BA PART I : PAPER 4.2
PRASNA MARGA 2
Astrology as a Language
Getting back to the horoscope: Looking at a chart, the Vedic Astrologer studies the interaction of the planets, signs, houses, and the aspects between them. This is the language of the stars. Everything known is in the portfolio of one or more planets, signs, or houses. And, it is by studying the interactive trends in the chart that the astrologer can ascertain so much information about a person.
The various elements in the chart--planets, signs, nakshatras (lunar mansions), houses, elements, modalities, polarities, and aspects--are the components of this divine celestial language and act like nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc., with rules of grammar and syntax just as in a regular language, but far more complex, as one might assume. To give an idea of what we are dealing with, consider the following very cursory meanings of the planets and houses. And, please note that complete books have been written about any given planet, sign, or house; so what I am presenting only skims the surface yet does give a fair picture of what is transpiring.
The planets represent the following:
Sun: Atma (soul), self, self-realization, influence, prestige, power, valor, health, eye, general well-being, heat, splendor, father, king, royalty, royal favor.
Moon: The heart, understanding, inclinations, emotions, sleep, happiness, good name and fame, facial luster, mother, royal favor, affluence, travel, water reservoirs.
Mars: Stamina, courage, desire, anger, scandal, diseases, enemies, opposition, controversies, weapons, commander of an army, land, immovable properties, younger brother, relations such as cousins.
Mercury: Intelligence, discrimination, speech, expression, education, learning, mathematics, logic, astrology, medical knowledge and profession, writing, publishing, acting as a middleman in trade or politics (diplomacy), dancing, mixture of things, leafy trees, testing of precious stones, charms (amulets), maternal uncles, friends.
Jupiter: Wisdom, learning, corpulence, acts of religious merit, devotion to God, ancestors and superior beings, holy places, scriptures, proficiency in learning, philosophy, giving alms or donations, benevolence, wealth, respect, sons, religion, preceptors, fruit, fruit trees.
Venus: Spouse, marriage, sexual matters, pleasures of the senses, singing, poetry, scents, ornaments, jewelry, all articles of luxury, cooperation with and from others, flowers, flowering trees, beauty, buying and selling, cows, watery places.
Saturn: Longevity, life, death, adversity, calamities, disrespect, diseases, poverty, livelihood, servility, unrighteous conduct, learning of sciences and foreign languages, agricultural pursuits, minerals, oils, things buried deep in the ground and coming out there from, servants (male and female), service, theft, cruel deeds, malice, lameness, very old, persons.
Rahu(North Node of the Moon): Paternal grandfather, fallacious argument, harsh speech, gambling, movement, travelling, outcastes, foreigners, snakes, snakebite, theft, wickedness, widow(er), intrigue with a widow(er), skin diseases, itches, eczema, acute or sharp pain in the body, hiccoughs, swelling in the body.
Ketu (South Node of the Moon): Maternal grandfather, consumption, pain, fever, wound, witchcraft, causing trouble to enemies, horned animals, dog, cock, birds with spots or of variegated colors, philosophy, salvation.
The meanings of the signs of the Zodiac are well known to most everyone and can be researched easily, so we will not explain them herein. The following brief meanings for the twelve houses of the horoscope are suitable for our basic educational purposes:
First House: self, head, body, personality, mental temperament, health.
Second house: eyes, face, teeth, upper part of the throat, speech, wealth, family.
Third House: arms, lower part of the throat, shoulders, brothers, sisters, valor.
Fourth House: chest, heart, mother, landed property, friends, conveyances, happiness.
Fifth House: stomach, education, intelligence, sons, daughters.
Sixth House: the region of the navel, illness, enemies, debts, distress.
Seventh House: partnership, sexual relations, spouse, the part of the body below the waist and down to the genitals.
Eighth House: genitals, anus, death, legacies.
Ninth House: hips, thighs, religion (dharma), devotion to God, prosperity, religious preceptor (guru), father.
Tenth House: knees, back, status and position in life, activity, honor from government.
Eleventh House: calves of legs, friends, income.
Twelfth House: expenditure, loss, sexual enjoyment, left eye, feet, confinement.
The above information is grossly simplified but gives an idea of what we are dealing with. Considering that there are nine planets, twelve signs, and twelve houses, one can easily imagine the extent of possible combinations and permutations of these. (And, this without taking into consideration the individual degrees and varga charts.) The energies of the planets, signs, and houses interact with each other in myriad ways. By studying the combinations, a well trained astrologer can know an amazing amount of information about the subject of a chart--a remarkable feat, considering that the original input data consisted of only the date, time, and place of birth.
The natal chart is the birth chart. The reading of this chart is what most people consider to be the sum total of astrology. With regard to Vedic astrology, the metaphor I like to use is that of photography. In photography there are different kinds of lenses that one can use. A wide-angle lens lets one see the big picture, the whole panoramic view, but will not allow one to see much detail. It does, however, give one the general scenario, from which one can see interesting points. If one wants to scrutinize further, he would use a zoom lens, which focuses on a much narrower field of vision but with the advantage of greater depth and detail. And one could go even finer into detail by using a microscopic lens. Vedic astrology has similar tools that can take us from the macroscopic to the microscopic level of inquiry.
The general reading of the natal chart would be like the wide-angle lens in our photographic metaphor. In it, the astrologer is able to paint your life with broad brush strokes, showing the general aim and trajectory of your destiny, the field in which you will exercise your free will. In this initial reading one should expect to be told who he is, where he has been, what his potentials are, and where his current actions will take him. Depending on what that destination is, one may want to change course.
In truth, most people do not understand themselves, and in fact are quite confused about who they are, how their mind works, why it works that way, etc. The vast majority of people don't really know who or what they are, on either the psychological or spiritual plane. Therefore, the first thing the Vedic astrologer does is analyze the general configuration of the chart.
This analysis will give a good indication of the person's psychology, character, and life potential. The astrologer will discuss the person's qualities, intellectual abilities, and aptitude; people skills and relationships with family, friends, and loved ones; financial acumen and status; education; travel; health; etc. Life potential indicates a person's predisposition and predilection in certain areas. For example, a certain combination of planets may indicate a person with acute intelligence and love of knowledge; this would give a strong potential for academic achievement or a career in research, teaching, scholarship, etc.
This initial analysis serves several functions:
To bring the seeker a big step closer to achieving the Socratic ideal of "Know thyself."
To verify the accuracy of the birth time and the horoscope. A good astrologer will be able to paint a picture that should be instantly recognizable by the seeker. The seeker should feel illuminated by the knowledge, as well as secure and confident that he is dealing with a qualified astrologer. This is especially important, since in most cases this will be the first time that the seeker will have met the astrologer.
The astrologer will also understand the psychic nature of the seeker and be better able to guide him.
Depending on the situation and needs of the seeker, the astrologer will usually begin to read the timeline of the person's life, from birth up to the recent past and on to the present situation which caused him to consult the astrologer in the first place. This will put the original analysis into greater perspective. Then the astrologer will proceed to discuss the upcoming future trends and planetary periods that the seeker can expect to experience, both externally in the world and internally in terms of psychological attitudes. The internal and external realities are both very intimately related, for a negative mental attitude can attract, and often is the precursor to, equally negative experiences in external reality. The converse is also seen, that reverses in life can instill a negative and depressed worldview in the seeker, thus creating a vicious cycle of gloom and doom.
[Note: We should explain that reading a chart is a process of discovery, much like an archeological dig; as we read the chart, planetary combinations representing various things present themselves. As he goes deeper into the reading and becomes more familiar with the terrain, the astrologer gathers more and more bits of information, which he pieces together to solve the puzzle. It will often be that a consistent pattern emerges and that the data reconfirms this pattern. But sometimes new information will present itself, prompting the astrologer to reassess the situation. He may then have to withdraw a previous statement. One should not mistakenly think that the astrologer is contradicting himself-- instead, through the process of discovery he has found new information which supplants a previous conclusion.]
This is where the real skill of the astrologer is tested. A real Vedic astrologer doesn't just make some predictions and then stand aside. Rather, he is a Vedic Brahmana who has been trained in yoga, philosophy, counseling, etc. If he foresees difficulty ahead, the astrologer should be able to provide the seeker with strategies for meeting the difficulties in a mature and wise way. This, after all, is the essential benefit of Vedic astrology and the proper use of our free will: to act with wisdom, as opposed to reacting in ignorance. Simply knowing that difficulty lies ahead may be sufficient to avert real danger. One might still be influenced by the problem but will know what to do, not taken by surprise. In cliche terms, "Forewarned is forearmed."
In 1992 Hurricane Andrew destroyed a large area of Southern Florida. There was massive physical damage to property, but considering the horrific nature of the storm, the loss of human life was practically nil. Why? Because the National Weather Service had warned residents of the approaching storm and so they had had sufficient time to prepare for the inevitable. They evacuated dangerous areas, boarded up windows, cached food and water, sought high ground, and took shelter. They acted with wisdom. We can imagine what the death toll would have been if Andrew had pounced on Florida with no warning at all. The carnage would have been astronomical, and the people would have been reeling from that death blow, not knowing what to do next. That scenario is one of ignorance--that is, reacting to a situation after it has already struck, without foreknowing that it would happen. Generally there are much fewer casualties from hurricanes as compared to earthquakes, because presently hurricanes can be predicted by the weather service whereas no government agency can predict earthquakes--which strike without warning. (There is branch of astrology that deals with weather forecasting as part of Mundane Astrology, it is not much practiced these days because governments no longer patronize such astrologers as the kings of the past once did.)
The above discussion should not unnerve one into thinking that the astrologer will read only dire predictions of impending ruination and existential calamity. This is hardly the case. (We simply have considered a worst-case scenario first.) Just as often, and much easier and pleasant for the astrologer, are predictions of upcoming periods of good fortune and happiness, free of difficulty and full of opportunity. People love to hear about good fortune. And speaking frankly, it is much easier for this astrologer when I have to report predominantly good news. (You perhaps know what would happen in ancient times to the bearer of bad news!)
It is commonly said: "Make the best use of a bad bargain." Often, hardship will bring the best out of a person. It has been observed that the only difference between the carbon in a diamond and that in a graphite lead pencil is that the former has been subjected to tremendous heat and pressure for a long time, then chiseled and polished to perfection. So while giving people bad news is not so pleasant, they often take it more seriously than when given good news.
The opposite of "Make the best use of a bad bargain" is "to squander a good opportunity" or "to rest on your 'future' laurels." Surprisingly, people often think that if good times are ahead they don't have to do anything. Wrong. When an astrologer indicates that there is smooth sailing ahead, it is not time to take it easy but rather to strive harder. Because resistance is lower, one is more likely to succeed; yet he must still endeavor with determination, although now the going will be easier. And who knows the cycle may change. So it is the practice of a wise astrologer to advise his client to maintain and even increase his momentum in good times. In that way, if events should turn for the worst, the seeker will easily be able to overcome the problem. (For example, if one is driving on the flats and approaching a hill, he speeds up; the momentum of the car will carry him over the top with less effort.)
The usual situation among the vast majority of people is that their future karma will be a mixture of good and bad. So it is up to the astrologer to sort out, as much as possible, which is which, and then advise how to minimize the negative and maximize the positive with suitable strategies.
The process described above is how the astrologer tells the seeker "who he is," "where he has been," and "where he is going."
How Long Will it Take?
You should be prepared to spend from one to three hours (or in some cases longer) with your astrologer for the initial reading. The length of time will be determined by the subjects covered, questions asked, and the intricacy of the case. I have described a general first reading. Sometimes a person has a specific problem he wants to deal with, such as career, marriage, health, etc. The astrologer should adjust to fit the needs of the seeker. In so doing, however, several of the items described above may be omitted.
If the birth time is not accurate or is unknown, the astrologer may have to rectify it by asking certain questions and adjusting the time according to the answers. This requires extra time. Another factor that will vary the length of the reading is the particular kind of reading the seeker wants: predictive, spiritual-psychological, or a combination of both.
In this kind of reading the emphasis is solely on prediction, without any explanation as to underlying spiritual or psychological causes that may exist. This is most useful to people who just need to plan for the future.
In this type of reading we try to understand more about the mentality of the individual, why he is the way he is, and also the deeper, esoteric meaning of why he has taken his present birth and what he is meant to learn in this life. Each element of the horoscope--sign, planet, house, etc.--has a deep spiritual significance. By analyzing these elements the astrologer can help the seeker to understand what it is he should learn in this lifetime, and how he must act to accomplish that mission. This kind of reading is most useful for those who are on a spiritual quest, trying to find a deeper meaning to their life, seeking self-understanding, etc.
Predictive and Spiritual-Psychological Reading
This is a combination of both types of reading, predictive and spiritual; it is a much more complex and lengthy reading, because both elements are combined. It is also the most useful of all.
Thus far we have discussed procedures that the astrologer is likely to employ, and what subjects he will speak on. But what about you? What should you say or do? Should you say anything, or just listen? The following recommendations will help you to benefit the most from your reading:
Before going to the astrologer find out if he is going to record the session. If not, request permission to record it yourself. Bring at least two C-90 tapes (or equivalent in other media) to adequately cover the meeting. Considering that tapes are quickly becoming obsolete you should consider recording in MP3 format.
Before starting the session pre-arrange with the astrologer to turn off the recorder when you make a particular signal; this indicates that you wish to discuss something not to be recorded.
It is good to prepare any questions or aspects of your life that you want covered in the reading. It is generally best to let the astrologer know this in advance so that he will be able to focus extra attention on those areas. Some topics may require extra research.
Avoid breaking his train of thought while the astrologer is speaking. Bring a note pad, and if you have a question write it down; if it isn't resolved in the course of the reading, then you should ask it at the end. Breaking the astrologer's train of thought will cause digression; similarly, asking another question before the previous one has been answered will be distracting.
Of course the client should offer feedback, both positive and negative, so that the astrologer knows that he is on the right track. Astrology is, after all, a difficult science. If the astrologer makes a mistake, let him know--he will adjust his calculations. If he is right, confirm it by a nod or simple gesture so that the astrologer may continue in confidence.
Whatever the case, don't just sit there like a piece of wood. Interact. But do so in such a way as is conducive to the reading. This may mean that you have to go into a long explanation of your situation, or it may mean that you simply listen while he explains. The point is that both of you should stay on track.
Be honest with your astrologer. You wouldn't lie to your physician, would you? If you don't feel comfortable telling the astrologer the truth about your situation then find an astrologer whom you can trust. Misleading your astrologer could have serious consequences. And don't try to trick or test him. If you intend to have a long-standing relationship with anyone, what to speak of your astrologer, it wouldn't be good to start out on such a footing. The astrologer will be able to tell that there is something afoot, and that will only hamper the process.
What has been said about your part in a natal reading similarly applies, with specific adjustments, to other kinds of readings.