The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) played a role in helping to establish Auroville in the eyes of the world as an experiment in promoting peace and human unity. This is a compilation of extracts from I am with you by Kailas Jhaveri, that relate to her work from 1965 to 1972, under the Mother's guidance, with UNESCO and other organisations that could assist in the material realisation of Auroville. The book also includes facsimiles of the Mother's handwritten messages to Kailas, images and extracts from The UNESCO Courier of 1972 regarding Auroville, extracts from Sri Aurobindo's works, resolutions on Auroville passed by the General Assembly of UNESCO, and many photographs of Auroville life, especially in its early years.
"Auroville is meant to hasten the advent of the supramental Reality upon earth. The help of all those who find the world is not as it ought to be is welcome. Each one must know if he wants to associate with an old world ready for death, or to work for a new and better world preparing to be born."
In 1972, the year of Sri Aurobindo's Birth Centenary, the Mother sent this message to UNESCO, an organisation dedicated to promoting world peace through education, scientific research and intercultural dialogue. It serves to reveal the profound sentiments and principles that nearly five decades ago drew UNESCO and its member nations into supporting the development of the universal city of Auroville.
The presence at Auroville's foundation ceremony of representatives from UNESCO, and the four resolutions it subsequently passed commending the Auroville project, point to the shared esteem and goodwill that have characterised the relationship between the two entities.
As presented in this book, the Mother's statements on seeking UNESCO's backing for Auroville shed light on this perhaps little-known aspect of the City of Dawn's history. In order to grasp the tremendous amount of work that preceded the official recognition of Auroville by UNESCO, we need to delve into the correspondence and the personal accounts of the pioneers – Kailas Jhaveri in particular – who initiated such interaction. Most of the crucial excerpts in this book, taken from Kailas Jhaveri's autobiography I am with you
, concern the initiatives she took between 1965 and 1972 with the approval of the Mother.
This will help us to understand that the similarities between certain aspects characteristic of the Auroville project and some of the principles UNESCO espouses – such as their emphasis on the development of knowledge, and their ongoing quest for human unity, internationalism and integral education – are much more than the outcome of a shared worldview. Nor are they limited to a commonality of interests, as the wording of the last paragraph of the first resolution passed by UNESCO in 1966 might suggest: "The General Conference…expresses the belief that the project will contribute to international understanding and promotion of peace and commends it to those interested in UNESCO's ideals."
The recognition of those similarities helped launch Auroville on the international scene and secure for this purpose the much-needed support of UNESCO and the Government of India. Perhaps the Mother had foreseen the need to secure the endorsement of an organisation of stature. The implicit safeguard offered by UNESCO served indeed as major support at times when, because of various hardships, the Auroville project came under threat.
As the excerpts published in this book show, UNESCO's recognition of Auroville was much more than a symbolic gift on the occasion of the former's twentieth anniversary. Mentioned in this work are two projects, originated by UNESCO and with which the Mother felt Auroville could be associated, that foster the quest for human unity: the World University for Human Unity and, while cautiously safeguarding the specificity of the Auroville project, the Design for Living. These two examples show how determined the Mother was to turn into reality the universal nature of the Auroville project.
To carry on this steadfast work demanded a tremendous amount of energy, primarily from Kailas Jhaveri, who as the major architect of the interaction with UNESCO dedicated to it seven years of her life. Interacting with UNESCO during the Mother's Years
is an essential tool for anyone wishing to understand the background and implications of Kailas' assignment. The many excerpts Paulette Hadnagy has gathered in this book highlight the central role the Mother played in Kailas' work. They provide a reference to Auroville's history and to the teachings that since its inception have gone hand in hand with this project. Several archival photographs offer a glimpse of the beginnings of Auroville, allowing us to plunge to the very heart of this period that saw the Auroville community begin to grow and flourish. Some recent pictures of the Matrimandir and its surrounds, taken by Paulette, are included as well, to highlight the symbolic continuity of the Auroville project turned to the future.
Extracts from Sri Aurobindo's The Ideal of Human Unity
and The Human Cycle
towards the end of the book remind us of the ways by which the gnostic society heralded by Sri Aurobindo can provide answers not only to the socio-environmental impasses which humanity faces today but also to the spiritual ones. In its own way, UNESCO tries to address these problems as well.
]o hand over the management of Auroville to any country or any group however big it may be is an absolute impossibility,
" stated the Mother. To those who are tempted to use this warning to justify a possibly paralysing policy of insular self-sufficiency, it helps to remember, as this book invites us to do, that to be recognised by another in no way means submission, and that the coming together of entities sharing a commonality of objectives often makes them stronger. Although, in certain aspects, the "UNESCO machine" can be viewed as imperfect, the fact is, like Auroville, it reflects humanity as it is today.
While fostering the progress of underdeveloped nations along with the well-being of the less fortunate strata of society, UNESCO aims at bringing peace to the world through a reconciliation of knowledge, through the education of its populations, and by protecting the exceptional heritage of each civilisation that has contributed to humanity its particular richness and diversity. This universalistic vision reminds us of Sri Aurobindo's appeal for a "religion of humanity" and aligns itself harmoniously with the Mother's call for an actual human unity, the foundation of a model ideal society and "cradle of the superman" upon which Auroville is to be built.
As a volunteer at l'Avenir d'Auroville (Auroservice team), Felix Tessier works as a specialist on ethno-anthropological questions raised by sustainable development in the world community, in view of the possibility of designating Auroville as a UNESCO World Heritage site. After studying history, ethnology and anthropology at university, Tessier participated in a UNESCO designation project at the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. This assignment, done in collaboration with researchers from the French Institute of Sustainable Development (IRD), elicited his interest in the questions raised by the UNESCO World Heritage designation process.