My new years eve was just as I prefer it: quiet, relaxed, with great food and great friends – a dinner party and sleep-over in the lovely forest township of Auroville.
At some point before dinner, my friends and I visited the Pavillion of Tibetan Culture, within Auroville’s International Zone. In my jaded experience, it is seldom less than nauseating to combine Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers – through no fault of the Tibetans. The scene at the Tibetan Pavillion, however, was perfectly wonderful. A thousand diyas and paper lanterns had been lit, and people sat in stillness or walked quietly through the compound. A cleanly, modestly amplified soundtrack alternated between throat chanting and simply rendered devotional music. If the feel of the event was here-and-there, in one-participant-or-another, too ostentatiously and self-consciously reverent for my taste, the overwhelming mood was of simple serenity and gratitude – both superb attitudes with which to bring in the new year.
Continue reading ‘Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year’
Published 29 October 2009
Blogs & Blogging , Friends , Politics & Policy , Service
Tags: Auroville, gift economy, giving, Manoj Pavithran, Small Steps, Tsunamika, Upasana, Upasana Design Studio
When I was preparing to write my piece on the gift economy for the Dictionary of Ethical Politics, I read a few essays by others but quickly abandoned that approach to ensuring that I was fully up-to-speed on the current thinking. As I explained with my customary lack of sensitivity, diplomacy, and fairness:
Unsurprisingly, [the gift economy] is a topic that appeals to well-meaning, good-natured, spiritually curious people. Unfortunately, this results in treatments that are often long on fuzzy-headed feel-good and short on rigor. I’m sure there are some very good essays on the gift economy to be found with a simple Google search; but I really had no stomach for a needle-in-haystack exercise that would subject me to the level of penetrating analysis found in the average Hallmark greeting card.
After I published my synopsis of the gift economy, I received a superb essay from my good friend, Manoj Pavithran, with a very different approach to the subject. Manoj is that rare and spectacular combination of deeply thoughtful and utterly brilliant; and his careful analysis is constructed with the considerable philosophical rigor one might expect from him. It represents a significant contribution to the growing, evolving appreciation of the gift economy.
Manoj is not simply a theorist of the gift economy; he is a practitioner. He lives in Auroville, a community founded, in part, on both collectivist and cooperativist gift economy ideals. He also played a direct and influential role in the gift economization of two significant product initiatives of Upasana Design Studio: the Tsunamika dolls and the Small Steps cloth shopping bags.
With his permission, I offer Manoj’s essay for your consumption and reflection.
Continue reading ‘Understanding the Gift Economy, II’
Published 21 January 2009
America , Blogs & Blogging , Politics & Policy , Religion, Spiritualism & Other Make-Believe , Service
Tags: Auroville, Barack Obama, compassion, Dalai Lama, Obama, presidency, unity
This blog is, just now, emerging from a lengthy vipassana (“Do not spit on the footpaths! – Be Happy!”), full of all that clear-headedness and deep insight that only silence can confer. Or that’s the hope — and the story.
If ever there was a day to shake me from my writing stupor – I mean, meditation – it was yesterday. I attended an address by His Giggliness the Dalai Lama in the afternoon and watched Barack Obama become President of the United States late at night. That’s a pretty heady one-two punch.
Continue reading ‘One Fine Day’
Published 28 October 2008
Art & Culture , Environment , Friends , India , Religion, Spiritualism & Other Make-Believe
Tags: Auroville, Deepavali, Deepawali, Diwali, Diwali images, Diwali pictures, festival, holiday, Manoj Pavithran, Pondicherry, Uma Prajapati, Upasana, Upasana Design Studio
Diwali, the festival of light, is the biggest holiday of the year in a country that loves its holidays. Technically, it has Hindu roots — marking the homecoming of Ram after kicking some Sri Lankan booty — and is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains in variations on a theme of the triumph of good over evil. Practically speaking, it is as secularized as Christmas in America — a disappointing trend in both cases (but that’s another story).
It is not only celebrated widely, but poorly as well.
Continue reading ‘Diwali Celebrations at Upasana’
Published 9 October 2008
Food , India
Tags: Auroville, bakery, baking, chocolate, croissant, pain au chocolat, Paris, pastry, Pondicherry, Richard Pekelney
The Bakery in Auroville makes the best Pain au Chocolat in the world. Period.
I say this after having done decades of research in Paris. My work has not been as methodical or exhaustive, perhaps, as the arrondissment-by-arrondissment croissant sampling performed by my friend, Rich Pekelney; but it has been reasonably extensive.
It is not that the dough has the diaphanous flakiness of that little bakery on the Rue de Fourcy or uses a chocolate of the silky richness of the place on Rue Saint Louis En L’Ile. On both counts, the Auroville pains au chocolat rate acceptably, not superbly. The true measure of greatness of these pastries is largely a function of location.
There may be a place on this earth in greater need of high-quality pain au chocolat than South India; but, with all due respect for authenticity and origin, Paris is not it; and I’ve yet to discover it. By meeting this serious necessity with deftness and abundance, The Bakery at Auroville wins my vote for the best pain au chocolat in the world.
Published 5 March 2008
Environment , Friends , India , Politics & Policy , Science & Technology , Service
Tags: alternative energy, Auroville, conference, development, ecology, economy, GIS, green, greening, Hemant Lamba, policy, Pondicherry, Pondicherry University, Poya Moli, Poya molli, Prashant Hideo, Probir Banerjee, Shuddham, solid waste, solid waste management
Last weekend, Shuddham participated in the National Workshop on Environmental Policy Integration for Greening the Indian Economy at Pondicherry University. We were asked to present a paper and give a presentation on approaches to policy development for solid waste management, based on the Shuddham experience.
Continue reading ‘Greening the Indian Economy. ZZZZzzzz.’
This morning, in the hours bridging dawn, Auroville gathered in the garden amphitheater of the Martimandir to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
Continue reading ‘Bon Fête Auroville’