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Volume 62, 24 September 2023
“Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
On the Shoulders of Giants
Isaac Newton, in a letter to Robert Hooke in 1675, made his most famous statement: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. He credits his distinguished scientific discoveries to the genius of those who came before. An older version of the statement probably came from Bernard of Chartres and was expanded upon by John of Salisbury, a distinguished English scholar.
He wrote that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.
Honoring ancestors goes way beyond their intellectual legacies and is enshrined in many world religions as a duty and a gift, both to the living and those that have passed.
In the Vedic tradition, it is said that the child who keeps the sacred fire burning (most likely a reference to doing the Agni fire ceremony in the home in the prescribed manner) is continuing the lineage in a noble way and such a child will be empowered in life and will “pay it forward” to the next generation.
The Season for Remembrance
At this time of year, in both the Vedic tradition and the Jewish faith, there are solemn periods of time set aside for honoring loved ones who have passed on. For Jews, it is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a holiday during which the congregation undergoes a complete fast from sundown to sundown, spending the day in synagogue repenting for the trespasses of the year and asking for them to be compassionately forgiven. A vital point of the day is the sacred prayer of Yitzgor in which the departed are remembered and their gifts to the living re-ignited. Candles are lit for each dear departed one at sundown on Yom Kippur eve and burn for the next 24 hours.
In the Vedic tradition, there is a two-week period called Pitṛ Pakṣa which translates literally as the fortnight of the paternal ancestors. In practice, respect is paid to all ancestors in the three previous generations with offerings, especially of food. This ritual is known as Śrāddha and is traditionally performed by a son. For this reason it is important in the tradition to have male progeny. The stricture against women performing this rite seems to have softened over the past few decades; many women now faithfully perform that function.
As with most important festivals, the dates for Pitṛ Pakṣa are derived from cosmic markers. In the Indian tradition, the south celestial sphere is consecrated to the ancestors. Therefore when the Sun moves from the north celestial sphere to the south celestial sphere this two week period begins. Because of the different calendars, the full two weeks is designated as this holiday to account for the regional preferences of reckoning from the full Moon or the new Moon.
It is said to be an inappropriate two weeks for any ventures or even rituals aimed towards materializing worldly results. This structure can run the gamut from marriage to launching a website. This year the dates for Pitṛ Pakṣa are September 29th through October 14th.
Oh wait. It is not a star but an outstanding Venus, the morning star blazing on the eastern horizon. It has finished its retrograde phase but will be a charmer and visible for another six months. Visibility of a graha adds pizzazz to what it might already represent. You will see references to the apparent magnitude of a star or planet. That number can change especially for the tārā grahas (actual planets) but remains constant for the fixed stars. The grahas each have their own maximum magnitude which, confusingly, is represented by the highest negative number. When nearing its maximum magnitude (-4.9) Venus is incredibly bright. Here are a couple of charts which among their other attributes, belong to natives with a brilliant Venus.
Gavin Newsom is the charismatic governor of California. At the time of his birth (Oct 10, 1967, 5:13 AM San Francisco CA), Venus and Jupiter were highly visible along with the bright star of Regulus right above the eastern horizon.Venus was at a magnitude of - 4.8, just about its maximum.
Amy Winehouse is iconic and her legacy continues even though her life was cut short at 27 years old. Stars like Lady Gaga and Billie Eilesh clearly show Amy’s influence both in their music and in their personas. She was born September 9, 1983 at 22:21 in Enfield UK. Venus is at a magnitude of -4.7. This is especially significant since Venus is her Lagna lord.
The charts of both of these highly visible natives show a brilliant Venus configured with the ascendant. For Newsom it was in the ascendant. For Amy, it is the lord of the chart. Their other auspicious combinations are lit up by Venus adding to their charisma and visibility.
A Guru Story
He was tall—huge really—even sitting as he was, stoic yet relaxed against the trunk of a verdant peach tree, heavy with golden fruit.
His plumpness was beyond pleasant. It held a magnificent gravity, and my two legs walked forward steadily, naturally drawn to him.
He looked to be in his early 30’s yet was obviously saturated in ageless wisdom, satiated by it.
He was unadorned but for common flaxen pants, a gold ring set with a shining yellow topaz, his brahman thread and a lush garland of jasmine that rested on his kapha belly.
A golden light emanated from him, expanding through the ether in elliptical form. He looked straight ahead—at me—his eyes mild and unyielding. In that gaze, his beneficence began to infiltrate me—a delicate sweet taste filling my mouth, my fat tissues becoming infused with ojas, sattva overcoming my mind. I wanted nothing more but for him to encompass me in his massive abundance.
Here he was, the great advisor. The heavy one, he was called. Guru. The giver of goodness from the treasury of Absolute Truth.
* * *
I was born head-first into a childhood of good fortune and endowed knowledge.
Guru had been present with me all along—in the vaulted banks and marbled courtrooms, the Ivy leagues and stock markets, the political forums and charity galas, that had set the scene of my upbringing.
I felt him begin to ripen in me when I was 16 years old. From deep in my abdomen came a knowing—a true gut sense—that Guru was alive and expanding in me.
From 16 on, his expansion created more and more capacity for my studies—of religion, of scripture, of law, of human rights. Priest, judge, counselor, mentor—all these titles I was give.
I married well and was blessed with children.
We built a gorgeous estate surrounded by acres of gardens and orchards. We grew Bengal gram, peaches and pecans, plums and apples, dates, gourds, pumpkins, a host of berries, sugar cane and all manner of sweet herbs.
We made our own wines sweetened with honey from our hives, pressed olive oil from our own harvests. We feasted on our plenty of fresh cream, fresh butter, fresh ghee. Our palates were forever sweetened with the fragrance of peppermint and spearmint from our front garden.
Life was copious.
For sometime, however, I had been suffering from dis—ease; clogged arteries and lymph blockage, my ears muffled while my liver pealed in pain. My good humor, joyfulness, idealism, and solid faith seemed to be rotting away. In their place were growing overconfidence, extravagance, materialism—even greed.
I still had enough good judgement remaining to realize I needed Guru’s good counsel.
* * *
It was mid-winter, hemanta, the season from 20 Nov to 19 Jan., when I made the journey. I traveled northeast for nine yojanas—a distance not so long and not so short (somewhere between 36 and 72 miles)—to meet him.
Age 57, and here I was, basking in his golden aura.
“I invite you,” were his words.
“Come and stay with me in my monastery of treasures. I am seeking an apprentice. For 12 years you may stay, through the end of your 68th year. I will share with you all I have.”
And so I stayed.
Lisa Bailey Dec. 7, 2019
Media Corner: Space Tourism Guide
There are many resources online now for star watching and astronomical information. I came across this one (captivated by the beautiful photo) and wanted to feature it as there is great viewing information on all kinds of astronomical happenings as well as location specific tips.