Matagiri celebrates its longevity

Wendy and Julian Lines. (photo by Dion Ogust)

The Matagiri Sri Aurobindo Center will commemorate its 49th birthday with an evening of classical Indian music and theater at 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 2 at the Mountain View Studio. Matagiri is a nonprofit organization located just outside of Woodstock dedicated to spiritual growth and the evolution of human consciousness.

According to Julian Lines, who runs the Center with his wife, Wendy, Matagiri was founded in 1968 by Sam Spanier, an artist and actor, and Eric Hughes, a playwright. The two were inspired by the combined philosophy of the Bengali sage and spiritualist Sri Aurobindo Ghosh and Parisian mystic Mirra Alfassa, popularly known as The Mother, who together started an Ashram in Pondicherry, India, and founded the Auroville community. “You have an Indian-born Bengali coming to the West and a Paris-born mystic looking East. They ended up working together — they recognized each other as co-equal teachers,” said Lines.

The Center was founded in order to be a haven for those interested in progressing in their yoga practice or anyone who was seeking a spiritual path. According to Lines, “Sam and Eric said that when they first founded this place in the 60s, people would just wander up the driveway, because people were looking in the 60s.” This sort of intuitive seeking aligned closely with the ideology of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, who believed that humans are transitional beings, and are therefore not “the crown of creation. Working from intuition, working from your heart’s guidance is really the basis of all spiritual seeking. To be in touch with that, and to have that be the focus of your life, is at the root of how this property is here in the first place,” said Lines.

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Julian and Wendy Lines lived across the street from Matagiri for over 20 years, helping Sam and Eric care for the Center. After Sam’s death in 2008 and Eric’s in 2016, the Lines’ took over Matagiri full time and are now the stewards in residence.

Currently, they are building a new structure on the property, which will serve as a multi-functional space for housing guests and visitors to the Center, for hosting performances and meetings, and as a yoga studio for Wendy, who is an instructor in hatha yoga. The structure is a straw bale, insulated Ecohouse. “We want it to be a model of sustainable building,” said Lines.

Though American culture and the way people interact with spirituality has changed since the Center’s founding in the 60s, Lines believes Matagiri is still relevant today, nearly 49 years later. “In order to be relevant, you have to address people’s needs. Everybody is…disconnected from silence, intuition, and doing something in the soil. Very often the most important thing to offer people, especially from the city, is to come and be in nature.”

Matagiri’s birthday event will feature two performers with a relationship to Sri Aurobindo doctrine. The evening will begin with a musical performance from saxophonist Jonathan Kay, who will play ragas, a north Indian classical form. Kay has modified his saxophone to a “Shrutiphone,” a non-tempered saxophone which Lines said “give[s] an authentic rendition of the microtones and slides that are very much part of the Indian classical form.”

After Kay’s recital, there will be a performance by actor Hamish Boyd of the one-man show, My Autopsy, a funny and poignant coming-of-age story taking place in the 60s and 70s. Boyd lives full-time in Pondicherry, India.

Matagiri’s birthday event is free to the public, with a voluntary donation. To learn more about Matagiri, visit www.matagiri.org.

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