Spiritual Path Astrology

Jyotish is the Science of Light: the Astrology of India, commonly called Vedic Astrology. It is considered one of the five ‘limbs’ of the Vedas, the system of sciences of ancient India. Coming from a culture known for its intense spirituality, it is not surprising that within Vedic Astrology there are techniques for analyzing an individual’s spiritual path. As a life-long meditator and now professional astrologer, obtaining insight into one’s spiritual journey through chart interpretation has become one of my specialties.

The birth chart is a 360-degree ‘flash-photo’ of the Heavens taken at the time, and from the place, of your birth. This pattern of stars and planets can be ‘read’ on more than one level. The most common usage is strictly material and mundane: dealing with the everyday concerns of success and failure, health and disease, partnership and children.

But as the spiritual aspirant knows, underlying the forms of the mundane world there exists another level, an energetic level, which both creates and supports the manifest universe.

The normal interpretation of the birth chart addresses the physical existence of an individual by sectioning the chart into twelve houses, where each house represents a particular department of life. This provides the structure of the chart; the apparent space that surrounds one, within which the events foretold by the pattern of planets amongst the 12 constellations (signs) are experienced. But for the spiritual aspirant we want to go to a deeper level, viewing the lifetime as part of an ongoing process: the education of a soul. Since the material world is nothing but an expression of the spiritual energies, necessarily there has to be a correspondence between the soul level of interpretation and the mundane events-level. Ideally, by being conscious of both levels, one stays engaged in everyday activities while simultaneously maintaining the perspective of the eternal soul’s need to evolve by having the experiences of the human plane. Being conscious of the soul level brings a new dimension to everyday events, turning daily existence into a spiritual path.

It is admittedly difficult to talk about a level of existence to which we have trouble making a direct connection using the human intellect. For this reason all spiritual traditions create an esoteric language, a language of symbols designed to be more closely analogous to the energy patterns of the formless world than what is possible using everyday language. Typically this language takes the form of stories, a mythology, the structure of which mimics the structure of the transcendent world. The mythology of the Vedas is one such esoteric language, which finds concrete expression through the observable relationships between the celestial bodies. Thus a connection is made between the tales of the gods and goddesses of Hindu mythology and the deeper implications of an individual’s astrological birth chart.

In Vedic Astrology the clearest expression of this connection occurs in the descriptions of the nakshatras, the signs of the Lunar Zodiac. These lunar signs, 27 in number, were the ancient basis of Vedic Astrology. We can say that the Lunar Zodiac, with its 27 signs, underlies the more familiar 12 sign Solar (sun sign) zodiac. In their original form the nakshatras are rich with imagery and knowledge, which although not lost, is not much used by modern astrologers dealing with solving the mundane questions of everyday survival. For the aspirant who seeks to translate the outer experience into grist for the mill of Spiritual Work, an interpretation of the birth chart at this level gives a better understanding of what part of the path one is following in this particular lifetime.

For instance, a common theme in human life is suffering. Believing in an all-loving Spirit, it is hard to understand why there would be so much suffering in the world. The commonly held viewpoint is that the sufferer is paying for past transgressions of moral codes, i.e., paying for one’s sins and bad karmas. Or that the suffering is there to help us become disenchanted with the world of the senses and thus turn our eyes to the Divine. But in some spiritual traditions, and in Vedic mythology, we encounter an additional viewpoint: that of consciously choosing to suffer because in so doing one accrues spiritual merit; one purifies oneself and thus becomes a more suitable container for a higher expression of the spiritual energies.

We find a version of this concept illustrated by the stories connected to Indra, the wielder of the celestial thunderbolt, who holds the post of “Ruler of Heaven”. Indra is always getting into trouble; he’s a lover of intoxicants and has numerous illicit affairs. But still he manages to retain his exalted post by doing tapas, i.e., austerity or penance: he periodically undergoes great suffering, putting himself at great risk, and performs acts of great bravery as he goes forth to battle the demons. In an individual birth chart, the connection to Indra and tapas shows up in a person born with an emphasis (an important planet or point in the chart) located in the later degrees of the sign Scorpio. In this part of the zodiac is located the nakshatra called Jyeshta, which is ruled by the deity Indra. Jyeshta manifests in one’s life as the suffering of having to assume heavy responsibility. The responsibility is often attended by the theme of protection, i.e., like Indra, having to go forth and do battle with the forces of evil. Individuals with Jyeshta emphasis in their charts ordinarily manifest this energy by being police officers or soldiers. On the spiritual level, the realization required is that of voluntarily taking on personal sacrifice, battling the forces of ignorance so as to maintain the Celestial Order. In return, such a soul is granted a ‘post’ giving authority over others and consequently even more responsibility.

Another theme that is common to religions and spiritual paths is the theme of Bhakti, the devotional path to the Divine. The eternal soul finds itself “trapped” in a human body, with the memory of transcendent love. Having general amnesia about its true state, the individual goes forth in this lifetime seeking a perfect love. After finally realizing that the most exalted form of love is not to be found in limited, imperfect human relationships, the spiritual seeker turns to the bhakti path. In the astrology chart indications of the path of devotion can show up in many places, but one that epitomizes the idea is found in the lunar sign Vishakha. This nakshatra is located in the last 10 degrees of the sign Libra and extends through approximately the first 3 degrees of Scorpio.

The energy of Vishakha is mostly represented by the desire to achieve a goal. Typically people with this lunar sign emphasized in their birth chart get obsessed with setting and achieving goals in their lives; Vishaka is all about desire and obsession and achievement. But there is another interpretation hidden in this nakshatra that reveals a whole other level of goal setting; the ultimate goal of union with the Divine. The illustration comes through Vishakha’s connection with the story of Radha and Krishna. Radha, as a grown woman, falls in love with the boy-god Krishna. Being a human, and being married, as well as being a grown-up, this was in no way an ordinary love, nor could this love be consummated in the ordinary sense. In fact, it was breaking societal conventions and morals. So Radha was left with an intense longing for what could not be possessed. This love, this obsession, by a human for God, i.e., for perfection, is the essence of Vishakha, and in the birth charts of individuals with emphasis on this nakshatra, shows up in their lives as ‘impossible’ relationships, which are standing in for the ultimate relationship. Thus, the Vishakha seeker turns to the bhakti path, enduring the intense pain of separation from the beloved, until that spiritual practice leads to the break-through of self-realization.

Some of the nakshatras indicate having a particular role to play in the Divine Plan. The spiritual aspirant who’s birth chart has one of these nakshatras emphasized and connects with its meaning can then proceed on their path with a better understanding of how to play their part in the larger scheme of things. One such nakshatra is Magha. It is located in the first part of the sign Leo. Magha means “mighty” and its symbol is the throne. It is obviously connected with kings and rulers, and those born with this emphasis typically end up being in charge of something in their lives. But the deeper meaning of Magha comes from its connection with the Pitris, which translates literally as “the ancestors”. On the mundane plane, this can show up as concern or fascination with ones forefathers. But for the seeker there is another meaning: being a vessel for the teachings of one’s guru. For the sacred teachings to stay alive depends on the guru having suitable disciples to pass everything on to. Thus Magha on the esoteric level has to do with spiritual lineage. Honoring one’s teacher and being faithful to and passing on the traditions is a big responsibility. Taking this mission seriously is what ultimately gives Magha people position and recognition in the everyday world, as well as the inner fulfillment that comes from carrying out their Dharma, their duty, in the spiritual realm.

In analyzing the birth charts of actual individuals what we find is that more than one nakshatra is emphasized. The lunar sign present on the East horizon is always regarded as important, as is the nakshatra of the natal Moon (called the janma nakshatra or “natal star”). Any dominant planet, or group of planets in one nakshatra, also indicates a prominent theme in the chart. These various factors build on each other and give added dimensions to the dharma or duty of the soul for this lifetime. Using Vedic Astrology’s techniques of timing and prediction the astrologer can tell when a particular dharma shown by the corresponding nakshatra will be activated in an individual’s life. Awareness of the underlying purpose of one’s life gives the spiritual aspirant a perspective from which to view the progression of events as corresponding to lessons for the evolving soul.

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Ron Berger is a practicing Vedic Astrologer living in Hollywood, California. Like his astrology guru, Narendra Desai, Ron makes use of modern techniques such as using the outer planets, and incorporating recent research and innovation. Along with analyzing charts for his clients Ron keeps to a daily schedule of spiritual practice as well as taking care of the needs of his family.

 

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