Buddhist Astrology by Jhampa Shaneman & Jan V. Angel. Llewellyn Worldwide, St. Paul, MN, 2003. $19.95 paperback.
The author of Buddhist Astrology has been a practicing Buddhist for 30 years, and an astrologer for 20 years. Both Buddhism and astrology are based on a spiritual approach to life, i.e., enlarging ones domain to include the world of spirit, and combining them is a natural.
Buddhism is Eastern, and the question of the zodiac enters in writing such a book for the general Western public. Eastern astrology uses a sidereal zodiac, i.e., the constellations themselves, whereas western astrology uses a tropical zodiac, i.e., the sky divided into 12 sections of 30 degrees each beginning with Spring Equinox.
There are certainly many questions about the use of any zodiac, but that is not Jhampas purpose. He neatly sidesteps this problem by not mentioning signs in his book, only planets, houses, and aspects. It is true that just those three elements give an enormous amount of information. (There are a few astrologers who also do this. But very basically, how do you get houses without using some kind of zodiac?)
Jhampa does, however, illustrate Siddharthas (later called Buddha) birth chart in the standard western tropical zodiac with Placidus houses. He was born at 12:30 p.m. on May 23, 575 B.C. (which calendar?) in Parna, India.
Siddhartha had 6 planets in Taurus, plus Chiron, all in the ninth house. Thus values, and teaching about values and priorities, was his path. The many fives in his birth date (including 2 plus 3) show us the theme of Card Five of the Tarot, the Hierophant, or the Spiritual Teacher. Five is also a number of experiencing many facets of life, developing wisdom, and passing on that wisdom. The original astrologer who cast his birth chart predicted an attainment of great power.
Siddhartha had a Scorpio Moon. This meant experiencing life-and-death crises. Taurus represents abundance, and he was born a prince. However, his Virgo Mars rising motivated him to go out among his people, disguised as one of them. He saw firsthand the poverty and degradation in which most of them lived. This contrast motivated a complete change in Siddharthas approach to life. His royal life died for him, and he was reborn as an ascetic wanderer who spent hours in meditation, seeking wisdom. He attained enlightenment on the Full Moon night of May 15, 539 B.C. This is the substance of the joyous celebration of Mays Wesak Full Moon.
Many people know of Siddharthas life, for Herman Hesse wrote a book, Siddhartha, about it. This book was around everywhere in the 1960s and early 1970s.
The authors here essentially uses the planets, houses, and aspects as a skeleton on which to hang Buddhist practices, disciplines, lessons, and meditations. The idea of karma is also included. Buddhist Astrology offers a spiritual garment to astrology, and this book can be inspiring reading. For the astrologically-oriented, it makes an excellent meditation tool. Every planet in every house provides its own unique ground for special meditation.
"The seventh house relates to people close to oneself....A spiritual person naturally focuses on others and strives to be supportive when planets are placed in the seventh house. It is important to develop skillful means in these relationships or one could become meddlesome. This starts with the need to define boundaries. Boundaries define where ones personal responsibilities lie, and where anothers start. Wise people are responsible for their personal karmic accumulation and how they present themselves to others. The emphasis is on motivation and presentation. Spiritual people are not responsible for how someone reacts. If an action was undertaken with kindhearted consideration, karmic responsibilities reach fulfillment. One strives to love, support, and benefit others as much as possible. This is the main responsibility in Buddhist terms."
There are a few more paragraphs of wise teaching about the seventh house. Buddhism is so commonsensical! And then we read that among the six Buddhist perfections, the Perfection of Morality and the Perfection of Patience apply to this house. My Sun is in the seventh house, and I can certainly identify with this work.
Jhampa goes on to discuss all of the houses, all of the planets, all of the planets in each house, and all of the major aspects.
As you can see, the language is simple. And yet the precepts are enriching, and add a luminosity to the astrological concepts.
I highly recommend this book. Even if you are not interested in the astrology, the spiritual guidance and food for meditation can inspire us. Its a book to put by your bedside, and read a short passage in the morning or evening.