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The Birth Chart as a Map of Your Karma

The Rule of Karma is often stated, “As you Sow, so Shall You Reap.” This is an oversimplification, and even suggests that karma is something produced by a Human Sense of Justice. What is really happening is that karma is generated by one of the basic laws of the universe, which is more akin to “For Every Action, there is an equal and opposite Reaction.” Further, this ‘Law of Consequences’ functions within a very large time context, extending from a distant unknowable Past into a far away Future, i.e., beginning and continuing beyond your present lifetime.

On the spiritual level, Karma is defined as “The Dust on the Mirror.” In this metaphor, the clean mirror is the Pure Soul; the dust is one’s Desires and Attachments to Experiences. It could be Rainbow Dust, i.e., enjoyable experiences. Nonetheless, from the spiritual aspirant’s perspective, even enjoyable experiences are still ‘the Dust of Ignorance’, obscuring the True Being. But for those of us who are not monks, we’re talking about the more mundane experience of karma, i.e., Actions and Consequences in our manifest world. Each action unavoidably creates an effect, which in turn creates further effects. Multiple actions are happening simultaneously, producing an amazing cascade of consequences that becomes exceedingly intricate; a web of karma with seemingly no path for escape. The Vedic Astrology Birth Chart shows us what karmas are present in our current lifetime. It’s these karmic formations that pre-determine what sort of a life one gets to experience. 

Due to the inherent limitations of time, space, and causation, everything does not happen all at once in our world. The seed and the tree that grows from it cannot exist simultaneously. Events in your life are in some way ‘scheduled’, and this too can be found in the Vedic Astrology chart. By using the various techniques of prediction, such as the dashas, i.e., the planetary periods, and the transiting planets, we can determine which of our karmas are ‘active’ at which times in our life. Thus the Vedic Birth Chart can be looked at as a ‘map’ of how your in-this-lifetime karma will unfold. 

Using the techniques of birth chart interpretation, we strive to become a more conscious participant in our karma. And it’s complicated: ‘My Karma’ is not something that can be condensed into a simple statement. Analyzing the details of the birth chart gives us the breakdown, which turns out to be Karmas, plural… i.e., there are many actions and consequences that one is programmed to live through. The idea is that by acknowledging this and consciously applying your efforts to bring your karmas to fruition, you will be ‘working out your karma,’ or, ‘burning up your karmas’, and can then move on to whatever other lessons Destiny has in store for you. 

The techniques of birth chart interpretation assess which of the planetary patterns are strong, which are weak. Strong experiences from past lifetimes create karmic ‘grooves’ of familiar behavior patterns that a person naturally falls into in this lifetime. This familiarity is expressed as the desire for particular types of actions, actions that create more karma of the same type. Thus the soul falls into a repetitive process, which may take many lifetimes to break out of.  A strong pattern indicates an unavoidable karma, termed Dridha, i.e., ‘Fixed Karma’, which you will be dealing with, like it or not. Weaker planetary combinations indicate karmas that can be negotiated with, i.e., there are some options available. In this case it seems our conscious actions can help to tip the balance, giving us an opportunity to exercise our ‘free will.’ But, here again, the action, however conscious it may be, will also have consequences, i.e., set up more karmic patterns for the future. 

Of course, what we would like would be Positive Consequences, Enjoyable Results, or if you prefer, ‘Rainbow Dust.’ Certain sectors of the birth chart will indicate the predisposition, and the opportunity, to create Good Karma. Most famous of these would be the 9th house, the house of Meritorious Deeds, i.e., actions that put gold stars on the positive side of your karmic ledger. The 5thhouse is another favorable sector of the chart because it is the house of Purva Punya, the ‘credit’ you inherited in this life (or the lack of it) due to your meritorious deeds of the past life. Where the planetary ruler of the sign of your 5th house is placed in your chart shows where your good past life credit (good karma) will manifest in this life. 

There is one house in the chart that actually bears the name Karmasthana, i.e., the Karma House. That is the 10th house, the house of Public Deeds, Position, Power, Fame, Success, Business and Profession. This house becomes the preeminent karma house because it’s your contribution to society. It’s what you do in your life that affects the greatest number of people, and therefore has the potential for producing the most karma. A benefic planet in this house generates ‘good conduct in society’; a malefic planet can bring success, but may do so through questionable means. Similarly, each house in the birth chart has connections to particular actions, and to particular people. Which houses get emphasized according to the placement and strength of natal planets dictates where your karmic emphasis is for this life. 

The Vedic Birth chart can be seen as an abstract representation of Actions done in previous lifetimes, which will be delivering their Results in this lifetime. This assumes taking for granted the doctrine of reincarnation, or sequence of births. These actions of past lifetimes cannot be changed now. So this is where the idea of ‘Fate’ comes in, i.e., you are suffering, or you are having a good time, due to actions ‘you’ did in previous lives, which have created ‘your karma’, ‘your destiny.’ This can give rise to the attitude that there’s nothing you can do; just accept your fate and that’s that. But actually there are Remedies, called Upaya in Sanskrit, which of course all religions have. These remedies are there to help counteract the harsh karmas, or at least create some relief for the next life. The remedies are the usual ones: Being a Good Person, Practice of Religion, Study of Scripture, Prayer, being Charitable, attending Devotional Ceremonies. Then there are the more intense, allegedly stronger, remedies such as Austerities, or Tapas, famously described in the many tales of Vedic lore.  

As much as we can understand about our karma from the birth chart, it still doesn’t explain everything. We all live in a larger context, in a society, which is also working through its karma. This larger, collective karma, is more powerful than any individual’s karma. There’s also the interaction with people around us. It is possible, in fact it happens often, that someone’s personal karma is overwhelmed by one of their parents, or their spouse, their boss, their child, etc. Or, as one teacher put it to me: “It may not be your karma to be murdered in this lifetime. But that does not mean that you should go stand next to someone whose karma is to murder people.”  Thus, an analysis of an individual’s astrology chart helps to understand personal karma, but it’s still not the entire story.