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Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
17 - Divination and Dreams
Astrology and Astronomy
From the very beginning of time man has been fascinated by the stars and he has always tried to find some links between them and his own destiny. His observation of the stars and their movements gave rise to two very important areas of study, namely, Astronomy and Astrology. Astronomy can be considered a pure science which is concerned with the measurements of distances, the evolution and destruction of stars, their movements, and so on. Of course all these calculations are always made in relation to planet earth and how these interplanetary movements affect mankind on a physical level. Modern astronomy seeks to find answers to the still unanswered questions regarding the origin of man and the final, possible end of his existence as a member of the human race. It is a fascinating area of study and our new knowledge of the universe and the galaxies has put much pressure on many religions to evaluate their age-old postulations regarding the creator and the creation of life.
Buddhism does not face any dilemma, simply because the Buddha did not encourage His followers to speculate on things beyond their comprehension. However, He has made many allusions which in the light of our new knowledge gained through science, shows us that the Buddha was very much aware of the true nature of the Universe, that it was never created in one glorious moment, that the earth is merely a tiny, even unimportant speck in all of space, that there is constant creation and destruction, and that everything is in constant motion.
Astrology, however, is a completely different area of study altogether. Ever since early man began to think, he was deeply concerned about his relationship with the universe. When human societies became involved in agricultural activities man progressed from hunting as a livelihood and began to notice a link between the movement of the sun through the years and his own activities of planting, harvesting, and similar projects. As he became more sophisticated he was able to predict the movement of the sun and he invented time measurement, dividing into years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds.
He associated this knowledge with his existence whereby he felt that there was a relationship between his own life cycle and the movement of the planets. That gave rise to the Zodiac--A study of these movements in relation to a human being's personal life is called a horoscope.
The study of astrology involves a great understanding of human nature, an ability to assess planetary movements precisely, together with an insight into the seemingly unexplainable phenomena in the universe. There have been many brilliant astrologers in the past and some exist even today. Unfortunately there are an even larger number of charlatans who give astrology a bad name. They hood-wink people by predicting seemingly true events about their future. They make large sums of money by exploiting the ignorance and fear of the gullible. As a result, for a long time scientists scoffed at astrology and did not depend on it. However their hostile attitude is not really justifiable. The main purpose of reading a horoscope should be to give one an insight into one's own character, in the same way that an X-ray photograph can show the physical make-up of a man.
Statistics have shown that the influence of the sun in the signs of the Zodiac accounts for the birth of unusual people during certain months. Certain crimes have been found to correspond with zodiac signs in which the sun is moving during certain months of the year.
Thus an understanding of this relationship will help a man to plot his life more meaningfully in harmony with his innate tendencies, so that there is less friction as he goes through life.
A new-born baby is like a seed. It contains within itself all the ingredients which will make it a similar, yet completely different individual from all its fellow human beings. How its potential is developed depends, like the seed, on the kind of nurture it receives. The nature of a man is born within him, but his own free will determines whether he will make really good use of his talents and abilities. Whether he will overcome his potential for vice or weakness depends on how he is trained in his youth. If we recognize our nature--our tendency towards laziness, irritability, worries, frustrations, wickedness, cunnings, jealousy--we can take positive steps to overcome them. The first step in solving problems is to recognize them for what they are.
Astrological interpretations indicate our inclinations and tendencies. Once pointed out, we must take the necessary steps to chart our lives in a manner that will make us useful citizens of the world. Even a person with criminal tendencies can become a saint, if he recognizes his nature and takes steps to lead a good life.
A horoscope is a chart drawn to show the karmic force a man carries, calculated from the time of his birth. The force determines the time of birth and knowing this time, a skillful astrologer can accurately chart a man's destiny within a given life-span.
Everybody knows that the earth takes approximately one year to move around the sun. This movement, viewed from the earth, places the sun in various zodiacal areas during the year. A person is born (not accidentally, but as a result of karmic influence)when the sun is on transit in one of the twelve Zodiacal signs.
Through the horoscope you can determined certain times in your life when you have to slow down, or push yourself to great levels of creativity, or when you have to watch your activities and health.
Buddhist Attitude Towards Astrology
The question most people ask is whether Buddhism accepts or rejects astrology. Strictly speaking, the Buddha did not make any direct pronouncement on this subject because as in many other cases, He stated that discussion on matters such as these do not pertain to spiritual development. Buddhism, unlike some other religions, does not condemn astrology and people are free to used the knowledge they can get from it to make their lives more meaningful. However, if we study the Buddha's teaching carefully, we will come to accept that a proper and intelligent understanding of astrology can be a useful tool. There is a direct link between the life of an individual human being and the vast workings of the cosmos. Modern science is in accordance with the teachings of Buddhism. We know for example that there is a close link between the movement of the moon and our own behavior. This is seen especially among mentally disturbed and abnormally violent people. It is also true that certain sicknesses like asthma and bronchitis are aggravated when the moon waxes. There is, therefore, sufficient basis for us to believe that other planets can also influence our lives.
Buddhism accepts that there is an immense cosmic energy which pulsates through every living things, including plants. This energy interacts with the karmic energy which an individual generates and determines the course that a life will take. The birth of an individual is not the first creation of a life but the continuation of one that had always existed and will continue to exist so long as the karmic energy is not quelled through final liberation in the unconditioned state. Now, for a life to manifest itself in a new existence, certain factors, namely seasons, germinal order and nature must be fulfilled. These are supported by mental energy and karmic energy and all these elements are in constant interaction and interdependent with each other resulting in constant changes to a human being's life.
According astrologers, the time at which a person is born is predetermined by the cosmic energy and the karmic energy. Hence, it can be concluded that life is not merely accidental: it is the result of the interaction between an individual's karma and the universal energy force. The course of a human life is predetermined, caused partly by a being's own actions in the past and the energies that activate the cosmos. Once started, a life is controlled by the interaction between these two forces even to the moment at which a birth takes place. A skillful astrologer then, as one who understands cosmic as well as karmic influence, can chart the course of one's life, based on the moment of the person's birth.
While we are in one sense at the mercy of these forces, the Buddha has pointed out a way through which we can escape its influence. All karmic energies are stored in the subconscious mind formally described as mental purifies and impurities. Since karmic forces influence one's destiny, a person can develop his mind and negate certain evil influences caused by previous bad kamma. A person can also 'purify' his mind and rid himself of all karmic energies and thus prevent rebirth. When there is no rebirth, there is no potential life and there will consequently be no 'future' existence which can be predicated or charted. At such a stage of spiritual and mental development , one will have transcended the need to know about his life because most imperfections and unsatisfactoriness would have been removed. A highly developed human being will have no need for a horoscope.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, psychologists and psychiatrists have come to recognize that there is much more to the human mind than the hard core materialists have been ready to accept. There is more to the world than can be seen and touched. The famous Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, used to cast the horoscopes of his patients. On one occasion when he made an astrological analysis of about 500 marriages, he discovered that the findings of Ptolemy, on which modern Western astrology is based, were still valid, that favorable aspects between the sun and the moon of the different partners did produce happy marriage.
The well-known French psychologist, Michel Gauguelin, who originally held a negative view of astrology, made a survey of about 20,000 horoscopical analyses and found to his surprise that the characteristics of the persons studied coincided with characterization produced by modern psychological methods.
The planting of certain flowers, trees and vegetables at different times of a year will produce differences in strength or appearance of the plants. So there is no reason to doubt that people born in certain times of the year will have different characteristics from people born at other times. By knowing his weaknesses, failures and short-comings, a man can do his best to overcome them and make himself a better and more useful person to society. It will also help him a great deal to get rid of unhappiness and disappointments. (Going away from the country where a person is born for example, can sometimes help one avoid the influence of the stars.).
Shakespeare says: 'The fault is not in our stars but in ourselves". A well known astrologer has said: 'The stars impel; they do not compel'. St. Thomas Aquinas says: 'The planets influence the more elemental part of man than passions', but through his intellect man can arrange his life in harmony with the planets, and also cultivate his inherent talents and manipulate them for his betterment.
Astrology cannot automatically solve all your problems. You must do that yourself. Just like a doctor who can diagnose the nature of diseases, an astrologer can only show certain aspects of your life and character. After that it is left to you to adjust your way of life. Of course, the task will be made easier, knowing what it is you are up against. Some people are too dependent on astrology. They run to the astrologer everytime something happens or if they have a dream. Remember, even today astrology is very much an imperfect science and even the best astrologers can make serious mistakes. Use astrology intelligently, just as you would use any tool which would make your life more comfortable and more enjoyable. Above all, beware of fake astrologer who are out to cheat you by telling you not the truth, but what you want to hear.
Do not expect good luck to come to you or be handed to you easily without any effort on your part. If you want to reap the harvest, you must sow the seed and it must be the right seed. Remember, 'Opportunity knocks at the door, but never break the lock to gain entrance.'
Source: Buddhist Study and Practice Group, http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhism/
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