An edited version of this article appeared in The Mountain Astrologer, October/November issue 2008.
Western astrologers measure the maturity of the person by the Saturn return, where Saturn returns to the sign he occupies in the birth chart, approximately every twenty-nine to thirty years. It is a time of the maturation of the self, the proverbial thirty-something time of increasing responsibility in the world. This cycle repeats itself some twenty-nine years later where the person prepares for their gradual withdrawal from the world in the next stage of the Saturn return.
Vedic astrologers also measure the maturity of the self through the planet Saturn as well, but with a different celestial tool of measurement. This tool is called the Sadi Sati. The Sadi Sati measures Saturn's transit to the Moon in the natal chart, not the return to the natal placement in the birth chart. The Sadi Sati measures Saturn's transit to the Moon in a very unique manner. Saturn's transit to the Moon is measured by his passage into the constellation before the Moon, and the process is completed by his leaving the constellation after the Moon, thus compromising a period of Saturn transiting three constellations totaling a time line of seven and a half years. Some Vedic astrologers divide Saturn's sojourn of three constellations into a time line of ninety degrees, and measure the Sadi Sati in forty-five degrees before and after the exact zodiacal degree of the Moon. Either way, the period of time defined the Sadi Sati is about seven and half years and many Vedic astrologers consider this process to be the proverbial "seven year itch", spelled with a capitol B!
The Moon becomes the focus of Saturn's transit in Vedic astrology because it represents the foundation of self awareness within the family structure. This awareness of self starts with one's biological family and extends to one's personal family, and eventually over time to one's community. Thus Saturn's transit of the Moon becomes the focus of the ageing process, within the context of the familial and societal responsibilities. The Moon, being the planet of the summer solstice, holds the promise of the growth potential that takes place during the summer growing season of our lives. The Sadi Sati of Saturn begins the process of imposing limits upon that growth. In the Northern Hemisphere, Saturn is associated with Uttara Ayana, the winter solstice, the darkest time of the year. He and his brother, Yama, Lord of Death, are associated with the setting of the Sun, and Chaya Patha, the path of the shadows. Saturn is the harbinger of the gradual end of growth. His Sadi Sati sets the stage for eventual decline, as his darkness envelopes the natural light of the Moon.
In Vedic astrology, Saturn is a planet that is agrarian in nature, associated with the slow growth, harvest, and eventual decay that follows the natural cycle. He is associated with farmers and miners, all who till the earth. So, in describing his transit to the Moon, perhaps a simple but potent agrarian metaphor will best serve to illuminate the process of the Sadi Sati.
Over time the seed of a proverbial Banyan tree will grow its primary limbs that eventually will support its many branches. When the tree is young, it responds to the eventual storms of life by swaying and bending, as it is supple and resilient. However, as the Banyan tree grows older and stouter, it looses some of its suppleness and replaces it with the stiffness that comes with age. This rigidness, although a strength when it comes to supporting the Banyan's heavy limbs, becomes a weakness in the eventual storms to come. It is well known in agrarian wisdom that the limbs of ageing tree will no longer bend, but in all likelihood break off, undermining the foundation of the tree. In order to prevent this, a skilled arborist will trim the tree, starting with the dead wood, and concluding with the over extended branches that threaten to topple the tree during the bad weather. This pruning at first seems cruel, as the arborist appears to be injuring the tree. But in reality the arborist is actually cutting back the tree to paradoxically make the tree stronger for its future growth. If the limbs are allowed to grow indiscriminately, they will burden the tree, unbalance and destroy it. This cutting back is necessary as it will facilitate the branches to grow stronger. This time-honored process is simply an archetypal model of sustainability.
Saturn's Sadi Sati to the Moon models this archetypal pruning for the sustainability of the self. The gravity of his transit brings us back to earth. The tree of self must voluntarily cut out the dead wood, and overextended branches, otherwise the resultant imbalance may topple its existence when the next seasonal storm comes. In practical terms practicing Vedic astrologers interpret Saturn's Sadi Sati as the consequences of ageing, with increasing responsibility around the family, work, and the ensuing stressful consequences of mental strain and ill health.
The first Sadi Sati represents the chronological stress that is associated with the ageing and passing of the grandparents. The second Sadi Sati represents the chronological stress that is associated with the ageing and passing of the parents, and as one approaches the third Sadi Sati it represents the chronological stress that is associated with one's own ageing process and eventual decline. Very simply put, each succeeding Sadi Sati's represents the various stations of the ageing process and the consequences therein. We will all share this reality, sooner or later. With Saturn, denial of this process is simply not an option.
adi Sati cuts the dead wood out of your life. These are the area of our life that are no longer alive and growing and represent dead weight that needs pruning. Once done, the results are immediately experienced as uplifting to the other branches of our life. We all have dead wood in our lives and the Sadi Sati heralds its demise. The more difficult challenges of the Sadi Sati come when we have to cut back the living branches of our proverbial tree of life. Ultimately life proceeds on the economy of reciprocity, the give and take of our existence. There are circumstances, places and people in all of our lives that are not equally reciprocal. Mostly we do not notice these circumstances and people until Saturn starts his transit of the Moon. Before the Sadi Sati we usually perceive that we have enough time and resources to give everything and everyone their due. But as Saturn squeezes our resources and time, these circumstance and relationships that lack reciprocity become a drag on the life. These are the more difficult areas we must prune in the Sadi Sati in order to free up our increasingly limited sense of time and resources. This pruning is still well within the arena of personal choice, often with the hope of making these branches of our life more balanced and sustainable in light of our increasing limitations. However, it must be noted, that we do run the risk that these areas and relationships of our life may wither and die from the resultant pruning, but that is the risk we all take to become sustainable. When this difficult pruning is done we are now ready to face the most difficult part of the Sadi Sati. These are the areas of life that have nothing to do with choice or reciprocity. They have everything to do with the obligation and duty of being a stand-up tree when it comes to vocational and familial demands. Saturn demands that you be practical, but also wise if you are to remain a viable stand- up tree during Sadi Sati. Growing children and declining parents are often indeed heavy, dependent branches on the tree of life during this time. The Vedas of India proclaim that we all have a debt of obligation to our ancestors, and it is here that we are obliged to persevere for the very survival of the family tree that depends upon us in this time of need. The naked need of the extended family usually becomes totally exposed during the Sadi Sati, and the needs of our loved ones calls upon all our strength and compassion to successfully navigate this time of challenge. This will often be during a time when you are giving far more than you are receiving. To exacerbate the matter, in today's work-place, of increasing time management and productivity, our vocational responsibilities often increase during the Sadi Sati. These work responsibilities oblige us to give more in time and effort, in a declining model of reciprocity.
These are the most difficult areas of the Sadi Sati, where the choices that are presented are more how we choose to experience the limitations with which we are presented. Even the most self-centered among us, who would prefer to do nothing, will find that this is a time to cultivate perseverance and tolerance â€” a cycle in which we must choose where to prune or cut. There is no other viable choice, as we have reached our limits.
This is the hard truth of the reality of life, and it is no coincidence that the planet Saturn is proclaimed to be the Lord of the Truth in India. The Sanskrit word for the truth is sat and Saturn is said to represent Sat Loka, the Region of the Truth in Indian cosmology. What is true in Sat Loka will always be true. Sadly, the scriptures note that this place, the world we live in, is not a place eternal truth. Everything here changes, precious little remains the same. The onset of the Sadi Sati shows us the impermanence of our world, thereby creating world-weariness, or deep existential crises that tests the reality of your truth of your truth.
During Sati Sati, Saturn will pressure you to seize the truth of your life, much as did Mahatma Gandhi during India's struggle for independence. Gandhi coined the term, satya graha: "to seize the truth", during the challenging trials of his life. Saturn's Sadi Sati will take everything you believe to be permanent and true in this world and put it under pressure over time. If your truth is of permanent gem-stone quality, with time and pressure, Saturn will cut and facet that rough stone into a polished jewel. However, if your truth is flawed, the pressure of the Sadi Sadi will mercilessly crush it to dust. Saturn offers only jewels and dust, nothing in between. His function is to show you the timeless truths in a timely manner, in the face of your truth, or delusion, before it is too late. In this role he liberates us from the darkness of ignorance. Indeed, all things must pass, and if for some reason, you believe you have a personal exemption from the Truth, and you want to continue in your delusions, then Saturn's Sadi Sati will be a rude, merciless awakener.
So the choice is yours as to how you are going to respond to the world weariness of the Sadi Sati. In my many years of practice I have seen varied responses to this process and found it necessary to utilize compassion along with a certain degree of humor in discussing the effects of Saturn and the Sadi Sati, as a brief euphoric moment of levity greatly assists in looking at the most serious of the planets. I jokingly, but in all seriousness, tell my clients that the great gift of Saturn and the Sadi Sati is the gift of dissatisfaction and disillusionment, which is the irritant that produces the pearl. I am of course referring to the metaphorical pearl of wisdom. It is a sad truth that happy oysters never create pearls, only unhappy oysters do. The unhappy oyster cannot rid itself of the irritating grain of sand, and so it comes to terms with the aggravating substance by secreting a propitiating substance over the irritant, until over time a smooth peal is created. Once the oyster has created the pearl there is really no need for the oyster to be unhappy, but the paradox is that without the irritant there would be no pearl. So, difficult circumstances can have their reward at journey's end, but only if we understand the true nature of the process and the reason for it.
I believe the Sadi Sati gives us the choice to struggle with our truths to reveal which ones are the real pearls of wisdom that will stand the test of time, or at least the test of the Sadi Sati. I also believe that the Sadi Sati gives us the opportunity to discover the truths that are false, so we can begin the process of turning those irritants into pearls of wisdom as well. However difficult this process may be, it will eventually realign our perception with the prevailing reality of how things really are, not how we believed them to be. On the upside, either way we have found out what is true for us, and what is false, and even if we were once blind to the truth, we now can see. That is the amazing grace of the Sadi Sati. However, that is the best case scenario that involves conscious choice, but conscious choice is only for those who know it exists. The shadow of Saturn is ayidya; the Sanskrit word for ignorance, fear, and all that is temporal and false. Sadly there are those who are ignorant, and for those who are ignorant Saturn is indeed the cruelest of the planets.
The humorist Mark Twain once remarked: I have come to accept suffering, but only in the lives of other people. There are those who ignorantly believe that the limits and difficulties of this life are never going to apply to them. For those that prescribe to this delusional truth, the Sadi Sati holds a most painful process of sufferance in a dark night of soul. This process is described in the folk-story of the Shani Mahatmya: The Greatness of Saturn, a classic Bengali myth of the trials of a great King. It is a symbolic tale of a self- centered King, Vikramaditya, who suffers greatly at the hands of Saturn in the Sadi Sati, only to emerge as a compassionate secular humanist at journey's end. His choices in the Sadi Sati are at times messianic in nature, choosing to deliver his people from suffering through his own austerities and pain, creating the proverbial pearl of wisdom in the process. However, for every great Vikramaditya, in this world, there are several Idontgiveachitanandas, who frankly are not aware and concerned with anyone but themselves. These are the usual self-centered suspects who are ignorant of the pain and suffering of others. Saturn holds a special worldly education for those who are ignorant and lacking in compassion for the sufferance of humanity. The sufferance they have ignored in the lives of others is usually visited upon them during the Sadi Sati, leaving them with feelings of desolation, abandonment and hopelessness. The Sadi Sati is a long seven and a half years and the ignorant of this world can only put a delusional spin on their false truth for so long before the reality of their situation dawns on them. It is a painful process, but even the most self- centered among the ignorant have the choice to embrace compassion, as Vikramaditya's story reveals in the Greatness of Saturn.
Although the process of the Sadi Sati is essentially the process of ageing with the ensuing familial and worldly responsibilities that follow, not everyone responds positively and favorably to this challenging time line. The power of the Moon, at birth is a potent indicator on whether one can withstand the effects of Saturn's transit to yield positive results and a positive outlook on life. I have found, if the Moon is bright (more than seventy-two degrees from the Sun), and supported in helpful planetary yogas, and placed in foundational and auspicious houses (especially the quadrants and trines), whose lord is fortified, the effects of the Sadi Sadi can be greatly moderated to yield positive results. One must also take into effect the power of the Dasa, or the planetary cycle operating at the time of the Sadi Sati. The key here is a supported Moon, and the classic texts of Vedic astrology go to great lengths to describe the yogas and the conditions that create a supported Moon. A well-placed Moon is like a foundational cornerstone that can bear the increasing weight of a great edifice over time. But if the Moon is not well-placed, it may look like a foundational cornerstone, but as the weight of life's responsibility come to bear on that stone during the duration of the Sadi Sati, it is likely to crack, resulting in the collapse of the life structure. This cracking is often seen in the results of ill health and financial issues, which have enormous socio-economic ramifications for the person and the family.
As a general rule, I have observed that if Saturn is a friend to the chart â€” that is, if he rules positive houses, and is placed in auspicious planetary yogas, then the person will likely be of a moderate nature and their grasp of reality will be clear and balanced. I have found these people to have an innate sense of their personal limits, and they do not see moderation as a form of failure. They usually do not live beyond their means and know when they are overextended and need to step back. These people slow things down when faced with the pressures and time constraints of the Sadi Sati. They live in slow time and usually do not make sudden, high-risk decisions, focusing rather on the sustainability of their existence over time. The limits of Saturn's Sadi Sati often represent a scaling back by choice or necessity, so they can serve the needs of their work and family. When adverse changes occur, they usually have the reserves to weather the storm, and more often than not, will take the long view, rather than the short term view of the situation.
I have also observed that if Saturn is not a friend to the chart â€” that is, if he rules difficult houses (especially the dustanna houses, six, eight and twelve), and is placed in challenging yogas, the person will usually be of an immoderate nature and will reach for more than they can grasp. Often, they are overextended and living beyond their means. These immoderate people usually want to speed things up when faced with the pressures and time constraints of the Sadi Sati. They live in fast time and often make sudden, high-risk decisions in the hope of a quick fix to their situation, focusing on the short term, rarely on the long term solution. I have found these people to be largely oblivious to their personal limits, and as the pressures and time constraints of the Sadi Sati present themselves, these people will often perceive themselves as victims of some imaginary conspiracy further aggravating their self-serving delusions. When challenging circumstances present themselves in the Sadi Sati they will embrace the quick fix, living in the moment solution, rarely looking ahead at the long term consequences. Sadly for these fast time people the short term solutions often lead to new problems exacerbating the sufferance that Saturn imposes.
Sadi Sati measures out the maturation of the self. Each Sadi Sati becomes a time marker that lets us know how much time is left on our personal clock. I consider it no coincidence that I was asked to write this article while deep in the Sadi Sati myself. As Saturn came to my Moon I became aware of his process and I honored this rite of passage by arranging to pay homage to the Great One himself at the BHAVA symposium in London in April of 2007. Right before I was to leave for London, my mother informed me that she just had been diagnosed with cancer. She was in her final Sadi Sati, as her birth Moon is within a degree of mine. She expressed her desire for me to continue my journey to London and to return home to see her after my lecture series in Europe. It was an extraordinary and painful privilege to lecture on the power of the Sadi Sati, while in my Sadi Sati at the time my mother's final decline. After completing the Saturn workshop, I received word that my mother was dying, and so I left London on the earliest return flight and returned to her side for her final transition. My mother was a devout Catholic, but as Saturn would have it, her hospice physician was a Hindu.
I believe we all have a choice how we are going to experience or spend the time we are given. Time, which is usually regarded as Saturn's domain, is indeed objective, but our experience of it is deeply subjective.
In the West, our modern celestial time pieces measure the flow of time in years and days and lastly seconds, or as I often hear these days, in a New York minute! In the West, we literally seem to be trying to speed up the passage of time, to do more in a given moment, as if speed had some virtue when it comes to the passage of time. We see the absurdity of this in the Olympics where often a hundred of a second separates the winners from the losers!
In ancient India, their celestial time pieces also measures the flow of time in years and days, but India's most ancient of time pieces is a water clock. It measures the flow of time like the flow of a river, as after all, India is a country of vast rivers. The basis of time in this water clock is an asu, or a prana. A prana (the breath of life) is equal to four sidereal seconds. It is a slower and a more meaningful moment to our existence than the speedy second. You cannot exist in a second, like you can exist in a breath. The Yogis of India know this truth and teach us that we all have the same number of breaths. It is how we spend them that counts. Long lived species, such as tortoises tend to breathe very slowly, while short lived species such as rabbits breathe more rapidly. The Yogis are not interested in the speeding up the breath, or the passage of time. They are interested in catching their breath, slowing down the breath, to enrich and lengthen existence when it comes to the passage of time. They are notoriously long-lived, so it must be working!
In the West, Saturn is said to rule the earth element, but in India, he is lord of air. He controls prana, so he is lord of longevity as well. Again, it is how we spend our breaths that count. Do you want to spend them slowly, or quickly? When Saturn's Sadi Sati time line comes and you see the limits of your existence, you do have a choice to slow down the passage of time. I call this awareness of time being-ness, and this awareness will come at the price of definitely doing less and accepting the limits imposed upon you. You will experience a smaller footprint of self in your outer world, as you pause to catch your breath as you withdraw more and more from the world. When Saturn's Sadi Sati time line comes and you see the limits of your existence, you do have the choice to speed up the passage of time. You can defy the speed limit of time, and you will certainly get to do more and more, in fact, in record time. I call this awareness of time doing-ness, but it will come at the price of potentially exceeding your limits. You will most definitely experience a smaller foot-print of self in your inner world that will leave you breathless as the whirl-wind of activity will push you more and more into the worldly experience. The moderate choice of course is the balance between the two, but slow time, or fast time, Saturn's Sadi Sati will make you aware of the passage of the time of your life. The choice is yours on whether you want to Do more in your given moment of time, or Be more in your given moment of time. Saturn will not let you have it both ways.
The Greatness of Saturn. Robert Swoboda. Sadhana Publication,1997.
Gandhi's Passion. Stanley Wolpert. Oxford University Press, 2001.
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