Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:09 pm

I recently did a survey of esoteric Buddhist astrology literature in East Asia which might be of some interest to folks here:

http://huayanzang.blogspot.com/2014/04/ ... -asia.html

Basically, astrology was more or less always a significant element in East Asian Buddhism, particularly from the early Tang period onward, though there was still auspicious dates and astrological systems, both Indian and Chinese, practiced in China before then.

This isn't necessarily recognized or appreciated in western adoptions of East Asian Buddhism (at least to my knowledge). I mean, for example, there was at least one major astrology manual brought over by Ennin and Enchin, but is astrology part of American or British Tendai?

Is astrology part of Humanistic Buddhism? How about Zen? Or Korean or Vietnamese traditions?

It begs the question though how many people would be interested in living by a lunar astrological calendar, or doing rituals calibrated to the dates provided with such a system?

It is interesting nevertheless how astrology has been largely dropped in East Asian Buddhism (even in Japan and Taiwan I never really saw it practiced), yet Tibetan Buddhism still maintains its tradition of astrology and plenty of westerners study it and write books on it.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5914
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Nepal

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Jetavan » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:23 pm

Indrajala wrote:I recently did a survey of esoteric Buddhist astrology literature in East Asia which might be of some interest to folks here:

http://huayanzang.blogspot.com/2014/04/ ... -asia.html

....


Interesting. One question. From your survey: "Some time ago I came across the twelve zodiac houses in a Buddhist sūtra in Chinese translation which immediately sparked my interest."

Do you mean the twelve houses (1st house, 2nd house, etc.) or the twelve zodiac signs (Aries/Mesha, Taurus/Vrishabha, etc.)?
Jetavan
 
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Mar 31, 2014 12:22 am

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:29 pm

In Humanistic Buddhism as far as I have known, interest in astrology, or lack thereof, is an individual interest. I have known some people who are into I-Ching, and others who flat out say that astrology is simply wrong livelihood and has no place in Buddhism.

Let's be honest, it's unscientific and a waste of time as far as Buddhist practice goes. For some it may be a nice past time though, albeit a misleading one. Of course, if one is interested in the academic study of Buddhism, it is important to be familiar with it, since it comes up a lot historically.
Last edited by Zhen Li on Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Image
User avatar
Zhen Li
 
Posts: 969
Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:15 am

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:30 pm

Jetavan wrote:Do you mean the twelve houses (1st house, 2nd house, etc.) or the twelve zodiac signs (Aries/Mesha, Taurus/Vrishabha, etc.)?


They go hand in hand. There are both the houses and the associated signs.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5914
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Nepal

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:33 pm

Zhen Li wrote:In Humanistic Buddhism as far as I have known, interest in astrology, or lack thereof, is an individual interest. I have known some people who are into I-Ching, and others who flat out say that astrology is simply wrong livelihood and has no place in Buddhism.


If you can chuck out canonical works that easily, then just about anything can go out the window too.

That's the issue I'm getting at: astrology is part of East Asian Buddhism. There are plenty of canonical works which place great emphasis on it. Many of the formative masters in the past likewise practiced it. Institutions used to take it fairly seriously, too.

Let's be honest, it's unscientific and a waste of time. It's a nice past time though.


That which is unscientific is not necessarily wrong. Astrology is intuitively true and based on unfalsifiable truth claims, which means it isn't scientific.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5914
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Nepal

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:37 pm

That which is unscientific is not necessarily wrong. Astrology is intuitively true and based on unfalsifiable truth claims, which means it isn't scientific.

To me it's obviously meaningless, but I have found the idea entertaining.
If you can chuck out canonical works that easily, then just about anything can go out the window too.

Well, if you can call something canon and suddenly it becomes required practice, then you can require anything of anyone.
Image
User avatar
Zhen Li
 
Posts: 969
Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:15 am

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:45 pm

Zhen Li wrote:To me it's obviously meaningless, but I have found the idea entertaining.


That's fine, but plenty of Buddhist masters in the past did find great meaning in it (like Kukai and Amoghavajra).


Well, if you can call something canon and suddenly it becomes required practice, then you can require anything of anyone.



I'm not saying that at all. I'm simply saying canonical texts accepted by tradition are not necessarily so easily dismissed (or maybe they are when you start a new tradition from the broken bones of a defunct one).
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5914
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Nepal

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Jetavan » Tue Apr 15, 2014 8:02 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Jetavan wrote:Do you mean the twelve houses (1st house, 2nd house, etc.) or the twelve zodiac signs (Aries/Mesha, Taurus/Vrishabha, etc.)?


They go hand in hand. There are both the houses and the associated signs.

Were there Buddhist theories on how astrology worked? Did the grahas cause terrestrial events? Or did the stars simply act in synchronicity, in parallel, with earthly phenomena?
Jetavan
 
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Mar 31, 2014 12:22 am

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Tue Apr 15, 2014 8:12 pm

Indrajala wrote:I'm not saying that at all. I'm simply saying canonical texts accepted by tradition are not necessarily so easily dismissed (or maybe they are when you start a new tradition from the broken bones of a defunct one).

Strictly speaking, there's no canon in Buddhism - it's whatever works for you. The definition of Buddhavacana is purposefully vague and broad. Besides, once you are holding that tradition is the basis of canon, and defending the practice on the basis thereof, your arguments against pretty much everything else you disagree with, Vinaya et al., are thrown out of the window.
Image
User avatar
Zhen Li
 
Posts: 969
Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:15 am

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 16, 2014 5:15 am

Jetavan wrote:Were there Buddhist theories on how astrology worked? Did the grahas cause terrestrial events? Or did the stars simply act in synchronicity, in parallel, with earthly phenomena?


That's a good question.

In China it was understood that stars were effectively deities that have positive and negative influences on people. The BIg Dipper or the gods of it governed a person's longevity (and this was a belief found in at least one hybrid Daoist-Buddhist scripture).

In Indian works I've looked at in Classical Chinese translation it seems more about astrological convergences being either auspicious or inauspicious.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5914
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Nepal

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 16, 2014 5:47 am

Zhen Li wrote:Strictly speaking, there's no canon in Buddhism - it's whatever works for you.


No, there is a canon. As a Buddhist the Tripiṭaka's contents are a part of your heritage and can't be so readily chucked out.

The definition of Buddhavacana is purposefully vague and broad. Besides, once you are holding that tradition is the basis of canon, and defending the practice on the basis thereof, your arguments against pretty much everything else you disagree with, Vinaya et al., are thrown out of the window.


Not at all. I recognize the Vinaya has been a core component to Buddhist traditions for most of Buddhist history. That's why I've studied and researched the Vinaya to the extent I have. I'm interested less in chucking and more in realistic adaptations and reforms.

With respect to astrology, I suppose this is more pertinent to Japanese traditions which have very well-defined histories and canonical works, like in Tendai and Shingon, which is why I'm wondering what the Tendai folks here think about astrology works.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5914
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Nepal

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Zhen Li » Wed Apr 16, 2014 6:11 am

Indrajala wrote:No, there is a canon. As a Buddhist the Tripiṭaka's contents are a part of your heritage and can't be so readily chucked out.

There are/were dozens of variant Tripitakas. Stuff is rejected and accepted, promoted and demoted, all throughout Buddhist history.
Indrajala wrote:Not at all. I recognize the Vinaya has been a core component to Buddhist traditions for most of Buddhist history. That's why I've studied and researched the Vinaya to the extent I have. I'm interested less in chucking and more in realistic adaptations and reforms.

That's just semantics. If you're deciding that the Vinaya shouldn't be followed, you're chucking it out. You're not transforming/reforming it, you're in favour of an invented and innovative alternative, leaving the old rusty banger in the dust.
Image
User avatar
Zhen Li
 
Posts: 969
Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:15 am

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 16, 2014 7:10 am

Zhen Li wrote:That's just semantics. If you're deciding that the Vinaya shouldn't be followed, you're chucking it out. You're not transforming/reforming it, you're in favour of an invented and innovative alternative, leaving the old rusty banger in the dust.


Not at all. I'm fine with referring to and even studying it. The historical realities behind that literature need to be recognized.

Astrology though is a bit different because few in East Asia really know anything about it nowadays, though it was part and parcel of their ancestral traditions.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5914
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Nepal

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Gwenn Dana » Wed Apr 16, 2014 9:51 am

Astrology appears to be a set of interpretations. Thoughts. Starlight Feng Shui.
I rather take refuge in Buddha than in astrology's explanations.

Best wishes
Gwenn
Gwenn Dana
 
Posts: 468
Joined: Tue Mar 25, 2014 1:03 pm

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Apr 16, 2014 9:59 am

I would have thought that what we call 'astronomy', along with a considerable portion of science generally, and quite a bit of mathematics, started off with what we would now regard as 'astrology'.

Obviously from well before history, ancient man would have to be familiar with the risings and settings of sun, moon and stars, for innummerable reasons both practical and religious. It would not have been even possible to separate those observations from what we now dismiss as 'fortune-telling' and other such practices.

As a footnote, it is interesting to note that Edward Conze was a lifelong believer in astrology.
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
User avatar
Wayfarer
 
Posts: 1931
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 16, 2014 10:47 am

Gwenn Dana wrote:Astrology appears to be a set of interpretations. Thoughts. Starlight Feng Shui.
I rather take refuge in Buddha than in astrology's explanations.

Best wishes
Gwenn


Funny thing is according to some Mahāyāna scriptures the Buddha in fact taught astrology.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5914
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Nepal

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Gwenn Dana » Wed Apr 16, 2014 11:07 am

The beings for which he deemed that to be necessary must have had some tough karma? :shrug:
Gwenn Dana
 
Posts: 468
Joined: Tue Mar 25, 2014 1:03 pm

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 16, 2014 12:51 pm

Gwenn Dana wrote:The beings for which he deemed that to be necessary must have had some tough karma? :shrug:


Or maybe there is some truth to astrology?
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5914
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Nepal

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby Gwenn Dana » Wed Apr 16, 2014 12:55 pm

Who knows?

All I can say is that I don't experience astrology.
Gwenn Dana
 
Posts: 468
Joined: Tue Mar 25, 2014 1:03 pm

Re: Astrology in East Asian Buddhism

Postby plwk » Wed Apr 16, 2014 2:46 pm

Astrology appears to be a set of interpretations. Thoughts. Starlight Feng Shui.
I rather take refuge in Buddha than in astrology's explanations.

Best wishes
Gwenn


Funny thing is according to some Mahāyāna scriptures the Buddha in fact taught astrology.
You mean a buddha huh...
Or maybe there is some truth to astrology?
Uh huh, on what level? The same level as the Buddha's duhkha nirodha marga?
plwk
 
Posts: 2656
Joined: Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:41 am

Next

Return to East Asian Buddhism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests

>