. Work which is worth the personal and familial satisfaction. Work which is worth the time and effort. Work which gives purpose to do, and also takes principles to do. Work which accords identity and pride, and not discord and shame. Work which makes us look forward to Mondays and not wait for Fridays. Work which provides meaning to life, over just money to live. 

In Auroville, one gets a basic fixed monthly income depending on the availability of such compensating employment. Lot of work in Auroville is done either on a voluntary basis or in barter for shelter or lunch coupons. There are also many who are unable to find suitably compensating employment and struggle to meet their ends. There are a few who take up two half-employments to meet their requirements, as neither of the two had the financial strength to pay for full maintenance. Also, it is easy to find people who are employed in one work, but their heart is not there and they might do other voluntary work to keep their soul satisfied. There are also many who are stuck with work that pays, and over time, the work doesn’t entice them anymore. But, they continue for lack of other options. Even with the utopian philosophy and potential, in practice, reality seeps in and forces one to surrender to the pragmatics of the situation. In such a context, the need for UBI might be considered a much-needed intervention and no less. 

At any rate, Auroville’s philosophy of Integral yoga or karmayoga may inspire others to look at work, per se, from a different angle. Taking a page out of Auroville, UBI can be pitched as a means to fulfill basic needs in life, so that we can focus on our deeper purposes. Work needs to be embraced unconditionally for its ability to synergize our spiritual energies into matter and channeled as means to find oneself. Working unconditionally may open many doors and influence others in countless ways and ultimately pave way for genuine human unity. 

Peace via certitude as a basic target



Our sensibilities, structures and societies are laden with the fear of the unknown and is loaded with insecurities about one another. Alleviation of general fear and insecurities could be another great potential of the UBI. Belief in each other and the collective good is another basic ideal to build on. Many man-made challenges have risen in our midst due to the prevalent distrust and suspicion of motives. We may basically start from believing in others’ actions and motives and cultivate some sort of basic trust or faith in the people. We must believe in the intelligence and intuition of people who might receive this basic income and utilise it for their collective and personal progress. Taking a cue from the Maslow’s structure – though not to be mistaken as a chronological order – when the basic physiological needs are met of a human being, sense of security prevails. They start to seek out love and respect, and with time, dignity and self-respect builds. With this new-gained confidence and a congenial environment, the pursuit may be redirected towards self-actualisation and inner development. By paying for the basic physiological needs of human beings, peace could emerge as the greatest benefactor. When there is no strife and competition for survival, society has the potential to become less cutthroat and offensive in their actions. Simultaneously, trust must also be cultivated bottom-up to believe that the structures and systems would deliver. 

Even in the Auroville context, a certain amount of fear and insecurities remain. While some may consciously choose to suppress such feelings and hopefully look towards a better tomorrow or some sort of heavenly intervention, the reality does loom large. Many have resorted to securing a safety net as a primary objective. There is this palpable, unspeakable discomfiture in air. The cushion of basic income may return the much-needed comfort of certitude to people’s lives. Certitude is the greatest gift we can give ourselves, to our communities and to people all over the world, and this shall in turn pave way for more power to peace. 

Choice transformation through cash transfers


The third word and promise of UBI is ‘Income’. For recipients, with the surety of income, comes the ability of expenditure. Unconditional basic income will bring about a new paradigm where people may choose to do what they love to do. Income may fire up new passions and novel patterns of spending may emerge. As a society, we should not be afraid of the potential new outcome. Fear of frailties in human character due to new freedoms is unfounded and unsubstantiated. By default, change in the pattern of income should also be accompanied with the change in the pattern of expenditure. As much the UBI movement is involved in influencing the upper echelons of our society to change attitudes and policies to enact basic income for all, there must also be a complementing effort to reach out to the masses to change the mindset and create awareness about conscious basic spending. People should be made aware regarding discernment between consumption and conscious choice. 


Market forces in general want to sell more and use multiple strategies to nudge people to buy more. We now clearly understand the perils of this greed and its grave impact on people and planet. The initial assumptions of free-trade practices and its liberal policies of completely transforming our society and liberating us from the imperial intentions and class divides has worked only to an extent and has largely remained short of its promise. We have further deteriorated our societies into extreme inequalities and the supposed trickle down effect has not actualised. In this climate, cash transfers have the potential to be transformational like never before. The result may well be exponential rather than incremental. In today’s scenario, where the economy is divided between capital control and purchasing power, the move of cash transfers should not be perceived as a tilt towards one particular side. The responsible redistribution of wealth should go hand-in-hand with conscious purchasing.

Consciousness in consumption and living style is another aspect of Auroville which may stand as a shining inspiration for the world to learn from. Consciousness doesn’t limit oneself to constraints. It is, in fact, contrary to the scarcity mindset. Consciousness is about experiencing abundance even within frugal means. We experience truly sustained joy, happiness, and satisfaction through compassion, experiences, and creation. And, not through accumulation, consumption, or excesses. Consciousness in each matter of our concern will transform the collective spirit. We must trust the intelligence of collective consciousness and spring towards future realisations. 



Awaiting a new dawn

We all know the importance of money for our needs. Through this article, an attempt has been made to envision a world where work is not exchanged for money. The portrayal of life in Auroville as an inspiration for the outside world to pursue universal basic income comes from the honest aspiration for a better world for all. This is by no means to present a rosy picture of everything being perfect in Auroville. It is not. Auroville is a work in progress. Auroville is also not a homogeneous community and there are as many opinions of progress as there are people. Thus, I tried to position the argument from the vantage point of philosophy presented by the founders. There could be multiple interpretations of the ways to realise the vision, but the destination itself inspires us to keep moving towards our highest ideal. The ideas presented here are manifestly painted with a broad brush bereft of the details regarding nuances and other viewpoints. Each point in itself is so vast, and there are books written about them. 

Perhaps one may wonder, how come we do not yet have a form of basic income, provided we’ve such a perfect backdrop. The answer is that the apprehensions that exist outside also inhabit our society. Some do worry about the fallout of free money and some about the influx of freeloaders. Even though it could stand true for a few individuals, the community at large and the pursuit toward constant progress cannot be held hostage to fear. Another significant aspect is how one looks at the ideals of UBI. Many in Auroville believe, the same benefits are achievable in large part through our community services. We are working towards a UBS model of Universal Basic Services, rather than UBI precisely, in order to achieve the ideal of “no exchange of money”. This aspect has led Auroville to conduct some experiments related to, and limited to food, shelter, mobility, health, etc. And, there are some, who believe in some form of additional complimentary UBI. Many researches around the world show that the future definitely belongs to UBI. It’s only a matter of when, not whether.  As soon as the gutsy early adopters begin, the rest of the world would follow suit. This is where the UBI movement and the world to invest and establish UBI in Auroville makes absolute sense. 

The major hindrance to application of UBI in Auroville is not the will, but the wealth. We earn our revenues through some social enterprises, a subscription fee from the residents, and donations. Unlike a country, we do not have the mechanisms at our disposal to raise more funds to support UBI. Like, redirecting from defence budget, or re-orienting social services, or raising tax slabs. We simply cannot raise the subscription fee, as it already is a burden for many, and a UBI might help us in abolishing it. Pushing our social enterprises to sell more to raise more money compromises our ethical value and we do not own any natural resources to earn rent from. The only available option is to raise more funds. We may raise internally as Germany did it through citizen funding, for BI raffles. We certainly have the possibility of seeking the private wealth of residents in Auroville for this purpose. But, the experiment of UBI can only be successful, when it is a long-term promise. Hence, the only sustainable way for this experiment to succeed in Auroville is by continual external funding. Then only we’ll be able to study the behavioural change and deduce any meaning. Through the experiments, run around the world in tiny pockets, we have enough credible evidence6 of what poor people will do with their UBI. Auroville is neither poor nor rich. By investing in Auroville, the world may study how UBI impacts middle-income societies. Supporting UBI and eventually sustaining it in Auroville would provide real-life evidence, which the countries from the world over may refer to and learn from. 

To conclude, Auroville is a long-established international site of experiments and it is recognised by UNESCO for its contribution to peace. With residents from all over the world, it is an ideal place to study the effects on multiple parameters. Also, in the interest of time and effort, and the logistical impracticality to observe it in different corners of the world for everyone to reckon the phenomenon, Auroville is located ideally. For instance, an optimistic scenario of UBI’s application and experience in Norway may be discarded by China on the basis of cultural factors or demographic reality of a large population. An experiment in Africa or Nepal may be rejected by the West or advanced nations as a mere third-world solution. Or, success in Switzerland may be disregarded by Saudi Arabia citing political landscapes. Auroville represents people from different cultures, and the effect can be astutely studied on various groups on social and cultural basis. It has people coming from developed countries and affluent backgrounds as well as people from the so-called underdeveloped countries and marginalised segments. The economic impact and the level of self-governance in different subsets may provide us insights into behavioural change. We may also be able to notice the difference in the patterns and technology adoptions and resultantly the impact on nature. In a nutshell, the prospective of prosperity’s effect on people, and together, their impact on the planet, with the possibility of establishing worldwide partnership to achieve lasting peace. Auroville is called a city of dawn and we eagerly await this new UBI dawn. 

short dash


1 Aphorism – 335, 336; CWM; On Thoughts and Aphorisms; Fourth Period of Commentaries (1969 – 1970) Karma (Works)

2 CWSA; The Human Cycle; The Ideal of Human Unity; The Ideal of Human Unity – II



5 The terms Integral Yoga’ or ‘Karma Yoga’ or ‘Yoga of Work’ are used interchangeably in our community


Response to Outreach Media of Auroville

Dear all, 

I’m writing this on behalf of many concerned residents, in response to the email sent by Fabienne to all the Auroville entities and openly publishing it on the Auronet. 

She has asked 3 questions and here are responses for each one of them.

  1. On what grounds was this decision made?
    Is common sense good enough? Fabienne of Outreach Media went on a blitzkrieg after the MoM of GB was released on the 3rd Dec and action started on the 4th. She frantically reached out to media houses, national and international, planting skewed and sentimental stories, to evoke sensationalism while there was none. Outreach media was set up to manage the misinformation and avoiding detrimental narratives, however in this case, she herself indulged in such actions, which are deplorable given the delicate scenario within the community. The need of the hour was to find solutions within our community, rather than sending SOS messages outside, without giving a second thought to its long term effect, in terms of fundraising, image of India, etc. 
    Auroville Foundation’s Under Secretary Sri Srinivasmurty’s request to Fabienne 1. to restrain from publicity (Dec21), and, 2. move the assets (Jan22) after taking cognizance of the damage it is (or will) creating is timely and appreciable.
  2. Have the 3 bodies that together constitute the Auroville Foundation been consulted and agreed to this decision?
    Conflated sense of self-importance. For every small decision, like transfer of few assets, should all 3 bodies be consulted and wait for the agreement? The community have long drawn processes (which will put the worst kind of bureaucratic systems to shame) and ill-adapted for quick decision-making, calling for such seems to be an excellent instrument to delay. If we follow this argument, and decisions regarding transfer of assets are deemed so important, why were the mentioned 3 bodies not considered, consulted before giving those assets in the first place, and what about the appointment of an executive to this ‘important’ position? It’s purely a self-appointment, like the executives of Auroville Today, News&Notes, Auroville Radio, etc. Moreover, now Outreach Media is managed by One Executive – Fabienne. If the Auroville Foundation believes the damage caused by Fabienne is of extraordinary proportions with grave consequences for the outlook of India, on the international stage, by all means, it is in their purview to act, and they’ve done so, rightly, by asking her simply to move the assets. How come, outreach of Auroville is an unrestrained, unquestioned, unrelenting personal fiefdom of one individual? The 3 bodies ought to come together to decide on the whims and fancies of one person? Preposterous?
  3. Has the FAMC, as the mandated body responsible for managing assets of Auroville, been consulted and agreed to this decision?
    I personally think this point is valid. Funds and Assets Management Committee (FAMC), the relevant body under the Auroville Foundation, could have been kept in the loop. I am sure they would have collaborated, given the circumstances. After all, Sabine who worked in N&N was removed from executive-ship on some flimsy grounds, by the FAMC. So, there is precedent for FAMC to take action. 

Having mentioned the above, the main assets of Outreach Media are not some computers and cameras. It is the connections that Outreach Media has carefully cultivated over many years as an official voice of Auroville, and Fabienne as the face of it. The media, world over, is buying Fabienne’s story because the media thinks she is Auroville’s voice. When Fabienne sends distress calls to her email lists asking for the world to help against the so-called ‘high-handed’ external force named Government of India, the individuals who truly care about Auroville believe it and the media finds it lucrative. 
I find the second email by Fabienne, wherein she refuses to comply to the request, even more worrisome. She mentions she’s ‘charged’ with managing the Outreach Media on behalf of the Residents’ Assembly of Auroville. I think it is a false claim, or else, I am happy to read the note that corroborates her position. She then goes on to talk about the ‘Jurisdiction’, which by definition means ‘the official power to make legal decisions and judgements’. I don’t think 19(2)(b) – in haste she read it as 19(b) – mentions anything being under direct jurisdiction of RA. The section 19 of AVF Act enumerates the ‘Functions of the Residents’ Assembly’, it is not the ‘right’ ‘power’ or ‘legal means’ in any sense. The 19(2) says ‘In particular, and without prejudice to the foregoing powers, the Residents‟ Assembly may-‘ and (b) says ‘organise various activities relating to Auroville’ not sure where she got her facts from. Whereas, section 17 of AVF explicitly mentions ‘Powers and functions of the Governing Board’ and 17(d) mentions ‘to monitor and review the activities of Auroville and to secure proper management of the properties vested in the Foundation under section 6 and other properties relatable to Auroville’ based on which Auroville Foundation is duly and ‘lawfully’ acting, given the mismanagement of assets.
In the 3rd para of her second letter, she mentions ‘As such, the FAMC of the RA is the authority that is charged with the duty and power over all funds and assets of Auroville…’, and again it’s a misreading of the facts. The FAMC is mandated with some functions, it is not ‘the authority’ and it does not have ‘power’ over all funds and assets. In fact, FAMC performs under the Governing Board of Auroville Foundation and the Under Secretary is also part of the FAM Committee. In the final para, she suggests the Auroville Foundation to ‘apply to the FAMC seeking clearance or any other permission’. Her defiance gives a feeling, she believes the Auroville Foundation is under the ‘authority’ of FAMC. After going through her emails, having seen the glaring gaps in her understanding of Auroville Foundation Act and misreadings about ‘powers’ and ‘authority’, I wonder what other misinformations have we been spreading out in previous years. 
Given the confrontational attitude presented in Fabienne’s email to everyone, it’s clear she is taking the request from Auroville Foundation personally, rather than thinking of the collective good. I sincerely hope she lets the new volunteers, Joel and Sindhuja, work at par with her. I hope she uses her power positively and productively. To make things clear, the Auroville Foundation is not taking over the Outreach Media. They simply asked other willing volunteers from the community, who are not trigger-happy and are better restrained in the actions, to manage it. 
Thank you for your attention and time. I request each one of you to take the pains to be aware of the alternate thoughts and underlying motivations, and support actions which helps in the progress of Auroville, instead of PAUSING Auroville.

Auroville Residents’ Assembly Decision to pause all clearing, infrastructure laying and permanent construction work on the Right of Ways of Crown, Radials …

“To pause all clearing, infrastructure laying and permanent construction work on the Right of Ways of Crown, Radials and Outer Ring in order to enable the community to define a way forward for Auroville’s development, following:

  • collective processes,
  • the ‘Master Plan: Perspective 2025’ framework,
  • and other relevant regulations.

The outcome shall be approved through a ratified Residents’ Assembly Decision-making process, before the above specified clearing, infrastructure laying and permanent construction work resumes”.

In my view, the call to decide to ‘pause all’ is a bit lost and late. Why?

Lost because, it is calling to pause all work, which I understand, given the circumstances, but, until when? As they say, the devil is in the details. Further, it says… ‘in order to enable the community’, but doesn’t define ‘What will make the community feel adequately enabled?’ Then again, it says, ‘to define a way forward’. To be noted, not ‘to move forward’, but only to further ‘define’, which again is an ambiguous term.

Point to be noted is ATDC is already structured in a way that enables the community to participate in self-organisation. Refer the Standing Order for ATDC, 2019. The mandate and the roles are already defined in it. Why duplicate and waste our already thin community resources? Why not ‘COLLECTIVELY PARTICIPATE IN THE EXISTING COMMUNITY PROCESSES’ ?

Second, Late because, the work of clearing, infra laying and construction work on RoW of Crown has started long back, in 2009. The first work order to make the Crown Road was given then. Subsequently, work has taken place in the mentioned areas in sporadic ways. If at all, someone had apprehensions, there was a 12 year window to put forth alternate ideas, and even join ATDC to change as they wish. In fact, many protesting figureheads were part of ATDC, why didn’t they bother to correct the course, while it was still in the cold storage. Realistically, it is now almost impossible to pull back this decision, after having enacted all the drama till now. However, there is still scope to discuss the Radials and outer Ring Road. I wish we could focus our energy on the radials and outer ring, rather than the Crown. I’m ok for losing a battle to win a war.

The final para, ‘The outcome shall be approved through a ratified Residents’ Assembly Decision-making process, before the above specified clearing, infrastructure laying and permanent construction work resumes” is a bit worrisome too, as it puts a condition that work can only resume, provided we arrive at an outcome, given the undefined terminologies like ‘Collective Processes’ and ”Other’ Relevant Regulations’ – we can happily dedicate our lifetime to define what those are – we still arrive at some decision. Let’s say we decide to meander blissfully and avert the endangered Darkali. Now, the question is, will the work be stopped if Auroville loses the NGT case against the Auroville Foundation?

Let’s put this in context.

ATDC presented its plan for ‘the Crown’ to the Secretary, Auroville Foundation in August 2021. Yours truly was part of the ATDC then.

ATDC informed the Secy, AVF that the HTL of Crown is incomplete as the stewards are unwilling to allow the HTL to go through the planned circle.

Secy, AVF agreed to support ATDC in finishing the ‘long-pending’ work, and wanted to know the status of the pending roads. When it declared that it is bankrupt (which ATDC is, it depends on BCC and other willing donors) and cannot finish the work due to paucity of funds, she committed to get a GOI grant to help ATDC finish the work.

Secy, AVF believed she could take ATDC out of the logjam and went on a slew of meetings, walks, discussions, etc to find a solution to the stewards’ concerns.

Then, came October, and the new Governing Board members visited Auroville, listened to the requests of various working groups and assured support to finish ATDC’s work.

Again, many a meetings followed. Btw, there are 17 stewards on the pending crown area and almost all of the them agreed to the CRoW plan barring B, YC and D. They were asked to present their concerns and possible solutions to ensure the Crown goes as per plan. For eg. an alt space for YC or for Darkali, a type of technical solution to move the man-made water catchment area a bit, or to build bridges over stormwater flow, or transplanting trees, or anything else that they deem fit, as a solution to find a way for CRoW. However, the solutions from B,YC&D only recommended design changes to the CRoW plan itself. This was disappointing from ATDC’s point of view. Though, I think the responsibility for the misunderstanding rests on the ATDC. ATDC was ambiguous and flexible in its messaging, yet firm and quick in its actions.

In November, as requested by the Secy, AVF, it gets the necessary funding for the Crown, Radial and Ring work. And, the Crown work was supposed to be finished by 31st Dec. ATDC takes its sweet community-recognised work style and time. Honestly, ATDC was accustomed to working in hand-to-mouth mode, it did not have the wherewithal to shift gears and accelerate. We wondered, pondered and squandered the time.

Fast forward to Dec 3, the minutes of the meetings of the Governing Board are released and Secy, AVF requests ATDC to start the work immediately.

ATDC starts it on 4th Dec and ‘somehow’ continues till 10th Dec. Auroville gets a stay order from National Green Tribunal to stop the felling of trees until further notice.

As of today, the 17th Jan, the stay continues. If the stay is lifted, most likely the work shall resume, as the GB most likely believes they’re supporting Auroville Community work, as nothing came from them. They must wonder what all this hue and cry is about, after all they’re only helping implement Auroville’s own Master Plan (spare me the whataboutery). Can the RAD stop the resumption of work? Excuse the long detour.

Do we, as Auroville Residents’ Assembly, have a power to over-rule the GB’s decision? By all means, we can wish, request, advice, plead, beg, pray, appeal, ask, solicit, petition, seek, invoke, etc. to the GB to change their mind, for the sake of Auroville. But, of course, our enlightened mind, elevated soul, and advanced selves may find it demeaning. On the other hand, can we order, demand, summon, dictate, stipulate, pressure, command, impose, declare that the GB abide by the ‘community’ decision?

The Auroville Foundation Act, clearly defines the roles and powers. We may interpret it the way we want for internal consumption, but, would it help our cause?

I wonder, will we truly win, even if we win against the larger, external powers. I wonder what will be left of the community after winning? I also wonder what are we afraid of losing? as we anyway do not own anything physically.

I personally came to Auroville for inner work, and I’ve great battles to be fought there. And, my first battle ought to be against writing long essays.

Bringing the temperature down

I believe, we as Aurovilians should, on all sides, refrain from using broad brushstrokes of blanket statements.
I know many ‘foresters’ who are concerned right now, but they’re not exactly against the galaxy. (Atleast the ones who are not in the city circle) their appreciations are related to their life, living and livelihoods. They’re affected by the misinformation related to bulldozing of their houses (red marked), stewardship rotation, VISA, etc. Given the lack of full and correct information, the insecurities are growing and gulf widening. And, I understand that.
Unfortunately, thus far, the attempts at coming together and discussing openly, heart to heart, has been hijacked by egotistic personalities and political organisers. We enter the realms of physical and vital play, not allowing the mind to the fore, on all sides. The escalated atmosphere does not allow for an healthy debate. The moderate Voices are marginalised, shunned and ridiculed. This doesn’t help our collective cause and impedes our way forward.

Recently, we’ve found comfort in remaining as camps and addressing the echo chambers. Recent meetings at UP and RAM 2 are a glaring sample of that thought process. Each side think that the majority is by theirs and do not bother listening to the opposing and difficult views.

I stand and strive for the city to be built in the city area (not the green belt) and I love that Auroville is full of green corridors and I cycle, walk, run on it. I believe that eventually the city will have more than 50% green areas. And I find the plan incredible for us and for the world to learn from.

Now, because I stand for the city, the people on the other side 🤔, think I’m against the trees. This kind of reductionist approach is also detrimental. I know many on this side who’s far more dedicated and diligent towards the trees and other life in general.

I often hear the expression (which made me write this long piece) inflexible and dogmatic. I find one being very dogmatic in not being dogmatic also. I find this accusation utterly insulting and infuriating.

First, about being inflexible. In the last one year of my working in ATDC, I’ve reached out to many, begging for collaboration and participation. Mostly, I’ve found shut doors, as there was no ‘crisis’. Suddenly now that we’re in a crisis situation, the same people asking for collaboration, and that too after the work has begun, seems a form of armtwisting than anything else. All the cry for collaboration shall be considered, by many, as pressure tactic or time buying maneuver till things come back to good old grudging, grinding times. Please, genuinely address this.

The masterplan is an evolving one. Even the crown has gone through various deliberations. The radius of the Crown evolved from 700m to 690m. The width of the row from 22m to 16.7m. i do not think it’s inflexible but amendments to it cannot be brought forth by making the children sit on the JCB in protest.
We’ve to be part of the system to change the system which has been created as an internal system.
By creating parallel systems like dreamweaving process and citizens assembly, we’re adding to the chaos, and possible heading towards further conflict.

The ATDC has a provision for 15 members. Only 5 are there. Why not select 10 more members and send them to ATDC to effectuate real change? Oh, where’s the drama in it.

Second, about being Dogmatic. I for one, am not. I seldom use ‘Mother said’ argument to make my point. In my public addressing, I’ve always given practical and grounded reasons for the works that need to be done. And there’re enough of it.
Having said that, i also know that the City was setup by the Mother with certain vision. Ive voluntarily made Auroville my home and thus abide by her words, as much as possible. If, whenever, i do not concur, I’ll move out myself. I did not come to Auroville for political freedom, I’m not afraid to exercise it outside.

In my view, the Mother envisaged the city as an instrument for substantial number of individuals (50k) to practice the principles. The correlation ends there. The making of Matrimandir did not automatically uplift us, evidently. Thus the city may not automatically bring about Human Unity. However, the physical city need to be built for the remaining seekers to make Auroville their home. And add more to our chaos. Perhaps, a necessary factor in our evolutionary process.

We need to come together and go beyond accusations and name calling. We need to address the core insecurities and understand the method behind the (what we consider as) madness. We need to look at micro difficulties on one side vs macro challenges on the other.
I straddle all sides, i find goodness, goodwill and good intention everywhere. Someone recently shared a phrase, we’re individually clear and collectively confused. It’s so apt and it is so changeable.
If not us, then who? If not in Auroville, then where? If not now, then when?