Summer book club
Soon after my first arrival in Auroville, I started reading books that are connected to it . I have always enjoyed getting to know places through books and stories. The first one that fell into my hands (and still is one of my favorites) is “Turning Points”. The personal stories of the pioneers who arrived first in Auroville are very inspiring and touching. Some write about the encounters with the Mother in the Ashram, others about the big challenges that they were facing. After this I moved on to books about Mother and Sri Aurobindo, ending up with documented talks and conversations of Mother. Recently I felt like I needed something more personal again, in the style of “Turning Points”, and I stumbled across the book “Passage to More than India” by Dick Batstone.
His book is about his encounter with texts of Sri Aurobindo, leading him all the way to Pondicherry, on an old French ex-troop ship of the Messageries Maritimes line. He ends up in the peaceful, beautiful and well-organized Ashram. He describes the encounters he has with Ashramites talking about their way of life, their visions and the problems they are facing. And of course he writes about his personal meeting with the spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo, Mira Alfassa, known as the Mother and the head of the Ashram. If one has visited Pondicherry this book gives a beautiful time travel like experience. From the coffee house to the still existing Ashram dining hall, you can even now feel the buzz and almost see the Ashramites in white shirts and pants having quiet discussions about integral yoga and the divine consciousness. The book paints a beautiful picture of life in the Ashram when Mother was still present in her body, and it made me curious to the point that I actually want to go to Pondicherry to spend some time in the Ashram, sitting in the library studying books or having a silent lunch breach in the dining hall like Dick.
After his visit he became very active, spreading the words and books of Sri Aurobindo in Great Britain and later on in Auroville. He was one of the founders of Auroville International UK, giving talks and raising funds. Dick Batsone passed away last year in Great Britain. I discovered that he donated a great deal of his books to the Auroville library. I am a very frequent visitor of the hall of books, so I realized chances are high that I read books that were in Dick’s hands before. What a beautiful feeling.
I can recommend “Passage to more than India” to everyone who is curious about the life in the Ashram at a time when Mother was still present in her body, and about Integral Yoga from an everyday life approach. It is a great introduction to the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, the challenges one faces and the light it brings. The language of the book is very easy to understand (some of Sri Aurobindo's texts are very complex and hard to read), and the book is full of life and enthusiasm.
Passage to more than India is a beautiful and unique description of a journey to South India and the journey of a man that goes within!