An Astronomical Lesson
This month the grahas themselves are teaching all who observe them their order—from closest to furthest from the Sun. The lesson begins before sunrise during the month of June and especially the last days of June when Mercury will be easier to see. This alignment of the five tārā grahas (true planets) in their exact order occurred last in 2002 and won’t happen again until 2040.
To add to this very beautiful sight, on June 24th, the crescent moon will be visible between Mercury and Venus. If you are fortunate enough to have a good clear Eastern horizon and it isn’t cloudy that day, you will be in for a special treat, one worth getting up to see.
The Paradox of the Sun
Would there be life on earth if not for the Sun? Haven’t untold generations worshiped the Sun as it rises each day, some chanting the famous Āditya Hṛdayaṃ quoted above? Among the three guṇas, isn’t it so that the Sun is classified as sattvic? Don’t many of the teaching examples in the Vedic tradition use the Sun as the metaphor for the all-pervading light of pure being or consciousness—ātman. Isn’t it true that the Gayatri mantra, the stotra that extolls the Sun, is considered to be a singularly sacred hymn?
Yes, all of the above statements are true. Then why is the Sun classified as a krura graha, a word usually translated as a natural malefic? As is often the case, the answer is embedded in a traditional tale in the Vedic tradition.
When it came time for the Sun (Sūrya) to marry, Saṁjñā, the beautiful daughter of Viśvakarma, the architect of the universe, was the perfect choice. As befitting such a spectacular couple, their wedding was in the palace of Viśvakarma with all of the devatas showering blessings on the couple. A golden palace was built by the father of the bride and the couple lived happily together for awhile. However, after some time, Saṁjñā could no longer bear the heat emanating from her husband. He was her beloved but she could not endure his presence. She finally had to ask him to reduce the intensity of his heat and radiance or she would have to leave. The tale goes on to describe the extraordinary circumstances in their marriage such Saṁjñā substituting her shadow as a stand-in wife. However, ultimately there was a workable conclusion. This story deals with the very quandary I have laid out. How do we view the Sun in a chart? A sattvic, kind (saumya) graha or a cruel (krura), malefic one?
The answer is that we, like Saṁjñā, need to deal with the reality that the Sun’s inherent nature is to burn. It is a star. That heat will burn where it is in a chart, not from malice but because the Sun is essentially a ball of fire. Yet it is also the absolute truth that the Sun is the source of light in our solar system and no life is possible in its absence. As it is pure light, it is sattvic and has all the attributes that flow from that. And they too will come shining through.
Swami Vivekananda: An Example of Resolving the Paradox
Swami Vivekananda was the brilliant disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who brought Vedanta out of India to the world. The power of his voice was legendary as evidenced by his speech in Chicago in 1893 at the first Parliament of World Religions. Upon uttering his first five words, “Sisters and Brothers of America”, the throng of thousands sprang to their feet in thunderous applause that lasted at least two minutes.
He was given the responsibility of carrying forward Ramakrishna’s mission at a very young age of 23 and made a Swami at 24. Having fulfilled his duties, he left this world at age 39.
The Sun in Swami Vivekananda’s chart is an excellent example of how this graha can operate at the most exalted level in life and yet be a detriment to the physical body and a contributor to his health problems. Let’s examine both of these ideas.
The Sun is the lord of the 9th bhāva of dharma and is utterly unafflicted in Swami-ji’s first bhāva. At 29° 25’ of Sagittarius it is vargottama and therefore strong. Note also that the 9th bhāva is likewise unafflicted. The puruṣārtha of dharma is dominant in his chart as he has Jupiter, Mars and Sun, the 3 dharma lords (rulers of bhāvas 1, 5, 9) in or aspecting the dharmasthānas (bhāvas 1, 5, 9). Furthermore, two of those lords, Mars and Jupiter, are in sambandha (mutual aspect).
His destiny as a renunciate is clearly seen by the fact that he was born into the very combination that forms a pravrājya yoga, a yoga for renunciaton. Saturn influencing the Moon in the natal chart while Moon is in a rāśi of Saturn or Mars in the Drekkāna (D-3) is one of the conditions for forming this kind of yoga. To actually be born into the daśā and bhukti of exactly those two grahas is stunning.
So much more can be said about this remarkable chart. But in the context of resolving the paradox, we can want to confirm how his powerful prominent Sun, the lord ot the principle bhāva of dharma, represents the exalted ideas laid out in his life above.
Yet it is also true that when the Sun is in the first bhāva, it is an indicator of physical issues for the native. The Sun burns. In this sense it is krura or cruel. As we saw in the story, the Sun’s wife Saṁjñā could not handle the heat. As the Sun is the kāraka of the first in the first, we have the principle of kārko bhāvo naśya - the kāraka in the bhāva it signifies is often deleterious. The Sun is also in the final degree of Sagittarius, Mrita avastha, which adds confluence for a loss of bodily vigor and health. His health declined precipitously in the Jupiter daśā. Note that Jupiter is afflicted by powerful natural malefic Mars, a good combination for dharma but not for health. It is also hemmed in by Saturn and Rahu.
Every chart will have the Sun in it and therefore contributes to the native’s destiny pattern. Will the problematic side be well contained and /or will its very lovely attributes shine through? This will be determined by the current of karma in each individual’s chart.
Media Corner: My Debut on Social Media
The inevitable did happen. I was invited to do a podcast on the YouTube channel of Anuradha Sharda, a well-known Jyotiṣi in India with a big online presence. It is linked below. Anuradha is a pleasure to work with and we are scheduled to record another one very soon. Please feel free to share this one and make a comment if you feel moved to do so.