Uschi Ernst

Long-term Friend of Auroville and AVI member Uschi Ernst, passed away on Sunday 3 May at the age of 80. Her health had been gradually weakening this last half year.

Uschi, and husband Helmut Ernst, have been closely connected to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother since the sixties. They were active members of AVI Germany and would regularly participate in the various AVI meetings in Auroville and/or abroad. They built a house in Grace in the mid-nineties which they co-stewarded throughout the years while yearly visiting for some weeks.

Uschi was an energetic woman, an enthusiast trumpet player, and warmly received visiting Aurovilians in her large, plant & flower rich Frankfurter home.

Our warmest condolences go out to Helmut and their U.K.based daughter Dorothee and family, who will sorely miss her. Be in peace, dear Uschi.

Jay MA~

Eva Szabo

Eva was known to many Aurovilians from her regular visits and involvement with different Auroville activities. She went in peace and full surrender, surrounded by her family, after only a short period of serious illness.
We are full of gratitude for all she has been to us and will miss her dearly.

Muna Wagner

First visit to Auroville:

In August 2001 for the Inaugration Ceremony of the German Pavillion. The heat was killing me but I fell in love with India in an instant.

First thoughts on Auroville:

Maybe here is an alternative to finishing my university education and to all the challenges living in the West brings.

Second thoughts on Auroville:

Well, it is an alternative, unfortunately I’m not cut out for it(for one thing I am a little shy around spiders).

Best Auroville experience so far:

Can’t say. I have visited Auroville with my family, I have been there on my own. I participated at the UNESCo Youth for Human Unity Conference; another time decided to come only for a brief ten-day-visit and ended up staying for nearly three months. Every time I discover a different facet of the town sometimes the experiences are joyful, sometimes a challenge, but they always make me grow.

Most impressive aspect of Auroville:

The people. I find living in Auroville, as far as I have experienced it, an incredible challenge. Yet it is still there. The town is growing and it’s due to the effort and the hard work that everybody(each in their own way and capacity) puts into it. For me it’s not so much about all the inventions, the ecology or even the education, but absolutely all about the people who try to crete a place where everybody is a true equal, a place where everybody can develop and express their individuality according to their true being, a place filled with joy, beauty and harmony, with honesty and peace, a place where the individual is valued and the community is appreciated, a place of true collaboration and brotherhood.. a place of human unity.

What’s the deal with the AVIs:

When I first head about the Ideal of Human Unity and its relation to the International Zone and Auroville I knew I wanted to get involved. I love the idea of unity in diversity, of a balance between the individual and his/her needs and the community. It is something that I carry with me wherever I travel and whatever work I do. I find nothing more challenging than trying to discover this unity every day anew and nothing more rewarding than enjoying it in the colourful scheme that is the diversity of every person in everyday life.

Mira Hentze

It has always been difficult for me to find out what exactly I want to do in my life. When I have decided for one thing it automatically ecluded another opportunity. It seemed almost impossible to find the ONE thing that suits me, the ONE place where I want to stay, the ONE work that I want to do.

In 2007at Easter I had to come to the decision where and in which field I wanted to complete an internship abroad for my University studies. I was desperate. Nothing I found on the Internet, no job advertisement I considered interesting enough to do it for a full period of 6 months.

I gave up, postponed my purpose until next year and travelled to my mom’s for Easter. One afternoon I wanted to read a book. I went to see what we had in our bookshelf and saw the book Auroville – a Dream Takes Shape. I remembered that my mother had told me amazing things about that place – Auroville – when I was younger. I took the book and immediately knew: That’s it. That is what I want to do. I want to go there, no matter what. My hands were shaking when I opened the first pages and began to read. With every word I read my inner excitement and determination grew bigger. Every cell of my body knew that there was no way back.

I immediately wrote an email to a responsible person in Auroville. I asked if I could come to help in one of Auroville’s projects. I still don’t know how I received an answer a few days later: “Yes, it is possible for you to come and work with us.” I was delighted, I danced, I laughed and I embraced the world inside my heart. It might sound emotional but I knew that this was going to change my life and would be defining my future.

Now I know why. Since that day Auroville has been an inseparable part of my everyday life. In 2007 and 2008 I spent almost a year in Auroville – probably one of the happiest times in my life… until now.

After a short stay in Germany I went back immediately and ever since I have been going every year for some weeks or even months. In 2009 I started working with AVI- Germany and shortly after I found my place there in the work with the “welwärts” volunteers. I am involved with the administration and implementation of that program, which offers young volunteers the possibility of joining and serving Auroville and to maybe find a home there, just as it has been for me. What I love about Auroville cannot be said in facts and figures. It is that warm feeling in the heart, that SOMETHING, which is independent of what anyone can think about Auroville.

Birgit Köhl

After finishing my Grammar School studies at the age of nineteen, I moved out of my parents’ house and lfet Villingen, a small town in the Black Forest, to study in Freiburg. After a short time I stopped and went to France for a work experience of seven months in a catholic community, working with mentally handicapped adults. 

After that I started my formation as a speech therapist in Freiburg, where I heard Indian classical music for the first time in my life. It touched me deeply and I knew from this moment on that I wanted to go to India. I felt a deep longing for something else.

At that time, you could find an astonishing number of disciples of different Indian spiritual masters in Freiburg. Together with my friend we went to different places to sing Bhajans, to listen to talks about different masters, to attend Aratis and meditations.

We got to know a German couple who were disciples of Ananda Mai Ma. They had met her in India and lived with her for quite sometime as her disciples. Back in Germany they started living in a farmhouse in the Black Forest like a Brahmin family. There my friend and I got introduced to a mantra meditation, took pat in Aratis, and felt the atmosphere of India. Together we also went on long hitchhiking tours. On one of these occasions we came to a community of Tibetan Buddhism in the middle of France. All these experiences made my wish for a spiritual path become stronger.

Soon after, I met Thomas in a workshop about Sri Aurobindo and Mahatma Gandhi. Through the connection with him I came into touch with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and in 1986 I flew for the first time to India, where I visited four different ashrams in seven weeks. the first one was the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, including a trip to Auroville. In the following years I returned to Pondicherry and Auroville again and again. during one stay I met Martin Littlewood in the Centre Guest House. Later, in 1996, I took unpaid leave and went to Auroville for a six month volunteer service, which was a very rich and interesting experience. The longest and most touching part was my work at LEC, where I taught English to a class of mainly village girls around the age of fourteen to seventeen.

After I had made the contact with Martin, Thomas and I attended first an international AVI meeting, then we got into touch with AVI Germany. Our first common activity was to organize regional AVI Germany meetings in the Sourth, complementary to the annual AVI Germany meeting, which went on for a number of years. Slowly we also become more involved in other activities of our association. Since 2007 I have been actively involved in the organizational work of the “welt-wärts” project of AVI Germany, a Government-funded project to send young volunteers abroad, in our case to village-related Auroville projects with developmental impact.

Helmut Ernst

My relation with Auroville started before Auroville was born. Sri Aurobindo came to me about 1960 through the pocketbook Der Integrale Yoga with texts by Him translated by Otto Wolff. Sri Aurobindo’s view and vision appealed immensely both to my scientific mind and to my spirt. He embodied for me the perfect synthesis of the deep spiritual wisdom of the East with the dynamic mind of the East with the dynamic mind of the West focussed on evolution of mind and life in matter, while relying only on experience and experiment as the source of knowledge.

Since – except for the pocketbook – Sri Aurobindo’s main works weren’t available in Germany, I searched in London for them and in fact learned English by reading Sri aurobindo’s works. from around 1964 I kept contact with the Ashram and regularly received the periodicals Mother India and Bulletin of sri Aurobindo International Center of Education. In this way I became aware of the beginnings of Auroville well before 1968.

Actually I wanted to visit Pondicherry soon after I had started my professional career in 1964. I had a clause in my employment contract allowing me 6 months of unpaid absence from work for visiting the Ashram. However by meeting Uschi and our marriage and by founding a family this dream did not realise, and when in 1973 Mother suddenly passed away I was shocked because I had missed my opportunity to meet Her while She was still with us.

Finally, in 1975 I travelled with Uschi for the first time to Pondicherry. On bicycles we adventured to the bare red plane of auroville, where you could see the half done main pillars of the Matrimandir from far away. Every two years we spent holidays in Pondicherry, visited more and more often the slowly  growing auroville and made many friends there. As an engineer I was attracted to the technical challenges of building Matrimandir, and through John Harper also came to know Piero Cicionesi, the only professional architect and engineer at the site. the main areas of cooperation were the lighting system with the  heliostat and the design limits of the crystal globe, which might crack by thermal expansion due to the absorption of light energy. I also looked into the air-conditioning system.

Since we visited Auroville regularly Uschi and I applied to be registered “friends of Auroville”. With this status we could accept gladly the offer of our friend Helmut Schmidt to finance a three bedroom house in Grace, where we could stay whenever we visited Auroville. Now we came to know Aurovilians, who lived in our house, more closely and intimately.

Since my retirement I have become an active member of the Association for the Development of the Auroville Region, a sister organisation of AVI-Germany. In this function I have learned a lot about different projects going on in Auroville. It is very gratifying to see the growth of projects serving the Thamizh population by this cooperation.

Out of the intense preoccupation of AVI-Germany with the realisation of the national pavilions and the development of the International Zone(IZ) I realized around 2003 that the IZ can only develop dynamically if seen as a big campus with the pavilions as national colleges, whereby the presence of students from the different nations the intercultural exchange can become a living experience throughout the year. The campus idea is not confined to the IZ however. In my view the whole of auroville should become in future a vast centre of conscious evolution and education, open to students from all nations, who after their experience of Auroville would bring back to their respective countries the knowledge and skill to transform their environment with the inspiration of Auroville. It is my firm conviction that Auroville will grow fast to its planned size once it is opened up as a big campus to the world. Actually the world is waiting for a place where people are focusing their energy in an integral way on the future of the world as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo and on the transformation of the human being and consciousness.


Thomas Dreyer

Autumn/winter 1967 and spring 1968 – i turned sixteen then – were times when miracle and the expectation of marvel seemed to become the norm of my life, astonishingy, in spite of the rather grey tone of my everyday existence: it was as if a wave was going through our lives – my classmates and more so , the students of the higher grammar school levels waking up from a seemingly indifferent if not dumb state of mind to one where the light seemed to be suddenly switched on, always willing to challenge the status quo of almost everything.

it was the time when I participated in a demonstration for the first time ever, when the Czechoslovakian ” spring” developed and when in May revolution seemed to start in Paris. I also learned about quantum mechanics then, indicating that not everything was predestined – so there was hope for freedom! We were living close to the Max Planck Institute for Behavioural Physiology and prior to this its neurological experiments with cats and cocks had persuaded me to believe that there was no room for freedom and self- determination.
It was also the time when I came across a book entitled you will be like the Gods, telling the story of evolution having reached a critical junction where, from now on, it could consciously determine its further direction. And, finally, it was the time when I came across a science fiction story speaking about children and youth developing rather extraordinary gifts, close and intimate communication, and a kind of unity. But, alas, these possibilities were accessible only before you had reached adolescence. I still remember my high pulse and my intense will that it should not be too late for me.

This experience came back to me, in a different form, about twelve years later: in a dream experience I was standing on a light forest and the children of tomorrow” were approaching me at a comfortable pace, some of them knew me, saying “hi Thomas”, coming close to me and passing me, slowly but without stopping. And I stood there, observing how they slowly disappeared, then, suddenly I awoke, saying firmly “this must not be!”

Many years before I had come across the booklet Der Integrale Yoga with selected texts of Sri Aurobindo. then I discovered Satprem’s The adventure of Consciousness, and from its index some of the major works of Sri Aurobindo including Savitri, and finally, the Centenary Edition – this time in English – I was ready at last to read Him in English.

Around 1980 a second phase of wonder and miracle started . It was in 1981 – I lived and worked then in Pondy – when invited by Christel and Joss I made the first physical contact with auroville: a rather barren, reddish landscape with some palm trees, some kind of forest around Pitchandikulam, the concreted structure of the Matrimandir, and the tree house of Christel and Joss. It was a very beautiful day and back in Pondy I spoke about a place of adventure and of the future, without knowing what I was talking about. From 1983 onwards, whenever I stayed in Pondy, I regularly visited the Matrimandir. It wasn’t until 1996 that Birgit and myself started to spend our holidays in Auroville, though Birgit had lived there for a half-year volunteer’s stay. Around that time we also came into contact with AVI, thanks to Birgit who had made contact with Martin. We visited the next AVI meeting, and from there we made contact with AVI Germany, which we joined only a bit later. Since 2006 I have been part of the AVI Germany Board, and since 2007 my main function has been to look after the state-funded “welt-warts” program sending young volunteers for one year to Auroville projects with some developmental impact.

It is my impression- maybe stimulated by the completion of the Matrimandir – that we are right now entering a new phase of wonder and miracle, or at least we are preparing for it. In the eighties I came to know about a number of sadhaks in the Ashram who had worked together for a long time in the subtle physical and then started to recognize each other on the physical level, too. I very much hope that now is the time when we will have the chance to meet and recognize the “children of Tomorrow” in the physical. We may know each other well on another plane – what a joy if we would recognize each other in the physical world, too!

Re, occum quo blant qui tet ab iusdam laccae sitatis nisit moult et quiaect isquias sum ea is di simincid magnatempos et ut autem.

Isa Wagner

It was early in 1994, while living in Moscow with my two children and working for the German Embassy, when one day I felt it was time for my daughter( just 12 year old ) to read some spiritual books. Delving among the books in my bookshelf for suitable reading matter, my hand reached out for a book that was previously unknown to me: Sri Aurobindo – or the Adventure of Consciousness, by Satprem. I opened it somewhere in the middle and what I read moved me profoundly: I felt this was the absolute Truth. I had never heard of Sri Aurobindo before, but in the bottom of my heart I felt deeply connected as if I had known him since ancient times.

From my earliest childhood I had been searching for the meaning of life, making inquires and studies, diving into all the “isms”, always in quest of the Truth and aspiring for a solution for the suffering world. But only when I found Sri Aurobindo I knew that he had given to mankind the key to a new life on earth. Through an intense study of his works I found The Mother, and by reading the Agenda I learned about Auroville. Deeply touched by this high ideal of human unity I tried to find out if such a place still existed, and where it was. At that time we lived in Luxembourg, where I had been posted after our stay in Moscow. Via friends in the Netherlands I came in touch with members of AVI NL who had offered an open day in Utrecht and there I learned about AVI Germany. I immediately became a member, as I wanted to know more about the development of the city of the future.
Although I had chosen to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs I did not feel happy being German and had disregarded my German roots. I felt myself to be much more a cosmopolitan, and was more at ease living aboard(in England, France, Portugal, Russia, Luxembourg). But always I had to confront the German past and my German nationality and in a long and deep painful inner process I worked through the feelings of sorrow and pain, guilt and atonement, victim and perpetrator. It was only after moving back to Germany, to Berlin, in the year 2000 that I finally became German. Someone had given me a book to read – The Light That Shone into the Dark Abyss by Maggi Lidchi-Grassi and it at last revealed the background on an occult level that had led to this inconceivable tragedy.
Perceiving the International Zone of Auroville as most significant for the improvement of the world and for a true human unity, i became a member of the German Pavilion Group shortly after moving to Berlin. the group was grappling with Germany’s most recent history and there was a deep longing for healing old wounds and finding our own rue German identity. During our annual AVI Germany meeting in May 2001, Dr. Ananda Reddy, Director of SACAR in Pondicherry, gave a talk on the nation-soul and encouraged us to open a Sri Aurobindo Centre in Berlin which would be a foothold for the Mother to help break existing resistances and conquer the adverse forces still perceptible in Germany. He also urges us to start building the German Pavilion in Auroville.
Auroville is the spiritual womb of a new humanity, so everything that is physically connected with Auroville, bears in itself a new significance and a new potential. On June 1st 2001, the Sri Aurobindo Center Berlin was founded and on August 15th the consecration ceremony in the International Zone took place, during which earth from different parts of Germany was put into the ground of Auroville. Through this act a living an vibrating connection with Germany was built, starting to purify the dark clouds of guilt and bring atonement.
Gradually I began to see Auroville not only from high ideals the Mother had envisaged but through a deep connection to the Aurovilians themselves, to these pioneers who have chosen to work for the realisation of these ideals 0 each one in his or her own way to the extent of what is possible. Since 2006 I have been a Board member of AVI Germany and since 20007 of AVI. Apart from wanting to support Auroville in whatever way I can, another of my objectives is to help a wider public become aware of Auroville and its ideals, and to create a network that links people together and motivates them to help and support each other in the realisation of this great endeavour.

Georg Stollenwerk

How does a mere intellectual, materialistic and self-assured mind to turn to the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo? And how does the heart of a purely rational government official in the German diplomatic service, enjoying the comforts of a safe and utterly settled life, awaken to the Auroville Ideal? This scenario leaves a certain scope for Divine Creativity and Humour and indeed it took hold of me, as probably with most of us, in the most unexpected circumstances – randomly strolling through the outskirts of Munich on a rainy morning, deadly bored while waiting for my wife to finish her haircut. Devoid of other, more attractive opportunities I reluctantly entered a spiritual bookshop taking my usual dismissive, ironic look at the orange colours, “meaningful” post cards and strange irrational books. My disinterested glance somehow caught the name “Sri Aurobindo”, and I grasped the book, opened a few pages, read some paragraphs.. it was this book, The Secret of the Veda, that about 20 years ago touched and reawakened a past and a truth deeply concealed in my inner being. The arrow hit, the gate opened, a new light and guidance illumined the road.

The rest is about walking and manifesting. My personal interests and inner structure, my more than 28 years in the Diplomatic Service with longer postings to Iraq, Iran and Argentina have more or less naturally drawn me to the social and political field. I was attracted by the ideal of human unity, not in the Christian sense of brotherhood and charity, but in the understanding of a true psychic relation between people, peoples and nations, inspired by the vision and possibility to connect with “my” collective soul, “my” nation soul, to call for it that it may step forward to pervade and transform the country – the collective mind, the emotional being as well as the collective body, our natural habitat – as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo in The Human Cycle, thus contributing to build a society which one day shall pla its true part in a world orchestra based on real harmony and human unity.
Auroville with its ideal and practical approach of experiencing this whole process in a burning glass, of being a laboratory of mankind in all its inner and outer aspects, forms the centre of this aspiration. I truly admire every body who exposes himself to this experience in whatever epression and field of action, bearing the inner and outer pressure of the force, which is driving it ever forward, without delay, without hesitation. Whether consciously or unconsciously perceived, I think it is a heroic journey, a true pioneering in the ” Great Adventure ” as the Mother called it and I feel a deep gratitude to each Aurovilian for whatever way she or he is contributing by just being there… Personally I feel that I can best contribute to this work in my home country, in the Sri aurobindo Center in berlin and through AVI Germany, serving the common ideal by bringing to bear the external skills the Mother has granted me and by doing what has to be done on a dialy basis in the consciousness the state of the Sahdana allows. Thus as a trained civil servant, I try to cover within AVI Germany the fields of administration, finances and material organisation. To discover and establish in this quite narrow and obdurate domain the true “Aurovilian spriti”, to shift from a mental to a more intuitive and psychic approach, to render this area flexible and plastic enough for the new consciousness, to win back money for thhe Mother’s work – this is the challenging ideal. Fortunately it is not up to us to b concerned with the results of our efforts, which is , at times, quite relaxing. And thus there are those beautiful moments when the true foundation of the daily work emerges at the surface: a deep joy of collaboration and the encouraging sense of being part of a unique family that embodies a tremendous creative diversity within a profound and heartfelt unity.

Friederike Mühlhans

I left school and my cosy little home-town in May 1968, only to plunge right into the ’68 student movement. Growing up in post-war Germany had generated a special longing for peace, reconciliation and honesty, especially in dealing with our past. In my own family I had experienced the deep scars and wounds of war trauma, never openly faced by mixed with bitterly suppressed guilt feelings. full of hope and big ideals, we were now challenging the old system, which we held responsible for old and new wars and the horrors they entailed.

It took me a while to discover that the real revolution had already taken place in South India and had given birth to the true “68 baby”- Auroville. first I had another kind of world revolution on my mind and engaged myself in a leftist organization. Following my childhood dreams of “all peoples of the world free and united ” I became involved with the support of different anti-colonial liberation movements of that time, mainly of Africa. We truly felt we could change the world by fighting the unjust, suppressive outer circumstances. Slowly, however, doubt began growing inside me. I experienced many of my fellow campaigners behaving – openly or covertly – like the old racist, the old suppressor and power-lover themselves. I started asking myself(half-consciously to begin with): can we actually change the world by changing “they system” or do we have to look for something else, something more profound?
To find this “something else” was then y inner quest. my two children were the first response. In their sweetness and innocence they were revealing my own shortcomings and deficits. I started getting a glimpse of what it means to educate not only your kids but in the first instance yourself. Then in 1981, without further detours: a book on the bedside table of a friend, The Mother by Sri Aurobindo. it attracted me magically. And some days later the first photo of Sri Aurobindo and the thunderbolt feeling “But I know him!!!” His language and message so crystal clear, refreshing the seeker in me like cool water from a mountain source- I became deeply immersed in His and the Mother’s writings, which opened me up to a series of powerful inner experiences.
Finally in January 1991 Christoph, who is now my husband and I could travel to India and feel the force of the atmosphere They had left behind. The rest is quickly told: from then on we tried to stay in Auroville for some weeks every year. Our children and meanwhile also grandchildren, have caught the Auroville virus too, luckily. Christoph and I got involved with AVI Germany in 1995. I have been part of the AVI Germany Board since 1997. Keeping the connection with Auroville and the AVI umbrella association alive and contributing to our quarterly newsletter are my main functions on our board of five. I have also served on the international AVI Board since 2001 and as the AVI Secretary since 2003.
behind these dry facts I can say that both the Yoga of Mother and Sri Aurobindo and Auroville are the centre of my life. And I firmly believe that it is iin harmony with the mother’s wishes and plans that people like us “outside” constitute a most needed international network and outpost for Auroville, as an integral part of Her great revolutionary adventure.
To conclude i would like to point out that to establish personal connections and friendships beyond “the work” is part and parcel of my love for Auroville. we very much appreciate regular visits of our Auroville and AVI friends at home in Hamburg. And I always cherish the moments when our hearts open up to something deeper inside and the work day masks drop, which most of us wear. We are called to discover the secrets of collective yoga, not to establish” a new system”, however well functioning it may be in the end. Wouldn’t it help if we relied more on the cultivation of friendship and brotherhood/sisterhood, inside and outside of Auroville?
Many people of my generation have started off being fighters, fighting for something or against something. I always remember what a young Aurovilian once told me, describing his generation: We’re not fighters, we’re lovers.” That is what I actually experience while dealing with the younger generation and that is why I am full of hope, for Auroville and for the world at large.

Courtesy: Auroville International, the worldwide network of Auroville Friends.