Monday, September 15, 2008

Auroville offers a new definition of self, society and spirituality in a globalized, market-driven world

Auroville: towards a spiritualized society based on integral yoga
Bindu Mohanty — Auroville

The paper seeks to present preliminary findings from a qualitative research project –an interpretive inquiry--that explores how spiritual ideals held by individuals inform the social psychology of Auroville. Based on the spiritual vision of the sage-philosopher, Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), Auroville, located in Tamil Nadu, is a growing international town of 1,800 people from over forty countries.

Founded in 1968 by Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual collaborator, the Mother (1878-1973), Auroville seeks to aid the spiritual evolution of the earth by manifesting a spiritualized society. Described both as a place for Karma yoga and Integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo, Auroville stands as a remarkable urban experiment that aims to bring about human unity. Its relevance accrues from the fact that Auroville offers a new definition of self, society and spirituality in a globalized, market-driven world that increasingly faces religious turmoil and alienation of the individual self from the society.

This work is a pioneering research project because, as of yet, there is scant qualitative research into the social psychology of spiritual communities. The paper also examines the inadequacy of Western paradigms of social psychology in understanding Auroville. Data collection comprised participant observation of the daily life of the community especially focusing on community meetings, informal conversations, formal recorded interviews, a community survey, and the collection and analysis of written documents such as the community journals. Data analysis was carried out through an open-coding process with the help of the software program, Hyperresarch 2.8. The study examines: the dialectic between the individual and society, particularly in the context of self-identity and social solidarity; lists the inspirations and challenges that individuals face; and points at prevalent shadow issues.

The findings from the study are placed in the context of Sri Aurobindo’s vision of a gnostic or spiritualized society and his and the Mother’s description of the collective dimension of Integral Yoga. Integral Yoga, synthesizing modern evolutionary perspectives with the ancient wisdom of Indian psychology and philosophy, delineates the farther reaches of human nature and society. Auroville is viewed as a practical application and experiment of Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s vision.

Email the author, Ms. Bindu Mohanty, at This paper was presented at theNational Seminar on Indian Psychology: Theories and Models,Bangalore, 26-28 December 2007,which was organised jointly by SVYASA and the ICPR. INDIAN PSYCHOLOGY INSTITUTE home themes authors research integral yoga by the way events inspirations links September 3, 2008 Institute Event: Dissertation Defense by Bindu Mohanty, East West Psychology Department, “Spiritual Ideals and Social Psychology of Auroville: An Interpretive Inquiry,” 3:00 PM-5:00 PM, CIIS Main Building, Room 425; for more information, California Institute of Integral Studies

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