Modern practitioners and students of astrology generally toy an uneasy relationship with remedial astrology. Although many individuals think of astrology as being a science, none of us are really oblivious to the empirical nature of the craft of astrology. Most of us worldly beings must, of necessity, live in a reality that is deeply grounded in the physical/material where cause is followed by effect and where symbols of rational thinking and scientific progress surround us and form much of our perceived daily reality. It is, therefore, difficult not to feel uneasy when we move away ‘afar’ from a very earthy and rational way of looking at things that are a part of our ‘human experience’. When the links between the cause and effect regarding anything or any phenomenon seem tenuous and weak, we understandably become dubious and anxious. This has nothing to do with what is indeed true in the universe or what works, but just the different natures of the ‘perceived’ reality that we live in and the other much larger one which is home to the astrological phenomena and spiritual reality.
Astrology — if we take a step away from the usual beaten path, falls into a domain that many skeptics would consider as being one infused with superstitious ‘magical’ thinking. Most of these people are grossly misinformed, if not totally ignorant, and convincing them by using their rules of understanding becomes even more difficult because truth be told, we astrologers ourselves do not fully know the detailed modus operandi of astrology. We take for granted many primary assumptions or axioms. Some examples would be: why does Jupiter signify as a karaka for children? Why is Aries ruled by mars?? How do different orientations of the zodiac work – simultaneously??? How do planets affect us or how do they indicate certain effects?? When does fate reign supreme and when does free-will take the reins? Despite the lack of concrete and rational explanations, we continue to practice and believe in astrology because we and those who came before us have empirically observed that it works! This, in itself is not something that we should feel tiny about! Many of the modern pharmaceutical preparations that we use, started out as folk remedies, were used for centuries because someone serendipitously happened to try those out, and the blessed weeds worked! The path from ‘superstition’ to science may to the open mind, would seem to extend from the willow bark to the wonder drug aspirin! Such may also be true for astrology, in an analogous manner.
I consider open-minded astrologers as a daring breed of pioneers willingly exploring uncharted waters! But, many of us modern astrologers draw the line when it comes to the use of astro-remedies. Remedies such as gemstones, which are believed to resonate with or against certain planetary vibrations or qualities, one must admit, assume a lot and do require a strong modicum of belief. One asks: What are these planetary vibrations? Why can we not measure these with our marvelous scopes and gauges? Are these energies akin to light, magnetism, sound, or do they represent a subtle form of energy that lies tantalizingly just beyond our boundaries of physical perception? On somewhat similar principles rests the basis for using natural essences (flower essences), herbs, which are utilized in rectifying ill effects caused by or relating to planetary afflictions. The long line-up extends at least upto the horizons of our perception and conceptualization.
Vedic astrology, despite its very strong ties with the Karmic hypothesis and its implied ‘fatalistic’ misconception, has a very well developed and detailed remedial system. Ironically, this also underscores the fact that Vedic astrology supports the view that destiny can be changed by our willful actions and certain procedures, and hence really advocates the supremacy of individual choice and free-will! The remedial medicine bag of the Jyotishi (Vedic astrologer) includes tools such as penance, fasting, special spiritually-endowed sound vibrations (mantras), glyphs and devices (yantras) and religious ceremonies (pooja) with charity (the concept of tithe may sound more familiar to some readers of this article!). Some of these measures undoubtedly sound fantastic, perhaps even voodooishly magical to the ‘modern’ mind, and even to some who have otherwise an unshakable faith in the veracity of astrology! In matters of ‘belief’ such as these, there is always a degree of personal decision involved. We alone can ultimately decide how far we would be willing to let our circle of acceptance stretch, regardless of the perceived or actual truth in the phenomenon under scrutiny! It must be noted that even within science, many scientific phenomena may sound magical and fantastic — despite detailed and satisfactory explanations — to those who are not specialists in the specific area. Medicine is probably privileged to have a lion’s share of these over the years that it has ruled the roost of healing crafts.
In Vedic astrology, a given planet is described as having two kinds of attributes. It is either strong/weak (a quantitative attribute) or benefic/malefic (a qualitative attribute). One need not block ones mind by getting hung up on the terms. Many astrologers refer to these two attributes interchangeably, sometimes out of carelessness. On the other hand there also exist in traditional texts references to planets which are cruel, kruras — the sun for instance — but which are not necessarily malefic; somewhat akin to having a strict father or teacher! It is important to understand that gemstones are only capable of strengthening weak planets. They must not be used when the planet is a malefic. As a ready-reckoner, when a planet is in exaltation, in its own sign, in its special sign (moolatrikona), in the sign of a friend, in an angle or trine or in its angle or kendra of power (e.g., Jupiter, mercury in 1st, Venus, moon in 4th, Saturn in 7th and mars, sun in 10th), then it is strong. A similar brief consideration for determining a malefic planet would be: if it rules the 6th, 8th or 12th houses or if it rules the obstructive or badhaka house (11th, 7th or 9th signs from the ascendant if the latter is in a cardinal, mutable or fixed sign, respectively), etc. Evidently there is more to these attribute determinations than this. This has practical implications. For example, if the lord of the 6th house is weak (moon for an Aquarius horoscope), we must not recommend that the person wear pearls! On the other hand, if the sun is in Libra in the same horoscope, wearing a ruby (sun’s gemstone) would improve matters pertaining to the 7th house!
While weak benefics can be strengthened by gemstones, malefics can be propitiated by other forms of remedials, including fasting, performing good deeds or giving charity, immersing oneself into specific mantras and other devotional acts. A malefic planet indicates a karmic factor that may be amenable to correction or pacification (Shanti), hence the importance of penance or voluntary suffering! It must also be noted that though mantras can be utilized for strengthening weak planets as well; however, they are generally very specialized and require appropriate rituals in order to be effective. Merely chanting them after reading them off a text or a web page might not do the trick! It is safe to say that listening to properly recorded chants does induce some benefits, though.
I prefer to view a birth chart as a map of the earthly manifestation and allocation of the cosmic energy, the breath of life primarily for the current lifetime. The horoscopic houses are the 12 corridors of human experience that are illuminated by the 7 planetary candles, all of which are manifestations of the Prime Energy Source from which the more you take, the same remains behind. Each planet finds certain corridors that are harmoniously and brightly lit by its light. These represent the strong positions for the given planet. There are also those corridors that would not be well lit by the same planet’s presence there (the planetary energy is not fully expressed). In such a case, one may resort to boosting the light, by using the lenses or reflectors in the form of gemstones or herbs. Of the 7 candles, some candles have a clean flame (benefic), while others also produce smoke (malefic)! A candle might produce an intensely bright and blinding light with plumes of smoke (a strong malefic) or it might produce a smokeless dim light (weak benefic). Think of it this way, if gemstones are reflectors or condenser lenses, then penance and mantra are like HEPA filter air purifiers in this analogy!
A gemstone may be worn to fortify a benefic planet that is weak in the natal chart at any time, or it may be worn when its planetary period, such as vimshottari dasha or sub-dasha (a method of lunar progression) is operational. In the case of slower moving planets, if they are weak in transit while one is experiencing their dashas at an important phase in life, gemstones often help. Since, in these situations, the planet is the source of the effect or the motivation factor, we would like it to be as strong as is possible. If the planet is weak and malefic, then we would leave it untouched! Doesn’t this make a weak malefic sound like a karmic windfall?
Selecting a gemstone is a complex, tricky and time-consuming process. Even many practicing astrologers get discouraged, start cutting corners and eventually lose faith in the efficacy of using gems as remedies. Some also start adopting less effective alternative approaches such as using secondary and tertiary stones, all of which exercises eventually lead to disillusionment and crushed expectations. Not only must the gemstone conform to the physical and chemical specifications (purity, specific gravity etc.), it must be of the right size as well. And, it must be worn and tested by the individual for a few days before accepting it. This requires a very cooperative, understanding and conscientious jeweler.
Mantras are very effective means of propitiating planets, regardless of whether they are weak or strong, malefic or benefic. More than just prayers or cleverly strung together sound vibrations that have a primordial resonance with the energies of the Creation, mantras can serve as effective barriers, as well as dynamic expressions of the soul-being. When we chant a mantra for a given planet, we are not merely paying our respect to it, or our surrender, but we are in essence becoming one with the energies represented by the planetary essence. Unless the mantra permeates our very being, whether we understand the meaning of the words or not, unless it perfuses through each and every cell of our physical and other bodies, it would not become effective. There is much truth in the vital importance of the process of initiation and attunement to a certain mantra, preferably through the blessings of a guru, as these requisites are thought to make the mantra come alive.
Probably the most important and practical remedial procedure that I have found extremely effective in my experience involves penance, fasting and charity. It must be realized that not all karma can be dissolved away with upaayes or remedies. Not all karma needs to be dissolved. Karma is what generates our lessons and if we are not here in this earthly plane to learn, then why are we here?
Astro-remedies must not become a hermit crab’s borrowed shell! It is true that they can often very effectively shield one from pain and loss while increasing insight and wisdom, but the seeds of karma often remain unaltered unless they are faced head on and understood, the pain felt and released so that true healing may begin. Fasting, volunteering ones services and charity are basically statements of ones intent to voluntarily experience pain, deprivation, hardship, so that one can resolve issues. Unlike the eye for an eye misconception, karma is no mindless executioner. Any remedial must not be indulged into as a ‘trade’ or barter with God. It must be carried out as a recognition of personal responsibility, at some level of ones existence, for what is happening and as a means of atoning for it. One must always remember that today’s karma was yesterday’s act of free-will!
I shall now describe a very simple method that one can follow or prescribe to others without fear of setting up some sort of a karmic cascade. The first step in this is to determine planets that are likely to represent significant karmic areas. Some of the nativities would be very aware of their selves, they would have done the basic homework and this can be quite effective and helpful to the jyotishi. Something as important and as ancient a companion such as our karma, the body of our actions, cannot be expected to leave its signature only in our charts! It would leave its traces in our palm prints, our thoughts and actions, our experiences in life and in cyclic and repetitive actions or circumstances that are strategically placed along our path to attract our attention from other distractions in life!
Whether one enters into the study of a horoscope after knowing about the background of experiences that the client has had, particularly when the client is spiritually mature and has no need to play guessing games or the need for proof that astrology works, an expensive exercise, by the way, since he or she is the one who is paying for it, OR one discerns certain accumulations of energies and strains in a chart, things such as polar opposite planets, such as Venus and mars, or mars and Saturn, or Saturn or sun when present in the same sign or nakshatra, or when benefics, particularly luminaries, sun and moon are in close proximity to the lunar nodes, or when a planet is combust because of its closeness to the sun when it is malefic in a horoscope, such as for someone with Pisces, Virgo or Capricorn rising — in such situations, one needs to look further into the areas represented by the afflicted planets. Planetary energies often manifest in many different ways and the beginner, or for that matter advanced jyotishi, must not be shy to ask questions to confirm and to aid in ones diagnosis, especially when a costly remedy is being formulated. A reading is not a wrestling match or a game of minds, and it certainly has no room for showmanship. It is a serious opportunity where much spiritual sharing can take place with lessons learned by both the client and the astrologer on many planes. The best attitude that both the astrologer and client can be in is one of complete openness and surrender, not to each other, but to the Supreme Intelligence that is overseeing the beautiful sharing that a jyotish reading is!
From a karmic perspective the trines (trikonas) are the most benefic houses and so are their lords functionally benefic planets. The planet that rules a trine and angle, also known as yoga karaka is also an important benefic. The planets that rule the trik-bhavas, the ‘tricky’ ones, the sixth, eighth and the twelfth are the malefics. Obviously, these houses are functionally malefic areas in a given chart! Write down these planets, in two lists, the benefics and malefics under the horoscope that you are studying. Many consider the death-signifying planets, the marakas, and the kharesha or the lord of the 22nd drekkana falling in the 8th house or the one ruling the 64th navamsha from the moon, or the sign lord ruling the mandi or gulika sign, etc. Let us leave these aside for now. The death-dealing planets in particular, I have reservations against calling these as malefics! Death is a transition, not a finality. Although it is a certainty, despite our myopic view of reality, it need not be treated as some malefic milestone along the path of the soul’s journey!
Now look for flaws in the list of benefics that you have prepared. Are any of these also ruling the trika or 6th 8th 12th houses? Out they go from the list of benefics! Is one of these also a natural benefic and ruling the kendra houses, it loses some points as a benefic. The planets that remain after these comparisons and considerations then need to be looked at. How strong are these, based on standard scales of strength, shadbal, vimshopak or through the simplified system that I published in The Astrological Magazine (1980) and NCGR memberletter (1992). Does a planet stand out in being unusually weak? This is the one that might need some help! Then we look at the malefics in the same way. Is one planet more malefic than the others? Is it also strong in bala? This is the one that might need to be focused on. The weak malefic is a blessing in disguise, the strong benefic is a blessing that is already manifest! The weak benefic and the strong malefic planets are the ones that require remedial assistance! I am deliberately refraining from getting into the more detailed and useful analysis of varga charts other than mentioning that often the remedial hint shows up strongly in a specific varga chart (marriage – navamsha, trouble with vehicles – shodashamsha, with progeny – saptamamsha, etc.). However, the basic principles remain the same.
Wearing the color represented by the strong benefic is helpful. Fasting on the days represented by the strong malefic is helpful. The best help one can give a weak benefic is to wear its gemstone, but the earlier described conditions apply. Helping charities signified by the weak benefic planet is something one can easily do, or working as a volunteer to support the causes represented by the weak benefic is another thing that can be done. How to find the causes? This is where our lists of significators and karakattwa of planets come in handy. A good compendium is provided in Uttarakalamrita, and other texts. Effort is what it is all about! It is the karma of most jyotishis to work hard in sifting the large body of information that is available through the horoscopes in order to synthesize meaningful patterns out of those!