The Circle experiment in Vérité
As an example of how the various communities are dealing with the Circle experiment, the following is a report based on meetings amongst the residents of the Verite Community regarding the same.
Vérité came into the Circles experiment with a certain amount of predisposition, as the group had already been living together, sharing the duties and expenses of running the community and its guest house, for some years. The Circles experiment is, therefore, for Vérité residents more of an 'adjustment' than a leap into the future. No new meetings are required, nor the challenge of meeting new faces and contradictory ideas. It has been an opportunity to look more closely at our financial policies, examine some of our assumptions and attitudes, and to understand the spread of opinion within the community in more detail.
What has been revealed is the existential polarity
Where people have had decisive inner experiences which make them sure that their work and their support is with the Divine, their approach to the Circles is supportive but detached. (The financial 'problem' is then seen primarily as how to arrange the economy so that others too experience this sense of security - the sense that whatever comes to us in our life, it is the Divine who is giving us an opportunity to recognise Him/Her/That in a new part or aspect of the Whole. The sense of serving the Divine and being supported by That.)
Where people feel the bite of economic and social injustice playing itself out in Auroville, and want to find ways to move from an imperfect system to one closer to the ideal, their approach to the Circles is more engaged.
Where people are finding themselves under financial constraints, they would like to see these constraints removed from themselves and others.
In Vérité, monthly contributions from members are pooled together to provide meals and basic body care to all. Vérité's guest house is managed by the community and supports the maintenance and development of the physical infrastructure of the place. Thus it provides a communal livelihood, while at the same time also providing an on-going opportunity to demonstrate and articulate the ideals of the community. This 'up-frontness' about our deeper aims has attracted support to the community.
Recently Vérité's Integral Learning Centre received a grant for the development of the physical infrastructure of Vérité, including residences, which has freed up the guest house income. The economic discussions in Vérité are tending to move around how to deal with this 'abundance'. Should we start offering 'maintenances' to members who put the majority of their work time into Vérité? Shall we raise wages and benefits for workers? Shall we make a regular contribution to the Central Fund, or specific donations to Auroville projects, as we have done to the Land Fund last year? As one of our members runs a weaving unit, we also ask - shall we set up our own 'Nandini' (freestore) to clothe our members?
Our discussions regarding Circles are mostly technical e.g. which account to use when making small purchases. As most of the members are already fully occupied, there is little or no intention or ability to take up working with improving the general Auroville services, except to the extent that what they are doing already is recognised by themselves and others as community service (in the fields of public/village relations, food and agriculture, community organisation, Matrimandir, cultural expression).
Some particulars of the Vérité experiment
1. The physical maintenance of the community infrastructure is paid for by the guesthouse as well as by various learning programmes for visiting groups. These activities attract funds, and at the same time reinforce the focus on our ideal through sharing them with others.
2. Membership in Vérité implies a commitment to intentional 'community' as a means of sadhana in the integral yoga, and to an ecological lifestyle of voluntary simplicity, including no use of intoxicants.
3. A weekly business meeting at which all the matters pertaining to the physical running of the community is obligatory for all members, as well as another weekly 'sharing' meeting at which matters of a more psychological nature are aired. We have also held in-house 'seminars' to share our feelings about money; what our family situation was in regard to money and our present situation. (Most of our members are presently financially 'comfortable'.)
4. Detailed accounts are kept and, ideally, shared monthly at the community meeting, so that we know our collective financial situation.
5. Guest house income is shared with the workers through a Workers' Fund created from 5% of the income, plus additional contributions. This is a material indication of a conscious attitude of recognising each worker as also an individual growing in consciousness, and encouraging that growth.
6. Excess income, after maintenance and development expenses, is shared by donating to the Land Fund or the Central Fund.
7. Each member contributes Rs.1,500 or more monthly to cover food and basic necessities. This comes from their savings or the maintenance received via their work place. All expenses to prepare food are covered from this.
8. Beyond that, individual expenses (e.g. major medical, travel, etc) are covered by the person's own 'magic' - but there is an understanding that in an emergency the community would pitch in.
Musing on Circles
The Circles are seen by members as a worthwhile and promising experiment, but not going very far in terms of using 'community' as a means of progressing in the sadhana. The qualities which have to be developed in order to unite with the Divine or to serve the Divine Consciousness are the same qualities which are required to live harmoniously in community. One does not look to the community for support per se, but to the Divine. So-called adversity, or lack of it, is also seen as coming from the Divine. To the extent that that Consciousness is there in members, the easier it is to share material things, and at the same time help each other to develop, so that one is touching into the Divine Consciousness more often and more deeply.
Full circle, ascending spiral
It is a full circle, an ascending spiral: the more one touches into That, the more one reflects That in one's life, which helps others also to feel it and manifest more harmony and prosperity in the atmosphere. Where there is doubt, fear, cynicism or hesitancy, the circle is interrupted and effort is necessary to get back into the consciousness of the Whole. When an intentional community is focussed primarily on that, it is likely that someone will remind you, help you - or you remind someone and help them - to make the effort and come out of the hole, back into the Whole. OM
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