Steven Johnston

Steven came to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at age five and studied at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre for Education for five years. While living in the Ashram, Nolini-da gave

him the name “Stota”, meaning one who chants the mantra. Later he came to live in Auroville, which he had discovered as his heartfelt true home. Steven enjoyed studying languages and was fluent in several. He also studied pottery and was a fine creator of artistic ceramics. His greatest love was for trees and the afforestation work in Auroville. One day, looking over an Auroville grove, he said admiringly, “The trees all look different to you when you know their names.”

Sharanam

Hailing from Spain, Sharanam (officially Maria Desamparados Aznar Arce) came for the first time to Auroville in the early eighties and joined Auroville in 1992. Her general health condition being rather weak, she lived a quiet, unobtrusive life in Dana, translating into Spanish texts of Sri Aurobindo, the Mother, Satprem  and about  Auroville, delivering a stream of important information into the Spanish world. She left her body on September 1, 2016 after a brief illness at the age of 69.

Sharanam came to Auroville for the first time in 1975 and stayed at Utilite. She went back to Spain and collaborated with the Institute of Evolutionary Investigations in Spain, to translate the books of Satprem. She returned to Auroville in 1981 to stay. She was happy to be without any material possessions, living from a maintenance. She worked in education, and also experimented and investigated healthy eating. Always willing to help, she would offer food and a good massage to whoever would come to her place. (She was a psychologist.)

Sharanam gave classes for the children of Auroville in her house and continued translating to Spanish various works from the Mother´s Agenda to Savitri, and also collaborated with the Spanish Pavillion. Ultimately she was more and more reclusive in her house. She shared with me her intention to constantly stay in the flux of the present moment. She had great faith in Auroville and was an unconditional disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.  She consciously in her sadhana, took the decision of how to continue the process of her illness within the flow of yoga.

Alfonso from Spain recalls few of his stories with Sharanam, ” One time we were going to Chennai(Madras at that time) to meet the King of Spain in a visit there. We gave him the book 8 or 9 of the Mother’s Agenda and The Genesis of the Superman, by Satprem.

Sharanam was born in Valencia and the 19th March is the local holiday, where they make the ‘Fallas’. For a week, some artists put in the streets and plazas a very big statues for fun, in wood, padding and paper, where they criticize the politicians, or the people known in the yellow and pink dress. Finally the 19th they burn them all. In this spirit, I made for her a big man statue in wood and padding, and in one hand, I put a paper wrench and in the other an imitation of the book “The New Espece”. At that time I was working at the Matrimandir and I was taking the image of Andy, the German guy of the Matrimandir. Just before I put on fire, some Aurovilians come to me saying that this could be a very bad Woodoo for Auroville, so I stop this and I gave it to them as a scarecrow.

Also in her house, when she was living in Sincerity a scorpion bit me in my leg and she help me. Also, she make me the contact to know the address of Satprem in the Nilgiris to visit him.

She was the first Spanish person residing in Auroville and she was peaceful, quiet and a yogi in one sense. And just the opposite to the peacock as I was.”

 

Yolande Lemoine

Yolande came to Pondicherry in 1969. She became a close friend and precious aide of Satprem et Sujata, and liaised the important contact between JRD Tata, Satprem and Auroville.

It was thanks to the effort of JRD Tata and Yolande that Satprem’s manuscripts and audio cassettes made it to France to be published there.

Here is a letter written by Satprem to Yolande:

Yolande,

Here is a postscript to my latest letter. Perhaps you don’t know the present situation in India — turn on any radio set, listen to the loudspeakers screaming at every street corner and emitting a mixture of European jazz intermingled with sitar and Hawaiian mewings, look at the cinema posters which bring to every Indian village the wrigglings of the Moulin Rouge via Konarak. We are faced with a general degradation of consciousnesses, an organized, mind-destroying action, an exploitation of the lowest — but how lucrative — instincts. I have been following this degradation step by step for almost twenty years in India and have found it all the way up to the villages of the Himalayas.

There would truly be a memorable and salutary work to do there for a whole people.

Saravanan

Saravanan, who originally came from Pondicherry, was one of the staunch Matrimandir workers even before joining Auroville in 1999. He also worked for the Golden Tiles unit. He met with an accident while participating in a temple festival in his native village in Pondicherry. He will be remembered as an Aurovillian ever-smiling and dedicated to his work.

Seyril Schochen

In the first part of her life, Seyril had been a playwright of considerable reputation, a college teacher, and an advisor to the International Yoga College. Her life changed when she saw a picture of Sri Aurobindo. Later she travelled to India where she met the Mother. She stayed for nearly eight years, working on the Matrimandir and being on her spiritual path. When she returned she set up SALC (Sri Aurobindo Learning Centre, Crestone, Colorado). Seyril passed peacefully while listening to Pavita reading Mother’s “Prayers and Meditations.” Some of her ashes have been brought to Auroville, but part are buried in Crestone underneath the large grandmother tree which overlooks the main house at SALC.

In the words of Constance, “‘Truuuuth!’ was Seyril Schochen’s familiar salutation – always accompanied by a broad smile. January 7 is her 101 birthday. She passed almost a decade ago.

Gilles’ history project on Matrimandir corresponds with a stirring in my own life. Today, among the memories that are stirring, here are two of Seyril that bubbled up. In my mind, she, among many others, is inseparable from the history of MM.

In 1969 I was living in Peace at the Pumphouse. This was next to the first well in the area. (Mother had placed a pin in a map and asked Nava to walk north from there until he was more light-headed than usual.) One late afternoon near dusk, I saw Seyril standing in front of the hut. It was her first visit to Auroville. Saying nothing, she was simply smiling and looking about. I hailed her. “Everything is soooo beautiful,” she said dramatically. I thought I should probably go out and take a look. At first, the red earth and palmyras seemed normal enough. Then unexpectedly that barren field in South India transformed into a Great Wonder! We stood together silently for a long time. Both hearts aching at the experience and the realization that we were actually There!

17 November, 1973. We were concreting the Mahasaraswati pillar. There was a constant bustle of activity in an effort to sustain a seamless process. Unsnapping the full wheelbarrows from the cable. Tipping and emptying them into the form. Pulling out the concrete with mumptis – accompanied by the music of scraping and metal on metal. I took a turn with the needle vibrator. Dropping it into the slurry, I visualized the aggregate and cement flowing around steel reinforcement, the smooth surface of the pillar when the forms would be removed (no voids) and, for some reason, the massive walls of ancient temples. At the end, people seemed to disappear rather quickly. Tools were gathered and cleaned. The wheelbarrows and mixer were washed. Lights were being turned off. A hush fell. Only one other person remained on the structure. I watched Seyril as she continued to work. It seemed that the vast universal night was watching her. All was silent except for the continuous chip, chipping of her hammer.”

Sujata

SUJATA NAHAR, born in Calcutta in 1925, spent her early childhood in Santiniketan’s cultural atmosphere under poet Rabindranath Tagore. At the age of seven she lost her mother. Her father, his world shattered, searched for another dimension to his life. He found Sri Aurobindo and Mother at Pondicherry. His children followed him there one by one. Thus Sujata, who first came to Sri Aurobindo in 1935, at the age of nine, decided to remain near him in May 1938. She lived in Pondicherry for forty-three years. At first, she received private tutoring, became secretary to Pavitra, an eminent French mathematician, chemist and engineer, who was Mother’s right-hand man. Sujata also worked with him in his laboratory, where she made a variety of preparations for Mother. She was very actively involved in the new physical education devised by Mother. Satprem arrived at the beginning of 1954. A young man just turned thirty, he taught the top students and assisted Pavitra with the correspondence. Thus Satprem and Sujata came together. Eventually Mother started to make him the confidant of her experiences and asked him to help her with the French translation of Sri Aurobindo’s books. Mother then entrusted Sujata with the typing of her private conversations with Satprem, the Agenda. From 1965 onwards Sujata regularly accompanied Satprem to his meetings with Mother.
After 1973, when Mother left her body, the Ashram changed from a living experiment to a stereotyped institution. In 1978 — Mother’s centenary year — the Ashram trustees expelled Satprem, because of the trilogy he had written on Mother’s life and experiment.
From 1978 onwards, Satprem and Sujata lived far away from Pondicherry, devoting themselves exclusively to Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s work and experiment in the cellular consciousness of the body.
Sujata Nahar is the author of Mother’s Chronicles, a biography of Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

Satprem

A sailor and a Breton, though born in Paris in 1923. A member of the French Resistance, Satprem was arrested by the Gestapo when he was twenty and spent a year and a half in concentration camps. Devastated, he journeyed first to Upper Egypt, then to India, where he served in the French colonial government of Pondicherry. There he discovered Sri Aurobindo and Mother. Their Message — Man is a transitional being” — struck a deep chord. He resigned his post and left for Guiana, where he spent an adventurous year in the middle of Amazonian jungle, then wandered on to Brazil, Africa….
In 1953, at thirty, Satprem returned to India for good to be near Her who was in search of the secret of the passage to the next species” — Mother, whose confidant and witness he became for some twenty years. His first essay was dedicated to Sri Aurobindo or the Adventure of Consciousness and followed a few years later by On the Way to Supermanhood.
At the age of fifty, he edited and published the fabulous logbook of Mother’s exploration, Mother’s Agenda, in 13 volumes, while at the same time writing a trilogy — The Divine MaterialismThe New SpeciesThe Mutation of Death — followed by an essay, The Mind of the Cells.
In 1982, with his companion Sujata, Satprem withdrew completely to embark on the last adventure: the search for the great passage in the evolution beyond Man. In 1989, after seven years spent digging in the body,” he wrote a brief autobiographical account, The Revolt of the Earth, in which he took stock of Man’s present situation. Three years later came Evolution II, a pithy record of Satprem’s journey through our human and terrestrial grave: After Man, who? But the question is: After Man, how?
In 1994, Satprem edited Letters of a Rebel, two volumes of autobiographical correspondence. The next year, he wrote The Tragedy of the Earth – From Sophocles to Sri Aurobindo, which draws a curve from the Vedic and pre-Socratic era to our Iron Age and to Sri Aurobindo, who embodies the last turning point of our human destiny. The Key of Tales appeared in 1998, followed in 2000 by The Legend of the Future. In 1999, Satprem also started the publication of his Notebooks of an Apocalypse (in French, seven volumes published so far, and in English, one volume available), the record of his work in the depths of the body consciousness, in which he was brutally plunged after Mother’s departure in 1973.