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Suburban Housewife Article Yes!

Suburban Housewife Article Yes!

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Published by dlouisianat

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Published by: dlouisianat on Feb 07, 2009
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07/05/2009

 
FULL ARTICLELessons Learned by a Suburban Housewife on the Power of Unity:The Auroville and Sarvodaya Shramadana ExperienceDenese Ashbaugh VloskyWords 777I confess. I am a suburban housewife. This is an embarrassing admission to make to thegroup of people with whom I traveled to Southern India and Sri Lanka. Many of them do poverty work and fight for social justice. Some of them live in intentional, sustainablecommunities. Many of them have given up money to work for a cause close to their hearts. They certainly do not live like I do-- driving a mini-van and raising kids in aneighborhood of upper-middle-class homes with green lawns, on cul-de-sacs, near andnext to people much like us, down the main road from a large University which is myhusband’s employer.Do community members have to spend a certain minimum amount of time together? Docommunities have to be made up of people who are all alike? Do they need to becomposed of people who are motivated to cooperate, grow and change? Do theinhabitants have to possess a certain minimum amount of resources? Or are resources animpediment to social cohesion and solidarity? And where does the idea of sustainabilityfit in? Is there a prescription that can be followed as to how "community" can be created?And if so, can I apply it to my white-bread neighborhood, where many of us do not evenknow each others names?These are some of the questions I sought to answer as I participated in a KelloggFoundation grant to study "community, spirituality, and sustainability" at the SarvodayaShramadana Movement in Sri Lanka and in Auroville, an intentional, internationalcommunity in IndiaUpon close inspection, Sarvodaya and Auroville appear radically different. Sarvodaya isan organization and a movement; Auroville is a group of settlements. Sarvodaya developscommunity with participants that have little choice as to where they live; Aurovillecreates communities with people who can choose to move to a land far away. Aurovillehas created a community where many of its inhabitants have accumulated a measure of wealth; Sarvodaya advocates a society without affluence. Sarvodaya is based in tradition;Auroville prides itself on creating a new culture. Sarvodaya is based in a traditionalreligion; Auroville flourishes in the midst of a new brand of spiritual anarchy. But for alltheir differences, both Sarvodaya and Auroville start from the same transcendent vision.Either through Gandhian philosophy and Buddhism or through the teachings of SriAurobindo and the Mother, they seek to realize the dream of human unity for all.This revolutionary germ of a concept spreads miraculously among those who are1
 
introduced to it, transforming them into advocates for harmony within the human, animaland natural environment in which we all live. Through this one simple but powerful idea,I have seen equality; empowerment and awakening take root. The result is an attempt tocreate a world that is heaven on earth, based in community, spirituality and sustainability.Did I learn this in church as I was growing up through the teachings of Jesus? I surelycould have, but I didn’t. It took this trip for me to actually see the power of what I canonly call "oneness."Some folks might even become saints or revolutionaries. Now, does this mean thatAuroville or the Sarvodayan villages are perfect manifestations of this ideal of oneness? No. In fact, in many ways, the problems of these communities mirror those of the rest of society. The difference is, they are trying to strive for human unity. I don't see much of that where I come from, and I find that good and inspiring for my soul to see. If I trulywant to live a life in pursuit of community, sustainability and spirituality, what does thismean for my life in suburbia? Is it hopeless for me to look for like-minded people in myneighborhood? Do I have to move to Sri Lanka or to Auroville to find people striving for the good of someone other themselves? Does that mean that a Dr. Ariyaratne, a MahatmaGandhi or a Sri Aurobindo need settle in my neighborhood so that it can be transformedas I’ve seen communities transformed in India and Sri Lanka?After a lot of thinking about these questions, I can unequivocally say, "no." What I think is essential is the simple concept of unity. The concept is so powerful, so transcendent; ithas transformed spiritual teachers so completely that they don’t need to be physically present to teach us the good news. I think that any of us can light the spark that starts therevolution toward a community of unity or oneness in our neighborhoods. Even asuburban housewife. The spark will spread. We only need begin.SIDE BAR Lessons Learned by a Suburban Housewife on the Power of Unity:The Auroville and Sarvodaya Shramadana ExperienceDenese Ashbaugh Vlosky421 WordsI confess. I am a suburban housewife. This is an embarrassing admission to make to thegroup of people with whom I traveled to Southern India and Sri Lanka. Many of them do poverty work and fight for social justice. Some of them live in sustainable communities.Many of them have given up money to work for a cause close to their hearts. Theycertainly do not live like I do-- driving a mini-van and raising kids in a neighborhood of upper-middle-class homes with green lawns, on cul-de-sacs, near and next to peoplemuch like us, down the main road from a large University which is my husband’semployer.

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