The new moon today at 2:35pm falls in the nakshatra called Shatabhisha—“One Hundred Physicians”—a faint group of stars in the heart of the constellation Aquarius, the “Water Bearer” called Kumbha in Sanskrit. Shatabhisha, symbolized by a thousand petalled lotus, represents the crown chakra and the fulfillment of the evolutionary process. The presiding deity is Varuna, lord of the oceans, and bestower of wisdom, who is depicted holding a pot (kumbha) and a bundle of herbs. The pot contains Soma, the preferred drink of the gods, which brings both rejuvenation and intoxication. The herbs are related to the hundred physicians and healing on all levels. The two planets associated with Shatabhisha are Rahu, the lord of this nakshatra, and Saturn, which is the traditional ruler of Aquarius. Rahu has the tendency to lead us towards materiality and Saturn is associated with the trials that purify the soul. The acquisition of higher knowledge and comprehension of universal principles that Varuna bestows destroys the bonds of materiality and enables a new awakening. Such a process requires great self-discipline and sacrifice on the part of the individual for the benefit of others. Back to the symbolism of the flower--the flower is meant for the enjoyment of others. At its highest, the energy of Shatabhisha supports the spiritual transformation and cultivation of healing ability in an individual so it can be directed outward for the benefit of others. Shatabhisha is generally considered to be Sattvic in its nature, but can become Tamasic when an individual succumbs to lethargy and psychological stagnation.
Another association with Shatabhisha is Lord Shiva, who presides over the sign of Aquarius. The new moon of late February/early March is celebrated as Mahashivaratri, the great night of Lord Shiva. Mahashivaratri was observed last night, February 20th, (my birthday, by the way). This is Lord Shiva’s favorite night of the year, celebrating his marriage to Parvati and his famous Tandava Dance, when He is at his most merciful and compassionate with his devotees. It occurred a day after an auspicious conjunction of the Sun and Neptune in Shatabhisha on February 19th. This conjunction has a very spiritualizing influence, stimulating the “urge to merge” with our Divine Nature. They say that all yogis, whether they know it or not, are devotees of Lord Shiva, since Yoga was Shiva’s great gift to humankind. Shiva, of course, is the ultimate yogi, who sits in deep meditation on his tiger skin atop Mt. Kailas, holding his trident (Neptune?) and catching the waters of the Ganga in his matted locks as it flows down from the heavens from Varuna’s Kumbha. Shiva bestows a contemplative, mystical and ascetic nature that is ideal for yogis.
Before we re-embark on our yogic path with earnest, however, today is Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, the last day of Carnival before the beginning of Lent on Ash (Shiva likes ashes) Wednesday tomorrow. So, the order of the day is to cut loose a little bit, release some inhibitions and have some unrestrained fun, focus on the intoxicating quality of the Soma and celebrate your carnality. In the immortal words of William Blake, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” Tomorrow we can return to the path of self-discipline and self-restraint, and think about what we might want to give up during the six weeks of Lent before our spiritual rebirth on Easter Sunday, April 8th.