In order to do astrology well (or understand your place in the Cosmos), you need to understand the deeper principles. All healing / metaphysical systems function according to these universal principles. Without an understanding of these frameworks we are just shooting in the dark, trying to connect random details together.
This lack of detail makes many discount astrology as “non-scientific” and “superstition”, etc. yet, those who understand the frameworks of astrology do approach it scientifically, and so will you after examining astrology this way.
Indian / Hindu?
Even though the principles in Universal Astrology can be used in any system, I find the Vedic system to be the most rich and detailed conceptually. In fact, the Vedic people themselves do not call their teachings “Vedic” or “Hindu”. The teachings from which we will start are actually called “Sanatana Dharma” – or “The Eternal Truth”.
As a quick example: Hindu temples will have images of many gods from many faiths. Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed sit alongside Lord Siva, Ganesh, the Divine mother. All traditions are respected. Yoga and the other Vedic Sciences are not religions. They are practices based on Santana Dharma.
Many have heard these principles explained through yoga or perhaps Ayurveda. Yet rarely are these things explained through the lens of Vedic astrology.
Once we grasp these deeper Vedic principles, our understanding of astrology – and life – will grow exponentially. It is through the lens of this deeper universal wisdom that astrology becomes possible. My experience has shown the the more person understands yoga and “Santana Dharma”, the more they understand the principles in astrology.
Today let’s focus on:
1. The Three Gunas (body, mind, spirit)
2. Five Elements (Earth, water, fire, air, space)
3. The Planetary Cabinet
4. The Castes (warrior, worker, merchant, teacher)
From the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14
“5. The three gunas born of Prakriti, Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas bind in the body, O great-armed one, the imperishable dweller in the body. Of these Sattwa is by the purity of its quality a cause of light and illumination, and by virtue of that purity produces no disease or morbidity or suffering in the nature: it binds by attachment to knowledge and attachment to happiness, O sinless one. Rajas, know thou, has for its essence attraction of liking and longing; it is a child of the attachment of the soul to the desire of objects; O Kaunteya, it binds the embodied spirit by attachment to works. But Tamas, know thou, born of ignorance, is the deluded of all embodied beings; it binds by negligence, indolence and sleep, O Bharata. Sattwa attaches to happiness, rajas to action, O Bharata; tamas covers up the knowledge and attaches to negligence of error and inaction”.
~ Translation Sri Aurobindo
published bySri Aurobindo Ashram– Pondicherry
The 3 gunas are the 3 qualities of nature. The term Guna means “that which binds,” as each guna is like a separate strand, which when placed together form the rope of Maya. They are what bind us to the illusion that we are merely a physical / mental creature. All matter and energy consists of the 3 gunas in different quantities. Theirs are the component qualities of the physical, mental and spiritual worlds.
The 3 Gunas are:
Tamas: Stability – inertia – ignorance – attachment. Tamas binds through inertia and our tendency to cling to situation and form.
Best expressed through the physical body OURSELF
Rajas: Activity – passion – desire. Rajas binds through motivation and our desire to experience pleasure.
Best expressed as the Mind and Emotions OTHER PEOPLE
Sattwa: Harmony – knowledge – peace. Sattwa binds us to happiness and wisdom, which is also a barrier to final liberation. Best expressed as the Soul. GOD
Each of the gunas has a proper and necessary function:
Tamas provides the solidity and stability of the physical world, for us that means our bodies. Solid objects have a preponderance of Tamas, especially when at rest.
Rajas maintains the mind and emotions, animating the physical world through need and preference. When the body needs to eat or move Rajas gets us moving.
Sattwa looks after the higher mind and Soul and it’s progress, attaching to joy and hapiness – which also must be discarded at some point.
But each of these attributes also act as obscuring factors as their expressions show our projected illusory limitations, thus forming the rope of Maya. When Tamas becomes a mental or emotional state, the intellect becomes stagnant and there is clinging and ignorance. Also an excessively Rajasic body will bring exhaustion and instability. Neither Rajas nor Tamas is healthy for higher learning. Higher learning requires a Sattwic mind.
If suddenly you become sleepy as you read this you would stop learning, as the heaviness of Tamas would disrupt. If suddenly you became hungry or sexual or angry, also you would stop learning, as Rajas would compel you to act and disturb the mental peace necessary for learning.
A Real Life Example of the Gunas
To illustrate how the gunas typically work, this morning, as your alarm clock went off there was a preponderance of Tamas. Your body and mind were heavy and perhaps you had just mistaken yourself in a dream as being your real self. Sleep, inertia, and delusion are Tamasic. As you started to become motivated and got up from the bed, Rajas was dominant, as rajas is activity. Also, you need to go to work to earn money so you can have things that give you pleasure and that you enjoy. Worldly pursuits are mainly Rajasic in nature as they are primarily self – centered. Currently as you read this, in search of knowledge and understanding beyond pleasure seeking and accumulation, Sattwa dominates. (Hopefully at least)
Astrology and The Three Gunas
There are several ways to integrate the three Gunas into your astrological understanding.
First, in more broad and general sense we can observe that each one of the planets has the potential of operating in a:
● Tamasic manner (through the body – in a heavy, self-interested way)
● Rajasic manner (through the mind and emotions – in a passionate way)
● Sattwic manner (through the soul – in a loving, balanced way) This is one level of astrological reality.
In Vedic astrology, Planetary Dignity (the relationship of the planet to its ruler) is the main determining factor in these relative states of wakefulness and sleep. (called “Jagraadadi Avasthas”) Planetary Dignity precedes aspects and other affectations. The dignity of a planet determines the amount of intelligence that is brought into the areas of life it affects. Calculating the dignity of a planet is formulaic and a bit complicated to get into now. For those of you who understand how to calculate dignity you would look to this for the relative capacity of a planet to handle adverse aspects and conduct its business with intelligence. Most software programs do this for you.
Debilitated, Enemy or Great Enemy Dignity is Tamasic
Neutral, Friend, Great Friend is Rajasic
Exaltation, Own Sign, is Sattwic
The Planets as Ruling the Gunas
Second, the planets have a Guna and bring that quality into our life naturally. This is where it gets quite tricky. Because it is very easy to be judgmental about the three Gunas. Most Vedic astrologers become judgmental when they discuss the three Gunas. Assigning qualities of “good and bad” to them. This is a mistake. Everything has an inspired, divine purpose. We simply need to align ourselves with that purpose rather than our judgments, which are based on a limited perspective.
Tamasic planets: Mars, Saturn, The Nodes (Rahu and Ketu)
Rajasic planets: Mercury, Venus
Sattwic planets: Sun, Moon, Jupiter
The Tamasic planets are motivated towards protection, but they may bring darkness in the process. Mars protects us through anger, Saturn protects us through fear. The Nodes are an exception. The nodes bring confusion and they protect the ego. This is why they are perhaps the most difficult energy. Yet, as we untangle the confusion of the nodes we release its grip on our ego. This is too large of a subject to discuss right now.
The Rajasic planets are motivated towards experiencing pleasure and enjoyment, but they are distracting. Mercury brings stimulation, play – Venus brings sensual enjoyment and beauty.
The Sattwic planets are motivated towards doing something good and uplifting, but may be unrealistic in the process. The Sun wants to illuminate our truthful path, the moon wants to give selfless love and merge with everything, Jupiter wants to expand toward our highest self.
We have to be careful judging these energies as good or bad. They are simply activating forces, motivations. It is just as possible to do something bad with a good motivation or vice versa. For instance, a religious zealot may kill because he thinks it’s the right thing to do for you. This is a perversion of Sattwic energy. Lying “for your own good” is another example of Sattwic energy gone bad.
Also, the protective quality of Tamasic energy can be a great force for good. A fireman rushing into a building, risking his own life to save yours is Tamasic. He’s trying to prevent difficulty and avoid trouble. Any sort of fighting and conflict is going to be related to Tamasic energy.
Rajasic energy is simply pleasure and enjoyment. In many ways we spend most of our life in Rajasic mode. Yet, wanting to share that pleasure with someone else is also Rajasic. In general, sex is Rajasic.
As we move forward in this class and start talking about the different planets, their activating qualities and general dispositions as shown by the Gunas will be inextricable to their activity.
EX: Mars is always trying to protect something by destroying what he sees as weakening it. His house placement, sign placement and placement by transit in the sky will all show these things. Jupiter will always try to expand something by seeing the good in it and trying to rise above the worldly difficulties associated with it. Venus will always try to beautify something and make it more pleasant and enjoyable.
Once we understand how to translate the Gunas Astrologically, we can combine the states of awareness with the natural disposition of the planet.
EX: If Mars is functioning at a high level of intelligence, he will try to destroy things (Tamasic) that he perceives are weakening the soul’s progress (Sattwa) – at a medium level of intelligence he will try to destroy things that he perceives are weakening the mind or interrupting his path toward pleasure (Rajas) – at the lowest level of intelligence he will destroy things that he perceives are weakening or threatening physical safety (Tamas). Yet the destructive nature of Mars is not bad. When we suffer Mars problems it’s because we are fighting the wrong battles.
This example extends to all of the planets and will be covered when we discussed each of them individually.
Third, the signs have a Guna. In general, the signs are the psychological expression of the planets that rule them. Therefore it makes sense that most of the signs have the same Guna as the planet that rules them. But of course, there are exceptions
Just like with planets, the signs have these motivations. A planet in a Sattwic sign will be motivated towards doing something good and uplifting. The planet in a Tamasic sign will be motivated to avoid pain and trouble for themselves or others. A planet in a Rajasic sign will be motivated toward fulfilling desires for themselves or others.
Blending the qualities of planetary Guna and Sign Guna is one of the more important,…
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