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Five W’s and an H

The who, what, where, when, why, and how of this site

At Home in the Universe

I’m Stephen Russell, Vedic Astrologer and student of Dr. David Frawley, available to assist you with a range of services based on the ancient practice of Jyotisha Vedanga or Vedic Astrology.

Jyotish originated more than 5000 years ago on the foothills of the Himalayas in northwest India. There, on the banks of the Saraswati River, rose a civilization that would transmit to the world Jyotish, Yoga, Ayurveda, Vastu, and other Vedic Sciences. From the earliest iterations of the ancient Rishis to the present day, the practice of reading the energetic movement of matter and the concurrent events, possibilities, and challenges represented by the patterns formed has benefited countless generations of seekers toward expanded consciousness and transcendent wisdom.

I first became aware of Jyotish — sometimes called Vedic Astrology — in 2017 when my wife gifted me with a birthday reading from a Jyotishi. The information proved unexpectedly helpful as I faced significant changes and challenges in my physical, mental, emotional, financial, and spiritual state. Seeing the benefits almost at once, I undertook to learn how to read the patterns and movement in my Vedic Chart for myself. Eventually, I met others who had an interest in personal improvement and were willing to learn and grow with me. Some are students, some practitioners, the majority are simply people interested in getting the most out of themselves and the time of their lives.

I began studying Dr. David Frawley’s Ayurvedic Astrology course through the American Institute of Vedic Studies in early 2018 and received my certificate of successful completion in July 2020. I retired from a long career in management in September 2018 and now spend my time learning and consulting as a Vedic Astrologer, teaching an online literature course, and continuing to explore the connections between living energy and matter. I believe my goal is the same as that of the universe, to move and grow toward a state of balance, unity, expanded consciousness, and ultimate freedom. For individuals seeking to make sense of this many-faceted cosmos wherein all life is found, Jyotisha Vedanga, the science of light, exists as an extraordinary helpmate.

This site operates as a point of contact for those seeking to better understand their own lives, their place in space and time, and the opportunities, benefits, challenges, and lessons of experience and awareness from this lifetime and beyond. Here are links to the paid services I offer, access to free information about Jyotish via this blog, and soon to come a library of both free and paid resources for those interested in becoming Jyotish practitioners both for themselves and others.

Like most wisdom, the learning never ends in the Vedic Sciences. The discoveries of the past fifty centuries are really just restatements of the source and substance of creation, growth, depletion, and renewal. Availing ourselves of this wisdom allows us to do our part in the endless cycle of life as we seek freedom through understanding and aligning with the twin forces of karma and dharma.

You are welcome here. Thank you for visiting.

Special Post—the Death of a Queen

Special Post—the Death of a Queen

Maraka planets (death-causing) align in potentially fatal ways hundreds of times over the course of a lifetime of 33,000 days. But in the hundreds of posthumous charts I have studied, people pass on only when Maraka influence dominates the chart.

Queen Elizabeth II returned to her ancestors today under some of the strongest Maraka influences I have observed.

The Maraka planets are the rulers of the 2nd and 7th houses, planets placed in those houses at birth, and the rulers and planets of houses of length of life, the 3rd and 8th.

In The Queen’s chart these are as follows:

2nd ruler — Saturn

7th ruler — Mercury

3rd ruler — Saturn

8th ruler — Moon

Planets in 2nd — Mars, Jupiter

Planets in 3rd — Venus

Planets in 7th — Rahu

Planets in 8th — Moon

These planets activate by transit (passing through a house), Dasha/Bhukti (the 120 year Vimshottari cycle of activity), and some aspects (places of influence in relation to other planets.

At her death:

-a strong, retrograde Saturn in transit over her 2nd house with a full aspect on the 8th and the natal moon

-the Moon is conjunct Saturn in the second house with the same full aspect

-Jupiter is the strongest Dasha planet at this time and is in the sign of transition (Pisces), conjunct natal Mercury and in mutual aspect with present-day Mercury in Virgo (sign of health and the one of earth in transition)

-Jupiter also aspects natal Moon in the 8th and natal Saturn in the 12th house of grief and loss

-Dasha/Bhukti activity in descending order and duration is symmetrical and all Maraka planets (Jupiter, Rahu, Mercury, Rahu, Jupiter)

-Venus is in transit and combust (overwhelmed) by the Sun in the 9th house letting spirit/consciousness ascend from the material to the energetic realm.

It’s an overwhelming number, but also one dominated by the great benefic Jupiter and invoking the planet of comfort Venus.

I don’t believe Maraka planets can or should be used to predict time of death as they form potentially fatal patterns several times each year. Usually our own actions keep us safe. However, seeing them in retrospect helps me to take comfort in the overall justice of karmic cause and effect and the importance of consciously striving to act with kindness for the betterment of all living things,

Rest In Peace, Queen Elizabeth.

When Purpose Creates Goals — Part Two

AdobeStock

This is the second post in a series. Reviewing the key takeaways from Part One:

Our culture touts goals as an important path to success.

Goals are inherently time bound, they have a deadline.

Achievement of a goal detached from Purpose is the source of much dissatisfaction in modern societies.

Once a goal is achieved a new goal must be sought.

A Purpose connects us to a cause greater than ourselves.

Purpose is large enough to break the bonds of time.

Purpose relates to the highest and best use of our talents and abilities in the service of others.

Purpose is an expression of Dharma, the eternal and immutable laws that sustain Creation and allow for the advancement of Consciousness.

By way of example, the desire to become a neurosurgeon in order to make a lot of money is a goal. But for a talented and ambitious individual, pursuing such a career for the lifestyle alone, without some higher purpose, ultimately can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion, professional burnout, and at some point an existential questioning of whether the grueling years of study, internship, and practice, the toll on family life, the competition for prestige and promotion,etc. are really giving satisfaction and fulfillment. Country club memberships, travel, fancy cars, lavish homes, and other trappings of “success” come to feel empty for a variety of reasons. “Is this all there is?” becomes the plea of a spirit drained of life.

Contrast this with a young person who witnesses the suffering of a near and dear one due to traumatic brain injury and resolves to find a way to help others suffering through similar experiences. This is the beginning of a purpose, and goals related to it soon emerge as a series of steps that develop skills to bring that drive to fruition. Knowing that traumatic brain injury will likely always be part of society means endless opportunities to pursue the purpose.

This person rolls out of bed propelled by a desire to serve others and every successful step along the way represents an accomplishment, a goal, that immediately reveals the next step. Get an undergraduate degree, be accepted into a medical school, post-grad work in the specialty of neurosurgery, internship, a position at a hospital, serving patients, training younger doctors, perhaps developing new and better procedures, all arise naturally from the purpose of easing the suffering of others.

The same could be said for the child of a broken home who goes into family law to help future generations of children and their parents through the pain and drama of divorce. Or the auto mechanic who had an opportunity at a young age to learn the satisfaction of having a mechanically sound vehicle and all the freedom it could afford it’s owner. Or the student interested in history who during a college year overseas sees the suffering of people in autocratically ruled nations and enters the political arena afterwards to preserve and expand freedom in their homeland.

The only rules for finding your Purpose are that it makes use of your greatest talents and abilities, it is something that fills you with passion and enthusiasm because it involves activities you love participating in, and it serves some need greater than your own. So, how do you find it, assuming you don’t know what it is?

First, make a list, preferably on index cards or separate pages of a small notebook, of your talents, abilities, skills, and capabilities. No need for modesty here. No one but you will see this list so really brag on yourself. Try to get 50-100 items. If you have trouble thinking of that many ask a trusted friend or other acquaintance to help you without telling them why. Say you’re working on saving the world by bettering yourself and want to list what you have to bring to the table.

Next, make a similar list of activities you enjoy. Think about the kind of things you would cause you to gladly get up early, stay up late, and keep doing nearly all the time if you had the means. Again, try to list 50-100 of these.

Once your lists are complete spend time with them everyday really thinking about them. Your goal is to imagine each item on the first list as a permanent part of your life connected in some manner to the things on the second list in order to find 3-5 items on each list that you can embrace for as long as you live. This will take some time and effort, perhaps three to six weeks of daily work with ongoing adjustments for several months.

When you get the lists pared down, think about how doing what you are best at in conjunction with what you most love could serve some higher cause.

Maybe you are excellent at understanding new technology, sketching designs of futuristic inventions, and building Lego models – the more complex the better. Perhaps you love playing video games, cosplay, and creating YouTube videos. What sort of Purpose might emerge from these combinations? Architect, teacher, inventor, documentary filmmaker, futurist are all possible sources of purpose from this list.

Try this one: You are excellent at expressing your emotions and feeling those of others, you have the patience to sit with a distressed friend for hours, you have a way with domestic animals. Your favorite activities include socializing with and meeting new people, outdoor hiking and cycling, and singing karaoke on the weekends. What might be a higher calling that incorporates these items. Service animal trainer or provider is one possibility.

If you found it difficult to craft a purpose from the above lists don’t be surprised or disappointed. The lists aren’t your own. Only by doing your work, finding your talents, and expressing your favorite activities will you stoke the fire of your own ambition. But once you do, and your Purpose is revealed by it, you’re on your way to a life of fulfillment and the creation of a legacy of achievement that will endure long after your body passes from this world.

In the next installment, I’ll show you how Vedic Astrology can reveal Dharma and Purpose for a person, organization, and nation. Until then, have fun working on your lists and finding your pathway to self-fulfilling consciousness growth.

When Purpose Creates Goals —Part One

– depositphotos.com

In my practice I frequently ask clients if they have a defined purpose for their life. It’s an important question to answer fully for yourself, but one that is contrary to what our culture often teaches.

Our culture teaches Goals. If you don’t have goals you are often judged as lacking ambition, or worse. And not just any goals will do. Culture wants “SMART Goals”: Specific Measurable Actionable Realistic Timely goals. That’s the stuff of success, of achievement, and it’s expected that we all have success and achievement on Culture’s terms.

Two difficulties immediately arise from this:

First, pulling goals out of the ether over and over takes either a lot of imagination or a willingness to surrender much of your agency, will and freedom to others (boss, family, church, corporate, the media).

This can seem fun and fulfilling for a time, sometimes. We do enjoy pursuing common ends as a group, or most of us do. But ultimately when someone or something outside of you takes over your choices it eventually grows tiresome, inauthentic, and increasingly distanced from who you really are.

The second problem with goals formed this way is the T in SMART. Time bound means when the goal ends, you’re back at zero, searching for or waiting for the next goal to be delivered. And if you are ambitious, the next goal has to be bigger, hairier, and more audacious than the previous one.

This might work for awhile, but eventually either our imagination or energy is exhausted and the existential crisis sets in. This is the scourge of the worker in post-modern society. Feeling exploited, exhausted, and increasingly less authentic, less valuable, and less alive.

The solution might be a simple as finding your purpose. In the yogic philosophy, it is the equivalent of discovering your Dharma—the highest and best expression of your talents and preferred activities and aligning your life with them for the betterment of a cause greater than yourself.

To paraphrase C. G. Jung, knowing who you are makes deciding what to do easy. Why? Because a purpose is not bound by time, being inherently expansive enough to sustain a lifetime of effort. Einstein’s pursuit of a unified field theory inspired him and generations of followers. C.G. Jung’s decision to abandon medicine in pursuit of the deeper wisdom of the Self and its integration produced a new way of living for millions and infused nearly every field of human inquiry with wisdom.

Princess Diana, Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa, Georgia O’Keefe, Gloria Steinem, Amelia Earhart, and Toni Morrison all strayed from culture’s defined path, found their higher purpose, and raised the bar of consciousness of human potential for generations.

When you know your purpose, your dharma, your goals evolve organically from it. You know what to do next. You leave ground zero behind forever.

The practices of meditation, yoga, Ayurvedic nutrition and health, and having a detailed Vedic astrology reading along with actively applying a process I will share in my next post are tools to help anyone find a deeper meaning, more connected way of living, and the means to fulfillment that both expands and transcends the treadmill of culturally defined goals.

Check back soon for Part 2.

Loss as Lessons for Growing Consciousness

Colored Pencil with Digital Mirroring by Stephen Russell, 2022, All Rights Reserved

Of all the houses in the birth chart, the 6th, 8th, and 12th seem to cause more anxiety and negative fantasization than any others. Among the many activities seen in these Dushthana or difficult houses are ones that nearly everyone has some form of trauma, anxiety, or fear association with including non-believers in metaphysical practices.

The 6th house is the house of health and healing, service to others, and pets. Not so menacing, right? However, it is also the house of losses due to accident, illness, injury, and the actions of other people — sometimes called the house of enemies. Here we also find the employer/employee relationship, particularly the bad actors that occasionally misappropriate value from the owner of a business, that is to say the dishonest employee.

The 6th house is also an Upchaya house, one that strengthens in the second half of life,. It provides an opportunity for the native to gain experience in dealing with both its difficulties and benefits on a smaller, less intense scale before the full force of the house’s power is unleashed.

I have a long history with my own 6th house owing to its being located in Saturn-ruled Capricorn — the judge of karma oversees this sign of deepest learning and gives difficulty, delay, and sometimes pain or loss related to the house, not to punish, but to insure I am working toward a higher purpose. In mutual aspect with Cancer in my 12th house of general loss, transformation, and transcendence, Capricorn aspects a debilitated Mars in planetary war with Venus, and the Moon all in the 12th house.

For a chart such as mine, with a Leo Ascendant, Mars is a Raja Yoga Karaka via rulership of the 4th house and 9th house. This is generally a highly auspicious planet for Leo, but debilitated in Cancer and faced with a fierce Venus conjunct the Moon, well, let’s just say that all three planets, during their major Dasha periods, taught me some difficult lessons: two separate cancers, an auto-immune disorder, painful divorce, and for a time, the abandonment of my spiritual path as it seemed to be creating nothing but problems.

I’m sharing this to make a point, that losses, difficulties, illness, and pain do not have to be harbingers of doom. In fact, I’ve come to believe that when we don’t shy away from the lessons afforded by such events, the word loss isn’t really appropriate. Losses are almost exclusively temporary conditions, assessed by their impact in the moment.

It is our abilty to choose an appropriate response that ultimately determines the effect over time of these events. Responsibility is the ABILITY to RESPOND. Certainly some of these events have the capacity to work permanent changes on our physical bodies and minds, to alter relationships forever, and to in a simple listing of before and after, to appear to have diminished the material substance of our lives. However, long experience with not only my chart but that of many others, both well known and unknown, quickly shows that loss, pain, delay, and the negative words we use to describe these events are really talking about a temporal condition, like reading the time on a clock.

Close study of the astrological chart and associated reports in 100% of the cases I’ve examined, shows that these so-called awful events and experiences were in fact the key to unlocking a door to learning and growth that took the diligent student toward ultimate freedom, called moksha in the Vedic texts, by leaps and bounds compared to those who didn’t embrace the opportunity to learn and grow.

All great rewards have a counterbalancing force, but avoiding the lesson or denying the possibility of there being a better life available because of losses can swiftly send us down the karmic slope to the past, where the pain of having to repeat the lessons is often far greater than simply learning from present experience.

Failure to respond in a way that releases the energy of loss leads to it becoming trapped in our bodies, minds, and nervous system. But energy, like lightning, will find its way to ground. Repressing feelings, shortcuts and avoidance of healthy grieving will eventually lead to the energetic loss finding its own pathway out into the world, usually as anger or chronic illness, often at the worst time and always inappropriate for our best interest.

Cultivation of creative, positive outlets for grief that acknowledge the feelings but don’t seek to avenge or tear down any part of life allow the energy to release back into the world, returning us to a balanced state and giving us the freedom to eventually let go of the past without blame or shame, finding a whole world of possibilities right where we left it before the loss interrupted our flow toward fulfillment.

Among the myriad possibilities for response, two stand in my experience as particular effective: the creative arts, especially when we go at them playfully with no agenda, and getting interested in helping others disempowered by loss to find their way back toward life.

It’s all a process, like the turning of the heavens, the burning of a fire, and the growth of a plant from seed to fruit. Nothing can rush these natural phenomena; they take as long as they take. But refusal to walk the path is to fall down the spiral that transforms pain into suffering.

To recap the process: LOSS—>ACCEPTANCE —> GRIEF —> EXPRESSION WITHOUT DOING MORE HARM —> RELEASE OR DETACHMENT —> FREEDOM is how every pain and suffering we encounter is designed to unfold.

When we sow the process in our lives we end up enriched even by the most extreme forms of loss.

The art that appears with this post was my grief response to being sick and alone with COVID 19 this past week. I needed to see that reality remained even in the shadow of the disease. Using the fingerprint of my Sun finger (the dominant hand ring finger), and acknowledgement of the Sun as the light of life and truth, led to this topographic representation of a decorative piece for my chest and shoulders.

I’ll be well soon. And carry the light of this design with me always.

SCOTUS ruling and Moon in Bharani, June 24, 2022

Vashishta (Unknown Artist-Public Domain)

Today the Supreme Court overturned the 50-year-old Roe vs. Wade ruling that established abortion as a constitutional right in the United States. For many this represents an intolerable loss of basic freedom. For others it opens the door to state legislatures acting as despots ruling over more than half their constituencies under the thin guise of morality that is increasingly a blatant symbol of hypocrisy.

That those who have supported a woman’s right to choose and significantly society’s obligation to protect that right through allowing medical professionals to act are outraged is both understandable and necessary. The ruling represents a sudden and significant loss of freedom as dramatic as being stripped of a limb or a critical sensory organ, such as ears, eyes, or tongue.

Terrible and sudden losses mark the starting point of grief cycles that can last for a long period of time. Grief brings about the classic phases of denial, anger, bargaining and depression before the new reality is accepted. But some new realities resist acceptance well past the memory and lives of those who precipitated the loss event. Their advent is often characterized as intolerable. Like today’s ruling for many.

Grief is necessary. Pouring out the frustration, anger, and tears, looking for any means to regain that which has been lost, withdrawing into sadness and asserting anger are both normal and important options so that the pressure of pent up emotions, especially fear and sadness in combination with anger, finds release. Otherwise, that energy gets stuck in the body, the mind, the heart, choking off the very breath of life.

How long this phase of grief as a step in the lessons of loss lasts is different for every person. What is widely known is you don’t just get over it, no amount of external force can end it, and repressing it only causes it to burn hotter and more painfully at the places it lodges.

The SCOTUS ruling opens up a gaping wound that has been festering and spreading beneath the surface of American life for decades. It is a wound of race, gender, class, religion, educational opportunity, access to services, child care, wages, and inequities that continue to concentrate more power and wealth in the hands of fewer people. It is a gangrenous infection that is rotting liberties from the inside. It is killing the higher aspirations of a once united people toward a kinder, more balanced and serene life. Generations yet unborn will live in the wake of this action and may inherit a world where freedom is as scarce as bipartisan bills of substance in our various legislative bodies.

This is an astrology blog, not a political forum, and the SCOTUS ruling comes under the Lunar Sign of Bharani in the solar sign of Aries as the Waning Moon enters its darkest part of the monthly cycle. Motherhood, empathy, emotional intelligence, nurturing, self-sacrifice, and calm stability are always diminished on a global scale at this time of the lunar month.

When the Moon wanes in Bharani, the Nakshatra’s qualities and energies demand our focus.

Bharani’s symbol is one of feminine fertility in the form of a Yoni or Vulva. It’s Shakti (power) is to take things away but also the ability to cleanse and remove impurities. This power is activated by showing restraint, keeping emotions from overruling reason in order to move into the new world, a world created by rapid change, with a clear head.

Ruled by the planet Venus, Bharani values high standards, self-made rules, boundaries, the wisdom to not repeat errors, authenticity and consistency in thought, word, and action. By combining unconditional love with beauty that goes to the core of any object or idea, the Moon finds truth in Venus’s discernment.

Bharani marks endings and logically the new beginning that comes after. The sign welcomes taking action on matters you have put off, especially those that serve a common good. Acts involving fire, self-discipline, and serve the interests of women and children are favored under this Nakshatra. But all needs to be done from a place of control. Outrage and anger are best channeled into the grief process. Actions that involve gathering resources for the next phase, the establishment of new definitions of freedom and protection for them will do more good than riots and destructive demonstrations. The former May increase freedom in the future. The latter curb it further in the present.

The SCOTUS ruling doesn’t ban abortion. It leaves it to the states to decide. And therein is the lighted path toward finding a unified solution. Any determined group can much effect change at the local and state level far sooner than nationally. SCOTUS is involved in this issue because individual states enacted laws that many in those states opposed. Yet those same states re-elect the same oppressive legislators, governors, and representatives over and over. More importantly, large numbers of people most affected by the laws and rulings don’t vote.

The losses we endure require time to properly grieve. But eventually we must make a choice. On the one hand we can chain ourselves to the grief cycle and allow it to paralyze us for the rest of our lives as victims continually reliving the horror of loss long past the time it happened. Or we can grieve, cry, shout, and let our voices gain strength from expressing the pain into the world, and when we are cried out, we can see the reality of both the loss and of what remains. And we then see that the future is full of possibilities for transcendence and transformation and the creation of new definitions of freedom. On our terms. That are inclusive. That help others. That educate. That divide the labor of creation among all people. It may take a long time to get to forgiveness. But the claiming of the freedom that comes from accepting the reality of loss and finding healthy outlets for grief begins as soon as we decide to claim it.

Bharani is associated with the Vedic Rishi Vashishta. This immortal teacher is revered in mythology for, among other things, having been thrice killed and being subsequently recreated by Brahma, the supreme creator, each time in order to continue teaching the world the lessons of reconciliation. Like Vashishta, freedom is a condition constantly being killed and reborn, and thriving only when it transcends grief and reconciles in union with the society of its birth.

Saturn, the Great Malefic (a misnomer) Part 5

Saturn backlit by Sunlight

Surya’s chariot parked in close conjunction to Shani’s orbit and the Sun looked at the ringed one. Shani’s rings glistened, capturing the Sun’s light and cutting a sharp edge of shadow and substance around the cloud-banded bulk of the planet’s body.

“Welcome, father,” Saturn said, fixing his eyes on the distant darkness beyond his parent’s imposing mass. “Before you say anything, please be at ease. I’ve learned to control my gaze and will never again use my power to utterly destroy.”

The Sun nodded.

“What will you do then, my son? With so much potential you might even take my throne one day.”

“I’ve no such ambitions. I rather like being here at the edge of your realm, watching the procession of life in its journey to know its Divine Nature. Leave me here and we will remain at peace.”

“And what have you seen so far, Saturn?”

“Everything, father. From the dawn of creation of everything to the tiniest expressions of life in the wink of an eye. The cycle of birth and growth, decline and death, decay and rebirth. It’s truly grand…but…”

The Sun, filled to near capacity with pride in Shani’s maturing now saw that his banished child was troubled.

“What is it, son? Why are you sad?”

“It’s such a struggle for so many. Karma, I know, is necessary to maintain balance and allow for growth, but the threads are so tangled and the timescale so long that not one of the life forms I have watched is capable of understanding it. So they keep making the same errors over and over: acts of selfishness for personal gain, harming one another without remorse, blinded by the desires arising from interactions with matter so that there is general ignorance of both the temporal nature of matter and the eternal nature of energy. Worst of all, a failure to recognize the interconnection of everything into a conscious whole, so that even tiny actions directed outward by individual ego harms the true self to which everything belongs. I have been guilty of all of these offenses, too. But I am no longer ignorant of the problem. I want to help.”

The Sun took a moment to lock eyes with his son as Shani stayed motionless, holding back as much of the force of his gaze as possible. A few spots arise on the Sun’s surface and both averted their eyes.

“My dear child, your heart is so good,” Surya said. “I’ve come here because both of your mothers, she who is my wife and her shadow who carried and bore you, are in agreement with a plan I have.”

And the Sun explained all to his son who readily agreed.

So Saturn become the ruler of time, to keep life aware of its fleeting nature and to see the value of every moment.

Aware of all of karma’s tendrils, Saturn used his modified powers to teach all living things to aspire to be kind to all of creation, to never intentionally harm another, to make amends whenever accidental hurt was inflicted, to give selflessly to any in need, and to persevere in all of these actions through the difficulties, obstacles, delays, and pain Saturn placed in the path of all true seekers that they might prove the truth if their learning through lifetimes.

Through this they proved their sincerity and depth of desire, height of aspiration, and commitment to universal knowledge and truth of the interconnectedness of every living being.

And when Saturn’s gaze fell on malefactors, it was always tempered to get the offender’s attention without utterly destroying anyone. To those who took heed of these pokes and pricks, learned the lessons and corrected course, infinite second chances were given.

The Sun and Saturn remained at a safe distance and occasionally disagreed on the right course of action from time to time. That is the nature of all living things, even great beings such as Surya and Shani. But they serve their purpose well for each of us. Day by day, under the light of the Sun and tutelage of Saturn, we advance, and by sharing with others of our abundance and learning we help all of life to advance.

And as for Hanuman, he who helped young Shani gain control over his gaze and restored his burnt body to health and ringed splendor, the Cosmic Monkey thrives on the homage of his followers and the gifts brought to him on Saturdays.

Hanuman and Saturn remain fast friends to this day and wise persons always think of them both when receiving benefit or instruction from either.

Saturn, the Great Malefic, Part 4

Hanuman and Saturn

Shani, son of the Sun aka Surya, owing to the deceitful circumstances of his birth, was born crippled. In constant pain, barely able to move, unloved, unwanted, and banished, the young Deva was also a eunuch. He had every reason to be filled with rage, to wreak havoc on all, but truthfully was too pure, having been literally burned by the light of truth, to have any malefic intent.

As to his lethal gaze, the one that had marred his father’s golden complexion and burned the head off Ganesha, that wasn’t anything he asked for. Others looked at him and he saw it as an invitation to look back. If anything, he found his destructive gaze the greatest of all the many curses he bore. What good was it to be immortal, to be the son of the light of life and truth, to orbit that glowing wonder of creation and sustenance if he could not look upon any of it?

Moving slowly at the dark and freezing edge of visibility, young Saturn pondered. After a time he came to a remarkable conclusion: reality was what it was, and every being was a necessary addition to the whole of experience. The light of life and truth, to be that all-inclusive center, must shine on all extremes and everything in between. Young Shani was necessary and so resolved to play his part fully, just as soon as he figured out how.

About this time, the demon Ravana, he of the hundred heads passed near the orbit of Saturn. One of the monstrous heads glanced at Shani a moment too long and was incinerated when Saturn looked back. Furious at this offense to his physical form, Ravana immediately captured Saturn and locked him in a black dungeon far away from the solar system. As Saturn grew the dungeon became more and more confining, its black and lifeless walls pressed in from all sides. “Is this my purpose?” Shani wondered, “To be crushed within a cell too small to contain me? Is this really truth?”

But fate had greater plans for Saturn. The Sacred Monkey, Hanuman, the son of Vayu, the wind, had recently seen his own fortunes turned because of his curiosity. He had watched the rising Sun one fine morning and not yet fully awake but very hungry, he mistook it for a ripe fruit. With divine strength he leapt upwards toward the glowing orb, thinking to seize and eat it. Lord Indra, seeing the sleepy monkey leap, shouted a warning but before it reached Hanuman the Sun’s heat had completely incinerated him.

Taking compassion on the foolish Hanuman, Indra called For Vayu who created a cosmic whirlwind to gather the scattered ashes of his son. Painstakingly, he and Indra reformed the monkey, stretching the ash molecules to their limit and filling the gaps with wind and divine power from Indra’s thunderbolts.

The reconstructed Hanuman was reborn better, stronger, and with both more abilities and more intelligence than neatly any other being. Specifically he had the power to leap across continents and could change his size at will from the tiniest ant to as large as the whole cosmos.

It was from his giant perspective that he viewed the plight of young Shani, trapped and suffering in the cell where Ravana had imprisoned him. “I can help you,” he offered.

Shani looked at the talking-monkey who had drifted through the bars and sat on the cell’s window sill. Despite his misery, young Shani was amused. Perhaps this monkey was like many if his kind, enjoying a good joke. Shani, accepting reality, decided to go along. “If that is true, and you free me from this cell, I will share my day with you. Saturday shall be a day for all to pay tribute to you. They will bring coconut, sweets, jasmine oil and flowers to the temple where they worship. They will also feed your fellow monkeys and sing mantras to praise you.”

“Deal!” Hanuman said, and without moving he expanded to enormous size, shattering the window frame and the rest of the cell and scattering its pieces so many directions Ravana would never be able to rebuild it.

Surprised but grateful, Saturn averted his gaze. “No need for that,” Hanuman said. “After your father burned me to ash, Vayu and Indra recreated me in a body impervious to all fiery powers.”

Saturn slowly and with much encouragement gazed at his new friend. Not a single hair was singed no matter how long Shani’s eyes rested upon Hanuman.

“See? Nothing!” the delighted monkey chittered. “But, if you’re going to hang around anyone else, you’ll have to learn to control that gaze of yours.”

“Can you help with that?” Saturn asked.

“No, but my father can.” And so Hanuman brought Vayu, who was so pleased with Saturn’s offer to share his glory with Hanuman, that he gave Saturn the unlimited use of wind power to cool and dry.

“To look upon others, first send your wind,” Vayu said. “Keep it between you and those you look upon at all times. Then they will be safe.”

“How can I repay you both for this gift, for my very life?” Saturn asked.

Hanuman, who had been keeping a sharp eye on the Sun since rescuing Shani, fearful that Surya might harbor resentment at Hanuman’s attempt to eat him, climbed up on Saturn’s broad shoulders and said, “Your father is coming. He fears you, but he is coming. When you figure out what he wants, use your gifts to help others. It will perhaps earn us both some favor from him.”

Next post: Father and Son make a truce.

Saturn, the Great Malefic, Part 3

Having banished the infant Shani (Saturn) to the furthest visible orbit of all the planets, Surya (the Sun) pondered the problem of recovering his wife, Sanhya, who had left him because of his treatment of the child.

“I can’t simply bring him back. I’d appear weak, losing my authority, my gravity, my light itself faltering. Besides,” he muttered, looking at his once pristine reflection now marred by dark spots, “That gaze of his is dangerous.”

Reports had reached Surya that on the way to banishment, Saturn had reportedly crossed paths with Ganesha, a Deva who brought nothing but good fortune to all. When he met Saturn’s gaze the gentle Ganesha’s head had burned completely away. Only the intervention of Vishnu, who had replaced the missing head with that of a bull elephant had saved Ganesha’s life.

“Dangerous” was Surya’s response. But he still wanted his wife back. He couldn’t imagine spending all of time without her. “Time” he thought. “That’s it!”

Not long after, as Sanhya, Surya’s wife, still in the form of a divine mare grazed in her father’s sweet grass pasture, she heard thunderous hooves approaching. Surya had come as a magnificent blazing stallion to reclaim his bride.

“I’ve solved it,” he shouted as he approached. “The baby, Shani, I’ve made it right.”

Not looking up, Sanhya continued to graze, but Surya saw the tiniest flicker of her ears. She was listening.

“So I put him in the most distant and stable orbit of all the visible planets. I’ve given him a belt of many rings, not unlike Shiva’s discus, to protect him and warn his enemies to stay away.

“Because his orbit is slow, stable, and distant, he is now the official keeper of time in my Solar System. All must pay homage to him if they are to accept the reality of the world, which is that nothing is permanent. Time is the most valuable substance any conscious entity has, and wasting it, not keeping commitments made around it, puts all at risk of bringing suffering to themselves and others.”

Sanhya glanced at her husband and said sarcastically, “Well, that ought to make him popular.”

Surya, encouraged that she was listening (and ever-optimistic) pressed on.

“But there’s more! From his distant, slow vantage point, he will be able to see how every living creature uses its time. The cause and effect realm of karmic action and its results will be under his watchful eye. And so, I’ve made him the judge of the karmic ledgers of debts and credits. As each soul leaves the body of one life behind, Shani will determine if their karmic lessons have been learned or if they must revisit some before advancing to their next level of consciousness.”

Sanhya frowned. “Meaning what?”

“Meaning if an entity lives a particularly good life they might return as a Sadhu, Saint, Sage or other higher being. If they harmed others and/or lived selfishly then they will return to a lower level of being in order to repeat lessons they obviously haven’t integrated into their behavior and being.”

Sanhya snorted, “Are you serious? Who could ever love a planet with such powers?”

Surya moved closer. “You do understand I’m giving him full authority in this? He’s already powerful enough to scare me, and I’m not easily frightened.”

Sanhya said, “He’ll need to learn to control his power.”

The Sun agreed. “I’ll get Hanuman involved. He was once an out of control Devi too. Shani will use his abilities to create delays, obstacles, and obstructions for those headed toward selfishness and harming others. He’ll do this not to punish, but to draw attention to the actions of those affected. By his own example in curbing his power, power gained through the pain of his conception and birth, he’ll lead each being toward a better way of living, loving, and learning. Tough but fair, he’ll only increase the difficulties as needed to draw attention to inappropriate actions.”

It was Sanhya’s turn to consider. Was this enough? Did Surya mean what he said? And would Shani agree? After all, with the power to hurt even the Sun, young Saturn had no incentive other than his own moral sense. Sanhya wondered, would Surya’s plan work and allow her to return to him?

Next installment: Hanuman helps seal the deal.

Saturn, the Great Malefic, Part 2

The Circumstances of Saturn’s Birth

Saturn (Shani in Vedic Sanskrit) is the 5th child of the Sun (Surya). Surya’s wife Sanhya bore him three children (Manu, Yama, and Yani). She loved her husband and did her best to please him, however, his scorching heat had exhausted her over the centuries and she realized she needed a break. Sanhya knew Shani desired her to always be near him and would suffer if she left, so she resolved to take a pilgrimage to her father’s house only after finding a means to fool her husband.

Sanhya created an exact copy of herself from her shadow and named it Chaya. She instructed Chaya she should pose as Sanhya while Sanhya was visiting her father. Chaya was able to fool Surya and also bore him three children (Manu, Shani, and Tapti). During Shani’s conception Chaya became so involved in pleasuring Surya that she lingered too long in his presence. As a shadow form of Sanhya, she didn’t have enough substance to protect the newly formed fetus from Surya’s immense heat for long periods of time. Lost in love-making, she lingered with dire consequences.

When Shani was born, his skin was permanently seared black by solar heat. In addition his joints were inflamed and his movements slow and painful. Seeing the condition of the newborn, Surya became enraged at Sanhya’s deception and might have destroyed Shani had not Chaya intervened, pleading that she had been faithful both to her mistress, Sanhya, and master, Surya, and the baby was not at fault.

Shani, seeing his mother’s distress allowed his gaze to fall on Surya who was immediately afflicted with black spots that erupted from his skin in cycles that wax and wane over 11-year periods. Seeing the power of his Son, Shani banished him beyond the orbit of the great benefic planet Jupiter (Brihaspati) so Shani’s potent gaze would be weakened by distance. In time, he forgave Chaya as she was only doing what Sanhya had ordered. Their third child, Tapti, was born subsequently and both Chaya and Surya took care to limit their time together to protect the developing fetus. Tapti was born without affliction.

Eventually Sanhya’s father declared it was time she returned to her husband. When she came home, her husband confronted her about the deception. Sanhya admitted her deceit and then asked how Surya had found her out. He told her about the birth of the deformed baby whose gaze was so dangerous and powerful that it even threatened him. When Sanhya asked what Surya had done with child and learned if its fate, hurting and alone in the furthest reaches of visible sunlight she became furious with her husband.

“You did this to a baby?”

“I did this to protect all of us.” The Sun pleaded for understanding. “It could kill us all with a glance if it wanted to.”

“So, I wish he was here right now,” Sanhya said. “You’re a monster and I’m leaving until you fix this!” And with that, Sanhya turned into a Divine White Mare and galloped away toward a large pasture outside of her father’s home.

The Sun, Surya, was stunned by her sudden departure but knew he could not go after her until he repaired the damage he had done. “But what to do?” he thought to himself. The Sun disappeared behind a cloud for many days as he pondered the problem.

Up next, Saturn’s fate is decided….” And Surya goes in pursuit of Sanhya.

Galactic Center, Special Post

Today the first images of the massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way were released over many internet outlets. We are interrupting our Saturn series to share some thoughts gleaned from various teachings and observations.

As recently as the 1920’s most astronomers believed that the galaxy encompassed the entire universe. The common acceptance of it as being part of reality beyond the solar system occurred in the late 18th century. Prior to that the sun was generally believed to mark the center of creation.

The significance of these dates for me is their relationship to the assignment of the lunar constellations by ancient sages, called Rishis, more than 5000 years ago in a region of the Himalayan foothills in the northwest part of India’s Peninsula.

These sages closely observed nature in all her aspects, seeking patterns between the movements of the elements and the behaviors of living beings. Marking the seasonal relationship of Sun and Earth, the tidal effects of the Moon as it waxed and waned, the rise and fall of rivers, life cycle of plants and animals, and on a subtler level, the coincidental and concurrent relationships between observed natural phenomena and human behavior on the individual and group level.

For millennia these observations were collected and codified, first as an oral tradition passed down through stories, myths, and legends, and eventually as texts. We know these today as the Vedas, the Upanishads, the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, and the code for daily living—the Bhagavad Gita.

The Rishi Sri Parashara (teacher), collected all the teachings of astronomical concurrence in a text called Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra. Here we find the basis of modern Vedic Astrology or Jyotish.

What is particularly relevant today is the system of Lunar Constellations, 27 signs contained adjacent to or within the 12 solar signs. Each of these has a number of symbols and qualities attached that bring depth and clarity to the energetic forms attending the solar zodiac.

The Galactic Center is found in the sign of Sagittarius. This is a mutable fire sign, the fire that burns away the old world and makes way for a new one. This seems particularly appropriate for the Galactic Center, the black hole at the heart of our galaxy that annihilates all matter down to the level of bits of information under unimaginable heat and pressure, only to eject powerful energy waves back from oblivion and into the living universe for the formation of new stars and planets.

Of greater interest are the two Nakshatras closest to the center which is in the very early degrees of Sagittarius. Visually it is found in the space between the stars forming the end of Scorpio and the beginning of Sagittarius.

At the the end of Scorpio we find the 18th Nakshatra, called Jyestha. Jyestha is known as the chief or elder star, the senior, the most praiseworthy. Being so close to the seat of the greatest concentration of creative and destructive forces in the galaxy, this seems fitting. Next to it, and actually encasing Sagittarius A, massive black hole, millions of times more massive than our Sun, is Mula.

Mula is called the foundation or root Star. It has the power to destroy by breaking apart anything that it touches, as does the black hole. The purpose of this destruction is to find the source of all creation. When one considers this location was named in this manner with these qualities millennia before modern science identified even what a galaxy was, let alone located the center or even hypothesized about black holes, it brings a real sense of awe to the wisdom of the Rishis.

There is no need to force any conclusions on this. We are part of this process of creation, travel in cycles of annihilation and rebirth, and if we can learn to appreciate this miracle on a universal level as a connected community, we may receive the full bounty of our place in the universe, on a green planet filled with evolving life.