Unity in Diversity, as expressed in the International Zone of Auroville, is not meant to be a melting pot for a great homogenous soup, but an exploration of the differences and understanding the truth behind them, writes ANNE GILBERT.
A DEEPER understanding of the term "Unity in Diversity" is critical to the resolution of the contemporary problem of growing global conflicts between the different cultures and ethnic groups of the world.
What does "Unity in Diversity" imply? When one looks at Nature as a whole, there are multitudinous diversities contained within it, and many wholes that exist within it.
Take the great oceans, where it first began. Each is a system, containing many diverse life forms. Each living component, from cellular phytoplankton to the giant Blue Whale, is unique and has an essential part to play in sustaining the life of the whole. And so are all systems, all of which together are an endlessly rich expression of the Supreme One that is Brahman and a reminder that diversity is life.
The whole world then is an infinitely harmonious web of life, perfectly synchronised, interconnected and interdependent. It is man that disturbs the fine-tuning of this universal web; it is man, encumbered by his mind, who threatens the life-sustaining balance. Only man who has difficulty living in harmony with difference.
Throughout human history, divisions and conflicts between different cultures and ethnic groups have existed, but the present major conflicts West Asia, South Asia, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Gujarat (to name a few) are of grave concern because they threaten global security.
After September 11 people are waking up to the life-threatening nature of these global cultural conflicts, and beginning to ask themselves what the deeper causes behind these conflicts are. Historical injustices are the oft-cited core causes of cultural conflict. These are part of our collective psychic pain, which requires recognition and healing. But I believe the need of the hour is a fresh understanding of the differences that exist between people. We need to initiate dialogue between people of different faiths and cultures. And not just at governmental levels or between the leaders of different faiths, but between the ordinary people the people who have had enough of conflict and violence and who want to build a better safer world for the future. And we have to seek an honest understanding of the essential beauty of other faiths and cultures. We are now seeing a growing global identity crisis. Over the last 50 years, humanity has experienced much change. The conflict between tradition and modernity causes great feelings of insecurity. We have also witnessed the second great wave of immigration in the second half of the last millennium; the first was the European, now it is the turn of the Asian (and mainly South Asia) to the West. This has effected the dislocation of immigrants and caused anxiety in their new neighbours who see their environment change.
Auroville, which is a new society in the making according to the ideals laid down by The Mother and Sri Aurobindo, aims to exemplify Unity in Diversity. It is an international community of presently just less than 2,000 members who originate from over 30 countries. One of the aspects that attracted me to Auroville was the international composition of its members.
The International Zone is one of the four Zones of Auroville. The Mother's vision was that every country with a well-defined culture should build its national pavilion in the International Zone. The pavilions would be centres for education and research into the genius of the nation and encourage a deeper understanding of the various cultures of the world.
Mother's vision for the researches to be undertaken in the International Zone is at a much deeper level than that of culture. We must demonstrate the soul element of each nation, which is the psychic source, as all subsequent expressions and symbolism in art are only explorations of consciousness of each culture. The Mother said: "Just as each individual has a psychic being which is his true self and which governs his destiny more or less overtly, so too each nation has a psychic being which is its true being and moulds its destiny from behind the veil. It is the soul of the country, the national genius, the spirit of the people, the centre of national aspiration, the fountainhead of all that is beautiful, noble, great and generous in the life of the country."
Manifesting this vast ideal on the ground is the work of the International Zone Working Group of Auroville, made up of representatives of the different nationalities in Auroville. These members are working closely with the representatives of Auroville support groups in their native countries. It has become avant-garde to talk about "the blurring of borders" or "blending of cultures" in art and media circles, but this is not Unity in Diversity nor is it the aim of the Auroville International Zone. It is not meant to be a melting pot for a great homogeneous soup, but is rather meant for the exploration of the differences and of understanding the truth behind them. It is to find the uniqueness of each individual country, the soul of each nation of the world, and to find out what that particular nation has to contribute to the whole. It is, in fact, a celebration of the differences, of all the immense wealth and richness of the tremendous diversity that makes up our common humanity and our shared humanness. For me, the International Zone of Auroville is the most exciting project in the world today, as the researches to be undertaken are the foundations of human unity.
For more information on Auroville please contact Auroville's website: www.auroville.org.in
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