The Best Astrological Remedies: A Yogic Perspective
The following reflections on astrological remediation are being updated.
Do astrology remedies work? If so, what are the “best” astrology remedies for changing your life?
1. Cultivating Awareness
2. Releasing Self-Interested Motivation
1. CULTIVATING AWARENESS
Any “remedy” is constructive if it is used to cultivate awareness instead of avoidance.
Traditional remedies in Vedic astrology are often used to avoid directly facing a problem. More specifically, these remedies are often used to avoid feeling the feelings associated with intervening in destructive habits that are producing and re-producing the problem. All too often, remedies are used almost exclusively to bypass difficult thoughts/emotions/situations required to face and solve a problem. There is a lived expectation that traditional remedies—gemstones, yagyas, etc.—will produce miraculous effects that don’t require consciously changing your habits. Mantra and meditation are often used to “push away” or even “transcend” current (uncomfortable/painful) states.
Even an astrology reading can function as an avoidance mechanism by hiding your problem in astrological language and receiving astrology remedies that don’t ever address destructive habits around the problem. As examples, you might be told that your relationships are unfulfilling “because your Venus is debilitated”, or that you’re depressed “because you’re experiencing your Saturn return”. The ‘solution’ is then to address the planet (or planets) in the horoscope—in the name of something like burning karma or clearing negative energy or obstacles—rather than confronting the emotions/thoughts around the specific problem. Specific traditional Vedic astrology remedies can take various forms (mantra, ratna, dāna, pūjā, etc.), and while these remedies can indeed encourage a kind of re-habituation (some more than others), they tend to address our challenging thoughts and emotions in an oblique or indirect way (if at all).
Traditional astrology remedies are most constructive if they are accompanied by a more direct approach to dealing with the feelings associated with the problem. This means that these traditional remedies will be more constructive if they are accompanied by some conscious form of intervening in habitual patterns. And this means being willing to put ourselves in the uncomfortable situation of confronting our feelings—fear, mostly—associated with our more destructive habits. Seen in this way, traditional astrological remedies can be used to support us in our owning up to our freedom to face those parts of ourselves that imprison us. In fact, these remedies are often helpful in giving one the strength to cope with a situation that one cannot change (in which case one has no choice but to confront the feelings). Traditional Vedic astrology remedies can be more effective if they are used as secondary support to becoming more aware of—and being able to clearly see and stay with—our more challenging emotions instead of letting these challenging emotions compel us to repeat patterns and continue to avoid those people/places/situations associated with the feelings we refuse to feel.
An astrology reading can definitely be useful in this regard, but only insofar as it fosters and encourages self-awareness and reveals one’s own capacity for self-transcendence. Increased awareness—and feeling deeply seen—can provide a more meaningful connection to your past and your current situation and even foster greater self-connection, self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-love (all of which, in turn, allow for deeper self-awareness). This type of reading can help live a simpler, more grounded, deeply meaningful life.
It is certainly possible that traditional remedies produce observable effects that strike us as “magical” or “miraculous” (i.e, they produced radical effects in some hitherto problematic area of life without our direct intervention). We always remain open to magic and miracles, but we understand that we cannot produce miracles with our conscious will. As such, we focus on dealing directly with the emotions around our ‘problem’ areas so that even if we never experience a miracle, we would be better off than we would have been if we did nothing but wait for magic. We would be ‘better off’ because we would be freer. We would freer because we would be less compelled by those emotions we’re trying to avoid.
But facing ourselves isn’t just a matter of doing more and more and more “inner work”. For some, “inner work” can also be used to avoid the anxiety around taking action to adopt a better process of acting in some troubling area of your life. Conversely, facing ourselves isn’t just a matter of taking more and more action. For some, taking action is itself used to avoid sitting with the anxiety of being at rest (with their own thoughts/feelings). So, we could say that the problem is simply avoiding the actions that force us to confront ourselves. Or, we might even say that the problem isn’t strictly one of taking action vs. not taking action, but is rather one of (mindlessly) avoiding facing the difficult emotions associated with changing some particular habit.
How do you know if you’re avoiding your feelings? How do you know what your motivations are? Pay attention to your own experience. Be honest with yourself. Learn to quiet the mind so you can be ruthlessly honest with yourself. No one can do this for you. (And this might be the first step to actually making serious changes in your life.)
More generally, this (habitual, unthinking) avoidance of pain is itself “karmic”, as is the (habitual, unthinking) desire for relief from the problem itself and the (permanent) relief/peace we think this relief will produce. This leads us to our second remedy.
2: RELEASING SELF-INTERESTED MOTIVATION
(For a more complete discussion of this topic, see our main article on yoga, The Yoga of Yoga.)
Releasing self-interested motivation is perhaps the most important remedy, but is far more challenging if unaccompanied by the cultivation of awareness.
The individual self craves a sense of wholeness/completeness that would permanently eliminate its inner sense of lack, so it can (finally) be “at peace”, never compelled to strive for anything ever again. It no longer wants to feel incomplete/deficient, that “something is missing in me”.
To accomplish this, it seeks things in the external world that it thinks will fill its inner sense of lack. Money, fame, love, etc., all provide more “value” the presence of an individual. Consider a famous celebrity, a billionaire, a star athlete, a guru, a public intellectual, or even a local hero. Their presence seemingly has more “weight” in the sense that attention tends to gravitate towards them. This is the “weight” or feeling of “real-ness” that we think will eliminate our inner lack. Of course, we can never accomplish this with any kind of finality because the problem was never a lack of money/fame/love, but was rather the relentless pursuit of something that doesn’t exist: a permanent personal sense of wholeness. And so this craving only reinforces one’s lack.
This craving also motivates particular self-interested ways of perceiving, thinking/feeling, and acting, including—but not limited to— greed, lust, various forms of aversion, cruelty, anger/rage, pride/arrogance, jealousy, delusion/ignorance, etc.. Notice that these states arise on their own and tend to determine our experience of ourselves and the world, often overpowering us and our better judgement. In other words, experiencing is always already conditioned by self-interest, including our desire to be less self-interested. This is why simply trying to be less self-interested isn’t enough. (The cultivation of awareness is what allows us to see more clearly how/where self-interest has infected our attention, and allows to know if our attempts to solve our problems are actually reinforcing the problem rather than solving it.)
The successful releasing of self-interest allows things in our experience to show up differently; we gradually and automatically we perceive/act/think/feel differently. The most important lesson of releasing self-interest is the realization that the wholeness I crave is never something that I—as an individual—can have; it is never my wholeness, never what will make me infinite/unassailable. Rather, wholeness is something that exceeds my individual existence and will and it is something in which I must participate. Wholeness is something of which I am a part. And, as I gradually release self-interest and become a more active participant in wholeness, eventually I will see that I am an expression of this wholeness and could never have made it my own.
And it is in releasing self-interest—and the control that self-interest demands—that I open myself up to wholeness and connection, to being fulfilled beyond my (self-interested) self and realise who/what my “self” is—even if we have no idea what will become of us.
There are many methods for doing this (just as there are different approaches to yoga), none of which could be considered “best” in general (though you will likely find some more effective than others). Depending on your nature, you may find yourself drawn to some particular “path”, such as karmayoga, jñānayoga, or even a practice based around meditation (dhyānayoga, where we emphasize attentional stability and something like equanimity) or working with directly opening the heart (bhaktiyoga, the effects of which include making an attitude of openness/generosity more accessible to your habitual self). While strictly speaking, these four so-called “paths” describe moments along a single path—your path—we tend to find ourselves gravitating towards one/two. Whatever our method, the cultivation of different habits is gradual—much like planting a seed and tending to it as it grows, in whatever we find the weather conditions to be.
These “astrology” remedies—cultivating awareness & releasing self-interested motivation—are effective at helping you change your life regardless of your zodiac sign or the particularities of your astrology chart.
The Yoga of Yoga further discusses the general issue of suffering and the cause of suffering whereas Desire, Self-Consciousness, and Ahaṃkāra: Phenomenological Reflections focuses on the problem of desire and ego in spirituality. Prakṛti & Puruṣa: Phenomenological Reflections further discusses our (inextricably “entangled”) existential situation, and Self-Awareness & Other People focuses specifically on how we are inextricably entangled with other people. Yoga & The Meaning of (Your) Life discusses what it a “meaningful” life might look like from a yogic perspective. Psychospiritual Astrology: An Introductory Outline outlines the commitments of a psycho-spiritual approach to Vedic astrology.