Astro-Blog February 12, 2010

(Vedic Astrology column, Common Ground Magazine, March 2010 issue)

Vedic Astrology and Ayurveda-the Meeting of Heaven and Earth

In ancient India, the indigenous Vedic culture and civilization developed in a wholistic manner. Astrology (or jyotisha, the science of astral light) was closely allied with Ayurveda (the science of longevity), Vastu (the science of building design), Yoga (the science of spiritual union), and Vedanta (the science of Self-knowledge). Living well and eating well were considered important components of a spiritual lifestyle, and the Vedic astrologers believed that the composition of the ideal diet for each person could be determined by a careful analysis of the birth chart.

In Ayurveda, people are classified according to three primary body types: Vata (airy), Pitta (fiery), and Kapha (watery/earthy). Then there are the various combinations of these three basic body types, like Vatta-Pitta, Vatta-Kapha, etc. Eating natural, wholesome, locally grown food, chosen and prepared according to your body type, climate, and seasonal differences, are the core principles of the Ayurvedic diet.

In Vedic astrology, a person with many planets in the so-called Fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) would exhibit more of the Pitta qualities-physically active, energetic, having a hearty appetite and strong digestion, enjoying spicy foods, and eating quickly. The rugged outdoors type is a good example of this Pitta type of person.

A person with more planets in the Air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) would tend to have Vata qualities. Vata types are typically slender, have poorer circulation, lighter appetites, often eat on the run, have more sensitive digestion, and are often fond of stimulants like refined sugar and caffeinated drinks. So, Vata types will often congregate at Starbucks or internet cafes, where they can simultaneously satisfy their need for both mental and physical stimulation.

The Moon placed in Water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) often results in a tendency to be passive or inactive, hence poorer circulation and the tendency to gain weight-the qualities of Kapha. Two of the Earth signs (Taurus and Capricorn) tend to increase Kapha, while having planets in Virgo typically increases the Vata influence. Kapha types enjoy heavier foods which are oily, fried, sweet, or dairy related, like pizza or doughnuts.

Among the heavenly bodies, the Sun and Mars represent the Fire Element; the Moon and Venus represent Water; Mercury represents Earth; Jupiter represents Ether/Space; and Saturn represents Air. The seven chakras, or energy centers, are each associated with a specific planet, and the five layers of the human aura (pancha-kosha) also correlate with a planet and one of the Five Elements. At both the external level, as well as at the figurative level, the astrological influences are prominent in describing the condition of our body, as well as providing us with the indications for improving our health.

There are as many different astrological combinations as there are variations in individual body types, but typically the Sun sign, the Moon sign, and the Ascendant have the most influence in describing our primary body type and physical appearance.

On a spiritual note, the Bhagavad Gita states that the physical aspects of our food become a part of our body, while the essence of food becomes our thoughts. Hence it behooves us to eat pure, wholesome foods, in a peaceful environment. The great sage Sri Ramana Maharsi stated that the two most important factors in spiritual life were sattvic food and satsang (pure food and spiritual community).

Through the study of the Vedic birth chart, we can determine which foods are most compatible with our individual body type, and what type of dietary plan is most suitable for us. A great deal of self-healing can take place merely by changing our daily diet and eating natural foods. The body has an inherent ability to heal itself, when well nourished, so proper nutrition can be the basis of a very deep level of healing. Our course we must nourish the soul as well.

When astrology is used in conjunction with Ayurveda by a practitioner who is skilled and experienced in both sciences, great progress is possible in restoring optimal health, rejuvenating the physical body, and in attaining the ultimate goal of human life: a more refined, yet expansive, spiritual awareness of the meaning and the beauty of everything. When Heaven meets Earth, there are many more possibilities for the mysteries of life to be revealed. Om Tat Sat Om

Astro-Blog January 25, 2010

Vedic Astrology column, Qi-Mag Feng Shui web site, to be launched on 4 February 2010

Happy New Year...again!

On 24 February 1582, Pope Gregory XIII issued a decree regarding the calculation of the calendar, and since then, this version of the calendar has been adapted by almost all Western countries for civil purposes. Unfortunately, the New Year Day of this Gregorian calendar does not correspond to any particularly important astronomical phenomena, and modern astronomers have been deterred by political and religious dogma from studying traditional astrological wisdom. Hence the Western world now uses a calendar which is of little use in helping us to understand our relationship with the universe. In contrast, the Asian countries have maintained an unbroken tradition of astrological knowledge, which continues to permeate their culture even today.

The Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations begin on 13-14 February 2010, with the New Moon occurring in the constellation of Aquarius. The Hindu New Year begins a month later, on 15 March 2010, when the Sun and the Moon are together in the constellation of Pisces. These two Asian systems of astrology have been used for thousands of years by a large portion of the world's population. The Tibetan system of astrology borrows heavily from both Hindu and Chinese sources, while the countries of Southeast Asia do not have any significantly different indigenous astrological traditions.

It is obvious that Chinese astrology and Hindu astrology have different origins and different underlying principles. Chinese astrology derives from the Taoist tradition, and is thus based upon the philosophy of Yin-Yang, Five Elements, Bagua trigrams, I Ching wisdom, 12 animal years, and various cycles of karma. In contrast, both the Western and Hindu systems of astrology place the bulk of their emphasis on the exact degree of movement of nine planets through 12 zodiac signs, the influence of sections of the sky called "Houses", angles between planets called "aspects", and important stars and constellations.

However, there are many significant differences between the Western and Hindu systems of astrology. Hindu astrology, also referred to as Vedic astrology or Jyotisha, is based upon the sidereal zodiac, wherein constellations are identical to zodiac signs. Western astrology is based upon the tropical zodiac, wherein the first zodiac sign Aries is defined by the Sun's position at the time of Spring Equinox. Currently, there is a difference of about 23 degrees, between the starting point of these two zodiacs.

The definition of a month in the Gregorian calendar seems rather arbitrary, whereas in the Hindu lunar calendar, the month begins with the New Moon, and is named after the constellation where the Full Moon occurs. There are various other calculations which differentiate these two systems, which we will discuss later. After studying and comparing various systems of astrology, you can decide which one to use. It is better not to judge something which you have not yet studied.

I have chosen to specialize in Vedic astrology, since my studies indicate that it has some clear advantages in the areas of character analysis, prediction of future events, choice of auspicious dates, relationship compatibility, and in understanding our past life karmas. Vedic astrology has a close relationship with other Vedic studies, such as Ayurveda (science of longevity), Vastu (building design), Yoga (spiritual practices), and Vedanta philosophy (regarding the purpose and goals of human existence). There is a deeply integrated, wholistic orientation to Vedic knowledge and Vedic culture, and Vedic astrology plays a very important role in this paradigm. Vedic astrology is considered the "eye" of the Vedas, revealing the deepest meaning of the interplay of time, place, and karma.

Usually writers of monthly articles on astrology comment on the influence of current astronomical phenomena. Some specific predictions might be made based upon the movement and positions of certain planets. I do not believe that this is a useful way to practice astrology. Due to individual differences in our karmas, we will each react differently to whatever is occurring in the sky on any given day. It is not possible to make predictions which are true and accurate, based merely upon someone being born on the same year, or in the same month, or with the same Sun sign. Any honest, objective appraisal of these types of predictions will prove my assertion. These types of predictions are worthless, misleading, and diminish the reputation of astrology as a subject worthy of serious study. The popularity of these types of astrology columns, and the willingness of people to actually make decisions based upon these frivolous predictions, in an indication of the intellectual vapidity of our times.

It would be much more worthwhile to develop some deeper knowledge and understanding of astrology, and then use astrology as a tool for self-knowledge, spiritual growth, and as a reliable tool for managing the daily affairs of life.

With the Sun, Moon, Jupiter, and Venus all together in the constellation of Aquarius during the Chinese Lunar New Year, there is hope for greater understanding among the nations of the world, hope of a greater spirit of cooperation based upon the recognition our common goals and our underlying unity, hope of an awakening to higher consciousness and the inspiration of the human race to resolve their differences and live in peace. Hope is one thing, but we also need action to fulfill that potential. What will you do this year to fulfill your potential?

Stephen Quong
25 January 2010

Astro-Blog January 15, 2010

Vedic Astrology column, February 2010 issue of Common Ground

This issue of Common Ground is dedicated to the topic of sex, so perhaps it would be interesting to many people to learn more about what Vedic Astrology has to say about sex.

In the Vedic tradition, the four universal goals of life are Dharma (life purpose and right conduct), Artha (prosperity), Kama (desire for pleasure), and Moksha (spiritual liberation). Kama, which literally means "desire" in the ancient Sanskrit language of India, specifically refers to and includes romantic love and sexual pleasures. The planets which have an association with Kama are Venus and Mars; the constellations associated with these two planets are Libra and Scorpio; and the sections of the horoscope associated with these two planets and constellations are the 7th and 8th Houses.

If we analyze these specific components of a person's birth chart, we can identify major patterns regarding the person's sexual identity, their relationship karmas, their reproductive health, their capacity for sexual enjoyment, and specific tendencies, beliefs, preferences, and attitudes carried forward from their past lifetimes. If you do not believe in reincarnation, it will be sufficient to acknowledge the empirical correlation between the birth chart patterns and the person's actual behavior in daily life.

When a person's karmas are activated according to their personal timetable of karma (based upon the exact birth time), or by the transit of planets through the 12 zodiac signs (which affects everyone), they can expect changes to occur, according to the indications of the birth chart. Because of the tremendous variations possible in birth chart patterns, it is impossible to accurately predict life events by just using transits. It may be more useful to look at specific examples of astrological influence.

Recently the celebrity golfer Tiger Woods captivated the news headlines with revelations about his personal life. His birth information is publicly known, so we can analyze his birth chart patterns in reference to his recent troubles. Tiger's Vedic birth chart has Venus and a waning Moon in the constellation of Scorpio, plus he had just started a 10-year Moon Cycle in May 2009. Mars was in Taurus, opposite his Venus and Moon. The overall effects of this combination of planets are: 1.) a much stronger than average desire for sex, 2.) a tendency towards compulsive and addictive behavior, 3.) the orientation to keep extra-marital affairs secret, and 4.) much difficulty in changing these patterns.

These same astrological patterns also indicate a strong competitive nature, physical strength, stamina and endurance, tremendous will power and concentration, and the determination to succeed in the face of adversity. Obviously, these positive attributes have helped him to reach the highest levels of success in the world of professional golf. So we see that there can be both positive and negative attributes resulting from the same astrological patterns. Free will and the degree of Soul awareness are factors which can affect our response to planetary influences. We cannot blame fate or destiny for our actions.

Every year, from mid-November to mid-December, the Sun, Mercury and Venus transit through the constellation of Scorpio. For Tiger Woods in late 2009, these transits activated his karmic patterns for being vulnerable to sex scandal, and so it came to pass. Whether he can salvage his reputation and find redemption in the eyes of his family and friends, his corporate sponsors, and the general public, is yet to be determined. While going through a 10 year cycle of karmic influence governed by a waning Moon in Scorpio, he can expect an uphill struggle to restore his former status.

During the calendar month of February 2010, the Sun, Mercury and Venus will be transiting through the constellations of Capricorn and Aquarius. Capricorn represents the cosmic influence to preserve the status quo, to savor security rather than change, and to protect and cling to our material possessions. The New Moon occurring on February 13, 2010 can represent a turning point for individuals, and possibly for the entire world. It will be a time which supports the reorientation of our lives toward the Aquarian ideals of altruism, progressive thinking, cooperation instead of competition, openness to new possibilities, and the clarification of our plans and efforts to have a better life in the future. People will be less inclined to cling to old, out-worn beliefs and habits, and be more willing to embrace positive, constructive possibilities. Let us all remind ourselves of these possibilities during the coming New Moon, and strive to become the example that will inspire others to change as well. The change you can believe in, is the change that people can notice about your own life.

Stephen Quong
15 January 2010

Astro-Blog, November 2009

Published as Common Ground article, Vedic Astrology, November 2009 issue

With the Sun, Mercury and Venus all transiting through the constellation of Libra in November 2009, this month is a good time to reflect upon the astrological influences on human relationships. Libra, the seventh zodiac sign overall, is also the first zodiac sign in the second half of the zodiac. It is opposite Aries, which represents the birth of individuality. Hence, with Libra we have the opportunity to learn to balance our awareness of the Self with our awareness of the non-Self-the non-Self manifesting as the other person in a relationship.

Our level of spiritual awareness has perhaps the greatest influence on our human relationships. The depth of our understanding of duality, of polar opposites, and the interaction of male and female energies, will be reflected in our everyday behavior, in our choice of partners, and in our capacity to resolve the differences which arise in daily living. The planets passing through Libra this month will activate those most important life lessons pertaining to relationships.

For many, if not most people, human relationships are among the most complex issues to understand and manage. The attitudes and beliefs which we inherit from our family, religion, culture, and peer group, results in a complicated mixture that is simultaneously helpful and confounding. The things which we believe are good for us, we are unable to achieve; and the things which we know are wrong for us, cannot easily be avoided. We find ourselves in a dilemma for which there is no easy solution, so trial and error becomes the default pathway.

Perhaps the symbolism of Vedic astrology can provide us with some insights. The Sun represents the Soul, or Divine Self. The Moon represents the mind and emotions. Mercury represents our intellect and manner of communication. Venus represents our capacity to love, share, and attract others into our lives for friendship and romance. Mars represents that aggressive, passionate, masculine, and competitive side of our being. All of these factors are important components to consider for a serious compatibility analysis. Because the planets are constantly moving, and in different positions in every individual birth chart, generalizations about a person's character based upon their Sun sign, can never be as accurate as a careful and comprehensive analysis of the entire horoscope. Human beings are complex creatures, and there are obvious differences between people with the same Sun sign.

Another popular notion is that the daily transits of the planets will affect people of the same Sun sign, in the same way. This is the basis of daily predictions in newspapers and magazines. In fact, for two individuals with the same Sun sign, on any given day their experience of life may be entirely different, due to the positions of the other planets in their horoscopes. These types of general predictions are rather useless and misleading.

The occasional accurate "prediction" which we glean from reading these astrology columns might be enough to pique our curiosity, but usually not enough to motivate us to study astrology seriously. These columns serve more as entertainment-- a light diversion from the problems and responsibilities of life. But they can also innoculate us from the need for serious introspection and self-knowledge.

Vedic astrology, on the other hand, has always been considered a serious subject of study. It is the study of karma in relationship to time and place. It places great importance on introspection, personal insight, self-knowledge, and the assumption of personal responsibility to change those karmic patterns which inhibit the fulfillment of our life aspirations. Vedic astrology will not provide you with a quick fix for your difficult relationship karmas while the planets are moving through Libra. Instead, it will provide you with a lifetime's worth of knowledge and tools for spiritual growth.

Instead of asking what the stars hold in store for you this month, you might instead ask yourself, "Why are these things happening to me?" "Is there something I need to change to have a better life?" The life which you have today is the expression of your past beliefs, and the consequences of your past choices. "Character is destiny." Be today, what you want for yourself tomorrow.

Stephen Quong
November 2009

Astro-Blog, November 11 November 2009

"Hopes and Fears for 2010"

Between 10 November and 20 December 2009, first Mercury, then the Sun, and then Venus will be transiting through the constellation of Scorpio, according to the Vedic calendar which I use. Scorpio has long been associated with the investigation of the mysteries of life, esoteric and occult knowledge, research into the unknown, the unconscious, the hidden and dormant powers of the mind, and the secrets of Nature itself. Jyotisha, or Vedic Astrology, falls under the purview of Scorpio.

Jyotisha, "the science of light", can provide us with a glimpse of the future-the forward projection of an emerging, possible (or perhaps even probable) reality. Predictions are based upon our analysis of the correlation between past events and specific astronomical patterns. As these patterns repeat cyclicly, we can expect some kind of a repetition of the past. Let us study the present astronomical patterns, and see what might lie ahead for us in the next few months.

Since Mars is considered the planet which "rules" Scorpio, its current transit through the constellation of Cancer will have a profound effect upon us in the weeks and months ahead. In the Vedic calendar, Mars is passing through its weakest possible position, Cancer, from 2 October 2009 to 23 May 2010. The transit of Mars at this time is rather unusual. It normally passes through a constellation in five or six weeks, but now it will linger in Cancer for almost eight months. The combination of a weak sign placement and an extra long stay does not bode well for the areas of life associated with Mars.

Whereas the transit of Mars through a strong zodiac sign promotes the expression of positive qualities such as confidence, courage, decisiveness, and boldness, the transit of Mars through Cancer actually undermines support for the expression of these positive qualities-both at a personal and collective level.

A weak Mars with a prolonged stay in Cancer would have a negative effect on the world's economy. The fear, doubt, procrastination, and indecisiveness evoked by Mars in Cancer can result in restraint in consumer spending and credit availability, delay of capital investments by corporations, delay in the hiring of more employees, delays in the start-up of new companies, postponed IPOs, and a weaker housing market. A generally less optimistic and more defensive economic posture can be expected due to this Mars influence, and attitudes will not change much until Mars leaves Cancer and enters Leo on 23 May 2010. Also, since Mars is associated with war and violence, the transit of Mars through Cancer can result in increased tension between countries, passive-aggressive behavior, and uncertainty and distrust in diplomatic relations.

The planet Jupiter also has a strong effect upon the global economy, as well as our personal finances. It will be in the weakest possible place, the constellation of Capricorn, from 11 August to 11 December 2009. During this time period, it will lack its normal ability to promote faith, hope, optimism, growth and prosperity, and not be strong enough to offset the negative influence of Mars. The combination of a weak Mars and a weak Jupiter is enough to negate the other planetary influences active at this time, therefore we cannot expect an economic recovery until these two planets enter into stronger positions. Also, since Scorpio is associated with the Middle East region, we cannot peaceful developments in that region as long as Mars is in Cancer.

Fortunately, Jupiter changes signs soon. It will be in Aquarius from 11 December 2009 to 24 April 2010. This is a much stronger position for Jupiter, since Aquarius represents the cosmic impulse to look forward at new and better possibilities for the future, to look beyond present conditions and limitations, and to identify with the more positive possibilities for our collective future. Aquarius is the constellation associated with the impulse for social change, rejection of outworn beliefs, and realignment of society according to higher ideals. It inspires people to look at their common ground, and not their differences. Hence during the coming winter months, even if there is not much of a material improvement with the world economy due to a weak Mars, the influence of Jupiter will sustain our hope and vision of an eventual recovery from the present dire economic circumstances.

On 24 April 2010, Jupiter will move into the constellation of Pisces, an even stronger zodiac sign for Jupiter than Aquarius. This should result in the resumption of a greater collective optimism, with correspondingly positive economic consequences. With both Mars and Jupiter in much better positions in the late Spring of 2010, we can anticipate a gradual recovery of the global economy in the second half of 2010. Until then, we might have to hunker down a bit longer, and make do with what we have.

Saturn, the planet associated with stability, moderation, and cosmic accountability, will remain in Virgo for two more years. Even though this is a generally beneficial position for reforming the economy, I do not believe that it is a strong enough influence to offset the short-term influence of a weak Mars in Cancer. We will have to be patient and wait a bit longer until next year for a gradual recovery.

Stephen Quong
11 November 2009

Astro-Blog, 12 November 2009

In the Vedic calendar, the astrological New Year begins with the New Moon occurring in the constellation of Pisces-March 15, 2010. Since the Western world marks time with a different calendar, it might be interesting to look at the New Moon occurring on Wednesday, December 16, 2009. This is the New Moon occurring closest to the Winter Solstice, Christmas, and New Year's Day. In all systems of astrology, the New Moon represents the resetting of the cosmic clock, and the possibility of a new beginning, another chance to learn and grow, do and accomplish whatever is important for us. The qualities of the zodiac sign where the New Moon occurs will represent our most immediate possibilities.

On December 16, 2009 the Sun, the Moon, Mercury and the North Node of the Moon will all be passing through the constellation of Sagittarius. As mentioned in previous articles, the early part of Sagittarius corresponds with the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Our galactic center contains the greatest concentration of stars, light, and cosmic energy. If we believe that stars are the physical forms of conscious, spiritual beings, then we can easily surmise that the galactic center would be the repository of the greatest concentration of spiritual light and divine consciousness. Thus during those weeks when various planets transit through Sagittarius, they will act like electrical transformers, stepping down the high frequency, high voltage energies of the galactic center to a level which can be more easily absorbed by the various life forms on this planet. Ideally, the cosmic energies transmitted to the Earth during these weeks should cause us to feel more inspired, invigorated, and reminded of our cosmic connection with the galactic center, and the ongoing need to reflect upon our life purpose, our destiny, and the karmas yet to be fulfilled.

The constellation of Sagittarius has always been associated with spiritual teachers, wisdom, divine knowledge, and the exploration of higher consciousness. According to historians, one of the greatest spiritual teachers of all time, Jesus, was born during this month. Observing the extent of his influence over the lives of so many millions of people, it is easy for astrologers to believe that his birth, his life, and his teachings must have been influenced by the energies of the galactic center. May we also be so influenced by the spiritual energies from galactic center this month, and follow in his footsteps.

But even prior to the Christian Era, the date of Winter Solstice was considered a major holiday by many different religions, in diverse places around the world. The ancient traditions held this date sacred because the stellar and planetary alignments on this day were considered conducive for meditation, attunement to a higher power, and telepathic communication with spiritual beings from other dimensions. Due to the displacement of intuitive experience and spiritual knowledge with scientific materialism and book knowledge, much of the ancient wisdom concerning the spiritual significance of astrological alignments has been lost or forgotten. But we still have the opportunity, as individuals, to make an attunement with those special spiritual energies which are more accessible on certain dates.

In December, the special dates for meditation would be December 16, the date of the New Moon; December 21, the date of Winter Solstice; December 30, the date of the Full Moon. For traditional Hindus, December 11 and 27 are the semi-monthly dates for fasting and prayer (ekadashi tithi).

During this coming holiday season, may I wish you all more peace, love, happiness, joy, good health, prosperity, and a deeper sense of connection with the One, the Creator of All That Is, the Essential Goodness of Life.

Stephen Quong
12 November 2009

Om Shanti