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November's "Star" of the Month
A Conversation with Astrologer Brendan FeeleyBy Charlotte Benson
Interview Date: 11/07/11
Charlotte Benson: Thank you Brendan for taking time out of your very busy astrological and medical schedule to interview with us today! Tell us, what brought you to the study and later the profession of Jyotish, or Vedic Astrology? For example, how old were you when you began your studies? Were you a young age, or later in life?
When I received that report in 1968 I was an engineering student in Dublin but I had a deep interest in philosophy, mythology, literature and poetry and I was aware that there was much about life that we knew little about. Later on I did a graduate degree in archetypal psychology to cultivate this interest. In the west of Ireland there was a rich subterranean world that lived in the culture and there were all sorts of beliefs and customs that honored a plethora of presences and guests from another realm. Part of me lived in that primordial realm and I wanted to know more about this great struggle between light and dark, good and evil, male and female, etc. Everything I had read presented life as a manifestation of polar opposites, even the planets were presented as dual pairs, and I was curious about that. Why would that be the case? That report was really about that struggle and it was so personal, almost like a personal tragedy, and in that sense it had great depth for me.
I purchased some astrology books that were popular back then and they got me thinking about life. My father left the world in 1974 and it had a deep impact on me. It was now clear that I wasnít an immortal being and I had to do something about it. About six months later I left Ireland for London. I received a Research Fellowship at the City University and my professional prospects in engineering were perfectly aligned. When I arrived in London, I immediately became immersed in meditation, Vedanta, vegetarianism, and Astrology. I met some great teachers in London: Howard Sasportas, Liz Greene and Ronald Davidson. They all hung out at the Theosophical Society and I began to abandon any thought of a typical professional life and submersed myself in these glorious studies. I had an insatiable thirst for this knowledge and nothing else mattered. I felt I had arrived home. I have very fond memories of Howard Sasportas. He was a TM teacher (Transcendental Meditation) and western Astrologer and he has written many books on the subject. I remember I was going through a difficult period in 1976, a crisis of sorts; after all, I had never anticipated this kind of destiny and it brought about a total psychological upheaval. I went to Howard for support and advice. He was a gentle soul and he assured me that all would be well and he insisted that one day I would become a professional Astrologer. He was right.
Charlotte: What an interesting journey! What did you study or do as your career before Astrology and Ayurveda (Indian branch of medicine) professionally came along?
Brendan: I had a successful career in engineering, both in academia and the corporate world but I had another calling. I took a major interest in plant ďmedicineĒ from a young age. When I was twelve I had a liver complaint and my parents took me to an old woman who lived out in the countryside and she walked out into the fields of her farm and returned with a handful of this ďweedĒ and told my mother to simmer a portion of it in milk each night and have me drink the contents in the morning. My parents didnít really believe in doctors and always preferred the local folk brews. This herb was as bitter as hell and I was completely well in three days. The doctor said it would take a year for me to grow out of it. I was suffering from a ranjaka pitta disorder and the bitter taste took care of it. Now I became obsessed about herbs and healing and I began to study that subject too along with Astrology.
Charlotte: Fascinating that you were exposed to your future destiny even as a child! We know that you are not only a Vedic Astrologer, but that you are also a Homeopathic Doctor and you studied and practice Ayurveda. Two limbs of the Vedic knowledge! What encouraged you to study both, and actually while we ask this, which study came first, or did you approach both branches of knowledge simultaneously?
Brendan: My interest in the Vedas became all consuming because of my experience with meditation. The philosophy of the Vedas is so complete. Here I found a set of scriptures that had knowledge of Astrology and herbal medicine in its compendium, as well as the wonderful knowledge of Gods/Goddesses, and I had to study all this. Unlike my religious upbringing, there was no devil or at least there was less of an obsession with such fantasies about punishment and eternal torment -- and more realism about the intermingling and play of opposite principles of creation. Who wouldnít be fascinated? Here we have purusha and prakriti, three gunas, five tattvas, five senses and five organs of action and the entire science of medical Jyotish and Ayurveda takes off from there. Itís a beautiful system and I had to study it.
In 1984 I began the study of Jyotish after I had found a few books by B.V. Raman and then I studied with Hart Defouw for a few years beginning in 1988. In 1993 after I quit my engineering career and became a full-time Jyotishi, I began a serious study of Ayurveda at the New England School of Ayurveda soon after.
Charlotte: Did you have a mentor or spiritual teacher along the way?
Brendan: Iíve had many great teachers from both the west and India and I feel very blessed in this respect. For that I am full of appreciation and I feel very lucky. Itís impossible to learn anything without a teacher. My first initiation was in TM and I practiced that for about seven years and then in 1982 I met my bhakti guru. I am really a bhakta because thereís so much emphasis on my 4th house and the AK and MK are conjoined. Something happens when one sings praise to oneís God and Goddess. Itís a glorious path and when we talk of bliss thatís where Iíve been able to find it. It sustains me. My real interest is Vedic philosophy and all of its subtleties.
Charlotte: Are there other Astrologerís in your family? I know you originally came from Ireland, and now you have three children. Do any of your children show an interest or aptitude in the astrological direction?
Brendan: My family members are all curious about these subjects and they always treat my interests with respect. I donít recall even a moment when any one of them have said a mean word about these subjects.
Yes, I got married at the age of 44 and thatís the age when Rahu finally matures. I will invite anybody in the Jyotish community to indicate why this was the case in my chart; you should be able to see this without using any dasa system.
When my son was 13 years old, he told me he wanted to submit a school project on Vedic Astrology. I spent three months teaching him the basics and his class was delighted with his presentation. Each of my children knows a good deal about their own chart and they are always curious about the planets and how Jupiter and Saturn will affect them when they change signs. My daughters are 12 and 14 and they are now asking me to teach them. Ayurvedically, they are all able take their own pulse, and this has been going on for some years now; they are able to determine prakriti/vikriti of a person and this makes them popular at parties and with friends! More importantly, it introduces them to cosmic principles and discussions about life that might not otherwise arise.
Charlotte: Well yes, not to mention that it is communicating this knowledge to their classmates and friends! Wonderful! Since you mentioned your own chart, would you mind sharing with us a specific yoga or combination in your chart that would lead you to the profession of Ayurveda in the 20th/21st Century?
Brendan: The 4th house rules healing and medicine and the karaka (significator) for the 4th is the Moon. In my chart, I have four planets in the 4th house and it is also my Arudha lagna and thatís why I have so many interests. The full Moon rules the 9th house and is placed in the 10th with the lord of the 4th and is exalted in the 10th in the navamsa, so it brings great idealism in healing and medicine. Thatís one combination.
My lagna lord, Mars, is my AK (Atma Karaka)and that too is placed in the 4th and is in parivartna (exchanging signs) with Rahu in the 6th (in Ashwini nakshatra). Rahu is the BK and he gives knowledge from the Guru, and because itís in parivartna with the AK, it gives rise to knowledge of 4th and 6th house matters, healing and disease. Oneís destiny has to manifest and Jyotish is uncanny in this matter, but we have to take the subject to its intended depth of analysis. I demand this from my students.
Charlotte: What a lovely Dharma Karma Raja Yoga! Thank you for sharing your personal chart with our readers.
Would you tell us about your current practice, why are people coming to you these days?
Brendan: I work quietly here in Rockville, MD and I see people for both Jyotish and Ayurveda. It has its own momentum and some people come to me for Jyotish and they donít know that I practice Ayurveda, while others come for Ayurveda and have no idea that I practice Jyotish, although they soon find out. Some see me for both Jyotish and Ayurveda.
My emphasis and my work is about helping people understand themselves and to work through the terrible inner angst that is an integral part of life. I do not see suffering as being bad and wrong and indeed, it can become the source of unbelievable wisdom if itís properly digested. The problem is that most people donít digest life and thatís a problem with Agni. When one has a powerful Agni, then everything is broken down and fully metabolized and there is no room for undifferentiated feelings and emotions. Agni makes one a philosopher and gives us the capacity to see through life and experience; each of us has to become a Seer so to speak. In my practice I always treat Agni and that leads to happiness and contentment.
Charlotte: Based on the current poor position of the planets (at least until Saturn exalts), do you have any advice for our readers on how to maintain their health?
Brendan: The biggest problem we have in this country is the quality and quantity of food. Food has become a major industry and the profit motive is the driving force in health and disease. We all need to learn the basic principles of the likes of Ayurveda so that we can take better care of our health and remain in tune with the seasons as well as our personal constitutional need.
Everybody needs to learn about spices. They are a treasure drove of the most miraculous healing agents that nature has to give us. There is much more to spices than making food taste good. They are powerful medicinal agents.
Charlotte: Very sound advice! Lately, cients and patients seem to be suffering more due to the position of the Nodes transiting in debilitation. Has this affected your practice?
Brendan: Yes, these nodes are mysterious bedfellows and I love them. They are my favorite grahas (planets) and they demand that we worship the nagas and so it should be. Itís because of the nodes that so many diseases are misdiagnosed and incorrectly understood and the medical profession is not trained to worship the nagas. Itís quite the opposite! The model is materialistic and does not even honor the flow of prana, the flow of intelligence within the organ systems and the body. All healing is really pranic healing and the herbs and homeopathic remedies do nothing more than open up the congested srotas and the nadis to allow the proper flow of prana, the life force.
Simply by respecting the world of nature, the plants and natural remedies, we respect the unseen powers within creation, Shakti and all her manifestation. In the ancient books, these unseen powers are always symbolized by the serpent, and the nodes give us access to the unconscious confusion that gives rise to symptoms and disease. We are not able to comprehend the nature of these serpents for the faculty of reason fails miserable when it comes to Rahu and Ketu. There is a complete breakdown in comprehension and we may be very lucky that this is the case. I celebrate it. I see symptom and disease as a kind of bad dream that the body is manifesting and the inner contents of that dream have to be understood to heal the symptoms. We have to examine ourselves, we have to see ourselves, and to do that we have to look inward and become aware of the dreamer. I prefer the notion that we are being dreamt rather than we are dreaming and disease arises because we refuse to pay attention to our world.
Charlotte: Brilliant and well stated! What advice would you give our readers who are Jyotish students who are beginning to practice Jyotish in the West?
Brendan: Students have to become rigorous in the classical works. Thatís essential. Jyotish is a deep science and many students and practitioners donít go beyond the first few chapters of Parasara and dismiss Jaimini altogether as if he was an alien being. Yes, he is ruled by Ketu but that makes him even more important. All the dasas and Arudha concepts presented by Jaimini are to be found in Parasara but with additional insights and details. Many do not take the subject to the depth it was intended and I encourage anybody to live in the classical works and the knowledge will be revealed in time.
Charlotte: Yes, I quite agree with you, once the classics become a part of you, intuition grows, and practicing Jyotish becomes more effortless.
On another note, do you have a simple suggestion for assisting people in coping with the current Vata Season? (November through January in the US)
Brendan: Stay grounded and eat food that is warm and cooked.
Charlotte: Well stated! Short and succinct.
On a final note, do you have a favorite anecdote associated with diagnosing a person medically based upon their Jyotish chart?
Brendan: I know an individual who was dedicated to Ayurvedic treatment over many years and she was convinced that she was primarily a Vata body type. She was thin and wiry and light and she consulted me about her chart. She told me that she didnít want to know anything about Ayurveda as she was already well versed in that science and had it down. I started out the session by telling her that she had a major Kapha imbalance and that this was going to cause health problems unless she took care of it. She immediately dismissed me as being foolish and insisted that I had made a gross error of judgment. ďIím VataĒ she insisted. ďLook at my body type!Ē
I questioned her a little and found out she didnít suffer from anxiety, was not restless, and was easy going, slow moving, and emotional; she was very surprised with this news. It took her three months to come to terms with that previously held view of herself.
The importance of this story is that you cannot fool the grahas. The chart doesnít lie and we need to honor that; the influences in the chart have to manifest and thatís it. Thereís no tolerance or latitude in this but one has to know the science. I saw a major influence of Jupiter and the full Moon and these are kapha planets. I have found Jyotish to be the best for an accurate constitutional diagnosis and itís also excellent at examining the underlying cause as well as the timing of the manifestation. The science of longevity in Jyotish is also excellent but it takes years and numerous cases studies to master it. It is not to be taken lightly or treated in a superficial manner.
Charlotte: Thank you so much for your interview today, I can tell you now our readers will really enjoy your depth of experience and perspective, not only with the Parashara system but also with Jaimini!
Brendan Feeley Biography:
Brendan Feeley grew up in the west of Ireland and has been a student of the Vedas and practitioner of meditation since 1975; Drawn to the Vedas (Jyotish, Ayurveda, Bhakti and Vedanta) because of his interest in spiritual philosophy and psychology. In wanting to understand his own nature these subjects gave him tremendous insight and a profound subjective experience. He began his spiritual studies and practice of meditation while living in London, England in 1975 while working on a postgraduate fellowship at the City University.
In London, he studied western astrology with well known writers and teachers such as Ron Davidson, Liz Green and Howard Sasportas. In 1984 he began reading books on Jyotish and since that time it has been an all consuming interest. He is a student of the parampara (tradition) of Sri Achuyta Das for the past 14 years, teachings dedicated to the works of Parasara and Jaimini, the two great Rishis of all matters related to the science of Jyotish from ancient India.
He is a well-known teacher and writer on the topic of Jyotish and Ayurveda in the Washington, DC area, and also teaches Jung's Depth Psychology at the Washington Society of Jungian Psychology. He has presented at International conferences on Ayurveda and Jyotish in the USA and Europe, since 1993, especially on his research in medical astrology, a subject that he integrates with his knowledge and training in Ayurveda.
He holds graduate degrees in engineering (Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland) and Jungian / Archetypal Psychology / Mythology (Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, CA) and a doctorate degree in Homeopathy and a diploma in Ayurveda.
He is a founding member of ACVA (American College of Vedic Astrology) and of the Council of Vedic Astrology (CVA) (USA) and holds the titles of Jyotish Kovid and Jyotish Visharada, bestowed by CVA. He is also a professional member of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (USA).
In his words: "My focus is on embodied spirituality, the capacity to see the world and all its manifestations and complexity as an alchemical container, the expression of soul, and the presence of that which is Divine and eternal. Thus, the world itself and all its challenges becomes a path to God and Self-Realization."
Rockville, MD USA
Charlotte Benson, International Liaison and Jyotish Star Chief Correspondent
Diplomate: AFA, NCGR, ISAR
Board Member of American College of Vedic Astrology, Inc.
President, Arizona Society of Astrologers, Inc.
Phoenix, AZ USA.
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