Monday, March 26, 2007

A place of peace, concord and harmony

The Mother dreamed of "somewhere on earth a place which no nation could claim as its own, where all human beings of goodwill who have a sincere aspiration could live freely as citizens of the world and obey one single authority, that of the supreme truth; a place of peace, concord and harmony where all the fighting instinces of man would be used exclusively to conquer the causes of his sufferings and miseries, to surmount his weaknesses and ignorance, to triumph over his limitations and incapacities; a place where the needs of the spirit and the concern for progress would take precedence over the satisfaction of desires and passions, the search for pleasure and material enjoyment."
She wrote much more about this dream and from it sprang a community which occupies a few thousand acres of land that radiates outward in the shape of a spiralling galaxy from a large golden meditation dome, the matrimandir, into four zones: International, Cultural, Residential and Industrial. The once red-earthed and barren platuea is now covered with dry tropical forests, agricultural projects, futuristic concrete buildings and good intentions. Its residents are engaged in "a wide variety of activities, including research into a cashless economy, environmental regeneration, organic farming, renewable energy, appropriate building technology, village development, handicrafts and small-scale industries, health care, education, cross-cultural communication and many other fields."
Reading the postings board at the information center one finds any number of classes pertaining to health and well-being, including all varieties of alternative healing modalities, many of which i'd never heard of. As an example, one gentleman teaches Watsu, shiatsu massage in the water. Some aurovillians, as they are called, are engaged in the cultivation of traditional Indian medicinal plants in order to reeducate the surrounding villagers about traditional remedies that have for the most part been lost to them. It was the occasion of several local healers coming together to explain their work that prompted me to extend my visit to Auroville by one day. Informed of this gathering by a young American now working at Martavum, or "healing forest", i found myself sitting around a large, rectangular slate table with six Canadian nurses, two german Aurovillians, three traditional healers (two women and one man) and Shivaraj, the enthusiastic coordinator of this enterprise. The Canadian nurses were traveling together through India for four weeks, two of which were spent in Auroville running workshops on "healing touch" and women empowerment. They seemed to view their trip as a great success and they seemed flush with excitement about the possibility of learning something from the locals in return. We sipped sweet, milky coffee and asked questions of the healers.
A word, first, about this "forest." Hans, the American, explained that this garden was in its infancy. Unlike the rather well developed Pichandikulum, on the other side of Auroville, the medicinal plants here were still awaiting the growth of the large trees that would provide necessary shade for their optimal growth. The signs to explain their utility were also in a stage of early development and did not yet say anything about the utility of the shrubs and trees they identified. The names, themselves, flowered with possibility: Calotropis Proceria, Pongumia Pinnata, Plumeria Rubra, Gauzuma Ulmifolia, Ervatemia Divancata, Helicteres Isora, Cassia Alata, Ficus Religiosa, Vetiveria Zizanoides, Catharanthus Roseus, Dodnea Viscosa, Acorus Calamus, Gymanaea Sylvestre, Garcinia Spicata. How different these lovely names to those of the pharmacueticals we must learn in the course of medical education?
Sagundala was a women in her 50s who at the age of 27 had a feeling that she could heal people. She makes special use of the Neem (Azadirachta indica, cousin of Mahogany) leaf and, while channeling Mahakali, the great and powerful Indian goddess (wife of Shiva), prays and fans the burning neem leaves. What occurs is a form of "aura cleansing" and she uses it to cure fever, body aches and general malaise. What other purposes it serves were lost in translation from this stout, confident Indian villager. She brought along the white and red powder seen on so many Indian foreheads and blessed us each with a dot between our eyes. I saw her take the hands of one of the German women and reduce the latter to tears as she closed her eyes and prayed, swaying back and forth...Posted by doubejsanders at 11:48 PM

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