Doris and Sangha
A Mother-Son Team working for Auroville
My name is Marie Doris Felix, and here I am with Sangharakshit, one of my two sons. I was born on the 16th of March 1954 in Mauritius, a small idyllic island only 45 kilometers wide and 65 kilometers long with a population of 1.2 million people. Its beauty entices around 1.4 million tourists yearly.
Mauritius is a rainbow island where Churches, Temples, Mosques, Pagodas, Monasteries are one next to the other and where the population lives in peace and harmony. Also we, Mauritians, are all inter-racial and intercultural and this make our beauty. Coming from this multi-racial island helps a lot my adaptation here in Auroville.
My first visit to India was in 1993 and since then this place has become my 2nd home. I have never been a tourist in India but have been travelling in the most interesting corners to learn about the society, the population and what the spirituality of this country brings.
In 2004 while I was working as journalist for an Indian media company in Noida I was invited to write a paper on a place called “AUROVILLE” where it was said was a lieu where western foreigners live as hippies! So I was sent to Pondicherry where I had been few times before to retrace some of my ancestors. When I reached Auroville, a taxi man brought me to a place called REPOS. There I met Bhaga and I booked one of the huts in the trees. Bhaga was also from an island so we got a very good contact immediately.
She taught me about AUROVILLE and I understood that it was far from being this hippie place that I was told about in Noida. So instead of writing a paper on the place, I stayed there for the next month and knew that I would one day come here for good.
Since 2004 I have come back regularly to Auroville to be with Bhaga and to learn more. She was one of the most difficult persons I ever met in my life!! but what faith and determination she had – and what a teacher!!
For all those years I never applied for being friend or guest or volunteer – I just stayed with Bhaga and learned and drove around and observed. At that time I was still a journalist and, active as trade unionist and working as the director of Marketing, Sales and Communication for the media company.
It was during Covid time in August 2020, after my retirement, that I decided to come to Auroville to see if it was still really what I wanted. It was a very difficult time to travel and at that very moment I knew that Mother was on my side – all the doors one by one got opened, and I got a VISA while India was closed (as were all other countries). I travelled on a cargo flight as there were no commercial flights and landed in Chennai. Then I went to the new Repos since the original site has gone under the sea due to erosion of the beach. Bhaga, ailing, had moved to Luminosity.
This time, I came with my son, Sangharakshit. I rented a hut for the long term and in addition to my daily visits to Bhaga, Sangha and I started to volunteer our work at the Matrimandir gardens. We then left in July ‘21 and came back two months later with the needed visas for long-term stay as volunteers.
It was at Matrimandir where we met Karthik, the in-charge for the garden – our next teacher. He is the one who daily by each and every action can teach you what consciousness is. No need for words … only actions. With all his generosity, Karthik taught us a lot about gardening, which holds no secrets for him. What we learned from him will serve us for the rest of our lives.
When we started working officially as volunteers in Matrimandir, we brought many rare endemic plants from home as per requested by Karthik. Here we are with Madame Jagunundun of the Mauritius Ministry of Agriculture offering a rare plant from one of government nurseries.
We never counted our hours because it was just an extreme pleasure to work for Auroville. Prior to our arrival in Auroville I promised myself that I would work outside in nature, much more than on a PC inside!
This is one of the advantages offered in Auroville – you may choose what you want to do unless your specific expertise is particularly needed. We are all equal and there is no kind of discrimination. All jobs are valuable.
And Auroville for me is exactly this place where you will find what you need when you need it – for then we met Jaya, our next teacher!
Jaya invited us to join her team at the Unity Pavilion. We agreed to come now and then, to learn more and help but we didn’t want to leave Matrimandir. We were doing great work, and we were attached to the place and to the people. But slowly we realized that we could be more useful in Unity Pavilion where there was a large amount of work to do inside and outside for a small staff.
So as in the French expression, from “needle to thread” we decided to stay and work full-time at UPAV. We were offered jobs as caretakers and with the possibility to live in an apartment at the back of the main building. Even if we left Matrimandir sadly, we keep contact, and Karthik comes here to advise us for the Unity Pavilion garden – a huge gift!
Here at UPAV, we happily started work with the garden under the supervision of Jaya. Once more we felt that Mother brought us to the right place. Jaya is the perfect teacher we needed. What we learnt from Jaya and others here is just incredible. Day after day we get answers to our questions.
The work in the garden starts very early since we try to water all orchids and fragile plants before the sun becomes too strong. Then there’s weeding, planting, trimming, sweeping. We do our own compost. We created water catchments and paths in the garden to prevent eventual flooding caused by rain. We have a team of 3 workers with us. We work in perfect harmony and joy and the result is fantastic.
We have a variety of green tea plants for our consumption, and many lemon trees that we use for juice. Soon we will have our own vegetables too. It is a beautiful garden of a few acres offering to visitors plenty of shadow, colors, perfumes and they all find a special serenity here.
Next, we discovered ART FOR LAND and we started to work inside too. In conjunction with the ACRES FOR AUROVILLE campaign, AFL exhibitions are held twice a year in the main hall of Unity Pavilion to raise funds for the land. Artists from Auroville, the Ashram, all over India and the world generously donate their artworks which are exhibited and then sold. All collected amounts go to the A4A campaign for Auroville’s Land Board with the goal of completing Auroville’s designated physical base.
For the recent edition of AFL, we did the job of framing and hanging the paintings and every morning we check to make sure that they’re still hanging straight. We also participated in the AFL support events.
Sangha and I both try to be as useful as possible and we give all we can to serve Mother. Auroville has chosen us, we have chosen Auroville and it is our duty and also our pleasure to serve. I love to cook, and here’s what it looked like for Unity Pavilion’s Christmas celebration feast.
Sangha now also helps with the sound system and does some photography.
Another activity is helping Jaya with the publications of the 12 Qualities as explained by The Mother and based on The Mother’s symbol.
It was in this context that this summer, we participated in the 2023 “Sourcing Our Oneness”. This annual event is co-organized by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Pondicherry and Delhi Branch, and the Sri Aurobindo Society, held at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Nainital in the Himalayas. There were around 75 of us to live and share this ten-day experience of Oneness and extreme solidarity.
The Sourcing Our Oneness camp gave the opportunity to learn so much about the Mother’s symbol as presented by Jaya.
We were all amazed by how precious this symbol is and all it shares and represents. The more one digs, the more one learns and becomes a better person for oneself and for the people around and I am certain that by extension it will help make a better world.
Then we had the opportunity to have a better understanding of the Five Dreams of Sri Aurobindo. It was presented by Dr Aarti of the Sri Aurobindo Society and Jayanthy Ramachandran of the Delhi Ashram. This camp was wonderful for everyone and I really recommend that all
newcomers, volunteers, guests, friends of Auroville subscribe to the ONENESS group. (Contact Jaya at firstname.lastname@example.org)
I would encourage everyone whatever your age or nationality, to come and visit Auroville. You will be most welcome as a guest or friend or volunteer. You will meet amazing people and see amazing achievements, all in the service of an inspiring ideal – human unity and the spiritual development of each of us, and together. And you may find, as I have, what you have always been seeking.
Then, if it is your wish, you could apply to be accepted as an Auroville Newcomer … and beyond that, there is the possibility of becoming an Aurovilian. (The necessary information is at www.auroville.org.in)
Personally, I am at the Newcomer stage and Sangha continues to work as a volunteer.
After 20 years of association with Auroville, I am thrilled to be here with my official Auroville Newcomer status – so very grateful to be here, to participate and share, and give as much as I can.
Both Sangha and I are both deeply happy to serve the ideal and growing reality of human unity … which is the aspiration at the basis and foundation of the international township of Auroville.
Auroville, October 2023