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Buddhism and Astrology/Numerology

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 :slight_smile:

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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

metta

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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.

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Interesting :thinking:

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”:

ce·les·tial
/səˈlesCHəl/
adjective

  1. positioned in or relating to the sky, or outer space as observed in astronomy.

por·tent
/ˈpôrˌtent/
noun
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.

I agree. :pray::slightly_smiling_face:

This seems unlikely. Monastics give up all forms of livelihood. Right/wrong livelihood is only an issue for lay people.

:thinking: 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?

Except monasticism. :stuck_out_tongue:

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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

Thank you, :pray:
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:

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SN 19.14 shows fortune-telling to be an unwise choice even for a layperson.

“Just now, reverend, as I was descending from Vulture’s Peak Mountain I saw a stinking fishwife flying through the air. Vultures, crows, and hawks kept chasing her, pecking, plucking, and hacking as she screamed in pain. …” …
“That woman used to be a fortune-teller right here in Rājagaha. …”

And from the commentary (Spk), from Venerable Bodhi’s note to this sutta in his SN translation:

She deceived people, accepting scents and flowers, telling them they could become rich by performing certain rites. She caused the multitude to accept a bad view, a wrong view. Thus she herself became foul-smelling because of taking scents and flowers, and ugly because of making them accept a bad view.

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Astrology and fortune-telling are not exactly identical, although one could argue they are essentially the same or similar in that they make predictions about the future.
While there are certainly harmful astrologers (who behave like sooth-saying fortune-tellers - there are probably many of these), it’s not clear to me that that is grounds for criticizing astrology as a whole, which uses time and date of birth and the locations of stars to describe a person’s physical and mental qualities to some degree and predict experiences that one is likely to experience in a certain lifetime.

My current assessment seems to be that astrology is not entirely false, but is not entirely true either - and it seems more accurate that pure co-incidents, imo.

Thank you attempting to find early sources that attempt to solve this problem, but it doesn’t seem to address astrology more directly, even though it might apply to an astrology - the point is that it doesn’t seem to definitively answer the question.

I am not a fan of commentarial texts anymore because they seem more tantamount to believing in hearsay, which may or may not turn out to be be true.

This is an example of where the commentaries seem to be contrary to the Dhamma-Vinaya:

The Buddha taught Mallika that the way to ugliness is irritation, bitterness, anger, etc.

When this was said, Queen Mallika said to the Blessed One: "I suppose, Bhante, (i) that in some earlier life I was prone to anger and often annoyed. Therefore I am now ugly, ill formed, and unsightly.
The (Kamma) Mallikā Sutta (AN 4.197)
http://www.themindingcentre.org/dharmafarer/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/39.10-Kamma-Mallika-S-a4.197-piya.pdf

  1. "Here, student, some woman or man is angry, much given to rage; even when little is said, he is furious, angry, ill-disposed, resentful, he shows ill-temper, hate and surliness. Due to having performed and completed such kammas, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a state of deprivation… If instead he comes to the human state, he is ugly wherever he is reborn. This is the way that leads to ugliness, that is to say, to be furious, angry, ill-disposed, resentful, and to show ill-temper, hate and surliness.

  2. "But here some woman or man is not angry or much given to rage; even when much is said, he is not furious, angry, ill-disposed, resentful, nor does he show ill-temper, hate or surliness. Due to having performed and completed such kammas, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a happy destination… If instead he comes to the human state, he is beautiful wherever he is reborn. This is the way that leads to beauty, that is to say, not to be angry or given to much rage; even when much is said, not to be furious, angry, ill-disposed or resentful, or to show ill-temper, hate or surliness.
    Cula-kammavibhanga Sutta: The Shorter Exposition of Kamma
    Culakammavibhanga Sutta | Wikipitaka - The Completing Tipitaka | Fandom

:laughing:

:pray:

What is the difference between “earning a living” and “way of acquiring essentials”?

Leaving aside the question of whether “astrology and numerology” are or are not “right livelihood,” can anyone find any reference in the Dhamma-Vinaya that directly address the issue of astrology and numerology, not merely in relation to it being a livelihood, but as a system of thought that aims to explain or predict certain things based on the astrological and numerological analysis of the birth time and location of an individual?

Earning implies working for money, which is then used to buy essentials, while ‘acquiring’ can be getting what one means by any means at all: buying, stealing, begging, being given etc. In specific contexts, tho, the words might overlap I think.

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