A child is born on that day and at that hour when the celestial rays are in mathematical harmony with his individual karma. His horoscope is a challenging portrait, revealing his unalterable past and its probable future results.
~Swami Yukteswar to Paramahansa Yogananda in Autobiography of a Yogi
Nobody really wants to resign themselves to a fate that was conscripted for them at birth. Humans are born with a fire inside them that compels them toward growth, evolution, and self-determination. But if a person’s destiny can be deciphered by studying one’s stars, how much use is it to struggle to change a fate we may not wish to embrace?
This is a question I am always interested in exploring and my views on it are always evolving.
And I think a better question is, what is the best way to stand in relationship to a fate that may not have been our choice if we had liberty to choose it?
In Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda’s teacher Sri Yukteswar says:
“The message boldly blazoned across the heavens at the moment of birth is not meant to emphasize fate–the result of past good and evil–but to arouse man’s will to escape from his universal thralldom. What he has done, he can undo. None other than himself was the instigator of the causes of whatever effects are now prevalent in his life. He can overcome any limitation, because he created it by his own actions in the first place, and because he has spiritual resources which are not subject to planetary pressure.”
Here Sri Yukteswar begins describing the key to overcoming planetary influences — that the soul possesses a capacity which is inherently beyond the influences of the planets on human lives.
Yet, I can’t resist the natural correlation of an event in my life with an appropriate astrological event in my chart! When Saturn was transiting my 9th house and activated by the configurations of my profection year that year, I had an especially formative experience where I arrived at a place of desirelessness. This was in the sense that I knew that there would be no ultimate gratification or final sense of contentment in anything I could acquire or achieve. I also had a sense of acceptance about my life and what I was to experience. I felt the need to pull away from astrology for a time to connect with a deeper thread of knowing inside of me. In that season of my life I shifted priority to refining my interior emotional terrain, confronting tendencies toward impatience, or negativity or anger that were also there in me, but also being open to receiving information that was beyond the descriptions provided by astrology.
After some time, my spiritual experience settled, and I moved on, having integrated but not sustained that experience. I returned to a more typical way of relating to the world but now I had the existence of that experience inside me.
After being away from thinking of my life in astrological terms for a time, I checked in with my planetary transits again, and I found a fresh illumination there. I discovered again that knowing what was going on for me astrologically was helpful for me, providing an x-ray vision through my own stories to a clearer self-understanding, and a kind of next-generation roadmap with detailed instructions for getting through this point in time to another point in time.
“It is only when a traveler has reached his goal that he is justified in discarding his maps. During the journey, he takes advantage of any convenient shortcut. The ancient rishis discovered many ways to curtail the period of man’s exile in delusion. There are certain mechanical features in the law of karma which can be skillfully adjusted by the fingers of wisdom.”
Astrology frames periods of times in terms of qualities — a Saturnian quality at work (a 10th house Saturn transit), or in relationships (a Saturn transit to Venus). A Jupiterian quality to one’s Sun that coincides with other factors, that suggest a beneficial international move, and so on. I realized again that the meta-view of situations astrology provides helps me to step out of my own narrative as well as my own tendency to want things to go a certain way by a certain time and more easily accept the flow of time and its associated quality. With the fixation on time-oriented goal achievement liberated (at least for the moment), I could re-direct that energy, attention, and effort toward more useful activities. Yogananda says,
“The starry inscription at one’s birth, I came to understand, is not that man is a puppet of his past. Its message is rather a prod to pride; the very heavens seek to arouse man’s determination to be free from every limitation. God created each man as a soul, dowered with individuality, hence essential to the universal structure, whether in the temporary role of pillar or parasite. His freedom is final and immediate, if he so wills; it depends not on outer but inner victories.”
I’ll end this exploration into what spiritual masters have to say about self-determination with some notes from Swami Sivananda’s book, Thought Power. I really wanted this letter to inspire thoughts in you about your own inherent strength and what you would pursue if you knew you could move past your limitations by applying your will.
“Do not yield to fatalism. It will induce inertia and laziness. Recognize the Great Powers of Thought. Exert. By right thinking, make for yourself a great destiny. Man is the Master of his own destiny. You yourself make, by the power of your thought, your destiny. You can undo it if you like. All faculties, energies and powers are latent within you. Unfold them, and become free and great.”
If you would like to read more:
Outwitting the Stars – Chapter from Autobiography of a Yogi
Thought Power by Swami Sivananda