Mercury – The missing piece in the sidereal vs tropical puzzle!

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Mercury is the planet of research, experimentation and seeing the things from different perspectives. As lord of Gemini he gives that ability to look at two different options and test them. The twins are seen looking at two different directions or sides – left and right symbolizing options. Mercury never fixates on one given thing or issue. Instead he chooses to communicate, debate, share and explore. Gemini is symbolized by a small baby in the age of 1-2years. In this age span, children are most creative, so much so that they are equated to “GOD” like in the sanathana dharma world. Children while they are growing up lack judgement, enjoy being with everyone, don’t have biased views of color, caste, wealth, status, sex etc. Every baby knows research – like literally (see the picture below)! That is the greatest quality of Mercury. In Virgo where he is exalted he has high ability to recognize details and quickly and meaningfully interpret them. Mercury is exalted in the sign that is symbolized by a young prepubescent girl, again pointing towards purity of thought and emotions. These qualities are important and will be later addressed in this post. Mercury has to be related to the 3rd lord or 3rd house of rational thought and the 12th house of contemplation and labs or the 12th lord for one to have interest in research of any form. For occult knowledge Mercury has to be connected to the 8th house of occult. For knowledge of mantras and shastras he has to be connected to the 5th house. All these are very important houses. Among these, the 12th is the most important house for spiritual life, surrender and moksha. Astrology also demands highly contemplative mercurial nature to arrive at conclusions after processing the chart from different perspectives.

077b5a8fffa659eafc8225e106136db8While learning the tarot, I realized the importance of mercury for an astrologer. In the tarot he rules over the hierophant and the high priestess card. Both are extremely important and powerful cards in the deck. The high priestess has a pure heart and draws her strength from her “all knowing nature”. She is highly intuitive and open, adaptable to all the possibilities of the world and the heavens have to offer. This is the feminine aspect of Mercury. The hierophant, the male energy of mercury is a very powerful and knowledgeable person who has high cognitive ability and is capable of interpreting the esoteric knowledge, the science, the mysteries and rules of any science, astrology included.

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Figure 1 : The high priestess and the hierophant

Mercury is the child of the moon in astrology. Mercury is only as powerful as the moon in the chart, as simple as that. Yet there is a very powerful meaning in that. The moon shows the ability for social intelligence, perception and intuition. Mercury from an astrology point of view is also an avatar of Maha vishnu who is present in everything and anything – me, you, the cosmos included. Only when one is perceptive, adaptive and open minded will intuition grow. The moon holds the key to all these qualities.

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Figure 2: The empress, the emperor and the moon (who presides or rules these cards)

The reason I introduced these two planets and cards is because if an astrologer has a Mercury that is not sufficient to perform or not well disposed or low strength or beat up (based on any system or technique you choose to analyze) you will see that they have a hard time around such issues of sidereal vs tropical etc. Mercury rules both Gemini and Virgo. From a Jaimini point of view too – both of which are known to cause confusions, irritations and skin infections. Skin infections are a result of not able to process and assimilate the information correctly.

Whereas, if Mercury is in good shape then their high priestess and hierophant cards are performing at their best. They don’t have any confusions as they will have high intuitive ability and trust their skills and techniques. Mercury represents skills and rules. Neither will they ever try to push their system or agenda or techniques because they are clear and aware that as long as a person’s high priestess and hierophant are operating at their best, the reading or prediction will succeed no matter what system they use otherwise it will fail, as easy as that.

The problem students or (astrologers) have when learning any science is they don’t learn the rules or techniques right. The rules are what lead to successful predictions not the zodiac or a famous astrologer made it or because he/she is a student of a famous astrologer. Ayanamsa is just a setting and can be treated as school of thought. If one indulges very deeply in this process, they will miss all that heavenly glory!

Then the other most important planet is Mars. Mars is the logical and rational thinking, applied in a battle or learning or to overcome a problem. Astrology is also a logical science. Mars rules Aries and Scorpio. Aries is a very important sign for knowledge as it represents the head. From a Jaimini astrology point of view – Aries shows five rats and cats. It means Aries natives tend to be easily derailed from their path and fight unnecessary battles of life or deal with petty issues of life represented by rats. This is because they are unable to rationally choose their battles. Cats on the other hand are known to give importance to cleanliness which is another indication of quarrel. Not to forget these two creatures are also always at quarrel. There is a reason the sun is exalted in Aries as he removes all such confusions and makes the person focus on the most important path of life which is to seek knowledge or truth. Mars then rules scorpio, the all important 8th sign of occult and past life knowledge. In the chart of any person if Mars is not well dignified or lacks strength or afflicted then the person will be unable to rationally think and strategize. They will pick the wrong battles to fight and have a quarrelsome attitude.

But here is the catch to all of this which lies with Mars. As long as we live on earth there is duality, there is the “idea” of good and evil. It is an idea not the truth. Light is also dual in nature – particle and wave. Light is everything and everywhere. In the scriptures, the Suras (Gods) and Demigods (Asuras) are always at odds with each other. They hate each other even though they are born of the same father (Kashyapa) and have the same grandfather (Brahma). Brahma always gave the boons to the Suras while the asuras sought Shiva for the boons, as Shiva is indifferent in nature. These two forces in nature Brahma and Shiva by giving boons to the Suras and Asuras stay indifferent. But it is Vishnu who takes sides and creates confusion and chaos between these parties. To begin with you will see that he maybe unfair in his approach. But what if I told you that if there is any planet that is more fair than anything it is Mercury? If Vishnu doesn’t take sides there will be no existence of the cosmos. If the creative and destructive/trans-formative forces of nature come to stand still or are always persistent then when will life thrive or reach it’s pinnacle? Vishnu takes sides only when rules are broken and law of nature is not maintained.

During the churning of the cosmic ocean or the milky way galaxy this is clearly seen where Vishnu orchestras the entire event and makes two opposite forces of nature, the suras and asuras to co-operate with each other to generate the nectar of immortality, that is life on the planet and also to bring Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and abundance to the surface again.Vishnu is the one who is responsible for letting the suras and asuras to interact between each other. Mercury is the planet of having fun with whatever he is involved in. Equally important is to note that he is the planet of friendships too. One must not forget that Vishnu is doing the impossible of uniting the suras and asuras to work together. In that process of creating friendship, he is manifesting something great and bigger which is immortality and other important treasures that the world may use and cherish.

The Suras represent the creative abilities in us while the asuras show the ability to do the hard work and difficult tasks. The asuras don’t mean “bad people” or “bad demons” as it is many times wrongly translated. Inside each and everyone of us mortals we have both the suras and asuras. On an everyday basis we fight a battle of spirituality vs material living, good thoughts vs negative emotions, peace of mind vs worry etc. Same way as there will always be a conflict of sidereal vs tropical zodiac or any other. Light is the absence of darkness and darkness is the absence of light. None is right or wrong. The same applies to the suras and asuras. They are not GODS and DEMONS, they are just two sects of beings in the vedic realm. The sky is home of the suras while the pathala is the home of the asuras. In the vedic system there is no right and wrong because GOD is present in everything. There is only Aham Bramhāsmiti (Devanagari: अहं ब्रह्म अस्मिति) – means “I am Brahman” (Aham Brahmm Asmi) or “I am the Infinite Reality”. It is one of the four Mahavakyas used to explain the unity of macrocosm and microcosm.This is a profound advaitha metaphysical concept which will take some deep contemplation to understand.

In my view, we will never know which is the right zodiac. If the suras and asuras of the vedic world were always at war with each other to control Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, then are we mortals ever going to settle on one zodiac? There is again two different zodiacs showing force and counter-force. It is not going to happen. Today there is the topic of sidereal vs tropical but in another yuga or cycle of time there might be some other controversy attached to it with a different name. But if we can make the suras and asuras that are within us work together, we indeed can create the nectar of immortality or give birth to knowledge and new ideas.  We have to learn from the way Vishnu operates in this story and adopt his attitude. He is the one responsible for interaction of the suras and asuras to churn the nectar of immortality. Without the asuras, the churning of the cosmic ocean is impossible. If the ocean was not churned there would never be amrita or life on earth. The suras cannot exist without the asuras and vice-versa. In simple words, they need each other. The nectar of immortality for astrology is the creation of new techniques, sharing and interaction of the ideas and findings so this science can spread and grow. Instead, if we choose the tussle of suras and asuras nothing will ever grow from this debate except halahal, posion or enmity or misunderstandings in the astrological community. The irony is as one ages, the innocence of the child like attitude is lost and the intuition depletes. The methodical and scientific thought, that which is so simple that even a baby seems to know leaves us for good, never to return! This is the halahal that spreads in us which blinds our intuitive vision with darkness and preconceived thoughts.

The suras and asuras represent the north and south pole of the earth. From the north, the south is always pointing downwards. So the suras feel they are on top. Likewise, from the south, the north is always in the bottom. Hence, the asuras feel they are on top. One must understand that it is not the suras and asuras that are on top but the cosmic lord or life on this planet and its very existence and sustenance that has to be on top or made the topmost priority. That is what Vishnu always does. He descends upon the earth when there is adharma as an avatar to re-install dharma and save the earth. At one point in time the sidereal zodiac may have a good success rate when applied correctly while another point in time the tropical zodiac may seem like it works better. But it is GOD operating through the astrologer via the medium of his humility, his intuition, his skill and knowledge that will make the technique work. It is astrology that has to thrive and survive and proceed so that the future generations can use and appreciate the techniques that we create. The propagation of the debate of sidereal vs tropical is necessary but should give rise to solid new techniques. It should never hamper the growth of astrology.

The suras always beat the asuras in the mythology as suras are immortal after they acquire the amritha or nectar of immortality. However, the asuras have Venus as their teacher who immediately resurrects them. So repeats the saga of asuras rising to power to take over the heavens and capture Lakshmi while the devas have to defend and defeat them again with or without the help of Vishnu. This is a never-ending battle and is symbolic of the creation and dissolution cycles of life and the cosmos. But if the Vishnu force is not operative in nature, this battle never happens. In the eyes of Vishnu, he is indifferent to both asuras and suras as Mercury is neutral by nature. So is Saturn who is an incarnate of Vishnu. This is clearly seen in the stories of Garuda purana. Vishnu’s mount or vehicle is the eagle or kite, a mystical creature who represents the suras or angelic forces while Vishnu also resides on adishesa, a serpent, an enemy of the eagle, symbolic of the asuras. Thus by keeping both of them under his close proximity and check he exercises control over the attractive and repulsive forces of nature, that are essential for preservation.

There is a lesson for every astrology student from this samudra manthan story. The asuras are the ones that create Lakshmi as she is said to be residing in the pathala, realm of the asuras. Lakshmi is also called Bhargavi as she is the daughter of Sage Bhrigu (descendant of Venus, who is teacher of the asuras). Here Venus is the one who resurrects the asuras after their death. It is symbolic of how ideas or desires are created. After the death of one desire another desire sprouts its face. But Venus is also the planet associated with the shastras and is the most intuitive and learned of all scholars. Thus Venus is able to create and generate one new technique and idea after another. Here we need the asuras to do the hard work of finding new ideas and seeking better results from their ideas. While this process happens we need to stay resolute and sattvic in nature like the suras to embrace that idea, experiment it and if it does work accept it, otherwise safely ignore. The suras lack one important quality which is they are not creative. They are always content with their current state of being. Indra is known to lose Lakshmi from the heavenly realm because of his hedonistic attitude. As long as an astrologer is possessed with arrogance, pride, over-indulgence, greed and most importantly stops learning and experimenting, he will lose sight of astrology and his goddess of wealth will leave him. A student has to learn to balance these forces of sura and asura together to get the best of the knowledge. He has to be creative, be receptive to new ideas and at the same time constantly test and realize the limits of the already working techniques.

When we do this we need to have a healthy detached attitude like the neutral planet Mercury or Maha Vishnu because as long we personalize the thought or the idea then the notion of good and evil or right and wrong will dominate. The ego should never be involved in the process of learning. In the sanathana dharma world, there is no right/wrong or good/evil because everything is GOD, everyone is divine, everyone is Vishnu. In the story of the Trivikrama avatar of Vishnu, Bali who wanted to conquer the three worlds is reminded and humbled by Vishnu that it is not in the acquisition of land and wealth that one finds glory but true glory rests in the understanding of the Brahman or Supreme. Similarly, an astrology student needs to understand that the purpose of learning or scientific discussion is not to prove one is right over another but to appreciate and develop the true science of astrology. As students of this sacred science we have to remember that the possibilities are endless. The “truth” one seeks is already within themselves, there is no purpose or necessity to seek external answers to questions. This is the quality of the high priestess, the feminine aspect of Mercury. Co-incidentally this also reminds me of the Mohini avatar of Vishnu which sort of resembles the high priestess. During the samudra manthan, once amrita is created Vishnu changes form to an enchantress and seduces the asuras, so that he can distribute the amrita to the suras. Mohini is the avatar of Vishnu which symbolizes how one is always seduced by maya and the material manifestations of the world. Here the seduction of Vishnu is not to disrupt growth but to provide spiritual comfort, to seduce the mortals of the taste of the spiritual nectar. Then one must remember to follow the rules, learn new techniques, uphold the dharma or code of conduct of this sacred profession, clearly communicate and know that there are more ways to arrive at the same conclusion. By doing that, the hierophant within the person will actively work towards finding the greater knowledge and truth.

As long as we are still operating in the realm of Mars, the conflict of ideas such as sidereal vs tropical will exist in the same way as there was conflict between the suras and asuras in the mythology. One needs to grow beyond that realm and look towards the high priestess and the hierophant for inner comfort and guidance towards the eternal truth. Utmost importance should be given to the techniques, learning and experimentation. The end result of repetitive application of good techniques over long haul period of time is intuition. Intuition is a result of mastering skills so much so that it becomes engraved with the person and will pop out of them, the moment they glance a chart. In the vedic realm, male and female energies need to be balanced in a person. That is the purpose of yoga. The hierophant is the male energy or the “Purusha” of mercury responsible for gracefully mastering the skills while the high priestess, the female side is the intuition that grows out of that mastery of skills. The high priestess is the “Prakrithi” or “Shakti” of the Hierophant. One will not and cannot exist without the other. To think that one will only master the techniques and least be bothered about intuition and vice versa is a redundant statement. Both technique and intuition are equally strong and needed. They grow and operate together. They are the yin and yang of a student (or astrologer).

Similarly, one has to non-egoistically share their ideas, techniques and in a friendly manner, debate to arrive at a rational conclusion. This, in my opinion, is currently missing in the modern world and quite easily noticeable in the astrological community too. The moment someone presents a new idea or takes the off beaten path, he or she is condemned and excluded from the “pack”. This is the sign of a poor Mercury. A good mercury installs confidence and growth by welcoming people and embracing friendship. Mercurial path is not the path of violence or enmity but his path is the path of peace, discussion and communication. If there really is a key and one definitive truth (or zodiac) and missing link to answers one seeks in the sphere of spirit, matter and time, then Mercury is that missing piece. To solve any mystery of the universe be it the mystery of the zodiac in astrology, math, medicine etc. one needs to exercise and cultivate not one but all qualities of Mercury.

In conclusion to the first part of this post , it is worth looking at the right attitude towards this topic. The answer to which resides in the planet that rules astrology- Ketu. Perhaps the most amazing and powerful cards for spiritual development and my favorite of the major arcana cards in the tarot deck are the cards ruled by the ninth planet Ketu, which are “THE HERMIT” and “THE FOOL”.

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Figure 3: The fool and the Hermit major arcana cards ruled by Ketu.

A true student of astrology needs to be a hermit when he/she is learning this esoteric science. That is all there is to it, nothing more. Due to the fact that he/she becomes a hermit or ascetic, puts in the hard work in learning and mastering the techniques he/she will eventually reach the stage of the hierophant. When he/she has submerged himself in the learning process and becomes the hierophant, automatically his/her high priestess will become active which means his/her intuition will operate at the peak. Then there is no necessity for techniques or systems or zodiacal controversies.

For an astrologer that literally means he lives, breathes and sleeps for that science. He sees astrology in everything and anything like the “fool”. In many ways people who study or practice astrology are nothing but fools as we do think that we can predict GOD’s divine plan and interfere with it. It is also not a co-incidence that highly intellectual people and scientists end up being termed as “mad men” which is another term for a “fool”. Same applies for any field of study or profession.

This brings us to the second important argument people have against such a topic is there is only one absolute truth. Only one zodiac is correct. Unfortunately, as much as I want to believe this, it is not true. There is no objective reality in this world. Only GOD or the Brahman is supreme. Everything else is irrelevant and redundant. This includes me and you and our astrological techniques too. Some students and astrologers approach this science with the aim of finding the “true” zodiac. As a beginner astrologer that was my approach too. But the more I learn astrology and do readings, I am more inclined to believe that we have no say in the matter of karma. We are but merely expected to be “fools” in this play designed by the divine architect. The question people who seek this science in trying to find the “true” zodiac need to answer is beautifully captured by the saint Kanaka dasa from Karnataka in a dasara pada as given below:

Nee maayeyolago ninnoLu maayeyo ||2||
Nee dehadoLago ninnoLu dehavo
Nee maayeyoLago ninnoLu maayeyo
Nee dehadoLago ninnoLu dehavo
Nee maayeyoLago ninnoLu maayeyo

Bayalu aalayadaLago, aalayavau bayaloLago ||2||
Bayalu aalayaveraDu nayanadoLago… nayandoLago…
Nayana buddhiya oLago, buddhi nayanada oLago ||2||
Nayana buddhigaLeraDu ninnoLago… Krishnaaa…

Saviyu sakkare oLago, sakkareyu saviyoLago ||2||
Saviyu sakkare yeRadu jivheyoLago… jivheyoLago
Jivhe manasina oLago, manasu jivheya oLago ||2||
Jivhe manasugaLeraDu ninnoLago… Krishnaaa…

Kusumadali gandhvao, gandhadali kusumavo ||2||
Kusuma gandhagaLeraDu aaghraaNadoLago… aaghraaNadoLago…
Asamabhava kaaginele aadi keshavaraya ||2||
UsuraleNNaLavallaa ella ninnoLago… Krishnaaa…

Nee maayeyolago ninnoLu maayeyo,
Nee dehadoLago ninnoLu dehavo
Nee maayeyolago ninnoLu maayeyo…
Nee maayeyolago ninnoLu maayeyo… ninnoLu maayeyo… ninnoLu maayeyo…

Meaning –

Are you a creature of illusion? or illusion your creation?
Are you a part of the body? Or is the body a part of you?

Is space within the house?Or the house within space? Or are both space and the house within the beholder’s eye? Is the eye within the mind? Or the mind within the eye? Or are both the eye and the mind within you?

Does sweetness lie in sugar, or sugar in sweetness? Or do both sweetness and sugar lie in the tongue?
Is the tongue within the mind? Or the mind within the tongue? Or are both the tongue and the mind within you?

Does fragrance lie in the flower? Or the flower in fragrance? Or do both the flower and fragrance lie in the nostrils? I cannot say, O Lord Adikeshava of Kaginele, O! peerless one, are all things within you alone?


In the end one has to realize that the truth lies within them and if at all they seek it outside in the material realm then they are looking in the wrong places, astrology included. One doesn’t need to look any further because it is right in front of them every single day – represented by the SUN, who symbolizes the supreme consciousness.