19 March, 2016

How the Norwegian tragedy of Anders Breivik might have been avoided: A Jyotish astrological analysis and a critique of the imperative of happiness

How the Norwegian tragedy of Anders Breivik might have been avoided: 
A Jyotish astrological analysis and a critique of the imperative of happiness

The newsreports that Anders Breivik, Norwegian mass murderer, had complained his living conditions were “torture” caught my eye. Having once worked as a human rights officer for OHCHR, anything with the word “torture” catches my eye. The news reports had a faint note of incredulity: Breivik had three rooms to himself, one a gym where he could exercise, one with a playstation and books. How then, they asked, could this Norwegian pampering be torture?

Clearly three rooms generously outfitted with a gym and play-station is rather luxurious—consider the fact even middle class people in urban USA, let alone prisoners, won’t have as much. But what if these outer conditions didn’t reflect his inner mind, and how he was experiencing the moment? The only way to know is through jyotish astrology, the “inner eye” which sees circumstances not apparent to the outer eye. So I cast his chart.

Breivik has a Leo Moon, conjunct Saturn and Rahu. Those of you who’ve read my other jyotish articles know this: that Saturn and Rahu together form a “Mahayoga” (a conjunction of greatness) but it is also known as a “Shrapit yoga” (cursed conjunction.) Often, Saturn/Rahu together is thought to show suicide, and one could argue his massacre of fellow Norwegians, in what appeared to be a twisted inversion of the hatred he felt for foreigners, was an act of mass “suicide,” since he was hitting back upon his own “self”. 

Note to Saturn/Rahu people about the subtleties of the word “curse”: I’ve also seen this in the charts of incredibly rich and successful people, who however are cursed by their punishing schedules, and inability to enjoy their wealth. I’ve also seen this in the charts of people who are greatly concerned and doggedly serve (Saturn is the servant) the “outcastes” (indicated by Rahu.) It all depends upon which house the conjunction happens, and for which ascendant--and moderated by the planets’ strength.

Saturn and Rahu are both separators: Saturn is the heavy hand of discipline, and the grief laden version of loss, while Rahu is the outcaste, rebel energy that seeks to move away from Saturn, but only ends up magnifying Saturn’s malefic powers. The Moon, of course, is the mind. The Moon is also the mother, and although I don’t know Breivik’s biography, I imagine he either lost his mother physically at an early age, or she was a heavy disciplinarian with an edge of mental instability, giving no support to the infant mind.

Note that Saturn is trapped in Leo, the house of the Sun. Sun is the father of Saturn, and Saturn hates his father. Then note that his Sun is also trapped in Aquarius, the house of Saturn—giving rise to a powerful “parivartana yoga” or exchange of houses between Sun and Saturn, where they heighten each other’s malefic energies.

Moon in Leo, pressured by malefic Saturn, is like a planet waiting to explode, in a pressure cooker situation with weighty Saturn and boundary-breaking Rahu. Saturn seeks to conform, Rahu to be free. It’s a no-win situation for the mind.

Note this line from the Brihat Parasara Hora Shastra:
If Sahaj Bhava receives a Drishti from, or is occupied by Sani
and Rahu, death will be through poison, water, or fire, or fall from heights, or confinement. (My highlight.)

Breivik’s Saturn/Rahu conjunction falls in Sahaj Bhava (3rd House) in the ascendant chart. It is highly likely he will die from the confinement. Although I am not ruling out some underhand action by the Norwegian government to eliminate their most famous social problem: Sun (the sign of the government) is conjunct Ketu (sign of the inexplicable and strange, as well as the underhand, including drugs) in 7th House, a maraka or killer house.

Timing of death: I suspect he might try a suicide attempt at age 42, although his actual death may happen at 48. (There may also have been a suicide attempt at age 35-36, although the Norwegian government may not have wanted this publicly known.)

Breivik’s moon is in Leo, which is also the house of ancestors. Sun, the sign of “pitri” or ancestors, is conjunct Ketu, which also rules mass calamities like war and mass killings. He is strongly respectful of his ancestors, but the ancestors he adulates are the wrong kind: strongly authoritarian people (Saturn) who ended up being outcastes (Rahu), Nazis who were on the wrong side of history.

Looking at Breivik’s current transits: Jupiter is conjunct right now with Rahu in Leo, and Jupiter is retrograde. So obviously his physical and mental senses are in great discomfort. Rahu heightens paranoia: he’s accused the government of trying to kill him.

In his fourth house of Scorpio, which rules the “home”, Saturn is doing a slow 2.5 years transit right now. Not only is Saturn retrograde, making it extra heavy, but it is conjunct Mars, also retrograde, heightening that push-and-pull energy. Mars wants to be energetic, but is trapped with heavy Saturn, and both are unable to move, because they are both retrograde. Torture? While it may not look like a lot to outsiders, combined with Rahu in the house of the Moon, this could be a proposition where he fears he may be losing his mind.

Where is Breivik’s father in all this? The sign of the father, the Sun, is with Mercury and Ketu. Ketu separates, and is disengaged. Again, I see no support for Breivik from either his father or mother. Both the luminaries, the Moon and the Sun, are eclipsed in this chart in powerful “grahan yoga”—in other words, they are darkened by the nodes. The Moon is in a grahan yoga, or eclipsed, by Rahu, while the Sun is in a grahan yoga with Ketu. The two eclipsed luminaries are facing each other in 1/7 opposition. Clearly this is a chart of someone who would have great difficulties in life.

Moon touched by Rahu is also thought to cause insanity, although it is also quite common in the charts of gentle and kind celebrities with a touch of bipolar disorder, beautiful glamorous women in the spotlight, and other people who get attention. Sun/Ketu yoga could also indicate a “leadership” yoga. As always, the dispositors of the houses where these planets are sitting is key. The way to avoid reductive and grand, sweeping statements about yogas and their effects on people is to look at their dispositors.

Lets look at possibilities of relationships for Breivik. Ketu with Mercury could show some confusion about sexuality—a sexuality that is not explored, since Sun is oppressed in the house of Saturn. Ketu in 7th House from Moon again indicates disengaged drifting off of human relationships. Sun in 7th from Moon ensures that even if he has a partner, the marriage will bring him no happiness. So this is a man for whom romantic happiness, as envisioned by the Western ideal of the pursuit of happiness, is not possible.

The UN recently came out with its annual report on happiness, with nations listed from first to last on the hierarchy of happiness. Denmark is first, Burundi is last. As always, the Scandinavian nations dominate this list. What makes the Scandinavians hog happiness? Is it their material wealth and comforts, which smooth over physical discomfort to a great degree, paving the path towards mental and physical well-being? This is clearly one ideal, but then there is also the notion that everyone must conform, and be well-behaved, to the hard-working, prosperous, well married, blessed with children ideal.  All people are supposed to be prosperous and fecund in the way selective readings of the Christian Bible has suggested. Be fertile and prosper. Any other way is the wrong way to be. Scandinavians have no space for drop-outs, people who don’t fit this norm, outcastes, wandering preachers, mendicants, sadhus and ascetics. These people would simply be out of their range of acceptable behavior, and deviating from the moral obligation to conform towards happiness.

Despite Dan Brown’s attempts to bourgeoisify Jesus and give him a white picket fence and a flagpole, I still think Jesus was not the well married man fecund with children the “Da Vinci Code” would make us believe, in a desperate late 20th Century attempt to impose the American ideal of happiness onto an ancient wandering mendicant and preacher. In fact, I rather subscribe to the idea that Jesus must in fact have been followed and mourned by outcastes, that Mary Magdalene could very well have been a prostitute (which shows an even more wholehearted capacity to love the outsiders and the outcastes on the part of the son of God, which Dan Brown tries to erase with his “Mary Magdalene was a bourgeois wife slandered by Jesus’s disciplines” theory.) Attachments, including romantic ones, are never conductive to the spiritual path, and Jesus was a very spiritual man. Where did this ideal of poverty and preaching love without material attachment go? The Christianity that we see today in places like Scandinavia seems to leave scant room to follow the footpath of Jesus. The Evangelicals are awash in cash, and even if they end up in Africa in the poorest places they are carrying with them their moneybags.

Now lets think about this, for the moment: What if this “happiness” that is ideal that all moderns must pursue, as “a moral obligation,” as a recent Tweet I read suggested, was in fact, not all that there is to this world? What if you came to this world with a birthchart which showed a different destiny? Imagine Breivik had been born in a small town in India. He’d have been taken to an astrologer at the earliest, and he would have known by childhood, if not by the age of 19-20, that his parents were not going to be supportive, that relationships based on the ideal of marriage would never happen for him, and that the only hope for him, was spirituality, and a close relationship with the Divine.

Breivik’s Mars is exalted in Capricorn, in the Eighth House of Death. Some powerful forceful Mars energy was going to manifest from that house. The House of Death, is also the house of transformation. What if that energy had been channeled, and put to some other use—what if he’d become a wandering yoga teacher, lets say, someone who gave up material pursuits, since these were obviously not going to work for him, to be a greatly athletic yoga teacher? This is someone with great energy, and the energy was put to the worst use possible, because the people who surrounded him did not see the potential and channel it in the right direction.

The Sun/Saturn tension is often seen in the houses of people of great disciplines: I’ve seen Sun/Saturn oppositions in the charts of great doctors and lawyers. It shows the need for an occupation where discipline is imposed on a very strict basis. If Breivik had utilized his Exalted Mars for the purpose of becoming a highly athletic yogi and renunciate, he could have reached great heights.

I don’t want to belabor this point, but his Jupiter is exalted, and in 12th from the Moon. The 12th House is a moksh house of spiritual liberation, and Jupiter here is supposed to be a very good placement for those with spiritual inclinations. Jupiter is the Guru, or teacher. To me, this looks like the chart of someone who could have made a very good yogi or spiritual teacher—had he been born in a milieu which supported these pursuits. Unfortunately for Breivik, he was born in a group of countries where material happiness is idealized but spirituality is not—meaning he ended up using his precious human life for a very ugly purpose. Which, to me, looks like a big waste.

The Buddhists say human life is precious, and very rare. To be born as a human being is a precious and rare opportunity to practice the dharma—especially compassion towards other beings, which helps you onwards towards the endless cycles towards higher rebirths and eventual liberation. Unfortunately, Breivik missed that chance in this lifetime. He leaves behind many anguished parents whose grief and sorrow will weigh on him for lifetimes.

Buddhists also add that being born in a time and place where the dharma is being practiced, by teachers who are working with the pure and unadulterated dharma, is one of the rarest good fortune. Meaning it is not just enough to be born a human—the time and space where you are also shapes you onwards towards your destiny. A lot of poor children in Asia miss their destiny to be doctors and engineers because they do not get an adequate education in time. Might many children in Europe also miss their destiny to be spiritual ascetics and renunciates because they are never exposed to an education which allows for this possibility? Are they spiritually deprived, in much the same way as poor Asian children are materially deprived?

There may be other young men like Breivik, whose charts are pointing towards a spiritual direction, but whose potential they cannot fulfill because the pursuits of material happiness is shown to them as the only option open to them.

Imagine then, if these other avenues of spiritual purpose could be opened up. If material happiness was not the end-all and be-all for everyone, might there not be other purposes? What if knowledge of these spiritual possibilities helped to avoid another tragedy like the Norwegian one?

(Note: I read Breivik's biography on Wikipedia after I wrote this blog post, and there seems to be interesting congruences, including the abscence of both mother and father; and his views and beliefs on religion. I include the link:

13 March, 2016

The jyotish astrological lowdown on Trump, Clinton, Sanders

Since this pertains to the future of the world, folks, I am giving you the real (astrological) lowdown on the US presidential hopefuls.

Note: Jyotish astrology uses the same signs as Western astrology, but  a completely different zodiac, so if I say “Aquarius” here, its not the same Aquarius as the one you’re used to seeing in the newspapers. This Aquarius is calculated via the moon’s transit through the sidereal zodiac, which is not the same as the sun sign based Aquarius you see in the horoscopes.

This is going to be pretty detailed, and some of this is going to fly by your head. But I’ll try to make it as readable as possible, so plow onwards.

Since this is pretty serious stuff, I even took some pictures of the work I did beforehand on my astrological notebook, and have posted the photos here so you can check out the charming, blurry graphics. I’ve used the North Indian chart, rather than the South Indian, since I can’t read or understand the latter. My apologies to the South Indian chart fans.

I’m also going to be talking a lot about Scorpio, or Vrischik, which is the house where Saturn is transiting right now. Unsurprisingly, all three—Trump, Sanders and Clinton—have some Scorpio action going on right now. Trump is vrischik rashi, or his moon is in Scorpio. Bernie Sanders’ lagna is vrischik—his ascendant is Scorpio, where Saturn is currently transiting. And for Clinton, Vrischik rules her 10th House of Karma or profession. This is a very important house to consider when looking at success of a workplace. Those of you who’ve read a few of my jyotish articles above know this point: Saturn gives everything, especially when it comes to work related to government. The Sun and Mars are also very important, and we’ll get to those in a moment.

First, lets start with Mr. Trump, since he’s the one who loves attention.

Mr .Trump was born June 14, 1946 at 10:54am at Jamaica, Queens. He was born under the constellation of “Jyestha,” or “the elder”. People like to follow people born under this constellation.

If you take a look at the rather blurry gif above, you will see that his Moon is sitting with Ketu in the ascendant, while Sun and Rahu are in 7th House. All other planets are hemmed into the right side of the chart. All planets hemmed in on one side of Ketu-Rahu axis is known as a Kala Amrita yoga, and it heightens, for good or bad, the disposition of the chart to extremes. Mussolini also had one. I don’t want to imply all people with Kala Amrita yogas are going to be political extremists. While astrologers are fond of implying this placement bodes bad news, I’d like to point out that the other 7 planets are equally important, and benefics with “shadow planets” Rahu and Ketu can often bring about the opposite results: intensely extreme people who are working for the good, not the bad. There are people out there with fabulous records of extreme achievements in the arts, cinema, or music, for instance.

In Mr. Trump’s case, all five planets in his inner quads, or “Vishnusthans,” are malefics. In his Moon chart, he has Moon and Ketu in 1st house, Sun and Rahu in 7th house, and an extremely strong Mars in house 10th, house of profession. His Mars is also retrograde in the house of Leo, the Sun, making it extra powerful. The Sun is conjunct Rahu: in this position, is considered to be eclipsed and therefore a malefic—I have found, however, that a Sun-Rahu combo is often a very good benchmark of political power. Sanders also has the same yoga in 10th House of profession in the ascendent chart. The Sun represents the father, and with it, the state or government, and Rahu is a magnifier, so it’s somebody with a great deal of political power. While his super energized Mars gives Mr. Trump a strong willingness to go out there and fight the fight, there is some cause for public concern because his aggressive energy is heightened to extremes. 

Both Bernie Sanders and Trump have Sun and Rahu conjunct in 10th House, a powerful combination for political power: Sushma Swaraj of India, for instance, has this in her Sixth House as well. Bernie’s yoga, however, is in its own house Leo, whereas Trump’s yoga is in Taurus, ruled by enemy Venus. This brings down the thermonuclear temperature of his chart a bit, which is a good thing. Venus, in his chart, is in the 12th of “Great Gains and Great Losses”, where it is also most comfortable. A comfortable and strong Venus has final dispositor power over Sun and Rahu, making his fiery energy subordinate to both his wife—Venus rules wife—as well as his work, which involves luxury properties, also ruled by Venus. The fact that Venus is inextricably entangled with his 10th House means she rules behind the scenes. This may be his saving grace, since Venus is a natural benefic and is in his 9th House of destiny, bringing a bit of balance to the malefics congregated in his quads.

In fact, since Mercury is tucked away in malefic 8th House--Mercury represents the mind and psychological stability, meaning his mind is in dark places—and since his Jupiter, or sign of wisdom, is also retrograde or going backwards, his only salvation might be Venus in 9th. His wife should provide a guiding light and create his destiny.

The Kala Amrita yoga native has all planets on one side of the chart, making their lives imbalanced. These folks can rise very high in life-but when they fall, they fall hard. “Rise and fall” is the pattern for these yogas.

Currently, Trump has retrograde Jupiter and Rahu transiting Leo (as do we all.) For him, Leo rules the 10th House from Moon, and it is also his ascendant. This means Mr. Trump is going to be perceived as someone with unconventional wisdom that breaks the usual rules and regulations, and he will be wildly popular in his “workplace”. This will last till May 9th. After May 9th, he’ll still be perceived as a wise man, but by August, when Jupiter shifts to Virgo, his popularity will wane and he will be left with wanting more power, but getting only the emptiness of the big crowd that has vanished without a trace. His impressive wisdom will begin to seem like an illusion, although his unconventional speech will still mint him plenty of money (Jupiter will shift to his House of Wealth and House of Gains via ascendant and Moon chart, respectively). Perhaps a TV deal worth millions?


Hilary Clinton was born on October 26, 1947, at 8:02am, in Chicago. Her moon is in the constellation Purvabhadrapada, a sign ruled by Jupiter, the “guru” or teacher. She is also a Khumba rashi—ie; she has her moon in Aquarius.

The first thing that pops out of Clinton’s chart is her “Millionaire yoga”—Jupiter and Ketu combination is considered to bring great wealth, in the millions, to the native. Ronald Reagan also had one of these, but in the house of relationships, meaning he had great relationships with millionaires. Mitt Romney has one of these—in the house of wealth itself, meaning he has hard cash. Gandhi had one of these in the house of relationships-meaning he had relationships with the millions of poor and ordinary people of India. So we have to read the millionaire yoga with a bit of subtlety. The fact that Clinton’s Kela yoga is placed in the 2nd House of wealth from ascendant should leave no room as to what this means—she has the cold hard cash, which she got through her associations and relationships at work (Jupiter and Ketu in 10th House from Moon).

Note Jupiter is also the sign for the husband—and Ketu causes the sort of disconnected “headless” behavior that Bill Clinton became famous for. He was acting as if he was quite alone with Monica Lewinsky when in fact the whole world was watching the president of the United States. Ketu brings about that sort of “don’t care” behavior, since he’s a naga without a head, and he only “thinks” with his body. But that’s skipping ahead to the more mythological part of this whole astrological story, which you don’t have to bother with, right now.

The second thing that pops out is her chart is the three planets in her bhagyasthan, house of destiny. Sun, Mercury and Venus are in Libra, which is also her ascendent. Libra or Tula rashis are always thought of as those with the capacity to gain very high material achievements, since Tula is also the house where Saturn gets exalted. In her case, Saturn and Mars are in 10th House from ascendant, which is a great placement for Saturn, if you want to be a successful lawyer and politician. Saturn is engaged in a strong parivartana yoga (exchange of houses) with the Aquarius ruled Moon, making it even stronger. Saturn and Mars end up in Sixth House (Ari Bhava, the House of Enemies) in Moon chart, meaning that her rise is either propelled by enemies, or she uses hard work and social service to raise her profile in the workplace.

Women, especially of motherly age, love Clinton: Moon represents mother, and this is sitting in her Fifth House of Love and Children. Incidentally, this also means that Chelsea genuinely loves her mom.

Sun, however, is debilitated in Libra. Sun is very important for someone like Clinton, since it represents the benefic energy of the government. By being in the ascendant, the Sun does get a “neechbhanga” or cancellation of debilitation, but there’s always going to be an element of frustration in her rise for power. Leo Di Caprio, for instance, also has a debilitated Sun—and look how long it took him to get the Oscar. But note that the deferred priviledge make him work so hard he ended up being a greater actor than all his contemporaries who got lauded way too early, so debilitated, neechbhanga planets do have this bonus effect. 

An aside on Leo: Incidentally, Leo did have to go through some real torture to get the statuette. Saturn is transiting Scorpio, his third house of communications, at present, but his natal Rahu is also there, meaning its not all unalloyed celebration here. Saturn/Rahu takes people to the heights, but not without torturous difficulties. His envious peers are also giving him the cold shoulder and making him feel insecure by implying he didn’t get the Oscar for acting but for pain, perhaps. (Not to worry, Leo--your difficulties with friends and peers will end on November 2017.)

Ultimately, whether she will succeed in her Presidential bid or not will depend upon the strength of her planetary strengths. At the present moment, I see its good timing for Clinton because Saturn is transiting her 10th House of Profession. Saturn, however, is also engaged in Sixth House of Enemies, so any success she has is not going to come without effort. Unlike Trump’s, there’s no surprising and unpleasant rises and falls here--this is a solid chart of someone fortunate who will always have a good life. Jupiter in the quads with the Moon means she has a gajekesari yoga: the lion and the elephant yoga, which shows someone who will always have a fortunate, comfortable life.

Khumba rashi is also ruled by Saturn, so Clinton is in a strong position to be running for President. The only problem for her, I foresee, might come from the fact Jupiter will enter Virgo, her 8th House (of humiliations, scandals etc) in August, and there might be more dirty laundry regarding Bill Clinton that people are going to start pulling out from the gutter once August rolls around. This will last for 1.5 years.

Since Saturn is transiting her 10th House from Moon, she will still be in a strong position at work till at least November 2017, if not for another 10 years or so.


Bernie Sanders was born on September 8th, 1941, at 12:27pm at Brooklyn Heights, NY. He is a Meena rashi, or his Moon is in Pisces. Pisces is ruled by Jupiter, the most benevolent planet.

The first thing one notices about Sanders’s chart is his exalted Mercury, sitting with debilitated Venus, in 7th House of partnerships. Mercury represents intelligence, the kind of calculating intelligence one needs to run a country. Obviously, his biggest partners are also young women with great intelligence—these are the millenials who support Sanders. Debilitated, neechbhanga Venus also shows a simple wife, someone who doesn’t care about luxury or outward appearance, but who’s sitting on intelligence as her greatest strength. His wife has to be super intelligent: Venus is conjunct exalted Mercury. Unlike Trump’s, Bernie Sander’s inner quads are completely occupied by benefic planets: Mercury, Venus and Moon.

The second powerful yoga that is obvious is the Sun/Rahu combo in 10th House from ascendant. This yoga is also sitting in the house of Leo, the sun. Leo is the sign of a ruler, or king. And this unalloyed, strong yoga gives him powerful political strength. This alone could propel him to a Presidency. Sun/Rahu in Sixth House (from Moon) destroys all enemies.

But lets look at the other planets, as well. Bernie also has his Moon in Fifth House of Love and Children from ascendant, like Clinton: meaning he could get the motherly vote, if he tried. Also he is loved by “children”, ie—millennials.

Because his Mars in retrograde in 2nd House of speech, his voice catches in his throat and he has a difficult time getting started when talking. But once he’s started, he’s up and running. In the same way, he needs to try a few times before he succeeds-retrograde planets are though to delay success, which only happens after a few tries.

 Note I posted a Tweet saying Bernie had a “Ruchaka Yoga”, which is one of the five “Panchamahapurusa” or Five “Great People” yogas. I got this read off an online astrological calculator and site, and I didn’t actually check the chart beforehand before posting the Tweet. I regret to inform Bernie fans that in fact Bernie doesn’t have this yoga: A “Ruchaka yoga” occurs when Mars is in its own house, but in the inner quads of the chart. Bernie’s Mars is in Aries, its own house, but in ascendent and moon charts, it is in 2nd and 6th houses, both of which do not fall in the inner quads. He does, however, have a pure “Bhadra Mahapurusa yoga”—a gentleman yoga of Exalted Mercury in 7th house from the ascendant, which makes him a greater politician than if he had a yoga that highlighted great force. Muhammad Ali had a “ruchaka yoga”—this is probably more suitable for athletes and sportsmen than for politicians!

From ascendant, Bernie has Jupiter and Saturn in 7th House of partnership: again, wise and hardworking people who give him good support and authoritative power.

This is a fairly simple chart, of a simple man. Pisces rules the 12 sign of the zodiac, and the 12th House in the jyotish chart rules liberation (of the spiritual kind.) It is a moksha house that also rules restricted spaces, like sanctuaries, jails, spiritual retreats, etc. I predict that if Bernie comes to power, the USA will become a more restricted space but probably more of a sanctuary for those who live inside it.

I see a very strong possibility that Bernie could become President. Saturn, which is currently in his House of Destiny, will transit to his House of Profession on November 2017—meaning Saturn is poised to give him the highest rewards for about the next 4.5 years. His Saturn is in the Third House of Initiative, and also younger siblings and peers, which means that he could use his network of millenials to gain traction and gain authority.

Jupiter, conjunct Rahu, is about to climb out of his Sixth House of Enemies and enter Seventh House of Partnerships in August, so this will be a good time for him to connect to the masses. Right now the dispositor of his self is working hard in Sixth House of conflict and enemies, and this is not a good position for Jupiter to be in, since that’s his ruling dispositor.

I predict that by August, Bernie Sanders will be a lot more connected to his supporters. His Sun is already a great ally, a super powerful Sun with Rahu in 10th House, and his Mars is also well placed in both 2nd House of speech and 6th of Hard Work. Bernie will work long, hard hours if elected President. And because of the transit via Scorpio, there’s a very high chance he could be blessed by Saturn as President for the next 4.5 years, and beyond. It is possible he could extend it to a two-term presidency, although the last half of the second term would be incredibly miserable, so he should just stick to one term, if he becomes President.

31 December, 2015

The far-sighted Divine Advice of Prithivi Narayan Shah

On Sunday, January 21, 2014, the letter section of the Kantipur newspaper carried this small comment from one Taranath Gautam of Kalanki:

“Prithivi Narayan Shah, who did not let firangis come near him, has been portrayed in history by foreign writers like Angelo, Guiseppe, Kirkpatrick, Hamilton, Wright, Oldfield, Vensitart and others.” Then he went on to say (I am paraphrasing here, since I can’t remember his exact words): These writers have come to portray as fact that “all males lost their noses in Kirtipur”, and this has been passed down as history. But we should examine more critically how Prithivi Narayan Shah, who wouldn’t let a firangi come near him, may have been viewed by these writers.

Now this little letter, written in Nepali, was a shock of cold air. Reading the line again in Nepali, I realized that “all males lost their noses” is a colloquial way of saying “all men were humiliated.” But like all the other Western educated people like me, I’d assumed that it was a literal fact, and that Prithivi Narayan Shah had physically mutilated the Kirtipurians. But for someone who was looking to unite, rather than divide, why would he alienate this one town for no reason? 

For the highly educated English, Italian and lord knows which other gentlemen of which nationalities passing through to capture Nepal’s history, this line apparently came to mean “all men literally lost their noses.”

In other words, folks, this appears to be a great historical fallacy of rather grave proportions that has remained uncorrected and passed down as fact, a fallacy that has been bolstered by the unquestioned supremacy of Western epistemology.

But if you repeat that sentence in Nepali, you will immediately realize that it is likely a simple misunderstanding of a linguistic metaphor, written down as fact by someone who didn’t speak the language too well (or perhaps not at all).

Secondly, it seems Prithivi Narayan Shah may have been rather justified in his advice (which can be seen to be xenophobic, but in fact history has provide him to be right): firangis who don’t understand your language can distort the meaning of words, and end up writing “history” that will cause strife and bitterness for generations afterwards. I've met Newars who thought that Prithivi Narayan Shah committed a war crime of grave proportions in Kirtipur--when in fact history seems to suggest he went around his conquest with the minimal amount of harm to human lives. Why else would he choose a day when all the Newar population was lying drunk on Indra Jatra for his Kathmandu takeover? 

In other words, stay away from firangis sounds like rather Divine Advice, with the benefit of hindsight, almost two centuries after the grand old man’s demise.

The unbelievable number of firangis that have come through and denigrated Prithivi Narayan Shah and his Gorkhali empire, from academic institutions from Nowhere, USA to bright young sparks from India with great ambitions to rule present day Nepal, all seem to prove one thing: that man forged a nation of such unbelievable flexibility and loyalties no firangi’s going to break up this one.

You gotta give to PNS—whatever he was thinking in the 1700s, this one was unbelievably farsighted man who saw the implications of his work centuries and centuries later. The flower garden stays strong and it keeps flowering, despite (or perhaps because of) all attempts to break it up.

A hundred bouquets of flowers and a garland of flowers followed, but note Bairagi Kaila, even in a Republican mood, has paid homage to the flower garden.

17 December, 2015

The Speedy Salmon

Check out my op-ed "The Speedy Salmon" in Republica.


Sushma Joshi
            About a year ago, I read about GM salmon. It greatest virtue, it appeared, was that it could grow at twice the speed of its natural cousins. Instead of the 30 months it takes to fatten a salmon, scientists had bred one to be ready in just 18 months. This project, reported the Guardian USA, was taking place at some undisclosed location in the Panama highlands in secrecy. Next to it, oddly, was a fishery that grew organic fish for Whole Foods. The two centers, the article said, was separated only by a stream.

Yesterday, I read the USA’s FDA had approved this salmon for human consumption. They had also approved it without requiring the makers of this salmon to label it as genetically modified.

            The fact this salmon grows to its full size in half the time, trumpet its advocates, means that it’s the ideal fish for a growing world. No waiting around for the fingerlings to grow to a family-sized dinner.  For a planet where billions live in a chronically undernourished stage, this GM salmon is the answer to hunger. Or so the clever marketers want you to believe.

First, salmon is a rich-people food. So rich people are going to get this beast that shot up, like Jack’s beanstalk, within a few magic moments.

This reminded me of an incident when I visited the home of a millionaire in a coast off New Jersey. The young woman had a one-year-old son. The child was taken care of by a Jamaican nanny paid a triple digit salary. I took a look at the child, and I had a Nepali response: Oh, he’s big!, I said. People in Nepal look at size because nutrition of infants is a major concern in a country with food shortage. The mother was immediately worried. “He’s too big for his age, you think?” She looked at me with great anxiety. I looked at the baby again. He did look big for his age. “No, no, he’s healthy big,” I said. I wasn’t used to this maternal fear, but I understood what she feared. She was worried he was growing too fast!

The problems of the rich is that they have unlimited access to nutrition. This doesn’t mean this is healthy for the child. A child who grows too fast could signal the first phase of gigantism. Or else it could signal unnatural growth that could later lead to health problems. The only healthy way to grow, of course, is at a natural pace. Which means taking the appropriate time it takes a child to reach his/her ideal size.

Of course, rich people love speed. But do they want to eat a speedy salmon?

But for the creators of GM salmon, speed is everything. Like a car that will run 200 miles an hour, or a  processor that can crunch a million gigabytes within a second, GM food producers want a salmon that will-zip!-grow up in half its intended growth span-time. But the problems of gigabyte processing and mechanical car speed is different from the speeds of biological growth. The problem in America, however, is that these two issues are conflated, since the physical virtues of speed and efficiency has been elevated to the status of a moral virtue. America has an educational system where the knowledge of physical and biological sciences have long been devalued in favor of those great entrepreneurial virtues-making money, and making it fast

Lets say that a speedy salmon will in fact provide more food for the world’s hungry. In that case, wouldn’t it be morally imperative for the world’s big countries to spend research funds on creating what in essence is Jack’s beanstalks—ie; vegetable and animal food matter that grows at the speed of light? Sprinkle some white powder and your salmon fingerling grows at not 18 months, but 18 days. Why not 18 minutes?

The “why not?” is pretty clear to biologists and people who have worked with animals, even if its not clear to corporations looking to make speedy profits. Put a rat on accelerated growth hormones and he will die from multiple organ failures. A Jack’s Beanstalk tomato plant I bought in Germany shot up to about 5 times the height of a normal tomato plant in Kathmandu. I was gratified-until a night of rain brought the giant plant crashing down, its leaves spotted with yellow rot, onto the ground. Nature cannot be hurried in this manner without great side-effects.

The speedy salmon is one more manifestation of a world addicted to speed that wants everything instantly. Food has become the victim in this quest for profits and instant gratification. Pesticides and growth hormones are the allies of companies that would seize this most basic of human requirements and turn it into a commodity that creates great profit. But in order for the speedy salmon to bring speedy profits, people--the base of consumers--have to co-operate and agree to consume.

The Slow Food movement started out of Europe, and is in direct opposition to the speedy salmon method of food production. Slow Food grows food the way it was intended to be grown—at its own biological pace and rhythm. The Slow Food movement is growing. More and more people, especially the rich who can afford it, prefer to eat the boring old way—waiting for the salmon (or tomato) to grow to its real size.  

What would the GM advocates take—a salmon that’s gone upstream at its own rhythm in the ice-cold waters of Alaska, or an 18 month fattie that’s bred in the Panama highlands in tropical heat? I suspect even the evangelists of speed will pay a premium and wait 30 months to get a wild, glacial water fed Alaskan salmon.

The worry, of course, is speed technologies may be used to create food for the poor, not the rich. A corporation who sees a profit in creating quick food is going to force-feed it to the vast numbers of the world’s poor. And that’s where the world is going to have to keep a close watch.

18 April, 2015

When there is no honor amongst men, where does the human civilization go?

The ancients had codes of conduct in war. In ancient India, the Law of Manu stated that one should not attack a sleeping enemy—even a child can understand that attacking someone who’s sleeping brings no glory because no courage is required. No doubt the ancients Romans, Greeks and others had their own codes of war. Fighting sneakily and without showing your hand was in general considered cowardly—you had to fight with a sword in your hand, clearly visible by the enemy.

The two World Wars remain prominently in people’s memories because they were, besides the epochs of human bestiality, also the epochs of human bravery and courage. The millions of stories of people who behaved humanely during these moments, with the correct code of conduct, is what makes people turn back, time and again, to the memories of those brutal years.

Sadly those times seemed to have passed. Now technological war in which healthy, beefy young men sit in computer cubicles from thousands of miles away and attack defenseless people, including women and children, through aerial aircraft and wireless technologies, and kill them, seems to be accepted as not just the new way of conducting war, but even something that brings glory. And while people fought the Nazis and their apocalyptic vision, people now seem to respond to this new moment in the history of technological warfare with a deadened silence.

Then there are the sneaky, covert wars that are not even accepted yet—the men and women subjected to 24 drone surveillance in their homes, which is a despicable, cowardly way to conduct warfare because these drones are in people’s homes, at night, in their most private spaces, watching and attacking people when they are at their most defenseless—ie, when they are asleep.

The wireless systems we have allowed to enwrap almost every inch of the planet are capable of being “hacked”—not just by the random terrorist or guerrilla, but also by state and government forces intent on subjugating the populace. What can be done through these wireless networks? No international authority has yet looked at these questions in a systematic manner, nor made international rules which forbid attacking people through these ubiquitous technologies. What if the wireless network was simultaneously being used to torture people—by keeping them awake at night, by disrupting their electrical and phone systems, by spying not just on their cell and email messages, but perhaps even the thoughts in their mind? Contemporary science, well documented, tells us of experiments in which scientists are already able to “download” a transcript of people’s thoughts through various methods. Pair that up with a megalomaniac state which imagines it can control every single bit and bob of “information”, and is eager to see the benefits of “data fishing,” than you realize that human civilization, and the codes of conduct with which people have treated each other since time immemorial, breaks down into the deepest void of anomie.

The disruption of climate, and the creation of “natural disasters” through manmade means, has become another way to attack weaker enemies. Those who are working with these technologies may not be visible yet, but one day they will be. Which international body has the authority to deal with such a state, in the case such activities come to light in the future? Disrupting the climate disrupts food and water, and that is the most inhuman way of warfare.

No matter how “great” your technological progress might be, there is no glory, nor any greatness, in attacking vulnerable people in cowardly ways. No technological advances can replace these values that humanity takes for granted—human values which include agreements between human beings about codes of conduct, even in the deepest moment of war. But with no limits to modern warfare, and with every single human civilizational ethics and code of conduct being thrown to the winds to the march of technological “progress”, humanity may have reached a new nadir in its 10,000 year history. Who’s dictating our future? Where are we heading? Are we heading to a future where people sitting at computers will define the nature of human civilization? Or has the time come for a new international movement that opposes this view of humanity? 

05 April, 2015


In case you missed it, the American banking system has been giving out massive amounts of loans to foreign companies. This has good, and bad, consequences. Because the American banking system had a limitless amount of cash and credit (so it appeared), it was willing to loan out these quick and easy loans to businesses in China and India, amongst other emerging economies.

But now, with the American dollar going up, the exchange rates have become sharply assymetrical. Any emerging economy business trying to pay its loans is going to find that the amount they need to pay has sharply increased in local currency. With the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, these companies may find it difficult, or impossible, to pay the loans back. There’s always Chapter 11, leading to a massive wave of defaults across the world. Apparently around a trillion dollars may be at stake here.

The Federal Reserve cannot keep interest rates artificially low for ever. Then there’s also their massive 85 billion per month dollar printing program which has been steadily pumping dollars into the economy. At some point, all of these billions catch up and come to be known as “inflation.” But American economic head honchos were apparently supremely confident that the economy was so strong it could withstand an unlimited amount of money, especially for defense, being printed each year since 9/11.

Will the American economy be able to absorb the last 10 years of massive overprinting of dollars? Will the defaults in the emerging economies act like dominoes, bringing down the American financial system? Its hard to say for sure, but what is clear is that countries that have taken these easy loans from America are going to reconsider where they get their credit from, in the future. In fact, indebting people is nothing new in America-most people have massive amounts of credit card debts, and they also buy everything else, from college education to house to car to their monthly food items, on credit. For America, this is a normal way of operating. But for many other parts of the world, where debt is not considered an asset and a sign of normalcy, the sudden spike in interest rates and the resulting defaults could spell serious consequences.

In general, banking operates on trust, and the notion of stability. People plan their projections of future growth, and payment, based on a notion of stability of currency and exchange rates. When the rates start to fluctuate this wildly, businesses become more risk-averse, and the dollar becomes an unreliable currency. Of course, for the risk-takers who don’t have any other form of credit, the dollar will still remain a currency to bank on, since its more easily available to them in the form of credit than say, the Swiss franc. But in the long run, the losses incurred from the dollar’s easy credit (And easy indebtedness) may be harmful to emerging economies.

I’m also interested to know how many emerging economy countries are tied by debt to the World Bank, and what these loans are for. Also, how do they get repaid? And how is the dollar’s wild ascent going to affect these economies?

I was working as a consultant at the World Bank between 2008-2010. My job was to take part in the countrywide assistance strategy, and to note down the suggestions given by various groups of stakeholders in Pokhara, Nepalgunj and Biratnagar. In one of these sessions, teachers gave the feedback that the World Bank, in collaboration with the Nepal Government, had frozen the hiring of permanent teachers, but started a new program that allocated “block grants” to school—these grants were given in small chunks to schools to do what they wanted. Most schools built a spanking new concrete structure. In exchange, the World Bank put on hold the permanent hiring of teachers—that was the conditionality for the block grants (from what I could understand, the agreement was that the school could do whatever it wanted with the grants—including pay its teachers, which of course none of the schools actually did.) This left the government schools, in effect, with shiny new concrete buildings but poorly paid temporary “teachers” who may just have passed their SLCs. In other words, they took what was once a very efficient and well-functioning system from which many highly educated individuals graduated to go forth in the world and hold international positions, to a system which boasted “infrastructure” but whose commitment to teachers and teaching had been allowed to be greatly undermined. With the Maoist affiliated students threatening teachers, a teacher admitted to me that he hadn’t failed a single student for a few years, even if they were not sufficiently up to standard—meaning a lot of these Maoist gangsta boys then reached SLC but didn’t actually have the academic chops to pass the final examination.

My purpose in sharing this story is to show that loans that operate on this level of conditionalities can be dangerous. Who thought it would be a “neat” idea to stop hiring lazy permanent teachers? Perhaps there was some wild new radical theory of social change (no doubt started by anthropologists) which posited than handing $4000 to schools would automatically make them hire good teachers, or teachers more suitable to their ethnic and /or caste group. In fact, the program seems to have backfired, since the permanent teachers, many of whom are actually selfless and dedicated individuals who happen to spend a lifetime teaching in extraordinarily difficult circumstances for very little pay (and often facing mortal danger, as during the civil conflict when they were targeted by both sides), are now no longer present in these schools, leaving the schools in remote areas even more vulnerable than before.

These loans, therefore, can lead down the slippery path where governments, businesses and individuals end up taking actions that are bad for the collective good. The ironic part of this whole story is that the very student who fails from this educational system then has to go to Qatar and work in slave-like conditions to amass enough wealth, some of which will be extracted from the government as tax in order to service World Bank loans—the same loans that made him a less educated and less skilled man. I cite an example of a loan from the Word Bank, an “international” institution that just happens to be headquartered in Washington DC, but it could just as well apply to private businesses as well.

It would be a strange world in which only America’s monster currency swallows all others, in some PacMan like movement through the banking system. Clearly some intervention of international proportions would need to occur, especially if these fluctuations of interest and exchange rates also effect the debts of the Third World countries, via the World Bank, amongst other international banks that have been loaning money to poor countries for infrastructure, governance, et cetera.

How will the loans repayment work out? Lets hope the American lenders will think about a way out for themselves, as well as for their borrowers. There could be solutions, including allowing the businesses to repay the loans at the interest rates, and the dollar exchange rates, at which they initially made the contracts. Of course, this would bring on a big loss to American banks, but this might be better than not getting anything back in return.


In South Asia, popular jyotish astrologers create a great deal of fear about the time period known as sade-sati. But in my own estimation (and lived experience), the sade-sati is often a profoundly transformative as well as giving moment, whereas the less known astamashani tends to tear people apart.

Those who resist Saturn (who represents discipline, justice, authority, hard work, and maturity) will feel miserable during his transits through the Moon sign. But for those who are able to handle the demands of Saturn, the sade-sati is often the crowning glory of 30 years.

The sade-sati is the 7.5 years during which Saturn transits the signs on both sides of the Moon sign, as well as the Moon sign itself. For a Scorpio Moon (Vrishchik rashi), Saturn is in the house—meaning they are now in the middle part of their sade sati. Their sade-sati started when Saturn entered Libra, which is one sign ahead of Scorpio, and will end when it exits Sagitarius, which is one sign behind Scorpio.

To make this more concrete, lets take Narendra Modi, whose Moon is in Scorpio. His sade-sati started in November 2011, when Saturn entered Libra. It stayed there for 3 years, till November 3rd, 2014, after which it shifted to Scorpio. As you can see, these years have been fruitful years for Mr. Modi—he became the Prime Minister of India after a triumphant campaign and elections, and so far he’s been able to handle the demands of a 1.3 billion strong democracy without seeming signs of stress. For a man in his sixties, Modi is showing great aplomb and strength in this daunting task. That is because Modi accepts the Saturn lessons without fighting—he’s not out there bawling because his romantic relationships never worked out in his life, and that he’s unmarried and childless. If he had gotten into this mode, surely he would now be a drug-addict or in rehab. Thankfully, Mr. Modi seems to have chosen the wiser path—making him the father of about 1.3 billion people, who he serves (Saturn also represents “servant of the people”) most faithfully.

In my seven years of learning jyotish astrology, what I have learnt (and felt myself) is that the astamshani is often the nadir of human experience. The astamashani is the moment when Saturn enters someone’s Eighth House, or house of death. This doesn’t mean literal death—but the humiliations, fears, and deeply hidden psychosis that surface can change and transform a person in a way that feels like he/she is going through a transformation which creates the person into somebody entirely new. They transform, they become “reborn”. To make this more concrete, lets take Prez Obama, who has an Aries Moon (Mesh Rashi), and who is going through his astamashani period right now. You can see the man unraveling in the photographs—the gloomy face when he visited China and sat in front of all the brightly colored yellow ceramic dinner plates, watching the rise of Chinese power, being an example. President Xi Jinping was clearly holding a bigger party than him, and the reaction on Obama’s face was plain for all to see. Then there are those photographs inserted amongst those slide shows of royals in which Obama is shown with his nose in the air, sitting next to the elderly Japanese emperor, who looks faintly amused, as if he can’t understand why Obama is putting on such airs. Clearly Obama is out of his element, and the photographer caught the moment. That’s an astamashani moment.

Lets take another example: Angelina Jolie, who has a Pisces Moon (Meen Rashi), recently went through her astamashani period, from November 2011 to November 3, 2014. Jolie provides dramatic illustration of this moment. No sooner had Saturn slid into her Eighth House then the famous slit dress event occurred, with a mischievous comedian on stage parodying her posture. Soon, thousands of Internet parodies of her with the slit dress were floating around in the ether, forever changing the image of her as the glamour empress of the world. This was followed by various other Saturn-in-Eighth-House moments: Jolie in some war-torn African country, wearing a black cloak and looking like death. She was struggling to hold on to her image as the social activist, because for the first time people were looking at her intervention with a critical eye. Then the fear of death started to bubble, leading her to remove both her breasts. For someone whose entire identity had rested on being the sexiest female in the world, this would have had to hurt. There were some Internet postings that seemed to suggest Jolie’s children were not well cared for, and this was followed up immediately by PR postings of pretty children in happy moments. Clearly she was getting hit on all sides—but mostly, for Jolie, it was the fear of time—of old age, death, and decay—that decimated her. Note all these attributes-old age, death, and decay, as well as fear—are ruled by Saturn.

It appears to me that the residual fear remains in Jolie, for she has now, despite moving past the astamashani moment, still gone on to remove her ovaries, as well. And that’s the Saturn heaviness that I think astrologers haven’t accurately quantified. In my judgment, the two houses before and after astamshani also deliver residual Saturn impacts, in much the same way as a sade-sati transit: for instance, those with Taurus Moons, whose Saturn is in Seventh House for another two years, and whose astamshani is upcoming next, are already showing fear and hidden dread on their faces, as if they can sense something dreadful is upcoming. In Nepal, ex-Prince Paras, born with Moon in Taurus, is feeling the heaviness of Saturn in his Seventh House of relationships. And in approximately two years, he will enter astamashani.  I won’t say who else has a Taurus Moon, but I would suggest that someone like Vladimir Putin, for instance, should put their house in order speedily, to avoid the worst of astamashani moments. Remember the Saturn attributes—discipline, hard work, justice, law and order. If you follow those, Saturn will transform you with the same weight but with immeasurably greater justice.

A few more Saturn observations: Jyotish astrologers often think that Libra is spared by Saturn because that’s the house where he is exalted. But I find Libra Moons (Tula Rashi) who are going through the last part of their sade-sati right now, and will be in this mode for 2 more years, are just as prone to Saturn anguish as much as any other signs—in case they have flouted Saturn’s rules.

In my own case, my 7.5 years of sade-sati was the time when I went from attending a high school in Kathmandu to Brown University—it was a difficult 7.5 years, but also the best time of my life. Those 18 years of extreme hard work in academics had paid off. Astamashani, however, was not as kind—I will spare you the details but lets say all of us have to go through these intense, death-like moments. I am an Aquarius Moon, which is ruled by Saturn-despite that, I felt the astamshani as fully and as painfully as all of the other rashi. Interestingly, my astamashani period coincided with a period Nine Ki astrologers (Nine Ki is a system of divination used in Japan, and possibly China) know as the time when we return to the “House of Karma.” From what I understand, this is a moment which we enter every nine years, and in which we have to face the deepest consequences of our past actions.

On the plus side: to be “reborn” is a second chance in life. And as astrology reminds you—these moments offered by Saturn to transform are actually a gift to move on to another phase in life, one that will take us ultimately towards the spiritual journey we all came here to experience.