Sani or Saturn, according to some Indian Almanacs, is said to transit to Libra from November 15th 2011. According to some other almanacs, it is said to transit late December. Sani according to Indian astrologers takes about 30 years to complete its orbit spending approximately about 2 ½ years in every house or Zodiac sign. Sani is considered to be slow moving (sanaischara) and is considered a malefic by the general populace. Considered from the moon sign if the Saturn is in the 12th, 1st and 2nd houses it is said to cause enormous difficulties. Additionally its transit through the 4th and the 8th signs are also considered highly unfavorable. Actually according to some Saturn is trouble in all the houses except when it transits through the 3rd and and the 6th houses or signs. That means that one can enjoy a certain amount of peace only during a sixth of one’s lifetime.
This squares with a brief episode in Yoga Vasishta. Two siddhas meet and one of them has the Siddhi of moving back and forth in space (akasa) and time (avakasa). During their conversation the elder Siddha yogi said that he had traveled in time and has gone deep into the past and well into the future of human lives and has found that on an average human beings are happy only 1/6 th of the lifetime. Of course the other planets like Jupiter and others benifics will mitigate Saturn’s ill effects, but per se, Saturn is dreaded. But there are a few who look at Saturn’s effects on individuals life as sobering and transformative. It is like a governor in a vehicle, so that people do not run amuck in their lives. It is considered to be a great teacher of life but a strict disciplinarian, one who does not spare the rod.
Many in India tend to propitiate Sani by observing some tapas on Saturdays, worship sanaischara and so on, so that the difficulties become more bearable. One of the methods is to worship Hanuman or Anjaneya . Many yogabhyasis are familiar with anjaneyasana or the leaping anjaneya pose–the pride of some and most others’ envy. How is Anjaneya worshiped? There is a portion of the Ramayana which depicts the heroic efforts of Anjaneya in finding the whereabouts of the abducted Sita, Sri Rama’s wife, by leaping across the sea between the southern tip of India and Lanka.
Reading this portion of the Ramayana one tends to love and respect Anjaneya, it is a beautiful portion of the Ramayana, as the title of this section “Sundara Kanda”, indicates. I have already written briefly about it. It usually takes about 10 hours to recite this portion of Valmiki Ramayana. It is recited usually at the rate of about 90 minutes everyday spread over one week. This is done once in a while. Some attempt to do it in three days. Occasionally one may try to do it in one day. Recently just about the time of Sani’s transit into Libra I chanted it in one 24 hour period. Because it is long and arduous and many are not familiar with the text, many more propitiate Anjaneya by chanting the famous Hanuman Chalisa which takes about 20 minutes. I think this chant is popular among Yogis also. It is not in Sanskrit but it is said to be very powerful.
There is also a Sahasranama or one thousand names of Anjaneya. Some 20 years ago a recording company got this recording of mine. A few days back in Chennai, I saw on the TV one of the channels broadcasting the Puja of Anjaneya Ritual. And the mantra used in the puja was this Sahasranama of my chanting. I understand that this channel telecasts this video once almost every month. The channel is called Sankara channel. How does worship of Anjaneya help? How does it help mitigate the ill effects of Sani’s hold on one’s life? It is said that Sani does not spare anyone, even Lord Siva had to undergo trouble and tribulations for a short period of time due to Sani/Saturn. Well how does Anjaneya worship help? Here is a short story.
After Anjaneya finds out the whereabouts of the abducted Sita, he returns to the mainland and informs Rama of the discovery, and Rama decides to invade Lanka to liberate Site from the clutches of Ravana. He needs a large Army. Sugriva the monkey chieftain agrees to lend his army and they decide to build a road bridge over the ocean dividing India and Lanka. The sea quiets due to the request first and then an ultimatum from Rama and the building of the bridge (sethu) commences. (Rama also is known as Sethurama because he built the bridge or Sethu. Sethurama is a very popular first name in South India). Well a huge army of workers were engaged in the construction. They bring huge rocks from the surroundings. And Anjaneya was also busy in the task carrying large boulders to the bridge site. It was time for Sani to afflict Anjaneya. Slowly Sani comes near Anjaneya and says that it was time for Anjaneya to suffer the ill effects of Sani (sani pida). No, not now shouted Anjaneya at Sani. “I am now engaged in the sacred work of building the bridge to go to Lanka and liberate Sita”. But Sani said that Sani never waits but afflicts everyone at the allotted time. He has to submit to this. Then Sani offered a concession. ”I will get into your legs and afflict your legs alone say with arthritis. Anjaneya said that he needs strong legs to move around to do the arduous manual work of carrying the rocks. “No way,” Sani said. Sani then suggested that he could creep into his arms and Anjaneya promptly rejected it saying that he needed the arms for lifting and dropping off the rocks. Anjaneya realized that even before Sani got into his system his effects were beginning to show by this persistent pestering. He felt that sani was already under his skin.Finally Anjaneya agreed to let Sani get into his head, because he said he need not do any thinking while doing this repetitive work of carrying the rocks on his head. Sani crawled into Anjaneya’s head.
Some of you may have seen some paintings of Anjaneya carrying the Sanjivini mountain from the Himalayan range and leaping across the Indian subcontinent, during the war between Rama and Ravana; yes Anjaneya was very strong and could carry lot of weight. After Sani got into his head, Anjaneya is said to have lifted a huge boulder and kept it on his head and started walking towards the dam site. The pressure of the rock became unbearable for Sani who was inside Anjaneya’s head. Anjaneya reminded Sani that that was how everyone felt when Sani would severely affect other beings, unable to bear the pain. Sani whispered to him that he would do anything for Anjaneya to get out of the predicament. He then promised Anjaneya that he would never afflict those who worship Anjaneya. The smiling Anjaneya threw the rock at the appropriate place in the dam site and Sani tumbled out of Anjaneya’s head and ran away without turning back.
So one of the reasons for many to worship the loveable Anjaneya is that it is generally believed that Sani’s ill effects will be mitigated by worshiping Anjaneya. What better way to worship him than reading the Sundara Kanda of Ramayana which is a beautiful narration of Anjaneya’s greatness in all aspects, valor, scholarship, intelligence, ambassadorship, dharma, humility, loyalty, sense of humor,sagacity and what not. Sri Krishnamacharya gave considerable importance to chanting-both vedic and other (laukika) chants. It is said that originally there were only vedic chants and they were practiced only by those who were initiated into vedic studies, but they were only a few. It is said that Valmiki, an illiterate hunter, due to the grace of Lord became a poet and wrote the Ramayana in Anushtup meter, the meter found commonly in the vedas.
Thereafter Sanskrit works on divinity proliferated and Mahabharata and several other puranas were written. These could be studied by anyone and several of them contained virtually everything that was found in the vedas, like works on divinity, philosophy, rituals and others. They became accessible to everyone. The concepts were made user friendly like for instance the Bhagavat Gita which explains the terse concepts of the Upanishadic philosophies to ordinary people represented by Arjuna. One should learn Hatayoga from Krishnamacharya. One should study Yoga Sutras and sibling philosophies from Krishnamacharya. One should learn devotional works from Krishnamacharya. One should learn chanting from Krishnamacharya. Yes, it is a great blessing to have studied with Sri Krishnamacharya. He had a booming voice and an immaculate Sanskrit diction. I learnt from and chanted Vedic chants with Krishnamacharya for hundreds of hours. Learning from and chanting with him has been an exceptional experience.
The vedic chants are very powerful and have profound import. The Suryanamaskara chant running for about an hour contains the Gayatri mantra and is said to confer health and longevity. A chapter called svadhyaya, which runs for about 40 minutes, extols the virtues of vedic chanting and eulogizes the great gayatri mantra. In this chapter there is an advice to chant aloud during the day and that one need not do the rituals, but mere chanting will confer all the benefits. There are two chapters called pravargya which again are used while boiling milk which is said to tranform the milk into nectar. These two chapters running for about two hours are exceptionally charming. Sri Krishnamacharya also taught the Kataka portion of the vedas and then the Upanishad portion of the taittiriya branch of the vedas. Chanting is uplifting. It has got physiological and psychological benefits.
Long chanting works with different chakra centers of the body and also improves the efficacy of breathing. It has got a calming effect on the mind. The traditional meaning of svadhyaya, an integral part of yoga, is chanting. The other non vedic chants that are commonly used include the various Sahasranamas like Vishnu, Lalita, etc. And many of these chants and recitations are said to confer specific benefits. In the form of phalasruti the texts themselves tell us the benefits that one can expect will accrue on chanting these. For more on mantras please refer to the Mantra Yoga chapter in my book, “Yoga for the Three Stages of Life”.