Bringing together the Kleshas and the astrological observation that there are no evil planets, we have the insight that each planet represents an aspect of the individual self.
The word I am translating with “planet” is actually graha — seizer, grabber, that which catches you and won’t let go. Astrologically speaking, this includes the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and the ascending and descending lunar nodes (where the Moon’s orbit crosses the ecliptic), Rahu and Ketu. We call them grahas because they grab onto us and move us around in the direction of their influence. It’s a mistake, however, to think that they do this externally. The grahas direct events from within. For the individual, this is because they rule different parts of us: various organs and body parts, the foods we take in, but also our emotions, ideas, ideologies, and all of the processes we each tend to think of as “me”.
I’ll save you the deep metaphysics, for now, and jump straight to the pragmatic psychology: if each planet rules over and directly influences a given aspect of the self, then that planet may be engaged with internally by way of its presence in the individual’s life through introspection. One need not be particularly spiritual to benefit from this sort of introspection; it may be thought of as a form of psychological therapy guided by the reality of your own inborn patterns as revealed in your natal chart. With or without a therapist, all effective therapies are rooted in the individual undergoing it and their own willingness and ability to look inward and honestly to report to themselves what they find. Astrology is certainly not the only way to do this, but it is among the most insightful and actionable models.
Let’s carry on to the grahas’ positions in the individual identity. As ever, keep in mind that the particulars will depend on the details of your own chart. In part 2, we will also look at a method of digging into how these actually impact our lives.
The Sun represents the soul, which is to say the essence of the individuality. The soul transcends the particulars of identity, being the simple core of identity itself, the awareness of oneself as an individual distinct from other individuals and the outside world. While deeper metaphysical experiences can and do cut through even this seeming atom of selfhood, it is nevertheless the most fundamental element of what it means to be a conscious being. The placement of the Sun indicates the idea or experience at the core of the soul’s mission for this lifetime. Whatever metaphor we choose for life — a school in which to learn, an illusion to be seen through, or whatever else — the Sun is at the heart of our approach, usually in ways we are not at all conscious of or which might begin as abstractions and only gain substance through the act of living.
The Moon represents the manas or consciousness more broadly. Manas, often translated as “mind”, is specifically the consciousness-as-mirror. Whether by way of thoughts, emotions, intuitions, memories, or simple sensory impressions, manas reflects the experiences of life by the light of the soul. In other words, it takes in all sensory data, conscious or subconscious, and holds it for our use and edification. When we speak about cultivation, a great deal of the purpose of concentration, meditation, and contemplation is, to use a metaphor common to Zen, polishing the mirror. That is to say, we are trying to find the mind’s original purity — the Moon’s natural fullness — wherein it reflects cleanly and without distortion all elements of experience.
These two are the most important of all, not because the faculties of the other planets aren’t important but because they all arise from the Sun and the Moon, the soul and the mind. The planets themselves will how us how we use our faculties and to what degree we are capable of putting them to work, but the luminaries tell us why we use them, what motivates us. Our spiritual practices thus directly engage the Sun and Moon. The Sun allows us both to spread our awareness and to concentrate it; as the Sun is the source of prāna, it is also the core of our spiritual respiration which we consciously engage through our sādhana. The Moon allows us to generate the nectar of immortality at the heart of all experience. These processes are mutually supporting.
Next time, we will explore the other grahas in relation to the self. In the meantime, it can be valuable, if you know them both, to think on what your Sun and Moon signs say about your soul and your manas; if you know their dignities, all the better.