THE SNOW LION
|An Interview with Jhampa
Shaneman: Buddhist Astrologer
Jhampa Shaneman is featured at as our Buddhist astrologer.
Every month he posts his analysis for our customers on our
Here to read this month's edition. He has studied with
many outstanding teachers and completed a traditional
three-year retreat. You can also see his website at http://www.buddhist-astrology.com/.
LURA MCCALLUM: Jhampa, you spent 14 years
in India studying Tibetan Buddhism, can you tell us something
about this time.
JHAMPA SHANEMAN: In 1970
I decided to travel and see the world. My journey ended up in
India with the Tibetan Buddhists. I was excited with Tibetan
Buddhism and what it had to offer. By 1971, I became an
ordained monk and started to learn the Tibetan language. There
were no English texts and very few translators available at
LURA: Who were some of the teachers you
JHAMPA: My first teacher was
Lama Thubten Yeshe. He was inspiring and gave me a powerful
image of what it meant to be a Buddhist. As time passed I
studied with his teachers, such as Geshe Rabten and Geshe
Dhargaye. By my third year in India I became a pupil of the
senior tutor of H.H. the Dalai Lama, Ling Rinpoche, and
continued studying with him as my principal teacher until
1984. I also studied other Buddhist practices and with other
lineages as the years passed. I have now translated and become
familiar with all four sects of Tibetan Buddhism.
LURA: What happened after
JHAMPA: I completed a three year
retreat in 1983, the same year Kyabje Ling Rinpoche died. This
motivated me to return to Canada as I had lived in India for
14 years. I started a small meditation center, Thubten
Choling. I had studied astrology in India and so in Canada I
started to read astrology charts as a source of income. It was
difficult to make ends meet so I also worked in a hardware
store after a few years. I continued teaching Buddhism at the
meditation center and my astrology practice while working a
LURA: You have always referred to yourself
as a Buddhist astrologer, in what way is this
JHAMPA: After studying Western
astrology while in India my teacher asked me to read his
astrology chart. He was curious to see how well I had grasped
the information. I surprised him with my interpretation style
because it was different. I presented a Buddhist approach to
the material. I used the Buddhist philosophy and practices I
had gathered over my years of study. This made me realize that
there was a new and unique way of presenting astrology. In
Canada, I have always used a Buddhist approach to reading
astrological charts. I find it practical when tied with
LURA: How can a Buddhist astrology chart
JHAMPA: One does not have to
be a Buddhist to benefit from the reading. The emphasis of
Buddhism is with awareness and wisdom. Everyone has some level
of self-awareness and wisdom. That awareness and wisdom
dictate how one experiences their life. When you consider
astrology, you apply mindful awareness and wisdom to
astrological influences. There are different schools of
astrological thought. Some believe life is predetermined and
others support an expression of choice and free will. I fall
into the category that emphasizes astrology is a circumstance
of influence. Astrology effects everyone's life, but an
individual's awareness and wisdom can filter those influences.
The Buddhist interpretation would benefit anyone because it
emphasizes key astrological points from a practical
A Buddhist could harmonize their practice with the
interpretation. The awareness of astrological transits, cycles
and fluctuations better prepare one to utilize their innate
wisdom. The greater the scope of awareness generated, the
better one handles life. Important decisions are made without
unconscious factors of influence. One can see on a personal
level the dynamics of planetary interdependence.
LURA: Can Buddhist astrology shed light on
ego and the manifestation of
JHAMPA: Yes. First there is the
natal chart interpretation showing the dynamics that influence
the formation of personality. These dynamics mix with factors
like the birth family, education and social economic
influence. Astrology is just one of the factors that create
the individual. The chart's interpretation continues with
major astrological transits from client's birth to their
present age. That section often invokes surprise. People see
how interdependent they are with the world around them.
Astrology plays a role in that interdependence.
A Buddhist understands samsara is fraught with uncertainty.
Suffering is created by delusion. Astrological influences can
increase the impact of delusion. Awareness of upcoming
influences can prepare one. Specific meditation techniques can
be implemented to balance things. Foreknowledge can diminish
the disruptive effects of astrologically stressful times.
Another component is to utilize this foreknowledge in a
positive way. One could deepen their practice and
understanding with beneficial astrological transits. The
planetary influence can augment love, compassion or
insightfulness. Certain planets stimulate these feelings and
wisdom. It all depends on the attitude and awareness of the
LURA: If one has major suffering in their
life, can you direct them?
JHAMPA: I am
frank with my clients and if there are astrological
inclinations affecting the personality that cause suffering,
then I would explain these clearly. I would give strategies
and Buddhist options that help one understand the causes of
suffering. For example, if someone has a difficult time with
their feelings, which could involve a transit of Uranus to
Venus, then I identify areas that require conscious awareness.
I give positive feedback to compensate for the transit and
Buddhist tools to enhance the natal chart strengths.
LURA: Can you explain what astrology the
JHAMPA: Tibetan astrology
has a seven year program which is connected to the medical
college. Tibetan astrology is based on two systems, the Indian
and the Chinese. There is also an indigenous form used by
farmers. They read the chart incorporating a compilation of
these traditions. The Tibetan tradition connects the health
and well being of any individual to their astrological chart.
A doctor knows astrological transits to a certain degree and
can access individuals in the medical college who are trained
to read full charts. There were references made to astrology
during my studies, but I focused on the meditative techniques
and philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism. I was drawn to the
Western astrology as it was not such a long program and more
accessible to me. The western presentation is natural to our
mind and attitude.
LURA: You have just completed your first
book, which is based on Buddhist astrology. I believe you are
working on a second book based on your interpretation of a
world renowned Buddhist's astrological
JHAMPA: Yes, I requested H.H. the
Dalai Lama to be the principal subject for the second book. I
will focus on a Buddhist interpretation of his astrological
chart and the transits during his life. My interview was
interesting because H.H. confided that he does not believe in
Tibetan astrology. This came as a surprise to me. I explained
I was working from western astrological principles and
interpreting the material from a Buddhist point of view. H.H.
knows his Tibetan chart and can compare it to the western
style. H.H. has agreed to this and will even write the
foreword for the book.
LURA: Can a Buddhist astrology chart
strengthen my Buddhist practice?
Yes, because we are interdependent with the world around us.
H.H. says we should look at the planet earth as our home and
that we are interdependent with this world. It opens our mind
to the greater scope of our life and the influences that
effect us. A study of astrology is a study of interdependence
and that increases wisdom.
The planets, which relate to being a bodhisattva, a person
wanting to work for the benefit all sentient beings, are the
Moon and Jupiter. The Moon relates to compassion, receptivity
and empathy, while Jupiter can inspire optimism, enthusiasm
and a positive attitude towards life. Bodhicitta is an
attitude that develops the ability to see the positive
possibilities of all beings. It is a desire to benefit
Saturn relates to wisdom. A Saturn placement in the third
or ninth house would be excellent for the development of
wisdom. It broods and reflects on issues and this generates
wisdom. Saturn is often called the planet of hard knocks. We
learn valuable lessons from difficult times in our lives.
Saturn can help develop our insight and the practice of guru
yoga. An understanding of one's chart can assist enhancing
LURA: On a final note, where do you see
yourself in the future?
JHAMPA: As long as
I am capable I would like to continue teaching Buddhism and
doing astrology readings to help direct people to a better
understanding of their own nature and the influences that
affect them. I give lectures for psychologists regularly and I
think Buddhism, astrology and psychology all have ground for
an inter-disciplinary dialogue.