Auroville Trip 2023
Student News

An Immersive Learning Experience in Auroville, South India

Sasha Bainer, an East-West Psychology student, provides us with insights into their firsthand experience of Auroville.

January 8, 2024

The 2023 Auroville City of Dawn summer East-West Psychology class offered an immersive learning experience to students in Auroville, South India, in August 2023. Sasha Bainer, an East-West Psychology student, provides us with insights into their first hand experience of Auroville.

Through meeting with residents, we learned of the vision, the history and the current challenges facing Auroville. Interacting with Aurovillians helped us to understand how the teachings of Integral Yoga can be realized in the world through farming, education, business development and sustainable living.

The immersive Auroville class experience offered students a unique enhanced understanding of Integral Yoga in action, as well as an opportunity to participate and explore our own personal application of and relation to these ideas. The immersive learning format allowed us to develop a comprehensive understanding of Auroville informed through multiple perspectives and dimensions. We engaged with the subject through cognitive and analytical methods coupled with emotional, spiritual, and somatic methods.

The holistic experience of immersive learning allowed us access to educational opportunities and exposures in the field that we would not have access to through conventional classwork at CIIS. For example, we were able to meet with Amrit and Akash Kapur, two Aurovillian authors whose books we had read in preparation for the course. While the books offered two different deep dives in the history and current challenges facing Auroville, in meeting the authors and having the chance to dialogue with them, their works came to life and their stories held even more relevance within that learning moment.

For example, it was very interesting to hear Akash Kapur speak about the classes he teaches at Princeton on Utopia and how his lived experience as an Aurovillian informs this work. Amrit shared what felt like a Darshanic transmission, in which he spoke of his many insights from his lifetime of sincere spiritual practice, personal relation to The Mother and his continued belief in the founding tenets of Auroville.

Another benefit of the immersive structure was the opportunity we had to visit nearby ancient Indian temples. These outings were amazing and nothing can compare to witnessing an ancient structure firsthand. A highlight was when our local friend and fellow CIIS student was able to get us access to a hidden and pitch-black tunnel circumnavigating a central Shiv Lingam shrine in one of the magnificent temples. It was a terrifying and exhilarating experience to walk through the passage!

As students we found ourselves suspended in a liminal space, outside of traditional academia and the modern capitalist world and inside of Auroville, a city which seeks to live out the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

We were away from our homes and families, we had our daily needs met at our lovely guest house, we were surrounded by likeminded classmates and professors (many of whom we had only known through zoom), we attended a daily schedule that included meeting with multiple Aurovillians, we dined in the various Aurovillian restaurants and engaged in the rich cultural, academic, and spiritual activities in Auroville.

We delighted in knowing eachother in person and found a traction within the supportive group dynamic, which was conducive to spiritual growth and inner reflection. Many students learned as much about Auroville as they did about themselves, and the communities they come from.

Most of our group engaged in their own forms of Integral Yoga practice, such as visiting and meditating in the Matrimandir, which offered an opportunity to have a direct immersive experience of the teachings. As a result, many students have developed a deeper connection to Sri Aurobindo and The Mother as well as a greater appreciation for Auroville.

Most striking is the way that Auroville feels so relevant in this time in history. Auroville is often described as an experiment because it represents something dynamic and evolving that is becoming and constantly taking form in relation to its participants. There is a process at work in Auroville which offers an inspiration and challenge for us to include the concepts of relation, co-creation, growth, unity, spirituality, and sustainability into our ideas of progress and the future.

The lessons we learned in the immersive Auroville class cannot be separated from the time in history in which we are studying. As we read the headlines of world events, Auroville’s experiment in human unity feels very current and just as pressing as when The Mother envisioned it in the 1960s.

Jonathan Kay, East-West Psychology student, who was part of the trip to Auroville, shares a field recording piece set in Chidambaram Temple, South India called Sono-ritual Circumambulation.

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