Today’s Living With Siva lesson talks about astrology.
“Astrology explores the stars and planets as they move in the heavens and the subtle effects on our physical, mental and emotional condition, mapping the ebb and flow of our karma. Astrology plays a very important part in every Hindu’s life. An established family is not complete without their master of jyotisha. Guided by the stars from birth to death, devout Hindus choose a shubha muhurta, auspicious time, for every important experience of life. Astrology has been computerized through the efforts of brilliant jyotisha shastris of both the East and West. In our monastery, we use jyotisha quite a lot to determine the best times to travel, meditate, begin new projects or just rest and let a harsh time pass. Experience assures that astrology is a reliable tool for maintaining a balanced life and flowing with the forces of nature.”
Quite regularly I’m asked: “How do we view astrology?” Because astrology is, many Hindus are skeptical about astrology, shall we say. Doesn’t fit into our modern way of looking at things. Well one of the points I make is this one that: We don’t have to constantly be checking our astrology but when it comes to important events in our life the astrological, the astrology is important. We want to choose a day which is good for that type of event. And the more critical the event is to our life, you know we’re putting our life savings into a new business, definitely check the astrology on that day. Putting five dollars in a new business, you might not have to. Well it depends on how important the move is in our life, how crucial it is that it succeed. How important the astrology is and how picky we should be about choosing a good astrology.
“We take a metaphysical approach to the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ news or predictions that astrology brings from time to time. When unfavorable times arise which have to be lived through, as they all too frequently do, we do not carp or cringe, but look at these as most excellent periods for meditation and sadhana rather than worldly activities. Just the reverse is true for the positive periods. However, spiritual progress can be made during both kinds of periods. Both negative and positive times are, in fact, positive when used wisely. A competent jyotisha shastri is of help in forecasting the future, as to when propitious times will come along when advancements can be made. A positive mental attitude should be held during all the ups and downs that are predicted to happen. Be as the traveler in a 747 jet, flying high over the cities, rather than a pedestrian wandering the streets below.”
Someday we’ll have to change that, 747, no one will know what it is, right? What’s the 747 jets? They’re almost out of favor, not quite.
The point here is this — it’s two-fold I’d say — one is labeling periods as good or bad. It’s our tendency to do that. Good is when we’re not challenged, bad is when we have lots of challenges. That’s the normal way of looking at things. No challenges today; that’s great. Too many challenges today; that’s bad. So, Gurudeva’s pointing out that’s not really a mystical way of looking at life in fact I remember he was complaining once, he was saying: “My astrology is so good I’m not making any spiritual progress.” That’s what he said; remember that? No challenges.
Challenges are what cause us to use our willpower more than we’re used to. We have to pull ourselves together and do better than we’re used to doing. That’s what a challenge is, that’s where the difficult time is. Similar to raising children. Up to a certain point they’re very protected but if you over protect them, after that they’ll never develop enough strength on their own. So they have to be challenged. They have to fail sometimes and pull themselves back together and try again, develop the willpower, the ability to succeed at difficult tasks.
Then, the other point is that Gurudeva’s saying: No matter what the astrology is it’s good for something. If it’s what’s called a bad astrology, meaning there’s lots of challenges, then it’s a good time to strive within, to put a little extra time in our sadhana. If it’s a good time, it’s appropriate to put extra time into our projects, push them ahead. Because they’ll go ahead faster than they would normally. So each time is appropriate or good for some kind of action is the point.
It’s interesting, Ceyonswami sent the astrological reading around to the monks of the very good astrologer Chakrapani. Many of you know Chakrapani. He does a description of the year and it’s very interesting. In one point which is different from the point that’s here; I’ll read it in a second. He was saying the nature of this year is going to be certain difficulties but then he treated the countries as if they were people, something I wasn’t used to. The date on which it was founded. Said: The U.S. was founded on this day and therefore it has this astrology and therefore it has this nature and therefore it will do this way this year. This country won’t do so well this year and this country will do differently. The point being the astrology wasn’t the same for all countries. I really hadn’t thought about it on that basis. I kind of thought: Well, all countries were the same, they’ll face things in the same way. But it’s not the way he looked at it. It’s interesting; he said the U.S. has these characteristics and and is going to do well despite certain challenges this year.
But the point that I found interesting and I sent it around on April 15 (he uses the year which begins in March, slightly different year than the Tamil year which begins in April.) So I sent this on April 15.
And he said: “It’s a good year for the creative arts as promoted by a strong Venus as well as scientific research as supported by Mercury.”
So I sent it around and I say: “We can discuss how to apply this to our activities during this period.” That was my note. How can we take advantage of this aspect of the year? Well how often do we have a world class dancer dance in our amphitheater out there? No one’s danced there except Gurudeva and that was a long long time ago so even without thinking about it it manifests that’s the point. The year manifests. You don’t have even know the nature of the year, it’ll manifest in your life without your knowing it. So we had a world class cultural event on our property. Fit right into the year. In scientific research. We were talking about scientific research on the Innersearch. Which is unusual for us to be talking about scientific research. But it happened. So, we were involved in creative arts and scientific research already. But it is a very good point that these things happen and we can take more advantage of them if we have flexibility in our life to do certain things or not do certain things.
“For raising offspring, an astrological forecast can be of the utmost help. A baby predicted to have a fiery temper should be raised to always be kind and considerate of others’ feelings, taught to never argue with others. Of course, good examples must be set early on by parents. This will soften the inclination toward temper tantrums. Fighting the child’s natural impulses will just amplify them. A child of an independent nature should be taught early on to care for himself in all respects so that in the life ahead he will benefit society and bring honor to the family. So much can be gained by reading the chart when approached with the attitude that all that is in it is helpful and necessary to know, even if it seems to be bad news. Difficulties need not be bad news if they are approached as opportunities to grow in facing them. ”
So that’s the second time that we’re into that point; we label things. Well this is terrible, this is bad, this is difficult. Whereas that’s not a helpful label. As I pointed out a few phases ago we call something a big problem and then the first thing we do is procrastinate in handling them. Because we call it a big problem so we don’t want to face it. If we hadn’t called it a big problem we would have handled it already. But we put a label on it and that makes it harder to do.
“We have for years in our monasteries lived by the Hindu calendar and system of time divisions known as Lahiri Ayanamsha Panchanga. All purnima, amavasya and ashtami days (full moon, new moon and the eighth day of the fortnight) are days of retreat. They are our weekends. To be in harmony with the universe, at least our little galaxy, it is important to observe these days for happy, healthy, productive living.”
Having read that I said: Well, well. looked up the word auspicious in the Guru Book to see if I could find a story about auspicious days. And here’s an auspicious day story from Yogaswami:
“Once a man was inspired to open a bookstore, beginning with a collection of used books he had obtained. He wanted Swami to come and bless the store, but every time he saw Swami, the request slipped from his mind. Somehow, in Swami’s presence, it didn’t seem important enough to mention. He arranged to have a small ceremony at an auspicious time to mark the opening. The time of the ceremony arrived, and still he had not invited Swami. Yet, at the exact moment the astrologer had set for the puja to begin, Swami arrived. In time, the shop became the foremost bookstore in Jaffna. The owner considered its success a direct result of Swami’s blessing that day. Hundreds of stories are told of Yogaswami’s answers to unspoken questions and fulfillments of impossible-to-know needs.”
I remember one story myself when we were visiting Sri Lanka in 1974, I think it was. And the family that Gurudeva stayed with the Vinayakamurti Family was, the son was building, starting a new house. The auspicious time to start the new house happened to be midnight. So, at midnight we went over and built a little stairway. That impressed me. I wasn’t used to starting houses at midnight. You can see how definite part of the culture; doesn’t matter what time it is.
“Many more are the untold stories. If someone came and had a significant experience with Swami, or received some important help, he would forbid them to talk about it. ‘Sacred is secret, and secret is sacred.’ he admonished. So carefully did people keep that advice, that neighbors might both have visited Swami and not have told each other about it. Many regarded it as amazing that such a secret could be kept in Jaffna where the breeze itself carries news.”
Someone was asking me about this on the Innersearch and if it’s a particularly strong mystical experience, say someone has a vision of Muruga, you don’t want to go around telling everyone about it. It diminishes the power it will have in your life. It can also create an obstacle to having another experience. So that’s, that’s the idea that really special inner experience is supposed to be kept personal and private.
“Devotees came to see Swami either early in the morning or in the evening. He would awaken before dawn and meditate in his hut. The devout would come and sit with him. After remaining in silence for some time, Swami might start to sing. He had a rich voice, full and melodious. Once a devotee asked him what a certain song meant, to which he answered, ‘Oh, I didn’t write that song; it came from within.’ He would also sing hymns and scriptures composed by other saints. He would say they also came from within: ‘I could have retrieved that song from memory, but I did not. It came from within.’ He might ask a devotee sitting with him to pick up a book and read from it: The Taittiriya Upanishad, a work from the vast Tirumurai, Swami Vivekananda’s writings or some other holy book. Whenever people sang for him or read, he would ask them or even scold them, to read, not as if they were reading about some time and place far away and removed from them, but as if they were Siva or Saint Manikkavasagar right at that moment. ‘That’s the only way to understand these words,’ he insisted. Swami challenged each one he approached.”
I made that point somewhere in the talks in the last few weeks to do with Yogaswami devotees; I noticed them talking about Yogaswami and Yogaswami’s greatness how wonderful a meditator he was, different Yogaswami groups such as in Toronto or Sydney. The opposite of that which is to put Yogaswami up on the pedestal and to be down here yourself. Yogaswami is great and I’m not great. And the idea that Yogaswami’s attainment is your own attainment at some point in the future. It isn’t in the mind.
So that’s what Yogaswami’s saying here is: When you read something read it with the sense that this will be your attainment, it’s not just somebody else’s attainment. It’s your future potential is seen in the attainment, the mystical attainment of someone in the present if you haven’t had it. It’s there in the future cause there’s only one soul. It’s like a seed of a tree; you plant it and it grows up the same. So, the soul matures the same way, has the same experiences or ability eventually.
So thank you very much. Have a wonderful day.
[End of transcript.]