History of Tibetan Elemental Astrology

From TYS Lama Gangchen Rinpoche’s Forthcoming book, the Breaded Turtle, An Explanation of Tibetan Astrology

Astrology is very important in the buddhist healing sciences and also a very long history. We can say it was the Buddha's first teaching.

When Buddha Shakyamuni attained enlightenment, he sat for seven weeks under the bodhi tree at Bodhygaya. Then after seven weeks, on the urging of Brahma and Vishnu he got up and began to walk towards Sarnath, where he wanted to meet the five yogis with whom he had previously practiced yoga and share with them his experience, later to know as the first turning of the wheel of dharma or the 4 Aryan truths. On the way there he met along the road a group of Burmese businessmen who asked him for for a practice to travel safely without being robbed. Out of compassion he taught them one astrological practice to salute the four directions that would enable them to travel in safety, and then continued on his way to Sarnath where he taught the four Aryan truths and turned the first wheel of dharma. Thus one can say that astrology, although a study of the conventional world, and a minor subject in buddhist education, has a very long history.

Tibetan Astrology is divided into two main sections, Jungtsi(Elemental astrological calculations) and Kartsi (the white calculations from the Kalachakra system). Both sets of calculations are needed to make a full horoscope. Buddhist astrologers also use something called the Arising Vowels system.

Elemental astrology is the oldest type of Tibetan astrology and is called either jungtsi (element calculations ) or Nagtsi, ( black calculations). Black or white refers to the clothes that were worn at the time in China (black) and India (white). Elemental astrology has its origins in the ancient Tibetan shamanistic Bön culture. It was mixed with some aspects of Chinese astrology in the 8th century when the Princess Wencheng , the Chinese wife of king Songtsen-Gompo moved to Tibet and brought her astrologer with her.Tibetan elemental astrology is not the same as modern Chinese astrology.

Elemental astrology is used to construct a natal horoscope, to make relationship predictions, yearly predictions, medical calculations and death horoscopes. Horoscopes are commonly used in times of change, such as moving to a new house; starting a new project or travelling to far away places. Astrology can also be used to make long-term weather forecasts and for many other things.

This jungtsi system has no mathematical calculations or planetary observations. These belong to the kartsi or white calculations system derived from the Kalachakra tantra which is expalained in my book “Making Peace with the Wheel of Time”.

Elemental astrology is based upon the relationships of the five terrestial or geomantic elements, (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) twelve animal signs, nine Mewa numbers and the eight Parkha trigrams. The astrologer ('the calculator' ) examines these in conjunction with the individual's year, month, day and time of birth to make a prediction about any of the four categories of life.

The most important of these is Srog, or life energy, followed by Lu, health or bodily strength ; Wangthang, the financial situation; and Lungtha, the wind horse or success. The yearly almanac shows these four categories and how they relate to the elements of the year, or to another person. Where s/he notices an imbalance of energy in any of the four, s/he will recommend an antidote to offset negative influences or side effects or to prevent them in the future.

Astrology helps us to make peace with the elemental imbalances and side effects that bring problems and disharmony into our life on the personal and collective levels. Tibetan medicine and astrology are studied together by lama healers. Nowadays we have many different healing methods but still many new complicated problems and sicknesses are arising that we don’t understand. Maybe we are really taking care of our diet and our behaviour but still become sick. Why? One reason is the imbalance of the outer elements of the environment and our relationship with the universe. What we do has an influence on the universe and vice versa, everything has side effects.

Also there are many types of subtle beings like planetary deities and spirits of the land who interact with us. We need to know how to deal with all these subtle energies. Astrology is not just to know what is our sign and how the next year will be, but also how to deal with all these subtle environmental energies in the best way. This book the Bearded Turtle gives us many solutions. Normally turtles don't have beards- the beard symbolises the manifold types of wisdom that astrology gives us.

In ancient times people were afraid of supernatural environmental protectors, this idea we don’t have anymore, but we do have to face the side effects of the eruptions volcanos, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods and other environmental imbalances.

We are doing the best way but always something is happening as is blocked due to the planets. Also we have many problems due to karma- we need to understand this more deeply- also the planetary and elemental reactions are also our karma. I hope that the ideas in the self healing books will help us to change the world.

The antidotes recommeded by the bearded turtle are many. We may be advised to perform self healing meditations based on the elements or to give donations to the sangha, to the dharma centers or to the needy, or many other things.

Tibetan astrology has a close relationship with Tibetan Medicine and they are usually taught together. If you would like to learn the basics of Buddhist medicine I have written a book on the subject called A Rainbow of Healing Nectars. Astrology is used by lama healers and Buddhist doctors to diagnose disease and to find the right cure. All Buddhist medical students have to study the basics of Astrology and Astronomy, its something necessary to understand the flow of energy in our bodies, related to the seasons, but astrology students choose whether or not they want to study medicine.

Western astrology focuses on personal talents and the psychological analysis of personality. This is not the main point of Buddhist elemental astrology. It concentrates on predicting what could possibly happen in a person's life. Tibetan astrology is not a fatalistic system of predestination, as everything is a dependent arising and everything can change, depending on what we do. A person's life can be changed for better or worse by his or her own actions. It's really useful to have a snapshot of what can happen so we can do something about it.

Spiritual practice and caring for others will create a better life by purifying negative karmic imprints and creating merit, and an astrologer can advise on suitable meditation practices like the ones in Ngalso Tantric Self Healing 2,Making Peace with the Enviroment and Kalachakra The Glorious Wheel of Time Tantra .

In conclusion, this book is an introduction to the main basic concepts of jungtsi astrology: the elements, animals, parkhas and mewas and explains some healing practices we can do to reduce the side effects that are produced by them. It is not possible in this book to explain everything about the subject, its a very vast field of study, however if you do the astrological self healing practices it will take care of the reactions between the elements, hours, days etc, and so whether or not we know what they are doesnt really matter or not. At least we can do EH YAM RAM LAM BAM HO SHUDDHE SHUDDHE SOHA or the healing pujas listed in this book we can save ourselves lots of headaches and problems.

Introduction to the 60 year cycles

Myth has it that 12 animals came in sequence to salute the Buddha as he passed away into paranirvana. These twelve are linked with an empowering element for the year, which is one of the classical Chinese set of five - wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Each element rules two years in a row, the first being a male and the second a female year. Tibetans never use the Chinese yang and yin, instead using male and female. It takes sixty years for a specific combination to repeat, such as the wood-male-rat year, for instance, the first in the Chinese listing, or the fire-female-hare year, the first in the Tibetan calender as this was the year(1027CE) the kalachakra tantra was introduced into Tibet. Thus, the place in the sequence at which the sixty year cycle begins is different for the Chinese and Tibetans. The Chinese 60 year cycle starts 3 years before the Tibetan one. This is because Atisha decided to fix the start of the 60 year cycle at the first year of the 12 year jupiter cycle from the kalachakra tantra.