At 12:50am PST this morning the Sun (Surya) and Saturn (Shani) had their annual conjunction, at 2 degrees Scorpio according to the sidereal Zodiac. In Vedic astrology Surya and Shani are considered to be enemies, so when they are close together it is said that we will feel the pressure of “wanting to glow with the pride of Surya” while being “subdued with the restrictions of Shani.” I noticed that this conjunction was coming up awhile back and have been curious about how it would manifest itself. With every important planetary aspect I always like to read what various astrologers have to say about them, but the true test for me is the particular energetic quality that I experience during the aspect. Concerning this aspect, astrologer Robert Hand writes: “On this day you will turn your attention to your duties and responsibilities, to those tasks that you may not want to do but feel you must in order to fulfill your obligations to others.” For me this has played out in the last two days as being one of the subjects in a documentary film about ashtanga yoga—having a camera in my face while teaching and practicing.
In Indian mythology Shani is the son of Surya, and--like all fathers and sons--they have their issues. There are many different versions of the story of Surya and Shani. This is my favorite one: Surya is married to Sanjana, the daughter of the Divine Architect, Vishvakarman. Sanjana is a delicate sort and begins to find the heat and brightness of Surya oppressive. Seeking relief, she creates a clone of herself called Chhaya (Shadow) and asks her to assume her role with Surya as she seeks respite in her father’s house. Surya doesn’t notice the change and has marital relations with Chhaya, resulting in the birth of Shani. Shani is born with a dark complexion and the moment his father lays eyes on him he goes into an eclipse, questioning the true paternity of Shani. Meanwhile, Vishvakarman hears of the birth of Shani and asks his daughter what’s going on. Sanjana admits her subterfuge and Vishvakarman orders her to go back to her husband. Seething with rage at this complication, Sanjana destroys Chhaya and resumes her role as Surya’s spouse. Surya again doesn’t notice the difference. Sanjana and Surya have two more children—Yama and Yamuna—that they dote on, but Shani is shunned by both his mother and father. Years pass and it is time that the children are given their life tasks. Yama is appointed to guide recently departed souls to the appropriate afterlife, and Yamuna becomes a river on Earth where people can bathe to purify their sins. Shani is totally ignored. Humiliated and angry he kicks his mother in the stomach. Sanjana curses Shani to lose his offending leg and he lies on the ground helpless and howling with pain. Surya thinks the curse of Sanjana is a bit drastic and questions her about this. Sanjana finally spills the beans about Chhaya and Surya is suddenly moved with compassion for Shani. Surya restores Shani’s leg—although he still walks with a limp—and is given the exalted position of the seventh planet in the heavens, the lord of Karma and Dharma. Shani is called Shanischaracharya (the slow moving teacher). He carries the light of Surya veiled by Chhaya, the shadow of the material world. Shani’s influence is like the story of his life: first he brings loneliness and pain and lack of recognition, but eventually he brings success to those who follow their Dharma.