Astrology, Omens, and Sharada, Too

August 31, 2022

Shambhavi talks about the wisdom communicated through astrology and omens plus a tasty tidbit about the deity Sharada in Trika Shaivism. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi


I was wondering if you might talk about, uh, relationship between planetary phenomena and the texture of things in people's lives. Like, yeah, what kind of relationship is there?

Sure. So, my understanding of that is different than many other Jyotishis that I've encountered, where you'll hear them say that planets are enacting forces on us and making us do things. And I don't agree with that.

My understanding of the relationship between the plot of our lives and the planets is, first of all, that Jyotish or astrology is talking about our lives, our dualistic karmic vision or our karma.

So, it's not speaking from an absolute perspective. It's talking about our lives as they're actually unfolding and as we experience them. And it's giving us advice about how to move and what patterns we're likely to encounter in this incarnation.

So, there's different kinds of karma, and one kind of karma is called prarabdha karma, and that means the karma that we will encounter in this life. So, sanchita karma is the entire field of karmas that are somehow related to this appearing of this body and this person. But in one lifetime, we're not going to experience all of that. Not all of that's going to come up.

I mean, the Western equivalent of that would be, we would say, you know, 'unexpressed genes'. We might have some unexpressed gene. Or we have unconscious, subconscious things happening.

So, the bigger sort of karmic way of talking about that is that we have this giant field of karma, but only some subset of that is actually something that we're going to notice or that's going to be something we can work with in this incarnation.

So, that's called our prarabdha karma. And that's what the chart is telling us about. It's telling us about this incarnation and what we're likely to encounter in this incarnation and how we might best deal with it, whether we should move in one way or in another way. What's the sort of flavor of our incarnation and what are our capacities and our obstacles.

So, it's like a tool kit that tells us more about ourselves than perhaps we knew before and gives us a refreshed framework for looking at things and some strategies.

So, that being said, the way that I look at the relationship between heavenly bodies and human beings is that the heavenly bodies are part of the communication of this alive, aware reality to us.

So, first of all, we know that the heavens are timekeepers. So, we count time with the movement of heavenly bodies. So, on one level, the heavenly bodies are communicating to us about the proper times for things and the improper times for things.

They're also communicating to us about us. So, when I think of the stars, I think of it as a text or a book of you. You're born at a certain moment, and in that moment there's a particular communication that is available to you from the positions of the heavenly bodies in relationship to the moment you're born and where you are on Earth.

That is different from a lot of other Jyotishis where they'll say, 'Jupiter is making me do this' or 'I'm doing this because such and such is happening in the sky'. It's just another form in which wisdom is communicating to us about our lives so that we can take appropriate action.

From my perspective, it's not that the stars on the planets are making us do anything. They're actually communicating. Like we would read a book about ourselves, like a biography about ourselves. And they're telling us about the possibilities for this particular lifetime and how to best take advantage of the capacities and possibilities we came in with.

Now, you'll also hear astrologers talk about karmas that are not fixed and karmas that are fixed. So, there's a sense in which I agree that there's this play between fate and free will, but I don't agree that there's anything that's fixed.

This is impermanence. Nothing here is fixed. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. So, there might be some patterns that our chart indicates that are stronger, more enduring, and more difficult to unwind, but absolutely none of it is fixed.

The consequence of the way that I was taught to look at charts and the way that I do look at charts, that nothing is fixed and that the chart is telling us about dualistic karmic vision and how to work with that.

The result of that is that as practitioners, or just maybe as people who are wising up some way or another, maybe not practicing, but we're wising up a bit. Some karmas are being relinquished or unwound or dissolved as we go through life.

So, there's this idea that as we go along, if we're going in the right direction, we would actually step off of our charts in certain areas. So, because our chart is talking about karmic patterning, as karmic patterning is released or dissolved, certain parts of our chart are not going to apply forever in our lives.

And this is already written into traditional Jyotish, where certain things are in your chart are said to be more influential when you're younger, and then they're not very influential when you're older. There's many things like that already written into traditional astrology.

But as practitioners, we're not trying to live to our chart. You know how some people sort of gleefully are like, my astrology chart told me I was going to do this, and I did it. And you're like, okay, [laughs] wonderful [laughs].

What we're actually looking for as practitioners is freedom. Some deeper or more profound kind of spontaneity that wouldn't be governed by what a chart is predicting for us. And of course, we're not going to get rid of all our karma, but we can develop sort of patches of greater freedom as we go along and things that no longer apply.

So, there's just a somewhat different orientation than you might hear from some other astrologers who aren't in this kind of tradition.

This is just a phenomenon, why does that communication exist in that way?

Well, there's only communication here. Everything here is communicating. It's just that we don't realize that. So, in its infinite mercy, the Self has organized special instances of communication that us dunces can recognize as such.

But actually, everything is communicating with everything. There's a Buddhist teacher who said something marvelous that I often repeat. He said, duality is a theater of communication.

In the Tantric traditions, of course, this entire manifest world is compared to a city. A city is where you go to meet and communicate. So, everything here is a communication, and it's a specific kind of communication. It's a call-and-response communication.

When we discover Jyotish or some other kind of astrology and we, like, ask somebody for reading, now we're answering the call, we're responding. There's a back-and-forth between us and our astrology that starts to happen.

But all of life is like this. And what we're doing when we do sadhana is we're opening our senses, opening the gates of our perceptions so that we can participate in this, what Rumi calls this 'constant conversation'. Every spiritual person who has some significant degree of realization starts to recognize that everything is a communication.

I remember when it first, like, became palpable to me, and I had this feeling that, oh no, Guru is everywhere. Guru's in everything, in every circumstance. And I was like, there's no escape. There's nowhere to hide. Right? [laughs] And that feeling lasted for some months. It wasn't actually a short feeling of being surrounded. [laughs]

So, I just wanted you to talk a little bit about omenology. So, are omens things that we can perceive as direct communication from reality? [SHAMBHAVI: Yeah] But really, like, everything's an omen?

Well, everything's communicating. [STUDENT 2: Okay] Right? And an omen is a special kind of circumstance where there's symbols happening naturally. [STUDENT 2: Okay] So, it's like language. [STUDENT 2: Mmhm] There's a lot of sounds in the world, but not all of those sounds are recognized as a language. [STUDENT 2: Mm]

And omens are, like the symbols as letters of an alphabet or words. And they're kind of agreed upon. So, they get used over and over and over again. And it's a two-way communication. You know, nature is producing those omens for us. And we are learning how to read them. And it's a language.

Everything is communicating something. But the omens are like a specific language [STUDENT 2: Hm] in various different cultures.

I'm just thinking, like, how maybe different omens apply to human bodies versus, like, I don't know, animal bodies.

Yeah. If we weren't so pig-headed. [laughs] [student laughs] Which is actually maybe not a good thing to say. But if we weren't so human-headed [students laughs] then we would have better relationships with animals, and we might know more about their languages. Right?

I have been thinking about Sharada. I'm wondering if you could talk about her and also, like, why she belongs to autumn and the Moon?

The Moon, in general, is extremely wonderful because the Moon, literally, our Moon, is glowing because of reflected Sunlight. So, the Moon itself has no inherent light. It's reflecting the moonlight off of its surface, and that's why we see it—of the Sunlight.

So, if we stare at the Sun, we go blind. This is analogous to when Arjuna asks Krishna to appear in his real form, not as Krishna the charioteer in the Mahabharata. And Krishna says, you couldn't take it if I did, it would be too much for you. And Arjuna says, oh no, not me, I want to see you, I can take it.

But he can't because Krishna then appears as all worlds and all beings and all times and, and Arjuna immediately is like, no, no, it's too much. So, the Sun is that. The Sun is too much. And the Sun is a living symbol of prakashakaya, the light of consciousness.

So, in order to be able to contemplate that light of consciousness, we have the Moon. And the Moon is like the merciful aspect of Sun. It's something that we can look at, that we can gaze at indefinitely. And instead of being heating and overly intense, it's cool and sweet.

And it also has this real clarity that moonlight imparts this incredible clarity to everything. So, this is why Lord Shiva has the Moon over his head instead of the Sun. It's like an aspect of the mercy of God that we have this light that we can look at.

So, we have series of things. We have, for instance, the primordial guru, Shiva, and we have Mahasiddhas and rishis and dakinis. But we also just have schlubs like me, like ordinary human teachers who are easier for us to relate to and can speak to us in a language that we understand.

That's also like going from the Sun to the Moon. It's like another series from something that's too much for us to something that we can actually encounter and relate to and digest. And just like those series, we have series a series of deities that are going from the most absolute incarnations of those wisdoms to something we can relate to more easily.

So, Sharada being associated with the Moon, and the Moon particularly being her third eye, it means that she's giving us wisdom in a form that's easier for us to digest. And of course, the third eye is the eye from which transmission is happening.

So, that transmission is happening in a saumya form, a sweet, cool, healing moonlight form rather than a solar form. That's part of her compassion, that she is transmitting moonlight.

And then, she is associated with autumn because that's the harvest. So, that associates her with nourishment. And she's very much concerned with human life and with nourishing us and helping us to learn and enjoy the beauty of this life. And so, she's associated with the harvest.

So, in the Trika tradition, there's a cascade from Para, The Devi, to Sharada, who sort of occupies that middle level along, like, Sarsvati. And then, Matangi. Matangi is very much associated with the human teacher and that's why she has a parrot as her vehicle.

But we saw that Sharada also was pictured with a parrot. Right? And that's really significant too. Although that wasn't in the Sharada Sahasranama that I was looking at where I got that longer description and text.

In pictures, you sometimes see her with a parrot. And that means that she is repeating the words of wisdom in a form that we can understand, which is Matangi is even more associated with the parrot. Sometimes Matangi has like, parrots all around her.

So, Matangi conveys the exact words of wisdom, parroting the words of the Adi Guru or whoever comes before her in the cascade in ways that human beings can understand. And Sharada also seems to have that association, at least in some of her iconography.

You've spoken at various points about whatever moves from one life to the next being a kind of jumble sale with various components. Like that idea of the sanchita. Like, I'm curious about how that relates to the analogy of the jumble sale?

From my perspective, the jumble sale analogy doesn't really work here. It's more of like a field. So, if you think of ourselves as sort of ground zero for this experience and then moving outward from this condensed experience is an infinite field of various connections that really come from all times.

And we would never really know where that ends. But of course, just like our breath, you know, when we breathe out of our nose, it's kind of going outward. Who knows where it ends up? But we could say, well, the feeling of it ending is around here.

The same way that as the karmas are less impactful on this incarnation, they kind of peter out in terms of their active relationship to us. Maybe they fed some tiny little thing into us. We get further and further out in the field until it kind of dissipates. It becomes indistinguishable from just the whole field of manifest life.

We have this pretty much infinite reservoir of life that has somehow become related to this phenomenon of ourselves. And if you ever practice enough for this to happen over enough time, some of that reservoir becomes more apparent.

And so, you start to be flooded with different kinds of images, you can't even say if they're memories or not. But they're just, like, rando stuff that's, like, somehow connected to this that becomes more available to be somehow glimpsed or experienced.

There's no end to it. And, and it isn't actually very important [laughs] is what I've discovered. The stuff that you see or that just kind of comes up, it's just so random that you know it's related to this somehow. But it could have been like a billion years ago or a billion years from now or not really very essentially related to this life.

But somehow it's there in the field and you can become more aware of it as the gates of your perceptions open.

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