Auroville’s Path in the Light of Bharat

As Auroville grapples with the introduction of Central Government regulations, a call echoes for residents to delve into the legal framework—Auroville Foundation Act, 1988, and Rules, 1997. Challenges to regulations need a court, not local bodies. Knee-jerk dissent via emergency RAD lacks legal standing, risking residents’ eligibility. Activism is cautioned; unity, study of laws, and legal counsel are urged for informed, responsible action in harmony with India’s evolving global role.

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Embracing Reality

Amidst recent tree felling along Auroville’s Crown Road, the concerns offer an opportunity for unity and positive vision. While acknowledging the loss, the focus on minimal tree removal for the Master Plan aligns with Auroville’s commitment to conscious living, resilience, and sustainable urban planning.

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Landing Auroville

The need for land
The need for land to manifest Auroville is of paramount importance. Currently, Auroville is facing a critical moment in which external commercial development is encroaching upon its territory. Some residents have grown complacent, believing that the opportunity for consolidating Auroville lands has passed and that the manifestation of Auroville’s physical vision is no longer possible. This defeatist mentality has given rise to alternative ideas such as adopting a kibbutz-like lifestyle, repurposing lands for reforestation, and prioritizing personal comforts. If we can reignite the light of a physical possibility of Auroville, much of these malaise may disappear. 

However, there are still a few individuals who remain committed to the original vision of Auroville. While they form a small minority, it would be naive to think that this group alone can achieve the consolidation of lands when the majority holds a different perspective. Therefore, the first task at hand is not only to consolidate the lands but, more importantly, to consolidate confidence and belief in the possibility of Auroville’s realization. If Aurovilians can rekindle the sense of possibility and overcome pessimistic thinking, much of the existing challenges can be overcome.

Presently, a pessimistic outlook prevails across the spectrum. Some radical individuals believe that preserving the existing green cover is crucial and prioritize maintaining the available lands. On the other hand, the progressive faction argues that the encroachments have already compromised the green belt, so the focus should shift towards building the City on the remaining 5 square kilometers.

In my opinion, both of these arguments are contrary to the spirit of Auroville. Losing sight of the City’s vision and creating a stark contrast between ghettos and luxurious lifestyles is not in alignment with Auroville’s principles. Similarly, forfeiting the much-needed green buffer and living at the cusp of the City that gives Time a break and the City that the Earth needs, would be a disservice to both Auroville’s aspirations and the region’s well-being. This approach would only lead to the emergence of yet another divided and branded community, akin to “White Town” and “Brown Town.” The food street of Auroville has reached till Certitude, soon it will merge with Dinesh and then it will be connected to the Crown. Auroville can boast of a contiguous and contagious Food Street from Solar Kitchen to Goodman. Or, it can be extended till GMT on promenade, perhaps making it the longest food street of the world. 

Desirable for some. Disaster, for some. 

Now is the time for collective action. Rather than competing with one another, let us channel our energy towards positive endeavors that contribute to the realization of Auroville. It is essential for the residents of the City of Dawn to recognize that the idea of the City cannot be buried any longer. Those who oppose the City or wish to shape it according to their personal preferences have two options: either continue to disrupt and hinder the City’s progress or disengage from any development and harbor resentment in their isolated spaces. Both these options are conducive to those who only aim at creating a concrete city with a bigger neighbourhood for market. The life in Auroville will become monopolised, monotoned and monolithicated. This is less interesting for those who believe in divergent methods, diverse modes, and divine means.

This piece aims to argue that not all hope is lost. It is indeed possible to consolidate the lands for Auroville and bring forth the physical manifestation of Auroville as it was originally intended to be.

The City Lands

The City Lands of Auroville encompass a 5 sq kms in the center of Galaxy, only about 50 acres remain to be acquired in multiple crucial pockets. From a financial standpoint, acquiring these lands is feasible. Auroville has over 10 crores in its Land Accounts and a collective fund of 130 crores. Additionally, there is the possibility of government assistance and fundraising efforts to support the acquisition. In essence, it is within the realm of possibility to obtain these lands.

However, the main obstacle lies in the willingness of the current landowners to sell. The remaining pockets are owned by affluent investors who, due to the urgency of Auroville’s need, are becoming increasingly driven by greed. If one were to consider the situation from their perspective, it is understandable that they may be hesitant to sell when they believe they can obtain even more money in the future.

In my humble opinion, the approach to acquiring these lands should not be solely based on financial incentives. It is essential to make these investors feel that they are contributing to a larger cause. Those individuals who possess the ability to persuade and convince them not to sell could potentially become the game-changers in this endeavor. By highlighting the significance and purpose of Auroville’s expansion, we can create a sense of shared responsibility and encourage these landowners to participate in the realization of Auroville’s vision.

The Green Lands

The acquisition of green lands for Auroville poses a challenge, particularly due to the rapid commercial development happening in the vicinity. The rate of fundraising is far lesser than the rate of inflation. People are buying left, right and center, given the premiumness of the address and proximity to a high potential tourist spot. Again, a sure shot investment. Hardly, any risk involved in investing in the Auroville Circle. 

We cannot outbid our competition, given our current scale. Perhaps, the government would have invested in securing the lands, had we made our moves properly. But, we missed that bus too. Given all the negative media attention that we’ve garnered in the recent past, I’m sure that the government will not willingly invest money to buy trouble. In 2021, there was a high likelihood of securing the green belt through this means, but we’ve royally bungled it. Thanks to our high-horsed attention and approach. 

In light of these circumstances, alternative options need to be explored. One possibility is pursuing policy-based protection for the green lands. This is an extremely low investment option, but may take some time for the lands to come into Auroville’s fold. Owing to the fact that Auroville is a Vision-based City, or a valuable tangible Heritage of India, or as an institution set up by an Act of Parliament, or as an environmental sanctuary, we can secure favourable conditions. However, things are murkier at this level. There are overlapping jurisdictions and ambiguity over control. Unfortunately, after securing the AFA88, we didn’t pursue further clarity. Auroville was set up as a project of SAS, with Mother as its President. We then continued as an undefined commune. Then we became a subject of the Central Government, under MHRD. However, land is an article of state subject. We never pursued the State Government of Tamilnadu seriously to get their official blessing. Though, partial attempts were made after the approval of the Master Plan by GB, in 2001. 

1. The GoTN issued a Government Order(GO) in 2003 to the effect that all the development within the circle of Auroville can only be carried out with the permission of the Office of the Auroville Foundation. The efficacy of this order did not stand the test of time, thanks to the brevity of its content. It did not define who takes the final call, what if the panchayat decides differently, who gets the right of way then, the powers of the Auroville Foundation to enforce the GO, etc. If we look at the patterns of Auroville’s conflict management related to land, it seems, even we did not believe in this GO. 

2. After the Master Plan was created, Auroville pursued the Directorate of Town and Country Planning (DTCP), under the Ministry of Housing, Tamilnadu, to get Auroville under the existing provision of New Town Development Authority (NTDA). This would have brought together the lands of 5 villages – which constitute the Galaxy Plan – to be assigned as a ‘New Town’ and gazetted officially. This would have meant that instead of a rural profile, we would have been considered as a Town Municipality with Auroville Town Development Authority, constituted in Town Hall, as a nodal body for all developments in our 5 villages. Given our Gazetted Master Plan, we could have easily secured the Green Belt by not allowing any untoward constructions. Unfortunately, we didn’t pursue it wholeheartedly, given the fear that NTDA would have mandated us to accommodate the local MLA and MP. 

To be clear here, the NTDA in itself, would not have provided the lands to Auroville. However, given the clear mandate of the Master Plan, no investor / speculator would have bought the lands, which had the only option of being a green buffer for Auroville. We could have let the locals live in their lands, as long as they wanted or even tried to bring them into our fold. By all means, it would have negatively affected the speculative trends. We must all understand that the high prices of the land is not making the locals richer. It is the rich hoarders, greedy brokers and the outside middlemen who are profiting from the current situation. 

The present ATDC seems to have given in writing to DTCP, withdrawing our 20-year old application. No arguments have been presented in favour of the withdrawal. At the same time, no alternative has also been suggested / undertaken. 

If the ATDC believes that the likelihood of securing the remaining lands of Green Belt is a lost cause, then it is regressive, reductionist and regrettable. By securing a favourable policy decision by GoI or GoTN, we can still reverse the trend of encroachments within the Auroville Circle. This may also help us in securing the remaining lands in the City Area. The hoarders will queue up to get rid of their lands in Auroville, before it gets devalued further. Perhaps, the tables will turn, and we will be in a position to dictate the price, this time. 

The Outlying Lands

The idea of exchanging the outlying lands of Auroville for the missing 1000 acres in the green belt may seem like a straightforward solution. However, there are valid reasons to consider alternative approaches rather than relying solely on this option.

Firstly, such an exchange would be a temporary and makeshift measure, serving as a stopgap solution rather than addressing the core issue of securing the lands of Auroville. It may provide a temporary fix, but it does not guarantee long-term sustainability or the preservation of Auroville’s intended vision.

Secondly, engaging in land exchanges at exorbitant barter rates can be financially burdensome and unsustainable for Auroville. It may lead to significant costs and place a strain on the community’s resources, potentially affecting other essential projects and initiatives.

Instead of solely relying on land exchanges, pursuing a route like inclusion in the New Town Development Authority (NTDA) or a similar approach could offer more comprehensive and lasting benefits. By securing a favorable policy decision from the Government of India or the Government of Tamil Nadu, Auroville could establish a solid legal framework for land protection and development within the designated area. This would provide stability and a stronger foundation for realizing Auroville’s vision.

Considering the long-term implications and the need for sustainable development, it is advisable to explore options beyond simply exchanging outlying lands. By prioritizing a comprehensive approach that aligns with Auroville’s principles and secures official recognition, the community can establish a more secure foundation for its future growth and development.

Moreover, we need the outflying lands to serve Auroville for purposes beyond Aurovilians. The allocation of the outlying lands for various purposes beyond Auroville can indeed serve to benefit both Aurovilians and the surrounding bioregion. Here is a breakdown of the proposed options for the outlying lands:

Education: 200 acres

Dedicate 200 acres for a separate educational institution outside Auroville for Higher, Wider, and Deeper Education. An institution with 2000-3000 learners and 500 mentors from around the world, can be housed outside Auroville. The bioregion will benefit with the rolling traffic and visiting guests. Still, not affecting life in Auroville. The young adults may choose to join Auroville after their education. 

Agriculture: 200 acres

Reserve 200 acres for fulfilling the agricultural needs of future Auroville residents. This land can be utilized to cultivate crops, establish permaculture projects, or develop sustainable farming practices to support Auroville’s self-sufficiency goals.

Industry: 200 acres

Allocate 200 acres for Auroville’s units to engage in income-generating industrial activities. This can include labor-intensive industries that benefit from being located outside Auroville, minimizing their impact on the community’s daily life while contributing to its economic sustainability.

Accomodation for Volunteers & Staff: 200 acres

By default, we must nudge the Aurovilians to move inside the circle of Auroville. However, we can maintain a housing infrastructure for 10000pax in the lands next to Auroville, dedicated to volunteers and the staff who work in Auroville. 

Guest House: 100 acres

The exotic locations next to the beach, forests, canyons, markets, highways, etc. can be turned into Guest Houses and large Hotels of various budgets, from dormitories to presidential suites. We need to create 10000-bedded accommodations of different types. 

2 Visitors Center with parking: 100 acres

We must create a large 50 acre Visitors Centre each on ECR and by-pass road. This will address the needs of the demanding tourists. We can house all our popular eateries and shops at these two locations. This way, we can free up the existing Visitors’ centre and turn it into an Information Centre. We may ply electric buses, pods, taxis from the outside VC to the information centre. The visitors should not be made to transact monetarily within the Auroville Circle to reinforce the idea of no money in Auroville. Provided we generate ample income from 2 VC outside Auroville, we can provide for the basic needs of the Guests, free of cost. 

Bioregion Development: 100 acres

I know, I’ve exceeded 1000 acres. But we actually have more. The remaining 100 acres are alloted to the activities dedicated to the upkeep and upliftment of the nearby villages. The outreach schools, AVAG, Kuilai centre, etc. can all be accounted for here. 

In conclusion, securing land for Auroville is crucial for its manifestation and potential. Challenges can be overcome through strategic planning, collaboration, and belief in Auroville’s possibilities. The City Lands require confidence-building and resource mobilization. The Green Lands demand policy-based protection and favorable conditions to preserve the green belt. Outlying Lands offer opportunities for education, agriculture, industry, residential infrastructure, guest houses, visitors centers, and bioregional development. Landing Auroville demands stakeholder engagement, collaborations, policy-based protections, and efficient resource utilization. By embracing unity, and cooperation Auroville can navigate challenges and grow as a remarkable experiment in human unity and sustainable living.

If not for Auroville, then why are we here? If not the way Mother dreamt, then how? If not the City the Earth needs, then what?

If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?

Aurocracy – A model for Auroville’s Governance

Evolution of Governance in Auroville

The evolution of governance in Auroville has witnessed the exploration and experimentation of various models over time. While Auroville’s governance structure has not followed a linear progression through these models, different elements and aspects of each model have been explored and adapted based on the community’s needs and values. Here’s a brief overview of how these governance models have been considered in Auroville’s evolution:

Phase of Meritocracy: 

In the initial five years of Auroville, Mother was physically present and perhaps made merit-based selection, as can be seen through her decisions regarding Roger, Dayadand, etc. She laid importance on goodwill, expertise, experience, and competence in leadership positions. Individuals with the necessary skills and qualifications were chosen for specific roles and went about delivering results depending on best of their abilities. Otherwise, in general, the residents’ took whatever role they liked. Unless, specified by Her, specifically. 

Phase of Socialism/Communism:

After Her passing to different realms, the residents were affected by the usual ailment, being human. Mistrust, misunderstanding, and mismanagement grew wild, and without the resort to Mother, Aurovilians revolted against the previous leaders. Perhaps, they were inspired by principles of equality, cooperation, and collective ownership. Elements of socialist and communist governance, such as communal living, shared resources, and a focus on community well-being, have influenced the initial phase of Auroville’s development. There were the so-called “Pour Tous meetings” (For All Meetings). Perhaps, this is when the Auroville residents “discovered” their collective ego.

Phase of Anarchy: 

In those days, the resources were short, and given the temperature, tempers were even shorter. The principles of equality soon got replaced by egoality. Everyone might have felt, ‘Apun ko lagta hai, apun hi Divine hai’ and slowly anarchy might have crept in, wrapped with the meaning of self-governance and as a resistance to hierarchical authority. The emphasis on personal freedom, random-responsibility, and decision-making through shouting fests and fistfights aligned with certain narrow principles of anarchy.

Phase of Democracy: 

After 1988, with the intervention of the parliament through an Act, it dawned that anarchy cannot continue for long, and as result democratic system of governance was sought. Where decisions were made through the participation of the people, and for a decade or so the residents found a new toy to toy with. The Resident’s Assembly, WC, FAMC, etc. were conceived and born during those wild days. 

Phase of Oligarchy: 

In the phase of democracy, as the name suggests, demography expanded. When the number of new members increased, the entrenched powerhouses were not ready to share the hard-won governance with the newer players. Perhaps, this is when the oligarchy (rule by a small group) emerged and created rules, regulations, guidelines, codes, mandates, policies, etc. to win and rule with a quorum of 5%. This meant a few could play musical chairs across multiple floors and multiple buildings in the newly built Town Hall then. Till 2021.

Phase of Technocracy: 

After the arrival of a seasoned bureaucrat, in June 2021, she has slowly brought in and explored the elements of technocracy, where decision-making is based on the ‘so-called’ expertise and knowledge of technical specialists. Now, Auroville’s technocratic considerations and appointments are carried out top down, through the ever-present Secretariat, and almost never-present Governing Board. The buy-in for this model in the community is extremely low, and thus the ecosystem required to implement the incredible out-of-the-world ideas of the technocrats of Auroville are non-existent. Thus, defeating the purpose for which they’re appointed in the first place. 

Phase of Participatory Democracy: 

In reaction to the rigid and opaque technocracy, some residents have resorted to participatory democracy, which emphasizes active involvement and participation of ‘all’ community members in decision-making processes. This has been a significant aspect of Auroville’s underground governance model which is closed and exclusive in essence. The engagement of residents in the nomination, feedback, and selection processes, as well as the emphasis on community input, boasting a participatory approach, is carried out within the closed coterie of trusted and loyal residents. 

Well, all the above need to be put in context that Auroville’s governance is an evolving experiment which is the expression of a higher consciousness working to manifest the truth of the future. By whatever means, our society innately seeks to create a harmonious and inclusive environment that fosters individual growth, collective well-being, and the realization of Auroville’s broader ideals.


Need for a new Governance model

The above-mentioned governance models have been tried at various times and none seem to be fitting Auroville’s requirements precisely. They all have pros and cons. Perhaps, what we need is not an imported model, but a conscious governance model that fits the specific needs of Auroville. In truth, none of the existing models will work for us, as we’re trying to tread unchartered waters here. We need to evolve our own governance model to suit our needs. 

The proposed governance model, referred to as Aurocracy – a participatory action model, incorporates elements of various yogic disciplines (Raja, Jnana, Bhakti, Karma Yoga) and emphasizes the importance of discipline, knowledge, devotion, and action. The governance model described in the given scenario combines elements of meritocracy and collective decision-making. It includes specific processes for WG member selection and functioning. Here’s an overview of the model:


  • Residents cannot directly nominate themselves or others for the WG membership.
  • Individuals interested in membership of a working group must first work in it for a minimum of one year as a team member, and the experience cannot be from more than five years in the past.
  • Nominees must commit full-commitment to the working group. No other part-time or full-time engagements for utmost attention to serve Auroville. (This will ensure efficiency and quicker decision-making)
  • Residents can nominate themselves or others with at least one year of working experience as a team member of that WG, before applying for the membership. (For eg. Before applying for ATDC, the nominee should have worked in ATDC’s office in some role. This would ensure a deeper understanding of the work.)
  • The Auroville Council scrutinizes the applicants and shortlists eligible candidates. (Only to ensure the above criterias are met)

Presentation and Feedback:

  • Shortlisted candidates are required to make a presentation on how they will contribute to advancing Auroville’s interests in that particular WG. (Let’s say there are 20 applicants to ATDC, they may have to come up with interesting and creative ideas to prove their mettle and capability)
  • Residents can attend the presentation in person or watch it online and provide qualitative feedback within a week.
  • Nominees may need to incorporate the feedback or provide valid reasons for disregarding it and make a final presentation. (The ones who fail to do this will be removed from the shortlisted list.)

Random Selection:

  • The final selection of working group members is made through a draw of straw method or another random selection process. (Continuing with the same example, irrespective of the impressiveness of the presentation, everyone stands a chance.)
  • Typically, 5 or 7 members are selected randomly. (Again, they may not be the best ones, but it doesn’t matter. We all are one here and there is no competition. As it was a random selection, there is no resentment or disappointment. Anyone could have been the winner. A great equalizer. If the ones with the best ideas get in, they’ve their role cut out and can go implement. And, even the ones whose ideas were not great, can simply invite the co-applicants to share the ideas and implement. In fact, might include them in the project them)

Facilitation and Role/Project Assignment:

  • Once the working group is selected, a facilitator can be involved to align all the new members and assign responsibilities. (This is necessary, as all the 7 members of ATDC might have various ideas and some even conflicting. In fact, the 7 members can even invite the 13 other co-applicants who didn’t make it and try to integrate their ideas too. The facilitation also will ensure that the WG has a definite comprehensive and cohesive roadmap in place before starting working together.)

Working Working Group

  • The working of the WG may mainly entail taking policy decisions, resource mobilisation, work assignment and facilitation, monitoring and evaluation, etc. (For eg. ATDC may pass resolutions to award the DDP project to right team or experts, instead of holding the work inhouse)
  • Working Group members are not allowed to take up any power/role/project themselves. (ATDC doing DDPs, Crown, WTHC, etc. has only resulted in delay and wastage. At the same time, the MM lake team independent of ATDC could quietly finish the test lake, almost without any noise.)
  • They work closely with the Resident’s Assembly Service (RAS) to identify and select interested residents who can fulfill specific roles or projects. (It is the job of the RAS to ensure the residents enlisted in the RoR are indeed serving Auroville. It is their job to nudge the residents to take up responsibilities and contribute to the progress of Auroville. It is RAS’ responsibility to ensure the new entrants to the RoR are properly oriented towards the purpose and propose multiple possibilities to serve Auroville, motivate and align the existing / continuing Aurovilians to contribute according to the best of their abilities. And, facilitate those who wish to leave Auroville.)

This governance model aims to foster participatory action, far beyond participatory planning, emphasizing the importance of discipline, knowledge, devotion, and action. It includes elements of merit-based selection, community feedback, and randomization to ensure a fair and inclusive process. The involvement of a facilitator and collaboration with the RAS supports coordination and the distribution of responsibilities within the working groups.

Aurocracy may also prove to be a possible solution to our current logjam. The folks in the Town Hall will never agree to a number based governance model, as one can easily predict the results. On the other hand, even if the TH WG agrees to work with Aurovilians of opposing views, the appointment process has to go through the Secretariat and wait for Office Orders from GB. This is not going to be easy to accept for the Kailash folks. The above-mentioned selection process may mean that those with ideas from both sides will present, and the random selection process will ensure that there is no foul play. Whatever is the eventual composition of the team, can be considered as the divine play and work with the given team. 

Remember Her words…

“At any rate, they should get together. Then I will see.”

“And yet we must find a way for all these solutions to work together.”

“We have to bear in mind that we are starting from the present state of humanity. So you must face all the difficulties; you must find the solution.”

“This fact is so obvious that a simple and ignorant peasant here is, in his heart, closer to the Divine than the intellectuals of Europe.

All those who want to become Aurovilians must know this and behave accordingly; otherwise they are unworthy of being Aurovilians.”

“We shall work for a better tomorrow.”

“Auroville is for those who want to do the Yoga of work.

To live in Auroville means to do the Yoga of work. So all Aurovilians must take up a work and do it as Yoga.”

“Enlarge your consciousness and aspire for the satisfaction of all.”

“Auroville must not lie. Everyone who aspires to be an Aurovilian must make the resolution never to tell a lie.”

“We must “be” in all sincerity.”

“But for so many years they have been here. It must be proved, it can’t be a feeling or an idea or something like that, there must be a concrete proof.

I have read this question to S.S., because we have spoken together at length, insofar as we feel that certain decisions must be made to try and improve the situation in Auroville.

They will protest at first, but we must remain firm: “This is how it is.”

We must find the people capable of doing this, with the required strength of character, and once we find them, they can be given the authority, and if the others don’t like it, they’ll have to leave!

But when a difficulty comes, you must take heart and face it courageously.

We must strive for Order, Harmony, Beauty and… collective aspiration—all the things which for the moment are not there.

We must rise above personal reactions, be exclusively attuned to the divine Will and be the docile instruments of the divine Will—we must be impersonal, without any personal reaction.

We must “be” in all sincerity.”

Benefits of the new Governance model

The new governance model – Aurocracy – proposed in the previous description has several potential advantages:

Slay the tyranny of numbers: 

By implementing a system where residents cannot directly nominate themselves or others to membership positions, the model aims to address the potential negative aspects of majority rule or the tyranny of numbers. This helps ensure that membership positions are not solely determined by popularity or voting power, but rather by a combination of experience, qualifications, and commitment.

Divine anarchy to play its role: 

“Men must become conscious of their psychic being and organise themselves spontaneously, without fixed rules and laws―that is the ideal.”

The nomination, presentation, selection, facilitation, and action can all become an occasion for us to become conscious of our inner psychic being and act spontaneously. 

Work experience and knowledge as the base for decision-making: 

Requiring individuals to have a minimum of one year of work experience in a working group before being eligible for membership positions ensures that decision-making is informed by practical knowledge and familiarity with the group’s dynamics. The model promotes a meritocratic approach. This can lead to more effective and informed decision-making processes. 

Wider population willing to work in working groups:

By making work experience a prerequisite for membership positions, the governance model incentivizes a broader segment of the population to actively engage and contribute within working groups. This can result in a more diverse pool of candidates and a greater sense of ownership and commitment among residents.

Reduced Influence of Popularity or Political Campaigning: 

The model’s selection process, including the involvement of the Auroville Council and random selection methods, can help minimize the influence of popularity or political campaigning. This reduces the risk of individuals being chosen based solely on charisma or campaigning skills, ensuring a fairer and more impartial selection process. The model reduces the influence of external factors, such as lobbying, special interest groups, or media influence, on the selection process. 

Community Input and Feedback: 

The model encourages community participation and feedback through residents’ attendance at presentations or providing feedback online. This fosters a sense of inclusivity and allows community members to have a say in the selection of members and provide valuable input for decision-making. It promotes a sense of collective ownership and involvement in the governance process.

Collaboration and Effective Teamwork: 

The involvement of a facilitator and the emphasis on collaboration within the working group can lead to improved teamwork and coordination. By aligning the new members and assigning responsibilities, the model promotes efficient and effective decision-making processes, leading to better outcomes.

Balanced Power Distribution: 

By not allowing working group members to take up power/role/project themselves, the model promotes a more distributed and balanced power structure. This prevents concentration of power and ensures that decision-making authority is shared among a broader group of individuals. It can mitigate the risk of dominance or favoritism and foster a sense of collective responsibility.

Efficiency, Adaptability and Focus: 

By committing full-time to the working group, members can dedicate their attention and efforts solely to the group’s objectives and responsibilities. This can enhance efficiency and effectiveness in achieving desired outcomes. The model’s emphasis on aligning new members and assigning responsibilities with the help of a facilitator allows for adaptability and flexibility within the working groups. This can accommodate changing circumstances, evolving priorities, and the diverse skills and interests of the residents, resulting in more agile and responsive governance.

Enhanced Accountability: 

As members are selected based on their demonstrated commitment and experience within a working group, they are more likely to be accountable to the group and its objectives. This accountability can contribute to a higher level of responsibility and dedication among members.

Long-Term Perspective: 

The requirement that the one-year experience be within the past five years ensures that members have recent engagement with the working group. This helps maintain a focus on current challenges and opportunities, promoting a forward-looking and adaptive approach to governance.

Reduced Polarization and Partisanship: 

The random selection method for choosing working group members can help reduce polarization and partisanship. It avoids potential divisions based on political affiliations or personal biases, contributing to a more harmonious and cooperative environment.

Continuity and Stability: 

Requiring a minimum of one year of experience within a working group before seeking a membership position promotes continuity and stability in governance. members have a deeper understanding of the group’s dynamics, challenges, and goals, which can lead to more consistent decision-making and long-term planning.

Development of Leadership Skills: 

By requiring individuals to work in a working group for a minimum of one year before seeking a membership position, the model allows aspiring members to develop essential skills, such as teamwork, communication, and problem-solving. This can contribute to the growth and development of future members within Auroville.

Collaboration and Networking: 

The involvement of the Resident’s Assembly Service (RAS) in the role/project assignment process encourages collaboration and networking within Auroville. It creates opportunities for residents to connect with each other, share resources, and contribute their skills and expertise to various projects or roles, fostering a sense of collective progress and growth.

In summary, the new governance model – Aurocracy – offers a holistic and conscious approach to governance, tailored to suit the specific needs and aspirations of Auroville. 


Our Masters on Governance


Ideal of Human Unity / Forms of Government

Or it might be something like the disguised oligarchy of an international council reposing its rule on the assent, expressed by election or otherwise, of what might be called a semi passive democracy as its first figure. For that is what the modern democracy at present is in fact; the sole democratic elements are public opinion, periodical elections and the power of the people to refuse reelection to those who have displeased it.

The Ideal of Human Unity / The Drive towards Legislative and Social Centralization & Uniformity

Certainly, democracy as it is now practised is not the last or penultimate stage; for it is often merely democratic in appearance and even at the best amounts to the rule of the majority and works by the vicious method of party government, defects the increasing perception of which enters largely into the present day dissatisfaction with parliamentary systems. Even a perfect democracy is not likely to be the last stage of social evolution, but it is still the necessary broad standing ground upon which the self consciousness of the social being can come to its own.

It does not follow that a true democracy must necessarily come into being at some time.

War and Self Determinism

Ancient liberty and democracy meant in Greece the self rule—variegated by periodical orgies of mutual throat cutting—of a smaller number of freemen of all ranks who lived by the labour of a great mass of slaves. In recent times liberty and democracy have been, and still are, a cant assertion which veils under a skilfully moderated plutocratic system the rule of an organised successful bourgeoisie over a proletariate at first submissive, afterwards increasingly dissatisfied and combined for recalcitrant self assertion.

Another illusion was that the growth of democracy would mean the growth of pacifism and the end of war…

Man refuses to learn from that history of whose lessons the wise prate to us; otherwise the story of old democracies ought to have been enough to prevent this particular illusion.

War and Self Determinism

The future does not belong to that hybrid thing, a middleclass democracy infected with the old theory of international relations, however modified by concessions to a new broader spirit of idealism.

The future destined to replace this present is evident enough in some of its main outward tendencies, in society away from plutocracy and middleclass democracy to some completeness of socialism and attempt at a broad and equal commonalty of social living, in the relations of the peoples away from aggressive nationalism and balances of power to some closer international comity.

The Idea of Human Unity / The Peril of the World State 

Democracy is by no means a sure preservative of liberty: on the contrary, we see today a democratic system of government march steadily towards an organised annihilation of individual liberty as could not have been dreamed of in the old aristocratic or monarchical system… it revives now only in periods of revolution and excitement often in the form of mob tyranny or a savage reactionary or revolutionary repression… 

Sri Aurobindo / Evening Talks, 1926 / Purani

I am at present speaking against democracy. That does not mean there is no truth behind it – and I know it, yet I speak against democracy because that mentality is against the Truth that is trying to come down.


On Thoughts & Aphorisms 341 -343 (Karma)

Democracy was the protest of the human soul against the allied despotisms of autocrat, priest and noble; Socialism is the protest of the human soul against the despotism of a plutocratic democracy; Anarchism is likely to be the protest of the human soul against the tyranny of a bureaucratic Socialism. It is chimerical to enquire which is the better system; it would be difficult to decide which is the worse.

A turbulent and eager march from illusion to illusion and from failure to failure is the image of European progress.

Agenda 10 April 1968

If there is no representative of the supreme Consciousness (which can happen, of course), if there isn’t any, we could perhaps (this would be worth trying) replace him with the government by a small number—we would have to choose between four and eight, something like that: four, seven or eight—a small number having an INTUITIVE intelligence.

All the intermediaries have proved incompetent: theocracy, aristocracy, democracy, plutocracy—all that is a complete failure. 

Agenda, August 16, 1969

In an undated note, Mother once wrote:  Democracy was necessary and useful a hundred years ago, but now we must go beyond it if we want to take a step forward towards a new creation.

Agenda 27 July, 1968 (conversation)

Satprem: The Press is asking for a few texts to fill blanks in the forthcoming Bulletin.

The Mother: Take from Sri Aurobindo, not from me! Everything from Sri Aurobindo

Satprem proposes the following text:

Sri Aurobindo: Overmind is obliged to respect the freedom of the individual….

Oh, that’s a revelation! I didn’t know that.

Sri Aurobindo: …including his freedom to be perverse, stupid, recalcitrant and slow. Supermind is not merely a step higher than Overmind—it is beyond the line, that is a different consciousness and power beyond the mental limit.”

Do you imply that the Supermind will not be obliged to respect the freedom of the individual?

Sri Aurobindo: Of  course I do! It will respect only the Truth of the Divine and the truth of things.

The Mother / On Auroville’s Organization

We want an organization which is the expression of a higher consciousness working to manifest the truth of the future.

Mother’s Agenda, 1966

Scores of people have come for Auroville…. Instead of working, they spend their time talking… They’ve already begun discussing what the city’s political situation will be …And one of them wrote to me yesterday, saying he couldn’t take part in something that wasn’t purely ‘democratic’… So I answered him this: Auroville must be at the service of the Truth, beyond all social, political and religious convictions… but above all…it would be better to build the city first!

Mother’s Agenda, 7 Feb, 1970

The anarchic state is the self government of each individual, and it will be the perfect government only when each one becomes conscious of the inner Divine and will obey only Him and Him alone…

Someone from Auroville wrote to me that he had come here to obey only himself and he found there were rules and laws. And he said: I won’t do it! I am free, I refuse to do it… so I wrote to him.. 

“One is only free when one is conscious of the Divine…”

Charter of Auroville / The Mother

But to live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.

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