Joan Ma

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.

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.

Dagmar Maria Degen

Always interested in political processes, I was tempted to become a member of the Green Party when it made its first step. I wanted to be part of a group that changes something for society, for the world. Watching political processes I felt that being a member of a political party would not be the right step for me if I wanted to reach what I really wanted. But one thing was clear: nobody should support the army.

So I tried to convince my friends who had been called for their army serice(which was compulsory at that time), not to go. Also, being active in school life, I got an award from my school for my social engagement.
One day in 1986, while I was in the midst of my training to become an optician, a friend came home from a trip to India and said: “You have to see it, you have to go there.” In summer 1987 I left Germany and hitchhiked to France, Austria, former Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey. From Athens I took a plane to Kathmandu. After three months in Nepal I set my foot on Indian soil on December 18th, 1987. I went by bus from the Nepalese border to Varanasi. Observing the people, seeing the contradictions, I already felt like coming home without being able to express why. I spent eight weeks in Varanasi, met the Dalai Lama in Sarnath and celebrated the Kala Chakra with Budhists from all over the world.
The experiences touched me deeply and I was fascinated to meet all these Indian people Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, Christians and travellers from all over the world. In the middle of this atmosphere I felt that this was where I belonged.
i went further along the east coast as far as Pondicherry. The Sri aurobindo Ashram was the first ashram I had ever visited in y life. On the way to Auroville I passed Kuilappalayam and the atmosphere felt different from all other places in India I had seen before. I went to the building site of the Matrimandir. the building, even though it wasnt finished, left me stunned…
In the Matrimandir camp I meet Jaap. I looked at the construction drawings and he started to explain details. Deeply touched, I decided that I would definitely visit Auroville again when the Matrimandir was finished, even if I did not know then where my adventure would lead me. Back in Ponicherry I looked for the books of Sri aurobindo. the title the Ideal of Human Unity was pulling me. Already the first chapter was a revelation. I literally absorbed every word of this book. With the impressions from the Sri aurobindo ashram, Auroville and the book, I travelled further to the north of India. After one year in India with a completely changed outlook, full of all the experiences, fascinated by the Hindu philosophy and even more fascinated by the Sanskrit language, which for me was the language of the gods, I started studying Sanskrit. Travelling to India every year, I always stayed in the Sri aurobindo Ashram in New Delhi when I was there.
In 1996 I went to Auroville again. matrimandir fascinated me but a few people were somehow exhausting, so I wanted to leave. When I was just about to leave I stepped down from the cycle and took some of this red earth into my hand and it felt to me as if the Mother was in every grain of this earth. Instead of leaving I found myself working in the Matrimandir. The second time this feeling of coming home was deeper, different but more secure. I had reached a point where I felt I could start contributing in the right way to this society where I was supposed to give whatever I had to give. It felt so right and the next stepof the search began.
Back home I came into contact with AVi Germany. I felt happy to find people who were also in contact with Auroville, always busy with the idea of supporting Auroville, contributing all the time. Visiting the AVI meetings in Germany and getting to know the members of AVI Germany over the years I am now a member of the Board. Together with the others I organize the AVI Germany meetings. When we have the meetings we feel the presence of the Mother and of auroville. There are always Aurovilians participating, so we all feel we are a part of Auroville. At this point I want to mention that not one day passes without receiving mails, phone calls, questions, contacts concerning Auroville matters, Aurovilians, Auroville projects. I also appreciate that on the Board we always try to make decisions by consensus. This challenges my tolerance and also my patince, but in the end it always feels good.

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

Evelyne Guinouard

My love story with India began when I was 5 years old. I was admiring a picture of the Taj Mahal, and at that moment, I immediately knew I would go there one day. and that, without forcing anything, one day, all the conditions would come together and I would be able to go to India.

And that “one day” came in 1988 when I had the freedom and enough money to make my first trip to India. I chose a non-touristic trip which was organized by a yoga centre in Paris where I had been spending time. But even with its spiritual focus, the trip included a visit to the Taj Mahal as a little “wink” at that childhood flash.
More important was that half of my time was devoted to a stay in Pondicherry, as well as a visit to Auroville. This first contact with the Ashram was a decisive one, as it was then that I discovered my true spiritual path, that of the future evolution of our humanity. Since that time, I have gone back almost every year, spending more and more time in Auroville with each visit. It’s a period of both spiritual retreat and volunteering, allowing me to add my little stone to the growth of the Auroville ideal.
For the past three years, I’ve spent three months a year there, which always feels too short. In fact, so many discoveries and exchanges enrich me and carry me through the rest of the year. It’s at Auroville that I’ve met the majority of my friends. We immediately share what is closest to our hearts, certain that we understand each other deeply. The Aurovilians are my true family.
When I was asked to join AVI France, I was happy to participate, conscious of this opportunity to strengthen the link between Auroville and France. My other aim: to have the Auroville spirit live in ourselves, in our group and our nation.

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

Mandakini Lebrun

On August 15, 1977, I met Jyotipriya(Dr. Judith Tyberg) of the East-West Cultural Center in Los Angeles, who had received her name “The Lover of Light ” from Sri Aurobindo in 1947. She had the same effect on me as she had had on hundreds of seekers – she awakened my soul and responded to my deep need for “the adventure of consciousness”.

This led to my three years in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and my love for Auroville, the Mother’s cherished project.
I arrived in Auroville for the first time in 1980, and I still feel a deep connection with the Aurovilians who arrived at that time too. I love the courage, determination and sincerity of Aurovilians – old timers and the newer arrivals. They inspire me! What touches me the most in Auroville in general is the spiritual force that hangs in the atmosphere above us, like a promise. My favorite work is in the Matrimandir gardens with that dedicated, hardworking, international team. I do all I can to support Auroville’s growth and its major projects so that Auroville can develop sustainably and anchor – in the earth and in our consciousness – the reality of the spiritual future that is being built.

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

Francoise Muller

I heard about Auroville for the first time in the middle of the 1980’s thanks to a beautiful personal encounter. 
The years went by, my interest stayed strong and finally I was able to make the trip to uroville with my family in 2000 and agin in 2002. Since then, my regular stays in Auroville are a fact of my life. I feel that here in Auroville, something immeasurable happens, outside of any schema and preconceived idea, beyond all rationality. This incredible force and energy that circulates, opening up unexplored fields of action and being the source of all possibilities, emanates from the reconciliation of action and spirituality.
Another beautiful meeting sparked a growth in consciousness and got me involved in a project. Back in France, this involvement in Auroville International France gives me the chance to share, strengthen my link with Auroville, and strive to live Auroville where ever I am.

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