By Sri Radha Govinda Dasi
Astrology is a tool that can help us materially and spiritually, provided we know how to use it.
[Adapted from How to Mess Up Your Life with Astrology, available at www.smashwords.com.]
Vedic astrology (known in Sanskrit as Jyotish) is an ancient Indian science of karmic analysis to change ourselves for the better. The aim is to get in touch with all the natural and sublime qualities of the soul, regardless of our present conditioning, and reestablish our relationship with God. Some people think that Vedic astrology is some sort of fortune telling – predicting an unchangeable future. Others take astrology as some form of black magic – a tool to get what they want. Others take it simply as a technique for describing different personality types. Actually Vedic astrology is transformational in nature, concerned with aiding the process of growth, of overcoming limitations and of evolving in consciousness.
Life is full of miseries. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, this world is a place of suffering, where everything is temporary. Therefore there will always be some distress indicated in our astrological charts. These miseries are meant to wake us up to the reality that we cannot be permanently happy in this world. Therefore in all genuine traditions of knowledge there are illuminated teachers that tell us not to put all our hopes in the mundane sphere but aim for something higher. As Jesus Christ said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” This heavenly dimension, this realm of pure bliss, can be found also in our hearts. And the best utilization of Vedic astrology is to help discover this treasure-trove of inner happiness.
Astrology and Karma
Vedic astrology should be based on the understanding of the law of karma, of how every action has a reaction that binds us. It’s a great behavioral and psychological science, known to but a few and often misunderstood. Most do not grasp the truth that life is difficult. They keep on complaining about their responsibilities as if life should be easy. They always ask, “Why me?” They go on moaning and mourning that their difficulties are unfair and should somehow disappear. Whatever unpleasant happens to them, to their family or to their nation, they consider it unwarranted, unjustified and unfair. According to Vedic cosmic chronology we are living in Kali-yuga, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy, and the general trend is to perform activities that generate more confusion and misery. Thus their attempts at removing pain only end up creating more complex problems and heavier karma.
But before delving into Vedic astrology – or any form of astrology – we need to address a few crucial questions; otherwise we might be studying a leaf with no idea of what a tree is. Why does astrology work? What is karma and, more importantly, what is its purpose? Why does karma exist in the first place? What is “destiny”? Is it something unchangeable? And what is freewill? How do freewill and destiny coexist? What is the role of celestial bodies – stars, planets, etc. – in the bigger picture? Are their influences inescapable?
Actually you have freewill, the power to make personal choices. If you didn’t, you could not be held accountable for your actions. When your astrological chart foretells a certain “destiny,” it displays the results of your own free choices. Understanding this concept is essential. Freewill and fate – choice and destiny – have a relationship of cause and effect; they are two points of the same continuum, two faces of the same coin. The whole “system” is what is known as karma. Karma includes the ability to make personal choices and the consequences of those choices.
Who is holding us responsible? Ultimately it’s the Supreme Controller, who established the laws of behavior and who manages this world through His appointed universal agents. Such administrative cosmic leaders include those who rule stars and planets – powerful psychosomatic influences on human beings. That single divine personality, God, who witnesses all our actions, is the one who created the arrangement of rewards and punishments. It is He who established the laws, who enunciated the correct parameters of behavior, and who arranges for the whole universal administration that enforces those laws.
There is a subtle educational process in play; its culmination is the realization of love. But to achieve this lofty goal we have to be warned that acting as a slave to lust, anger and greed is not favorable to our well-being. We have lost our rudder and need direction. Part of that direction is the bestowal of rewards for meritorious acts and the imposition of punishment for self-destructive ones. We conditioned souls have lost our identity and now think ourselves to be a physical body of flesh and bones. We are torn between heaven and earth, between the lower, animal instincts and the most sublime and generous sentiments.
Our desire to enjoy in this world is a perverted reflection of our deepest desire to love. The universe is telling us – through the workings of karma – that we are not well situated; that there is something that needs some radical change, starting with our idea of who we are and what will make us happy. We are similar to a teenager who doesn’t know where he truly belongs. Father God and Mother Nature help us to grow up and find our true place in Existence. We constantly receive reminders that this is not our real home and that our desires need reorientation.
Karma allows you to create your own future, but it also gradually encourages you to evolve. How does karma do that? By rewarding your more selfless deeds, and punishing the more selfish ones. Can you change your fate? This might be an odd question: Who else but you yourself has created your fate in the first place? Planetary astrological influences don’t create your fate; they simply enforce and manifest it. Although their power may appear insurmountable, planets impel rather than compel. By using your freewill you shape your future. Some aspects of the destiny you have created might not be changed, but how you react to what comes your way will determine your growth. The more you react to your circumstances in enlightened, God-conscious ways, the more your future will be bright and auspicious.
Previous Lives and Present Situations
You might look at your astrological chart and wonder: “How did I end up with the planets in this particular position?” It’s because you designed it. Once you understand this fact, it becomes easier to transform and upgrade your existence. Astrology is not just about this body. The features of your body – its looks, its place of birth, its father and mother – have roots beyond and before this lifetime; we are talking about reincarnation. To understand reincarnation we first of all need to understand that we are not this body; we are transcendental selves, souls, who inhabit the psychophysical structure. For the soul the changing of bodies is like the changing of clothes. And the main reason behind a particular birth is the mentality accumulated in previous existences. To become free of the bondage of birth and death, we have to work on our minds, on the contents of our consciousness. But we cannot get free from the clutches of death without the help of the saintly persons. Therefore the Vedas teach us that one must accept a spiritual master, a guru, by surrendering to him, serving him and enquiring from him about the devotional science. The Vedic astrologer should act as an assistant to the spiritual teachers, helping his clients to align with the higher harmony of the universe.
Watch Out Who You Ask for a Reading . . .
Unless the astrologer is also enlightened, his knowledge might turn dangerous and affect the growth of his clients. Some astrologers appear simply eager to impress or to please their clients. If they are greedy and unqualified, instead of being representatives of universal wisdom they end up as hired word-jugglers and amulet marketers. If they don’t intend to help their clients to walk on the path of righteousness, these astrologers should rather choose a more honest profession than play around with other people’s karma. It might be tempting for astrologers to try to set themselves apart, presenting themselves as possessing the mystical skill of predicting the future; but in this way they may neglect the most important aspect of Vedic astrology, teaching us to align our behavior with the will of God.
Let’s ask ourselves some key questions: When an astrologer looks at a client’s chart and speaks about the future and what will happen, does this really help the client? Is it really useful and productive if, say, the client hears that her son will die from an accident in a few years? Doesn’t this simply create a sense of fear, of morbid expectation and pervasive sadness? And often such foreseen events don’t even happen – because the calculations were faulty. I know of a case in which someone’s son was “destined” to die at seventeen of an accident; but the son is now thirty-five – and the accident never occurred.
I also observed that when people consult an astrologer before marriage, they rarely take the astrologer’s words seriously when they hear, “This is not a good match. It may not work.” But when the same people decide to break up the marriage, they then take shelter in astrology, running here and there until they find an astrologer who will confirm and justify the decision. In this way they feel free from responsibilities, “Well, the astrologer told me to do it. . .” Besides the fault of the astrologer, sometimes it’s also the client that’s too easily influenced – or willfully puts words in the mouth of the astrologer.