Philosophy in Bṛhat Parāśara
By far the most popular English translation of Bṛhat Parāśara Hora Śāstra is by Girish Candra Sharma. Unfortunately it is not very good. The opening two chapters concern Vedic philosophy, and connect it to astrology – but the translation terribly mangles the concepts elucidated clearly in Sanskrit. For many astrologers from the West this may be one of their only glimpses into Vedic philosophy from a Sanskrit source, so it poses a serious problem.
One of the major problems with G.C.Sharma’s translation is that he gives the impression that ātmā and paramātmā is quantifiable, and that everyone has different measurements of both, and that those with “more” paramātmā are “more” divine. Another problem is that he gives the impression that the avatāra of Viṣṇu are actually avatāra of planets in our solar system, or that they come from and return to those planets, as do humans.
When translated properly, however, none of these confusing misconceptions arise.
sarveṣu caiva jīveṣu paramātmā virajate
sarvaṁ hi tad-idaṁ brahman sthitaṁ hi paramātmani
The Paramātmā (Supreme Soul) shines in everything, and of course in every living being. Oh sage, Paramātma exists within everything, even here.
sarveṣu caiva jīveṣu sthitaṁ hy aṁśa dvayaṁ kvacit
jīvāmśo hy adhikas tadvāt paramātmāṁśakaḥ kila
Every living being consists of two integral parts: The predominant and obvious part is the fragmental individual living being (jīva), but the Paramātmā is also an integral part of everyone.
sūryādyo grahāḥ sarve brahmakām adviṣādayaḥ
ete cānye ca bahavaḥ paramātmāṁśakādikāḥ
The planetary deities (Sūrya and so on), the great gods like Brahmā, and many others, are greatly empowered by the Paramātmā.
Note: In standard Vedānta terms Avatāras “greatly empowered by the Paramātmā” are called śakti-āveśa avatāra.
śaktayaś ca tathaiteśām adhikāṁśāḥ śrīyādayaḥ
sva-sva-śaktiṣū cānyāśū jeyā jīvāṁśakādhikāḥ
Their potencies (Beauty and so on) are also greatly empowered; unlike most living beings, who posses nothing more than their own powers.
Note: In summary all things are divine, because Paramātmā is present in all things. In most things, however, the divine Paramātmā is not clearly manifest. Such beings manifest only their own powers. In other beings the Paramātmā manifests more of its potency. These are “empowered avatāra.” The Gods, their powers, and the planets are amongst the “empowered avatāra.”
rāmakṛṣṇādayo ye ye hy avatārā ramāpateḥ
te ‘pi jīvāṁśa saṁyuktāḥ kiṁ vā brūhi muniśvara
Please tell me, master of sages, the many Avatāra headed by Blissful Krishna, the lover of Ramā devī… are they also fragmental individual living beings (jīva)?
Note: Maitreya asks this. He wants to know if there are other types of avatāra besides the “empowered avatar” in which a jīva is invested with the potencies of Paramātmā.
Beginning with the next text, Parāśara replies.
rāmaḥ kṛṣṇaś ca bho vipra nṛsiṁhaḥ sūkras tatha
ete pūrṇāvatārāś ca hy anye jīvāṁśakānvitaḥ
Oh scholar! Rāma, Krishna, Nṛsiṁha and Sūkra (Varāha) are wholly Avatāra of Paramātmā. The others are fragmental living beings invested with the power of Paramātmā.
avatārāny anekāni hy ajasya paramātmanaḥ
jīvānāṁ karma-phalado graha-rūpī janārdanaḥ
Such avatāras of the unborn Paramātmā are infinite. He takes the form of the planets to bring the fruits of deeds done by the fragmental living beings.
Note: There are a few very important avatāra which are not jīvas at all, but wholly the Original Person, Paramātmā. These include Krishna, Rāma, Narasiṁha and Varāha, according to this text. In contrast there are an infinite number of “empowered avatāra” – including the planets.
The purpose of empowering the planets is to create constant movement in the universe so that time can unfold, allowing causes to produce effects (allowing our deeds to generate their results). This unfolding of cause and effect is called karma-phala.
daityānāṁ-bala nāśāya devānāṁ-bala vṛddhaye
dharma-saṁsthāpanārthāya grahājjātā ṣūbhāḥ kramāt
He creates these auspicious avatāra for the sake of establishing moral prosperity by punishing endeavors that are divisive and selfish and rewarding endeavors that are wise and divine.
Note: The purpose of karma is to encourage living beings to become more divine.
rāmo ‘vatāraḥ sūryasya candrasya yadu-nāyakaḥ
nṛsiṁho bhumiputrasya buddhaḥ soma-sutasya ca
Sūrya’s (the Sun) empowerment is Rāma’s avatāra. Candra’s (the Moon) is Handsome Yadu (Krishna). The Earth-Child’s (Mars) is the Divine Lion (Nṛsiṁha). The Moon-Child’s (Mercury) is wise Buddha.
Note: Parāśara said that the planets are empowered by Paramātmā. Now his gives more specific detail about which planet is empowered by which specific avatāra of Paramātmā.
vāmano vibudhojyasya bhārgavo bhārgavasya ca
kūrmo bhaskara-pūtrasya saiṁhikeyasya sukaraḥ
The Wise One’s (Jupiter) is Vāmana. The Radiant One’s (Venus) is Bhārgava. The Child of Shadow’s (Saturn) is the Divine Tortoise. The Lioness-Child’s (Rāhu) is the Divine Boar (Varāha).
ketor mīnāvatāraś ca ye cānye te ‘pi kheta-jāḥ
paramātmāṁso ‘dhiko yeṣu te sarve kecarābhīdhaḥ
Ketu’s is the Divine Fish (Matsya). Other stars are empowered by other incarnations. All the things in the heavens are empowered by the Paramātmā.
jīvāṁśo hy adhiko yeṣu jīvāste vai prakīrtitāḥ
sūryādibhyo grahobhyaś ca paramātmāṁśāniḥ sṛtā
As I told you before, the planets headed by the Sun are empowered by Paramātmā but rest of the living beings are not, so they are called “fragmental individuals” (Jīva-aṁśa).
rāma-kṛṣṇādayaḥ sarve hy avatārā bhavanti vai
tatraiva te vilīyante pūnaḥ karyottare sadā
All the avatāra like Blissful Krishna certainly eternally manifest and then become unmanifest when their aim is fulfilled.
jīvāṁśāniḥ sṛtās teṣāṁ tebyo jātā narādayaḥ
te ‘pi tatraiva līyante te ’vyakte samayanti hi
The fragmental individuals (Jīvas) are born as Humans and so on when impelled by their desires, and then they become unmanifest when their desires wear out.
idaṁ te kathitaṁ vipra sarvaṁ yasmin bhaved iti
bhūtāny api bhaviṣyanti tat-taj-jānanti tad vidaḥ
Sage, now I will tell you everything about how you can know the future of these individuals by knowing the graha’s at the time of their birth.
vinā taj-jyautiṣaṁ nānyo jñatuṁ śaknoti karhicit
tasmād avaśymadyoyaṁ brahmanauś ca viśoṣataḥ
Without this astrological system it is impossible to have the power to know these things. Therefore the wise should certainly study astrology.
yo naraḥ śāstram ajñātvā jyautiṣaṁ khalū nindati
rauravaṁ narakaṁ bhuktvā cāndhatvaṁ cānya janmani
A person ignorant of Astrological Science who insults it will go to the Howling Hells and be reborn blind.