|The following article is from the Summer, 2002 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.|
BY LURA McCALLUM
[Jhampa Shaneman is featured at www.SuowLionPub.com as our Buddhist astrologer. Every month he posts his analysis for our customers on our website. He has studied with many outstanding teachers and completed a traditional three-year retreat. You can also see his website at www.buddhist-atstrotogy.com.]
LuRA McCALLUM: Jhampa, you spent 14 years in India studying Tibetan Buddhism, can you tell us something about this time.
JHAMPA SHANEMAN: In 1970 I decided to travel and see the world. My journey ended up in India with the Tibetan Buddhists. I was excited with Tibetan Buddhism and what it had to offer. By 1971, I became an ordained monk and started to learn the Tibetan language. There were no English texts and very few translators available at that time.
LURA: Who were some of the teachers you studied with?
JHAMPA: My first teacher was Lama Thubten Yeshe. He was inspiring and gave me a powerful image of what it meant to be a Buddhist. As time passed I studied with his teachers, such as Geshe Rabten and Geshe Dhargaye. By my third year in India I became a pupil of the senior tutor of H.H. the Dalai Lama, Ling Rinpoche, and continued studying with him as my principal teacher until 1984. I also studied other Buddhist practices and with other lineages as the years passed. I have now translated and become familiar with all four sects of Tibetan Buddhism.
LURA: What happened after 1984?
JHAMPA: I completed a three year retreat in 1983, the same year Kyabje Ling Rinpoche died. This motivated me to return to Canada as I had lived in India for 14 years. I started a small meditation center, Thubten Choling. I had studied astrology in India and so in Canada I started to read astrology charts as a source of income. It was difficult to make ends meet so I also worked in a hardware store after a few years. I continued teaching Buddhism at the meditation center and my astrology practice while working a regular job.
LURA: YOU have always referred to yourself as a Buddhist astrologer, in what way is this different?
JHAMPA: After studying Western astrology while in India my teacher asked me to read his astrology chart. He was curious to see how well I had grasped the information. I surprised him with my interpretation style because it was different. I presented a Buddhist approach to the material. I used the Buddhist philosophy and practices I had gathered over my years of study. This made me realize that there was a new and unique way of presenting astrology. In Canada, I have always used a Buddhist approach to reading astrological charts. I find it practical when tied with meditation practices.
The awareness of astrological transits, cycles and fluctuations better prepare one to utilize their innate wisdom. The greater the scope of awareness generated, the I better one handles life.
LURA: HOW can a Buddhist astrology chart benefit me?
JHAMPA: One does not have to be a Buddhist to benefit from the reading. The emphasis of Buddhism is with awareness and wisdom. Everyone has some level of self-awareness and wisdom. That awareness and wisdom dictate how one experiences their life. When you consider astrology, you apply mindful awareness and wisdom to astrological influences. There are different schools of astrological thought. Some believe life is predetermined and others support an expression of choice and free will. I fall into the category that emphasizes astrology is a circumstance of influence. Astrology effects everyone's life, but an individual's awareness and wisdom can filter those influences. The Buddhist interpretation would benefit anyone because it emphasizes key astrological points from a practical perspective.
A Buddhist could harmonize their practice with the interpretation. The awareness of astrological transits, cycles and fluctuations better prepare one to utilize their innate wisdom. The greater the scope of awareness generated, the better one handles life. Important decisions are made without unconscious factors of influence. One can see on a personal level the dynamics of planetary interdependence.
LURA: Can Buddhist astrology shed light on ego and the manifestation of suffering?
JHAMPA: Yes. First there is the natal chart interpretation showing the dynamics that influence the formation of personality. These dynamics mix with factors like the birth family, education and social economic influence. Astrology is just one of the factors that create the individual. The chart's interpretation continues with major astrological transits from client's birth to their present age. That section often invokes surprise. People see how interdependent they are with the world around them. Astrology plays a role in that interdependence.
A Buddhist understands samsara is fraught with uncertainty. Suffering is created by delusion. Astrological influences can increase the impact of delusion. Awareness of upcoming influences can prepare one. Specific meditation techniques can be implemented to balance things. Foreknowledge can diminish the disruptive effects of astrologically stressful times.
Another component is to utilize this foreknowledge in a positive way. One could deepen their practice and understanding with beneficial astrological transits. The planetary influence can augment love, compassion or insightfulness. Certain planets stimulate these feelings and wisdom. It all depends on the attitude and awareness of the individual.
LURA: If one has major suffering in their life, can you direct them?
JHAMPA: I am frank with my clients and if there are astrological inclinations affecting the personality that cause suffering, then I would explain these clearly. I would give strategies and Buddhist options that help one understand the causes of suffering. For example, if someone has a difficult time with their feelings, which could involve a transit of Uranus to Venus, then I identify areas that require conscious awareness. I give positive feedback to compensate for the transit and Buddhist tools to enhance the natal chart strengths.
LURA: Can you explain what astrology the Tibetans study?
JHAMPA: Tibetan astrology has a seven year program which is connected to the medical college. Tibetan astrology is based on two systems, the Indian and the Chinese. There is also an indigenous form used by farmers. They read the chart incorporating a compilation of these traditions. The Tibetan tradition connects the health and well being of any individual to their astrological chart. A doctor knows astrological transits to a certain degree and can access individuals in the medical college who are trained to read full charts. There were references made to astrology during my studies, but I focused on the meditative techniques and philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism. I was drawn to the Western astrology as it was not such a long program and more accessible to me. The western presentation is natural to our mind and attitude.
LURA: YOU have just completed your first book, which is based on Buddhist astrology. I believe you are working on a second book based on your interpretation of a world renowned Buddhist's astrological chart.
JHAMPA: Yes, I requested H.H. the Dalai Lama to be the principal subject for the second book. I will focus on a Buddhist interpretation of his astrological chart and the transits during his life. My interview was interesting because H.H. confided that he does not believe in Tibetan astrology. This came as a surprise to me. I explained I was working from western astrological principles and interpreting the material from a Buddhist point of view. H.H. knows his Tibetan chart and can compare it to the western style. H.H. has agreed to this and will even write the foreword for the book.
LURA: Can a Buddhist astrology chart strengthen my Buddhist practice?
JHAMPA: Yes, because we are interdependent with the world around us. H.H. says we should look at the planet earth as our home and that we are interdependent with this world. It opens our mind to the greater scope of our life and the influences that effect us. A study of astrology is a study of interdependence and that increases wisdom.
The planets, which relate to being a bodhisattva, a person wanting to work for the benefit all sentient beings, are the Moon and Jupiter. The Moon relates to compassion, receptivity and empathy, while Jupiter can inspire optimism, enthusiasm and a positive attitude towards life. Bodhicitta is an attitude that develops the ability to see the positive possibilities of all beings. It is a desire to benefit others.
Saturn relates to wisdom. A Saturn placement in the third or ninth house would be excellent for the development of wisdom. It broods and reflects on issues and this generates wisdom. Saturn is often called the planet of hard knocks. We learn valuable lessons from difficult times in our lives. Saturn can help develop our insight and the practice of guru yoga. An understanding of one's chart can assist enhancing personal awareness.
LURA: On a final note, where do you see yourself in the future?
JHAMPA: As long as I am capable I would like to continue teaching Buddhism and doing astrology readings to help direct people to a better understanding of their own nature and the influences that affect them. I give lectures for psychologists regularly and I think Buddhism, astrology and psychology all have ground for an inter-disciplinary dialogue.