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Volume 9

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

John Lubbock

Summer Sky Spectacles

I recently found a listing of the most noteworthy planetary and lunar conjunctions over this next decade. One of them is coming up this summer on August 5th. I wanted to let you know about these special configurations which will be visible after sunset. Hopefully novices to sky watching (which includes me!) will have a great opportunity to get to know the grahas. An additional bonus is that the grahas are often joined with one or two of the major stars of the constellations which also double as the principal stars of the nakshatras.

The configuration on August 5th will be visible for a couple of nights at around an hour after sunset. It will be seen as a symmetrical triangle of Mars, Venus and Saturn. Look near the Western horizon to see this beautiful and unusual sight.

Though they are not as geometrically balanced as the August 5th event, there are several other evenings where the grahas are clustered on the Western horizon and provide a wonderful opportunity for viewing and orienting to the natural sky. Especially noteworthy is July 14th around 40 minutes after sunset. There are four grahas visible along with the reddish star Regulus in the constellation of Leo. Regulus is known as Magha in Jyotisha and it is the marker star for the nakshatra of that name. This particular cluster will be spectacular as it features a crescent Moon and a bright Venus around two degrees from each other. Bright Mercury will be leading the group as it sits on the Western horizon.

One final one to mention is on September 11th. A display of four grahas - crescent Moon, Venus, Mars and Saturn - will be joined by the brilliant star Spica and the whole configuration will occur just below the dazzling Arcturus. We know Spica to be Citra - the very star used to establish the reference point by which all grahas are mapped in the Sidereal Zodiac (see Winter 2008 issue). Arcturus is the star favored by astronomers to orient sky watchers to the geography of the night sky. It is the principal star of the nakshatra of Swati. Enjoy the spectacle!

For the Purpose of Being Human: the Four Purusharthas Part I

The word "purushartha" is a compound in Sanskrit comprised of the word "purusha" which can be simply translated as "being" and "artha" which is often used at the end of a compound to mean "for the purpose of". The glory of Sanskrit though is that we derive so much more richness when we delve into more than the one word counterpart in English. As lovely as it would be to go there, we can just go with the idea that the four purusharthas properly expressed connect us to a balanced and meaningful life.

Since Jyotisha is a tool for unraveling the destiny of a life, it should come as no surprise that it addresses the four purusharthas and helps us understand which of them may be more emphasized in our destiny pattern and whether that might change over time. In order to take advantage of that knowledge, we need to define them and learn what they have to offer as a direction in our lives.

The four purusharthas are known as artha which addresses security, kama which links to experience and enjoyment, dharma which directs us to purpose and alignment with natural law and moksha which allows us to let go and transform.

There is some discussion in the tradition about how to prioritize the four purusharthas both in the sense of a teaching methodology and in our lives . I was reminded of this is in a memorable way when I had the occasion to teach this particular unit at Arsha Vidya Gurukulam a few years ago. The participants of the seminar had the good fortune of having one of the esteemed Swamis come to the class for a satsanga. He decided to come early to hear me teach and after listening carefully, politely pointed out that I needed to reorder my presentation. I had begun my discussion with artha as every form of life seeks to maintain itself and perpetuate itself in a secure way. However his point was that within the Vedic tradition, mankind is distinguished by dharma because among living creatures, man is blessed with free will.

So with thanks to Swami-ji, I will point out that Jyotisha too reflects the primary importance of dharma in a human life by designating the all important ascendant or lagna and the two other trikona bhavas or houses (fifth and ninth) as the sthanas or seats of dharma in a horoscope. The artha sthanas are the second, sixth and tenth bhavas, kama is indicated by the third, seventh and eleventh and moksha by the fourth, eighth and twelfth.

The tradition also assigns rashis or constellations to the purusharthas. The fire rashis represent dharma, the earth indicates artha, the air rashis connect to kama and the water rashis align with moksha.

In the next newsletter, we will go more deeply into the all important purushartha of dharma.

The Media Corner

Walking a Sacred Path

By Lauren Artress

The meditation practice of walking a labyrinth is a ritual that transcends national and cultural boundaries and appears in all religious traditions. Dr. Lauren Artress discovered the calming and transformational power of this practice around ten years ago at a spiritual conference and was inspired to author this book to bring healing and balance to others.

The resurgent interest in labyrinths has inspired research at mind body institutions with results reported with respect to lower blood pressure, chronic pain, grief etc. Institutions such as Kaiser Permanente have installed labyrinths right at their facilities. In fact, there are now around 3000 labyrinths across the country in homes, schools, churches, prisons and hospitals.

This is a meaningful book that would be a valuable addition to one's library and a lovely gift to someone in transition.