To what degree can astrology and numerology be considered contrary to and in accordance with the Dhamma-Vinaya?
Some sources of astrology (sln.me) and numerology (Numerology - A Free Chaldean Numerology Program based on Linda Goodman) that I have come across and examined seem like they are not 100% random, vague enough to fit everyone, nor based on confirmation bias alone - rather, I find those who reflexively dismiss it without careful consideration to be similar to those who blindly believe something without careful consideration - two sides of the same coin.
One possibility: one’s own kamma determines when and where one is reborn next - an astrological/numerological analysis made in one’s “birth chart” on the basis of time and place of birth (and by extension, the relative locations of the planets in the sky) does not determine (kamma does) what one experiences in that life, but merely predicts what one may experience in a given lifetime based on birth information (perhaps in a similar way that some Brahmins predicted that Siddhartha would have two professional options open to him). Thus, depending on the source, it might be a relatively reliable predictor, but a relatively unreliable relatively reliable guide.
Just some points to consider.
Astrology and foretelling the future is identified as wrong livelihood. I just can’t find the sutta at the moment, but I’m sure someone will be able to name it
Wrong livelihood is seen to be an obscuration to the path.
“Wrong livelihood gives rise to wrong effort. Wrong effort gives rise to wrong mindfulness. Wrong mindfulness gives rise to wrong immersion. Wrong immersion gives rise to wrong knowledge. Wrong knowledge gives rise to wrong freedom.”
Micchādiṭṭhikassa, bhikkhave, micchāsaṅkappo pahoti, micchāsaṅkappassa micchāvācā pahoti, micchāvācassa micchākammanto pahoti, micchākammantassa micchāājīvo pahoti, micchāājīvassa micchāvāyāmo pahoti, micchāvāyāmassa micchāsati pahoti, micchāsatissa micchāsamādhi pahoti, micchāsamādhissa micchāñāṇaṃ pahoti, micchāñāṇissa micchāvimutti pahoti.That’s how relying on the wrong way leads to failure, not success.
Perhaps you might be referring to DN 1:
making [predictions] on the basis of thunderbolts and celestial portents
"Or he might say: ‘Whereas some recluses and brahmins, while living on the food offered by the faithful, earn their living by a wrong means of livelihood, by such debased arts as: arranging auspicious dates for marriages, both those in which the bride is brought in (from another family) and those in which she is sent out (to another family); arranging auspicious dates for betrothals and divorces; arranging auspicious dates for the accumulation or expenditure of money; — the recluse Gotama abstains from such wrong means of livelihood, from such debased arts.’
DN 1 Brahmajāla Sutta: The All-embracing Net of Views
The following seems to be referring to astronomy, not astrology:
"Or he might say: ‘Whereas some recluses and brahmins, while living on the food offered by the faithful, earn their living by a wrong means of livelihood, by such debased arts as predicting: there will be an eclipse of the moon, an eclipse of the sun, an eclipse of a constellation; the sun and the moon will go on their proper courses; there will be an aberration of the sun and moon; the constellations will go on their proper courses; there will be an aberration of a constellation; there will be a fall of meteors; there will be a skyblaze; there will be an earthquake; there will be an earth-roar; there will be a rising and setting, a darkening and brightening, of the moon, sun, and constellations; such will be the result of the moon’s eclipse, such the result of the sun’s eclipse, (and so on down to) such will be the result of the rising and setting, darkening and brightening of the moon, sun, and constellations — the recluse Gotama abstains from such wrong means of livelihood, from such debased arts.’
However, it seems that the list in this discourse is specifically for monastics, not for laypeople.
This same discourse also lists the following too:
or they earn their living by accounting, computation, calculation,
administering emetics, purgatives, expectorants and phlegmagogues; administering medicine through the ear and through the nose; administering ointments and counter-ointments; practising fine surgery on the eyes and ears; practising general surgery on the body; practising as a children’s doctor; the application of medicinal roots; the binding on of medicinal herbs
It seems unlikely that the Buddha claimed that becoming an accountant, statistician, physician, or surgeon are wrong livelihoods, even for laypeople to engage in - perhaps he meant that these are wrong livelihoods for monastics specifically to engage in.
To the best of my knowledge, he doesn’t seem to refute, reject, or criticize astrology/numerology directly. However, I am open to the possibility that he might have. I just haven’t come across anything that seemed to definitively clarify this point one way or the other.
There are two aspects to astrology, prediction and character type, and prediction is what is prohibited in the suttas. The commentaries go into what meditation subjects are suitable for each temperament.
The astrological signs are divided among the four elements, earth, water, air, fire. The Satipatthana sutta also encompasses four foundations, body, feelings, mind and mind contents. Knowing that the earth signs correlate to the body, water signs to feeling, fire and air to mind, it can be established what foundation an individual has natural access to.
The suttas link serenity meditation with earth and water, and insight with fire and air. (SN 46.53)
There was a sutta where fortune telling, reading the entrails of animals etc were wrong livelihood. I just wanted to mention it as if the Buddha considered ‘fortune telling’ as wrong livelihood, then it can not at the same time be endorsed as a wise activity.
Here is a famous verse used against astrology and fortune telling from Nakkhattajātaka.
Nakkhattaṃ paṭimānentaṃ, attho bālaṃ upaccagā;
Attho atthassa nakkhattaṃ, kiṃ karissanti tārakā
The fool may watch for ‘lucky days,’
Yet luck shall always miss;
’it is luck itself is luck’s own star.
What can mere stars achieve? (Ja 49)
iti vā iti evarūpāya tiracchānavijjāya micchājīvā paṭivirato hoti.
They refrain from such unworthy branches of knowledge, such wrong livelihood (DN2).
Some people use this categorization to deny the beliefs on astrology and fortune telling. However, according to this phrase even modern science, medicine and engineering also considered as tiracchānavijjā.
Monastics are not allowed to practice or learn any kind of worldly sciences. That does not mean these knowlages are not usefull. Lay people can use these knowlages to their day to day life. Point is that those knowlages do not lead you to Nibbāna or those do not bring you peace from your kilesas.
Three of them seem to agree with what basic astrology claims too - but I think fire is correlated with energy specifically in astrology - i.e. the predilection/inclination to be energetic.
I think that DN 1 seems to have referred to astrology even more specifically than just “fortune-telling”:
- positioned in or relating to the sky, or outer space as observed in astronomy.
a sign or warning that something, especially something momentous or calamitous, is likely to happen.
“they believed that wild birds in the house were portents of death”
Even so, I was arguing that perhaps the Buddha was rejecting it as a wrong form of livelihood for monastics, but not necessarily for laypeople - furthermore, he doesn’t seem to be dismissing it as false any more than he would dismiss accounting, medicine, or surgery as false (since these were also mentioned in the very same list as well!).
Is this an early source?
Interesting and relevant, thank you for sharing.
This seems unlikely. Monastics give up all forms of livelihood. Right/wrong livelihood is only an issue for lay people.
Is this true though?
Isn’t right livelihood a part of the eightfold path - regardless of whether one is a lay person or monastic?
I remember one discourse called something like “blameless” (perhaps in AN book of 4’s) where the Buddha claims that his bodily, verbal, mental, and livelihood actions are all pure and blameless, and there are no grounds for criticism of them nor any need to cover up any misconduct of his.
These make me think that both lay and monastics seem to have a livelihood (a means by which they earn the basic necessities needed for survival).
What do you think?
The monastic life, indeed attainment is regarded as a form of right livelihood:
“And what is the right livelihood that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The abstaining, desisting, abstinence, avoidance of wrong livelihood in one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right livelihood that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.”—MN 117
I stand corrected. (Always thought livelihood meant earning a living rather than way of acquiring esstentials.)
During this last hour I have found Ven Anālayo referring to wrong livelihood for the sangha (he specially mentions that MN117 is directed to the sangha) thus: