The Path Into Shastra Part IV: Infusing Freshness Into Established Tradition
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 third and fourth golden keys naturally go together and provide the mechanism whereby the stability of the tradition does not decay into staleness and dogma. The formal name for the third key is apurvata, which essentially means a unique principle that is not available elsewhere in shastra or repeated within the shastra in which it occurs.
Apurvata can be extended somewhat to include a unique interpretation or elaboration of an established principle in shastra. However, it does NOT include coming up with something idiosyncratic that has no basis whatever in the tradition.
The "partner" to apurvata and the fourth golden key is phala which literally means "results." It implies applying the apurvata principle, or unique interpretation, over a significant period of time by many different Jyotishis to confirm that it is a valid and substantial principle that is useful and replicable.
Because a unique principle in shastra is an attention getter, apurvata is also a way of "red flagging" something and even startling the reader with what can appear to be a contradiction. An interesting example from a text called Phaladipika is a statement saying that exalted planets that are retrograde give results akin to debilitated planets. Those are "fighting words" to the ears of a well-trained Jyotishi who knows that both retrogression and exaltation makes a planet very strong.
What can be meant by this odd statement? Apurvata is a way of signaling the need to stop and ponder the odd and unique statement and try to get to the underlying message. In this case, shastra is emphasizing the idea that an exalted planet that is also retrograde is extremely powerful but that this power does not always produce auspicious results for the native. Picture, if you will, an exalted Saturn that is also retrograde sitting in the 7th house where it also has dig bala. That Saturn will likely decimate the chart by afflicting almost all of the primary relationships—partner by occupation of the 7th, father by aspect to the 9th, mother by aspect to the 4th and worst of all, the lagna by aspecting into Aries as a triply powerful malefic. In this way, its results will be detrimental, like the results of a debilitated planet.
In a similar way, there is a statement that a debilitated planet that is retrograde gives the results of an exalted planet! The intent here is likely to completely underscore the importance of retrogression as a way of providing an inherent strength to a planet.
In neither of the above cases is one to literally expect either of the results all the time. It is the shastra's way of signaling that one must examine these occurrences very carefully, and apply these principles to many charts through many years of practice in order to understand under what circumstances you will get the stated phala or results.
These two principles form a powerful combination insuring that in future generations, there can be both an examination of interesting "corners" of shastra and a fresh look at established principles through the lens of the current time and place. For example, where in the shastra does it deal with airplanes? Where are computers mentioned? How do we deal with artificial insemination? If Jyotisha is going to be relevant, we must be able to redefine and rework what the rishis say and apply them to all people in all times.
(c) copyright 2007 Michael Laughrin
From the October/November 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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