Try as we might, we are unable to put into words the deepest subtleties of another’s personality. It is in one’s jyotish chart, but such profound subtleties are not totally accessible even to the best of jyotishis. Of course, the jyotish chart is a map of one’s karma. It is like a weather reading and forecast. We do have free will, yet on any particular day the weather determines if we might be sunbathing, bundled up, holed up, or under an umbrella.
Traditionally, a jyotishi and his family cultivated a relationship with other families over the generations. In so doing, through observation and personal interactions, the jyotishi developed a feeling for the subtle qualities of the family karma that played out through the personified influences of the grahas. As a result, their insights and predictive abilities became far more honed-in and accurate than if they were giving a reading to a complete stranger.
Each graha has its qualities. But how they play out in an individual is as unique as is every individual’s personality. Generalizations about a person’s personality always fall short of who that person really is. Families flow along a karmic stream of personified influences of the grahas that color with shades and hues the subtle qualities of the personalities of the people involved. Hidden deep within one’s jyotish chart is the understanding of the subtle nature of how Mars, for example (or any of the grahas), influences a persons life. But it is a far more effective approach to see how the influence has carried the family through the generations. Though it is in the chart, it is less accessible there for even the finest of jyotishis. Of course, it can be argued that a totally enlightened jyotish master, like a Rishi, could find it in the chart by transcending on the chart with total clarity. Yet such great beings are a tremendous rarity, particularly in this age of Kali Yuga.
Someone asked if there was any scientific validation of the Vedic practice of Pradakshina. This brings up a very important principle:
The mechanics of existence is highly complex with an infinite number of moving parts or, said another way, it is a multi-variable equation. One such variable is time. There can be a very short, or very long time lag between cause and effect. The scientific method, on the other hand, works best when the number of moving parts (variables) is limited so the relationship of a couple things can be analyzed while everything else is rigidly fixed (held constant). The problem is that nature does not work that way. All parts are usually moving all the time. That is particularly true in abstract and complex relationships. As a result, the subtleties of life often elude the scientific method. For example, we know we have thoughts and we know what they are. But the scientific approach is not capable of reading one’s thoughts. Yet we know a person has thoughts and can know what those thoughts are but only by communicating with the person.
The Vedic approach to gaining knowledge, at least at some point, eludes the scientific method. However, the scientific method can to a point validate the Vedic approach. Such a rational and scientific approach to Vedic knowledge opens doors to a world of knowledge. However, it takes dedication of time to study, patience, and over and above all else it requires a sincere and humble willingness to look beyond the limitations of ones identity with the way they have held their viewpoints throughout their life. Ultimately then, paradigm identity is a great obstacle to such learning.
Fortunately, we do not have to abandon our identity with the scientific rational approach to open ourselves to Vedic Knowledge. In fact, we can use it. By rationally beginning with and reflecting upon the basic principles, an understanding and appreciation of Vedic Knowledge develops.
Similarly, at first a child studying mathematics may feel it makes no sense, but with study they come to appreciate and understand it. They then come to learn that their math teacher knows more than they do about the subject. When the next area of the child’s math study comes along, they are more willing and dedicated to working with it. They know the knowledge is there, but it requires time to understand. With the proper approach to Vedic Knowledge, things like Pradakshina are appreciated.
The study ultimately leads to the crux of the matter, a principle called ‘cognition’. Vedic Knowledge was ‘cognized’. Cognition is something ancient seers (Rishis) did long ago. By refining their awareness, they were able to see more deeply within the mechanics of creation, in other words, to cognize it. By studying the basics of Vedic Knowledge we come to appreciate the validity of those cognitions.
At some point (just as a math student appreciates the knowledge of the teacher) we come to appreciate the fact that those cognitions provide us with knowledge that we may not be able to verify with the scientific method. At the same time, so much of what we learned from our Vedic studies compels us to being open to what the Rishis have given us. This can rub the western mind the wrong way. Do we have to accept something on faith that cannot be proven to us??!! However, it is not really on faith. Like the math student, we come to realize that the teacher knows something we do not. However in the case of Vedic knowledge, attaining that level of understanding is far beyond simply taking a few courses at a university.
This does not mean we should abandon our rationality. A great deal of superstition and wrong understanding has permeated the world of spirituality around Vedic Knowledge. With so many moving parts and profound subtleties, the knowledge easily slips through our fingers. So we must remain discerning. At the same time, we gain a great deal by remaining open, knowing that great knowledge is there if we approach the field of Vedic Knowledge wisely. At that point, the knowledge and practice of things such as Pradakshina are not based upon blind faith. Rather they are based upon a deep appreciation for the source and validity of that knowledge.
Certainly, the routine we follow during an eclipse defies our western thinking (programming, conditioning, paradigm identity). In fact, there are a number of things in the Vedic tradition that do not immediately make sense to the western mind. Similarly, advanced math does not make much sense to a student just learning basic arithmetic. However, the more such a student studies, the more that student comes to realize the teacher knows more than they do. Therefore, they continue to study and know that there is a deeper knowledge to higher math.
Similarly, once we study Vedic knowledge for a while, we come to have that same sort of appreciation for Vedic science. As a result, though at first glance the guidelines of what to do during an eclipse may feel odd, we try it anyway. Last night during the eclipse, we at Mount Soma stayed indoors, pulled the window shades closed, and did not eat or drink during the eclipse. I believe I can speak for the group that the feeling of the day and particularly the experience during the eclipse validated the truth of the practice. It felt profound, powerful, appropriate, and in harmony with the mechanics of the day, the environment, and the cosmos.
The ancient Rishis cognized Vedic Knowledge. To understand and appreciate cognition is a huge step in one’s understanding of life and existence. Yet to understand it is not just an intellectual process. It is experiential. Knowledge is far more than a set of facts. It is something we find within ourselves, within the depths of our own consciousness. It is not blind faith. It is inner awareness. One’s level of knowledge is the direct result of one’s level of consciousness. As it is said, knowledge is structured in consciousness.
I’ve been asked to comment on the meaning behind on the story of Lila in the Yoga Vasistha. My favorite book on the Yoga Vasistha is called The Concise Yoga Vasistha by Swami Venkatesananda. You can access the ebook version of the Concise Yoga Vasistha here.
Now to the explanation: Imagine a deck of cards sitting upon a table, each card neatly stacked, one on top of another. Though there is a sequence to the order of the cards (top card, one below it, another below that, etc.), they are all superimposed on each other. This can be compared to the sequentiality of the Veda itself. Modern physicists tell us that within the unified field (the Transcendent, i.e., pure Consciousness), there is no time, nor is there space. Space and time are an attribute of relative existence. ‘Before’ the manifestation of existence, there was no space and no time. Within the Transcendent, sequentiality and simultaneity are one and the same. Also, the notion of separation inherent in space collapses down to the unification of all that is.
The universe manifesting can be compared to spreading a deck of cards out across the table, across the face of space and time. Now imagine that each card represents a lifetime with its own place in space (location in the universe) as well as its own place in the sequentiality of time.
In the story of Lila, Sarasvati freed Lila from the bondage of one lifetime, as well as the notion that lifetimes take place through the sequentiality of time. Within the Absolute (the Transcendent, the Veda), all lifetimes, and in fact all that is, exist simultaneously within Consciousness. Consciousness is the Transcendent. Everything exists within that one Consciousness. Consciousness equals ‘Is-ness.’
Divine Intellect (Sarasvati) can be compared to the structure and order of a piano keyboard. Lila (Divine Play) dances upon that keyboard. This is why Sarasvati holds a Veena (musical instrument) in her hands. It is appropriate then that Sarasvati (Divine Intellect) taught this nature and structure of existence to Lila (Divine Play), thusly revealing Lila’s own true nature to her.
Sarasvati, by giving Lila the experience of simultaneity of all events, frees Lila from bondage to the limitation of awareness. She thusly frees her and enlightens her.