The Astrology of Bhagavad-Gita
by Patita Pavana das Adhikary
Modern astrology’s poorly kept secret is that most astrologers are incompetent to give proper counsel. They are unqualified because they do not even know the basic principle of astrology which is Krishna consciousness. A study of all the shastras without arriving at Krishna consciousness means the goal of learning has not been achieved. A non-devotee astrologer may appear to be knowledgeable, but just as a snake ornamented with a jewel is more dangerous than a naked one, so is a little knowledge dangerous without understanding Krishna, the source of all knowledge. That man who lives in a castle built upon sand cannot be said to have a nice house because it will soon topple for want of a foundation. Astrology that does not have support in Krishna consciousness is a useless waste of time because it will not save anyone from the insurmountable ravages of repeated birth and death. Rather, the great and many-branched endeavor of reading shastras without becoming Krishna conscious is little different from surfing the web. It will simply be a means of furthering our material sojourn.
The basis for becoming Krishna conscious and getting out of the material world is Bhagavad Gita As It Is. Sure, practically any so-called Vedic astrologer will claim to know the Gita, but if he is not transcendentally situated his learning is simply a decoration of a dead body. Unless a so-called pandit realizes that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his understanding of the science will not go beyond the memorization of a few rules and general understanding of the law of karma. In the Bhagavad Gita, the word mam -- ”unto Me” -- lights up age after page like the autumnal sky. Krishna repeats this instruction -- “surrender unto Me”, “serve only Me” -- over and again to Arjuna. Unfortunately, unless this plain and simple message is heard via the bona fide spiritual master in disciplic succession, it will be misunderstood by those whose intelligence has been stolen away by illusion. Generally, with rare exceptions, astrologers are interested in making a living; which means that they are karmis who do not care about the eternal welfare of their clients. Since it is impossible to deliver others from the ocean of birth and death by a study of the material universe and the law of cause and effect, astrology shorn of Krishna consciousness is mumbo jumbo.
Astrology in its pure form is a divine science meant for the guidance of all living mankind. Known as the science of light or jyotish shastra, it is one of the limbs of the Vedas and it is therefore called a vedanga. A limb or anga by and of itself is useless unless it is connected to the living physical body. If separated, it cannot be called a limb because it has no practical use or function. The heartbeat of scriptures, the very foundation of the vast body of knowledge that forms Vedic culture, is the Bhagavad Gita As It Is. Shri Krishna informs Arjuna vedais cha sarvair aham eva vedyo: “Of all the Vedas I am to be known” (BGAI 15.15). The Essence of Vedic knowledge, Lord Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is at the Heart and Soul of Vedic culture. That is why any science, no matter how advanced or how subtle, that ignores Shri Krishna is no learning at all. Learning that does not arrive at the goal of Shri Krishna’s lotus feet is as dead and useless as a severed limb. There can be no vedanga without the Veda.
It is a fact that in Vedic astrology, the basis of the science is the moon sign, and not the sun sign as has been misunderstood in the West. Although most Vedic astrologers understand that the moon sign is paramount in the reading of a horoscope, still they are unable to tell you why the moon is important. That essential information is clearly given in Bhagavad Gita As It Is although it is not found even in any of the extensive Jyotish Shastras. Every bona fide astrological scripture that has arisen since Shrila Parashara Muni scribed Shri Parashara Hora Shastra 5,100 years ago, understands the astrological dictum that the moon sign is chief amongst the planetary zodiacal positions. There are many Jyotish Shastras that explain the subtle facets of difference between human personalities born under the twelve rashis or moon signs. They may be able to teach the art of analyzing the material differences in personality traits between, say, a moon in Aquarius and moon in Leo. Yet each Jyotish Shastra is silent when it comes to explaining the rationale behind the principle that the lunar sign is one’s rashi. That principle you will find only in Bhagavad Gita As It Is.
Recently the accomplished Bharat Natyam dancer Shriji Rasalila Devi gave me an interesting example. When she joined her school of dance in Delhi, her teachers taught her the various movements, steps and mudras. But they could not impart knowledge about the essence of the Puranic or Itihasic episodes upon which classical dances are based. Her spiritual realizations came to her through her spiritual master, a representative of Shrila Prabhupada. Thus with a proper foundation in Vedic culture, and the blessings of her Guru Maharaja, her dance and the entire art form came alive for her because she was linked to Krishna. Rather than mere entertainment, dance became a means for her to impart Krishna consciousness to others because she was connected to the source via the disciplic chain that goes all the way back to Krishna. Astrology, or any Vedic art or science for that matter, is no different. One of Shrila Prabhupada’s favorite quotes from the Chaitanya Charitamrita is, “Krishna surya sama.”: Where there is Krishna there is light.” And where Krishna is not present there is darkness. So this is the irony, that the science of jyotish is actually darkness unless it utilized for the pleasure of Krishna.
Therefore, the crux of any matter, the value of any science or art, is its use in Krishna consciousness. Astrology, dance or anything for that matter, is useful in the hands of a Vaishnava pandit and not others because a devotee is connected to Krishna and His message of Bhagavad Gita As It Is. We all know Shrila Prabhupada’s “zero example”. A million zeros combined add up to a big zero. But if you put a “one” in front of them, the “Supreme One” or Lord Shri Krishna, then suddenly you now have real value. In this way, there is actually nothing of lasting importance in this world of sand castles speculations unless it leads us to the priceless platform of Krishna consciousness. So let us examine the foundation of astrology, the moon sign, from the conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna. As given in the Bhagavad Gita As It Is, the moon as Lord Shri Krishna’s representative is the most important planet in understanding the differences that exist within Nature’s various life forms.
In verses 9.15-16 Arjuna, now no longer perplexed, declares, “Indeed, You alone know Yourself by Your own internal potency, O Supreme Person, Origin of all, Lord of all beings, God of gods, Lord of the universe! Please tell me in detail of Your divine opulence by which You pervade all these worlds.”
Shri Krishna soon answers Arjuna’s intelligent request in 9.19, “Yes, I will tell you of My splendorous manifestations, but only of those which are prominent, O Arjuna, for My opulence is limitless.” Then for our benefit Shri Krishna describes to Arjuna His opulence, and at this time He also says in 9.21 “Among the stars I am the moon.”
Naturally, Arjuna is wonderstruck with the sudden realization that this “great personality” he has been associating with as his friend, indeed as his charioteer on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, is really the Supreme Source of all creation and destruction. Now Shri Krishna blesses Arjuna with divine vision and reveals His Universal Form, the Virat Rupa, which creates, maintains and ultimately destroys the material Universe.
Awestruck and overcome by the awesome spectacle, Arjuna at once worships Krishna with sweet words. The great warrior and son of Indra tells the Lord (in 11.19), “The sun and moon are Your eyes.” Fully surrendered, Arjuna praises the Supreme Glory of Shri Krishna in 11.38, “You are air, and You are the Supreme Controller! You are fire, You are water, and You are the moon! You are Brahma, the first living creature, and You are the great-grandfather. I therefore offer my respectful obeisances unto You a thousand times, and again and yet again!” Thus from both sides of the conversation the moon as representing Shri Krishna comes up a number of times in the discussion of the Lord’s opulence. Why is that?
Naturally, it could be argued that the moon and the sun are given such importance in Bhagavad Gita because they are visible to everyone and might represent the beginnings of wonder about God and Nature. It could be said that even gross materialists marvel at these two heavenly lights as obvious representatives of some unseen hand in the structured order of the universe. Even in primitive religions of the earth, the sun and moon are objects of worship because they give evidence to man of a Higher Power. It is true that the mysteries of the sun and moon baffle even the greatest scientists. Despite their telescopes and spaceships; their ridiculous bluffing about some unseen element called “gravity”; or their mindless speculations regarding a non-existent “primordial soup” that formed planets from cosmic gasses; or America’s poorly-simulated lunar landing hoax fifty years ago-despite all that, these so-called “men of letters” still do not know as much about the moon as any devotee who reads Bhagavad Gita As It Is. Basically, today’s scientific knowledge of the Moon remains close to the same level as primitive tribals.
Now Shri Krishna reveals the total astrological secret of the moon in 15.12-13 when He tells Arjuna, “The splendor of the sun, which dissipates the darkness of this whole world, comes from Me. And the splendor of the moon and the splendor of fire are also from Me. I enter into each planet, and by My energy they stay in orbit. I become the moon and thereby supply the juice of life to all vegetables.” This is knowledge of the Moon.
And in these few words Lord Krishna thus reveals the secret of astrology. It is through His “eye”, the moon, that He provides the “juice of life -- and therefore individuality -- into created beings. From this verse we can understand that the unique tastes of fruits and vegetables come through Shri Krishna via His lunar rays. By extending that understanding, the various fragrances of flowers, the sumptuous tastes of nuts, and the individual qualities of trees and plants are delivered via Shri Krishna’s agent the moon. The traits of plants that heal such as medicinal herbs, or spices that add flavor also come from the various “moods” of the moon. Therefore, by expanding that understanding of Shri Krishna’s powers -- both strong and subtle -- we can understand that the soft, feminine, lunar rays that create differences in species of life, also form the qualities of personalities of various persons. And that is why we Vaishnava astrologers consider the moon’s rashi or sign is so important [when considered along with the shukla or krishna pakshas (waxing and waning phases), tithis (days of the lunar cycle), nakshatras (stars), ritus (season) and masa (month), etc.]
Have you ever found yourself in awe when strolling at night in the silvery moonlight? The Bhagavad Gita As It Is tells that we are witnessing nothing less than Lord Krishna’s wondrous eye literally imparting individuality and nourishment -- the “juice of life” -- to all things that live. Women’s cycles are often compared to the tidal movements of the ocean, indeed some say that the moon took his birth from the ocean. So when the child grows in the ocean-like womb of its mother, it is the subtle rays of the moon -- the juice of life -- that form the personality and mindset of the child. That is why the moon sign is more important than the sun sign. It is explained very nicely in Bhagavad Gita As It Is, but it requires some rational thought on our part. Among the nava-graha or nine planets, the moon is the most rapidly changing planet of all, and therefore it has been given to the demi-god of the moon by Krishna Himself to “create” the unlimited differences in personalities across all species of life.
The inconceivable varieties of individuality found among different jivatma particles -- as reflected thought the gross material body and personality -- bring up another reason why astrology is valuable only in the hands of a qualified Vaishnava. Only a devotee of Krishna can elucidate why there are vast differences in the innumerable personalities all emanating from their source in the unlimited Shri Krishna. No mayavadi astrologer who adheres to the false and speculative doctrine of impersonalism so popular today can fathom the variegated individuality in all spirit souls. If “all is one” then what is the use of an astrologer? Today, practically all karmi astrologers are mayavadis. Unless an astrologer has initiation into a bona fide Vaishnava sampradaya, his guidance will be misguidance.
In astrology, the sun and the moon are the “father and mother” among planets in the horoscopes. From our time of early development, it is nearly always our mothers who have greater formative influence over us, not our fathers. How can it be otherwise? In astrology, the fiery, paternal sun is called the atmakaraka or “significator of the ego”. Atma is used in this case in the physical sense of body because -- truth be told -- astrology is a material science. Astrology may be “the most subtle of all sciences”, Prabhupada has said, but nonetheless it belongs to the realm of material sciences. So the sun represents the ego in a horoscope, but the maternal moon is called the manasa-karaka, or significator of the mind. A jiva soul’s mental state, as seen though the subtle body ruled by the moon, is the key factor in reincarnation that determines his moment of birth. The deluded entity’s subtle thought -- form of self-impression molds the forming physical body made of the five gross elements. It is upon this principle of timing during periods (muhurtas) of predominating tamas-, rajas- or satya-guna that the science of janma -- birth astrology -- is based.
The position of Lord Somadeva, the demi-god of the moon, is further expanded in Shrimad Bhagavatam (SB 5.22.9). There it is explained:
sarva-jeva-nivaha-praeo jevac caikam ekaa naknatraa triacata muhurtair bhuikte.
“The moon is the source of nectarean coolness that influences the growth of food grains, and therefore the moon-god is considered the life of all living entities. He is consequently called Jeva, the chief living being within the universe.”
Such valuable instructions as these, sarva-jiva-nivaha-prano jivas -- meaning “the moon is the jiva or life breath of all living entities” -- are not to be found in any jyotish shastras. Hence, pandits who do not know the Bhagavad Gita As It Is and Shrimad Bhagavatam as it is are useless and should not be consulted. They are a collection of memorized rules just as a Bharata Natyam dancer who attempts to portray the saga of Lord Rama, but has no learning in Ramayana, is little more than an impersonal automaton. As the dancer Shriji Rasalila says, “Everything in the shastras can be taught via dance.” This requires Krishna consciousness, and the same realization holds true for astrology.
Even in our quest to become entirely Krishna conscious and free from matter’s influence, the eyes of Krishna -- the sun and moon -- are there to light our voyage back to home, back to Godhead. Krishna is there to guide us from so-called birth to so-called death. In 8.24 of Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Krishna explains to Arjuna:
agnir jyotir ahau cuklau nae-masa uttarayaeam tatra prayata gacchanti brahma brahma-vido janau
“Those who know the Supreme Brahman (brahma-vid-jana) attain that Supreme (brahman) by passing away (prayatah gacchanti) from the world during the influence of the fiery god (agni), in the light (jyoti), at an auspicious moment of the day (aha), during the fortnight of the waxing moon (shukla), and during the six months (sat-masa) when the sun travels in the north
According to Shri Krishna’s statement as seen in this verse, the elements of proper timing combine together to represent the demi-god of fire Agni, who in turn represents Lord Vishnu in all agni-hotra yagnas. As fire consumes everything in its path, so the analogous fire of devotional service to Krishna burns to ashes all our material desires which obstruct our pure consciousness. As long as material desires haunt our subtle body, we will not be able to return to the anti-material Kingdom of Shri Krishna. Therefore, Shri Krishna advises us in 8.4 to leave this world in jyoti, or “in the light”. That means: during aha (the day), when the moon is in shukla-paksha (or waxing) and the sun is in uttarayana or in the northern region of the demi-gods. Also called devayana, the northern movement of the Sun comprise the six months of the year from Lord Surya Narayana’s entrance into Capricorn (Makara) on January 14th or 15th (or Makara Sankranti) and continues until he enters Karkataka-rashi or Cancer six months later. Did not the mahajana Pitamaha Bhishma wait until Makara Sankranti to leave this world despite his many wounds? You can still visit the holy place of his ascension at Ban Ganga in Kurukshetra. From there he left this world with his mind fully absorbed upon Shri Krishna Who was seated beside him. (For more on this subject, please see my article (”Tribute to Shrila BV Puri Maharaja”, Dandavats, March 10, 2009.)
To summarize, therefore, it is the quality of the moon-ruled mind (the mental or subtle body) that dictates the specific type of sun-ruled gross physical body that a living entity must “enjoy”. For example, Shrila Prabhupada often said, “If you make your consciousness dog-like you will become a dog. If your mind is pigeon-like you will take birth as a pigeon and enjoy sex life thirty times a day”. We have layered many lifetimes of egoistic self-concepts involving our own concocted mental designations concerning who we think we are over our originally pure spirit soul, the eternal identity. These misconceptions of the mind have prevented us from achieving liberation since time immemorial. As Shri Krishna advises Arjuna (BGAI 6.6.), “The mind is the best of friends or worst enemy as well.”
Therefore, we should steady our mind in Krishna consciousness by chanting the mahamantra. With this mind fixed in service at the lotus feet of the spiritual master, the representative of Shri Krishna, we must in this very lifetime return back to home back to Godhead beyond this material universe. For there in the Spiritual Kingdom of Vaikuntha there is no need of a sun or a moon.
--Patita Pavana das Adhikary