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Vedic Chart Reading Basics: Part 2

In part 1 of this post, I discussed some basic chart-reading guidelines for those new to astrology (or just new to Vedic-style charts). While those with Vedic astrology backgrounds will prefer to check out some of the blog’s more advanced posts, my hope is that this post and its predecessor will be a useful reference for beginners.

Since the first post in this series discussed the initial steps in chart reading, such as locating the ascendant, learning abbreviations for planets and signs and identifying the 12 houses, this post will go into a bit more detail about how planets, signs and houses work astrologically, while also introducing the concept of “aspects.”

In another earlier post about astrology fundamentals, I discussed the importance of viewing the planets as people. Like people, each planet has specific personality traits and, in the same manner that we respond in certain ways to different environments and lifestyles, planets respond differently to the energy of each astrological sign.

The 12 houses represent the different parts of our lives, as discussed in this other early post. For example, the 6th house represents our daily labor, debts, enemies and health or illness, while the 7th house represents our partnerships (including most notably – but certainly not only – marriage).

Let’s look at the big picture this way:

  1. Planets are people.
  2. Houses are the different parts of our lives.
  3. Signs are the types of energy (think: adjectives) connected to each house. Signs always match up with houses in the same clockwise order (i.e. Taurus always comes after Aries, Gemini always comes after Taurus, etc.), so as long as you find the ascendant in a chart, it’s easy to match up the houses and signs.
  4. When planets are close to each other in a chart (a “conjunction”) or reflect on each other at a direct angle (such as 180 degrees, which is called an “opposition”) they impact one another. Conjunctions and oppositions are both types of “aspects,” which is the broader term for all the ways planets reflect on one another and impact each other with their energy.

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Vedic Chart Reading Basics: Part 1

Astrology is a fascinating and, for all practical purposes, endless subject. At times, I know it can seem like a foreign language to people who are new to it… especially when looking at charts. However, once an astrology student can read charts – even at a very basic level – the fun and excitement of analyzing the charts of family, friends, love interests or celebrities often jumpstarts the learning process. If you’re curious about astrology, but unsure how to read an astrological chart, my hope is that this series of posts about chart-reading fundamentals will help you get over that hurdle.

As this post is aimed at those new to Vedic astrology and/or South Indian-style charts, more experienced readers may want to check out my posts under the “Observations” tab.

I’ve included a chart – (in the South Indian style, which is what I use on this blog) – for a hypothetical person born at the time I’m writing this, which is December 20, 2015 at 6:00 pm in Los Angeles. I’ll refer to this chart throughout the post:

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Let’s start by finding the corner where a diagonal line is drawn in the chart. In this instance, we can see that a diagonal line is drawn in Gemini (abbreviated to “Ge”), which is in the upper right-hand corner of the chart. This diagonal line and the number next to it, 21:53, represent the “ascendant,” which is the degree during the exact time of birth, as viewed from our location. A good way to think of the ascendant is as your “starting point.”

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The Astrology of Terrorist Attacks

World events tend to provide especially clear examples of astrological patterns. The chart for a declaration of war, an economic crash or a terrorist attack will normally contain fewer variables and mixed signals than natal astrology. This is because an individual person is generally a combination of a wide variety of personality traits and influences that manifest over many decades, but (for example) the morning of September 11, 2001 in New York City is primarily a snapshot of a single major occurrence.

While viewing the chart for the recent Paris terrorist attacks* (on November 13, 2015), I noticed an aspect of less than three degrees between Mars and the nodes (i.e. Rahu and Ketu)**. The September 11, 2001 chart, analyzed in this post, includes an aspect of less than one degree between Mars and the nodes.

Since I wondered how consistent this sort of placement was in the charts of major terrorist attacks, I looked up the July 7, 2005 London attacks, as well. The day of the London attacks included Mars aspecting the nodes by less than one-and-a-half degrees. To put this information in context, an aspect of three degrees or less between Mars and the nodes only occurs for an average of less than two weeks per year.

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Astrology and Enlightenment, Part 3

If you’ve missed my first and second posts in this series on astrology and enlightenment, which focused primarily on Krishnamurti and Osho, this is the third and final post in that series.

I wrote this series because I feel that sages – because of their unfiltered, genuine reactions – make for especially strong examples of different astrological influences. I also hoped to demonstrate that enlightenment occurs to all types of people with all types of personalities and that there is no litmus test – and if I could explore astrology in a meaningful way through the examples of Krishnamurti, Osho and Nisaragadatta Maharaj, all of whom I personally find fascinating – even better!

This post both wraps up the series and explores the life and astrological chart of Nisargadatta Maharaj, a householder who was moved at a young age to become an especially sincere follower of a local guru in the tradition of the Navnath Sampradaya, an ancient Tantric sect. Soon, the unreal dissolved for Nisargadatta and, expecting that multiple cigarette shops he owned would support his family in his absence, he left for the Himalayas and became a wandering sage.

Eventually, Nisargadatta returned home, but only one of his shops remained in business. He focused on stabilizing his family’s economic situation – (at least to the extent that getting by in a Bombay slum can be considered stable) – and as people noticed the remarkable change that had happened to him, he also began speaking to seekers after work in his flat. Over time, he drew the attention of skilled translators and, during the 1970s, he became known in the West.

Natal Chart for Nisargadatta Maharaj

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At a glance, the most striking feature in Nisargadatta’s chart is an exactly full moon, a rare placement which commonly results in an exceptionally “bright” and larger-than-life persona, along with the potential to have an unusually strong impact on others. According to Vedic lore, many avatars were born during full moons, and some of the most iconic figures in modern times (such as Charlie Chaplin, to give one example) also have this placement in their natal charts.

Nisargadatta’s Mars is located in his Ascendant, representing his well-known temper and fiery nature. Like Krishnamurti, Nisargadatta has an exalted Sun; however, while Krishnamurti never cared much for speaking to people or for being seen as a guru, Nisargadatta found joy in communicating his message of universal love to earnest seekers, many of whom became regulars at his flat for years or even decades.

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Astrology and Enlightenment, Part 2

As discussed in part 1 of this post, one of Krishnamurti’s final requests was not to have any monuments or temples built for him after his death. So, following Krishnamurti’s death, Osho instructed his disciples to promptly get to work on a grandiose monument. Osho’s explanation was that the only sort of person who deserved such a tribute was one who insisted against it, but I wonder if he was partially just being mischievous.

Krishnamurti and Osho never actually met. They were geographically near each other (i.e. within a short drive) on multiple occasions and their disciples and enthusiasts tried to arrange meetings, but an impasse always resulted. Osho would say there was no point since they were both enlightened. Krishnamurti was interested to meet Osho, but as Osho’s elder he felt it appropriate for Osho to come to him. Osho, true to his nature, had no interest in following any sort of tradition or protocol… which, of course, annoyed Krishnamurti.

Throughout his life, Osho seemed to delight in baiting both Krishnamurti and their fellow sage, Nisargadatta Maharaj. While Krishnamurti and Nisargadatta were friendly with each other, they generally gave as good as they got when responding to Osho’s lack of decorum. When Osho’s disciples, who regularly wore maroon robes and necklaces with a photo of Osho on them (known as malas) would attend Krishnamurti or Nisargadatta’s satsangs, the two older more traditional men frequently singled them out for criticism and harsh questioning. Yet, Osho would encourage his disciples, clad in their maroon robes, to keep returning to the other gurus, joking that doing so was like waving a red flag at a bull and delighting in what he seemed to consider a sort of cosmic practical joke.

According to people close to both Krishnamurti and Nisargadatta, each of them acknowledged Osho as enlightened but were confused and annoyed by his techniques and attitude. I find this distinction hilarious, as it seems rather like saying, “Sure, that guy’s a direct window into the mind of God… but what an asshole!” I also think it’s a great reminder that people are and always will be people, with personality quirks, preferences, likes and dislikes, even if enlightenment happens.

Osho’s chart provides an abundance of clues as to why he was more eccentric and mischievous – and also far more community oriented – than Krishnamurti or Nisargadatta. While Krishnamurti and Nisargadatta lived humbly and focused on the individual, Osho formed a massive commune, initiated his disciples into “neo-sannyas” and reveled in life’s sensualist pleasures. Osho’s natal chart demonstrates that he was destined to be contrarian in nature, deeply interested in taboo topics such as sex and death and involved in occult groups.

Osho’s Natal Chart: Note the 8th-House “Planetary Commune”

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As you can see, most of Osho’s planets are in the 8th house, which represents sex, death and all things taboo, secretive, occult and esoteric. Among Osho’s other planets, Jupiter is in his third house of communication, exalted and serving as his atmakaraka (indicator of the soul’s highest purpose) while in parivartana (mutual reception) with his 8th house Moon. This exchange of signs between his 3rd-house Jupiter and 8th-house Moon expresses his gift for communicating (3rd house) higher spiritual knowledge (Jupiter) via occult and esoteric practices (8th house) in an emotionally resonant manner (Moon). Not only that, but Osho was especially interested in expanding the role of women in his commune, celebrating the divine (Jupiter) aspect of the feminine (Moon).

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Astrology and Enlightenment, Part 1

Most people with a deep interest in astrology, especially Vedic Astrology, are spiritually oriented. This leads to a particular interest in viewing the charts of the spiritual teachers whom one is most influenced or moved by. I share this interest in viewing the charts of sages, but it’s not because I think I’ll find a clue to enlightenment. It’s just because I find most sages interesting as people.

Actually, if astrology clarifies anything regarding enlightenment it should be that, as modern American sage Wayne Liquorman (whom I don’t have birth data for) often emphasizes, “enlightenment is an impersonal happening.” By studying sages’ charts, we can see that enlightenment is expressed through all sorts of different personality types, which underscores this statement. Actually, if there is something I might go out on a limb and argue the charts of sages do suggest, it’s simply that their core personalities tend to shine through in a clearer way than with most of us.

Let’s take a look at three great sages who were at the forefront of enlightenment teachings for decades, their overlapping prominence extending from shortly after World War II and Indian Independence until their deaths, all between 1981 and 1990.

Jiddu Krishnamurti had no interest in being anyone’s guru yet, quite ironically, found himself stuck with a greater following than the one he tried to dissolve as a young man. Conversely, Osho (who had been Bhagwan Rajneesh before and Chandra Mohan Jain before that) founded the largest metaphysical commune in recent times and lived in luxury. Meanwhile, the humble but quick-tempered Nisargadatta Maharaj spoke to whoever visited his small flat near Bombay’s red light district… but often kicked out those who were insincere or lacked focus.

For this first entry in my “Astrology and Enlightenment” series, I’ll focus primarily on Krishnamurti. Upcoming entries will focus on Osho and Nisargadatta.

Natal Chart for Jiddu Krishnamurti

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An Astrological Look at 9/11

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NYC at 8:46 AM, 9/11/2001 (When the First Plane Hit the Towers)

Just like every person has his or her own birth chart, each event also has its own chart. The 9/11 chart paints a very specific portrait of what happened that morning.

Ketu and Mars are within a single degree of each other in Sagittarius, located in the 4th house, which is the portion of the zodiac that represents one’s innermost feelings and sense of home or belonging.

Every planet has the potential for a positive, life-affirming representation or a challenging, dark representation, and Mars directly connects to action, whether in the form of an athlete winning a gold medal, somebody committing a murder, or just a working man finding the energy to get through the day. Notably, Mars also represents soldiers, who at their best exemplify bravery and heroism, yet at their worst may follow destructive orders without questioning them.

Ketu, which is depicted without a head in Vedic mythology, represents the part of us that is pre-critical thought. That’s a beautiful thing when it relates to meditative states and the sort of spiritual understanding that goes beyond words, but not so great when it relates to primitive feelings and habits that remain unexamined. Ketu also specifically represents traditional cultures.

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A Quick Guide to the 12 Houses

I’ve been thinking about writing a series of posts exploring each of astrology’s 12 houses, one by one, using specific examples and going into some depth. With that in mind, it seemed reasonable to write a quick guide to what each house represents first. I’ve already written a similar article about what each planet represents (The Planets As People), so the idea is for the two articles to work together as a (very) basic reference.

For example, Taylor Swift has Venus in her 1st house. She appears and seems to the world (1st) as artistic, aesthetically pleasant and connected to romance (Venus). Jiddu Krishnamurti has Moon in his 12th house. He lost (12th) his mother (Moon) at a young age and his state of mind (Moon) was focused on enlightenment i.e. loss of self  (12th) which he spent much of his life discussing in foreign lands (12th).

You get the idea. Saying the above method lacks nuance is putting it mildly 🙂 … so don’t go crazy with this, but hopefully it has some usefulness. I should note that I’m only including basic meanings here, so I’m not delving into concepts such as bhavat bhavam, for example, which is a valuable, but more complex method of finding further indications for each house.

1st House = You, as you appear and seem to the world.

2nd House = Your fixed assets, accumulated over time, including money, values/taste, family and close friends.

3rd House = Your peers and younger siblings, competition, talents, ambitions and achievements. Also short-distance journeys and publishing or production of the arts.

*Some astrologers feel the 2nd house involves writing and communication, while the 3rd only involves publishing. Other astrologers feel the 3rd involves writing and communication, as well as publishing.

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Jupiter & Donald Trump’s Future

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Donald Trump is out to an early lead in polling for the Republican Presidential nomination, and just about everywhere one turns people from either major party (or neither major party, for that matter) seem worked up about it and insistent he’s a joke candidate with no real chance; yet, he’s not just ahead, but way ahead of any other Republican candidate, as of the timing of this article. To be fair, Trump’s disapproval ratings are far higher than the other candidates, too. He’s a big personality who often evokes “love him or hate him” reactions, but he’s already affected the race and proven to be more than a sideshow.

What makes Trump’s Presidential aspirations interesting from an astrological perspective is that a study of his chart strongly suggests the best is yet to come for him and – wait for it – that period of his life is scheduled to begin in November, 2016. That’s election month. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’ll win – for one thing, he has to remain a viable candidate for more than a year just to have a shot – but it’s certainly an interesting coincidence.

Trump’s strongest planet is a near-stationary Jupiter, which was moving at less than 1% relative speed at his time of birth. (Near-stationary planets in one’s natal chart are often extremely important and powerful.) His Mercury in its own sign of Gemini, located in the 11th house of fulfillment of desires, social circle and networking, has surely played a major role in his success, as well.

However, Trump’s overall life-path may be most defined by his 4th house-10th house axis, which includes both luminaries (i.e. the Moon and the Sun, which is also his Ascendant lord) in a tight opposition orb to each other and in close conjunction with Ketu and Rahu, respectively. This indicates Trump’s career in real estate, as the 4th house represents the home environment (including homes, in general, not just one’s own living space) and the 10th house represents career and status. However, Trump’s near-stationary Jupiter suggests that he was destined to be “larger than life” in some way or another, even if his other planets were in different locations. The role of his 4th house-10th house axis wasn’t to ensure his success (which his Jupiter and Mercury had already heavily weighted the deck in favor of), but instead to point to the area where he would apply most of his energy and resources.

And in November, 2016, Trump’s Jupiter mahadasha (major period) begins. Jupiter is likely Trump’s most important planet, but he hasn’t even experienced its mahadasha yet. This mahadasha should be highly positive and benefit him in a number of ways, no matter what happens in his current campaign; however, he’ll have to remain a relevant Presidential candidate long enough for Jupiter’s energy to kick in or the timing will be too late to help his chances in the 2016 election. In the meantime, upcoming transits of a number of important planets and a change in antardasha (minor period) from Moon to Mars all seem lined up to benefit Trump in the near future.

Yet, Trump may still encounter obstacles relating to much of the populace, as a substantial part of his personality seems driven by a need for expansion and power. While Trump’s Jupiterian strengths have led to positive relationships with his grown children, given him an instinctive sense of generosity at times, and helped him to employ thousands of people, some of the less desirable manifestations of that Jupiterian energy, as channeled through his current Rahu mahadasha – such as potentially harmful expansion, over-the-top self-promotion and a bombastic attitude – have also played a role in defining his identity to the American public.

However, he’s just finishing up his Rahu mahadasha, which began all the way back in 1998… and that’s the sort of thing Rahu can do to people, especially if they’re prone to such tendencies before entering its mahadasha. Rahu, the north node of the moon, focuses on more, more, more; it represents insatiable desires and, in Hindu mythology, is depicted as a head without a body. Picture that image for a moment – it’s always hungry, not equipped to digest experiences or process them, only to continue craving them. As that sort of craving is quite a motivator, (albeit an inherently unsatisfying one), Rahu plays a substantial role in the lives of many people who are famous and/or achieve worldly success. Rahu’s also hell on impulse-control, which fits with Trump’s tendency to speak first and think later. And if he seems obsessed with status and career, well, he has Rahu in his 10th house, which represents those very things.

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Ben Affleck & Rahu’s Rollercoaster

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At first glance, Ben Affleck’s chart looks like a dream come true. Venus is right on the ascendant in the intelligent, creative sign of Gemini, opposite Jupiter in its own sign of Sagittarius and trining a 5th-house Moon in Venus’s own sign of Libra (in the nakshatra of Svati, which is often associated with the wealthy and socially adept). Mars is located in his 3rd house, which has a strong connection to the arts, and is in the sign of its great friend, Leo (which, once again, represents the arts). In other words, it’s a fitting chart for a multimillionaire movie star who is also sharp enough to become an elite screenwriter and film director.

Most movie fans are familiar with “Good Will Hunting,” which Affleck and Matt Damon famously wrote together and starred in, jumpstarting their careers. However, in my view, Affleck’s career artistic peak and one of the best movies of the new millennium is “Gone Baby Gone,” which was co-written (adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane) and directed by Affleck. I can’t remember a movie in the past few years that likely resulted in more couples arguing as they left the theater… and that’s a compliment, if it wasn’t clear 🙂

Then there’s Affleck’s substantial humanitarian efforts, which he’s kept rather low-key compared to the amount of effort and attention he gives them. Considering the lifestyles of some movie stars, it’s a bit ironic that a clearly talented artist who invests much of his time on charity work to help the Democratic Republic of the Congo, (which constitutes way more personal attention than writing some checks or showing up at a few banquets), seems to trigger intuitive suspicion and negativity among much of the general public. Affleck clearly understands how he’s often seen and even incorporated this view of himself into his art when he starred as a philandering husband framed for murder in the recent blockbuster “Gone Girl.”

He’s also had one of the most unlikely career trajectories in film history. He was celebrated as a screenwriter in his 20s, unfairly mocked as a tabloid headline for years, reemerged as one of the world’s top directors (and, suddenly, a respected actor), won an Oscar and now his pending divorce is all over the news, with most accounts essentially blaming him for drinking and gambling away his marriage. Of course, who knows if that’s true? However, the point is that it’s on every supermarket shelf, and while it’s likely especially personally painful for Affleck, it’s really just a dip on the Rahu-driven rollercoaster he’s been riding for a long time.

Rahu is the north node of the Moon and considered especially troublesome in Vedic Astrology. It represents our insatiable desires – the areas of life we are relentlessly compelled to experience but must eventually realize are maya (illusion) to continue on our spiritual path. Rahu is specifically responsible for all forms of mass hysteria, which include both fame and public derision. So far, I’ve done celebrity profiles on Woody Allen, Taylor Swift and Affleck and I’ve ended up writing about Rahu extensively in each one. None of these people were originally chosen to profile with the idea of focusing on Rahu, but it turned out to play a huge role in all of their lives.

Affleck’s Moon nakshatra of Svati and his Ascendant and Venus nakshatra of Ardra are all ruled by Rahu, so it’s bound to be a substantial influence throughout his entire life. As it’s placed in his 8th house, it represents sudden ups and downs, secrets and the esoteric or occult. Since the Moon nakshatra determines which mahadasha (major period) one experiences first in life, Affleck grew up during a Rahu mahadasha; then he initially became famous during the mahadasha of his strong 7th-house Jupiter in Sagittarius and antardasha (sub-period) of Rahu. In this instance, Jupiter, which is generally considered the planet best able to work with Rahu’s energy, was able to channel the more positive elements of Rahu into a sudden rise.

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