Why did we choose "Becoming Collective" for the theme of the 1998 AUM?
Perhaps some history would help. A few years ago, the Internet began to be used for discussions, coordination of work, and dissemination of the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Daily email "conversations" among disciples now include persons from India, Europe, and the United States. Clearly a new phase of collective work is upon us.
At AUM 97 in New York it was apparent that people have been independently thinking about how our widespread community of disciples and sadhaks could move into closer contact with one another. Many perceive that the yoga force of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is at work in disparate places, movements, and individuals. Something is afoot in the world, and whether we call it the Divine, the Supramental, or the force of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, it is creating a progressive movement towards harmony, mutuality, oneness.
The group that is sponsoring AUM 98 has been holding monthly retreats at the Sri Aurobindo Sadhana Peetham (SASP) in Lodi, California since the fall of 1996. These retreats have strengthened our growing sense of collective identity through work, meditations, informal hikes, readings, and our shared experience of aspiration in this Yoga. When the working group sat down to discuss possible themes for AUM 98, the idea of "Becoming Collective" came up and was chosen immediately. We see it as an emerging reality, and a promise for the future.
What do we hope to achieve at the conference?
During the past fifteen years the AUM conferences have brought together people for different purposes. Sometimes the focus has been Auroville, at others it has been specific points of sadhana, and yet other AUMs have been wide-ranging. In The Ideal of Human Unity, Sri Aurobindo says that a group, "like the individual, has a body, an organic life, a moral and aesthetic temperament, a developing mind and a soul behind all these signs and powers for the sake of which they exist." For AUM 98 we want to explore and strengthen the body, temperament, mind, and soul of our collective consciousness.
The Individual and the Collective
Recognizing the basic psychological barriers between individuals, we will provide a structure that allows people to meet and know everyone else, so that there are no "outsiders" versus "insiders." From the moment that a person arrives she will be welcomed and introduced to individuals and the Yoga. This will be done through presentations that introduce the major groups and centers in the United States, as well as such simple things as name badges and a bulletin board with photographs. Long-standing sadhaks will be encouraged to seek out and make meaningful contact with newcomers.
Recognizing the value of active participation, the presentations at the conference will be organized to encourage group interaction and discussion. We will work closely with each presenter and suggest ways that speakers can include the audience. We will also encourage participation in the details of the AUM itself through a work-exchange program, so that everyone who wishes to do so can play a part in the implementation of the conference. There will be collective art, music, and literary projects throughout the AUM so that the group may express and create its vision in many ways.
Common Goal and Aspiration
Recognizing the great power in a common goal, aspiration, and action, we will provide regular group meditations, which will be focused by specific writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on the subject of community. Through writings such as this essay we will also give form to our collective vision. We will provide presentations on the specific works and goals of the individual centers, so that these may be understood by all and as far as possible coordinated throughout our larger community of disciples. There will be many opportunities for discussion to further clarify and connect our common aspirations.
Unity in the Divine
Recognizing that our true unity lies in the recognition of the Divine in each other, we will provide specific exercises that aim at going beneath the surface and finding this spiritual reality. We will also explore the meaning of a gnostic, supramental community, which the Mother says must exist as a "real, concrete unity and identity of everyone with the other members of the community, that is to say, everyone must feel himself not as a member somehow united with the others, but as all in one, in himself."
In short, we hope to create the conditions where participants can rise to the highest level individually and collectively, where our common aspirations and visions can be explored and linked, where a spirit of "unity, mutuality, and harmony" prevails.