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The Dalai Lama in Auroville

by Claude Arpi

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His Holiness the Dalai-Lama, spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people visited the International Township of Auroville on 23rd and 24th December 1993. This was the Dalai Lama’s second visit to Auroville. He first came some twenty years ago, in January 1973, after having met the Mother in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry.

In January 1993, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has consented to be the Patron of the Pavilion of Tibetan Culture in Auroville.For five days before the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Auroville recorded the heaviest torrential rains it had witnessed for decades at this time of the year. Usually the SW monsoon is finished by early December and we thought that we would enough time to repair the roads. During the last weeks before the 23rd December, Auroville saw more activities that it had seen for years as we tried to get everything ready for the visit in particular the Sri Aurobindo Auditorium in Bharat Nivas and the site of the Pavilion.

The first small miracle of the visit was that in the afternoon of the 23rd when His Holiness reached Auroville at around 3 p.m., the rain stopped. He was first taken to Forecomers, which was the first settlement in Auroville; it used to be a bare plateau of red laterite and it is now a forest with hundreds of different species of trees.

Knowing the Dalai Lama’s interest in environment, we had thought that he should first meet with the Aurovilians having worked on the regeneration of the life of the soil of Auroville. He then proceeded to Pitanga Hall, the multipurpose cultural centre for Auroville near Samasti.

To coincide with the Dalai-Lama’s visit an exhibit of the photographs of the renown Indian photographer Raghu Rai, taken from his book Tibet In Exile, was held for one month in Pitanga Hall where His Holiness took the opportunity to look at the Yoga and Dance class rooms. The Dalai Lama next visited the Matrimandir, the ‘Soul of Auroville’. He could sit with his close entourage and meditate in the Inner Chamber for a few minutes. Before retiring to his room, he was taken to the orchid section of the Matrimandir Nursery where his deep knowledge of flowers and in particular, orchids impressed everyone present.

On the 24th morning, after having given an interview to the Auroville’ monthly newspaper Auroville Today, His Holiness laid the Foundation Stone for the Pavilion of Tibetan Culture, under a cloudless sky, in Auroville’s International Zone. It was a very intense moment, while he was laying the Foundation Stone (which had specially been brought from Tibet for the occasion), Tibetan monks from Ganden Monastery recited Tibetan prayers and later a group of children of Auroville sign Sanskrit Hymns to the Divine Mother. Before leaving the site, His Holiness planted a Christmas tree to commemorate the occasion of his visit.Before addressing Auroville in the Sri Aurobindo Auditorium, he paid a short visit to Auroville’s Future, the Architecture and Planning Office of Auroville.He could see the plans/maps of Auroville, in particular of the International zone and of the Tibetan Pavilion.


He then addressed a large gathering of Aurovilians and friends who had come from Pondicherry on one of His Holiness’ favorite theme: the importance of Love, Compassion for a society. Later we visited the Information & Reception Centre which is a large complex made of compressed earth blocks, where our visitor’s information centre, a boutique, a cafetaria and multipurpose exhibition rooms are located. His Holiness shown a lot of interest for the use of non-conventional sources of energies for the complex and in particular for the windmill.

At the time of His Holiness’ visit, an exhibition was held in collaboration with the Italian Embassy in New Delhi. The team looking after the Italian Pavilion in Auroville had organized an Italian week in which artists from Italy are participating. This is part of the activities of the International Zone.
The Center for Scientific Research (CSR) is the place where many Tibetans have been trained in appropriate building technology (ferro-cement, mud bricks, chulas, etc...). It is also in collaboration with the CSR that the "Awareness Workshop for a Sustainable Future of Tibet" was held last July. Many of these training programs are made in collaboration with Aptt Trust of UK.
At the end of the morning His Holiness went to Transition School where he met some 35 teachers and some senior students of Auroville. An extremely interesting debate followed on the different systems of education and in particular on non-formal education experiments attempted in Auroville schools.

Before leaving for Madras, His Holiness had a lunch in Dana Community with the team who had organized his visit to Auroville.It is difficult to sum up with words such an event in the life of Auroville but it will be surely be remembered by all as the great moments in Auroville history. This is due without doubt to the sincerity, the kindness, the compassion, the simplicity and humour to this man who like to say that he is just a simple monk.

- January 1994





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Title: The Dalai Lama in Auroville
Author(s): Claude Arpi
Language: English
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