Saturn, Spirit Limited by Matter

“Heroes are made in the hour of defeat. Success is, therefore, well described as a series of glorious defeats”. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Invincible protagonist exist only in children’s stories. In adult stories the hero always has his kryptonite that makes him vulnerable. Losing your super power is part of a classic hero rite of passage. Saturn, may be our kryptonite.

All the planetary energies in our horoscope have the potential to be developed into super hero skills: Sun - Courage, Moon - Intuition, Mars - strength, Mercury -intellect, Venus - Love, Jupiter - wisdom but not poor Saturn. Saturn is like superman donning his cape but not being able to fly, and he has to rely on personal effort, like ordinary mortals.

It should not come as a surprise that it is Saturn’s planetary periods or transits, especially the 7.5 years sade sati, that brings most people to a Vedic Astrologer. The main goal of a Vedic Astrologer in my opinion is to help us learn to embrace our kryptonite, Saturn.

To make friends with Saturn we begin with the legend of the Buddha. His story begins with a royal birth in an Indian family, and an astrological prediction that he would either grow up to be the greatest emperor that ever lived, or the greatest spiritual master.

His father wanting the destiny of an emperor for his son, decided that if the Buddha lived in a perfect world with no struggle, he would have no need for spirituality. So, like any good parent he set out to protect his son from exposure to the realities and perils of life. Except he took this to an extreme by keeping him confined within the palace compound until he was an adult. Without any exposure to the real world the Buddha grew up in an idealistic world where his every need and desire was instantly met.

The Buddha’s hero’s journey started when, he left the palace for the first time and he saw people in the real world working, struggling and burdened. He was confounded by the concept of suffering and impermanence, when he saw an old man, a sick man, and then he saw a funeral procession. He realized then that the life he had been living was a children’s story - a dream and not the reality.

The next day the Buddha had his fourth encounter outside the palace walls. As he walked past a monk, who was absorbed in meditation, their hearts connected, and their minds linked, and the Buddha realized in a flash that the permanent freedom from suffering that he was seeking was not outside but within the heart and mind itself. And thus, began his exodus from paradise as he abandoned his old life leaving behind his royal life to become a spiritual seeker in search for the inner alter of peace.

Each planet’s teachings are a unique doorway to the divine and how the planet is functioning the horoscope will determine the planet’s evolution in our consciousness. Much like the experience of the Buddha, Saturn’s teachings are a hard sell and will send a chill down your spine when you first encounter him. As the servant and “side kick” of the planetary cabinet only few die-hard Saturn fans can appreciate his virtues without resistance.

Today Modern Neuroscience is beginning to understand that there are certain portions of the brain, often referred to as the primal brain, which are responsible for self-preservation. Saturn simply refers to that part of our consciousness that has evolved to favor conservative behavioral patterns, such as defense of self, family and personal property and socially approved actions, which at least to our primitive mind, help perpetuate the survival of our community and species.

It is tempting to change the channel on our story when Saturn reveals himself in our horoscope. His Maha Dasha, or main planetary period, is 19 years and his and transits 2.5 years in each sign, so his slow, and unrelenting influence is gradual and grueling.

Let’s look at some stoic Saturn’s teaching:

- Postpone gratification
- Embrace chores and lack of variety
- Be restrained and measured
-Accept the hard lessons of life
- Don’t argue with reality
- Rise to your obligation, duty and responsibility regardless of the circumstances
- Anticipate future problems and plan for a rainy day
- Accept the ravages of time, the wear and tear on our body and mind
- Endure adversity and pressure
- Practice self- control, prudence and caution

As Byron Katie says “Reality is always kinder than the story we tell about it”.

In the Vedic philosophy Saturn is called the lord of Karma. While all the planets release their karmic influence, Saturn represents the cosmic principle of karma, which is that the universe brings to account both the credits and debits of our actions, and that this accounting is manifest over life times.

In the Vedic mythic tradition Saturn’s teachings are associated with one of the most beloved deity, Hanuman. Even as a child Hanuman had extremely well-developed super powers. In his youth he used his powers to do mischief and pranks disturbing the meditating sages in his neighborhood. So, he was cursed by the powerful sages, "as this one makes trouble for us due to his celestial strength, he shall forget his own power. Only when someone reminds him again by reciting his glories will he recall his strength”. He finally got his powers back through his humble devotion, hard work and dedication in service to Lord Rama, the super hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana.

Hanuman is a metaphor for Saturn, which is our soaring spirit subjugated by matter or the hero held down by his kryptonite. We can only have the memory of our powerful and immortal celestial spirit returned to us after we have spent extended periods under Saturn’s teachings during his planetary periods. Vedic Astrologers will often prescribe Hanuman mantras, or the Hanuman chalisa. to channel him as a remedy for Saturn in our horoscope.

In the Ramayana, super hero, lord Rama, needed Hanuman to build the bridge that allowed his army to cross the ocean from India to Sri Lanka to fight the super villain, Ravana. In the same way our inner hero needs Saturn’s willingness to be ordinary and build the road, brick by brick so we can make the journey.
Saturn also teaches us the power of humility, and servitude, so the hero doesn’t get ahead of himself and become prideful.

Obama’s horoscope exemplifies a highly evolved Saturn and even as a young man he faced his realities head on when he said:

“I began feeling the way I imagine an actor or athlete must feel when, after years of commitment to a particular dream he realizes that he’s gone just about as far as talent or fortune will take him. The dream will not happen, and I now face the choice of accepting this fact like a grownup and moving on to more sensible pursuits, or refusing the truth and ending up bitter, quarrelsome, and slightly pathetic”. ~ Obama, Audacity of Hope

Like any planet you can win or lose during his planetary periods. With a well-disposed Saturn, you can even become President of the United States, like Obama did. In fact, Saturn is an excellent planet for pursuing goals that require his seriousness ambition, dedication and delaying gratification and pleasure. But still Saturn’s limiting, and contracting influence will be felt in one form or another. Often people don’t get the recognition or credit they deserve, or he can also foster the inability to feel a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction even after we have acquired our hearts desire. In other words, his influence may be felt on the mental level rather than on the outer reality.

“Where there is light, there must be shadow, where there is shadow there must be light.” ~ Murakami

Legend goes that Saturn is the illegitimate son of the sun, who unknowingly impregnated his servant Chaya or shadow. Saturn struggles to find his light because he still lives in the shadow of his, divine and powerful father Sun, who never really approved of him.

In that sense Saturn is our inherited psychological complex, which we must overcome. In the Hero’s journey, Joseph Campbell referred to this as confronting that which holds the ultimate power over us, often a father type figure in myths and stories. Until we have dealt with our psychological issues, an afflicted Saturn in the horoscope can feel a deep lack and low self-esteem and overcompensate by letting his virtues become a trap – this shows up under Saturn’s influence as self-denial, rigidness, isolation, dis-satisfaction, fear of failure and inability in finding meaning and purpose in life.

Now let’s look at Saturn in different signs and houses.

In fire signs and houses (Aries, Leo sag houses 1, 5, 9 ) Saturn limits the inner fire blocking spontaneity, courage and vitality of the fire element.

In water signs and houses (Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces and houses 4, 8 and 12) he can block the free circulation of emotions, restricting our capacity for connections, feelings and bonds with loved ones.

Saturn can block the free flow of air in air signs (Gemini, Libra and Aquarius and houses 3, 7, 11) limiting the exchange and development of ideas, thoughts and communications.

Finally, in earth signs and houses (Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn and houses 2, 6, and 10) he can restrict our ability to feel grounded and secure.

An evolved Saturn is a karma yogi, his work is his prayer, his obligations his meditation and his responsibilities his asana. .

No discussion of Saturn is complete without talking about his influence on our health. In Ayurveda Astrology Saturn is a Vata or air element planet and the main influence behind all chronic illness. Ayurveda remedies to pacify Vata dosha, like Vata pacifying diet, herbs and asana, Abhayanga or self-herbal oil massage, and pranayama are very important to assimilate in your life if you are under the influence of Saturn.

Finally, what did the Buddha find on his quest to avoid Saturn? The Buddha said:

“I teach because you and all beings want to have happiness and want to avoid suffering. I teach the way things are”. “He celebrated the pursuit of happiness, joy and pleasure but he cautioned that it should be acknowledged as transitory, impermanent and unquenchable. The only thing that is permanent is our inner alter that cannot be touched by outside events.