Getting Unstuck - Yama/Niyama and the Planets

“When a yogin becomes qualified by practicing Yama and Niyama, then the yogin can proceed to asana and the other means.”    — Yoga Bhashya Vivarana (II.29)

It’s that time of the year when we all make New Year resolutions and promise ourselves that there are some things we are going to do differently next year. However, year after year there are a few areas of our life that resist change and certain negative patterns keep repeating despite our best intentions. In Vedic Astrology we call these our karmic tendencies (samsaras), which are so strongly entrenched within us that as a result of our conscious or unconscious actions certain events are almost fated to occur.

Yoga, Ayurveda, Mantra, and Vedic Astrology are sister sciences overlapping and intricately connected. They all share the same language, philosophy and remedies. Even without a horoscope the language of Vedic astrology can be linked with Yoga in a symbolic way to further our self-understanding.

For example, most students of Yoga learn about Yama and Niyama, which are ten ethical principles, sometimes equated to Yoga’s “Ten Commandments". Yama refers to the restrains that we must exercise and Niyama certain lifestyle choices we must observe. You may be surprised to learn that Yoga philosophy states that we must first incorporate these principles into our life and then our practice can extend into asana (yoga posture).

While they seem so simple on the outside, to master all ten of the precepts is a herculean task. For all of us some of these will come naturally and others will be a real struggle. Through an honest assessment of which Yama and Niyama we struggle with more, we can begin to identify the more deeply troubled planets in our birth chart that are keeping us from progressing on our path.

So, let us look at each of the Yama and Niyama separately and the corresponding planet in the horoscope and how we can balance that energy.

Ahimsa or Non Violence –Most of us will never participate in any type of physical violence but Ahimsa can also turn up in our lives as anger, agitation or even too much exertion and forcefulness in our actions and thoughts. In Vedic Astrology, Mars represents our raw energy, and the volcanic fire within. It is our creative self-projection for taking initiative to transform our environment. If tension, agitation, rage, resentment or conflict keep showing up in your life, chances are that your Mars energy is probably unstable in the horoscope. To balance Mars we have to practice acting with passion and fervor but still maintain a state of equilibrium, openness and surrender.

Satya or Truthfulness – The Sun is the Divine will in creation as all energies in the solar system originate in the Sun. It is the Divine Light as well as our inner light of Truth. A harmoniously placed Sun in the horoscope helps us to abide in the highest universal Truths. If you have self-reliance and the ability to live with conviction, yet without domination, pride and ego your Sun is strong and well placed in the horoscope. To balance the solar energy we have to practice standing up for our principles with integrity and confidence and reach out to those more vulnerable that ourselves.

Asteya or Non-stealing – All of us take things that don’t rightfully belong to us. Thus, Asteya is not limited to stealing money or objects. It also includes stealing someone’s beliefs, ideas, knowledge, relationship and even confidence or sense of self. Accumulating or over consumption is also a form of Asteya s as is achieving selfish ends while pretending (often even to ourselves) to be truthful. A well placed Mercury gives discrimination, adaptability and discernment to understand the “real” value of things.  An ill placed mercury will give immaturity to discern boundaries and even the desire for manipulation or exploitation. To balance Mercury we have to practice taking only what we need and are owed and “pay” for what we take.

Brahmacharya or Sensory Restrain – While our sense organs are God given gifts for enjoyment and delight, misuse and indulgence of any of our senses can lead to dissipation of energy and turbulence in the mind and body. Venus in the horoscope indicates our capacity for pleasure and enjoyment and when harmoniously placed will give equanimity in our seeking of gratification. A good Venus gives refined taste and on the higher level seeking of delight through communion with the spirit. When afflicted it will give indulgence and unrequited desires. To balance Venus we have to practice restrain of the impulses of our desires.

Aparigraha or or non-grabbing – All of us have gone through periods in our life where we have felt obsessed and out of control. The North and South nodes Rahu and Ketu are usually the energies behind our compulsions and addictions. These unconscious forces drive us to fixation and excess. Rahu obsesses and Ketu negates, especially when conjunct another planet they bring out the energy of that planet in overload. To balance Rahu and Ketu we have to practice moderation in all our thoughts and pursuits and practice living in the moment.

Saucha or Purity – We must cultivate purity, including a pure diet and lifestyle but also pure thoughts words and deeds. The level of Purity in our life can be predicted by the condition of Jupiter in our birth chart. Jupiter elevates us and inclines us towards that which is good, wholesome, and pure. He is also called the Guru, or the cosmic teacher and guide, as he teaches us the universal principles of ethics, morality and charity. A well placed Jupiter in the birth chart will naturally predispose the person towards higher thinking and an elevated lifestyle.

Tapas or Austerity/Discipline – To materialize our goals we need the ability to work hard and endure physical discomfort. Saturn gives discipline, steadfastness, detachment and concentration. Tapas refers to the drive to put forth effort towards our goals and willingness to work hard to attain them without attachment to the outcome. The planet Saturn must be strong in the horoscope to give this quality of will power and capacity to endure. To strengthen Saturn we have to practice humility and a servile attitude.

Santosha or Contentment – The capacity to rest and be a peace is perhaps what eludes us most in the modern culture. The moon represents our lunar nature and our ability to be content, relax and remain open. A well disposed moon is compassionate but not overly sentimental; it is receptive but never subservient. A troubled moon in the horoscope will be reflected in the person continuously searching for change and forever being seized by discontentment. To balance the moon we have to practice going with the flow, acceptance of the way things are and not seeking to change every situation.

Svadhyaya or Self-study – The willingness to reflect on our ego-self, our motivations, habits and tendencies with an unbiased attitude is critical to our spiritual growth. Jupiter gives the desire for higher knowledge and Mercury the mental dexterity to grasp the knowledge. If one of them is weak in the chart there will either be no interest in self reflection and study or there will be delusional ideas about the self. To strengthen Jupiter and Mercury some study of the scriptures, seeking spiritual knowledge/books and listening to the words of wise teachers should be part of our daily routine.

Isvara pranidhana or Surrender – This is most difficult of the precepts as it requires relinquishing control and yielding to the divine will. Our capacity to truly surrender requires balancing all the planetary energies; Sun for conviction, Moon for receptivity, Mars for courage, Venus for divine love, Mercury for discernment, Jupiter for higher knowledge and faith, Saturn for endurance, Rahu for deep desire to know God and Ketu to negate temptation. When all the planets have been realized and mastered surrender comes naturally. In the meantime, the best place to begin is by simplifying our life and practicing accepting that all life events are part of the divine plan, even if we cannot always understand them.

So, in 2011 let us make a resolution to deepen our spiritual practices by really making a consorted effort to practice the above principles. Identify the ones you persistently have trouble with and you might figure out which planetary energy you need to strengthen or balance in your chart.

Make this year the year you begin to live your karma’s consciously and get unstuck!