Twinkle Twinkle Little Star…
By HH Bhakti Raghava Swami
Remember the childhood lyric ‘twinkle twinkle little star,oh, I wonder who you are….? Who has not stared at night in the vast sky fascinated by the overwhelming beauty of seeing unlimited stars all of different sizes, of different brightness and sometimes even falling? Who has not pondered over the mysteries of the milkyway shining in the vast open skyline in the dead of night?
If we look at different statements from the ancient epic and the longest literary work in history (it exceeds several times the length of the bible and about eight times longer than the famed Iliad and Odyssey combined), the Mahabharata (greater history of Bharat–varsha or India) we will find that there is more truth behind this lyric than we can imagine. For example, in the Vana Parva of the Mahabharata, the following exchange takes place between Arjuna and the driver of Lord Indra’s chariot driver while ascending to the heavenly planets and seeing at closer proximity many of the stars: “…and see to your right the “sapta rishis”(seven sages), what you people on the earth planet refer to as stars”. (1)
How bonafide or authentic is ‘astrology’ one may ask? We should know that Astrology is one of the most ancient scinces of the Vedas known as Jyotisastra or scripture describing the luminaries. It comes under the smriti section of the Vedas, having been compiled by great rishis and self realized souls, foremost among whom is Srila Vyasadeva. At different times Srila Prabhupada did express reservations about its proper application and potential misuse. However, without any doubt, Srila Prabhupada, in keeping with all previous acharyas, recognized and acknowledged Astrology as an intregal part of the Vedic knowledge and a great science. His own spiritual preceptor, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupada was himself honoured as one of the greatest astrologers of his times and was awarded the esteemed title of “SARASVATI” or greatly learned by scholars. He has written extensively on the subject matter and to this day the Gaudiya matha and other Vaisnavas follow the astrological guidelines given by him.
Astrology and Vastu
From his book “Vastu, the origin of FENG SHUI” we find the following explanation by the author, Marcus Schmieke:
“Vedic astrology is based on a very sophisticated science of astronomy which is elaborated upon in Sanskrit scriptures such as Surya Siddhanta and Siddhanta Shiromani.
Vedic astrology known as Jyotistha is applied in Vastu to determine the most auspicious time for laying a building’s foundation, the commencement of various stages of construction, and the sizes of land or house that is most appropriate according to an individual’s horoscope.
In Vedic astrology, the sun, moon and other planets circulate on elliptic orbits covering twelve zodiac signs (rashis) with each sign consisting of two star constellations called naksatras making 27 naksatras in all, each of which has four parts or padas.(2)
From the above brief description we get a glimpse as to the scientific nature of Astrology. What is possibly even more difficult to follow or grasp is the inference that stars, at least some stars, are not simply material objects but indeed personalities.
Planets as Personalities
Evidence abounds in the ancient Vedic literatures as to the “consciousness”of planets or stars, some of whom are designated and appointed “personalities” who oversee the management of the cosmic manifestation, including the largest and most important planet, the sun.
In Brahma-Samhita, we find the following description and translation regarding surya or the sun:
yac-cakṣur eṣa savitā sakala-grahāṇāḿ
rājā samasta-sura-mūrtir aśeṣa-tejāḥ
yasyājñayā bhramati sambhṛta-kāla-cakro
govindam ādi-puruṣaḿ tam ahaḿ bhajāmi [Text 52]
Translation: “The sun who is the king of all planets, full of infinite effulgence, the image of good soul, is as the eye of this world. I adore the primeval Lord Govinda in pursuance of whose order the sun performes his journey mounting the wheel of time”.
Purport: “Certain professors of the Vedic religion worship the sun as Brahman. The sun is one of the hierarchy of the five gods. Some people target in heat the source of this world and therefore designate the sun, the only location of heat, as the root cause of this world. Notwithstanding all that may be said to the contrary, the sun is after all only the presiding deity of a sphere of the sum total of all mundane heat and is hence a god exercising delegated authority. The sun performs his specific function of service certainly by the command of Govinda.” (3)
And from the Mahabharata we find another reference in the curse given to Arundhati to become a star due to having insulted the rishi Vasishtha: “she (Arundhati) insulted even that rishi (Vasishtha) one of the seven (great rishis, the mind born sons of Brahma) on account to her insulting thought. She has become a little star and looks like fire covered with smoke, sometimes visible and sometimes invisible as if she is an evil omen” (4)
Astrology and Varnas
Varna (occupation) in life is determined by one’s guna (qualities) and karma (natural skills) [BG 4.13]. Both guna and karma are governed by the subtle laws of Astrology. In his essay entitled “Conceptions of Gita Nagari” Srila Prabhupad writes:
“By test of practical psychology and by examination of the birth horoscope of the child, with special reference to his birth right, sect and class arrangement, a student from the very beginning shall be given the education of a brahmana, of a ksatriya, of a vaisya or of a sudra, as may be the case, according to his quality and destined work.”
“It is, however, possible to make a change of this general rule under special cases.” (5)
It is therefore clear that Srila Prabhupada upheld the science of Astrology as scientific and as one of the four ways to help determine one’s varna (the other three being observation, family heritage and psychological tests). Understanding one’s varna at an early age helps clarify two major aspects in one’s life, namely one’s immediate education and in due course of time one’s asrama. It is for this reason that we hear the following statement, “first is varna then comes asrama”.
Astrology, Yoga and Mantra
Daily, those who practice mediatation following the astanga yoga system begin their exercises by reciting the Surya namaskar prayer “OM SURYAYA NAMAH”. The Surya Namaskar is the first yogic exercise performed as a salutation to the Sun God, Surya Narayana, and we love when the sun makes his appearance in the early morning.
Those who are brahmana initiated devotees of the lord also chant a hymn to the Sun God thrice daily, known as the GAYATRI MANTRA, OM bhuvah sva tad savit….. thus addressing the sun god for blessing.
The science of astrology takes many years, if not many life times to master within the context of varnasrama dharma and the need to establish a brahminical culture through the traditional gurukul system. Astrology, along with Sanskrit through which it can be more deeply studied, will play an important role in training the future Vedic teachers.
With our new study of astrology in the years to come we can expect a major change in our childhood lyric: “twinkle twinkle little star, how I marvel who you are.”
Mahabharata, Vana parva, Chapter 42:Verse 38.
Schmieke, Murcus; “Vastu the origin of FENG SHUI, NEW AGE BOOKS, Bri, basi Art Press, New Delhi-2003- p.129
Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami, Sri Bramaha-Samhita, text 52
Maha Bharata, Adi Parva, ch. 233, and 631
Bhakti Vedanata Swami, conceptions of Gita-Nagari, Part-II
Bhakti Vedanta Swami, Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 5, Chapter 3, purport text 4[The article originally appeared in the e-newsletter, THE EIGHT PETALS. For further information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org]Twinkle Twinkle Little Star…