THE YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI
All astrology deals with the likely outcomes of past actions: the way our actions contribute to the experience of our outer environment, condition our body, emotions and thoughts, and thus determine our character and personality traits. If this was all that had to be considered astrology would be an exact science. Our past activities would completely condition our future. But we are more than the body, emotions and mental traits that we so often identify ourselves with.
We are all blessed by free will and our lives are largely shaped by the interplay of fate (karma) and free-will. We all have freedom of choice and the extent to which we exercise this ability determines the extent to which our lives are conditioned by manner in which astrological influences affect and condition us. No one should feel completely conditioned by their past karma (which is indicated by the positions of the planets in our horoscope).
Certainly past karmic influences will arise and our lives are shaped by the choices we have to make. However, our future is determined and unfolds from our states of consciousness and our mental states, which continually modify the future that is suggested by the conditions of the birth chart, which has much to say about our subconscious conditioning but less to say about the consequences of our taking control of our lives and becoming more Self-determined.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, although primarily a treatise on the practice of Samadhi, contains a wealth of knowledge for the Vedic astrologer (and the person intending to rise above their astrological influences). An astrologer who practices and properly comprehends the message within the Yoga Sutras is better equipped to counsel those who are seeking guidance. Study and meditation on the Yoga Sutras serves to deepen intuition as well as provide concise knowledge on the most efficient means of transcending the karmic condition.
While a study of the complete Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is advised, the following select verses and commentary will help clarify the above train of thought:
I.2-3 Yoga is the process of ending fluctuations and changes in the field of consciousness. Then the seer abides in its own nature.
In this context, the term yoga refers to samadhi. Samadhi is the bringing together of awareness, the stilling of the restless identification with external phenomena. When changes in the field of consciousness cease, the Seer, or the individualized unit of pure consciousness exists as it is.
This is the ultimate aim of yoga practice and also the intention behind Vedic astrology. When, through astrological counsel, people are properly guided in fulfilling their station in life, living in harmony with the forces of nature, and practicing soul liberating techniques to fully realize the wholeness of life, their field of consciousness becomes calm. The eternal Self then shines through.
I.4-5 Otherwise there is conformity to definitions. Definitions of the field of consciousness are five fold. They are obstructing, pain causing, or non-obstructing, not pain causing.
In the current age, the normal human experiences fragmented awareness. Awareness that is fragmented misidentifies with everything that passes before it. Every thought, emotion, circumstance, relationship, subconscious tendency, etc., is taken to be the person’s real Self. When these transient phenomena pass, suffering or happiness may result, depending on the nature of the object being perceived.
The planetary energies provide the force that triggers and sustains our varied experiences in life. They continue to cast forth supporting energy to maintain these experiences as long as there is a form to hold the energy. Our attachment and identification provides that form, and so a person’s fragmented awareness, alternating between pleasure and pain persists.
I.12 The ending of those definitions occurs by practice of yoga and non-attachment.
Consistent yoga practice results in freedom from conformity to the soul binding definitions of fragmented awareness. Non-attachment to what occurs within the field of our consciousness allows the planets to exhaust their hold on our awareness. This equates to freedom from karmic planetary forces.
Note that non attachment is not simply aloofness or trying to ignore the obvious. We are attached when we compulsively desire something to be present within our awareness. We are also attached when we strongly want to get something out of our field of awareness. When we can remain as the observer, the Seer, not identified with anything within our field of awareness we are free. The planets exhaust their force, and once that is complete we are can then direct our lives more easily in a worthwhile way.
I.23-24 Samadhi is also near when there is perfect alignment with Ishvara. Ishvara, which is untouched by karma, is distinguishable from the root obstructions of consciousness that cause pain.
Ishvara can be translated from Sanskrit as the ultimate Seer, Presence, or God. Creation flows from Ishvara. By aligning attention with Ishvara in Yogic meditation and at other times when engaged in activities a person then identifies with the creator rather than the creation. The creator is not touch by its creation. And so it follows that when we identify with our karma and the planetary forces within creation, we experience those things. When we identify with the creator, we do not.
Although astrology can be used to predict and ascertain the nature of mundane circumstances, it needs to be remembered that it is ultimately a spiritual science. When an astrologer identifies with Ishvara the astrologer can then see with the eye of God, or see from a divine perspective, which is vaster than the limited viewpoint of the ego personality. From that vantage point, counsel can be given with respect to what would be most beneficial for the person seeking guidance, and also for the whole of creation. This sutra also reflects one of the prime remedial measures under utilized in the prescription of alleviating planetary karma.
I.27-29 The inner sound current (OM) is the expression of Ishvara. Repetition of the inner sound current (OM) leads to realization of its meaning. From that comes the realization of an inwardly directed consciousness, and the elimination of obstacles. One way to perfectly align attention with Ishvara is by use of the light and sound current meditation described in the chapter on meditation.
II.12-13 Unconscious and subconscious impressions may result in the manifestation of unplanned experiences in this and other life cycles. As long as the causes of effects (karma) reside in the unconscious, their influence can manifest according to species and span of life, and in relationship to perceptions of pleasure or pain.
For the most part, neither astrology nor intuition is needed to ascertain the general direction of a person’s life. We go through the same actions and experience the same situations over and over again. Even our mental and emotional states are fairly predictable. To determine the general future, we can look at the general qualities of the past. If no changes are made to alter the course then life will continue as it has.
Sometimes events occur that are beyond our understanding, beyond our ability to compartmentalize into our general concept of life. These are caused by subconscious impressions within our mind and consciousness. They are like seeds planted below surface of our shallow awareness. If the seeds are not dug up by yoga and meditation practice, they will sprout and grow when they are provided suitable circumstances for germination.
Without astrology, these can be discovered and uprooted directly through Self-inquiry. For those currently unable to practice intensive transformative methods of Self-inquiry, an astrologer can reveal these subconscious tendencies and the time line on which they will manifest. The astrologer can then recommend specific remedies to neutralize unpleasant effects.
II.16 Pain and suffering which are not yet manifested is to be avoided.
Through consultation with enlightened men and women, by our own yoga practice, and through the exploration of astrological influences we can avoid pain. All three are known means to end suffering. That is how it is avoided.
II.17 Suffering is due to the souls mistaken sense of Self.
Enlightened teachers direct us to our real eternal Self. Meditation practice calms our mind and awareness directly revealing our Self. A gifted astrologer describes the planetary influences at hand and ahead, and encourages us to align our attention with Ishvara and to merge in our real Self, where karmas do not exist. A gifted astrologer shares enlightenment by showing the methods and appropriate modes of living that will reveal our real Self, based on our individual karmic situation.
II.24 Imperfect awareness of its own nature is the cause of the soul’s identification with matter.
Just as a family or a society can hold beliefs about the nature of life that are false, and will defend them as if they are the gospel truth, so too do we have faulty beliefs. The worst of those beliefs is that we are a transient human personality held in the thrall of forces that we cannot control. By never questioning or exploring the validity of this notion we remain trapped in self fulfilling prophecy. Our awareness is imperfect in regards to knowing who we really are, and so we identify with material things.
It is only out of habit we identify with our planets and the results they create within our life situation. We have all agreed to participate in the drama of life, but most forget that they are only actors, and then identify so intensely with the part they are playing that they forget their true Self. Through yoga meditation, Self-inquiry, and living in accord with natural law do we wake up from the dream, or at least realize we are the dreamer.
II.28 By practicing the eight limbs of yoga, as the impurities diminish, there is a light of knowing leading to discrimination.
Identifying with that which we are not indicates ignorance. By purifying our awareness we begin to see things more clearly. The truth concerning life and its orderly processes is revealed. This occurs through yoga practice.
Complete practice of yoga, of which there are eight aspects, removes the impurities that block realization of spiritual freedom. First, the impurities are removed. As these impurities dissolve our powers of discrimination develop. Discrimination is invaluable to fully comprehend the knowledge that unfolds from within us to impart our total spiritual freedom.
Knowledge of the eternal Self is compared to light in this sutra. As the particles of ignorance are wiped away from the spotlight of divine grace through dedicated yoga practice, the light of knowing shines forth freely. Once the particles of ignorance are gone, then the planets are unable to grasp us, because there is nothing left to grasp. We are then free.
II.29 Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi are the eight limbs.
The eight aspects to be practiced are: refraining from harmful behaviors, cultivating life-enhancing behaviors, developing steady meditation posture, practice of scientific breathing techniques, inward flowing of attention from the senses, focused attention, meditation, and cognitive absorption. Synergistic application of all eight limbs removes the ignorance that binds us to the planets.
The harmful behaviors to refrain from include: violence, lying, stealing, wasting vital resources, and possessiveness. If these tendencies are within us, it only takes common sense to realize that they will cause trouble. If they are within us and we are unconscious of their power than when the planets strike our psyche in certain ways, we will experience their expression and the results that come from that expression.
By cultivating the opposite qualities (peace, truth, prosperity consciousness, conserving our resources, and non-attachment), through dedicated intention the forces of negativity are lessened and finally dissolved. Again, leaving nothing harmful for the planets to stimulate.
By practicing the niyamas, which include purity, contentment, intensity in spiritual practice, mantra, and alignment of attention with the Ishvara , the higher qualities of the planetary forces are allowed to express. These are the sattvic cosmic forces that permeate the universe. Sattva is one of the three primary forces of nature representative of light, clarity, orderliness and peace.
The practice of asana gives control over the restlessness of the body and it supports our health and immune system. Here we can imagine how karmas do not need to be triggered and that no drastic remedial measures are needed because a simple change of lifestyle would do the trick. If a person has a weak immune system due to inactivity or improper eating, and they are doing nothing, chances are likely that any genetic predisposition to disease will manifest. The planets can trigger any disease indicated by the chart. However, by practicing hatha yoga asanas the person will stimulate vital forces and strengthen the body. The chances of illness to manifest, although the potential did exist, are greatly lessened.
This needs to be remembered, because if an unhealthy person desires an astrological remedial measure to improve the health and they are not making any choices in life to support health, the first remedial measure should be to encourage them to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Then if they are still having trouble a mantra, gem or rudraksha mala can be recommended as added support. This applies to both mental and physical health.
Pranayama includes breathing exercises that both calm the mind and cleanse the energetic channels within the body. Sushumna breathing, as described earlier in this text is one such pranayama method that can be used. Another helpful pranayama practice is alternate nostril breathing, which can be learned from a trained yoga teacher. Pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi are all higher internal practices. Once a person has gained proficiency in the previous limbs than more focus can be given to these aspects of yoga. Mastery of the first four limbs will make practice of the last four much easier.
Pratyahara is turning attention away from sense involvement and directing it within. Dharana is concentration. Dhyana is meditation. Samadhi is direct experience within unified awareness. By turning attention within we are releasing our involvement with the transient world of creation ands its influences, which includes removing identification from planetary forces. Dharana allows our minds to become steady and one pointed. Then we can maintain the practice of meditation. Once meditation becomes stable and concentration is consistent, then only our chosen object of meditation fills our awareness. All else drops away, and our unified awareness dawns.
It is recommended to meditate on that which is beyond creation and the planetary influences. These include Ishvara, OM, or Pure Consciousness. What ever your awareness unites with, that is what you will experience.
III.23 By contemplation on karmic influences which are slow or fast in producing effects, knowledge of the causes of one’s death, or that of others, and other unusual occurrences can be acquired.
Contemplating the influences within the chart allows the astrologer gain insight into the karmic states and the timing of their expression. Some planets move quickly by transit such as Mercury, Mars, Venus, and the Moon. Others are slower in their scouring of the natal chart. These include Jupiter, Saturn, Rahu, and Ketu. By contemplating the relationship between the birth chart and the current planetary positions, as well as the time of the planetary cycles, called the Dasha sequence, the astrologer can see the unusual occurrences in one’s life.
III.26 By projecting attention and awareness into the cosmic field of Supreme Consciousness, that which is veiled, subtle or remote can be known. An astrologer who practices yoga meditation and contemplates Ishvara, OM, or Pure Consciousness can abide within that cosmic field. From this vantage point, their awareness can be directed to veiled, subtle, or remote areas. These include the future, the past, and one’s internal karmic condition.
The verses of the Yoga Sutras in Chapter 3, deal with soul powers. It is important to note that these develop as one purifies their consciousness and gains greater identification with their true Self. The powers can be generated through effort and will, but that does not result in clarity of awareness. First one clarifies their awareness and then, if the powers are needed in this life, they will manifest.
As an astrologer, the first and foremost quality that needs developed is clarity of consciousness and surrender of the illusional sense of Self. When this occurs, the ego is not seeking astrological knowledge for its own gain. The soul is manifesting in creation in a form of service, that of practicing astrology. With this purity of motive, the necessary soul powers blossom.
III.27-29 Contemplation on the sun provides knowledge of celestial bodies and categories and processes of cosmic manifestation. Contemplation on the moon and planets provides knowledge of their relationship and movement. Contemplation on the Pole Star provides knowledge of the relationships and movements of the stars.
Whatever we contemplate with alert expectation of discovery we can realize within our consciousness. By meditating on the orb of the sun, the moon, the planets and the pole star provides direct insight of astrological knowledge. A Self-realized and skilled astrologer does not need the chart to practice astrology. He or she can turn within and by contemplating on what needs to be known, taps into the internal solar system and gains the information needed.
To meditate on these astrological bodies can be done in many ways. One can meditate in the sun, and contemplate its light, heat, and radiance. One can gaze at the moon and let all thoughts drop away as the visual sight of the moon in the sky becomes the object of meditation. Spending time at night outside meditating on the vastness of space and contemplating the night sky with its countless stars is also effective.
Remember the inner solar system as well. One does not need to go outside and actually see the material phenomena. Remember what the sun looks like and hold a vision of it in your spiritual eye. Do the same with the moon, planets and stars. By doing this, insights arise as to the nature and state of the cosmos, both internal and external. Also note, the Pole Star is a term used by various yoga teachers to represent the spinal pathway.
IV.8 The forces and tendencies of mental impressions are manifested when pervading circumstances are most suitable for their unfoldment.
Tendencies and mental impressions are like seeds. Seeds do not sprout immediately. When the circumstances are correct they begin to grow. If the circumstances are maintained, they eventually grow into a robust weed or flower. The same holds true for our astrological influences. The chart may indicate good fortune or troubles in general in regards to certain areas of life, but these will only occur when the right circumstances are present. That is why the transits of planets through the sky and the planetary cycles are so important. They indicate when those circumstances will be available to trigger the stored responses within us.
This is also helpful for the astrologer because counsel can be given to avoid certain activities during difficult times. Even though the transits and planetary cycles may indicate a malicious event, avoiding situations that would provide the right circumstances for the event’s occurrence can prevent this. For example, if a pattern for heart disease or cancer is seen within the chart, a healthy diet and lifestyle will do much to change the possibility of health issues.
The same can be said for positive influences. Good times to heal, to get married, to move, to start a business, etc. can all be indicated within the chart. Making intentional actions during those time periods help make the undertaking more auspicious.
IV.11 Karmic influences exist because of a mistaken sense of Self and the support of objects of perception. In their absence, karmic influences disappear.
This is a key to the healing aspect of astrology. By turning attention to our Self and resting our attention there, we cannot simultaneously be aware of outer conditioning factors. The planets are such a factor. The more stable a person is established in identifying with the essence of being, the less planetary forces will be of influence. Maintaining awareness on the Self, the karmic planetary influences, having nothing to cling to, eventually disappear.
One of the reasons people repeat certain experiences throughout life are due to their identification with those influences. It serves to strengthen the false sense of self.
IV.12 Subliminal impressions and memories of past perceptions of events exist with the potential for future events to occur. How future events unfold is determined by one’s path in life.
Our birth chart represents nothing but the environment that we have created by the karmic pattern that have been determined by our past-life actions. According to this karmic pattern we are attracted to be reborn at a given time that is favourable to that pattern.
What is to be is not necessarily has to be. Karma governs the destiny indicated in the birth chart, but karma is governed by the exercise of our free will and divine determination, which can change the course of events in our life, or at least mitigate adverse aspects.
Contemplation of these sutras and their meaning after meditation practice will allow you to fully grasp the import of being a Vedic Astrologer.