A leading astrological researcher, based in Hyderabad, India.
"I was born a human
In the family of a Brahman
Childhood aspirations were a plenty
To become a yeoman, a swordsman, a bowman
And I dreaded perchance becoming
A conman, a doorman or a barman
Youth had its own delusions and dreamt
Of being an airman, a seaman or a showman
A few talents raised visions of life as a craftsman
Middle age found me slotted in a niche
And rose up the ladder to be a helmsman
But was otherwise essentially a layman
At times to frighten children, a bogeyman
Then astrology called... and I realized that
I was just a point of consciousness and no man
And this insight made me a new man
Glimpsing a realm that was
Beyond god and mammon
Now some call me a madman
While others believe I am a shaman
Being neither, I am just me, a man".
Whither Moksha? Emancipation, Spirituality and Astrology
Ram Ramakrishnan looks at the traditional ideas of Moksha, or liberation, from the aspect of cultural determinism and fate as described by the astrological process. Is there any difference between liberation and bondage? Is there anything we can do about it? Should we make the effort? Ram finds many questions...
Astrology had changed our lives. Or so we thought and still do.
By 'we', I refer to a good friend of fifteen years standing and myself. We have been holding on to two ends of a rope or rather a net, dredging the waters of life for its elusive and illusive meaning and purpose. My end of the rope was synonymous with the study of and research into the subject of astrology and her end was equivalent to being a willing and dependable 'test case' for research. I should have said that in plural, because she had made not just herself but also her whole family and those of her friends, test cases for the study!
There were of course the inevitable differences in perception. Other things being similar, the view of the world around appears to be quite different to two persons standing ten feet apart. And here were we, divided by physio-psychological differences due to our different genders, different upbringings, different stations in life, different life styles, exposures, circle of friends.
There were some uniformity of perceptions too. After all, a good measure of such an element of uniformity is the basis on which friendships flourish. This familiar social behavioral pattern was in itself a good case for astrological scrutiny. If it were to be assumed that celestials that represent and 'rule' the person, the mind and emotions in our respective charts were 'friendly' to each other and well placed under comparable and associative - if not similar, conditions, then this would be a pointer to the fact that we were friends.
The factor that mars the happiness of every astrological researcher are those inescapable 'exceptions'. For every ten charts that one finds to conform to a particular idea, one would find at least half that number - if not more, that do not. Often, all meticulously made derivations about an event to happen in the case of a chart from the latter set made on the basis of the observations on the first ten charts, come to nought. My friend would subject me to some friendly taunting on this matter, which I believe was an essential part of the process of research.
After looking at a set of charts for over a decade, one seems to gain this impression that one understands the behaviour and character of the celestials in those charts better, that perhaps results in a better judgement of the outcome of their influences. There can be no other explanation to the phenomena of my being able to compute in advance many of the happenings in the lives of my friend's family members and those of her friends, with an increasing regularity. Some of them as many as a few years ahead of their happening. I cannot claim this rate of achievement with charts that I have dealt with only for a few months or years, where the honours are shared equally between the heartwarming 'conformists' and the uncompromising and heartless 'exceptions'!!
At the time that we began 'dredging the waters of life', it was our belief that it may be possible to avoid some of the anticipated happenings in the future, if known well in advance. At least my friend was strongly of this view, whereas my leanings to this idea were less pronounced. But with time, both of us began to veer towards a more fatalistic view of life, when the 'anticipated' happenings just happened. This however was quite contradictory and in direct conflict to the idea of 'becoming', of progressing, of striving for emancipation - a thought that is cultivated by the sermons of elders, men and women of all religions and spiritualists, and which we as 'elders' today exhort in people younger to us.
The two arguments that are generally advanced to question the fatalistic approach to life and also to support the role of astrology as a tool to guide aspirants to their respective goals, seemed to be on shaky ground. The first of these arguments is that "Had we not taken this precautionary measure then this unpleasant event would have come to pass". Unfortunately, life cannot be lived twice to check what would be the real worth of 'precautionary measures' - once living life applying these measures, rewinding life and living it again without them. So there is no vouchsafeing that they really do work ! It is just one persons word or faith against that of another. The other argument which also questions the role and efficacy of astrology is that "The astrologer said so, but it never happened". Here the emphasis and importance seemed to be attached too much to the astrologer than on astrology. One man or woman does not represent or embody an entire subject or science! As every other person commits mistakes, so can an astrologer.
Our exchanges took an interesting turn early this month after my friend returned from a month-long visit to the USA accompanying her daughter and son who were going to Universities in that country. When we met on her return, she narrated her views and experiences of the visit. One thing that she said was very striking, was the attitudinal differences between the two societies. While here in India, the emphasis was on togetherness, collectivism and sharing, there it was on individuality and 'self-fullness'. She associated the Indian attitudinal pattern to 'spirituality' and the other pattern to 'materialism'. This narration in its turn steered the discussion to an attempt to describe what 'spirituality' and 'emancipation' or 'Moksha' were.
If the above demarcation were to be true and if the pursuit of spirituality leads to emancipation or Moksha or eternal liberation, the idea raises a lot of questions, the primary one being - eternal liberation from what? And as freedom is the outcome of liberation, freedom to do what?? Isn't this yearning for liberation just another expression of 'self-fullness'? The idea of liberation can exist only if the contra-idea of bondage exists too. Without the one, the other has no meaning. If yearning of any kind leads to bondage then why should the yearning for liberation, salvation, emancipation, Moksha lead to a different result?
The foregoing arguments, if looked at from the prism of our present astrological understanding of life (and on the basis of the fact that many of the anticipated happenings did happen at their appointed times), would reveal a scenario where the Americans just happen to have the attitudinal patterns that they do, as do the Indians. Neither have a choice of being any different. If so, then how is one attitude better than the other? Eternal liberation should be as good or as bad as eternal damnation. Moksha, then should be the realization that there is no Moksha - at least in the sense that we understand it! And this realization too would come only to those to whom it has to, at the appropriate (and predictable) time.
Perhaps, the subject of astrology has many more aces up its sleeve to change our lives and perceptions yet again. Who knows?!