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Vedic  and Astrological Principles

 

ILLUMINATING THE VEDIC SCIENCES

            In order to understand Vedic Astrology  there needs to be an understanding of Vedic principles, otherwise Vedic Astrology will become just another “ology” that fails to give meaningful answers to life’s dilemmas. 

The term Vedic means “from the Vedas .” The Vedas are a storehouse of knowledge containing Spiritual hymns that arose from the ancient culture located in the area of what is now called India.

Veda means “knowledge.” Actually, it refers to the knowledge of truth, absolute truth, the truth of the Self and the underlying mysteries of existence. 

The Vedas  were written as the ancient Sat Yuga  or “Age of Wisdom” was coming to a close. These documents were meant to preserve the wisdom of this earlier, more enlightened epoch in human history. Many cultures seemed to possess similar occult knowledge-the Toltec, Egyptians and Native Americans, yet it was the people of ancient India who best preserved this wisdom. It is estimated that the oldest Vedas are at least 4,000 years old, based on Astronomical references written in them. The miracle of the Vedic system is how well preserved and coherent the sciences are, especially given the history of India and its numerous invasions.

The culture at that time was called “Bharat .” The great and famous story Mahabharata  means “Great Bharat.” The seminal work of Hinduism , Bhagavad Gita  is from the Maha Bharata. In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna  teaches Yoga to the warrior Arjuna  on the eve of the Great Battle. Yoga  is more than a set of exercises that bring peace and balance to the physical body. It is a series of techniques and a system of living that awaken us to inner truth, our inner Godliness. Yoga uses breathing exercises and Mantras  (sacred sounds), physical postures, devotional practices and service to scientifically awaken this inner truth and Godliness. According to Yoga and the other Vedic Sciences , we are all aspects of God. Everything is an expression of God’s great Lila  (story) of Self-discovery. Embodied life is an opportunity to realize this truth, to realize our true Self and become re-immersed in the Universal Self at the heart of our being and the heart of all beings.

Within this great play are creatures at every stage of evolution: minerals, plants, animals, humans and deities, who based on past Karma  (action) take form in order to learn and grow towards spiritual Self Realization, realization of God. All creatures suffer within the limitations and level of understanding of their current incarnation.

 

Mineral creatures wish to be sensate (like plants).

Plants wish to move, satisfy and experience desire (like animals).

Animals wish to understand the world (like humans).

Humans wish to transcend the limitations of the world (like deities / spirit forms).

Deities wish to be one with all.  

 

This suffering is caused by the illusion that we are these separate forms, rather than the undifferentiated God. This illusion is called Maya . Through the veiling power of Maya we identify ourselves as a finite mind/body creature and seek to expand toward that infinite inner Self. All of our longings and the longings of all creatures are an attempt to become all that we truly are. Even though we may not be aware of our true Self, we are that and that compels us always.

This deep, fundamental understanding caused the ancient Vedic people to develop many Sciences that would heal us in this world.  There are many Vedic Sciences : Ayurveda , Yoga  and Vedic Astrology  are three primary branches of the Vedic tree. 

Ayurveda  – Ayurveda literally means “The science of living.” It is the classical medical system of India, its natural healing system. Ayurveda is mainly the Science of matter, called Prakriti .

 

Vedic Astrology   Vedic Astrology is the ancient Astrological Science set forth in the Vedas  and subsequent books. It is mainly the Science of Spirit, called Purusha , and its affect on matter.

 

Yoga  Yoga literally means “union.” It is the practical application of all Vedic teachings. It provides techniques through which our egoistic drives can be merged with our cosmic nature.

  

THE FIVE ELEMENTS – Building Blocks of the Vedic Sciences

“The Self has entered this body, this dense jumble. If a man finds him, recognizes him, He’s the maker of everything-the author of all! The world is his-he’s the world itself.”

- Brhadaranyaka Upanishad

 

Spirit is called Purusha. When spirit takes form it is called Prakriti. Every object as Prakriti is an expression of Purusha – Matter Expressing Spirit. This world of Matter Expressing Spirit is formed by the five elements; they are the building blocks of the Vedic Sciences . Their properties provide the archetypes that underpin all aspects of Vedic thinking. First we will examine the five elements, and then explore their evolution as affected by the three Gunas  (qualities of nature).

 

Starting with the grossest element and moving towards the finest, the five elements are:

 

Earth – Water – Fire – Air – Ether (Space).

 

Each of the five elements is responsible for some important aspect of the self and one of the five senses.

 

Earth

Primarily responsible for the physique, though its influence does not end there. Earth, as the densest element, has also the heaviest psychological influence. Our physical body demands the most attention when its needs arise. For example, no matter how enjoyable it may be talking to your best friend on the phone, you will only suppress the urge to go to the bathroom for so long before you relent.

Psychologically, Earth is our practical nature, literally being “down to earth.”

Earth connects us to the sense of smell. Ayurveda  says anything we can smell contains Earth.

Prominent planets in Earth signs will be sensual and hands on. They want to be useful and will work hard. They are practical in expression. They will wash your car on your birthday. Too much Earth brings stagnation and clinging to form.

 

Water

Primarily responsible for the senses. Water specifically shows the flow of the senses from the physical body to the outer world and the emotional connections and impressions made through the senses. It is also our receptive emotional mind. It is on this vital level that our energy must connect and receive the environment in order to satisfy our bodily needs (Earth). We see a chocolate éclair in the window of a bakery and our mouth starts to water.    

Psychologically, Water has to do with our deep emotional bonds, memories and sensory impressions.

Prominent planets in Water signs make one want to merge and bond emotionally. They can be the most psychic of signs. They will cook you dinner on your birthday. Too much Water can lead to excessive emotion/emotional dependence.

Water connects us to the sense of taste. Ayurveda  says that anything we can taste contains water.

 

Fire

Fire is primarily responsible for the mind and mental impressions while also being responsible for digestion of all sorts, whether digesting food or digesting information. Fire is also our active emotional mind, our passionate nature and the instinctual, conditioned/reactive mind. It is the element of Fire that digests sensory impressions (Water), turning them into thoughts we can use. Otherwise, our minds would be a jumble of sensory data.                     

Psychologically, Fire represents our active desire nature. We literally “burn” to satisfy our desires. It is Fire that makes us “want” the chocolate éclair in the window.

Prominent planets in Fire signs will exhibit an active, bold or perhaps aggressive nature. Strong Fire types can be the most inspirational of signs, yet also the most self-centered. They will buy you sexy underwear or wear them for you on your birthday. Too much Fire can lead to excessive anger.      

Fire connects us to the sense of sight. Ayurveda  says anything we can see is touched by Fire.

 

Air

Air is primarily responsible for the intellect. The Air element corresponds to movement of all sorts in the body, breath, thoughts, etc. Air is our higher intellectual and social mind. It is the mind of our philosophies and opinions – our politics and rationalizations, as well as how we relate to others and society as a whole. It is through the Air element that we observe and interact socially with the world, forming conclusions about it and our self. It is the Air element that will decide whether or not we will eat the éclair in the window. 

Psychologically, Air represents our higher mental capabilities as well as our conscience and ethical principles.

Prominent planets in Air signs will generally exhibit a social nature. They like discourse and debate. They will take you to the Opera on your birthday. Too much air and one becomes ungrounded, aloof, dry or sterile.

Air connects us to the sense of touch. Anything we can feel is touched by Air.

 

Ether

Ether is primarily responsible for consciousness. The element of Ether corresponds to pure consciousness itself - our awareness. It is the layer of being beyond the four gross physical elements. Ether refers to the witnessing consciousness, that which is able to perceive the thought process and remain unidentified with it. It is our intuitive nature, connection to freedom and the closest to our true Self.

            Psychologically, Ether  represents an initial freedom from the mind/body complex. It is through the element of Ether that we perceive the distance between the thinking and feeling mind substance and the oneness of creation and our connectedness to it. The behavioral archetype is that of one who is detached in a healthy way, as the observer or witness. Ether is not represented in the Astrological Signs of the Chart.

Ether connects us to the sense of sound. Ayurveda  says that it is through sound that we perceive space.

 

THE FIVE ELEMENTS AT WORK

Each finer element contains, observes and animates the grosser ones. In this way, and for this reason, the primordial sound of Aum is the first act of creation. Even in Christian texts it is stated “in the beginning there was the word,” the Amen. Amen is simply another form of Aum. All creatures are produced in this way through the unique sound vibration based on their Karma , yet all creatures arise from the same source, the same primordial origin, the sound of Aum . Thus, through the element of Ether, the dance of creation begins out of the equilibrium that existed before (sound resonates through Ether). After Ether, the Air element is formed (intellect), then Fire (mind), Water (sense mind), and Earth (body). This model shows why Mantras (sacred sounds) are so powerful. They resonate through all five of our elemental bodies. As shown above, life is created from the finer elements to the grosser ones. However, our spiritual path is walked in reverse. First we must master the body, then the senses and sense mind, then the active emotions, then the intellect, and finally pure consciousness. When we see a chocolate éclair, the physical body (Earth) is animated by the senses (Water). The desire to eat it arises in the instinctual mind (Fire), but the higher mind (Air) actually decides whether or not to eat the éclair. Our consciousness (Ether) makes us aware of this process.   

In Hatha Yoga , Asana (postures) are designed to balance the five elements.

 

Earth: Holding the posture stabilizes and relaxes the body.

Water: A stable, relaxed body stabilizes the emotions and the senses.

Fire: Stable emotions allow mental peace and removes desire and motivation.

Air: Once struggling stops, perceptions clear and the mind can enter the present moment.

Ether: Once perceptions become clear and the mind is present, consciousness and blissful awareness fills the being –one rests in their true nature.

 

Hatha Yoga prepares the mind and body for meditation. In meditation we connect to our deeper Self and balance the five elements in this way. We connect to the Universe (Ether) through the breath (Air). Deep breath slows, deepens and stabilizes the mind and active emotions (Fire). With the passions controlled we can observe the senses and connective emotions (Water) with detachment; upon which the body becomes stable (Earth). A stable body in meditation is one of awareness. Since we started with breath connecting to Ether, higher consciousness will be observing the thoughts and mind/body events.

 

KARMA AND THE FIVE ELEMENTS

According to Vedic thought everything is an expression of pure God energy, pure God consciousness. As stated above, all physical bodies arise out of this balanced God state. But as a result of past Karma  and the Samsaras  (mental impressions) that accompany them, the five elements arrange themselves to create the body that reflects the appropriate person, animal, or whatever. This karmic energy points to the lessons that need to be learned in that lifetime. 

For example, a person who needs to work through anger problems in this lifetime will inherit a body, mind and upbringing that will challenge them to confront their anger and hopefully transcend it. In the case of anger, the element of Fire will likely predominate. An Astrological chart reveals this. It is a portrait of the soul’s Karma  and the pattern of illusion in which we may become trapped. As Karma means “action”, we may mistake ourselves to be our actions, not our essence. This is Maya , the illusion that we are merely an acting, mind/body experience.

  

THE THREE GUNAS

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains the nature of Maya , in Ch.14 v.5:

 

Sattwa or goodness, Rajas or activity, and Tamas or inertia; these three Gunas of mind bind the imperishable soul to the body, O Arjuna.”  

 

The three Gunas  are the three qualities of nature. The term Guna means “that which binds,” as each Guna is like a separate strand, which when placed together form the rope of Maya . They are what bind us to the illusion that we are merely a physical/mental creature. All matter and energy consists of the three Gunas  in different quantities. They are the component qualities of the physical, mental and spiritual worlds. The 3 Gunas are:

 

Tamas : Stability, inertia, ignorance, attachment. Tamas binds through inertia and our tendency to cling to situation and form. Best expressed through the physical body as the desire for physical life, which provides the vehicle for spiritual development.

 

Rajas : Activity, passion, desire. Rajas binds through motivation and our desire to experience pleasure. Best expressed through the mind and emotions as the desire for happiness and intellectual stimulation.

 

Sattwa : Harmony, knowledge, peace. Sattwa binds us to the truly good things of the world and as such to worldly happiness, which is also a barrier to final liberation. Best expressed as the Soul qualities of peace, contentment, love, forgiveness, etc. 

 

            Each of the Gunas  has a proper and necessary function. Tamas provides the solidity and stability of the physical world; for us, that means our bodies. Solid objects have a preponderance of Tamas, especially when at rest. Rajas maintains the mind and emotions, animating the physical world through need and preference. When the body needs to eat or move, Rajas gets us moving. Sattwa looks after the higher mind and Soul and its progress, compelling us to learn about ourselves and to seek completion. 

But each of these attributes also act as obscuring factors as their expressions show our projected illusory limitations, thus forming the rope of Maya . When Tamas becomes a mental or emotional state, the intellect becomes stagnant, which brings clinging and ignorance. An excessively Rajasic body will bring exhaustion and instability. Neither Rajas nor Tamas is healthy for higher learning. Higher learning requires a Sattwic mind. If suddenly you become sleepy as you read this you would stop learning, as the heaviness of Tamas overcomes your attention. If suddenly you became hungry or sexual or angry, also you would stop learning, as Rajas would compel you to act and disturb the mental peace necessary for learning.     

All beings are under the sway of the three Gunas , even enlightened beings. The difference is that enlightened beings are not identified with the Gunas. A Saint will generally exhibit a harmonious, balanced and peaceful nature, those things associated with Sattwa. Yet the Saint will be established in the Self, not identified with the qualities of Sattwa.   

 

Saints have a preponderance of Sattwa.

Humans have a preponderance of Rajas

Animals and other Subhuman creatures have a preponderance of Tamas.

 

To illustrate how the Gunas  typically work: This morning, as your alarm clock went off there was an excess of Tamas. Your body and mind were heavy and perhaps you had just mistaken yourself in a dream as being your real self. Sleep, inertia, and delusion are Tamasic. As you started to become motivated and got up from the bed, Rajas was dominant, as Rajas is activity. The need to go to work to earn money so you can have things that give you pleasure and that you enjoy is also Rajasic. Worldly pursuits are mainly Rajasic in nature as they are primarily self-centered. As you read this, in search of knowledge and understanding beyond pleasure seeking and accumulation, Sattwa dominates (hopefully!).

Most of the time we are Rajasic, striving towards Sattwa, trying not to be pulled down by Tamas. Our experiences take on the quality of the predominant Guna. Even though waking from sleep is generally Tamasic, Saints, for example, awaken in a Sattwic way. Our spiritual practices, or lack thereof, determine whether we are growing toward higher knowledge and harmony, descending into darkness and delusion, or simply maintaining our outward desire driven existence.

Either way, our true Self is always there, unspoiled and causeless, silently and peacefully existing beneath all actions and beyond the qualities of the Gunas . 

 

THE 7 MAIN CHAKRAS

 

Sign

Chakra

Sign

 

Sahasrara

Crown Chakra

Transcendence, Inspiration

 

d

Cancer

Ajna

Sun & Moon

Active Awareness, Higher Will

e

Leo

c

Gemini

Visuddha

Mercury

Speech, Communication

Ether / Hearing

f

Virgo

b

Taurus

Anahata

Venus

Harmony, Love, Joy, Pleasure

Air / Touch

g

Libra

a

Aries

Manipura

Mars

Discipline, Control

Fire / Sight

h

Scorpio

l

Pisces

Swadisthana

Jupiter

Expansion, Procreation

Water / Taste

i

Sagittarius

k

Aquarius

Muladhara

Saturn

Structure, Limitation, Detachment

Earth / Smell

j

Capricorn

VEDIC ASTROLOGICAL CHART AND THE CHAKRAS

 

 

Above is a South Indian Vedic Astrological chart. Understanding this chart reveals Vedic Astrology  to be the study of the Soul’s Karma as shown through the Chakras. An Astrology chart is a portrait of the Chakras. Chakra means “wheel” and refers to the energy center of the body.

The two right middle squares are the fields of the Sun and Moon, which operate through the signs of Leo and Cancer respectively, and through the Ajna Chakra. Bordering those squares are the 2 signs of Mercury, which operate through the Visuddha Chakra, one chakra down from the Ajna. Bordering the signs of Mercury, the signs of Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn follow through the rest of the Zodiac. Essentially the external horoscope is a picture of the internal, astral landscape.

            This brief overview of Vedic principles is intended to illustrate the deeper transpersonal connection to Astrology and life in general that has been lost in our modern Western view. Astrology is the Science of Karma  and a glimpse into our eternal nature, not just a way to predict the future, although that also has its place. Astrologers have the opportunity and indeed the obligation to share a deeper truth with their clients, but first the Astrologer must understand these principles themselves. Hopefully this brief glimpse will whet your appetite toward further study.

 

GRAHAS, RASIS AND BHAVAS

‘There are many incarnations of the unborn Lord. Janardana  or Vishnu  has incarnated as the Nava Graha  (nine planets) to bestow on the living beings the results of their Karmas, He assumed the auspicious form of Grahas to destroy the strength of the demons (evil forces) to sustain the strength of the Devas  (divine beings) and to establish Dharma   (religion or faith).”

-Brihat Parashara Hora Sastra Ch. V.3-4 

 

The above quote is Sage Parashara, taken from the Bible of Vedic Astrology , Brihat Parashara Hora Sastra . The Maharishi, after a brief introductory chapter describing the nature of the universe and matter, proclaims that God (lord Vishnu) has assumed the auspicious forms of the Nava Grahas (Nine Planets) so that living beings can experience the results due to their Karmas, destroy the demons of our lower nature and sustain our divine nature. It is important to note that before the Sage says anything about planets, signs or Astrology in general, he defines the purpose of the Science. That purpose is to unlock the secrets of our Karma  so that we may awaken to our highest truth from our current state of illusion, or Maya .

            Crucial to understanding the Science of Vedic Astrology  is retaining its honor and connection to other Vedic Sciences . In Vedic teachings, the 3 Gunas  rule the universe through the principles of form (Tamas), desire (Rajas), and Truth. (Sattwa). Parashara alludes to them in the above statement as “the living beings (Rajasic) must destroy the demons (Tamasic) and sustain the divine beings (Sattwic).” These archetypes reveal themselves in the Astrology chart as Bhavas (houses) Rasis (signs) and Grahas (planets).

 

The Bhavas are related to Tamas, as it is they who mainly show what will be the concrete results of our worldly Karmas. We judge children, career, family life, physical health etc., from the Bhavas. 

 

The Rasis are related to Rajas, as they show the operating mental/emotional energy behind the events in our life. How we feel about what is happening with our Karmas is read mainly from the Rasis. The Rasis contain within them the energy of the Bhavas.

 

The Grahas are related to Sattwa, as theirs are the fully formed and transcendent qualities of the universe. These universal energies are felt through the Rasis and experienced through the Bhavas. Our deepest core quality is not material or mental – it is spiritual. Accessing this quality has to do with knowledge, not emotion or experience. This knowledge is shown as the full expression of each Graha. Suffering is simply our inability to express the Grahas fully due to the filter of our ego, which is the limited vision of our higher Self.  The Grahas contain within them the Rasis and the Bhavas.