Cassius (to Brutus):Why, man, he [Caesar] doth bestride the narrow world
Like a colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates;
The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
(From Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”)
The quest to discover if planetary energies dictate our cycle of life on planet earth has been with me forever, now in the background, now to the fore. Beyond childhood impressions, one also discovered Cheiro, his ‘Book of Numbers’ and his famous book on ‘Palmistry’ And then there was Linda Goodman, her ‘Sun signs’ and ‘Love signs’ providing much fodder for giggly-teenage-chatter during college days. The thing about her writings is that the rational part of you knows that a whole group of millions of people born under a particular zodiac sign cannot possibly share the same characteristics. Yet the lure of her words is such that you are mesmerised into wanting to believe that she writes for you and you alone! Another example of the wizardry of words!
So do the stars actually map out your entire life for you? As an individual do you have no say in how your life should be shaped? Where does the fault lie…in our ‘stars’ or in our ‘underling- selves’?
These and many other questions were partly answered for me during a tea-time tête-à-tête with a neighbour many years back. A post-graduate doctor and a Professor of medicine in a medical college, she surprised me one morning by expressing her belief in Vedic astrology. We were having a good neighbourly chit-chat over a cup of tea when talk veered to the ‘Bhrigu Samhita’ someone had spoken of at a party the previous evening. It was another story from my childhood…a town near my fathers ancestral village was supposed to house a famous astrologer who, it was said, had in his possession some original ‘bhoj-patras’ (pages made of tree-barks) of the astrological treatise written by the sage Bhrigu during the Vedic period. I told her how i had heard of some distant relative visiting the ashram in search of their ‘bhoj-patra’, the belief being that if your page could be found therein, it could predict your past, present and future, as well as tell you about your “karma” from previous births and how it is affecting your present life. Instead of the scepticism i had expected, she provided a deeper understanding and awareness of the subject. Her father was a renowned Vedic Scholar and she had herself seen him studying transcribed copies of some of these ‘bhoj-patras’. Apparently the original treatise contained possible permutations of horoscope-charts running into crores (can’t remember the exact figure she had quoted!). The original ‘patras’ were divided amongst his pupils and over the centuries many were lost. She confirmed the story that if you found your ‘patra’, a task only a scholar in ‘jyotish-vidya’ was capable of, then the accuracy of the predictions was guaranteed.
However, what has always stayed with me is her further insights into what astrology actually is all about and what it is perceived to be. To make accurate predictions requires years of study but instead of true scholars what you usually find are charlatans out to make a quick buck. From her father she too had imbibed a lot of this ancient wisdom. She confessed that she had even dabbled in horoscope reading in her younger days but then gave it up because, in her words, “people expected her to provide treatment!” Using terminology from her doctor profession she compared the horoscope-chart to a blood-pressure monitor…it can tell you what the pressure is, it can point out anomalies when they occur, but it cannot “treat” the issue. Your horoscope is not the illness, your ‘karma’ is.Your fate can only be modified by your good “karma” As per astrology, there are always two forces at play : ‘Daiva’ and ‘Purushkara’, fate and individual energy. The individual energy can modify and even frustrate fate. Moreover, the stars often indicate several fate possibilities; for example the horoscope may indicate that one may die early, but either because of your own karma or through the destiny of someone close to you, that may change and one could live to a ripe old age. In that sense astrology does not say that events must and should happen, but gives the benefic and malefic tendencies that can be directed or modified through conscious effort. It cannot be called a ‘science’ in the sense in which we understand the term; rather it is the philosophy of discovering and analysing past impulses and future actions in the light of planetary configurations. The stars merely record a destiny that has already been formed. The planets do not dictate, but indicate the energies that are influencing a situation in a given time.
Your future still lies in your own hands, in the ‘karmic path’ you decide to walk upon, in the choices you make.
The fault lies not in our stars.