How Sri Aurobindo’s book turned Egyptian Zackaria Moursi’s life forever!

(In the words of Zackaria Moursi)

This article was published at this website:

At the age of 23, studying on a doctoral scholarship in Germany, I had everything a young man wishes to possess: health, affluence and success. I had come two years earlier from Egypt to a different culture, but the change proved to be anything but a cultural “shock”. As a student, I had rented a room in the apartment of a highly educated woman, who, seeing how much I was taken by classical music, encouraged me to learn piano and introduced me to a German composer, living in the area, an author of some renown, who, besides piano and music, took up my education in literature and art. All this was going on parallel to my actual engineering studies. Germany was the ideal place for the intellectually insatiable person I was. Visiting the great German cathedrals and museums with my host, going to concerts, hiking in the Black Forest not far from where I lived, and making trips to adjacent European countries, I felt I was starting to live for the first time. Yet, Germany had much more in store for me….

Having been born in a well known and respected Egyptian family, I had in many ways a privileged childhood. The Islam I grew up with was tolerant, open-minded, and progressive. My grandfather and his brothers had fought against the British occupation: one was exiled to the Seychelles, another jailed in Upper Egypt, but this did not prevent a third brother from marrying an Englishwoman, nor did it prevent the family from sending some of its children to European and American schools, even if they happened to be religious.

I hardly knew my parents: my father, a successful lawyer, was constantly working, and when at home, he, like most men of his generation, was not in the habit of sharing much time with his children. My mother constantly complained from breathing difficulties and kept to bed most of the time. The care of the children was left to a nurse and other help personnel. My father had collected a marvelous library in his study: leather-bound volumes of classical Arabic literature, side by side with French and English books regularly sent to him by bookstores in downtown Cairo. I must have been seven, when I started to sneak to this otherwise rarely frequented study, shut the door behind me and lose myself in whatever, at my age, I could make out of its treasures. The study soon became my magical world, a world of adventure, heroism and beauty to which I could take refuge whenever I felt lonely.

The sunshine of my early childhood was soon to give way to mounting clouds. The 1952 revolution changed Egypt dramatically; and, in the “nationalization” wave that followed, my family lost most of its possessions. Soon after, my father died suddenly with a heart attack. With the onset of puberty, not long after that, my exile from Paradise was complete. I experienced for the first time real anguish and sorrow. A sort of chronic “bad conscience” took hold of me and made me go around with bent shoulders as if carrying a crushing load. The feeling I often had of being lifted up and soaring on wings was gone. Life became a challenge that had to be met with a great effort of will. In my college years, I studied with ferocious determination. Excellence at school was the one expectation my father had again and again stressed to his children. Unconsciously I wanted to fulfill his wish, but my more urgent need was to get a scholarship that would enable me to study abroad and to discover a wider and more stable world. At the age of twenty, my wish was granted: I completed my studies, received an engineering degree, and won scholarship to do graduate work in Germany.

So here I was in Germany avidly pursuing avenues of which I didn’t have the faintest inkling only a short time before. One day, flipping through the books of my host, I grabbed an undistinguished book with the title “Der Integrale Yoga“. Till then I had thought yoga nothing more than extreme “physical exercises” developed in India, and I looked in the book for the usual photos of yogis in impossible postures. Instead I found dense texts with long sentences and difficult Sanskrit words. The book turned out to be a compilation of texts by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, of whom I had never heard before (translated into German by Heinz Kappes).  I put the book back on the shelf; I had anyway a huge list of other things I urgently needed to do. There was no reason for me to return to this book, but I did return to it again and again in the following weeks. It was destined to trigger a turning point in my life.

The affirmations of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were a refreshing blend of an inconceivable spiritual fairytale with down-to-earth reports of lived experiences. They were about a “psychological” spirituality, which was different from the occult and ascetic spirituality I had read about so far. The texts were objective reports of experiences; there was in them no eagerness to convince, no promises of easy and fast rewards and no threats of terrible consequences if one chose to drop them and go other ways. There was no mention of sin or regret over past mistakes; they talked only of restoring harmony and balance and putting each thing in its right place. They taught that a soul could not be lost forever but only delayed in its growth and evolution; and that man’s goal was to participate consciously in his own evolution and to hasten it according to his capacities and means. But there was something else that attracted me to the book: I was much intrigued and perplexed by the authority and the sublime height from which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were writing: something in their assertions seemed “simply too much”, and yet the doubter in me could not dismiss statements that sounded so authentic and true as exaggerations and pretense. I wanted to get to the bottom of it all, and I was conceited enough to take the matter as a challenge and to tell myself: “Here is a challenge for you!”

The teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother filled an emptiness inside me that all my previous intellectual pursuits had not been able to fill. I finally understood that true growth should be the growth of the being as a whole, and that true knowledge was not just knowledge of the mind but also that of the heart and the soul. The goal was far and high, but the path was clearly shown; I just had to step on it and start walking.

Outwardly things were shaping up nicely for me. Inwardly the words of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had started to ferment. And then something strange happened.

I had just finished the first half of my doctoral program and had all reasons to celebrate. Instead, I suddenly found myself in a severe depression, the kind that makes you afraid to leave bed in the morning and that haunts you with suicidal thoughts the rest of the day. No one understood what was happening, nor did I understand what was going on inside me.

In one of my most desperate moments, I remembered the Integral Yoga book. I looked at Sri Aurobindo’s photo and felt a faint but unmistakable quiver in my heart, upon which I fell into a sound sleep, something I hadn’t been able to do for quite some time. Next day I knew I was mending, and things started to change. The change was slow and hesitant at first, but I somehow managed, in a month or so, to get over my depression and to resume normal life.

A great and long adventure had started for me; for decades demolition and construction went on simultaneously inside me, and my path meandered in totally unexpected ways. My journey made me change country and career several times and meet people whom I never imagined I would meet in real life. It was not always easy to fulfill my previous commitments while aspiring to give myself fully to a new orientation and a distant aim. The discrepancy between the Ideal and the Reality was still too great, and my inner resistance created hardships. Most difficult of all, was my inability to make myself understood by those whose lives were closely bound with mine, and who were necessarily affected by my actions.

On the whole my lot was much better than that of millions of others, and I was not asking for more. Slowly the pieces of life’s huge puzzle started to fall one after the other into place. To my amazement I discovered that, despite my many meanderings and aberrations, I have landed not too far from where I always wanted to be. I started to see how every leg of the long journey had been a necessary preparation and to perceive the incredible Grace that has guided me through many detours and much stumbling to the “niche” that was all along intended for me. Life started to become simple and serene; the need for straining and effort grew less; the conflict between “Inner work” and “outer work” lost its edge; the fears and worries that had long haunted me began to fall away; and I started to grasp faintly what Sri Aurobindo must have had in mind when he wrote his “Life Divine.

I am approaching my seventieth birthday, and my hope seems increasingly justified that the exile from Paradise I experienced almost sixty years ago was not final after all.

Zackaria Moursi

Feb., 2012

Originally posted at

(Zackaria is currently engaged in translating the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother into Arabic.  See the website given above for some samples.)

The need to translate Sri Aurobindo and the Mother into Arabic

 By: Zackaria Moursi

Posted by on September 4, 2012 at this website:

Early in the 20th Century, in India, Sri Aurobindo had major experiences that crystallized in a new vision for humanity; at about the same time, the Mother, then living in Paris, had the same vision. They both foresaw, unknown to each other, the dawn of a new consciousness of Oneness unifying man with the entire existence, and changing him into a nobler and higher being, endowed with more knowledge and self-mastery, and thus gradually transforming earthly life to a “Life Divine”. [1] Sri Aurobindo and the Mother met in 1911, and, over more than thirty years, worked together to realize this consciousness and to bring it down to the earth.

Today, early in this 21st Century, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are considered by thousands all over the world to be among the greatest spiritual figures in the history of mankind. The numbers of those who derive guidance from their teachings is steadily on the rise. Their works are translated into most of the major world languages; and we witness thousands of books, dissertations, radio stations, songs and videos dedicated to them. There are many communities dedicated to their teachings around the globe, most notably the budding international city of Auroville in South India, which is being modeled on their philosophy and teachings.

For all these reasons and many more, the translator finds that it is the time Sri Aurobindo and the Mother should enter the sphere of awareness of the Arabic reader.

We witness today this consciousness of Oneness penetrating, at an ever accelerating pace, the entire globe. The signs of unification are unmistakable. We experience them daily in politics and trade, in technology and science, on the web and other media, in culture and sports, and even in fashion and entertainment. Unexpected ways of living and interaction are dramatically improving the quality of life in the privileged countries of the world. The spreading of this consciousness and positive developments to encompass the entire globe, have become the only hope for saving our world, still besieged by war, environmental degradation, social inequality, famine, fundamentalism and radicalism.

A most efficient antidote for fundamentalism, oppression and violence can be found in Indian thought which has given humanity over millennia the most sublime notions of All-unity and the most vivid examples of tolerance and peaceful coexistence. Seeing the Divine everywhere and in all beings, Indian thought has always called for reverence, compassion and gentleness, not only toward other human beings, but toward all forms of animate and inanimate life. The Divine is worshipped in India, not only as the omnipotent Creator, but also as the Mother of the Universe, who not only cares for the smallest of her creations, but also feels them as part of her own being. In this worldview, violence against man, animal or nature would be violence against the Divine Mother herself. The main attitude of Indian thought towards the Divine is not just an attitude of veneration and awe, but also, and foremost, that of love and adoration. Though Sri Aurobindo and the Mother based themselves on Indian thought, they did not stop there: they were equally at home in Western thought, and in a perfect synthesis of both, they fashioned their own sublime vision that aims at realizing heaven on earth.

The teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, referred to as the Integral Yoga, are about a new consciousness and a practical psychology [3] and have nothing to do with religious ideologies, [4] nor with the renunciation of the world nor with occultism. They hold that man is a transitional being evolving to the “beyond man” or “superman”, [5] and that humans are capable of consciously taking part in, and even hastening, their own evolution. These teachings are about transforming the human being into a higher and nobler being, and they maintain that this transformation can be done methodically and without recourse to any occult powers or “miracles”. In the same way science discovers the laws governing the outer working of Nature and uses these laws to change the world, yoga discovers the laws that govern the inner workings of Nature and utilizes them to effect the spiritual transformation of man. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother did not conceal the difficulty of their yoga. They maintained that although the transformation of human nature, considered in the past to be impossible, is indeed extremely difficult, it can still be done, with some concrete results, within one human life-span.

The Integral Yoga is a yoga of self-giving to the Divine and requires not only a long preparation and an integral education of the being, but also sincerity, fortitude and one-pointed determination. It is evident that these are matters that cannot be achieved overnight. Fortunately though, their difficulty applies only to the early stages of practice. Many of those who have practiced the Integral Yoga with dedication and long enough, have testified that, in the measure that their nature was transformed, a power, greater than their own, took up the charge of their progress, so that, in advanced stages, the practice became a happy and spontaneous progression from “light to light”, and from “joy to joy”.

The aim of the Integral Yoga, is not an escape from this world to a world of peace and bliss beyond, but rather the transformation of life itself from a life beset with misery, violence, sorrow and pain, to a “Life Divine”. Nor does the Integral Yoga lay down a uniform path for everyone to follow, but teaches each to develop and walk his/her own path guided by his/her own inner Light. It does not promise rewards in this life or in a life hereafter, though rewards, unexpected and undreamt of, are sure to come.

The readers who will appreciate and benefit the most from the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are those able to see that Truth has many facets, and who are thus able to accept the validity of views other than their own. This requires from the reader a mind supple and flexible enough to recognize that the same words can carry different shades of meaning depending on their context, and on whether they are meant in a literal, metaphorical or poetical sense.

The works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother do not disclose themselves fully on a first or a hasty reading. One has often to reread some passages and to allow oneself enough time for understanding and assimilating. Reading these works is more like studying a subject by which the learner has first to acquire the fundamentals and the terminology. [6]

The readers that follow this path will experience a noticeable change in their own consciousness, and consequently positive changes in their lives. They will find themselves pursuing their inner quest and journey free from fear and doubt. By slowly discovering the real value of things, they will be able to look with a smile upon many of life problems that had hitherto seemed to them intractable. They will learn to work with greater energy and to derive happiness from whatever they may be doing and great joy from things they did not even notice before. They will discover that they need less material things, and will yet be able to surround themselves with abundance and beauty, and to infuse their lives with serenity and meaning. They will discover that the joy of self giving far outweighs the comforts and joys they used demand from life and others. They will experience how the growing peace and silence within reflects positively on their health, and how they have become capable of avoiding and even healing many of the minor ailments that formerly troubled and upset them. All they will need to do this will be quietude, concentration and trust. And finally, they will be in a far better position to overcome their own weaknesses and resistances, and to understand the meaning of things that happens to them, and to perceive the Grace that is guiding every step of their lives.

When we follow sincerely our own calling and our own path; we arrive one day at the Supreme Truth, though we may have called it by different names and sought after it on different paths. We understand at last that we are all but different facets and manifestations of that One and Multiple Truth, and that we are, therefore, entitled to and capable of realizing it in ourselves and manifesting it in our lives.

Special Issues in translating Sri Aurobindo into Arabic
It is important that the reader acquaints him/herself with a few terms that acquire special meanings in the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother such as: the Divine, Transformation, Mental Formation, Aspiration, the Vital, the Psychic, and the Subconscient. It is equally important for the readers to familiarize themselves with those terms that Sri Aurobindo has coined to express totally new concepts such as: Supermind and Overmind (which the translator has transliterated as دنياىوووس, and أوفيند وو ). These terms are briefly explained in the Glossary (posted somewhere else on this web page).

Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother recommend flexibility in the intuition of the meanings of terms:

“The meaning [of a term] has to be taken with reference to the context. A definition ties down the meaning. One [i.e. the author] can give only an indication. In spiritual subjects, one can’t give anything more.” Sri Aurobindo, Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Volume II, March 11, 1912

“…. words (are) just a more or less clumsy transcription not only of the idea, but of what is above the idea – the principle; it doesn’t matter much whether these or those words were used (each one uses the words that suit him best)…”

The Mother, Mother’s Agenda, February 08, 1968

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother use the term “The Divine” to express the Divine Being, but also the divine attributes.

1) The Divine Being, as can be read from the following definition:

“The Divine is transcendent Being and Spirit, all Bliss and Light and divine Knowledge and Power…” Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library [035529]

In another definition:

“The Divine is the Supreme Truth because it is the Supreme Being from whom all have come and in whom all are”.

Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library [0351281]

2) The Divine Attributes as in the definition, as in the definition:
“This is what we mean by “Divine”5 all the knowledge we have to acquire, all the power we have to obtain, all the love we have to become, all the perfection we have to achieve, all the harmonious and progressive poise we have to manifest in light and joy, all the new and unknown splendours that have to be realised.”

Words of the Mother, Complete Works, Volume 11, 7 September 1950

Based on these quotes, the translator translates the “The Divine” either as “الألىهية “, or ” الذات الإلهية ” depending on the context.

And finally, Many dictionaries translate “The Subconscient” as ” العقووا الطوود “, and since Sri Aurobindo and the Mother speak of several kinds of inner consciousness, the translator had to translate “The Subconscient” as “الووىال الي يوول “, for lack of a better word.

May the words of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother bring the Arabic reader as much peace, strength and happiness as they have brought me, and much more…

[1] The title of one of Sri Aurobindo’s major works
[2] See:
[3] “Yoga is nothing but practical psychology”, Sri Aurobindo, Centenary Library, 22:32
[4] “I may say that it is far from my purpose to propagate any religion, new or old, for humanity in the future. A way to be opened that is still blocked, not a religion to be founded, is my conception of the matter.” Sri Aurobindo, “on Himself”, 1335, p. 125
[5] The being that will replace man in natural evolution whose mind will attain to the Supermind* which is the Truth Consciousness and that perceives the One in infinite multiplicity everywhere.
[6] A glossary of the terms is posted elsewhere on this website .

Zackaria Moursi, PhD February 2010

Under Modi, is India turning away from the brink of disaster? A prophecy made by a Yogi about India

By: Shreepal Singh

What is the worth of a prophecy! Is it not a nonsense exercise indulged in by crooks since ages? Prophecy is foretelling what would happen in future. Is it ever possible for a human being to tell in advance about the events that are going to take place in future? And more than this, is it possible to foretell about a nation, which is composed of crores of individuals? Any rational person would say it is never ever possible; it all is humbug!

Let us have a second look about this subject as a rational person. Can one foretell what would happen to a thing at a given time in future? We all do it daily. We board a train bound to a destination, foretelling it would reach by the appointed time its destination. It does reach so in 99% of the cases. We calculated and foretold about one year in advance that India’s Mars Orbiter Mission/module would reach its destination; and, it reached so. In a way, we plan all our activities for today determined by our foretelling about what would happen tomorrow. Life’s all activities are goal oriented and the goal is always an object lying in the unknown future. Unless we are able to foretell, and foretell correctly, it is not possible for life to plan in the present so that progress is achieved in the future. This type of foretelling is called prediction; and it is based on our scientific calculations, of which accuracy is vouchsafed by our uninterrupted human experience. It is not prophecy. What is the difference between a prediction and a prophecy? Let us see the difference.

All kinds of forecasting or foretelling involve an exercise that is akin to processing. This processing is nothing but the cumulative outcome of the inter-action of all the parametric conditions influencing an “object”, about which the foretelling is made. We can very well say that prediction, foretelling, forecasting and prophecy, all the four, have these elements in common: one – ascertaining “all the parametric conditions” (that would influence the object); two – knowledge or information about the “inter-action” of those conditions with the object (about which forecast is made); three – calculation of the “cumulative outcome” (of such inter-action).

Why does many a times a train bound for a destination not reach its destiny; a space rocket programmed to hone in at a particular station not reach its desired spot; or, a person making efforts to achieve a goal in life not secure the same?

The answer is simple: There are too many parametric conditions out there in Nature; it is not within the human-capacity to know all these conditions (even with the aid of all the available Super-Computers). Moreover, in laboratory these conditions may be ‘controlled’ and ‘duplicated’ again and again to test their cumulative effect; but is not possible to do so in Nature. We are not always able to “ascertain” all the parametric conditions (e.g., railroad may be broken, flooded; rocket may be pulled off way by an unknown gravitational pull; a person may miscalculate about his or her prospect; etc.). And / or, we may not know about the “inter-action” that may be involved (e.g., there may be outbreak of war disrupting train’s movement; cosmic radiation may damage navigational panels of the rocket; a person may fall ill making him or her fail in the goal). And / or, we fail to calculate the “cumulative outcome” of the influencing elements (e.g., broken or flooded railroad may even kill the passenger; rocket may be lost in the outer space; a person may win a fabulous lottery / be robbed and injured). We know so much about these conditions and calculation and, still, we know almost nothing about them.

Here lies the mystery of prophecy and its efficacy. The correctness of a prediction is tested by its fulfillment and, likewise, the accuracy of a prophecy is tested by its coming true in reality.

Science knows the truth about many things; and it admits also that it does not know about many things yet. It is only because of this admission that science is still searching and progressing. What is the ratio between the things that science knows and the things that it does not know? Science does not have any answer on this point. The reasonable speculation is that science knows very little in comparison to what it does not know. Opposite to science, there are Yogis who claim they know the secrets of this creation visible to us as universe. They claim that they can see the “parametric conditions”, “inter-action” of the elements involved and the “cumulative outcome” of this whole processing.

There is no way to verify the truthfulness of this claim of Yogis except by testing them through the realization of their prophecy in concrete reality.
It may be interesting to refer to a prophecy made by the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry.

Those who have read Sri Aurobindo and the Mother need no introduction of them. To those who have not heard about them, it is suffice to say that Sri Aurobindo represents the soul of spiritual India in our modern materialist age and the Mother, a disciple of Sri Aurobindo, a Divine instrument to fulfill the assigned work of her Guru and Master. Great yogis, like her, completely identify their consciousness with that of the Divine and get vision of three dimensions of time, that is, past, present and future. They envision the kaleidoscopic possibilities of events depending upon the choice people make.

The Mother saw the future of India. She told her this vision to her secretary Sri Udar Pinto, who is now no more. The date of this vision about the future of India is not known, as Sri Pinto did not indicate it. But we can guess and make some rough estimate of it. The Mother left her body in 1973 and Sri Pinto revealed the prophecy after her physical death. It might have been made some time before her death.

It is what Sri Udar Pinto says: “I will try to give here what the Mother has said about this in Her own words, as far as I can… The Mother said that India would pass through a very difficult time. One Government after another would come but each would fail in solving the problems that would face the country in greater and greater intensity. One party after another would fail. There would be an attempt at a sort of dictatorship but this too, would fail and the people would become desperate. Then, finally, there would come the breaking point and at that time, if the people were not given the right lead they would take a wrong turn and India’s soul would suffer for centuries. So they must be correctly guided at that point. This is more or less in Mother’s own words and so we can see how what she said is happening and how important it is for us to be ready.”

We can identify certain important points in time in the recent history of India and co-relate events that took place then. This spiritual vision was seen by the Mother before 1973 and at that time there was no possibility of speculating about the instability in Indian national life (which took place thereafter) or the desperate act of the imposition of emergency in India (which was done by Smt. Indira Gandhi in 1975).

Perhaps we may be justified in saying that India as a nation has seen instability, on one after another occasions; has seen our political leaders taking desperate steps by way of moving towards dictatorship. Also, perhaps, we may be justified in saying that, in spiritual significance, a breaking point had been reached in the life of India as a nation during the long UPA regime when this nation was sought to be put by its political leaders on to the path of cultural and political debauchery. Did it not amount to India “taking a wrong turn” as envisioned by the Mother? As usual, some will not agree.

In the vision, there is a warning: “At that time, if the people were not given the right lead they would take a wrong turn and India’s soul would suffer for centuries”! What do you make of these words? Where do you put Modi, after his getting a stunning victory over the UPA? Is Modi giving a right lead in the life of this nation? One may again disagree.

But one thing is certain, and perhaps there cannot be any disagreement on this, that if India, as a nation, had a culture rooted in spiritualism; if India, as a nation, had a soul; it certainly would have suffered for centuries had the UPA got its way; got its “India is an idea” imposed on this nation.

But mercifully that eventuality has been warded off. It is because the people of India are being given the right lead by Modi.

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