The Path into Shastra Part III: Repetition Makes Perfect, Repetition Makes Perfect
By Deborah Allison
Note: This series, "The Path Into Shastra," explains how the root works of the Vedic tradition, including Jyotish and Ayur Veda, are organized. These principles will be a great help in starting to unlock the wisdom that is literally encoded in these texts. See Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV and Part IV.
The second golden key to unlocking the wisdom of Shastra is known in Sanskrit as abhyasa which can be translated as "practice" or "repetition." A very famous sutra in the immortal Yoga Sutras of Patanjali states: abhayasa vairagyabhyam tan nirodah which means "through practice one gains the maturity to resolve the fluctuations of the mind."
Stating it succinctly as the second principle of exegesis, we could say that the value and importance of a principle is directly proportionate to its emphasis through the device of repetition. I repeat: The value and importance of a principle is directly proportionate to its emphasis through the device of repetition.
In Sanskrit there are no italics, punctuation or underlining. How to provide emphasis? One of the most important devices is this principle of abhyasa. When a particular principle is repeated in several Shastras or within a single work, we must respect it as having great emphasis and importance. For example, in Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra (Parashara), a root work for Jyotish, the greatest number of chapters are devoted to dashas and bhuktis, emphasizing that Jyotish is kala shastra—the shastra of time—and the promise of a chart unfolds in time.
There are also ten chapters on Yogas. This is the second greatest number of chapters devoted to a particular area in this work and the importance of yogas gets even more powerfully emphasized when you look across many Shastras and find that overall, the greatest number of shlokas deal with yogas. In Phaladeepika, the number of verses dealing with yogas exceeds the number of verses in all the other chapters. Something is being communicated here that we must not miss. Yogas are predominant and should be given their proper emphasis.
Now let us examine this principle with respect to the quality of a planet as a natural benefic or a natural malefic. If you examine how many shlokas recite the benefits or difficulties associated with the natural state as opposed to how many shlokas deal with the functional benefics and malefics, you might well question the emphasis seen in many contemporary books and lectures on the functional nature of the planets. It has its importance as it is in the Shastras, but where is the emphasis? It is lost by not understanding these principles of exegesis.
Along these same lines, Parashara reminds us of the problems associated with the lords of the 6th, 8th and 12th houses with many, many shlokas detailing their effects in bhava analysis, dasha analysis, poverty, illness, etc. etc. etc. These temporal malefics are given much more prominence through the device of abhyasa than the functional nature which again, seems to be an overemphasized pet principle of present day practitioners.
In fact, if we combine the first two principles of exegesis discussed so far and understand that what comes close to the beginning of the work has more importance, we find the discussion of the qualities of the grahas, including which are natural benefics and which are natural malefics, come right after the invocation in Parashara. Where and how extensive is the discussion of functional benefics and malefics in Parashara? It starts somewhere around Chapter 34 (depending on the edition) and extends for one chapter only. These are clear signals as to which constitutes a core principle and therefore a guideline for sound interpretation based on the priorities of the seers in this grand and sacred tradition.
(c) copyright 2007 Michael Laughrin
From the June/July 2007 issue of Michael Laughrin's North American Jyotish Newsletter. Click to subscribe to this free Jyotish newsletter.
This series, "The Path Into Shastra," explains how the root works of the Vedic tradition, including Jyotish and Ayur Veda, are organized. These principles will be a great help in starting to unlock the wisdom that is literally encoded in these texts.
The Path Into Shastra Part I: The Oral Tradition
These articles were published in Michael Laughrin's North American Jyotish Newsletter. These articles are also archived online on the archive page.
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