Embody the Truth, Not your Myth

This is lesson 1 of my new course in Vedic Astrology. Please go to my Youtube channel for a series of lessons on the planets and a preview of the course.

To some extent, everyone lives out a myth they inherited. What if you had the outline of your myth from birth to death? What if you knew about the friends and foes you will meet along the way, the obstacles and advantages you are likely to encounter, so you can develop the skills and dedication that you will need to be the hero of your life’s story?

We are all aware of the visible cycles of nature, like dawn and dusk that give way to the dark night and the promise of a new spring that cycles into the death of winter. Jyotish, the ancient Vedic science of Astrology is called the "Eyes of the Vedas", because it serves as a guide to all the Vedic branches of knowledge by illuminating the mysterious and hidden planetary cycles of nature that wield profound influences on our life’s trajectory.

Vedic Astrology is the primary counseling tool of Vedic knowledge and should be embraced as more than just predicting timing of events. It’s true physical, mental and spiritual benefits are self-knowledge and self-discovery that comes from gaining insight into the hidden dimensions of our psyche. When used in this way there is no other modality that can match the speed at which we can gain guidance and empowerment to influence the course of our life. This model puts the authorship of our unique Hero’s Journey in our hands rather than blaming the stars for our predicaments.

So, let’s begin our journey …

A thought, or a desire appears in our head…. Where does it come from? Can we be sure that it belongs to us? Are we alone in our head? Are we truly captains of our own ship, or are there forces beyond our control steering the ship?

Who is this thinker “I” “me” or “self” that we identify with, and why is Yoga’s main goal to be liberated from this limited aspect of the personality.

Behavioral Epigenetics

There is growing body of evidence in 21st century science that points towards inherited intergenerational trauma. Professor Kerry Ressler, a neurobiologist and psychiatrist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and his colleague, Brian Dias, set up an experiment to expose male and female mice to the scent of cherry blossom, while giving the mice small electric shocks. Eventually, as expected, the mice learnt to associate the pain of the shocks with the smell and began shaking with fear just with the smell alone.

What was most unexpected was the discovery that up to four generations of the offspring of these mice, even those conceived through in vitro fertilization, were born sensitive to the cherry blossom smell and demonstrated fear in the presence of the smell.

This study was published in the most prestigious scientific journal, Nature Neuroscience, in 2013. The revelations of this study certainly had scientist scratching their heads.  Brian Dias noted “The overwhelming response has been, “Wow! But how the hell is it happening?'

These types of experiments are leading the way in the new science of Epigenetics, and a growing understanding of the importance of environmental influences, both good and bad, such as trauma, diet, lifestyle changes etc., that can modify our gene expression without altering the gene code itself, and also get passed on to future generations.

Samskara – Inherited Psychological Imprints

While the scientist might be looking at these new discoveries with awe and surprise, this powerful link between our ancestors and our “self-hood”, personality and destiny, has long been understood in most ancient cultures. Worship and veneration of the family lineage is deeply rooted in the spiritual practices of many cultures, including Hinduism.

In Sanskrit these inherited psychological imprints are called samskara –  which are the accumulated experiences from present and past lives, ancestral memories and our cultural heritage, that are deeply rooted in our psyche. Positive Samskara lift us up and negative Samskara are the reason for much of our personal suffering, as well as the collective suffering of society.

Indeed, the whole system of the Vedic/Yogic culture in India, as it has evolved over thousands of years, was designed to aid in the transformation and transcendence of our negative Samskara.

Jyotish – Illuminates our Samskara

In Sanskrit, Jyotish (Vedic Astrology), means to illuminate. The Vedic horoscope illuminates our Samskara, which reveals our psychological foundation, desires, fears, aspirations and mental and physical health.

Ancient Yogis of India went beyond just de-coding our unique DNA and frame of reference. They also gave us complex mathematical algorithms that reveal the timing of the impact of specific influences on our consciousness during associated dasha/bhukti (planetary and sub planetary periods), as well as during certain transits such, as the infamous seven and half year transit of Saturn over the natal moon, called sade sati.

Instead of getting caught up in “fortune telling”, Vedic Astrology in the hands of a skilled practitioner becomes a divine guidance tool for both our day-to-day life, as well as our spiritual journey of transcendence from over identification with our “self-hood”.

Samskara and Karma

Karma is the actions we perform as a result of our Samskara. These two immensely important concepts define the very essence of the Vedic culture, but in the west, these are often misunderstood as archaic or fatalistic, or believed to be easily uprooted.

The Vedic culture emphasized that Samskara, or the influence of the unconscious, are deeply entrenched and cannot just be willed away with positive thinking or limited spiritual practice. Samaskara are more than just an accumulation of memories, they are the thinker itself, or the one in us who thinks. In other words, Samskara run so deep that like the offspring of the cherry blossom mice, they are the very essence of what we consider to be “me.” It’s here that we begin to wrap our mind around Vedic Astrology’s blurry lines between freewill and destiny.

In Sanskrit Karma means “what I must do”, and therefore is often used interchangeably with cultural notions of duty, responsibility and obligation. Karma Yoga, or selfless action performed without attachment to the outcome, is the hallmark of the hero’s success in all myths and stories. It is the path to freedom from suffering, as well transcendence. Indeed, embracing and transcending the burden or our Karma, without feeling like a victim, is the most significant spiritual message of the Yogic/Vedic system of knowledge.

The Hero’s Journey - The Power of Myth

The intellectual and spiritual giants of the 20th century like Freud, Jung, and Joseph Campbell also theorized that we are neither completely transparent to ourselves nor alone in our head. They suggested that our perceptions, actions and thoughts are not always voluntary but rather they may be the result of the workings of the unconscious mind, which accesses stored personal experiences and memories, especially from our childhood. Finally, they brought to light the influence of the collective unconscious, which includes memories and impulses that may belong to our culture and society at large.

Jung and Campbell studying mythology, comparative literature and astrology saw a similarity of narrative shared by cultures across the world and over thousands and thousands of years. This Jung and Campbell described as being part of the collective unconscious or “timeless truths”, which serve as a template to assist us in our psychological maturation.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate”. In this famous quote Jung suggested that when the unconscious contents of the personality are integrated into the conscious personality, then and only then a true personality can emerge.

Campbell coined the term monomyth, the common template for a broad spectrum of stories throughout cultures and history. He called this universal myth, The Hero’s Journey, and structured it as a circle or a cycle divided into three main phases: departure, initiation and return, with several sub stages.

Kierkegaard, the famous Danish theologian, poet and philosopher, also saw the power and weight of our history and said, “life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

What Jung called psychological maturation, so our true personality can emerge, or what Yoga philosophy calls transcending and transmuting “the self” is a challenging hero’s journey we all embark upon at birth.

Myths and stories across cultures reveal the yearnings fears, aspirations and struggles common to every individual. They also provide the roadmap for ways out of our predicament.

If you take your favorite fairy tale, myth or even modern myths like Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings, these stories relay metaphors for the challenging journeys resulting from our Samskara, which cannot not be buried, avoided or escaped. Otherwise, we risk turning our negative Samskara into what Jung referred to as our “shadow”, which he described as “the part of our psyche that an individual would rather not acknowledge, or “the denied parts of the self.”

Vedic Horoscope as The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey monomyth is also present in the ancient science of Astrology. The long and difficult but most rewarding journey we all must take is that of the cyclical zodiac, Aries through Pisces and Houses 1st through 12th house, which also corresponds to the cycles of birth to death, inherent in nature.

Using the template of Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, the signs Aries through Cancer and Houses 1 to 4 is the Departure phase of the journey, Leo to Scorpio or houses 5 to 8, the Initiation phase and Sagittarius to Pisces and houses 9 to 12, the Return phase. What Campbell described as the urgency of the hero’s “call to adventure” can be seen in the first house and Aries. Having heeded the call and claiming victory the hero retreats in the twelfth house and Pisces, or what Campbell called “freedom to live”. The other ten houses fill in the details of our story on how we go from here to there.

The planets reveal our super powers as well as kryptonite and translate to the characters like the dragons, villains and mentors the hero will encounter on his journey. Strengthening the condition of weak planets in the horoscope refers to skills the hero will need to acquire and perfect along the way.  

The Sun represents the Atma, or the Universal Self, and thus the potential of the Hero within each of us.

The Moon is Jeeva, or the embodied self and our emotional filter that the Hero must purify to nurture and rejuvenate himself on the journey.

Mars, the war we must wage to challenge our enemy, which is ultimately our own ignorance.

Jupiter reveals the guides, mentors, and supernatural aids we encounter, but also our own inner deep-seated beliefs and dogma that accompany our journey.

Saturn, our insecurities, fears and mental blocks, as well as reality and practicality imposing obstacles and obligations, confining and limiting the Hero’s reach.

Venus is the feminine principles of receptivity and “soft power” that is indispensable for a successful journey.

The opportunistic Mercury, often shows up as a sly and slippery character, who can play both sides in a story. But when his skills are turned inwards, he gives the power to approach a situation without bias and observe our true motivations.

Finally, our blind spots, the North Node Rahu and South Node Ketu, represent the shadowy characters in stories that disrupt the natural order of the Hero’s life to create chaos and radical change that ultimately propels his evolution.

The ancient Vedic algorithms of the 120-year cycles of the Vimshottari Dasha system based on the birth time, birth place and time, forecast our destiny decade by decade, year by year and month by month, providing a roadmap for the timing of how our unique story has the potential to unfold. 

Healing is Messy

Most healing modalities, including the monomyth, suggest a sequence of stages, such as Departure, Initiation and Return. In real life though, healing does not come in neat sequential stages, it is messy, disordered and complicated. We may stay in one stage for decades, skip some stages completely, or in times of emergency or extreme experiences, go through all the stages in a matter of days, weeks or even minutes.

All of us will go through numerous cycles of the hero’s journeys in a lifetime. Furthermore, each of us will encounter a different set of characters, events and have our own distinct rhythm in how our story unfolds. Jung suggested that “the reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.” The Vedic horoscope tells our unique story and myth, allowing us to embrace and transcend the limits of our story, and acknowledge our unique path to self-discovery.