Global Myth that we Annually Perpetrate Blissfully,
or a Deeply Felt Truth in our Psyche?
Each year the party is on - in most countries, in every nook and cranny of this world of ours. Firecrackers are ignited, bottles of bubbly beverages opened, friendly touches exchanged as appropriate in a given society - an anniversary to remind us of our immortality! New resolutions made, new pages turned, eyes kept open for the magical moment when although Cinderella's coach turns into a pumpkin but the fragile and vulnerable glass slipper remains intact! And the rat race begins all over again, the familiar steps of the cotillion resume with its 'finish' often remaining unchanged - as in the last year!
It is not about enjoyment, it is not necessarily about relief or celebration, it is about optimism! Only the human self was gifted with this magic of 'creating' joy out of nothingness. What else is optimism?
It is the ability to create hope for oneself and others and to entertain the possibility of better times, a means to suppress woes and misery and to believe in better times yet to come. An intoxicating wine for the soul, an ambrosia and Soma for the psyche, a potion that is magical and effective going back as long as humanity can recall?
As if one such reminder was not enough, we have many anniversaries which beacon a beginning. There is the beginning of the calendar, the New Year, then there are the regional beginnings, the Hindu new year, the Muslim new year, the Bengali new year, the Jewish new year, the Chinese new year! There is the individual new year, our birthday - and other anniversaries galore, forgetting some of which could lead to a lot of misery and at times dire threat of harm to the psyche and relationships in vulnerable quarters!
Our preoccupation with these recurring icons in all societies underscores and highlights another thing -- other than our preoccupation with optimism - and that being the intrinsic connection and significance of these cycles. Our lives are cyclical in many personal and social ways and we celebrate and remind ourselves of the cyclical nature of our reality and our universe through these anniversaries, most of which are connected to the geo-solar (calendar year) cycle while others are of other durations. The geo-solar cycle I refer to is generated by the sojourn of the earth around the sun in what we acknowledge as our solar year and which astrologers describe in their jargon as the projected path of the sun through the zodiac, although in reality this is a cycle of the earth's orbit around the sun.
Astrology (jyotish) incorporates many cycles of increasing periodicities, the shortest being the cycle of tatwas or the five primordial elements, namely, akasha or ether, fire, earth, air and water. All creation is made out of these elements and these cycle every 90 minutes throughout each day. The next cycle is created by the diurnal journey of the earth on its axis, during which any given point on earth if projected heavenwards, crosses points on the zodiac. This cycle through the 12 signs creates the lagnas or ascendants. Due to the obliquity of our 'spaceship', not every point on the earth has the privilege of seeing all the zodiacal points each day and this also becomes a function of where on earth our vantage point is. Generally speaking, the closer one is to either of the poles of our planet, the fewer signs of zodiac touch our eastern horizon and this leads to intercepted signs and so on.
The next celestial cycle is created by our satellite, the moon as it courses around our earth in a period of about 27 days completing the cycle and this gives rise to the lunar calendar. Jyotishis also consider yet another cycle which is based on the luni-solar movement and is known as the tithi with a period of about 29 days and links the solar (earth-based as described earlier) and lunar motions. The next larger cycle is the solar year as discussed earlier and is the one most of us are generally attuned to more for our work and daily life and anniversaries. The lunar cycles are also important in tracking our religious calendars and also some people use the lunar birthdays (same tithi every year) in traditional societies that favor the lunar calendar.
The cycles do not end here, however, and continue with the other planets which due to their different orbital periods circle around the sun in longer or shorter periods compared to the earth (solar year) and give rise to their particular cycles. Jupiter's cycles giving rise to the Brahaspatya year or Jovian year is utilized for mundane and other purposes in astrology and portions of the Saturn's cycle are held in distant veneration as these are believed to represent difficult periods in ones life, terms such as sade-sati, panoti, adhaiyaa, etc. strike fear in some hearts, often for misunderstood reasons.
Wherever we look, whether in the astronomical phenomena on which astrology is based or other derived and extrapolated factors such as dashas or planetary periods ... we cannot escape the cyclic, circular theme underlying all of these. Where there are cycles, there exist repetitions - this is the premise that astrology is built upon. Within the very complex weave of all these cycles, lie patterns that were discerned and isolated by ancient savants and these form the rule-book of astrology. The close chord that is struck between this study of cycles and the intrinsic human attunement and belief in the importance of cycles is mystical but cannot be all that insignificant, let alone untrue because it is based on thousands of years of anecdotal correlations that humans before us have made and passed on to the subsequent generations as word of mouth which is what oral tradition is.
Are all of these cycles important, can all of these bear a significant impact on our lives, our decisions, our reactions and behavior in general? Do we know all that there is to know about these to make a claim that will hold against the acid test of predictability every single time? Important and disturbing questions ... these must come to the mind of all astrologers and believers of the same. While astrology has often been blamed by its critics as a "doom or gloom" exercise that promotes fatalism and is destructive to the free spirit of man, the truth of this lies not within the structure of astrology but its practice and practitioners who perpetuate the negative, oppressive and gloomy picture that sometimes shows up in a chart.
The real truth may be quite the opposite: since there are cycles, there is nothing in their 'promise' that is supposed to remain static or eternal, neither good fortunes nor states of despair and despondency. On the one hand, this gives the message that there is always hope at some turn or bend ahead on the road as we ride the cycles; it also reminds us not to gloat over and intoxicate ourselves in our high moments of acme when we are riding the crest -- for sooner or later we can expect to experience the downturn!
Even from a somewhat crass and pragmatic point of view, if not from the vantage downwards from the ebony towers of spiritual growth, we must share our bounties when we are riding high, merely to receive a payback when we face the lows and need a compassionate hand to haul and hail us up. This is the eternal and intrinsic balance in lives of individuals and collectively in the universe. This is all karma is supposed to be about - about cycles, about eternal darkness and despondency never being possible and it being based on the cycle of optimism and a reminder of balance being present in our lives over the long haul. The message of astrology is that simple and it is up to us to use it wisely to rise above our current station, from the physical, mental and spiritual perspectives that together create our human experience of reality.
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