Do Spiritual Masters Transcend Their Charts ?

By Varij

The view is sometimes put that the more spiritually evolved we are the less influence astrology has over us. According to this view, spiritual masters transcend their charts. The thinking behind this view seems to be that a birth chart, with its inherent structural patterns and implied schedule of unfolding, is a limitation in some way.

But this thinking is based on a misconception. A birth chart is not a limitation any more than the banks of a river are a limitation to the river. Certainly they define it - a river without banks is not a river. Similarly, a birth chart defines our individuality. It can be considered a limitation only if our individuality is considered a limitation.

To be sure, for enlightenment to occur, the testimony of spiritual masters is that this is in fact the case. For just as a river loses its individuality when it merges with the ocean, so must our individuality dissolve if we are to merge with the ocean of existence and awaken to the Self. The Self is eternal and infinite, and as such was never born and never dies. It necessarily follows then that it has no birth chart. No birth chart, no question of transcending it.

But this ultimate experience of enlightenment, of the individual ego-personality-self dissolving into the Self does not invalidate the relationship between an individual and his chart. How does this work? Ramesh Balsekar, an Indian spiritual teacher from the non-dual Advaita Vedanta tradition of whom Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj and Papaji are perhaps the most well known and influential exponents, puts it like this: “After enlightenment or awakening, the body/mind organism continues to function, more or less as it did earlier. The body/mind organism will function according to its characteristics.” Those characteristics are indicated by the birth chart.

Spiritual masters are Self-realized beings who yet continue to function as individual personalities in the time and space bounded world in which we all function. Although their ‘cosmic consciousness’ maybe one and the same, as individual personalities they are certainly very different and reflect their charts like everyone else, though often at a higher level of manifestation.

Take for example, the influential Indian Master Osho, who is probably better known by his earlier designation of Bhagwan or Rajneesh. In character traits, life patterns and themes, he is almost a text-book Sagittarian.

Consider his insistence on freedom, both in terms of personal action and also as the highest value to be honored in any kind of love relationship, for example. For him, love without freedom is not love at all.

Consider too his quest for enlightenment; his relentless commitment to living in truth and honesty; his sense of humor and parallel attitude that seriousness is the worst sin; his bluntness and directness of expression - for example, not hesitating to call something ‘bullshit’ if that’s what he felt about it, and the sometimes outrageous language of his jokes. Note especially his hilarious discourse on the uses of the word ‘f..k’.

Consider also his propensity to engage in argument and his mastery of debate. When, as a student, during the national debating championships his opponent failed to show up, Osho argued both sides himself and the result was declared a draw.

Finally his penchant for telling stories, for exaggeration, for downplaying the importance of facts in favor of a higher truth; his love of higher learning; his insatiable appetite for books; and the fact that he is probably the most published person in history ... these are all examples of Sagittarian traits and themes manifesting at the highest level.

I am struck by the prevalence of the sign Capricorn in the charts of Masters I have studied. Osho had five planets in Capricorn - Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars and Saturn; Gurdjieff the Sun and Moon; while Ramana Maharshi and Yogananda had their Sun in the sign. Jesus, too, is a Sun sign Capricorn if he really was born on December 25, though many astrologers, myself included, think it more likely that he was born in the sign of Pisces, under the influence of a Jupiter/Saturn conjunction, that being the ‘star’ that the three wise men followed to Bethlehem.

Other evolved Sun sign Capricorns include Kahil Gibran, Martin Luther King, Stanislav Grof, Carlos Castaneda, Timothy Leary, Alan Watts and John Lilly [- the latter two share the same birth date.]

The prevalence of Capricorn is not surprising perhaps when it is considered that spiritual life, as much, if not more than worldly life, requires dedication, discipline, commitment, focus, clarity and more often than not, plain hard work, qualities the sign Capricorn bestows in abundance. So Gurdijeff is archetypically Capricornian when he calls his spiritual work with his disciples ‘The Work’. Two representative aphorisms: “I love him who loves work” and “There is only self-initiation, which is acquired by constant effort. It is impossible to give to a man anything that could become his own without effort on his part.”

In typical Capricorn style he set up an organization – the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at the Chateau du Prieure in Fontainebleu, France – to further the Work. An integral part of spiritual practice for his pupils was the performance of hard physical labour such as chopping stones, constructing buildings, landscaping gardens, tending farm animals, etc, with rigorous mindfulness. Such hard labour provided the setting for automatic personality reactions to be activated and subsequently eliminated through the assiduous practice of self-remembering. It also served the function of weeding out dilettantes and poseurs whom Gurdjieff had no time for, though he was certainly not above fleecing such types of their money when he needed it. 

Another essential part of his pupil’s arduous schedule was to learn his highly original dances which purported to be an expression of his philosophical system in movement. Rather than subjective expression of feelings and ideas the purpose of the dance was to integrate the three centers – the intellectual centre that thinks and plans; the emotional centre that feels pain and pleasure; and the physical, instinctive centre that moves and creates. The level of concentration required to master the movements is phenomenal, each limb being required to move independently of every other limb in conscious and perfect coordination. When achieved, the effect is hypnotic, with both dancer and spectator being inducted into a meditative trance.          

Ramana Maharshi worked the whole time in the sense that he made himself constantly available to all comers as he humbly sat in a corner of his ashram silently radiating his spiritual power. Although his spiritual wealth was great, in a mundane sense his life style was extremely spartan, in the same way that many a job centered Capricorn in positions of worldly power may live quite frugally although they could afford to live in luxury if they so chose. Ramana’s spartan routine included rising around 3:00 am every day to help prepare breakfast for his disciples and generally sharing in the communal work of the ashram. 

On the other hand, Capricorn is also a sign noted for concern with status, standards and quality. Well, nothing but the best for Osho, from the Rolls Royces to the impeccably tailored robes, from the acres of marble in his ashram buildings to the beautiful gardens, and more generally in the up market presentation of ‘Club Meditation’. As he said of himself: “I’m a simple man. I simply like the best of everything.” Despite all that, he lived simply in sparsely furnished personal quarters, albeit of pristine quality and cleanliness.
The influence of Capricorn can also be discerned in the formal structures of ceremony and ritual that he instituted such as the wearing of maroon robes in his ashram and the White Robe Brotherhood held at 7:00 pm each evening in Osho centres throughout the world. This ritual follows a set format designed to concentrate and deepen the experience of silence.

Perhaps most significantly Capricornian though was his insistence that his disciples are solely responsible for their own growth and awakening. No ‘shaktipat’ [transmission of energy] type short cuts from him. His role is simply that of inspiring exemplar. If he, an ordinary man can wake up, so too can you. Meditation is the key.

Osho then, is a distinctive blend of Sagittarius and Capricorn, reflected in the equal emphasis he placed on personal freedom and individual responsibility.

Interestingly, Gurdijeff, perhaps Osho’s most kindred spirit, is also a distinctive astrological blend of Capricorn and Sagittarius, for as well as Sun and Moon in Capricorn, he had Venus conjunct Jupiter in Sagittarius. This is the astrological significator of Gurdijeff’s generous hospitality and well known love of a drop of vodka, with the dinner table being his temple of choice to transmit the higher teachings. In my mind’s eye I can see Gurdijeff now, vodka in hand, talking of ‘Meetings With Remarkable Men’, telling ‘Tales of Beelzebub’ ... [The titles of his most well known books]

Sagittarius is also associated of course with physical travel and Gurdjieff certainly did a lot of that in the first part of his life. He belonged to a group called the Community of Truth Seekers who traveled throughout Asia in search of an ancient esoteric knowledge preserved by secret brotherhoods and in oral teachings kept alive in remote monasteries. Many of his adventures are described in Meetings With Remarkable Men.

The Influence of Uranus

Osho, Gurdijeff, and J.Krishnamurti, all have a dynamic aspect pattern in their charts emphasizing the planet Uranus. Reflecting it’s eccentric astronomy of being the only planet that spins on its side, Uranus is associated with non-conformism, un-conventionality, radical individualism, independence, rebellion, revolution, brilliance, genius and the clear light of truth. Uranian individuals insist on living in freedom from family and social expectations and indeed from all externally imposed constraints. They take inspiration from Buddha’s famous words,“Be a light unto yourself.” 

Krishnamurti was born with the Sun in Taurus opposed to Uranus in Scorpio, with both planets squaring his Aquarius Ascendant. His Uranian nature is reflected in the brilliance of his insight and in his rebellious refusal to take on the role of World Teacher, for which he was intensively groomed by the Theosophical Society. His best known quote displays the archetypical Uranian refusal to be part of any institutionalization of wisdom: “Truth is a pathless land. Man cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest, ritual, not through any philosophical knowledge or psychological technique.”

Gurdijeff had Mars in Scorpio opposite Pluto in Taurus, both square Uranus in Leo, making Uranus the focal planet of a so called T square aspect pattern. A ‘rascal guru’, many examples could be given of conventionally immoral escapades. However, like all evolved Uranians he answered only to the higher authority of his own inner law. Uranians too, are often outsiders, ‘strangers in a strange land’, so this description of Gurdijeff by his influential student J.G. Bennett struck me as most apt: “He made upon me the impression of an exile from another world, who must always be a stranger in any company.”

 Osho had Moon conjunct Saturn in Capricorn opposite Pluto in Cancer, both square Uranus in Aries, again making Uranus the focal planet of a T square aspect pattern. Uranus also forms part of a Grand Fire Trine involving his Sagittarian Sun and Jupiter in Leo. This abundance of fire, combined with the dynamic tension channeled through the focal Uranus accounts for his larger than life ‘in your face’ personality, a personality that made it almost inevitable that he would so often be the centre of controversial attention. 

From his earliest years Osho was the quintessential rebel, dedicated to defying every accepted form of behaviour sanctioned by society, utterly refusing to be told what to do. Brought up by his maternal grandparents till the age of seven, Osho says: “they allowed me total freedom to be myself ... Somehow I remained out of the grip of civilization ... I became a really strong individualist, hard core ...”  Descriptions by contemporaries and later commentators emphasize fiery Uranian character traits, for example, ‘a gifted, spirited, independent-minded individual’; ‘a boy of exceptional intellect and charisma’; ‘willful, headstrong and naughty;’ ‘immodest, brazen, discourteous, disrespectful, seditious’ etc.

 Osho delighted in playing humiliating tricks on teachers and townspeople he considered pompous or hypocritical, and in disrupting religious meetings by asking simple but unanswerable questions. For example he asked one Jaina monk, who had been teaching not to believe in anything not based on personal experience, how he knew there was an eternal hell, since if it was eternal he could not have visited it and come back to tell. Nor did he spare his family. On one occasion his father saw a man coming to his house he did not like and told Osho to tell him he wasn’t home. Osho opened the door and said, “my father said to tell you he wasn’t at home.” On another occasion when family members tried to force him to dress more conventionally by hiding his unusual hippy type Punjabi clothes, he simply walked out of the house and into his father’s shop naked. His clothes were returned immediately. 

This penchant for rebellion, for always speaking and living the truth as he saw it, never left him. Throughout his life he made uncompromising attacks on all beliefs that he felt were not based on truth or logic, no matter how culturally sensitive, or politically unwise. For example, he condemned the revered Mahatma Gandhi for his preoccupation with the poor and anti-technology stance, a stance which Osho maintained hindered their liberation from poverty; accused Mother Theresa of manipulating the orphan problem in order to create more converts to Catholicism; denounced the Reagan Administration’s ‘prostitution of the constitution’for deporting him; and in general, never let up on his scathing attacks on ‘priests and politicians, the mafia of the soul’. And of course, his much misunderstood advocacy of sex as a path to enlightenment, was like waving a red flag at a bull to established religious views.

So vast personal experience informs Osho’s late talks on the rebel collated in his book of the same name in which he develops his mature vision of the authentic rebel as a spiritual phenomenon that is quite distinct from the social non-conformist and the political revolutionary. This work represents to me the most inspiring expression of what the planet Uranus symbolizes in astrology. A representative quote: “The new rebel is an enlightened being - he is fulfilled and deeply contented. He stands aloof and alone, with a clarity about everything. Truth is his religion, freedom is his path. And to be himself, utterly himself, is his goal.” And with this, rather than transcending, I would say he actualized the full potential of the powerful Uranian placement in his chart.

The birth chart then, is a universally valid blueprint of individuality. Anyone born in time and space, including spiritual masters, will reflect their birth charts as long as they are functioning in time and space.

Osho confirms this in his autobiographical memoir Glimpses Of A Golden Childhood when he says apropos of his birth chart: "It described my whole past exactly and also my future. I was amazed because everything it said had either happened or was happening. Now things that were in the future then have also become the past. They have happened.”

To be sure, Osho was often derisively critical of astrology, but it was primarily the traditional Indian predictive and fatalistic approach that he was attacking. Let's see how this approach was applied to his own life in order to make some general points on the correct use of prediction in astrology. 

The astrologer whom his father consulted made it clear that, according to his calculations, Osho was likely to meet death by the age of seven. This didn't happen, yet in a very real way he did have a profound experience of death at age seven, through the death of his dearly beloved grandfather. Of this experience he reports: "1 was so attached to him that his death appeared to be my own... For me he was the only love object, and because of his death perhaps 1 have not been able to feel attached to anyone else much. Aloneness became my nature. His death freed me forever from all relationships..

"Each factor in a birth chart implies a range of possibilities. For example, perhaps you are having a Pluto transit, which implies you are going to meet death. But is it your death, or someone else's? Is it literal or metaphorical? Most commonly it is the death of a psychological pattern, some part of your past to which you are still clinging, which Pluto's destructive force is now compelling you to drop. 

In other words, the planetary influence is real - the theme of death will enter your life - but the way it will manifest cannot be concretely predicted, and neither can your response. Obviously, the more conscious and aware you are, the more creatively you will deal with it. Nevertheless, whatever you do, you will operate within the parameters of the astrological aspect. It's not like 'anything goes'. It's not a cosmic free-for -all. If you are born a Sagittarian, that's going to be reflected in your nature. After all, a mango seed can grow only into a mango tree, not into an apple or oak tree. You can be a fully flowering Sagittarian like Osho, or a stunted one, but the nature of your  individual being is indicated by your chart. That's the raw material you've got to work with.