Tag Archives: distraction

Free will, Fate, and Astrology

Many westerners reject astrology in principle. They may read their own horoscope daily in the news-paper but when it comes down to it they cling to their illusion of free will and believe that the essence of astrology regects this very will. But astrology does not reject free will, quite the contrary, astrology can point us in the directions in which we can excersise our free will most effectively.

You could say that astrology assigns a probability to certain events or actions. They have a familiar name for these actions in general: karma is commonly translated as action. As karmas ‘ripen’ the events of our lives unfold. Many people have a vague idea of karmas role in cause and effect, but few stop to consider how vast a role karma has in our lives.

There are three kinds of karma: fixed, changeable, and both. Generally speaking, we can easily recognize many things in our lives that we are helpless to change. The place and time and culture and social standing under which we are born will shape our lives immensely. There is nothing we can do about this. But there are many other things that may have a high probability, but will not necessary happen to everyone; like getting married or having children. Although cultural expectation or even biology will lead us in these direction we are still free to accept or decline. Many other things it seems we’re absolutely free to accept or reject: like job offers, or turns on the freeway. Life is mix of fate and free will.

Before I continue, I should clarify that there are two main schools of astrology. Most of my readers in the west are familiar with western astrology that deals with generalities and tendencies without going into predictive forecasts or remedial measures. Western astrology has an emphasis on the sun and seasons. Vedic astrology on the other hand has a system of planetary periods that is unique for each persons birth time that allows the astrologer to see how and when your karma’s will unfold. Regarding this point my astrology teacher asks, “What is the point of astrology if people don’t believe in remedial measures.”

And this is where I don’t understand westerners. They demand their free will, but when an astrologer offers them an opportunity to exercise their will to alter they fate, they don’t believe in that either. This whole universe is an interplay of vibration. The simplest way to change something is to change the vibrations that something is subjected to; to tinker with the wave length. This is essentially what a microwave oven does; it’s also the essence behind different colours of light.

Astrological remedies were created to tinker with the subtler energies around us. By subjecting ourselves to certain vibratory energies we can influence some of the more stubbornly negative karmas to unfold less harmfully, or perhaps have our good karma’s unfold more resplendently. Wearing precious and semi-precious stones along with certain mantras are the most common remedies, but everything from the food we eat to the clothes we wear can be adjusted in a remedial way. In many ways it’s just all those little things in our lives that make up a lifestyle that determine the vibrations to which we are subjected.

When we are born, we are born on a particular path with a particular personality. As the path unfolds, the personality will exert itself in various ways causing us to make certain choices over others. What we gain thru learning and experience will also influence both the path and the personality. There is no doubt that the possibilities in this world are unlimited, but each person is limited both by their location in the world and by their own minds. There may be many options, but we can only choose from the ones that come to mind.

There’s really no clear separation between free will and fate; it’s as though they simultaneously spring forth from each other as time passes. But this is also the way of karma: as time passes we burn one karma and create another, each of the simultaneous weaving and burning of our individual karmas while layer upon layer of collective karmas likewise go into the flames and come out again whole.

If free will could be depended upon more people would choose happiness, or choose to quit smoking, or choose to chase their dreams. Many times it’s nothing more than fate that leads us one way or another. We all have our burdens to carry that remain upon our back despite our strong intention to shake them off. Luck, whether good or bad is often the deciding factor regarding the ultimate direction of our lives.

I was reading one book by an astrologer who is making a living from cancer. He says he will screen your chart for cancer and prescribe certain remedial measures if it looks probable. He claims to have abut a 60% success rate. We can never really know if one thing or another has changed our fate or if we are merely on the natural course set by the stars. I do know that in the west, if the medical establishment claimed to have a test to see if you might get cancer in the future many people would be quite curious; if they said that they had a pill you could take to reduce your chance of cancer if it seemed likely, many people would take it, despite severe side effects.

My question now is: do people contract cancer thru free will, or is it fate that decrees it? In many ways the whole discussion of whether or not we have free will is just a distraction from the essence of Astrology and eastern thought in general. Free will is essentially the will of the ego, it is the framework under which selfish people seek to fullfill selfish desires. “The whole world revolves around me.”

Eastern thought generally follows a principle of all is one. Nothing acts in a vacuum, everything and everyone are in relationship. When we begin to see these relationships more clearly, we can then begin to really make choices that can alter our destiny.

Varanasi, India. 2009.

November 2009
Varanasi, India

In a cold guest house room beside the Ganges. Me and Joseph the Swede are wrapped in blankets, playing chess, smoking charas.

“I can’t keep going on like this. broken heart after broken heart. it’s not fair to me or to them or to anyone that has to listen to me.” I said with a smile. “I figure there are only three choices for me when it comes to love and relationships: I could become a monk and lock myself away somewhere, hide front the women of the world; or I could just get married. Make a pact with some woman to make it work. Maybe some simple Indian girl to make a life with, I could marry that girl in Delhi I told you about. Or, I can just keep on keeping on repeating other maddening waves of love and heartbreak. This is not what I want, but becoming a monk and suppressing all that passion isn’t the way either, and first I have to find a woman to marry me; which is kinda what the whole cycle is about…..

“…… Maybe that’s why I get so upset about it all: because I realize I have no control over it. All this love and loss is out of my hands. But there has to be something I can do. Some way to make it all flow easier……” I was exhausting myself with my monologue.

Joseph was staring at the chess board.

He’d been all over the world loving and leaving women. He doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. Trying one thing and another and going back. His girlfriend had just left India to go back to work, he was staying on for a couple months. All was good between them, but the future of course was not at all clear.

He was (still is) into meditation. Silent retreats, morning routine…… Cursing himself always as he tries to get something more from meditation; always rating the meditation abilities of the meditator: himself and the others in the groups he partakes in silence with.

All these comparisons are the hardest things to drop. Imagining the inner life of another person and longing to have an inner life comparable.

Most of us just want the kind of house or car or job or lifestyle or friends or lovers or wives that other people have.

Others want the peace and tranquility they see in others, or the assertiveness that they admire, or the creativity that allows some to shine.

We are rarely good enough as we are.

Joseph stayed on for about a month and our conversations and chess playing continued. I had kind of isolated myself aside from him and the the guest house and a couple restaurants. I was just keeping to my practice, studying the Gita, and beginning to strike upon a deeper understanding of duty and sacrifice. After a couple months I was like an old man sitting at my desk studying, reading, writing for most of the hours of a day. Shawls wrapped around me to protect me from the cold damp fog of Ganga in the winter. I was as focused and monkish as I’ve ever been. I was even practicing postures to promote celibacy and restraint.

And then Claire arrived at the guest house….

She arrived and took me away from everything I was doing. It was about three days later before I noticed. It was festival season in Varanasi. It’s always festival season. We were running around town like children: taking pictures of Muslims butchering buffalo for Id, watching as midnight pashmina deals turned into opium deals. I remember the bells ringing that never seemed to stop, everyone celebrating and praying and coming together to fill Kashi beyond its holy domain.

We came together in strange way. After being inseparable for a few days. The youngest brother of the guest house came to me and said that they’d overbooked and asked if Claire and I could share a room for a couple days. It was a crazy thing to request. I asked Sanjay about it and he didn’t want any part of the request, but he admitted the were over booked.

This was the strange sort of ‘set-up’ that brought us together. A few days later we were heading west on the train.

She had energy this girl. She wanted to see everything, explore. We would wander thru neighborhoods and the people would be out of their homes laughing like crazy at the way she played with the children and her camera. Her smile and joie de vivre was infectious. I was certainly infected with it. I’d almost completely forgotten who I was. I was following under her spell. It was wonderful.

But it was also too much for me. My energy was sapped. We got to Bhundi she fell ill first and spent an couple days in bed and I followed right behind her, sinking into the large comfortable room we’d found. And then, as if all of a sudden we were going to the door together and I was giving her a passionate kiss good bye. She returned the kiss, but none of the passion, ran down the stairs to the rickshaw the was waiting and flew back to France.

Three weeks had passed since I met her, I found myself completely at a loss. Heartbroken. More than all of that, all my focus had been kindof geared towards knowing better than to allow this to happen to myself. A three week affair ending in my broken heart couldn’t have been a starker reminder that all this talk and thought and suffering I did about my fate with women was just talk….. Bullshit. I wasn’t going to do anything about anything.