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When God Becomes Nine

Steeped in myth and metaphor, Indian cosmology arises out of the profoundest insights of spiritual masters from an ancient civilisation we understand only vaguely. These were not ordinary minds. The rishis and sages of pre-Vedic India lived in unbroken harmony with the cycles of nature, their awareness diffusive, intimately attuned to the mathematical precision at the heart of the cosmos and capable of plunging its depths in ecstatic experiences. Over time, their visions crystallised into the majestic Rig Veda, where the essence of those masters’ visions lies encrypted in sublime poetry—not easy for ordinary mind to grasp. Yet once understood, the wisdom of that archaic text aligns with the most advanced understanding of contemporary physics. This is Sanatana Dharma, or the Eternal Truth, foundation of all Indian philosophies. Though they differ in their details, each philosophical system (Vedanta, Samkhya, Yoga, etc.) proposes a conceptual framework, with language serving to awaken human awareness to the infinite mind of God. 

Jyotish is one of those languages, and “graha” perhaps its most important word. Graha is usually translated as “planet” in English, a most misleading translation! The celestial bodies in the sky that correspond to the grahas (and not all nine of them have physical bodies), serve as anchors in the material world for energy belonging to the astral and causal dimensions, which are the true subject of Jyotish. Forget “planet” for now, and see how Parashara defines graha. In the Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra (the foundational text of Jyotish), Sage Parashara explains that Lord Vishnu—the timeless Oneness—incarnates as the nine grahas “in order to bestow on living beings the results of their karmas or actions.” (BPHS 2.3-4)  

What this suggests is quite startling, particularly in its implication for the nature of the human soul. In the initial stirring of the gunas at the beginning of time, the nine grahas take form out of the body of Lord Vishnu, forming everything from the subtlest dimension of mind to the five gross elements of matter. The archetypal energy that generates the distinctive qualities of all life forms and bequeaths the human soul with its infinite variety emerges directly from Lord Vishnu—who embodies both Time and Timelessness. In other words, the grahas are the first evolute of creation!  A graha—particularly in dignity—belongs to the very essence of the divine.

Grahas Become the Avatars

Each of the nine grahas expresses a unique composite of the multitudinous flavours of desire emanating from the Divine. Desire generates the urge for creation, which emerges from the heart of Undifferentiated Consciousness, when—yearning to experience itself—the One becomes Many, becomes archetypal energies hungering to take form. Parashara says that Vishnu assumed the “auspicious form of the grahas in order to destroy the strength of the asuras (evil forces), to sustain the strength of the devas (divine beings) and to establish dharma (truth, righteousness, cosmic harmony)”.  (BPHS 2.3-4)  Interestingly, in the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says essentially the same thing. “To protect the righteous, to annihilate the wicked, and to reestablish the principles of dharma, I appear on this earth, age after age,” he explains to Arjuna. (Ch 4, Verse 8)

Lord Krishna is an avatar, an incarnation of the Divine, one of the ten traditional avatars of Lord Vishnu, divine in essence yet appearing in material form to awaken humanity whenever ignorance prevails. In the Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, Sage Parashara goes on to explain that the avatars of Lord Vishnu incarnate out of the grahas—another startling concept! According to Parashara’s conception, the nine grahas come first. They give form to nine of the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu, just as they shape the unique karmic imprint of your soul and mine. Each graha corresponds to an avatar. The tenth avatar is Kalki, who has yet to come and who coincides with the ascendent of the Vedic chart.

Parashara explains: “Rama is the incarnation of the Sun, Krishna of the Moon, Narasimha that of Mars, Buddha that of Mercury, Vamana that of Jupiter, Parashurama that of Venus, Kurma that of Saturn, Varaha that of Rahu, and Matsya that of Ketu.” (BPHS 2. 5-7) The avatars of Lord Vishnu embody the subtle energies of the grahas vibrating at their highest frequency. They correlate to the celestial bodies (or celestial phenomena in the case of Rahu and Ketu), whose movement along the zodiac reveals the waxing and waning of their power and the infinite variety of their expression according to the shifting patterns of their alignment. Celestial and terrestrial harmony dovetail, both expressions of Cosmic Intelligence. The journey of every soul, which the Vedic chart delineates, follows the momentum of that Intelligence, with the grahas forming and reforming myriad configurations of light and shadow. And no matter how dark or convoluted, every path leads eventually back to Oneness in Lord Vishnu. 

The Apex of Dignity 

Each graha comes into dignity when it sojourns through a congenial rashi (sign). When in dignity, a graha becomes capable of expressing its nature most purely and powerfully.  Its own sign, the degrees of its moolatrikona, and its sign of exaltation each uplift the graha a little more. However, only when a graha enters the exact degree point of its exaltation is its dignity complete. At that point, the graha vibrates at its highest frequency, becoming capable of functioning as its avatar.

Surya (the Sun) becomes exalted at 10° Aries. Around the year 500 B.C., the Vernal Equinox occurred at exactly that point of Surya’s exaltation, 10° Aries. At present, the Vernal Equinox occurs around 6° Pisces. Because of the phenomenon of precession, the equinoxes move very slowly in a retrograde motion as measured against the stars, taking about 25,000 years to encircle the zodiac.  

Extraordinary events happened on this earth around 500 B.C. Never before and never since has history recorded such a phenomenal manifestation of spiritual leadership. Surya radiated with his highest glory.  And so, in ancient Greece, we had Socrates and Plato. In India, Mahavira, Siddhartha Gautama who became the Buddha, and the many sages whose visions produced the Gita, the Yoga Sutras and the Upanishads all walked this earth, giving form to the great traditions of Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism. In China, Confucius and Lao-Tzu were born, founders of Confucianism and Taoism. In the Holy Land, the Torah was canonised, establishing the ground for the birth of Christ a few centuries later. 

It makes sense. Surya incarnates as Lord Rama. Rama is God as the perfect man. The Vernal Equinox aligning with Surya’s exaltation degree triggered an extraordinary manifestation of Ram, gifting the entire planet with a patrimony of spiritual wisdom. It’s been humanity’s greatest wealth ever since.  

Dignity in the Individual Chart 

Though a graha in its highest point of dignity brings great power to an astrological chart, its effect needs to be analysed according to the other features of the chart. The aspects, conjunctions, yogas and associations with other grahas all modify and qualify each other. Synthesising the plethora of information a Vedic chart contains is the art of Jyotish. So don’t jump to the hasty and false conclusion that an exalted graha always indicates blessings, or likewise that a debilitated graha always portends doom. It’s much more complex than that. A graha may be powerful, but powerful for what end? That is the question a Jyotishi must ponder. 

Nevertheless, an exalted graha unencumbered by malefic influence usually brings grace to the life. When a number of grahas attain that level of dignity, it suggests something extraordinary. Such was the case with Lord Rama himself. Careful analysis by Jyotish scholars over the centuries has considered both astronomical and literary history and constructed the most likely chart for Lord Rama.

In Canto XVIII of Bala Kanda, Sage and poet Valmiki indicated that Lord Rama was born on the ninth lunar day of the bright fortnight of Chaitra, when the star Punarvasu was in the ascendant. Based on that orientation in time and the many events in the life of Lord Rama recounted in scriptures, Jyotishis were able to ascertain the celestial alignment at his birth.  And so a chart for Lord Rama belongs to the tradition of Jyotish. 

The Chart of Lord Rama 

Needless to say, the horoscope of Lord Rama is extraordinary! It contains five exalted planets, an alignment so unlikely that it’s off the charts of astronomical history. Four of those five planets are in kendras (angles), places of greatest power, and one is in the Ninth House, the highest dharma placement. Moreover, the four angles of his chart align with the four chara (moveable) signs, which—because of their moveable or creative quality—function like the kendras of God. Though scholars disagree about the placement of Mercury, all agree upon a chart with the following features.

Jupiter is exalted in Cancer, which is the ascendent (lagna). And Moon, Lord of Cancer, resides there too. Jupiter on the ascendent is said to cancel a thousand blemishes, but that is only one of Rama’s many graces. Saturn is exalted in Libra, Mars in Capricorn and Sun in Aries. So along with Jupiter, that means an exalted planet tenants each of the four corners of the chart. Exalted Venus in Pisces resides in the Ninth House, orienting highest dharma towards transcendence and moksha. Jaya Sri Ram! 

Remedies to Apply to Your Chart

No one has a chart like Lord Rama. The statistical likelihood of that chart occurring is more remote than winning the lotto, though interestingly, the chart of the 20th century Bengali saint, Anandamaya Ma, comes close. Blemishes are what make us human. And challenges provide the impetus for our spiritual evolution . . . which the flow of life will never cease to provide. Yet we can fortify ourselves with powerful remedies. Though Jyotish teaches about many of them, the most efficacious is mantra. When you chant the mantra of the deity associated with a graha (and the grahas themselves are deities) you refine, purify, enhance and expand the energy of that graha, and so elevate your own pranic vibration. 

Sacred sound is medicine. Sacred sound vibrates at the heart of creation. No matter what weakness your chart may contain, you can uplift it with the judicious practice of an appropriate mantra. Grace can flow more abundantly into your life. Conscious awareness comes first; in other words, the lens of consciousness that is the mind must perceive the possibility—and that depends on the Moon, the most mutable of all the grahas, the most pliant and yielding. The manifestation in which we move and breathe is fluid, and so what happens over time modifies the karma of the birth chart. Grahas vibrating at a higher frequency draw down grace and alter the path of destiny.  When you understand the nuances of your chart, you can employ the right mantra so that the grahas forming your unique soul essence rise in dignity, and you are one step closer to your spiritual home. This is the direct path of yoga sublime. 

Om shanti