Astrology of the Bhagavata
by Patita Pavana das Adhikary
My first darshan of His Divine Grace Shrila Prabhupada was at ISKCON’s loneliest North American outpost ever, the Hare Krishna Center of Santa Fe, New Mexico. There were only two initiated devotees in the temple, and the Acharya’s visit -- a stop-over from Seattle to Los Angeles -- was to be for only two or three days. There still lingered elements of the Wild West in Santa Fe, and around the time of Shrila Prabhupada’s visit, a “gunslinger” had entered the temple and gotten into a scuffle with Tosan Krishna. Writhing on the floor he had whipped out a pistol and fired three shots past our ears and into the ceiling. Then, identifying himself as an “angel of vengeance”, he aimed the gun slowly at each of us. As we looked down the barrel of the black revolver, he backed out of the temple never to be seen again.
And so it was on a wind-swept day in October of 1968, that Lord Krishna’s Paramhamsa exited the borrowed VW bug driven by Harer Nama and strolled magnificently through the door of his most remote center. Approaching the altar, for a very long several seconds His Divine Grace stood there taking darshan of Lord Jagannath, just as a devoted son accepts instructions from his father.
Like a Maharaja of a great kingdom, the empowered representative of the Lord of the Universe took his seat on a pillow in front of the altar. For the first time, a small crowd had filled the temple, and a sudden reverence overtook that assembly of high desert hippies. Though Prabhupada possessed the splendid dignity of a great king, he could at once integrate and socialize almost as an equal with his audience. Here, a liberated messenger of God who, having descended for the fulfillment of a holy mission was now sitting alongside us in casual abandon. He personified his own analogy; one that I would later learn from one of his correspondences: The world acharya is like a magnet that passes over iron filings and points those small bits of metal into the same direction. Directed by the Supreme Lord, the World Acharya had landed amidst a world in chaos. As the Magnet for Mankind, his mission was to aim all willing souls towards the goal of Krishna consciousness.
Slowly and with great care, the pure devotee passed out sweets made of chick pea flour, sugar and ghee. Harer Nama drew Shrila Prabhupada’s attention to a young lady seated towards the front. “Prabhupada,” he began, “She is an artist.” “Any artist I like,” Prabhupada replied. After that we never saw her again.
I was the only candidate for initiation, and at last the Guru’s attention came round to me, seated in the back of the room. Though I was “hiding” in the rear of the temple, Krishna’s pure devotee looked at me squarely. His expression carried a great sense of gravity and by his glance alone he conveyed the seriousness of spiritual initiation. His glowing countenance was an invitation that said, “Would you like to go back to Godhead? Are you ready to stop your nonsense?”
I had a long-standing interest in Indian spirituality and astrology, and in my immaturity I thought that I may be able to determine if he was my destined spiritual master by his horoscope. With his gentle, brown eyes upon me, he smiled his trademark silent greeting of reassurance, a look that could penetrate the heart of anyone.
“What is your date of birth?” I managed, not being able to think of anything else to say. His Divine Grace encouraged me. “Oh,” he smiled, now beaming like the sun. He aimed the index finger of his right hand right at me and said, “You like astrology?” In my mind he was encouraging me that, yes, there is room for astrology in Krishna consciousness. Not quite surrendered, but falling fast, I again requested his date of birth.
“September first, 1896, “he replied with grand self-assurance.
I pressed on: “And what time?”
Shrila Prabhupada reflected just for a second, more to hold my attention, it seemed. He cocked his regal, golden head to one side and declared, with great poise, “Four o’clock in the afternoon.” And that was that.
The way he spoken exuded such self-confidence that I was certain it must have been the best muhurta in centuries. Suddenly, I just wanted Krishna, I wanted the guru’s process of getting there, and I wanted whatever my new found spiritual master wanted of me. In fact, it would be years before Shrila Prabhupada would comment on astrology again with me. It was in 1975 or 76 that on a Hare Krishna Land rooftop His Divine Grace revealed to me the basis of jyotish in five words. Two years later, nearing the end of his manifest lila, I would send His Divine Grace a horoscope reading after consulting with some genuine scholars of South India. A few details are written up in “TKG’s Diary”.
After my first encounter with Shrila Prabhupada, astrology quickly became the farthest thing from my mind. Now I wanted to read only what he had written, three volumes of the Shrimad Bhagavatam’s first canto and Easy Journey to Other Planets. The abridged Bhagavad Gita As It Is appeared in 1969. So, the next time would pick up a book on astrology, it would be Shrila Prabhupada’s fifth canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, for the crest jewel of the Puranas is also the basis for astrology.
Shri Parashara Muni is the father of Vedic astrology, and his son Shri Vyasadeva is the author of the Shrimad Bhagavatam. It was some time in 1971 that Shrila Prabhupada’s fifth canto appeared. Although Sage Parashara deals with the specifics of jyotish in his Shri Parashara Hora, the basis and essentials for not only astrology but the structure of the Universe appear in the fifth canto.
Knowledge of astrology without a foundation in the Bhagavata and in Bhagavata dharma learned at the feet of the person Bhagavata is as useless as watering an uprooted plant. Sage Parashara gave many details, but he left to his son the task of laying the groundwork of astrology. In truth, 99% of all “astrologers” in India actually have neither foundation in a disciplic succession, nor study in the Puranas, nor do they even have knowledge of the identity of God Almighty. Almost to a man they are mayavadis. It is said that the learning of a pandit who has no link to a bona fide spiritual master is equal to the joy felt by a pregnant prostitute who does not know the father her unborn child. That example sums up the value of an unauthorized astrologer unlettered in the Bhagavata.
Recently, the effects of a stunning heavenly phenomenon revealed the timeless predictive ability of the Bhagavata’s fifth canto in the matter of jyotish shastra. Once again, we find the practical value of the Shrimad Bhagavatam in our daily lives. See this verse:
“Mercury is described as similar to Ushana (Venus), in that he sometimes moves behind the sun, sometimes in front of the sun and sometimes alongside the sun. He is 1,600,000 miles (dwi-laksha-yojana) above Venus, (and therefore, 7,200,000 miles above earth). Mercury, who is the son of the demi-god of the moon Soma, is almost always very auspicious for the inhabitants of the universe. However, when he does not move along with the sun (Arka), he forebodes cyclones, dust, irregular rainfall, and waterless clouds. In this way he creates fearful conditions due to inadequate or excessive rainfall.”
Is this advice current and valuable; or, as our old professors would have us believe, is it some outdated theory belonging to a backward and forgotten era? Any astrologer will tell you that Mercury is both a benefic (as the Bhagavata says here with the words shubbha-krit), and sometimes a malefic. That is why a person who changes quickly is sometimes called “Mercurial”. The crux of the judgment is to know which of Mercury’s effects will occur when. That advice is given here with the words arkat vyatiricheta tada, “at the times when he is separated from the Sun or Arka.” Recently such an event as described in the above verse from the Bhagavata occurred. Mercury turned around and “separated from the Sun”, and as a result millions of people have suffered.
If they had been warned in advance with the Bhagavata’s ever-timely advice, precautions might have been taken. Tada ativata abhra praya anavristi-adi bhayam ashamsate. This means, “At such times as when Mercury moves away from the Sun there will be cyclones, terrifying clouds, drought and the expansion of various fearful conditions.”
It is said that when trouble comes, it comes in waves. Ignorant materialistic bluffers in the dress of “scientists” armed with their costly high-tech equipment cannot explain the recent spate of events that one after another tormented the Pacific Ocean and South Asia last week, but these events were foreseen over five thousand years ago by the Great Acharya Sage Vyasadeva.
First, the description of Mercury: The Sun joined Mercury in Virgo on 15th Sept., although Mercury, exalted, had become retrograde since 7th Sept. Then Mercury re-entered Leo in reverse motion (leaving behind his Mitra or friend the Sun in Virgo) on 25th Sept. Five days later, on 30th Sept., Mercury ceased retrogression, and became direct in Leo. Mercury moved once more towards Virgo, re-entering Virgo again on 5th Oct.
Now, here’s how Mercury’s movements affected Mother Earth:
--From 22nd till 24th Sept. A huge red dust storm measuring over 300 miles by 600 miles and carrying an estimated 16 million tonnes of dust, covered dozens of Australian cities and towns. Disrupting the lives of millions, meteorologists called it an “unprecedented” example of “earth, wind and fire together”. Such an event, though fearsome, was certainly ominous of worse things to come. (Shrila Prabhupada specifically mentions “dust” as one of the fearful conditions in this verse. The verse also points to anavristi-adi, “scarcity of rain.”)
--26th Sept.: The day after Mercury entered Leo through the rear door, Typhoon Parma slammed the Philippines. Dozens died in landslides and floods. (Note: ativata -- “cyclones”)
--29th Sept.: The day Mercury, still in reverse gear, slowed down and appeared to ”stop”, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake rumbled across the Pacific floor. The undersea temblor caused a tsunami which washed hundreds of islanders, mostly on Samoa, out to sea and destroyed a number of beachside resorts. (Note: bhayam asamsate -- “expands fearful conditions”).
--30th Sept.: Mercury - still separated from the Sun but once again heading towards Virgo - now caused an earthquake that shook the Indonesian island of Sumatra wiping out village after remote village. Around 4,000 lost their lives including an entire wedding party of hundreds that was swallowed by the earth. (Another case of bhayam asamsate).
--30th Sept.-5th Oct.: On that day, too, torrential rains struck parts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra causing floods that have already killed hundreds, washed away great herds of cows, ruined huge tracts of farmland and left hundreds of thousands displaced. Even as we write, the Krishna River has turned into an inland sea. (Shrila Prabhupada explicitly points to “excessive rainfall” in this verse.)
Shrila Prabhupada was uncompromisingly loyal to the words of his previous Acharya Shri Vyasadeva, in the matter of presenting Shrimad Bhagavatam as it is. He refused to cave in due to pressures from scientific bluffers armed with big telescopes who declare that the Puranas have no place in modern times. As Shrila Prabhupada’s infallible legacy and influence continues to spread ever wider, and his planetarium project in Mayapur becomes the basis of theistic astronomy, we should also keep in mind the subtle effects that the Bhagavat attributes to the planets of astrology. One principle proves the validity of the other. From the incidences described in this article as they relate to Vyasa’s ancient advice, we can conclude that the Bhagavat has proven itself correct in its analysis of planetary effects. Neither, therefore, can there be any a mistake in the Puranic descriptions of the structure of the universe. The Bhagavat is the most perfect and illumined of all shastras. This scripture, which has arisen like the sun for the deliverance of Kali Yuga, knows best the situation of the sun, and the planets that follow the sun. And Shrila Prabhupada, the person Bhagavata, has translated and commented upon that scripture perfectly.
Written: 5 Oct. 2009. Those interested in the subject matter of this essay may contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
--Patita Pavana das Adhikary
(Note: The author is seen on the far right in the above photo of Srila Prabhupada in London.)