YOGA OF THE PLANETS
Their Mantras and Philosophy

Extract describing how the book came to be written:

 

The Journey

 

On March 3rd, 1995, I entered the sacred and tranquil valley surrounding the small village of Kollur. I had fostered a desire to visit here for eight years since a friend told me about it. I did not know why I felt this connection but when I was finally able to travel to India I set my heart on reaching that place. It seemed very special and I must have feared going straight there in case my energy was unprepared. I chose to go first to Tamil Nadu on the opposite coast and to the great temple of Rāmeshvaram.

 Rāmeshvaram is on the spit of land opposite Sri Lanka. This is the place Shrī Rāma worshipped Lord Shiva before launching his campaign to recover his wife Sītā from the demon king. To cross the ocean, his army of monkeys and bears built a bridge or causeway across the ocean. This was many thousands of years ago but, amazingly, the remains of a causeway to Sri Lanka are still visible in satellite photos. According to temple records, Shrī Rāma’s bridge was passable being completely above the sea until destroyed by a cyclone in 1480 AD.

 From Rāmeshvaram, I visited the great temple of Mīnakshī and thence to the very tip of India, Kanyakumari. This place has remarkable temples especially that of the Virgin Goddess. I rose and went at 3:30 am and was almost alone in witnessing the bathing of the Goddess in milk. It was the Full Moon day. A little later I did homage to the shrine for the Navagraha and received a distinct blessing. Prior to that I had done some study of Jyotisha but had received no authority from any Guru or other source to study and practice. This was a most unexpected Grace.

 From Kanyakumari, I travelled up the Kerala coast visiting Ashrams and temples until I came to Kollur. It was a great moment, though for no obvious reason at all. Kollur is home to the famous temple of Devī Mookāmbikā, the Goddess of the mouth. It is said she grants blessings related to the voice and the arts. Most evenings, artists from all over India come to perform before her. They sing, dance and play instruments.

 At the time I knew nothing about this temple. I did not know that astrologers from all over South India come here to pray and do penance for Vāk Siddhi, the power that whatever one says proves true. After all, people expect an astrologer to have this power. While, in rare cases, it is possible that a person is born with this, generally it only arises after long and sincere spiritual practice. This is why Vedic Astrology, Jyotisha, is primarily a spiritual discipline and one should seek a guru or gurus to guide one’s spiritual and intellectual development.

 The essence of success in an earthly endeavour is the Grace of the Goddess and for each aspirant there is some form that appeals to him or her and which can grant success. There are rules for finding this form but ultimately it is very personal. I should make it clear that talk of gods and goddesses does not conflict with the monotheistic view because the Vedic view is that the One takes whatever form we desire or can be approached as purely formless if that is our path.

 The worship of the Goddess in India is, at its peak, related to the Shrī Vidyā and the Shrī Chakra. The great sage and teacher Adi Shankarāchārya installed a Shrī Chakra under the deity in the Mookāmbikā temple. After some time in Kollur, I came to know that he also installed a Shrī Chakra at the top of the highest mountain nearby where the root shrine of the Goddess is to be found. Part of the pilgrimage is to walk to the top of this mountain. It is about 12 miles or one can take the bus part of the way and walk the last 3-4 hours. I had many extraordinary experiences on this mountain as well as in the temple, which I will write about elsewhere.

 While I was staying at the temple, somehow I conceived of this book. It seemed to me that the sets of 108 names of the Grahas (planets) were important and used by astrologers but I could find no trace of a translation or commentary. So I started making notes. When I could not understand a word, I discussed it with my friend UmaShankar Jois who is one of the distinguished priests at the temple. He studied Jyotisha with a great Guru though he passed away before my friend’s studies were complete. UmaShankar is a great expert in the remedial measures and he felt I had some knowledge on the analysis of charts so we spent a lot of time discussing Jyotisha together.

 I stayed at Kollur for more than 40 days, as is the custom, and then went for Shivarātri in Varanasi. This is the greatest festival for Lord Shiva and Varanasi is considered the city of Shiva, and is one of the most profound places to celebrate it. As I was about to leave Kollur, I went to the temple to take Her leave to go. The priests put me at the front during the Arti (ritual waving of lights before the shrine), which is the peak of the evening worship. Then I got on the bus to go to Bangalore where I could catch a train for the North.

 As it happened, the conductor of this bus was part of a ring of thieves who stole the luggage of innocents like me. I arrived in Bangalore without anything, all my notes were gone. Still I managed to continue my journey and reached Varanasi, the great city of Shiva, at 4 am on Shivarātri. I washed and went straight to the temple having no luggage to concern me. Standing in the queue I noticed that I was the only male wearing traditional clothing. There was a guard on the door and they often turn ‘tourists’ away. He looked me over for a while and then enthusiastically said ‘om namaḥ śivāya’ and waived me in.

 The next year, I returned to Kollur with another notebook. I started by writing down all that I remembered and naturally found that my understanding had improved over the year and quickly was ahead of my previous work. When I left Kollur after another 40+ days I had just a few names which I could not decipher. I visited Prof. Ramachandra Rao in Bangalore who was one of the two people that I found who had published the lists of the names. We had an interesting discussion. He was a very great scholar. Unfortunately, he has now passed away. Travelling through India I met many good scholars who kindly gave me their opinions so the meanings became clear. Since then, from time to time I wrote my small commentary. It reflects many stages in my own spiritual life. I hope you enjoy it.

 In 2007, I visited a small house a few miles north of the great Konark temple. This temple, though now partially ruined, was perhaps India’s greatest temple to the Sun god. It is built like a giant chariot. Some of the carvings are now in the British Museum including the large carvings of the nine Grahas (planets). The Konark temple stands near the beach in the North Eastern part of India’s V shape so is one of the first places to see the rays of the rising Sun. Konark is some 20 miles north of Puri where the great Jagannātha temple of Lord Krishna is to be found administered by the Shankarāchārya of the East. He is charged with maintaining the Rig Veda, accepted as humanity’s oldest recorded wisdom text.

 About 500 years ago, the great spiritual teacher Chaitanya Mahāprabhu resided here and the lineages derived from him are still very widespread today, such as ISKCON. He had five ‘sakhas’ or friends, as they were called, one of which was Swāmi Achyutānanda. The Swāmi was initiated by the great teacher at an early age and went on to become the King’s astrologer, a noted author of over 200 books and an enlightened sage. He also founded 13 schools in the region. These taught various sciences and several were dedicated to Jyotisha. When he was leaving his body, he promised to remain in a ‘shunya’ form. Shunya means the void and it is a term he explained in great depth in one of his books. It does not refer to mere nothingness but to a profound state of Being.

 He kept his promise and even today you can go and consult him. That is where I was going. There is a small shrine and next to it are the quarters of a pandit who keeps and interprets a set of copper plates (tamra poti). These plates only contain some drawings like the shape of a lotus, but when you enter there with a question in your mind, the answer appears written in ancient Odia (the local language 500 years ago) and the pandit reads them for you. If you look, you can actually see the writing appear. I went there with several friends, all of whom were students of Pandit Sanjay Rath who is the last remaining person carrying the knowledge of the Jyotisha schools founded by the Swāmi. In effect, we had joined his lineage. The answers we got were remarkably pertinent and insightful. We were all given mantras. I later talked to a colleague who has taken over 40 people there and he said no one had ever been given a mantra.

 The Swāmi told me to finish my book. I noticed that when I did the mantra, I would work more on this text. I hope he forgives me for the long time spent in fulfilling his instruction but perhaps I or the time was not ripe before now. This year (2015) marks the 20th year since I started and only this year did I make the important discovery about the Vimshottari Dashā which is published in this book. In the derivation of the Vimshottari Dashā cycles or periods, the great significance of 20 years is revealed.

 The name of the Sun temple is from Kona + Arka. Arka is a name of the Sun and Kona means trine. In Jyotisha, this indicates the Dharma Trikoṇa, the sustainer of life, which I have written about in many places in this book and is so important in the interpretation of the Vimshottari Dashā.

 This book concludes a 21 year project, which began at one of the most sacred places in India. I was aware of these sets of mantras and their importance but could find no translation and certainly no commentary. I sought out the best source texts and over many years researched into and meditated on the names to fathom their deeper meanings. Now, the time has come to offer this to the public. I hope many people enjoy and benefit from this gentle offering.

Surya, The Sun

 

ॐ अरुणाय नमः

om aruṇāya namaḥ

1. Salutations to the dawn.

Aruṇa is the dawn, the colour of the dawn and is the charioteer of the Sun. Naturally the hymn to the Sun starts with the remembrance of his first appearance. This also brings the memory of the first light of the awakening of the soul or Atman that the Sun represents. Throughout the names, the inner value of life is constantly alluded to. While the names have much of astrology and the mundane in them, the main focus is the evolution of higher consciousness.

Aruṇa is portrayed as the charioteer of the Sun because the dawn precedes the Sun. The light that appears before the first rays of the Sun and breaks over the horizon is the precursor to the sunlight, but it is also sunlight. The consciousness of the soul, even not yet awakened, is still consciousness and it manifests in our will and is symbolized in the one holding the reins of the chariot. In the awakened state, consciousness is the witness of the activities of the world. What is that witness? This is the ultimate question, or at least a key part of it. If we know the answer, then we know the One that is our very Self.

In the Vedic terminology, the soul is called the Atman, while God is called the Paramātman or, literally, the Supreme Soul. When the individual soul knows its essence to be the Supreme Soul, then it becomes the witness of the active elements of the world such as the intellect, the mind and the senses. Later, it revels in knowing that these are in essence the same being.

The Atman, resting in its awareness of oneness with the Paramātman or Supreme Soul, rides in the chariot that continues to be guided by the infinite intelligence of nature and the threads of destiny. The charioteer always follows the will of his master who rides in the chariot. That master, eternally satisfied, rises again and again without deviation according to the law. Om Aruṇāya Namah, means obeisance or surrender to the charioteer of the light of life and the eternal natural law, knowing which, in its perfection, is the prerequisite for realizing our own true nature.

In Sanskrit, this state is called Nitya Santosh. Nitya is eternal and Santosh means peace, fulfilment and satisfaction. This condition is said to be the natural state of the Jyotishi or Vedic Astrologer. Indeed, it is mentioned in the texts as being a prerequisite for practising the science of Jyotisha. This first name establishes the astrologer in his natural state. As long as we have some fault to find with the flow of nature’s intelligence, we cannot fathom the message of the planets and the stars. Once we know who we truly are, then we have a crystal clear view of that message.

The Vedic texts are full of wonderful stories. They are taught by the sages and there is much to be learnt from them. The style is quite brilliant and entertaining and they bear a resemblance to modern serial dramas, except that the Vedic stories are always uplifting and have a vast scope. Stories of gods, men, animals and the denizens of the upper and lower realms are all intertwined. Each episode is short and leaves us anticipating what happens next. It is hard to stop reading. In the ancient times, certain people called Sutas would travel around and recite these stories. They were highly honoured as everyone appreciated this work.

The great epic, the Mahābhārata, gives the story of Aruṇa, which, very briefly, is as follows. The parents of the divine beings were Mahārishi Kashyapa and his wife Aditī (Sun 6). Aditī had a rival wife called Ditī. When Ditī asked her husband for 1,000 sons, Aditī asked for two that would be more powerful than all of the 1,000. Aditī gave birth to two eggs and then she waited for them to hatch. Ditī’s sons were born but Aditī’s did not come forth. After 500 years, there was still no sign of the hatching so she secretly cracked one of them to see the progress of the child. Aruṇa emerged from the egg but had only formed down to the waist. He cursed his mother for his incomplete development caused by her impatience. He was appointed to be the charioteer of Sūrya as his lack of a lower half would not hinder this work (Sun 36).

We might conclude from this story that when something extraordinary is to happen, it takes more time to gestate so more patience is required. Ditī’s sons were more ordinary and were born more quickly, while Aditī’s took much longer. Ditī’s sons were all celestial snakes while Aditī’s other son was the king of the birds, Garuḍa. Garuḍa became the vehicle for Vishnu who is closely connected to the Sun especially with respect to the sign Pisces (see Sun 17). While birds and snakes are deadly enemies, there is a deep spiritual story here also. The snakes are connected to the nodes of the Moon that cause eclipses. The South node called Ketu is where the consciousness is trapped at the base of the spine. The light has to be guided (Aruṇa) from there to the place of the North Node, Rāhu, at the top of the spine and thence to the crown, which is associated with Pisces, where it soars (Garuḍa).

Chandra, The Moon

 

श्रीमते नमः

om śrīmate namaḥ

1. Salutations to the one possessed of all auspiciousness.

The Vedic Astrological chart shows one’s level of Shrī or fortune. The chart is created by the movement of the Moon and its interplay with the Sun. In India, interpretation of the chart starts with the position of the Moon rather than the Sun for issues of personal experience and fortune. The Sun is like the soul because it moves steadily on in its course without variation. The Moon is like the mind as it rises and falls with its reflection of the sunlight. Among the main significations of the Moon are the mind and the mother.

In India, mothers and married women are addressed as Shrīmati. This is the feminine form of this name. The male form is Shrīman. The meaning is the same: one who is possessed of Shrī (pronounced Shree). Shrī indicates all kinds of auspiciousness. It is a name of Lakshmī, the Goddess of wealth, victory and beauty and it also stands for the number 108. In Vedic Astrology, the zodiac is divided into 108 Padas or quarters. There are four for each Nakshatra or lunar mansion (4 x 27 = 108), and nine for each Rāshi or sign (9 x 12 = 108). This is the key division of the zodiac and is especially related to the movement of the Moon, which defines the Nakshatras.

The day is naturally divided into four parts. These are separated by sunrise, midday, sunset and midnight. The Moon moves through one Nakshatra each day (approximately), so we can say that the division of the Nakshatra into four parts or Padas follows naturally from the four-fold division of the day. As each sign contains nine Padas, this is the natural division of each zodiacal sign. The fact that there are 12 signs follows from the approximate rate of 12 full moons that occur in the course of a year. As the Moon is connected to the Nakshatras, the mother is seen from the fourth house. As the Sun is connected to the Rāshis, the father is seen from the ninth. In this way, the perfect synchrony of the Nakshatras and Rāshis gives rise to the core concepts of Jyotisha.

The Moon’s cycle controls the growth of plants and human fertility. Research shows that people often relate human beauty to fertility. The Vedic texts connect beauty to auspiciousness. Of course, there is more to beauty and auspiciousness than physical characteristics or age-related fertility. The inner beauty that arises from a sweetness of consciousness is the deeper aspect of the meaning of this name. There is nothing more beautiful than a pure heart. Later, we see how the Moon is related to Soma, the nectar of divine consciousness, which is the cause of inner sweetness.

 

ॐ शशधराय नमः

om śaśadharāya namaḥ

2. The one carrying the hare.

This refers to the markings on the Moon that look like a hare, rabbit or deer. The Nakshatra called Mrigashira, or the head of a deer is ruled by Soma which is another name for the Moon. The connection with the deer or rabbit is not accidental. They are mild and timid animals that appear to be constantly searching. This is the nature of the mind, which is understood by studying the Moon in the Vedic astrological chart.

An old story has it that the markings are due to an incident where the Moon saw Lord Gaṇesha riding on his mouse. The Moon laughed and Gaṇesha broke off one of his tusks and hurled it at the Moon creating the marks. Everything about Gaṇesha is highly symbolic. His whole form is said to be a personification of the Om syllable. The mouse as the vehicle for such a vast body indicates the relationship between the small Jīva or personality and the infinite vastness of absolute consciousness. It also indicates the Divine consciousness controlling the plundering nature of the mind. The single tusk of Gaṇesha suggests the one-pointed nature of that consciousness in its absolute crystal clarity, as the mind’s fluctuations no longer dominate experience.

Mangala, Mars

 

ॐ महीसुताय नमः

om mahīsutāya namaḥ

1. Salutations to the son of the earth.

This first name brings forth the intimate connection of Mars with Mahī, the earth and the earth element. Mars, the indicator of the Shakti or vital force, is said to be born (Suta) of the earth. This clearly points to the base Chakra, which is the place of the earth element in the body. From here the Kuṇḍalinī energy rises when she awakens. Mars is exalted in the cardinal earth sign, Capricorn.

 

ॐ महाभागाय नमः

om mahābhāgāya namaḥ

2. The most fortunate one.

Mahā is a prefix meaning great. Mars has many names starting with Mahā. One whose Shakti has awakened is possessed of Bhaga or majesty. Derived from Bhaga, Bhāga indicates inheritance, in the sense of the one who has received great fortune. Mars indicates those with much vitality, such as kings and warriors, who often possess great wealth and power. In ancient times, these people were often addressed as Mahābhāga.

 

ॐ मङ्गलाय नमः

om maṅgalāya namaḥ

3.The auspicious (Maṅgala) one.

Mars is the ruler of the fire element, Agni. The balanced fire quality in a person, which Ayurveda calls Pitta, is compassionate and auspicious. Agni can accomplish whatever needs to be done.

The Bhagavad Gītā (2.63) explains how anger disturbs the clarity of the intellect and this leads to disturbance of the vital force, the Prāṇa. A breakdown in the Prāṇa ruins health and, if complete, is fatal. Later, it says, ‘know anger and desire to be the enemies here on Earth’ (3.37). If we are prone to anger, it can help to take up some practice along with proper diet and environment that will help us keep our cool. Swimming and walking by water are two examples of how engaging with the environment can help. Avoiding sour and spicy foods can help calm Pitta though fresh plain yoghurt is good for balancing Mars, which rules bitterness. This and other mantras in this chapter may also help.

 

ॐ मङ्गलप्रदाय नमः

om maṅgalapradāya namaḥ

4. The giver (Prada) of auspiciousness.

Not only is he auspicious but he is the bestower of auspiciousness on those he favours. This is the way of royalty. Maṅgala is also happiness, welfare and bliss. All these things are associated with feeling strong. A strong Mars in the Vedic chart makes a person full of energy and the urge to be active. If the energy rises through the Chakras, well-being turns into bliss.

Maṅgala also has the meaning of faithfulness. Married Indian women wear a necklace called a Maṅgala Sūtra or thread. Faithfulness is the sine qua non for real vitality and bliss in life. To achieve any high goal we have to find the right path and the right guide. Through faithfulness to these, we will surely succeed. On the other hand, the negative side of Mars can show disrespect to the teacher, which is indicated by Jupiter. Where Mars is exalted in Capricorn, Jupiter is debilitated. However, when Mars and Jupiter work together, great wealth and higher things are achieved. This is like the leader who follows the advice of the trusted counsellor. It is wise to always encourage the auspicious and faithful side of Mars as hailed in this and Mars 3.

Budha, Mercury

 

ॐ बुधाय नमः

om budhāya namaḥ

1. Salutations to the learned one.

Budha has a great depth of meaning. It has the sense of awaking, being learned and wise; to know, learn, and perceive as well as causing others to learn or realize. When the Sun causes a flower to expand its blossoms, that is Budh. The awakening of consciousness is Budh. Buddha is the awakened one, and this is derived grammatically from Budh.

 

ॐ बुधार्चिताय नमः

om budhārcitāya namaḥ

2. Worshipped by the wise.

Budha is the light (Archi) of wisdom itself. It is that light that is praised, not some personality. When we honour a sage or anyone, we are praising their wisdom and other qualities, not the individuality. If someone praises us and we take it personally and our ego rises up, then this can then lead to much trouble. In the ancient law book, the Manu Smriti, it says that praise burns up the virtues of a person like a forest fire. On the other hand, when people speak ill of you, they are kindly taking your sins on their own heads. That is why we should be careful of listening to those who praise us and be grateful of our abusers. I think anyone who pays attention will know the truth of this. Life is really quite different from what it appears to be.

We all have the light of wisdom within us. It is like a small flame that grows with care and attention. Initially, we may have to be extremely quiet to bring it to conscious awareness. Having found it, then we should give it the fuel of attention every day. The wise are those who constantly attend the flame. Traditionally, the sacred fire is worshipped at every junction of the day: sunrise, midday (apparent noon) and sunset. The junction times are moments of quiet in nature when it is easier to find the inner light. If we keep feeding the fire it may burn so bright that it never leaves our awareness.

 

ॐ सौम्याय नमः

om saumyāya namaḥ

3. Peaceful, content.

Saumya can mean born from Soma, which is a name of the Moon. It is said that Jupiter was married to Tārā (star) but then the Moon eloped with her and she bore Mercury by him. Eventually, by the intervention of Brahmā, the creator, Tārā was restored to Jupiter. When Jupiter saw the child, it was so beautiful that his anger melted and he adopted the child. From this we know that Mercury indicates adoption and also a Guru’s (Jupiter) students who are like his children during their studies. Also, that Mercury can make a person very handsome or charming.

The nature of true wisdom is that it leaves us in a very gentle and peaceful inner state. Like the Moon or the Divine Mother, it has great softness and is utterly relaxed. The person may be very active in their life but internally there is a calm steadiness.

 

ॐ सौम्यचित्ताय नमः

om saumyacittāya namaḥ

4. Of peaceful mind.

This state of peace (Saumya) pervades all the active states of the mind. Citta is the heart, the mind, the memory, the intellect and reason. It is also what we see and desire. Everything is made calm. Mercury (reason) and the Moon (feeling, desire) tend to compete causing confusion. The solution lies in this state of peacefulness, which arises from the awakening of true knowledge.

Guru, Jupiter

 

ॐ गुरवे नमः

om gurave namaḥ

1. Salutations to Guru – the remover of darkness.

Gu is darkness and Ru is removing it. The one who shows us what is real and to whom we surrender by accepting what we see is the Guru. He is our own Self. That is why it is said that Lord Shiva is the Guru. Shiva is the field of Pure Being, our own undivided consciousness. We touch that through our own knowing. That is why knowing has no doubt. When we think or feel something, we can convince ourselves that it is true but some level of doubt always remains. When we know something, there is no doubt.

Arthur Eddington, the great physicist, undertook a trip to Principe, an island off West Africa, to verify Einstein’s theory of General Relativity by photographing the stars during a total eclipse. Einstein had predicted that their light would bend around the Sun effectively displacing them from where they normally appear. The effect was observed. When a journalist asked Einstein what he would say if Eddington failed to observe the effect, he replied, “I would feel sorry for the Good Lord, the theory is correct.”

That is how we know something. There is no doubt and there is sweetness in it. This is the nature of Shiva consciousness. It is described as Sat, Chit, Ananda. Sat is uncomplicated, pure, and thus free of doubt; Chit is intelligence, which gives it the capacity to know; Ananda is bliss, it is nectar.

 

ॐ गुणाकराय नमः

om guṇākarāya namaḥ

2. The author or origin (Akara) of all good qualities (Guṇā). Abounding in them.

In a Vedic birth chart, Jupiter brings good qualities wherever it goes. If Jupiter is rising at the time of birth, the person is trusted by others and approached for advice. If Jupiter is strong in a chart, people tend to trust the person wherever it is placed. However, if it is not associated with the Ascendant, which represents the person, or the second house of speech, the person can even be a con artist if other factors support this. I have met several but they keep on getting away with it because of the illusion of trustworthiness. If Jupiter is placed in the third house with a sign of Venus rising, then especial care is needed to honour and respect truth and the wise teachers.

 

ॐ गोप्त्रे नमः

om goptre namaḥ

3. Goptṛ is the guardian, one who protects and preserves.

Goptṛ also conveys a sense of hiding and concealing, which reveals an interesting aspect of the Jupiter energy. Jupiter relates to the establishment as well as to teachers, both of which exhibit a certain secrecy. Information is only given to those who need it or who are on the level to receive it. For instance, in the US government the database security system prevents the passage of information to anyone lower on the rungs. It’s the same thing with the Guru, who has all the knowledge, but she or he only gives it when the student is ready or considered fit.

We see this in the Brihat Parāsara Hora Shāstra, the greatest text of Jyotisha, and other texts where the Guru is teaching the disciple. In these, many verses start with “O Brāhmin!” This is a way of saying: “You’re fit to receive this knowledge, because you are quiet, gentle and not overcome with greed.”

A Brāhmin or Brāhmaṇa means literally one who is a knower of Brahman. Adi Shankarāchārya was one of the greatest Brāhmins in history, but even he was tested. One day he was walking down the street in Varanasi (Benares), when a frightful looking person appeared in front of him with four dogs. He was a Chaṇḍāla, a downtrodden caste, said to eat dogs. Shankarāchārya commanded the man: “Out of my way.” The Chaṇḍāla asked him what he was ordering to get out of his way. “Are you referring to the body,” he said, “which is anyway of itself inanimate and therefore cannot be inferior to yours, or are you referring to the soul, which being beyond caste cannot be lower than yours either.” Shankarāchārya was shocked and saluted the man for his profound knowledge. Then the Chaṇḍāla turned into the form of Lord Shiva with the four Vedas.

This is the principle of Jupiter. What it gives is for the greater good. This is important in Jyotisha, which is not to say that the practice should not sustain the practitioner. Rather the point is that the practice will always sustain the practitioner if one’s attitude is one of service. If we think we need to get something, or deserve to get something, then we are not yet ready for this knowledge. Equally those who take from a Jyotishi (Vedic Astrologer) without giving something of value in return, will get no real benefit from the advice.

Those trained in the Kerala style of astrology will look at the gift given to see the answer to the question. That is why it is said that one should never approach an astrologer empty handed. If you see an astrologer in person, think of what you can take to him apart from the money to be given. The best is something that will create a delighted mood even if it is something simple. Good people are delighted by the genuineness of the offering, not the cost. This activates the great benefic Jupiter.

Shani

ॐ शनैश्चराय नमः

om śanaiścarāya namaḥ

1. Salutations to the one who moves slowly.

Shani means slow and Chara means move so Shanaishchara is one who moves slowly. It takes Saturn about 30 years to traverse the whole zodiac. This name also indicates moving gently, quietly, gradually, mildly, softly, sluggishly and so forth. Saturn is the slowest moving visible planet and this characteristic is clearly of prime importance as it is mentioned first. Do not expect Saturn to give the results of his yogas (astrological combinations) quickly!

Gentleness and quietness are not the words that spring to the minds of most students of Jyotisha in regard to Saturn. They are, however, the natural characteristic of the swami, a word I am choosing to use for the awakened and surrendered ascetic. This is the highest value of life indicated by Saturn. A swami is one who, when moving or acting, never disturbs the natural law. As a Graha in the Vedic chart, Shani sets everything to act in accord with the natural law. A swami is not one who follows any set mode of life or wears any particular garb, but one who is established in the state of Being suggested or described by these names.

 

ॐ शान्ताय नमः

om śāntāya namaḥ

2. The peaceful, contented one.

Shānta is the nature of the swami and it is the influence of Shani that can make one a swami. An association between Saturn and the Moon is common in the charts of saints. In the beginning, this combination usually brings some unhappiness as Saturn restricts the Moon’s search for outer happiness. This motivates a search for the real source of joy.

My own experience may be of interest here. I have Saturn tightly aspecting my Moon. Misery set in from the beginning of Saturn’s Mahādashā (major planetary cycle of 19 years). During the sub-cycle of Venus, I was chronically depressed. I began to realize, in my own words, that the only way ‘out’ was ‘in’. I turned to prayer and that led to meditation. I abandoned all personal aims and devoted myself to the inner path as I understood it. Gradually the depression thinned and one day bliss started arising. Now I never experience depression and life has an underlying nectar despite the natural ups and downs of emotion.

From this, I know that life in sweetness, born of surrender to truth, is the other side of the coin from depression arising from the Saturn Moon connection. Once Saturn is satisfied, what remains is Shānta: peace, contentment, satisfaction, tranquility. Shānta can also indicate stilled, purified, even deceased. It is said that one has to die to the world in order to truly live. Here again, the character of the swami is indicated.

 

ॐ सर्वाभीष्टप्रदायिने नमः

om sarvābhīṣṭapradāyine namaḥ

3. The giver (Pradāyin) of all blessings (Sarvābhīṣṭa), everything one could desire.

See the greatness of Saturn. It is said that one who has no neediness or longing, one who is truly Shānta, can grant the fulfilment of any desire of another person who petitions him. There is a story of the great sage Vyāsa. A woman approached him desirous of having a child. He blessed her and then she easily conceived with her husband having failed for many years. Sometime later Vyāsa himself became desirous of having a son. It is said that he had to meditate for a hundred years before he was able to fulfil his desire. If one truly surrenders what one desires, then that object easily arises if needed, otherwise much trouble occurs in its fulfilment. As a general rule, the greater the attachment, the greater the trouble.

Very few pray to Saturn for fulfilment of desires, they turn to him to be free from misery. The misery is due to our holding on to what we really do not need. Saturn is gently trying to get us to let go. This resistance to our willfulness appears merciless but when we yield, he gives. He is said to be the greatest giver.

Rahu

ॐ राहवे नमः

om rāhave namaḥ

1. Salutations to the one who hides the Sun.

Rāhu and Ketu are the eclipse points, where the orbit of the Moon crosses the path of the Sun. Everything about them is rooted in humanity’s experience of these great phenomena. Awe and fear. Shock and surprise. This is the glory of the nodes of the Moon.

Hu hides Ra, the creative vibration. Ra is the giver, the one who bestows life. Hu is to eat but also to offer or present to the sacrificial fire, Ra. The life force is offered back to Agni, the fire of consciousness. This is how it appears hidden but is in fact deepening. This is why Jupiter’s planetary cycle (Dashā) follows Rāhu’s.

The mirage-chasing of Rāhu, where we seem to forget who we really are, truly serves as a sacrificial offering of our individual creativity. This is first magnified in Rāhu’s period, as the fire glows when ghee is offered into it. Then it appears to dissolve as it merges with the universal creativity or the essence of truth and becomes Jupiter’s divine wisdom. This is a great blessing rooted in Rāhu’s energy.

As we proceed through the mantras or names of Rāhu, we will see that some have obviously uplifting meanings while others appear quite dark. Like the name Rāhu itself, there are two sides of the same coin. Rāhu plays devil’s advocate but is also a critical component of creation and spiritual awakening. That is why fear, Rāhu’s most obvious signification, is a paper tiger. It is there to divert us from the path but it has no power to do so unless we take it at its face value.

When we come across a darker meaning, let us try to fathom its revelatory side. For example, Rāhu can be like a storm but storms blow away much that needs to go and after it passes, the air is fresh.

 

ॐ सैंहिकेयाय नमः

om saiṁhikeyāya namaḥ

2. The son of Simhikā.

Simhikā was a demonness. Rāhu is born from the semen of a great Brāhmin saint and the womb of a demon. Thus, he is both divine and demonic in his action.

Simhī means a lioness. The lion symbolizes rulership, which is the power that controls life and death. The Sanskrit word for lion or Leo is Simha. It is derived from the word Himsa, injury and violence, by a reversal that gives it the power to protects its pride (family and people).

The Goddess Durgā rides on a lion and is worshipped to control the negative effects of Rāhu. Leo is said to be where the Moon was placed when Rāhu was born making this his birth sign (Rāhu 68). In India, your birth sign or Janma Rāshi is the zodiacal sign in which the Moon is placed at birth. Similarly, the Janma Nakshatra is the star group in which the Moon was placed at birth.

The Janma Nakshatra can determine the name one is given, at least the first syllable, and is mentioned whenever one performs any special rites. One’s day-to-day destiny is based on this amongst other things. For example, certain stars counted from one’s birth star are considered auspicious while others are difficult. In Jyotisha, this theory is known as Tāra Bala or the strength due to the stars. This is discussed in depth in the Chapter on Secrets of the Vimshottari Dashā in the printed version of this book.

Leo is the place of the king. Rāhu is the great manipulator and represents the leading politicians like the cabinet of the king. Rāhu rules over brilliant strategies, scheming and all the abuses of power. Leo is also fourth (the house of the mother) from Taurus where Rāhu is at a high point as the accumulator and manipulator of wealth. Like all the Grahas, Rāhu has a sign in which its archetype shines brightest termed the place of exaltation. For many scholars, this is Taurus. Others say that it is powerful in Taurus but gives its peak effect for most worldly affairs in Gemini. Taurus is the place of wealth, while Gemini is the place of academic debate. Rāhu love debates as he always has a counter argument.

 The other two angles or Kendras from Taurus and Leo are the signs Scorpio and Aquarius which are the signs owned by Ketu and Rāhu respectively. These four are the fixed signs and all are intimately associated with the nodes and their powers. In the ancient text, the Jaimini Upadesha Sūtras, the fixed signs are shown to behave in a reverse way from the other signs in certain circumstances, just as the nodes are retrograde in their motion. For example, Taurus is an even sign but acts like an odd sign in matters of Dharma.

Ketu

ॐ केतवे नमः

 om ketave namaḥ

 1. Salutations to the ray of light.

 Ketu is one of the eclipse points where the Sun, Moon, and Earth align. It is the South node of the Moon. This is the point where the Moon crosses the ecliptic and starts to move to the South of the path of the Sun. It is interesting that the South node is associated with liberation and the North node, Rāhu, is associated with illusion.

Looking up at the sky, if we see two planets close together it is natural to make the inference that the planet higher in the sky, closer to the pole, is somehow dominating the one below it. In the Northern hemisphere, this means, the planet that is more to the North. This is why, in Vedic Astrology, the planet to the North is usually considered the winner in ‘planetary war’, a phenomenon when two planets come within one zodiacal degree of each other. In simple terms, two planets that are very close together compete and the one to the North wins, unless the lower one is exceptionally bright (like Venus).

 The Sun represents the soul or consciousness. The Moon represents the mind. When the Moon starts to rise above the Sun’s path, then it is as if the mind is gaining ground over the soul. The Sun represents our true knowing, which is a function of something more fundamental than the mind. The Vedas say that the mind arises out of the heart. Feelings arise out of the heart. Mind and feelings are both represented by the Moon. The Sun represents the heart. When the Moon moves to the North, we move out of our knowing into our needs and wants, hence the uprising of illusion that Rāhu represents.

 When the Moon moves to the South, it is as if the inner knowing is gaining ground over the worldly tendencies. There is more core honesty. We can enjoy many things but fundamentally we know that we do not need them. This realization is a part of liberation and this is indicated by Ketu. Ketu is the significator of enlightenment. This astronomical explanation is my way of remembering the roles of Rāhu and Ketu. It does not mean liberation is reversed in the Southern hemisphere.

 Ketu is an eclipse point but it is not about darkness even though it may look like a black hole. A black hole is something into which one falls and, at a certain point, passes beyond any chance of return. Scientists used to think that black holes were black, but then Stephen Hawkings (author of A Brief History of Time) showed that they actually glow. In the universe we find some extraordinary phenomena – light shows on the grandest possible scale – arise due to black holes.

 The picture below is of a jet streaming out from the vicinity of a black hole in the centre of a galaxy. The jet is many times bigger than any galaxy and is pure Ketu (photo from the Hubble Space Telescope, courtesy of ESA/NASA).

 

The Brahma Sūtras, the great Vedāntic text, end with a short aphorism that is repeated twice, ‘anāvṛttiḥ śabdādanāvṛttiḥ śabdāt’. It means that ‘from here there is no return, this is the teaching’. The Brahma Sūtras describe the stages of final enlightenment – the various states or experiences along the way. Only when one passes beyond that point of no return, is one truly out of the field of relativity just like a particle crossing the event horizon of a black hole. Beyond that, ordinary Physics breaks down. It is utterly beyond our comprehension.

It is interesting that we are now discovering black holes all over the place, more than a hundred within our own galaxy. There is an enormous one at the centre of our own galaxy (in early Sagittarius), but many others are scattered here and there. Even a smaller one is heading our way though it is not expected to swallow the Earth. I grew up with the real possibility of a black hole being only a theoretical idea. Now we find that we are living in close proximity to a whole family of them.