Astrology and ‘Other’ Visitors
By Vrndavanlila Devi Dasi (Dr Vrinda Baxi)
As the new year approaches, the newspapers and different magazines get flooded with columns on the forecast for the coming year for people born under different star influences or star signs. Everybody seems to be reading it with great interest. The mysticism of the unknown and desire to explore it is very fascinating indeed.
Now in this year there is a new fear in the people – “Will the world end in 2012?” – the fear of death, the fear of losing our objects of attachment. This question is raised even by the devotees. So much so that one of the initiating gurus, HG Sankarshan Das Adhikari replied to it directly, “There are many doomsday would-be prophets who claim that according to the calendar of the Mayan Indians the world will end on 21 December 2012. The rumored 2012 Armageddon has become so popular that even a Hollywood movie has been made depicting the complete destruction of the world civilization in 2012. But what the naysayers fail to note is that even though the Mayan writings describe 21 December 2012 as the last day of their current time cycle, there are also dates mentioned in the Mayan writings of times far beyond 2012 such as a mention of the year 4772. In other words, 21 December 2012 is definitely not the calamitous end that so many are claiming that it is. The Vedic calendar authoritatively confirms that we have another 155 trillions years to go before this universe is destroyed by being inhaled into the body of Mahavishnu. If you chant Hare Krishna, you will be in Krishnaloka at that time. You won’t have to worry about being sucked into Mahavishnu.” Further, there were articles on the subject by different ISKCON astrologers on 2012. Astrology seems to have become synonymous with its branch of “Jyotish Shastra”. At the same time, a few view astrology not as a ‘good art’ and refers to dark mysitic art of achieving different siddhis and using them for realizing mundane goals such as solving the non-compatibility issues between couples, settling scores with enemies, attaining prosperity in business, success in love life etc. In fact, many present day astrologers lure public by tantalizing them with their feats in the mentioned areas. Is this astrology? Though perceived with mixed feelings and widely misused, it is a genuine science.
Srila Prabhupada: No. We believe in astrology. But because it is a difficult science, people do not understand it properly. That is another thing. In my practical life I see. In my horoscope, everything is written, what I am doing. Everything is written. So…
Svarupa Damodara: That would be called like genius. Sometimes. If somebody can predict what is going to happen in the future, can be, just like, taken…
Srila Prabhupada: No, these astrologers can give everyone exact, the history of life, what is going to happen, what happened… [Conversation: LA, California, December 29, 1973]
Srila Prabhupada clearly called “astrology” as a science, “This is a science. It is a science. That science is acceptable by the human society. Medical science, legal science, engineering science. Similarly, astrology also, another science…” [Conversation: LA, California, December 29, 1973]. He also confirmed its ability to predict and scriptural validity, ““… Astrology, by calculation through the shastra, astrological calculation can say what you were in your past life and what you will become in your next life. There is an astrological system. They can say like that. So through the shastra, by right calculation, we can understand.” [Conversation: LA, California, December 29, 1973]
Interestingly though he acknowledged it as a science, he was also very clear of its non-significant role in a devotee’s life. In the same conversation, he therefore carefully added, “But the astrology is simply useful so long you have got this body. But as soon as your body is finished, there is no more use of astrology.” He further made his views of its dismissal clearly known as he directly answered devotees’ questions in this regard:
Tamala Krshna: What is the position of astrology in Krshna consciousness?
Srila Prabhupada: Astrology is a science. Krshna consciousness has nothing to do with astrology, but it is the general custom that as soon as a child is born the astrologers come. That is the Indian system, Vedic system. [Conversation: BG, Bombay, March 24, 1974]
One may find Srila Prabhupada’s views little contradictory and are likely to twist it to use it support their decision to approach one astrologer after the other till they meet somebody who says what their ears yearn to hear. I wish to share my personal experience in this regard.
From the time I completed my teens, a very scary chapter of life opened itself in front of me. It all began on April 16, 1992. I had met with a serious accident about a fortnight ago and the next day I was to take my M.A. (English) examination. Accident had brought a storm in my study schedule; I nevertheless wanted to go ahead. It was well past midnight, my friend and my sister lay on the bed next to me at a little distance, I tried to concentrate on my book…It was about 3:00 am, I decided to rest for sometime. I somehow managed to get up from the easy chair that I had been sitting upon and slipped in my bed. The sleep was refusing to come so I tried to recall what I had read…suddenly I could feel the air getting heavy. I was not able to move any part of my body. I could not turn but I could still see (as if I had eyes behind too!) a tall lady sitting in the same chair where I had been, I could clearly hear her thin, squeaky laughter…soon her bony fingers were passing through my long hair which were washed but had not dried. They were lose and touching the ground. Their length was directly related to the duration for which she was holding on to them…and it was simply chilling. I wanted to run away and shout, call my parents or my friend for help, but I was totally immobile. I could feel her ‘dead’ fingers slowly slip through my hair to my neck…does she want to strangle me? I certainly did not want to die in such an indignified manner. In the meanwhile my friend woke up, I became little optimistic but she just got out of the room to the verandah and then to the washroom leaving our room dark… ‘she’ was laughing at my agony. I was thinking of all possible solutions, suddenly I remembered Hanuman Chalisa, it gave me little hope and mentally I started reciting, praying ardently to help me out of her clutches…She disappeared!
Being raised in a typical defence forces’ atmosphere, I never believed in ghosts or spirits. But slowly her visitations grew in frequency and her behavior became more and more vicious. I was torn between believing what I was undergoing and in my non-belief in such things. But what was it that I was seeing? The fear had made me insomniac. I suffered silently with it. About seven years went by till I shared it with the temple president prabhu in my first visit to the ISKCON temple. Unlike my father, he did not disbelieve me or dismiss what I was ‘seeing’ as a ‘fancy’ or a ‘nightmare’. He simply tried to explain the science behind it in a very very simplistic manner and advised me to chant the mahamantra.
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
Fortunately, I chanted despite my disbelief in the solution and initial hiccups of acceptance. And now when I look back I feel glad that I persevered. Her visitations stopped within a week or so. This was in June 1999! I felt free like a bird. I could sleep without being troubled. It was the magic of Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada!
Now so many years later, sometime in March 2010 I worked till late on my newsletter and then somewhere round 3 am went to bed. Sleep has always been little elusive to me and I lay silently for a while looking at the open window in front of me. Suddenly I saw a figure of a lady enter floating through the narrow bars of the window. She had deep reddish brown complexion and was ugliness personified. As her apparition ‘swam’ closer to me with not so good intentions, I became worried for my little daughter, Radhika, sleeping beside me. I was helpless once again but I could remember His holy name. I chanted. She disappeared but I was transported to a strange place where apparently some homa had been performed and there were many people waiting in a queue to meet somebody. I also sat and waited; finally my turn came. Everybody had queued up to meet one man who was in blue dress. He held my palm and gave one dirty smile. I squirmed and without any reason developed unexplained anathema for him. I certainly did not want to be there. I was chanting unconsciously and the scene shifted yet again and I was back in my room with a start. The face of that man in blue was still haunting me and that bitterness was not leaving me. I woke up my husband but he dismissed it to my old nightmare and told me to wash my feet, drink water and then sleep again. I tried to believe his words but I was not convinced from within. Sometime in the evening, I got a call from an astrologer (who is an ex-ISKCON person). He told me to immediately come online. Informing my husband, I once again sat in front of the system. He asked me about my ‘nightmare’. I was surprised but still I told him but did not tell him about the man in blue and my negative feelings towards him. In the course of conversation, he sent me a picture and asked my feedback. I opened the file…Krishna…it was the capture of my dream sequence – the same homa scene in my ‘dream’ which had been haunting me. When I zoomed, I realized that the man dressed in blue was none other than he himself with whom I was speaking! Oh Krishna…he could travel through time as now he was very old. He had expected an excited adulation for him, but it only cemented my inexplicable unacceptability of his character despite his knowledge and mystic powers. What use are these kind of waste gimmicks? So many innumerable universes are floating in the air, sun despite being so far can get unbearably hot, one day the mango is sour and just within a few days it becomes so sweet, an ugly caterpillar turns to a lovely butterfly, a green plant grows multicolored flowers with attractive fragrance. One simple mahamantra and our heart gets cleansed of the material conditioning accumulated birth over birth! There is miracle every moment and everyday, still we get carried away by these ‘magicians’. Who can be a bigger mystic than the Lord Himself – Yogeshwara. Simple chanting, following of regulative and instructions; and initiation by a bonafide guru, we are connected to the entire parampara! Apparently, people born under a few nakshatras can ‘see’ and are sensitive to ‘visitors from the outer world’ but what use are these? We may be working very hard to give comfort to this material body, but what use is that? “Astrology” is relevant as long as we have this material body. It is primarily meant to realize Him:
nāyaḿ deho deha-bhājāḿ nṛloke / kaṣṭān kāmān arhate viḍ-bhujāḿ ye
tapo divyaḿ putrakā yena sattvaḿ / śuddhyed yasmād brahma-saukhyaḿ tv anantam [SB.5.5.1] [Lord Ṛṣabhadeva told His sons: My dear boys, of all the living entities who have accepted material bodies in this world, one who has been awarded this human form should not work hard day and night simply for sense gratification, which is available even for dogs and hogs that eat stool. One should engage in penance and austerity to attain the divine position of devotional service. By such activity, one's heart is purified, and when one attains this position, he attains eternal, blissful life, which is transcendental to material happiness and which continues forever.] This is why Srila Prabhupada was very clear in his instructions. Though he acknowledged Astrology as a science, at the same time he also did not give it any room in a devotees’ life:
“Regarding astrology, you should not listen to any of these so-called astrologers — strictly avoid. Don’t even see them. What is the use of seeing them? Astrology is meant for the materialist, but a spiritualist does not care for the future. Everything is dependent upon Krishna. So where is the necessity of astrology? The devotees’ principle is, let there happen anything as Krishna desires. Let me remain sincere devotee, that’s all. Pure devotee is never interested in this astrology.
So, continue nicely with your deity worship there and read my books very carefully, and without fail chant 16 rounds on your beads daily.” [Lecture: Boston, Massachusetts; March 5, 1969]
Further, in his letter to Devamaya prabhu, dated September 1, 1975 he reaffirmed his views:
“Astrology will not save you at the time of death. My Guru Maharaj was a great astrologer and astronomer, but he gave it all up. It is meant for the karmis. We have no interest in such things.”
However, I am personally of the opinion that a devotee astrologer is different from other astrologers. Surrendered unto Him, and humbly following the duty of his ‘varna’, he helps everybody to access Him more and more. I remember a few years ago, a senior devotee had offered to read my chart. His every word echoed of Srila Prabhupada’s instruction and was inundated in devotion, thus helping cement my faith further.
At the same time, it is important that the world that we are in is “duḥkhālayam” and also aśāśvatam”, so misery is bound to come in any of the three forms, it can be caused even by a ghost or a spirit. Instead of being taken by surprise by its form, it is better that we realize our true svarupa (jivera svarupa hoya krsna nitya dasa). Our karma may have brought us miseries, but our surrender unto His lotus feet will free us from our ‘fate’-fetters. Hare Krishna![The article originally appeared in the e-newsletter, THE EIGHT PETALS. The author can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org]
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