Last updated: 4 Mar, 2024

How does Auroville work? 

Aurovilians talk a lot. They talk at the Solar Kitchen, at the Town Hall, at home, at work. Everywhere. All these small cheerful encounters help to make big decisions

How do we make decisions in Auroville? The Auroville's Foundation Act requires the residents of Auroville to reach official resolutions at their Auroville Residents Assembly. By lack of a better system, the community still resorts to 'voting', albeit with great reluctance. Some people would prefer a Quaker-style consensus, and feel that sits closer to the intentions of Mother when she described "divine anarchy" as a method of government for Auroville.

Bone of contention: The decision making process is an ever ongoing bone of contention; there are different opinions about how to go about it in the community and we keep working at it. Over the years, Aurovilians talk and talk and talk about how to make Mother's dream work. The experiment goes on.

You could see Auroville as a kind of open-source eco-system. It likes long-lived forms of collaborative work; it wants people who work hard, who choose peace and calm, and who apply their minds and energies in trying to make it work.

The experiment goes on: Auroville works to a Charter. Different working groups manage administration and about all other activities, and people live in more than 120 different communities; most of these have a sturdy mix of nationalities.

Anyone can try anything: In Auroville, after you're accepted, anyone can try anything. Some experiments succeed. People gravitate to successful projects.

An Auroville success-story: Food, a good example of a successful Auroville experiment; the Pour Tous (For All) Distribution Centre (PTDC). After years of experiments, and hard work, PTDC runs a calm, collaborative food distribution system for Auroville. Its Foodlink handles food grown in farms inside Auroville and in Auroville-supported organic farms in the bio region.

Long-lived forms of altruism founded Auroville: In early years, Aurovilians exchanged favours and services to each other without an accounts system; and swapped goods or supplied the early Pour Tous food distribution system. At the time, that literally meant a cane basket with Auroville-grown produce, delivered by bullock cart to each community. The early days seldom saw the basket full. 

A new way to do things: The early Aurovilians joined the Dream in response to a promise whose guidelines were set by Mother. Together they would build the tools for a new kind of social infrastructure, a new kind of life.

Pioneers: Pioneers of Auroville, old and new, set to work as a team to blend the best of the East and the West in a new, clean green city, and to always see the work as an integral exercise for their own growth and that of the city.

Mother provided a spot and a dream: The first Aurovilians arrived to build a city with hard work and new ideas. Forty years of work created a green township, and within the centre, the Matrimandir, was completed in 2005. To understand Auroville - before you do anything else - visit the Matrimandir Chamber for a silent meditation. Take your time.

Unspoken bargain appears to exist: The bargain: you give your time, good will and hard work, and together - with others like you - build the long-lived systems needed for a new city, and demonstrate a new way to live - beyond religions. Consciously. The yoga of work.

The deal: Dreams sometimes work. In parts. For example, Auroville operates with an almost cash-less economy. One can operate wholly without cash. The deal Auroville offers: if you work for the community at least five hours a day - it provides you with a maintenance; not a salary, but a mix of services, cash and rights. Very basic, just enough to make ends meet.

How to make things right when things go wrong? Economists know that within a larger community, free riders are bound to appear; people who take, but don't give - people who collect favours that they don't return. 

Business units example: For example, Auroville business units can build a business on Auroville land, with Auroville capital. In return, managers agree to pay 33 per cent of their profit to the community. Some do not pay their dues and may still get a maintenance. But community action may take place, rebuke people who take but don't give. So if you come to Auroville, give your time, your goodwill, your energy to build a better world. Give more than you take.

Another way to ride free; the Aurovilian who only lives in Auroville 3 months a year, in the cool season, and who does no particular work; sees Auroville as a holiday home, or a retirement home. Community debates seek to understand the contradictions. Do these 'tourists', who once joined Auroville with good will and promises, create benefits to the wider community?

So how are situations of misuse approached? When things go right or things go wrong - for example - extreme selfishness - Auroville holds powers of rebuke; and in some cases uses those powers after a long-drawn community process. For example, Auroville has:

  1.  published the name of the persons who do wrong, in its weekly circular News and Notes and on its local Intranet
  2.  removed Aurovilian status;
  3.  removed access to food, housing, services and education.

Human nature may persist: But, still, some exist who take more than they give; who use, for example, Auroville land and services to build a private business, and do not offer their dues. Or they may build a house on Auroville land and let it for private gain. That's not accepted as Auroville owns all houses built on Auroville land, and these get allocated to Aurovilians. Some working groups look into these things, case by case, and try to do the right thing. A challenge.

Great value built through decennia: Auroville recognises that the early hard work of the pioneers created a value, and a high quality of life; trees, birds, insect life, a whole ecology in its forests. Pioneers built roads, systems, great food, schools, childcare centres, water systems, public buildings; an extraordinary setting for a new society to come up. 

Auroville now asks 'Newcomers' to buy into the value: Newcomers:

  1.  need to bring enough money to build a house or join a collective housing arrangement;
  2.  cannot join Auroville and expect a 'free house, free land' or free anything else;
  3.  must self-support for at least a year;
  4.  work as a volunteers for at least a year; and
  5. make sure that they integrate into the community through work and commitment, so that they find enough residents to vouch for them when the time of their entry assessment takes place.