Tibetan Astrology

- by Michael Erlewine

[Author's Note: I must thank Noel Tyl for providing me the opportunity to make this material available. I have been sitting on much of this information for many years, yet I knew that others might like to know something about Tibetan astrology and carry on from there.

As you will read, my interest in this subject has been superseded by my interest in the psychology out of which it arises, and I have turned my attention there. My apologies for what is, by necessity, a brief and somewhat fragmented presentation. Astrology awaits a real scholar who will document the intricate details of Tibetan astrology and who will not just use it as a stepping stone to the Buddhist teachings. For me, the need for what the astrology pointed toward was more important than pursuing the astrology itself. My most sincere thanks to Khenpo Karthar, Rinpoche and the other Karma Kagyu lamas who answered my many questions, and to John Reynolds, and Sange Wangchuk.]

I feel it necessary to start this discussion of Tibetan astrology by describing several concepts that readers will need to better understand this material. Please bear with me.

Most valid astrological techniques are the residue of a particular insight or astrological experience. After the initial fire of the original insight is gone (the realization), what remains is a practical technique or method to capture or recreate that experience on paper. Many of us use techniques of which we have never had realization and for which we have never been empowered. We are lucky if we get realization on even several of the many techniques that we use. That's just the way it is.

To realize a technique in the truest sense, we somehow have to become empowered in the actual experience. With the help of a book or teacher and a lot of concentration, sooner or later we hope to find our way to the experience itself and actually have that experience. At that point we can begin to use the technique in something more than a rote or mechanical fashion, for we have realized it. This is even more true when it comes to a whole new kind of astrology, such as that which the Tibetans are using. Tibet, the so-called spiritual and physical "roof of the world," has been the source for much inspiration to Westerners for over two centuries. More than just an East-West sort of thing, Tibetan astrology is inextricably bound to Tibetan Buddhism. With few exceptions, the primary practicing astrologers in Tibet were and are Buddhist monks. To learn something about one is to learn something about the other. You can not skim the astrology off the top of the Tibetan Buddhism. So, to get to the astrology, you have to negotiate the Buddhist psychology in which it resides.

Because of this fact, I feel it is important to give readers some idea of how I became interested in Tibetan astrology. Also, since it is impossible to separate Tibetan astrology from Tibetan Buddhism, it may be important for you to understand something about the Buddhism itself, and how it relates to the astrology.

My interest in all of this stretches back to the 1950s and the beat movement -- Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, etc. These writers helped to introduce Buddhism to many of us at that time. Writers like Allan Watts and D.T. Suzuki, who wrote and spoke on Buddhism, introduced a whole generation to the subject. In the late 50s and very early 60s, Buddhism appeared as one interesting philosophical view among many others, such as Existentialism and the beat movement itself. Buddhism at that time (of the Allan Watts variety) was very intellectual and philosophical -- something to think about. Almost none of us made the connection that Buddhist thought was not just something else to think or philosophize about, but, rather a path or dharma, something to do -- to put into action. This came much later.

It is important to make clear that Buddhism is not a religion in the ordinary sense. Although I have worked with it for many years, I have never considered myself as religious. What I am interested in is psychology -- the human psyche. In fact, my interest in astrology itself can be traced to an interest in the psyche -- how the mind and its experience work.

In the early 70s, Buddhism took the next step to being understood when the works of the Tibetan lama Chogyam Trungpa became available. His book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism is the chief example of what I am pointing toward -- a practical Buddhism. With Trungpa came the end of Tibetan Buddhism of the through-a-glass-darkly variety. Previous to Trungpa, most insight into the Buddhism of Tibet came through writers like Alexandra David-Neal, T. Lobsang Rampa, T. Evans-Wentz, and the writers on esoteric Buddhism like H.P. Blavatsky and C.W. Leadbeater. There was little or no mention of Tibetan astrology. These were Westerners who could not help but put their own spin on the subject. Trungpa ended that.

Chogyam Trungpa made it very clear that Buddhism was not something to think about, but a path, something very practical to do and put into practice. Buddhism was a way of handling our experience and this world -- a dharma path. This came as almost total news to those of us brought up through the late 50s and 60s.

I met Chogyam Trungpa early in 1974 when I helped to bring him to Ann Arbor, Michigan to speak. From the moment of meeting him, suffice it to say that I got a very different take on Buddhism. Which leads me to the other main point that I must present before we can discuss Tibetan astrology, and that is meditation.

Prior to meeting Trungpa, I had the (quite common) idea that meditation was a method to relax around, a way to get away from the chaos of day-to-day life -- a form of stress management. I had never found the time nor interest for it.

No sooner had I met Trungpa than he took me into a room with him, closed the door, and proceeded to show me how to meditate, although he didn't call it that. At the time, I don't believe I was able to grasp what was going on. It was only much later that I realized what happened on that day. What I experienced then were some real answers to questions that had always tortured me -- questions about death, about letting go, things like that. Trungpa pointed out what awareness looked and acted like. I watched him enjoying and using the mind in a multitude of ways that I had never known as possibilities. He demonstrated that the mind and awareness could be developed and practiced. Intuition, or true insight, could be developed.

Meditation has to do with developing intuition, learning to connect with ourselves, and the taking possession or advantage of our current situation -- whatever it happens to be. From that day in 1974, I began to connect with myself and the explore the so-called outer world in a somewhat different way.

What I am getting at here is that the primary tool for learning astrology in the Tibetan system is not a set of ephemerides, a series of calculations, and research in books. Instead, it involves establishing this inner connectivity -- call it intuition, meditation, mind practice, mind training, whatever.

Here in the West, learning astrology is often centered around learning the various correspondences between terms, like: Aries relates to Mars, relates to the Ascendant, relates to the first house, and so on. If you can't get into learning about astrological correspondences, then you are going to have real difficulty grasping classic western astrology. Well, in Tibetan astrology, the primary educational tool is learning to use your intuition in a direct and practical way. This is called mind practice or, most often, just meditation. If you approach the Tibetan lamas, you will not find easy access to their astrological teachings without this very basic mind training.

It is not because these matters are in any way secret, but rather because we may lack the essential tool for grasping them -- awareness and an active intuition. In this sense, they are what has been termed self-secret. Their sheer simplicity, openess, and directness is closed to us because of our own inherent confusion and complexity. What to do.

I can well remember my own first meeting with a Tibetan lama when I asked about their astrological tradition. I had just driven 800 miles during the coldest day of the year, and with my entire family. Having arrived at the top of a mountain in the dark of night, I was ushered into a small room for a very brief interview. I explained my interest in astrology, and the fact that I had worked for so very many years in this field. I was hoping somehow to be able to skip "Meditation 101" and enter one of the more advanced practices. What the lama said to me was that, although he could see that I had never harmed anyone with my astrology, still, in this area it was best for me to start at the very beginning point with meditation. He explained what I should do. And then he was gone.

We left and that night my family and myself were sheltered in a tiny motel room with one small wall heater. The night was bitter cold. It was in that moment that I had to decide to accept his advice and start at the very beginning or follow my pride and refuse to admit that, after all my years of spiritual work, I would have to go to that very first step to begin. I am forever grateful that I was able to admit that I knew nothing about mind practice and began at the beginning.

Mind Practice

As mentioned, mind practice is not much known here in the West. I mean, how many people do you know who practice using their mind anyway? Most of us assume that the mind is perfectly usable just as we find it, and doesn't require any practice. I know very few westerners who are aware that they are not aware of how to use the mind.

In the East, mind practice is not only acceptable, it is pretty much obligatory. This is true for countries like Tibet, Nepal, much of India, and even parts of China and Japan. Over there, the mind is considered by nature to be unruly and hard to manage. No one would think of trying to do much with it without considerable practice. Mind practice or mind preparation or training, as it is sometimes called, is standard fare in the Orient.

We might wonder why this style of mind practice has never caught on in North America. In part, this is due to our whole take on meditation and what we think that it is. Meditation in the West has come to mean something almost like relaxation therapy, a way to relax and get away from it all -- a way to escape the worries of the world in the contemplation of some inner landscape.

Of course this is nothing like the Tibetan or Zen concepts of mind practice or mind preparation, which involve the intense use of the mind. It is unfortunate that this very active mind practice has also come under the general label of meditation here in the West. Having pointed this out, it may be helpful to clarify and describe what it is that the Tibetan Buddhists (and other groups too) do when they sit down on their cushions. In general, if you ask them what they are doing on their cushions, the answer will be that they are "practicing," or they are "sitting." Indeed, that is what takes place. They sit.

There are many Tibetan words for the different kinds of mind practice that are possible (scores), while in the West we have just the one word: meditation. What then is mind practice?

As pointed out, the most important difference between sitting practice (mind practice) and meditation as it is understood in this country, is that mind practice is anything but relaxing or passive. It is very active, involves intense concentration and patience, and is not something acquired overnight.

The actual technique is quite simple, taking only a few minutes to learn. And it is worth getting this instruction from someone authorized to give it. In this way, you have an authentic connection handed down in an unbroken line reaching back at least 1500 years. Feel free to write me for a list of centers (Tibetan, Zen, Hindu, etc.) where you can get the instruction.

To wrap up my personal history on this subject: As an astrologer who was also now studying Buddhist psychology, I continued to be fascinated by Tibetan astrology. My reasoning went something along the lines of: if their psychology was so powerful (which it indeed was), their astrology must also reflect this as well. I read through all of the various Buddhist scholarly works in which astrology was mentioned finding only an occasional few words and the odd diagram here or there. There was no sense of any comprehensive understanding.

I then met John Reynolds, an American who was studying Tibetan Buddhism and who also had an interest in Tibetan Astrology. He spoke and read Tibetan, fluently. I set up a workshop here at Matrix and John came and gave a seminar on Tibetan astrology in the early 1980s. I learned a lot from meeting Reynolds, but most of all I remember John's words to me. He said that, in order to learn Tibetan astrology, you had to learn the Buddhist psychology around which it was based. He confided to me that the Buddhist psychology was much more interesting than the astrology and that he had become fascinated with that, leaving the astrology somewhat unfinished. "Interesting," said I.

My next step was to invite Nepalese Sange Wangchuk to come and reside at our center in 1985. Wangchuk, a former monk and skilled calligrapher and artist, was fluent in five languages, including Tibetan and even ancient Sanskrit. Today he is director of the National Library of Bhutan. Sange Wangchuk spent 2 1/2 years with us and, during that time, we translated a lot of Tibetan astrology from the original manuscripts. This really helped me fill in many of the blanks. But, like John Reynolds, I was becoming increasingly seduced by the Buddhist psychology at the expense of the astrology. There is no doubt about the fact that, if it is personal results you are interested in, the Tibetan Buddhist psychological teachings are the very essence of that of which astrologers dream. By this time, our center here in Big Rapids had become one of the primary centers in North America for the translation and transcription of Buddhist texts of the Karma Kagyu tradition. We have maintained a full-time staff on this subject since 1986. Or, as one Tibetan lama put it to me: "Michael, astrology is one of the limbs of the yoga, but not the root or trunk itself." The Buddhist psychological teachings themselves are the root, and these profound teachings are deserving of the respect they inspire. They have value because they help an individual orient himself within their current situation and begin to take action of a clarifying and creative nature.

So, there you have my background. I continue to work on the development of clarity and intuition through various methods of mind practice or meditation. Like John Reynolds, I have traced the astrology back to the ground of Buddhist psychology out of which it arose. That psychology is a precious teaching.

I will now try to share with you some of the basic elements of Tibetan astrology. Of course, there is far too little room here to offer more than a brief snapshot of this fascinating subject. I apologize in advance to those scholars (who will one day make this subject very clear to all of us) for any mistakes in presentation that I may make.

Tibetan Astrology

The Tibetan system of astrology is a combination of Indian and Chinese methods, the greater and most essential (spiritual) part being taken from the Chinese, and with the technical element coming from the Indian system. The Indian or technical part (ephemerides, lunar tables, etc.) is called Kar-Tsi and the Chinese or spiritual part, is called jung-tsi.

The Tibetans, who are short on calculation ability, borrow whatever planetary tables they use from the Indians, and don't depend upon these planetary ephemerides for much of their system. They make great use of the 12-year cycle of the animal signs plus the five-fold element sequence as used in the various forms of Chinese astrology (Jung-Tsi). The Kar-Tsi came from the Indian system, along with the Kalachakra system. The quintessential portion of the Indian system of value to the Tibetans is the division of the lunar month into 30 equal parts, called tithis in the Indian system.

Tibetan astrology is lunar-based, with the Sun (and all the planets) taking a secondary position to the Moon. As proof of this, witness the fact that your Tibetan birthday is not your solar birthday (or yearly return), but the lunar phase-angle day on which you were born. Thus you would celebrate your birthday on that 25th (or whatever) day of the lunar month you were born in.

Astrologers in general seem to love to manipulate cycles and numbers. The Tibetans, even lacking planetary calculations, make up for it with the manipulation of the various cycles they do use. In Tibetan astrology, numbers are counted forward, backward, and around in many different combinations. It is complicated enough so that not everyone can do it. It requires an astrologer. In fact, it is ironic that astrology, East and West, seems to be just complicated enough that the average person can't do it for themselves and requires some expert to do it for them. Although my experience with the system is not that great, it is enough to assure me that the net result of the Tibetan calculation is quite similar in effect or portent to Western methods. In other words, the amount of information or life direction (if you will) is of the same caliber (and quantity) as similar material here in the West.

The chief exception to this generalization is the use of the lunar cycle in day-to-day life. It is here that the Tibetan system excels and has a great deal to offer Westerners, while here in the West the awareness of the lunar cycle has been lost or trivialized. It is interesting to note that, although few high lamas that I have met make much use of the cycle of the signs, elements, parkhas and mewas that I shall present(some do), they all seem to depend upon the cycle of the lunar days for creating their practice and teaching calendars. In other words, much of Tibetan astrology is considered non-essential or of secondary importance to the Buddhist practitioner. However, this opinion does not extend to the lunar cycle, which is accorded much attention.

The Lunar Cycle and Lunar Gaps

The phases of the Moon have been observed for ages. The Moon, from a Sanskrit term for measure, is still the primary means by which the majority of the people in the world (even in this 20th century!) measure time and the events in their own lives. Although measuring time and life by the Moon is ancient, it is not just some primitive sort of clock. The very sophisticated concept of lunar gaps springs from centuries of painstaking psychological observation by the lamas of Tibet, and the Hindu sages. They practice it today with the same vigor and intensity as they did a thousand years ago. Unlike many other traditions, where the line of successors (lineage) has been broken due to various events, the dharma and astrological tradition of Tibet remains pure and unbroken to this day.

Although much of the Tibetan dharma tradition requires dedication and intense practice, learning to use the Moon's phases and the concept of lunar gaps is easy to get into. The theory is simple.

It involves the ongoing relationship between the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth -- the monthly cycle of the phases of the Moon. We already know about the Moon cycle, and can even walk outside at night and see which lunar phase we are in.

This is not the place (and I am not the expert) to describe to you either the very complicated astronomical motions these three heavenly bodies produce, or the profound theories of what all of this motion means in a philosophical sense. What is quite accessible is the concept of lunar gaps.

As we know, the Moon cycle goes through its phases from New Moon to Full Moon, back to New Moon in a cycle of about one month, some 30 days. This is seen as an ongoing cycle of activity -- endless in extent. It goes on forever.

However, although the Moon cycle is unending, it does have distinct phases, like the Full Moon, New Moon, quarters, and so on. In Tibet and India, the monthly lunar cycle is divided into 30 parts called lunar days. There are thirty lunar days (cumulative 12-degree angular separations of the Sun and Moon) starting from the New Moon (considered the 30th day), counting through the waxing half of the Moon cycle to the Full Moon (start of of the 15th day) and on around through the waning cycle, back to the New Moon again.

What is interesting about how the lamas (and most Hindus, too) view this 30-day cycle is that the 30 lunar days are not considered of equal importance. The monthly cycle has very definite points in it of increased importance -- lunar gaps. It is at these lunar gaps or openings that it is possible to get special insight into different areas of our own life. In fact, the Tibetans take full advantage of these lunar gaps to perform very specific practices. That is, certain of the lunar days have proven themselves to be auspicious for particular kinds of activities.

In the East, they speak of mental obscurations that tend to cloud our minds, but that can sometimes clear up, just as the Sun comes out from behind the clouds. These moments of clarity are the gaps in the clouds. From a reading of the Eastern literature on this subject, one gets the sense that (in general) life is perceived as being filled with the noise of our own problems (obscurations), making clear insight often difficult. These obscurations can be many and their accumulation amounts to the sum total of our ignorance -- that which we ignore.

Therefore, in Eastern countries, these articulation points or windows in time/space (lunar gaps) are very much valued. In fact, the Eastern approach is to analyze the lunar cycle, in minute detail, in order to isolate these moments (gaps in time/space) where insight into our larger situation can be gained. Much of day-to-day practice in Eastern religions amounts to a scheduling of precise times for personal practice or activity built around the natural series of gaps that can be found in the continuous lunar cycle. In its own way, this is a very scientific approach. In the East, they have been astute observers of the mind for many centuries.

Here in the West, we are no stranger to clear days in our mind. We have those too! The only difference, is that we tend to believe that these so-called clear days appear randomly -- every now and then. The more sophisticated (and ancient) psychological analysis of the East has found that these clear days are (for the most part) anything but random events. They have their own internal ordering, and often times this ordering can be associated with the phases of the Moon.

In summary, there are times each month when it is more auspicious or appropriate to perform or be involved in one kind (or another) of activity. There come gaps in the general obscuration or cloudiness of our mind when we can see through the clouds -- when penetrating insight is possible.

As noted, times when one can see without obscuration (see clearly) are very much valued in the Tibetan dharma tradition. These are viewed as real opportunities for insight and the subsequent development such insight generates. Knowing when and where to look for these insight gaps has been the subject of study and research in Tibet for centuries.

And this is not just academic research. Lunar gaps are used to plan a wide variety of events in the Tibetan calendar, everything from finding a time to perform a simple healing ceremony to full scale empowerments.

Aside from knowing when these lunar gaps can be experienced, the other major thing to know about this subject is what to do when the gaps occur. As you might imagine, there are a wide range of practices, depending on the particular lunar gap (phase) and the personal needs of the practitioner.

However, in general, these lunar gap times are set aside for special observation. Tibetans observe these days with great attention and care. In fact, until recently in many Eastern countries, they didn't have Saturday and Sunday off. Instead, new and Full Moon days are considered holy days (holidays), and normal routines were suspended at these times. These days were set aside for observation.

This word "observation" is worth mentioning, for this is what takes place at these times. In the West, we might use the word insight or meditation. In Tibet there are many words that come under the general concept of meditation. The word "observe" is a lot closer to what happens during these lunar gaps. Observe the nature of the day. Observe your mind at that time. Be alert, present, and set that time aside for just examining yourself, your mind, the time -- what-have-you? It is while being present -- observing these seed times -- that the so-called lunar gap can present itself. Many great dharma teachers have pointed out the existence of gaps in our life, moments when clarity and real insight is possible.

And lest we get too far afield sitting there waiting for a gap in time or space to occur, let me restate: The gap that appears is a gap in our particular set of obscurations, our own cloudiness. When such a gap takes place, there can be an intense insight into some aspect of our situation, the effects of which stay with us for a long time. One moment of real insight or vision can take weeks or months to examine in retrospect. Each time we bring it to mind, it's richness is such that it continues to be a source of inspiration. This is what lunar gaps are all about.

At this point, it is hoped that you have some general idea of what lunar gaps are and how you might go about taking advantage of them. It remains to give you a schedule of when they will occur.

Below you will find a list of the major lunar days in the Tibetan practice calendar for the coming months. There are still further divisions that we have not included here, to keep this simple. Those of you who are interested can write us for more details. However, these are the days observed by most Tibetan lamas in one form or another.

These lunar opportunities are sometimes referred to as gaps or openings in the otherwise continuous stream of our lives -- windows. They conceive of these gaps as articulation points, much like an elbow is where the arm is articulated. They are natural joints or gaps in time/space upon which time and space turn and through which it is sometimes possible to gain access to information about the larger, dynamic life process that already encapsulates us. Among other things, I have made a detailed lunar calendar available for many years. See the end of this article details how to obtain one.

Special Lunar Days

Dharma Protector Days -- Both East and West lunar traditions agree that the 2 or 3 days preceding the moment of the New Moon can be difficult ones, which require special observation. In the West these days have been called the dark of the Moon, or devil's days -- days when the so-called darker forces are said to have power. Both traditions affirm that we sort of survive these final days each month. Check it out for yourself. The three days before New Moon can be a hard time. The East is in total agreement on this point, and the days prior to New Moon are set aside for invoking the fierce dharma protectors, those energies that ward off harm and protect us during the worst of times.

In particular, the 29th day (the day before New Moon) is called dharma protector day. It is a time given over to purification and preparation for the moment of New Moon. Ritual fasting, confession of errors, and the like are common practices. Purification Days -- In a similar vein, the days just prior to the Full Moon (the 13th and 14th) are also days of purification, days in which the various guardian and protector deities are again invoked, but in a somewhat more restrained way. For example, the 14th day is often given over to fire puja -- a ritual purification. In summary, during days prior to full and New Moons, there is some attempt at purification, both physical and mental, in preparation for those auspicious events.

Full and New Moons -- It is clear from the literature that the times of the new and Full Moon are considered of great importance. These days are set aside for special rituals and worship. As pointed out, full and New Moon (full more than new) are times of collective worship and public confession. In many traditions, the monks and priests assemble for a day of special observance. In the East, the Full Moon celebration and the entire waxing lunar fortnight are oriented to the masculine element in consciousness, what are called the father-line deities. The New Moon and the waning fortnight are given over to the mother-line deities and the feminine element. The Full Moon completes the masculine, or active, waxing phase of the cycle, and the New Moon completes the feminine, waning phase of the month. To my knowledge, this kind of analysis does not exist in the West.

It is quite clear from the Eastern teachings that the moments of full and New Moon are times when the various channels in the psychophysical body are somehow aligned. This is not to say the new or Full Moon days are days of peace and quiet. It is taught in the East that, although a new or Full Moon day may tend to be wild or hectic, any patience or forbearance we can muster at that time will be much rewarded. In other words, there can be deep insights available to us at these times.

Eclipses -- According to these same teachings, an eclipse at the full or New Moon is even more auspicious. In the teachings it is said that, during these very special events, both male and female energies (channels) are in simultaneous alignment -- the ultimate opportunity. The lunar cycle and its effects and opportunities have been analyzed in great detail in the Eastern teaching.

Feast Days -- Aside from the new and Full Moon, the two most auspicious lunar days in the East are the 10th and the 25th. The 10th day (120° of angular separation), called Daka Day, is considered auspicious for invoking the father-line deities -- the masculine. The 25th day (300° of angular separation), called Dakini Day, is given over to the feminine principle and the mother-line deities, in general. These two days, the 10th and the 25th, are formal feast days, days of observation when extra offerings are made and increased attention given to what is happening. There is some sense of celebration at these points in the month. In many respects, these two days even rival the new and Full Moon days in importance. The fact is that these four days (new, full, 10th, 25th) are the primary auspicious days as practiced in many Eastern rituals.

Healing Days -- There are many other days of lesser importance, which might also interest Western astrologers. Health and healing are important in Eastern ritual, and the 8th and 23rd days of the lunar month are auspicious for this purpose. It is these days that straddle the first and last lunar quarters. The 8th day (96° of separation) is often called Medicine Buddha Day. Again this occurs in the male, or father-line, half of the month. The 23rd day (276° of separation), occurring in the feminine half of the month, is dedicated to Tara practice. Tara is the female deity connected to health, long life, and healing in general.

More Protector days -- Earlier we mentioned the days given over to purification, most prominently the 13th and the 29th. In addition, on a lesser scale, the 9th and the 19th days are also noted as days when the protector deities should be invoked and kept in mind. These, too, are days of purification. And there are more, still finer subdivisions that are made.

Major Elements of Tibetan Astrology

The manipulation of the animal signs, elements, parkhas, mewas, etc. (presented below) takes considerable skill in calculation and, as might be expected, even more expertise when it comes to interpretation. The net result is a somewhat complex system that does claim to explain the status quo, but, like its Western counterpart, allows so much interpretation that hard and fast conclusions can seldom be drawn. As far as I can determine, you can't predict the stock market with it.

In many ways, astrology (East and West) amounts to little more than a grand set of worry beads, the manipulation of which is somehow comforting to those of us who make use of it. One wonders, considering the amount of calculation involved (the work put into it), if the average astrologer comes out with more return for their time investment than they put into the effort. In other words, does the system work for us, or do we, in truth, end up working for the system. I am not at all pessimistic about all of this, but this is an area that has received very little comment. In the last analysis, it is a fact that we astrologers like to do this sort of thing.

There is another factor in Eastern astrology that deserves general comment. It has been the view of Western observers that the East has a tendency toward fatalism and resignation to what fate has delivered to them. I was interested to note that most of the Tibetan lamas and teachers that I met were not all that interested in astrology outside of using the lunar cycle to plan and time events.

To the Buddhist mind, personality makeup is not of great importance. For, no matter what that makeup, good or bad, the remedy remains the same: mind practice of one form or another. In fact, throughout the East, you do not find the interest in personality psychology that we have here in the West. The reason is clear to anyone who has studied Eastern philosophy. They have no need to flirt with the deeper areas of the mind, but have long ago been introduced to them, and take them as a matter of course. Keep in mind that reincarnation is the accepted belief system in both India and Tibet and, for that matter, the greater part of the world. They have, as a standing belief, what we have as yet to accept -- the continuity of consciousness.

Here in the West, this awareness of cycles is not self-evident to the majority. As astrologers, we attempt to bring it to the public's attention. Yet as a society, we have yet to come to such a conclusion, much less push toward a solution. Buddhist countries, long trained in the analysis of emotions and desires, have little interest in re-examining emotional and personality issues, which have been clarified in ancient times. Instead, the interest in expanding the awareness of the person (happy or sad) beyond such personal issues, and focusing on the root of our problems and sufferings is assumed. Everyone over there knows this from childhood. Any Western astrologer can easily check this out for himself by doing an astrological reading for an East Indian. They are not remotely interested in the psychological observations that fascinate us here in the West. Soul, spirit, unity, are already their old friends. Their response to our psychological pap is "Yes, yes, yes... please get on to something of importance, like exactly how many children will I have, and what will their sexes be." Or, "How much money will I make this year and when."

There is no point in hinting to a Tibetan or Hindu that consciousness may extend beyond this life or that he is one with the creative forces. That is already a given, a fact upon which they have depended all of their lives. The psychological crib out of which we Westerners are just learning to climb (when it comes to the mind), the continuity of consciousness, and all that these thoughts suggest is old news in India and Tibet.

The fact that the whole world is, in reality, our personal mandala and that everything that appears to us as a sign from the cosmos, may be a revelation to a New Yorker, but not so for a resident of Katmandu or Delhi. While here in this country we continue to explore our psychological infancy, this holds little interest for those from the East. With this said, let us look at some of the main elements of Tibetan astrology.

Outline of Major Tibetan Techniques

Here are several of the major calculation techniques used by the Tibetan astrologer. Space does not allow either a more general discussion or a point by point elaboration of many of these. At minimum, I will try to present enough of the bare-bone basics so that those of you interested in exploring the subject can do your own calculations.

Before we launch into the techniques that will be presented, I want to mention an area I won't be presenting here, due to space considerations: the Nakshatras or 28 lunar mansions. This technique has been taken directly from the Indian system, and I refer you to one of the many books on that subject. Since I use my own birthdate in some examples, it was July 18, 1941.

0. Cosmic Tortoise Diagram

1. The Wheel of the Twelve Signs

  • Century Birth Animal Table
  • Sign Polarity
  • Triangles (THUN-SUN)
  • Opposites (PHUNG-SUN, DUN-ZUR)
  • Brief Sign Descriptions
  • Sign Power

2. The Five Elements

  • Relationship Table
  • Good, Friends, Filial, Antagonistic

3. Major Life Factors

  • Life Force
  • Power
  • Bodily Health
  • Luck
  • Soul

4. Tibetan Yearly Calendar

  • Months of the Year
  • Days of the Month
  • Hour of the Day

5. The Eight Parkhas

  • Four Good Directions
  • Four Bad Directions
  • Month's Direction
  • Descending Parkhas
  • Birth Parkha
  • Gu-Mik (9th Spot)
  • Dur-Mik (Death Spot)

6. The Nine Mewas

  • The Magic Square
  • Birth Mewa
  • Descending Mewa
  • Daily Mewa
  • Nine Mewas Described

7. LOG-MEN (not turning back)

8. DEU

9. Day of the Week Cycles

10. Lunar Related Data

  • Lunar Day of the Month
  • Lunar Days for Travel
  • Losar




14. The Seven Obstacles

15. The Four Mewa Obstacles

Turtle's Head

Yellow South South Yellow
Earth FireRed Earth
Dragon Snake Hare Sheep
Earth WaterBlueEarth

Diagrams, like the above, are common in writings on Tibetan astrology. Often this diagram is shown drawn on the underside of what is called the Celestial Tortoise. This tortoise represents the universe of both China and Tibet. The upper shell is the dome of Heaven, while on the underside is inscribed the essential elements of the astrological mandala. The above diagram contains the wheel of animal signs, the elements, directions/colors.

The Wheel of the Twelve Signs

The wheel of the animal zodiac is ancient, arising somewhere in central Asia, and later incorporated by the Chinese. The calendar used by the Chinese is said to have entered Tibet in the year 642 AD by the Chinese Princess Kong-jo, who married the first Buddhist King of Tibet.

The Tibetan wheel of twelve animals, with its twelvefold division, reminds us of its Western counterpart, the zodiac. Unlike the West, where people's signs are determined by the solar calendar, in the East your sign is determined according to which year one is born in. The cycle of twelve animals rotates in strict succession from year to year. The order of the animals is Mouse, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Bird, Dog, and Pig. Each animal sign has its own qualities, which are well-known to the general public. Here are some examples:

Find your birth year and animal sign:

Mouse 1900 1912 1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996
Ox 1901 1913 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997
Tiger 1902 1914 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998
Hare 1903 1915 1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999
Dragon 1904 1916 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000
Snake 1905 1917 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001
Horse 1906 1918 1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002
Sheep 1907 1919 1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003
Monkey 1908 1920 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004
Bird 1909 1921 1933 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005
Dog 1910 1922 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006
Pig 1911 1923 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007

However, please note that these years are not measured from either your birthday or from January 1 of any year. Instead, they are measured from the beginning of the Tibetan new year, a fluctuating point that marks the New Moon that is nearest to the beginning of February. It is important to note that on occasion, the start of the Tibetan and Chinese New Years differ by an entire month!

The animal of one's birth year is central to both the Tibetan and Chinese systems of calculation, and is the most common form of counting time. The twelve-year animal cycle repeats itself from year to year. Just as we might inquire about a person's Sun sign, in the East they want to know what animal sign were you born under. There are male and female signs:

Sign Polarity

Male Animal Signs Female Animal Signs
Mouse Ox
Tiger Hare
Dragon Snake
Horse Sheep
Monkey Bird
Dog Pig

Triangles (THUN-SUN), Opposites (Phung-Sun, DUN-ZUR)

The Chinese call them the three friends, but the Tibetans call them the three destroyers. The triangles or Thun-Sun (three corners) are:

3 Friends = Pig Sheep Hare
3 Friends = Tiger Horse Dog
3 Friends = Mouse Dragon Monkey
3 Friends = Bird Ox Snake


The worst or opposites (Dun-zur: which means 7th corner or opposite) are:

Sign DUN-ZUR (Opposite Sign)
Horse Mouse
Ox Sheep
Tiger Monkey
Hare Bird
Dog Dragon
Snake Pig


Shi-Shey (enemy of the 4th one): In addition the 4th sign over from any given sign (either way) is called Shi-Shey and that is bad too. The rest of the relationships of the signs are O.K. (such as triangles).

Sign SHI-SHEY (4th Sign)
Snake Monkey, Tiger
Horse Bird, Hare
Sheep Dog, Dragon
Monkey Pig, Snake
Bird Mouse, Horse
Dog Ox, Sheep
Pig Tiger, Monkey
Mouse Hare, Bird
Ox Dragon, Dog
Tiger Snake, Pig
Hare Horse, Mouse
Dragon Sheep, Ox

Animal Signs

Each of the Tibetan signs, like our Western zodiac signs, has its own qualities. Here is a very brief description of the twelve signs as taken from some of the Tibetan manuscripts.

Mouse. The mouse is quiet. He is not friendly or outgoing and tends to be stable. He is not rough. Even though he does good to others, others don't seem to respond. On the outside, he is open and relaxed in appearance, but inside he is very strong and critical. Very open-mouthed, he says what he thinks. He is kind, but not generous. He misses the big opportunities, and takes the small ones. He is always searching.

Ox. The ox is a difficult person. He is hard to get to work, and is not obedient. He likes to sleep. He often exhibits bad behavior. While it is hard to change him, he is most often an agreeable person. However his slogan is "Don't mess with me!" He is very slow and doesn't care much if things are satisfactory or not. He postpones everything. He is good-tempered. He likes to eat and sleep like a bull.

Tiger. The tiger is brave, active and bright. Always proud and loyal to close relatives, he tends to have rough behavior and speech. He does a lot of thinking. He likes gambling and makes a good businessman.

Hare. "I am just for myself." The hare is independent, and does not need or ask others for their help. "I can survive. There is much opportunity in the world to be enjoyed. I am satisfied with that." He tends to be indirect, devious and possibly dishonest, but always skillful. He is stingy, but smiles and is generous on the surface. Possible diseases include those of the stomach and gall bladder.

Dragon. The dragon is neither brave nor active, but is good. He never does bad. "I am not very powerful, but nobody harms me." He does not make much effort, but also does not procrastinate, or put things off. When the time comes, he does his duty. He has a short temper, but is good minded. He is talkative. He listens to others talk. He has trouble containing himself. He has less disease than some of the other signs but if he gets sick, it can be serious.

Snake. The snake has a bad temper, and is always burning his own mind-stream. However, he has a good heart and is very optimistic or forward minded. Even if others are jealous of him, no one has the power to put him down. He can, however, destroy himself. He may have a somewhat rough character, and can be mean. Once his mind is made up, he won't change it. He tends to diseases of the stomach and liver.

Horse. The horse is said to have miraculous power and is capable of great effort. Even though 1000 enemies chase him, he cannot be defeated. His older life will be better than his youth. He listens to others. He likes horses. He is a fast walker and enjoys play. He has a self-sacrificing character and always helps others. He needs little sleep. His life has a lot of ups and downs.

Sheep. The sheep does not talk much and tends not to be not too bright. He can be a rough character. He likes to eat. He causes others no harm, but does not sacrifice himself for them either. He is generally good tempered and good hearted. Always relaxed, he does not rush. He is not lazy, but can't—get—things done on time. He does not show either like or dislike. He is a good provider.

Monkey. Monkeys are very smart, not very talkative and tend to have bad tempers. They have lightweight, weak bodies. They are not always open minded and are said to have "small" mind power. Not noted for their sense of responsibility, they like to play and enjoy themselves. Their words are not to be trusted and they talk, gossip and lie too much -- surface oriented. They look clean but tend to eat dirty things. Very ambitious, they always have great plans. They like to praise themselves.

Bird. It is easy for the bird to loose his possessions, legacy, inheritance, what-have-you? They are always advising others, but seldom take their own advice. Possessing a very strong sexual desire, they always need company. They like to be neat and clean, and don't require much sleep. They are prone to blindness. They love style, dressing up and tend to smile a lot. They enjoy walking and stylish movement. Good with friends.

Dog. The dog is proud, mean and somewhat wrathful. He can't seem to get kindness from others no matter how hard he tries. He is self-interested, does only for himself, and never for others. His mind is always filled with lots of thoughts. He tries to do things right, but they tend turn to out bad or wrong. He likes meat. He is a fast walker. Very sexual. A traveler. He is high or good minded, and elegant people tend to like him.

Pig. The pig is not bright. He likes to eat but is not concerned with what type of food. He eats everything. He likes yoga. He has good self-discipline. Can be greedy and often takes advantage of others. He does not benefit himself. He lies. He has a big stomach. He is good with the good people, and bad with he bad people. He seldom smiles and is often mean. He can be a rough character.

Power of the Signs

The signs have different power or importance as shown in the table below. By far, the most important are the first four, which are similar to what are called cardinal signs in Western astrology. These signs rule the four major directions as follows: Tiger (East), Pig (North), Monkey (West), and Snake (South).

Signs Power
Tiger, Monkey, Pig, Snake Best
Mouse, Horse, Bird, Hare Next-best
Ox, Sheep, Dragon, Dog Lowest

The Five Elements

The five elements are taken from the Chinese astrological system, for which there are a number of books and articles. Although somewhat similar to elements as used in western astrology, the five elements of Eastern astrology are much more defined and depended upon. They are a major factor in Tibetan astrology. Like the animals signs, the elements also rotate in strict sequence from year to year, but unlike the signs each element holds for two years before changing. Thus the elements and signs rotate in combination, the total cycle taking sixty years.

Wood (air) : Long-life, beauty, good or increasing energy, mental energy, changeable, not-stable.

Fire: Strong, instant, hot, warmth.

Earth: Stable, strength, ground.

Iron: Strong, cutting, direct, weapon, changing. (similar to earth)

Water: Soft, fluid, clear-seeing, flowing, smooth. Often connected to the blood and emotional concerns.

Element Color BodyFunction
Wood (Shing) Green VeinsCause to Grow
Fire (me) Red Warmth, Heat To Burn
Earth (SA) Yellow Flesh Stabilize
Iron (Chak) White Bones Hardening
Water (Chu) Blue Blood Moistening

Each year is assigned an element. These elements rotate in a particular order. Each year's element is the son of the previous year's. In other words, the previous year is considered to be the mother of the following year. Another way to say the same thing is that the element for the current year is the son of the previous year.

Relationship Table:

The table shown below is read as follows: Wood is Mother of Fire, Fire is the Son of Wood and... Water is the enemy of Fire and Fire is Water's friend.

Mother Friend Son Enemy
Wood is Mother of Fire Fire is Friend of Water Fire is Son of Wood Water is Enemy of Fire
Wood Fire Wood Fire
Fire Water Fire Water
Earth Earth Earth Earth
Iron Wood Iron Wood
Water Iron Water Iron

Element Relationship Pecking Order:

There are preferred relationships between the elements. Mother is the best because then you are the Son. Son is the next best. Friend is less important, but acceptable. Enemy is, as might be expected, not so good.

Element Togetherness:

Certain elements go (or do not go) well together. Earth and Water are good, while Wood, Iron and Fire (in combination) are not as good.

Good Relationship:

Water is the Mother of Wood
Iron is the Mother of Water
Earth is the Mother of Iron
Fire is the Mother of Earth
Wood is the Mother of Fire

Friendly or Beneficial Relationship:

Earth is the Friend of Wood
Wood is the Friend of Iron
Iron is the Friend of Fire
Water is the Friend of Earth
Fire is the Friend of Water

Neutral or Filial Relationship:

Fire is the Son of Wood
Earth is the Son of Fire
Iron is the Son of Earth
Water is the Son of Iron
Wood is the Son of Water

Antagonistic Relationship:

Iron is an Enemy of Wood
Fire is an Enemy of Iron
Water is an Enemy of Fire
Earth is an Enemy of Water
Wood is an Enemy of Earth

Major Life Factors

There are five major factors that are taken into consideration when examining the nature and qualities of a given calendar year. They are listed here in order of their importance:

Major Life Factors Tibetan Name
Life Force (holder of the life) (SOK)
Power (WANG)
Bodily Health(LÜ)
Luck (LUNG TA)
Soul (LA)

As regards these major elements, the life force is the most important of them, for both sexes. It represents the life strength or élan vital -- how you hold your life. Then comes the power element, how you overcome obstacles, and achieve goals. This is of special interest for women. The function of power is spontaneous, instantaneous -- you must have it now. Bodily health, physical health or sickness is important for all. The luck element, also called "wind horse," is special for men, while soul, which is somewhat similar to the life force but more concerned with the emotional or psychological state, is not used very much. Here is how they are determined in relation to the current year:

Life Force:

The life force is determined according to the following table. The left-hand column is the animal for the current year, while the right-hand column is the element for that year's life force:

Current Year Animal Life Force Element
Snake, Horse Fire
Hare, Tiger Wood
Mouse, Pig Water
Monkey, Bid Iron
Dragon, Sheep Earth
Ox, Dog Earth

Power Element:

The Power element will always be identical to the element determined for the current year. For example, 1991 is the year of the Iron Sheep. Therefore the power element for 1991 will be iron.

Luck Element:

The luck element is determined according to the following table. The left-hand column is the animal for the current year, while the right-hand column is the element for that year's luck: Note: there is no Earth element with luck.

Current Year Animal Luck Element
Tiger, Horse, Dog Iron
Pig, Sheep, Hare Fire
Mouse, Dragon, Monkey Wood
Ox, Snake, Bird Iron

Bodily Health:

With Bodily Health, calculation is a little more complicated. First determine the key element:

Current Year Animal Health Key Element
Mouse, Ox, Horse, Sheep Wood as Key
Tiger, Hare, Bird, Monkey Water as Key
Dog, Pig, Dragon, Snake Iron as Key

Next, using this key element, take the Power Element (as calculated above, this will always be identical to the element determined for the current year) according to the following rules:

If Power Element is Then: Bodily Health Element is
Son of Health Key Element Water
Mother of Health Key Element Wood
Enemy of Health Key Element Earth
Friend of Health Key Element Fire
Same Element Health Key Element Iron

Soul Element:

The Soul Element is always the Mother of the Life Force Element. Use table A to determine this.

The Tibetan Calendar: The 12 Months of the Year

The months always start with the dragon month, which is the first month or Losar (Tibetan New Year), no matter what the year. Each month has an element which is calculated by taking the son of the year's element and making that element go with the first month's sign, Thus, 1988 is the earth dragon year, and the son of earth is iron, therefore the first month is the iron dragon month. Elements are used twice each, so the second month of the year will also be an iron month, and then two water months, and so on in rotation: Iron, Water, Wood, Fire, Earth... Iron, Water, etc. The beginning of the next year does not continue the rotation, but starts afresh.

It is interesting to note that in the earlier Tibetan system, which is still observed for certain calculations, the year started with the New Moon prior to the Winter Solstice rather than Losar. That moment began the first month, which always took the sign of the Tiger, with the other signs following in normal rotation. The elements also start (if I get this right) with the calculation of power element for the element of the current year. That power element is then used.

Keep in mind that male signs are Mouse, Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Monkey and Dog, while female signs are Ox, Hare, Snake, Sheep, Bird and Pig.

The Day of the Month's Sign and Element

Each day of the month depends on whether the month is a male (animal sign) or female month. For all months that are under a male sign, take the tiger for the first day of the month and proceed in strict sign rotation to the end of month. For female months, take the Monkey and precede is sign rotation. Either way, the rotation ends at the end of the month, and the next month's first day takes either the Tiger or Monkey as a starting point. The first day of the next month depends on the gender of animal sign, etc. As regards the element for each day, this is derived by taking the Son of the month's Element (as described above). However, in the case of days, elements are used singly and not by twos (as in the case of the months).

The Hour of the Day's Sign and Element

Start at sunrise and go for 12 hours by 2-hour sections. The first two hours after sunrise belong to the hare and each two-hour section follows in strict animal sign rotation. As for the 2-hour elements, take the son of the element for the day (described above) and use the elements in single rotation (one only, and not two each).

Sunrise: Sunrise is determined, when there are no exact calculations, as the moment when you can see the lines on the palm of your hand.

The I-Ching Parkhas

Taken from the I-Ching or Chinese Book of Changes, each day has a morning and evening parkha or trigram. Combined, these parkhas give a complete hexagram for that day that can be used to consult the I-Ching. There are eight Parkhas as part of Jung-tsi:

The Eight Parkhas (Trigrams from the I-Ching)

LI Fire and South.
KHON Earth (South-West)
DHA Iron and West
KHEN Sky and Earth (North-West)
KHAM Water and North (Earth)
GIN Mountain & Earth(North-East)
ZIN Wood and East (Earth)
ZON Wind and Earth (South-East)

Parkhas: Month's Direction

The triangle of Tiger, Horse and Dog start first day of month with LI. The triangle of Mouse, Dragon, and Monkey start first day of month with Kham. The triangle of Bird, Ox, and Snake start first day of month with Dha. The triangle of Pig, Sheep and Hare start first day of month with Zin. The Parkhas then follow in strict order, one for each day of the month.

Animal Signs for Month Parkha for 1st Day of Month
Tiger, Horse, Dog LI, then KHON, DHA, etc.
Mouse, Dragon, Monkey KHAM, then GIN, ZIN, etc.
Bird, Ox, Snake DHA, then KHEN, KHAM, etc.
Pig, sheep, Hare ZIN, then ZON, LI, etc.

Descending Parkha (BAP-PAR)

The descending Parkha for the current year is counted differently for male and female persons. For males, start with the parkha LI and count clockwise, while for females start with the parkha KHAM and go counter-clockwise.

The count, in either case, is to what we will call the 'agesign' which means the number of years from birth to the current year, starting with the birth year as one. Thus my (Michael Erlewine born in 1941) agesign for 1988 is 48, and so on. Once the Descending parkha for the current year is determined, refer to the table below to determine the good and bad directions for that year. A look at the parkha for the current year gives us an idea as to what are the good and bad directions.

Note: The descending parkha is counted from solstice to solstice of a given year. For example, I am 46 years old in 1988, so my parkha is Gin until solstice of 1987 at which time it turns into Zin.

The Eight Parkhas and the Directions



Four Good Directions:

  • NAM-MEN (sky healer) -- the best one. Good for doctors.
  • SOG-TSO (healthy life) -- next best. Good for sleeping, point the head in this direction.
  • PAL-KEY (generating, glorious) -- 3rd best, but a lower good. It is good to buy or obtain things from this direction.
  • CHA-LÖN (bringing auspiciousness, prosperity) -- 4th good, least. Good for traveling.

Four Bad Directions:

  • NÖ-PA (evil spirit) -- least bad.
  • DRE-GNA (five ghosts) -- more bad.
  • DÜ-CHÖ (devil-cutting) -- even worse, strong negativity, cuts us.
  • LU-CHEY (body destroying) -- worst one (avoid this direction)

The four good directions are the good side or Zan-shi, while the bad side or four bad ones are Gnen-shi.

Birth Parkha

Also important is the birth parkha. To find the birth parkha, it is necessary to calculate the descending parkha for the mother of the individual for the year of the individual's birth. For example, my mother was born in 1917. Using the method described above, calculate her descending parkha for the year 1941... and that is my birth parkha which is said to give space directions for the entire life.

GU-MIK (9th Spot)

GU-MIK. The GU-MIK or 9th-eye spot is calculated as follows: From the birth sign, every 9th sign is GU-MIK. Thus with my birth sign as the snake, the year of the Ox will be my GU-MIK -- not so good.

Parkha GU-MIK or 9th spot. With male persons, LI is the 9th spot or not so good for that year -- marks a transition. With females, the same is true for KHAM.

In addition, Mewa GU-MIK is when the birth mewa is same as current year's mewa. Again, not so good.

DUR-MIK (Death Spot)

DUR-MIK or "death spot" is not as strong as the name suggests. Still, however, it portends a bad year, and is calculated as follows:

Signs Tiger and Hare, use descending Parkha KHON.
Signs Horse and Snake, use descending Parkha KHEN.
Signs Bird and Monkey, use descending Parkha GIN.
Signs Mouse, Pig, Ox, Sheep, Dog and Dragon, use descending Parkha ZON.

If the descending Parkha of the current year is any of the above for the particular signs, then those signs have a year that is DUR-MIK -- not so good.

The Nine Mewa

Mewa means "mole" or birth mark and the nine mewa stem from a system of numerology used for centuries by the Chinese. It indicates a karmic relation from life to life. There are 9 mewas, and they are often arranged in a so-called magic square that gives totals of 15, whichever way they are totaled up.

The Magic Square:

South East South South West
4 9 2
East 3 5 7 West
8 1 6
North East North North West

Nine Mewas Elements
1 White Iron
2 Black Water
3 Indigo Water
4 Green Wood
5 Yellow Earth
6 White Iron
7 Red Fire
8 White Iron
9 Maroon Fire

These nine mewa are counted backwards starting with the Wood-Mouse year (1,9,8,7,6, etc.). An entire circle consists of three 60-year cycles. The current major cycle began in 1864 and will end in 2044 ... (1924 and 1984 were turning points). The 180 year cycle counts backwards until the year before the Wood-Mouse year in the third cycle ... which is the Water Pig year. At that point, the mewa for that year is made to be (2) Black ... thus making ready for the following year to be (1) White and the start of a new major cycle.

Any number can be put in the center of this diagram and the ascending numbers placed in the corresponding order.

The Nine Magic Squares

846 492 624
792 357 579
351 816 138
735 957 279
681 813 135
249 462 684
381 513 168
246 468 924
795 927 573

ZIN East357West DHA
GIN North

Birth Mewa

The birth mewa is calculated by counting backward using the current year's mewa in the center up to your agesign. For convenience, please refer to table (large table of years, Mewa, etc.) to determine your birth year mewa. Please remember that birth year here means the year as measured from the Tibetan New Year, which is (approximately) the New Moon nearest February 1st of the year. The result is the birth mewa. For example, I am (1941 birth) '5 Yellow'.

Current Year Mewa = Birth Mewa -- If the current year's mewa is the same as your birth mewa, that is said to cause the current year to be a little difficult. This is also true for birth mewa and current year's descending mewa -- if the same, then that year is not-so-good.

Descending Mewa

Another much used calculation is the Descending Mewa. To calculate your descending mewa, place your birth mewa in the center of the magic square and count from the center to the East (left) one number. Then, count counter-clockwise if your birth zodiac animal is a male sign and count clockwise if your birth zodiac animal is female Animal Zodiac sign. I am a Snake Animal Sign (Female), so I would count clockwise. Count to your Agesign with the first count (the center) counting as #1. The result is your descending mewa. When counting, always remember that in the Tibetan system you are one year of age at birth. So, always take your Western age and add one, and then count.

The meanings of the descending mewa for the current year are:

1, 8 Iron, Good
2 Black, Bad (worst one)
3 Blue (not-so-good)
4,5 Medium (5 is the astrologer)
7,9 Almost good

Good (in descending order of goodness): 1,8,6,4,5 (1 being best)

Bad (in descending order of badness): 2,3,9,7 (2 being worst)

Mewa Daily

You can also calculate a mewa for each day of the lunar month. The following refers to the first day of the zodiac animal month. For example, the first day of the snake month:

The mewa 2, 5 and 8 are ruled by the Tiger, Monkey, Pig and Snake. Start counting from (1) White.

The mewa 1, 4, and 7 are ruled by the Mouse, Horse, Bird and Hare. Start counting from (4) Green.

The mewa 3, 6 and 9 are ruled by the Ox, Sheep, Dog and Dragon. Start counting from (7) red.

These above mewa always occur with these signs. For the above signs, start counting with the indicated mewa... and count each day of the lunar month in a forward (1,2,3) direction. For example, the first day of a snake month would start with 1-White, and move forward.

The Nine Mewas (Karmic Relationships)

Here are some very rough translations as to the general meaning of the nine mewa. It is traditional that there is some birthmark associated with each mewa, a probable length of life, a specific dharma practice, and mantra for that mewa.

1 White

Length of life: 71 years. There will be four difficult times during the life.
Birthmark: Has a birth-mark or mole on the right side. Is left-handed.
Practice: The practice involves obtaining a Chenresik statue (loving kindness, compassion) and practice this sadhana.

Either an only child, or only one child turns out useful and carries on the generation. He travels a lot. Good in social work, where others are benefited. If a male, then brave. If female then a strong one. Could have three children. Likes to move about here and there. Snakes are their protector. Difficult with children, meaning: not so good for the kids -- things happen to them. Possessions and jobs are very unstable. He is bad tempered, but has a good mind. A difficult early life, but the longer the life the better it gets. He is a clean person physically and likes white things like milk, butter, etc.

2 Black

Length of life: 61 years. There will be three bad periods.
Birthmark: There is a birthmark on the right-hand or arm, the heartside or the neck.
Practice: The practice is that of Vajrapani, which is strength and the clearing of obstacles. Become like the vajra -- indestructible. Get a statue of Vajrapani or a stupa.

If the child is first born, it will be easy to care for him, an easy child. Is often sick when a child. He has nice speech, but a bad mind. He has a dark appearance, mean and horrible. Always sad. He tries to do good things, but no one likes him. If a monk or a member of the Bon religion, then he is a very strong practitioner. He likes meat and alcohol. He has many friends, which he loves but seldom has an opportunity to be with them -- and thus no result. If sick when an adult, will be hard to cure.

3 Blue

Length of life: 50 years with three difficult periods.
Birthmark: On the calf of the left leg.
Practice: The suggested practice is that of Vajrasattva (dorje-sempa) practice. Vajrasattva purifies and removes the limitations, obstacles and imperfections of the mind.

He likes to sleep. He has a strong mind, but there is much instability in his life. He is a little bit greedy. At work, he is not able to concentrate, and tends to skip around. If male, he will talk less and if female will tend to be sad. He is difficult to change. Blame comes even if he does good things for others. He may have many wives (husbands) but no children. He will go to and die in another country. He may have paralysis.

4 Green

Length of Life: 65 years. There are four difficult periods.
Birthmark: On either thigh is a black circle birthmark.
Practice: The practice is that of Vajrapani, which is strength and the clearing of obstacles. Become like the vajra -- indestructible. Get a statue of Vajrapani or a stupa.

He should avoid funerals. Cleanliness is very important, else the nagas (snakes) give a bad disease. He likes to travel. He has a deep mind, but is sometimes bad. Perhaps difficulty having children. If he has property, then farmland. The life is unstable, with a lot of ups and downs. There is sadness sometimes. People gossip about him. He does good things but others get the credit. He does not like to be lower than others, but finds little opportunity to rise. Whatever he has inside, stays with him. The nagas(snakes)are his protector. He is a vegetarian with 4 children. No wedding.

5 Yellow

Length of Life: 50 years. There will be two difficult periods.
Birthmark: His birthmark is a certain nervousness.
Practice: The suggested practice is that of Shakyamuni Buddha called the diamond vehicle (Dorje Chopa) (Prajnaparamita), cutting the vajra.

This is a dharma person. This is also the astrologer's mewa. A monk's monk. He was a monk in the last life, reborn into a noble family in this life. Here is a very devoted person, with a stable mind. Very intelligent and religious. Obedient to his parents, he follows their customs or carries on their traditions. He does not travel much, or go far from his birthplace. He has a protector coming from his ancestors, whom he has ignored, and who is thus a little bit angry. He has strong dreams because his protector is angry. He is hard to please. Before becoming a monk, he was a saint, also a normal dharma teacher. He talks a lot, but often misses the point. He is very smart, a quick thinker. Should be a religious person in this life. He is restless, moving here and there. He has very high expectations of others. He always helps others, but they become his enemies. They gossip about him. He has five children. He has wealth in the form of property, houses, land. He will live long if he is religious. He is virtuous and educated. His possessions can be somewhat unstable. If female, he gets more gossip from others. If he is angry, it is difficult to please him. He has a good and stable mind. Tends to diseases of the gall-bladder, heart attack.

6 White

Length of life: 70 years. There will be five difficult periods.
Birthmark: Calf of the left leg.
Practice: The practice suggested is that of the long-life (and purification) deity Vijaya Vsnisa (Tsuk Tor Nam Gyal Ma).

He is intelligent. His mood and appearance are always changing. He travels a lot. If female, then will have nice speech, but the mind is not good. Receives protection from his own local deities. Possibly, he could be very poor. He will not be living near his birthplace, but instead, elsewhere. He will be able to build himself up greater than his parents. He is seldom sick, but if sick, he will be hard to cure. He has many relatives, none of whom offer him much help. There will be many enemies. He does good for others, but is still blamed. He will have 3 to five children. Children possibly handicapped. There is not much power in the family, but wife is powerful. He is quite bad-tempered.

7 Red

Length of Life: 80 years and there will be 4 difficult periods.
Birthmark: On the backside or chest.
Practice: The practice is that of tara (green Tara), and thus healing, protection, wealth and a good birth.

If female, then she likes to sleep. If married, it will not last long. He likes to fight, has a strong body and a ruddy complexion. Possibly may succumb from a sudden disease. Could die from his love of meat and similar things. His generation always shows suicide and murder. Seven children. The life very unstable.

8 white

Length of Life: 50 years and there are 3 difficult periods.
Birthmark: On right cheek.
Practice: The suggested practice is that of Shakyamuni Buddha called the diamond vehicle (Dorje Chopa) (Prajnaparamita), cutting the vajra.

He should avoid dirty things, stay clean. There is protection by local deities. He could go to another place from where born. Pleasant but proud. Good hands for arts and crafts. Older life will be better than younger life. He is religious and virtuous. Could have 4-6 children. Elegant people like him. The bad people don't like him. Could have a tendency to gossip, causing bad relations.

9 Maroon

Length of Life: 73 years with five difficult periods.
Birthmark: On face, neck or left-leg.
Practice: Suggested practice is that of Manjushri, the development of the mind and intellect.

An image of one holding 7 glorious flowers in hands. If he keeps flowers well, then will be a very rich man. Could be proud or greedy. His older life will be better than young life. Very brave. He may well live other than where born. Wealth includes cows, animals, livestock in general. Has to keep his wealth with care or obstacles could destroy it. This is a good mewa for females, but not for monks or Bon.

LOG-MEN (not turning back)

A term meaning not-turning-back or not-coming-back. Here again, this is calculated differently for male and female persons. For male persons, always start with the sign of the tiger and for the element, take the son of the birth Power element. For me the son of iron (my power element) is water, so start with tiger water and count up from there in the ascending order to the current agesign.

Remember each element is counted twice. So we have Tiger Water, Tiger Hare, and so on. The sign and element combination that corresponds to your agesign is the Log-men.

Female persons start with the Monkey sign and use the mother of their birth power element and count in reverse direction to the current agesign. That sign and element is their LOG-MEN.

For male persons, if LOG-MEN is the sign Dog then it is called NAM-GO (Door of the Sky), while if the sign is Pig then it is called SA-GO (Door of the Earth). If NAM-GO, then it is important to avoid climbing, high places, etc. for that year. If SA-GO, then avoid digging, foundation work, under ground and the like for that year.

For female persons, the sign of the Dragon marks NAM-GO and the sign of the Snake marks a SA-GO year.


This is a very integral part of the Tibetan astrology system, a means of awarding zeros "0" (good marks) or X's (bad marks) for the current year to your major elements: Life force, power, bodily health, luck and soul. This is also part of KEG-TSI which is the yearly calculation of the life obstacles.

It is somewhat complex, but well worth working out. To begin, compare your Major birth elements and those of the current year elements as follows. For example, using the power element as example:

If the current year's power element is:

Mother of my birth power mark 000 (best rating)
Friend of my birth power mark 00 (2nd best)
Son of my birth power mark 0X (4th best)
Enemy of my birth power mark XX (6th best/Least good)

If it is the same as my birth power then:

Water or Earth Mark 0 (3rd best)
Fire, Iron or Wood Mark X (5th best)

It is important to calculate these for all of the major elements for each year.

Days of Week

Sun Sunday Fire South
Moon Monday Water North
Mars Tuesday Fire South
Mercury Wednesday Water North
Jupiter Thursday Wood East
Venus Friday Iron West
Saturn Saturday Earth S.E.,N.W.,S.W., N.E.
Rahu All Days All Elements all directions

The day after the New Moon is the 1st day of the month and whatever day of the week it is colors the whole month with the tone or quality of the planet of that day (Sun for Sunday, etc.). Also, the son of the 1st day's element is equally powerful for that whole month. The mother of that element is medium powerful, and the friend or enemy is bad for that entire month.

Example: if Sunday is the first day of the month (as above) then every Sunday in that month is very powerful, but if Sunday is friend or enemy (or otherwise not very good), then it dampens the best day of the month.

Further, if the first day of the month falls on a Sunday, then the planet is Sun, and the element Fire. Therefore, the son of Fire is Earth. Earth is powerful for the month. The Mother of Fire is Wood, so Wood is medium powerful that month. The friend of Fire is Iron, and the enemy of Fire is Water. Fire and Water are bad for that month.

Day-of-the-Week Cycles

Depending upon the animal sign for the year of your birth, three days of the week will have a special significance for you. According to John Reynolds in his 1978 Tibetan Astrological Calendar, "Days which are best and good are considered to be auspicious for undertaking projects, for doing business and similar activities; while days which are bad are considered inauspicious for any activity at all. In addition, birth on a good or best day indicates long life, while birth on a bad day portends an early death."

Using the animal sign for the year of your birth, enter the following table:

Sign Best Good Bad
Snake Tues Fri Mon
Horse Tues Fri Wed
Sheep Fri Mon Thur
Monkey Fri Mon Thurs
Bird Fri Thurs Tues
Dog Mon Wed Thurs
Pig Wed Tue Sat
Mouse Wed Tue Sat
Ox Sat Wes Thurs
Tiger Thurs Sat Fri
Hare Thurs Sat Fri
Dragon Sun Wed Thurs

Lunar Days of the Month

Certain days of the month are auspicious and inauspicious for a given person. There are three favorable days each month, called foundation days, power days, and success days. There are also three unfavorable days, called obstacle days, disturbance days, and enemy days. In general, it is advised to begin things and take care of important business on the favorable days, and avoid such enterprise on the unfavorable days. The numbers in this table refer to the lunar days of the month for each sign.

F=Foundation, P=Power, S=Success,

O=Obstacles, D=Disturbance, E=Enemy

Animal F P S O D E
Snake 13 12 6 8 9 9
Horse 17 12 6 20 5 27
Sheep 8 1 2 20 5 27
Monkey 8 1 2 9 10 17
Bird 14 7 25 3 11 24
Dog 9 27 5 11 3 12
Pig 2 8 11 26 3 12
Mouse 20 6 3 26 10 23
Ox 17 14 12 12 18 5
Tiger 5 27 9 14 12 3
Hare 7 27 12 26 25 18
Dragon 3 12 17 8 9 11

According to John Reynolds in his 1978 Tibetan Astrological Calendar, "When the monthly and weekly cycles oppose each other on the same day, the former is the more powerful due to the planetary energies, but nonetheless, they act together. If, during the monthly cycle, opposing forces manifest on the same lunar day, these two complement each other."

Lunar Days 1, 2, 26 -- Good for making offerings, requests of high personages, taking vows, religious practices, and in general, the obtaining of something desired.

Lunar Days 3, 11, 20, 23 -- Excellent days for strong, firm actions; good for beginning construction or obtaining high offices.

Lunar Days 4, 13, 16, 25 -- Days of quickness, clarity, skill and cleverness; indicative of success in competitions.

Lunar Days 5, 8, 17, 18 -- Very bad reaction days; unethical activities will succeed, moral action will not.

Lunar Days 1, 9, 10, 19, 24 -- Generally good for activities such as marriages, large purchases, collections, teaching, initiation, blessings, building and ceremonies in general.

Lunar Days 2, 15 -- Barren. Many events will not occur. Neither good or bad for building, meditation practice and certain ceremonies. Nothing should be undertaken between midnight and 3 AM.

Lunar Days for Travel

According to John Reynolds in his 1978 Tibetan Astrological Calendar, certain lunar days are good (or not) for travel. Here is a list that John Reynolds offers:

1, 2, 3, 16, 17, 18 Generally Good
4, 19 Unsuccessful
5, 20 Good for business
6, 21 One should not travel.
7, 22 Fine for travel
8, 23 Disturbing for emotions
9, 24 Success in covering long distances.
10, 25 Fruitful travel.
11, 26 Spiritual
12, 27 Wisdom
13, 29 Activity benefits one.
15, 30 One should not travel

Tibetan New Year: LO-SAR

Losar (Tibetan New Year) is the nearest New Moon to February 1st. If there are two New Moons, then take the 2nd one. Losar is the first sunrise after the New Moon... the next day.

DAR-GHE (going up, increasing)

X Worst (best of) 1) Ug-len (first breath)
X Worst (best of) 2) Gnal-ney (conception)
0 Good (worst of) 3) Lue-Dzog (Body Complete, full term)
0 Good (worst of) 4) Tse-Pa (Birth)
00 Good (Medium) 5) True-Jay (Bathing the baby)
00 Good (Medium) 6) Goe-Gon (Putting on clothers)
000 Good (Best of) 7) Ley-Jey (Working)
000 Good (best of) 8) Gar-wa (Prime, full-filled)
XX Bad (Medium) 9) Gue-Pa (Decaying)
XX Bad (Medium) 10) Na-wa (Sick)
XXX Worst (worst of) 11) Shi-wa (Death)
XXX Worst (Worst of)12) Dur-shug (Burial)

In the above, numbers 3 through 8 are the good ones and 9-12 and 1-2 are the bad ones. Numbers 3 & 4 are the worst of the good ones, 5 & 6 are medium good and 7 & 8 are the best of the good. Likewise, numbers 1 & 2 are the best of the worst, 9 & 10 are medium bad and 11 & 12 are the worst of the worst.

Notes: Father's death year sign, if same as current year, then not-so-good. If descending Parkha is the same for both husband and wife, not so good. This is true of family members in general.


You might expect that a year which has the same sign as your birth year would be luck or auspicious. Not in the Tibetan system. If your birth sign and the current year sign are the same (every 12 years) then this is an example of LO-KHAK, which is very inauspicious. For men, the year before a LO-KHAK (termed NANG-KHAK) is a little more difficult than the LO-KHAK itself, for women, it is the year after LO-KHAK (termed CHI-KHAK) that is difficult.

Birth and one year
12 to 13 years age
24 to 25 years of age
36 to 37 years of age
48 to 49 years of age
60 to 61 years of age
72 to 73 years of age
84 to 85 years of age
96 to 97 years of age

During a Lo-khak year, there are reputedly six months of particular danger when you are most vulnerable:

Bird Month 2nd half very bad
Dog Month 1st half very bad
Pig Month Passable
Mouse Month 2nd half very bad
Ox Month 1st half very bad
Tiger Month passable
Hare Month2nd half very bad
Dragon Month entire month very bad
Snake Month 1st half very bad
Horse Month Passable
Sheep Month 2nd half very bad
Monkey Month Entire month very bad
Bird Month 1st half very bad

If the current year sign is the 7th or opposite of the birth sign, this is called Dun-zur and is also bad. If the current year is the 5th sign (i.e. Dragon-Monkey), then this is also not good. If the current year is same element as the birth element, then this too is not-so-good.


SHI-SHEY refers to the signs that are four up and back from the birth-year sign. For example, my birth in 1941 in the year of the snake makes the Tiger and the Monkey signs fit this description (always counting from the birth sign as one). If the current year is either of these signs, then it is called SHI-SHEY -- which is not so good.

Also, for the current year sign ... count four up and four back and the months of that year with the same sign are called "black months." If these months are Tiger, Monkey, Pig or Snake then the whole month is black, but the first ten days are the worst, the 2nd ten days a little better, and the last ten days better still.

If the month signs are the Mouse, Horse, Bird and Hare, then the days of the month from 10th-20th are the bad ones. If the month signs are Ox, Sheep, Dog or Dragon, then the last 10 days of the month are bad. All days being calculated from the New Moon.

If the current year is Tiger, Monkey, Pig or Snake and if the year's mewa is 2-Black, then the whole year is a black year.

The Seven Obstacles

Quite a bit is made of the so-called seven obstacles. Each of these eventualities affects the entire current year, from Losar to Losar. In the following list, the term Current Year Sign refers to the Animal Zodiac Sign for the current year.

  • If Current Year Sign = Your Birth Year Sign

  • If Current Year Sign = Opposite Your Birth Year Sign

  • If Current Year Sign = Animal Sign Adjacent(either side) your Birth Year Animal sign PLUS the same element as your birth year element. For example, Snake has Dragon and Horse on either side.

  • If Current Year Sign = One of three Destroyers (Friends) (see tables given earlier)

  • If Wife & Husband have same descending Parkha for the current year.

  • If Current Year Animal Sign = Sign for the year Father or Grandfather Died

  • If Descending Parkha = Birth Parkha

Four Mewa Obstacles

  • Descending Mewa = Current Year Mewa
  • Descending Mewa = Birth Mewa
  • Descending Mewa = Two Black
  • The Element of the Descending Mewa = Element of the Enemy of the Birth Mewa

Appendix A

Some References

Some material in this article is the result of personal discussions with a number of high lamas in the Karma Kagyu Lineage, including H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche, H.E. Shamar Rinpoche, Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche, Ven. Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso, Rinpoche, Ven. Bardor Tulku, Rinpoche and, in particular, Ven. Khenpo Karthar, Rinpoche.

N.P. Subramania Iyer, Kalaprakasika, Ranjan Publications, 1982

Ven. Khenpo Karthar, Rinpoche. From a teaching on Buddhist Festivals, given Big Rapids, MI in min 1980s

D. Bahadur L.D. Swamikannuu Pillai, Panchang and Horoscope, Asian Educational Services, 1985.

Michael Erlewine, The Vision of the Eclipse, AFA/Circle Books Calendar, 1980s

Michael Erlewine, Lunar Gaps, Matrix Journal, 1990

Michael Erlewine, Science and the Lunation Cycle, Matrix Journal, 1990

Michael Erlewine, Yearly Lunar Practice Calendar, from KTD Dharma Goods, 315 Marion Avenue, Big Rapids, MI 49307

D. Bahadur L.D. Swamikannuu Pillai, Indian Chronology, Asian Educational Services, 1982.

Swami Prakashananda, personal communication.

Shyam Sundar Das, personal communication.

Sange Wangchug, personal communication, teaching, and translation of Tibetan texts.

John Reynolds, From personal discussions, seminars, calendar, papers.

Reynolds, John (aka Acharya Vajranatha) Tibetan Astrology, article

Reynolds, John, Tibetan Astrology, NCGR Newsletter

John Reynolds, 1978 Tibetan Astrolical Calendar & Almanac, Kalachakra Publications, Katmandu, Nepal

Michael Erlewine can be reached at Matrix Software, 315 Marion Avenue, Big Rapids, MI 49307 Phone: 231-527-2600, FAX 231-527-2613
Or: Compuserve 72662,144; Microsoft Network, M_Erlewine

Note to Appendix A -- Tables for 1900 - 2025 of the main Tibetan astrological factors. Please note the following gives main factors for everyone, except where the calculation requires the use of an individual. In that case, Michael Erlewine (July 18, 1941) has been used, so that you have some example:

Year: Year
Element: Year Element for Everyone
Zodiac: Zodiac for Everyone
Parkha: Descending Parkha for M. Erlewine
Mewa: Mewa for Everyone
Life Force: Life Force for Everyone, Deu for M. Erlewine
Health: Health for Everyone, Deu for M. Erlewine
Power: Power for Everyone, Deu for M. Erlewine
Luck: Luck for Everyone, Deu for M. Erlewine
Soul: Soul for Everyone, Deu for M. Erlewine

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