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May 25, 2017

A Buddhist Perspective on Astrology.

On the first day of my Introduction to Buddhism course, the monk explained the birth of the universe.

He clarified that Buddhism agrees with the big bang theory. Buddhists accept that there is a gigantic cosmic energy that gave birth to the stars, planets, and all living things.

In Buddhism, the utmost belief is impermanence. Without ephemerality, our universe wouldn’t have evolved. There had to be much natural destruction for life to advance. To this day, natural disasters—such as earthquakes, volcanoes, or hurricanes—are essential to life’s continuity. For Buddhists, change is inevitable and necessary for new growth to take place.

We can conclude that Buddhists firmly believe in the close relationship that we have with the universe. Firstly, the same cosmic energy that prompted the birth of the universe also prompted our own. And secondly, impermanence is present in our life as much as it is present in nature.

Since Buddhists link our existence to the universe, there was a time when I pondered what they have to say about astrology (as we know, astrology is the study of the planets and their influence on our daily affairs). The truth is, I used to be an astrology addict, and I’m forever thankful to Buddhist philosophy for getting me out of it.

I’m not an astrology expert. Having said that, I won’t argue whether astrology is or isn’t real. I’m guilty as charged—I still click links sometimes that read there’s a planet in retrograde. However, I would like to delineate the underlying reason for clicking these links from a Buddhist perspective.

To start off, Buddha didn’t directly speak of astrology—just like he didn’t speak of romantic relationships. He moved away from any subject that hinders our spiritual progress. Nonetheless, he offered teachings that can be applied to any personal or general matter.

So Buddhism doesn’t condemn astrology. But through the teachings, we might come out with realizations that ascertain to us that we don’t need astrology in our life.

Now the main purpose of astrology is to give us a hint or an insight into our own character and to provide us with a prediction of our future. Astrology is never accurate, and it has certain degrees of probability. According to the Buddhists, speculation is one of the reasons why we mentally and emotionally suffer.

The only reality we have is the one that’s happening right now, in our present moment. That is the only accurate truth. Anything created outside of it doesn’t exist. That includes our doubts, fears, desires, hopes, and beliefs.

Yet, we struggle to accept reality and what it has to offer us. So, we create our own image of reality and hold on to it. We go against the present moment and try to change it by either visiting the past or jumping into the future. According to Buddhism, we tend to mostly want to control the future because uncertainty terrifies us.

Astrology appears to be the perfect solution for this dilemma. It offers us the reality we wish to have (since there’s always a good thing happening in our zodiac), it relinquishes our doubts, calms down our fears, and gives our dreams and hopes a chance. Beautifully enough, it helps us to plot our lives better. And since astrology is bound by time, it provides us with the vehicle that drives us to the past and to the future.

To put it differently, astrology creates more time in our life—which is a major problem in Buddhism. Buddhists don’t believe in time. For them, time is an absolute illusion. The only time that exists is the present moment. The past and the future don’t have a reality of their own. The illusionary time that exists is what we call “clock time.” Humans have created it to better manage their daily lives (calendars, clocks, years, months, hours, and so on). What we call the sunset, for instance, is an illusion. The sun is not actually setting or rising. But it appears to rise and set because of the planet Earth’s rotation on its axis.

In other words, astrology keeps us stuck in “clock time.” We wait for tomorrow, next week, or next month for this or that to happen. That creates “psychological time,” which means we mentally dwell on situations and get distracted from being in our present moment.

Besides astrology giving us hints about the future, it appears to help us with knowing ourselves better. Not knowing ourselves is another problem in Buddhism. We’re always eager to dress ourselves with a particular identity, and astrology is the perfect way to do it.

Labels such as emotional, strong, weak, intuitive, dreamy, and so on strengthen our sense of “I.” The truth is, thinking that we are those labels only limits the possibility to experience our true essence; which has nothing to do with descriptions.

If Buddha had to say anything about this directly, I think he would have said that it’s because of our fear of the future, our need for certainty, and our lack of understanding ourselves that we run for astrology. Those of us who are too scared to jump into the unknown, and to look inside themselves, will look for a prediction. Reading about what’s going to happen later today or tomorrow is much easier than being patient and waiting to see what the universe has in store for us.

It’s not wrong to read astrology for fun—I still do it at times. But the motivation behind our reading is what makes the difference. In the past, I was quite dependent on astrology. It somehow shaped the reality of my days. However, when I read astrology now, I read it, and then I entirely forget about it. I don’t dwell on what Neptune has in store for me, or how Venus will affect my attitude.

Use astrology intelligently, and don’t let it block the things magically falling into place in your life. Remember, what’s within you is much bigger that what’s written for you or about you.

 

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Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Flickr/chaouki; Flickr/NASA

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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