Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Not Jerusalem but rather Auroville, which means "City of Dawn"

Passage to India By Carol Kort interfaithfamily.com
When Roy left for Auroville, which describes itself as an experimental "universal town belonging to nobody in particular, where men and women from all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities," my parents were terribly alarmed. But they assumed that their prodigal son would return home once he had gotten the Indian mishagas (craziness) out of his system.
That was thirty-two years ago. Roy still lives in Auroville, named after his guru and its founder, Sri Aurobindo, an Indian revolutionary who became a philosopher, poet, and mystic. Aurobindo and Mira Richard, also known as The Mother (both have died), created the ashram as a spiritual retreat; more than 1,000 Aurovillians live and work together in settlements surrounding the ashram. What they have in common is the "spiritual pursuit of a higher level of human existence."
At times it seemed that The Mother was more important to Roy than our mother. Instead of spending the holidays with his Jewish relatives in New Jersey or Florida, Roy has an extended family in Auroville, including his wife Gillian, a non-Jewish Australian craftswoman and astrologist...Roy practices certain Native American traditions and rituals, in addition to prayers inspired by his guru. In other words, Roy's spirituality, at least in practice, seems to combine aspects of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Native Americanism--but no Judaism.
I wish Roy could see that being a Jew now is very different from what he remembers at the stodgy, rigid Hebrew school he was forced to attend. He would like the healing services and the New Age aspects of Reform Judaism. I am sorry he didn't come to my daughters' Bat Mitzvahs: I think he would have enjoyed the personalized, multifaceted ceremonies that combined poetry, music, and family participation. In fact, at one of them, a friend stood on the bimah (podium) and read a passage by Sri Aurobindo in Roy's honor, and in his absence.
I am also sad that he has missed our jovial, modernized seders (ritual meals) and festive Hanukkah parties. I think he and his wife would have had fun, and that perhaps Roy might have embraced at least some aspects of his Jewish identity. But . . . perhaps not. He is far away, physically and spiritually, and that often leaves me feeling like I don't really have a brother. Yet I admire his decision to aspire to a life of contemplation and self-development. It hasn't always been easy, for him or for me, but he seems to have found his spiritual place on earth. It isn't centered in Jerusalem, "City of Gold," but rather in Auroville, which means "City of Dawn."
Carol Kort co-edited two books on parenting and is the author of American Women Writers and co-author of American Women in the Visual Arts. She has also written books for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and articles for The New York Times Education Life Magazine and The Boston Sunday Globe Magazine

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