Is Mars all bad? ACVA board member Gary Gomes explores the role of Mars in energizing spiritual endeavor.
Mars makes widows of women.
Mars is worth study in Hindu Astrology, perhaps because it can actually produce very benefic results when understood and used properly. But the difficulty we encounter in interpreting the Hindu planets is that not many astrologers look below the surface. Mars in particular is misunderstood, as it is assigned the role of unthinking energy in Vedic Astrology, assuming the role of being, at best, a cruder form of the energy embodied by the Sun. One of the most frequently overlooked roles of Mars is its role in spiritual development, which I first encountered through the writings of the late M. Ramakrishna Bhatt (along with P. S. Sastri., one of the finest and best respected translators of Jyotish Sanskrit classics). Mars, according to Sri Bhatt, is the planet of those who avoid rebirth— certainly enough of a tantalizing hint to explore the spiritual dimensions of this planet.
Mars, according to the Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra, is the most malefic planet—a role normally attributed to Saturn in other Vedic texts. It is with good reason that Mars assumes this status. Mars is a rapidly acting, rather violent planet. It is also in charge of logic, because logic is the intellectual weapon employed to win arguments.
Incarnations of Martian Energy
Mars is usually represented by several deities in Hindu mythology, including Shiva’s younger son Skanda (who also goes by the names Murugan, Kartikeya or Subramanya). This boy warrior is created in order to defeat demons who were in the process of destroying the world and who had made a deal that they could only be defeated by a child.
Another representation of Mars (the incarnation of Vishnu through the planet Mars) is Narasimha, the lion- headed deity of the Hindus. Narasimha, like Skanda, was born to destroy a demon who had won the favor of Brahma or Shiva. This demon was so powerful he threatened the cosmic order. He had made a deal with God that he would not be destroyed by human or animal, indoors or outside, by any weapon; or during the day or night. This seemed to cover all the possibilities, and the demon set about taking over the world, confident in the knowledge that he could not be harmed.
Eventually, he became so cruel that Vishnu, protector of the universe, vowed to end the demon’s rule. A young child appeared to the demon, and started chanting a mantra on the threshold of a temple. Initially the demon thought nothing of this, though he was irritated by the child’s singing. The child continued chanting all day until suddenly at dusk, a wondrous being emerged from one of the temple pillars. Equipped with the head and claws of a lion (simha) but with the body of a man (Nara), Narasimha emerged at the temple threshold, where the demon was lured. Narasimha was neither animal nor man; he emerged at dusk, which is neither day nor night; and he emerged at a threshold, neither indoors nor outdoors. Narasimha killed the demon with his claws, not using a weapon. Vishnu as Narasimha fulfilled the criteria necessary for destroying a powerful demon capable of perverting the universe. It is said that yogis of certain sects grow beards and mustaches in order to look like Narasimha, and to give them the courage to defeat their own demons and (perhaps) save the world from demonic influences.
Hanuman is an extremely interesting character featured in the classic Indian text, the Ramayana. He is the bravest and most powerful warrior of the army of monkeys who assisted Lord Rama in his fight against the demon king Ravana. Hanuman was considered by some to be a manifestation of Shiva’s power, sent to assist Rama because the demon Ravana was an extraordinarily powerful and disturbing threat to the universal order. (See Aghora, Part II, by Robert Svoboda.) Hanuman played the role of Rama’s loyal supporter and servant, and is considered a manifestation of the planet Mars. He is totally devoted to Rama and Sita, Rama being a representation of the Sun and Sita, Rama’s wife, being born of the Earth.
Hanuman is also superhuman: when Lakshmana, Rama’s brother, becomes ill, Hanuman is charged to find a certain herb growing on a distance mountain which will cure him. Hanuman, uncertain as to the herb, lifted up the entire mountain and brought it to Lakshmana! Hanuman also singlehandedly laid waste to Lanka, the home of the demons. The strength and determination of Hanuman was enormous, and this represents the greatness of Mars at its
best. If it has a goal to pursue and service to complete, it is a truly wonderful planet, capable of delivering us from our worst enemies.
Destroyer of Relationships
This very courage and inability to compromise, however, are also drawbacks when it comes to interpersonal relations. Individuals who possess a strong Mars in certain houses, especially in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, 8th and 12th houses in the chart, are, with certain exceptions, said to have Kuja Dosha or “Mars affliction,” a condition which either causes harm to the marriage partner or causes the individual to be attracted to individuals with whom he or she cannot function for a very long period of time. There are cancellations of Kuja Dosha, said to occur when Mars is in the Ascendant in the signs of either Aquarius or Leo (according to B. V. Raman) or in Scorpio, Capricorn or Aries. In my opinion, they lessen but do not nullify Kuja Dosha. Similarly, Kuja Dosha is said to be inactive if the individual marries after the age of 28. In my experience, this is not true. However, Kuja Dosha is nullified if the marriage partner also possesses the affliction, in my experience. There are remedial measures for Kuja Dosha, and I believe these can work in certain cases as well. (I am in the process of writing a book on Vedic Astrology, a large portion of which is devoted to remedial measures for planetary afflictions which fall outside the norm of most Vedic Astrology texts published in the United States.)
In Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra, Mars is considered the worst malefic, the planet most capable of producing inauspicious results. There are several possible reasons for this status. The predominant one is probably Mars’ status as the military planet, the planet which makes widows of women. Mars is the commander-in-chief of the planetary army. As such, this planet requires that we make sacrifices for the higher good. In some ways it acts as a metaphor for the realm of logic, because rational thought often makes us pursue paths which do not feel good. Yet logic and rationalism can be used for constructive purposes, but must be used carefully. The significations of Mars, like those of a knife, can be used to kill or to cure.
Mars is an aggressive planet, and it requires action and provides energy wherever it is located in a chart. Mars forces things to happen. Many facets of our technological age would not be possible without Mars. Its energy also applies to things that are heated such as cooked food as well as metals and manufactured goods. Mars is also essential for success in surgery, in engineering and in spiritual practices, the most unusual and surprising signification of Mars for most individuals. The reason for these three levels and needs is that many of these things require dedication, self sacrifice, and, I would insist, application of intellect even for spiritual practices, for the truth of the matter is that when we face God, it must be, at least in certain yogic traditions, through the use of a determined mind, and it is Mars as a planet which allows us to control our mind in order to retain self control.
Interestingly enough, military domination and imperialism are actually judged by other planets in combination or conjunction with Mars. Venus, Saturn and Jupiter are far more territorial than Mars. Mars may eliminate lives, but it does its job because it must be done. It really does not care for possessions very much, but it likes to see the results of its labors, which is one of the reasons it is said to rule property. This is what makes it such a powerful planet for spiritual activity, since it has little attachment to anything except doing the best job it can. This also what makes it such a dangerous planet, because it does its job without conscience and without regard for the consequences. Logic, following orders, and sadhana (spiritual practice) must be followed with intelligence and judgment, otherwise destruction and despair will follow. In addition, sadhana, in its purest form involving radical renunciation, will usually tear families apart, detaching these individuals from their families and forcing them to live alone, destroying marriages and families in much the same way that war would.
Mars, according to K.N. Rao, a well-respected astrologer from India, represents the wife in a man’s chart within the Bhrigu system of astrology, and also represents the inclination to worship Vishnu (many people for whom I have done charts who worship Vishnu or deities with Vishnu-like characteristics (including Christ and Buddha) have a very strong Mars either in the 1st house, in the 9th house, or aspecting the 9th house. Mars also introduces disruptions and arguments in married life and in other interpersonal relationships, often forcing us to work alone, or, to take command and get the job done. The religious and spiritual overtones of Mars are also noted when we learn that Mars rules the Sama Veda, the book of hymns of the ancient Indians.
Mars in a Vedic chart, as in Western astrology, denotes the focus of aggressive action for the individual. Mars also rules contact with the police and military, and those who live by fire which includes a wide variety of occupations, from metallurgy to cooking to guns. Things which are burned are said to be ruled by Mars.
The following are examples of individuals with possess a strong Mars in their charts. I have taken samples from very well known individuals who possess very spiritual and very worldly qualities
The first example is perhaps the most obvious example of a malefic Mars in a chart. Adolph Hitler is an obvious example of the destructive capacity of Mars. If we look at Hitler’s chart, we can see a close conjunction between Mars and Venus (within the distance of planetary war). Mars defeats Venus, the ruler of his ascendant. This gave him the propensity to think in terms of war, burning, destruction. Also, his chart shows a Ruchaka Yoga, a “Great Personality Yoga” which occures when Mars is in its own or exalted sign in an angular house, said to make one a commander of the police or the military, and a leader. Saturn throws a 10th house aspect on the Ruchaka Yoga, making it more cruel and evil than it would normally be.
I attribute Hitler’s ability to execute these war-like tendencies methodically to an incredibly strong Saturn (his Raja Yoga Karaka planet) being placed in his 10th house, giving him the ability to rule, but also (along with his weak Mercury, as observed by B.V. Raman) causing his fall.
Mars is also actively present in the charts of many individuals who aspire to great spiritual heights. In the chart of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa it is exalted in his 12th house, giving him direct access to Kali and to the Vedantic tradition. One will notice that this Mars is also his atmakaraka planet (the planet which is highest in degree in the chart, regardless of sign) and, in his Navamsa chart, Mars is placed in Cancer, its weakest placement for action and discipline, along with Ketu, the otherworldly, liberation-giving planet. Now keep something in mind here— although I have seen other very involved explanations of Ramakrishna’s spiritual life, the exploration of the traits of Mars in his chart explains them in simple terms and could be a primer for the way one can evaluate spiritual potential in a Jyotish chart.
First, the 12th house lord (Saturn) is exalted; the lord of the house in which Saturn sits is exalted, and Mars, the planet of isolation and solitude, is exalted. Mars is also called the wanderer because of the way it travels through the heavens. Ramakrishna is certainly famous for being an enlightened being, but the way in which he attained enlightenment was unique. Ramakrishna’s first teacher was a tantric woman; he was also initiated into Vedanta, a very non-emotional and logical system, and explored a variety of different religions. He also, at one stage in his life, was purportedly so enamored of the monkey-god Hanuman that he took to going into trees and losing his identity as a human.
The placement of Ramakrishna’s atmakaraka planet in houses other than the first, allowed him to personally identify with renunciation and intense spiritual sadhana. He went into blissful states very easily. This direct line to God can best be explained by Mars’ conjunction with Ketu in the Navamsa chart, for Ketu blasts off the intellectual limitations preventing us from encountering God. Yet when Ramakrishna embraced Hinduism, Christianity and Islam and claimed each one of these religions led him to enlightenment, he did not need to spend a great deal of time practicing their disciplines. He just thought a little and instant samadhi!
Applying the system of planetary maturity—in which each planet show its full effects in a person’s life at a particular age (planetary maturity, by the way, seems to be a simplified derivation of the Bhrigu Naisarigka Dasa system used in Bhrigu astrology), Ramakrishna’s Mars matured at age 27-28, which occurred for him between the calendar years 1863 and 1864; this is consistent with his attainment of nirvikalpa samadhi (the culmination of mystical states of consciousness) which is reported in Hart DeFouw and Robert Svoboda’s Light on Life as occurring in Ramakrishna’s Saturn dasa, Rahu bhukti.
It is also extremely interesting to note that all three of Ramakrishna’s lagnas occur in Mars-ruled Dhanishta. The placement of Mars in its exalted state in the 12th house quite naturally led to interest in spiritual life. Also this the placement of Mars, being the ruler of his 3rd house (house of desires) and his 10th house (house of career or action) naturally drove his desires and career to spiritual life. In regards to Ramakrishna’s marriage, we can look at his 12th house Kuja Dosha giving him an unusual marriage. Indeed, it has been stated that his marriage was never consummated, and that he worshipped his wife as the Divine Mother, so this gave the unconventional—but spiritual — marriage that a Mars affliction can sometimes produce. Although most of our speculation here is on Mars, it should be noted that the ruler of his 7th house is in the 1st, so he thought about his marriage perpetually, but in the manner of a spiritual person, because the ruler of the nakshatra in which the Sun is placed is Mars, and Mars sits in the 12th house!
The Dalai Lama
In the birth chart of the Dalai Lama, Mars is in the lagna, giving strong self discipline, and the ability to meditate for hour upon end. One of the most fascinating phenomena I have noted since I started doing charts has been the extremely high incidence of individuals who adopt a spiritual practice—particularly meditation—during a Mars mahadasa or bhukti. The well known astrologer James Braha, to use one example, has repeatedly discussed the intense meditative experiences he encountered during his Mars mahadasa. Mars presents the gift of solitude, the ability to follow the spiritual light within, and is often, in my humble opinion, the planet most responsible for rapid spiritual advancement. It also represents the will to bring the energy of the kundalini from our stomachs to our hearts, where the Venus chakra resides, and where we actually experience spiritual bliss for the first time, according to yogic theory.
Keep in mind that various martial arts and athletic activities (both ruled by Mars) actually contain meditative procedures and war (Mars) can bring us to victory—one of the many significations of the planet Venus (Shukra) the planet which is, at the lower level, responsible for material happiness, but at the higher level is also responsible for spiritual bliss. Any one who has encountered spiritual bliss or heightened levels of endorphins in the blood stream because of athletic exertion can attest to the feelings of joy this brings. And numerous medical tests have emphasized changes in physiology experienced after meditation or after an intense physical activity. Both activities change body chemistry (ruled by Venus) and are the result of a martian exercise of effort, discipline or will power.
Mars is our gateway between the inner worlds (Venus, Mercury, the Moon) and higher knowledge (represented by Jupiter, Saturn, and Ketu.) Its role as commander-in-chief of the planetary army (technically Rahu and Ketu) puts it in charge of our desires (Rahu) and our eccentricities (Ketu). It heeds Krishna’s call to fight in order to kill or control the hordes of desires which compete for our attention on the spiritual path, and leads the way to wisdom (Jupiter) and renunciation (Saturn). And it does so without regard to the cost. There are indeed “spiritual widows” in the world for Mars makes these as well.
Adolph Hitler: April 20, 1889, 4:30 p.m., Braunau-am-Inn, Austria. Birth certificate. Ramakrishna Paramhamsa: February 18, 1836; 6:23 a.m.; Hooghly, India. Traditional data. Dalai Lama: July 6, 1935, 11:45 a.m., Tengster, Tibet. From him.
Bhatt, M. Ramakrishna, Prasnapadavi: Principles of Horary Astrology, Motilal Banarsidas, Delhi, India, 1987. Braha, James, AstroLogos, Hermetician Press, Hollywood, Florida, 1989.
Kalidasa, Uttara Kalamrita (translated by S.S. Sareen), Sagar Publishers, Delhi, India,1989.
Maharshi Parasara, Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra (translators: R. Santhanam and G.S. Kapoor), Ranjan Publications, Delhi, India, 1989.
Rao, K.N. Learn Vedic Astrology Without Tears, Ranjan Publications, Delhi, India, 1994.
Svoboda, Robert, Aghora II: Kundalini, Brotherhood of Life Publishing, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1996.
Gary Gomes (Gangadhara Girish/Swami Kampananda) is a Hindu Astrologer (jyotishi) with practices in New Bedford and Malden, MA. He is an ordained Swami of the Temple of Kriya Yoga. He has studied Hindu Astrology with several prominent Indian and American astrologers, is certified to instruct Jyotish (Hindu Astrology) by the American Council of Vedic Astrology, has organized an Institute for instruction in Jyotish in the Boston area, and has done charts for thousands of individuals from different parts of the U.S. and the world. He is also a board member of the American Council of Vedic Astrology. He has also written for several international publications, including The Mountain Astrologer , The International Astrologer, Express Star Teller (Madras, India), Indigo (South Africa) and has been a speaker at several international astrology conferences. He is an Assistant Professor of Jyotisha (Hindu Astrology) at the Hindu University of America. He is also a Reiki Master. He can be reached for personal, business, and marriage consultations by contacting: Crystal Expectations, 854 Brock Avenue, New Bedford, MA 02744, phone: 508/990-7898 or 508/994-5725.