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Introductory Comments on Tibetan Astrology

Introductory Comments on Tibetan Astrology

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Published by Michael Erlewine
An astrological article or book by Michael Erlewine, well-known astrologer with fifty years of experience. This book is copyright by Michael Erlewine and is available free and may be shared, but not sold or bundled. Erlewine can be reached at Michael@Erlewine.net
An astrological article or book by Michael Erlewine, well-known astrologer with fifty years of experience. This book is copyright by Michael Erlewine and is available free and may be shared, but not sold or bundled. Erlewine can be reached at Michael@Erlewine.net

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Published by: Michael Erlewine on Jan 07, 2011
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05/09/2012

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Introductory Comments on Tibetan Astrology
 
By Michael Erlewine © Tibet, often called the spiritual andphysical "roof of the world," has beenthe source of great inspiration toWesterners for over two centuries. Partof this attraction may be due to the factthat Tibetan astrology is inextricablybound to Tibetan Buddhism. With fewexceptions, the primary practicingastrologers in Tibet have for centuriesalways been and are today Buddhistmonks. The word for astrology in
Tibetan is “Tsi,” and astrologers are
called Tsi-
Pa, those who practice “Tsi.”
In Tibet to learn something aboutastrology is to learn something aboutthe dharma and Buddhism, and usuallyvice versa. Tibetan Buddhist monks alluse astrology.I found out early on that I could not justskim the astrology off the top of theTibetan Buddhism. In order tounderstand Tibetan astrology, I had tolearn something about the Buddhistpsychology in which it is embedded. Idoubt that I am alone in this.In other words, it is impossible toseparate Tibetan astrology from TibetanBuddhism, so it is important for readersto understand at least something aboutthe Dharma and how it relates to theastrology of Tibet.To best prepare for what follows, hereare several concepts that you may needto better understand this material, soplease bear with me.
The Swans and the Lake
 In the 1970s the head of the TibetanKarma Kagyu lineage, His Holines the16th Gyalwa Karmapa, was asked whyhe had come to visit America. His
answer was: “If there were a lake, theswans would go there.” And so it has
been, for the last 35 years or so. Manyof the great Tibetan teachers have cometo America to visit and to teach thedharma.My interest in all of this stretches backto the 1950s and the beat movement --Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, etc.These writers helped to introduceBuddhism to many of us at that time.Writers like Allan Watts and D.T. Suzuki(who wrote and spoke on Buddhism)educated a whole generation on thesubject, but back then it was mostlytheoretical. In the late 50s and veryearly 60s, Buddhism appeared to me asone interesting philosophical viewamong many others such asExistentialism and the Beat movementitself.Buddhism at that time (of the AllanWatts variety) was necessarily veryintellectual and philosophical --something to think about and havewords over. After all, we were justhearing about it. We would sit up untillate at night, smoke cigarettes (I amsorry to say), drink lots of coffee, andtalk about such things until the sun
came up. It was all very “heady.”
 Few of us made the connection thatBuddhist thought was not just somethingelse to think or philosophize about, butrather a path or dharma, a method,something to do
 –
a way of action. Weknew little of methods. This came muchlater.It is important to make clear that (as Iunderstand it) Buddhism is not a religionin the ordinary sense of that word.Although I have worked with it for manyyears, I have never considered myselfas particularly religious. Going to church
 
Introductory Comments on Tibetan Astrology
 
once a week, as most Americans do, isnot going to solve many of my problems.I need something I can do all week long.What I was interested in back then waspsychology -- the human psyche andthe mind itself. In fact, my interest inastrology itself can be traced to aninterest in the psyche -- how the mindand all of its experiences work. Howdoes the mind work?In the early 70s, Buddhism took the nextstep to being understood as a practicalpath when the work of a young Tibetanlama Chogyam Trungpa Rinpochebecame available. His book "Cuttingthrough Spiritual Materialism" is perhapsthe best example of what I am pointingtoward, a practical Buddhism
 –
mindpractice.With Trungpa came the end of TibetanBuddhism of the through-a-glass-darklyand sit-and-talk-about-it variety.
Previous to Trungpa‟s appearance,
most insight into the inner or astrologicalside of the Buddhism of Tibet camethrough writers like Alexandra David-Neal, T. Lobsang Rampa, T. Evans-Wentz, and other early writers on what
has been called “esoteric Buddhism,”
people like H.P. Blavatsky and C.W.Leadbeater. Even then, there was littleor no mention of Tibetan astrology perse. These writers were Westerners whocould not help but put their own spin onthe subject of Buddhism. Trungpaended that.Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche made itvery clear to us that Buddhism was notonly a philosophy to think about, butabove all a life path to walk, somethingvery practical to put into practice in day-to-day life. He pointed out thatBuddhism was primarily a way ofhandling our experience in this world welive in -- a dharma path. I can rememberthat this came as almost total news tothose of us brought up on theintellectual Buddhism of the late 50s and60s.I met Chogyam Trungpa early in 1974when I helped to bring him to Ann Arbor,Michigan to speak. I designed theposters for his event and ended up ashis chauffer for the weekend. From themoment I picked him up at the airport,suffice it to say that I quickly got a verydifferent take on Buddhism, which leadsme to the other main point that I mustpresent before we can discuss Tibetanastrology, and that is meditation.Prior to meeting Trungpa, I had the(quite common) idea that meditationwas a method to relax around, a way toget away from the chaos of day-to-daylife -- a form of stress management. Ihad never found the time nor interest forit. The whole idea was boring to me. Iwas way too active to sit still.No sooner had I brought TrungpaRinpoche back from the airport than hetook me into a room with him, closed thedoor behind us, and proceeded tointroduce me to my own mind. Lookingback, I realize he was showing me howto meditate, although he didn't call itthat. In fact, he never named it. Andthere was no prologue. He did notannounce what he was about to do. He just jumped in.At the time I don't believe I was able tograsp all of what was going on. It wasonly years later that I realized whatreally happened on that day. What Iexperienced through his instruction (andin his presence) were some realanswers to questions that had alwaystortured me
 –
big questions, questionsabout death, about letting go, about
 
Introductory Comments on Tibetan Astrology
 
actually living life - things like that. Mostof all, Trungpa pointed out anddemonstrated what real awarenesslooked and acted like. My response was
a simple: “Oh, now I get it.”
 I watched him enjoying and using hismind in a multitude of ways that I hadnever considered as possibilities. It wasa pure case of monkey see, monkey do,and I wanted to be like he was being.Where I was used to sitting around,twiddling my thumbs, and waiting for thenext thing to happen, Trungpa Rinpochewas all over the place, peering, pokingat, questioning, and mostly enjoying andinvestigating every moment and everything. I wanted to kick myself that I hadnever thought to make use of my owntime like this.Trungpa demonstrated before my eyesthat the mind and our awareness couldbe worked with - practiced. Intuition ortrue insight could be developed. All youhad to do was to try and do it. The mindcould be trained. What a thought!My original idea of meditation as at besta way to relax, and at worst a big borewas giving way to something muchmore active. I began to see thatmeditation had to do with my developinginsight and intuition, learning to use myown mind to connect within myself andthe taking possession or advantage ofour current situation -- whatever ithappens to be.From that day in February 1974, I beganto connect more with myself and toexplore the so-called outer world in asomewhat different way. Once you seesomeone do something for real, youknow that you can probably do that too.I had seen something done and Iwanted to do that too.What I am getting at here is that theprimary tool for learning astrology in theTibetan system is not a set ofephemerides, a series of calculations,and lots of research in books. Instead, itinvolves establishing this innerconnectivity -- call it insight, intuition,meditation, mind practice, mind training,whatever you want to call it. When I firstsaw it, I had no words at the time, but Igot the idea. It leapt inside me.I had grown up here in the West wherelearning astrology is often centered onmemorizing the variouscorrespondences between terms, like:Aries relates to Mars, relates to theAscendant, relates to the First House,and so on. If you can't get into learningabout astrological correspondences,then you are going to have real difficultygrasping classic western astrology as itwas taught in the 19th and 20thcenturies.In Tibetan astrology, the primaryeducational tool is your own mind andlearning to use it and your intuition in adirect and practical way. Tibetans callthis "mind practice" or most often just
“meditation.” Of course they have a
dozen or so words for meditation. Mypoint here is that if you approach theTibetan lamas, you may not find easyaccess to their astrological teachingswithout some very basic mind training,
not because they won‟t share it with
you, but because your mind (andprobably your life) is a little too chaoticand rushed to get a handle on it. You
don‟t have time for insi
ght. You have tomake time. Time is also something wemake.And this lack of access to the teachingsis not because these matters are in anyway secret, but rather because we may

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