Site Map
Up in the Heights
Section › 19   Set    Search  Previous Next


Reservations   Contents    

Up in the Heights with Skill


There was a man who went to a Tibetan astrologer, asking him what the horoscope said were things to look forward to for someone with the chart he showed up. It was his own birth chart, but he did not say that.

The astrologer: "Based on the chart and also the system I use, that person died about forty years ago."

The man visited another Tibetan astrologer. A similar thing happened.

"Based on the chart and also the system I use to make sense of it, that person died about twenty years ago."

And then the man visited a third Tibetan astrologer and was told:

"Based on the chart and also the system I use, that person still could have some days left here on earth."

Two or all three astrologers could be wrong.

Now, Tibetan astrology and horoscopy uses three differing systems to decide about when a person dies. First they postulate how long a human life is. Then they calculate. Dr Alexander Berzin explains:

Tibetan and Mongolian astrology masters . . . disagree about the calculations for a person's life span. Some take the ideal longest life span as 120 years, some 100 years, and some 80 years. Depending on which one you choose, the calculation for how long someone will live and what will happen during the person's life differs.

Dr Alexander Berzin, a Buddhist translator, teacher, scholar and practitioner, spent 29 years in India, where he served as an occasional interpreter for the Dalai Lama and His tutors. Berzin renderings and quotations follow. All the outputs with a Berzin lecture as their source, are not equally serious:


Astrology helps us to know what may happen, or maybe not. It depends, obviously. We need to be careful not to become superstitious and taken in by grand claims on behalf of traditions and so on.

Astrology offers guidelines for understanding ourselves through one or more charts to look into and interpret to our ability. However, faulty, nonsensical and category-linked thinking leaves no room for individuality and does not allow for flexibility.

Among the many traditions of astrology in the world, the Tibetan-Mongolian system is one of the more complex ones. It is much more complicated than Western astrology. Mongolian astrology is a slight variant of the main Tibetan astrological system.

You cannot draw a horoscope for someone if you do not have someone's birth date or guesses it right.

Astrologers also make almanacs with data about days and hours that seem most promising for starting to plant the crops in the fields, for harvesting them, and other such things that are important for a society.

As with Tibetan-Mongolian medicine, Tibetan-Mongolian astrology blends aspects that derive from Indian, Ancient Greek, Chinese, Central Asian, and native Bon origins.

Many systems of astrology developed in India, several Hindu and one Buddhist. The Indian Buddhist system calculates with external, internal, and alternative cycles. The external cycles refer to the passages of the sun, moon, and planets around the earth in the heavens, as seen from earth. Then, heavenly bodies - their cycles, placements, patterns (aspects), their motions and ascribed qualities and much else - are also considered. So based on the sky with its array of stars and clusters as considered from earth; the sun and moon and planets in the solar system - we derive horoscopes. The study of astrology is linked to such externals and interpretations of what they are taken to mean.

We suffer "all sorts of problems" because of not being in control of any karmic ripenings and their effects on us, holds dr Berzin, adding, "Some people become a little crazy on full moons, like werewolves!"

"In [Tibetan] Buddhism, we strive to gain liberation from . . . uncontrollably recurring cycles, which we call samsara."

This means that we need to liberate ourselves "from all possible horoscopes . . . we aim to liberate ourselves from the zodiac itself." The zodiac is a band of star signs - with constellations in the background of them - that the sun seems to traverse in a year. These signs are given many animal names to remind of qualities or id outlets ascribed to each sign. The names of the sign are for most part different between Western and Chinese astrology.

This the context within which to study astrology. Berzin:

The Kalachakra Tantra is the source for the calculations for most features of the Tibetan and Mongolian calendars, for the positions of the heavenly bodies in the ephemeris, and for most factors in the almanac, such as auspicious and inauspicious days. Because the Kalachakra teachings flourished in India before spreading to Tibet and then on to Mongolia, they share a great deal in common with the Hindu astrological systems.

The two civilizations [the Greek and Indian] had close contact, particularly from the time of Alexander the Great. Let us look first, then, at some of these common features. Modern Western astrology shares them as well, since it derives from the Ancient Greek tradition.

In Tibetan-Mongolian astrology, we calculate the positions of the planets only up to Saturn, not the trans-Saturnian planets, and name the days of the week after the heavenly bodies, such as Sunday for the sun and Monday for the moon. [But who can prove that the weekly cycles of days was started on the right day in the beginning, and not just conventionally?]

Berzin, further:

There is also a division of the zodiac into twelve signs, with the same names as in the Greek and Indian Hindu systems. These are the same names as our modern Western system uses Aries, Taurus, and so on. There is also a division of twelve houses, a few of which have slightly different interpretations from their Western astrology counterparts. As in a Western horoscope, each heavenly body is in a sign and a house, the combination of which affects the meaning and significance of that body in the chart.

Signs and Houses

The system of heavenly bodies, signs, and houses is the same in the Tibetan-Mongolian, Indian Hindu, Ancient Greek, and modern Western systems of astrology.

The star signs and the constellatons: You find, hopefully, the constellation - the fixed-star zodiac - by subtracting about 23 and 24 degrees from the star sign these days. The gap was smaller in past centuries, and is widening year by year, but not very much. [Why say 'hopefully'? It may not be so simple that subtracting 24 degrees does the "trick," for the constellations are far from 30 degrees of arc each. Some are much smaller, and others much wider, and they have irregular shapes above and below the zodiacal belt the sun passes through. And there are still more issues to address.]

The Relation with karma

Buddhism asserts that the positions of the heavenly bodies in a horoscope mirror a portion of the karmic potentials with which a person is born. However, the issue of deciding whether to keep what is calculated by the traditional Kalachakra formulas or adjusting for the precession of the equinox, is not settled yet.

Predictive Horoscopes

Most ancient systems of astronomy and astrology regard the lunar nodes as heavenly bodies. They are not. Buddhism calls them Rahu and Kalagni, while the Hindu systems name them Rahu and Ketu.

A lunar node is either of the the two points at which the orbit of the Moon intersects the ecliptic. The ascending (or north) node is where the Moon moves into the northern ecliptic hemisphere, while the descending (or south) node is where the Moon enters the southern ecliptic hemisphere. In Hindu astronomy, the ascending node (north node) is called Rahu and the descending node (south node) is called Ketu (Kalagni in Tibetan Astrology). In the West, the ascending node is referred to as the dragon's head and the descending node is known as the dragon's tail. (WP, "Lunar node")

Tibetan-Mongolian predictive astrology interprets a person's birth chart and other charts to say something of what is rather likely to happen to the person during his life-span. The Indian Hindu systems of predictive astrology resemble the Tibetan-Mongolian one, but do not calculate a person's life span.

Chinese Astrology

The Chinese systems add further variables that are incorporated in Tibetan astrology. "You need to weigh all the factors affecting a certain period because, from the viewpoint of one variable, the moment may be favorable, but from the viewpoint of another, it may be unfavorable. The interpretation of charts in Tibetan-Mongolian astrology is a complex art," dr Berzin summarises.

Leave out confusing predictions of Life Span

If someone does a great deal of positive things, he or she may extend the life span. There are many simple measures that one by one may contribute, for example drinking milk instead of whisky, stop smoking, and so on. ◦A change of diet may increase your life by years, and so can Transcendental Meditation, TM. [◦Research findings].

In short: A sum of substantial measures could prolong the life and reduce the costs of medical care. TM can prolong one's life for many years, and documentedly, dr. David Orme-Johnson shows.

Gasping for the Truth, or grasping

Tibetan-Mongolian astrology has several variant traditions, each producing slightly different predictive charts. People that become aware of this, often become uncomfortable. . . . The frustration they suffer stems from differing explanations. Faced with so many alternatives, most Westerners respond, "But, what does it really mean?" They look for definite answers as to what is going to happen. says Berzin.

If all future happenings are not determined and settled once and for all beforehand, definitive answers about one's dying date may be misleading, and most often are, if only one out of three system hits that "jackpot" date. If some future happenings are determined and somewhat or loosely settled beforehand, they may or may not come true.

Now, if future happenings are determined with an iron fist already, there may still be a lot you could do. You may a beard, or "grow" another iron fist to help against the first iron fist, for one thing: You may be free to work up good karma again and again, for example. Buddha advocates making good karma.

Berzin on karma, contracted

The Tibetan Kedrub Je wrote that if astrology reveals all the information about someone, then a human being and a dog born in the same place and at the same time would have the same personalities, the same life spans, and the same things happen to them during their lives. Clearly, that is not the case. Dr. Berzin explains:

Astrology does not give all the information about somebody. Many other factors influence the course of an individual's life. Effects come about from [chunks of] networks of causes and circumstances; karma and the laws of behavioral cause and effect are extremely complex. . . . [W]e have been building up karmic causes for the experiences in each of our rebirths. . . . A high probability may exist that certain events will happen in accordance [with someone's astrological] chart; but you cannot dismiss the lesser probabilities that other things may happen in addition or instead.

The Western systems with the tropical zodiac produce one set of information. The Indian Hindu and Tibetan-Mongolian systems with the fixed-star zodiac give other results.

We each have the potentials for an enormous number of karmic configurations and thus an enormous number of possible lives that we could live . . . The proper orientation is in terms of probability functions," Berzin teaches, and "If our chart reveals that we should have died ten years ago, it gives us some idea . . . What ripens in a particular lifetime, however, depends on circumstances and conditions. . . .

An astrology chart is like a weather report: it provides a picture of what is likely to happen, but [may] not come to pass.

Fun with Extracts

If our charts indicate that we should have died when we were ten and, obviously, we did not die then, we could have the tendencies to mindlessly swat flies. The short life span in our charts can inspire us to work on purifying ourselves of these tendencies. - Dr Alexander Berzin, contracted).

"We are accountable for the choices we make . . . everything that happens arises dependently on innumerable causes and circumstances . . . but life is infinitely more complicated than that. - Dr Alexander Berzin

The fact that the information we gain from Tibetan-Mongolian astrology is often inaccurate is actually helpful [Oh yeah] . . . Many ripenings of karma are possible. - Dr Alexander Berzin

Tibetan-Mongolian astrology not only lacks any feature to compensate for birth in the northern or southern hemispheres; it does not take into consideration different places of birth or different time zones within the northern hemisphere. Again, this raises the question of whether to amend the system and add these features . . . or does it not really matter? - Dr Alexander Berzin

Great Tibetan and Mongolian masters of the past have relied on [inaccurate] astrology teachings and praised them highly. - Dr Alexander Berzin

We wish to learn how to play skillfully . . . May we liberate ourselves from playing any stupid card games. - Dr Alexander Berzin

[Source: Alexander Berzin. Tibetan Astrology and Karma. Transcription of a seminar, Munich, Germany, June 1996. Study Buddhism by Berzin Archives. [◦Link]


Tibetan astrology, up in the heights, astrosophy, star wisdom, Literature  

Tsering Dolma Drungtso. 2002. Tibetan-Elemental-Astrology. Dharamsala, IN: Drungtso Publications.

Erlewine, Michael. 2007 Tibetan Astrology. Big Rapids, MI:

Erlewine, Michael. 2007b. Tibetan Earth Lords: Tibetan Astrology and Geomancy. Big Rapids, MI:

Lewis, James R. 2003. The Astrology Book: The Encyclopedia of Heavenly Influences. 2nd ed. Canton, MI: Visible Ink Press.

Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

Tibetan astrology, up in the heights, astrosophy, star wisdom, To top    Section     Set    Next

Tibetan astrology, up in the heights, astrosophy, star wisdom. User's Guide   ᴥ    Disclaimer 
© 2019, Tormod Kinnes, MPhil [Email]