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Auspicious times! Exposing incompetence or astrology a pseudoscientific myth?

08 Apr 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

  • Professional rivalry or jealousy often leads astrologers outside the official team to challenge the declared times



During the Sinhala Avurudda, also known as the Sinhala and Hindu New Year, people adhere to various religious rituals and cultural practices meticulously following auspicious times known as “nekath” provided by astrologers.
 In response to past controversies surrounding nekath, the government appointed a team of astrologers in 1992  to determine the official auspicious times, which were widely accepted. However, professional rivalry or jealousy often leads astrologers outside the official team to challenge the declared times, citing various unexplained theoretical concepts unique to astrology. These contradictions caused anxiety among the general public and believers of astrology, leading to uncertainty and a loss of confidence in the auspicious times provided.

It’s worth noting that Buddhism, does not specifically mention auspicious times. The Sinhala and Hindu New Year is not strictly a religious festival in the context of Buddhism. While Buddhists may participate in cultural and traditional practices associated with the festival, such as visiting temples during the transition period from the old to the New Year, the concept of auspicious times is not central to Buddhist teachings. Our Minister of Buddha Sasana and Cultural Affairs, being a devout Buddhist, does not adhere to the practice of auspicious times. The observance of auspicious times during Avurudu is more rooted in cultural traditions rather than religious doctrine within the Buddhist context. In fact, Bodhisatta in the Nakkatta Jataka (Jataka no. 46), says,  “Nakkantha pathimanethan atthabalan upacchaga - atththo atththassa nakkanthan kin karrisanthi tharaka, meaning, ‘The fool who delays, waiting for an auspicious time, will never achieve objective. The right auspicious thing is accomplishing your objective.  What could stars in the sky do?’  

Power of stars

After all, what power do the stars in the sky truly hold? The Nakkatta Jataka reminds us of our inherent power to shape our own lives, irrespective of external influences. It encourages a proactive approach rooted in mindfulness and purposeful action, inspiring individuals to navigate their paths with confidence and determination.

In the Baddekaratta Sutta-Majjima Nikaya, the Buddha imparts wisdom on the significance of present-moment action. He teaches that those who act decisively in the present live a life of auspiciousness. Conversely, those who wait for the perfect moment to act only engage in procrastination. This teaching underscores the importance of seizing opportunities and taking action in the present, rather than delaying in hopes of a better time. By embracing the present and fully committing to the tasks at hand, one can cultivate a life abundant in auspiciousness and fulfillment.

Astrology, despite its cultural significance, lacks empirical evidence and scientific validity. Mainstream scientists generally regard it as a pseudoscience due to the absence of rigorous scientific testing and understanding of physical mechanisms supporting its principles. Nonetheless, astrology persists in various cultures, shaping beliefs and influencing decisions for many individuals.

Space exploration

When it comes to guiding spacecraft through space exploration, Astro-Scientists from various countries, like the United States, Russia, and China, all agree with no disputes on times and speeds with precision in their calculations. This is vastly different from astrology, where interpretations are diverse and disputes common. Unlike astrology, the principles guiding space navigation adhere to rigorous scientific standards, rooted in astronomy’s scientific inquiry based on mathematical formulae and calculations. Every fraction of a second is accounted for and every mathematical equation is scrutinized for accuracy. This precision is not merely a matter of convenience or preference but an absolute necessity dictated by the unforgiving laws of physics and the vast distances of interstellar space. 

In the ongoing discourse surrounding astrology, a pivotal question arises: are astrologers truly knowledgeable about what they talk about, or does astrology merely perpetuate mythology? This query prompts a critical examination of the practices and beliefs within astrology, inviting scrutiny of its purported principles and efficacy. Astrology, as a discipline, asserts a correlation between celestial movements and earthly events, including human behaviour and destiny. Proponents of astrology claim that the positions of celestial bodies at the time of an individual’s birth can influence their personality, relationships, and life trajectory. When confronted with the challenge of substantiating astrological claims, astrologers often rely on subjective interpretations and anecdotal evidence, rather than rigorous scientific testing. Critics argue that astrological predictions are vague and ambiguous, allowing for wide-ranging interpretations that can apply to virtually any situation.

Techniques and interpretations

Furthermore, the lack of consensus among astrologers regarding techniques and interpretations raises doubts about the reliability of astrological practice. The Sinhala Avurudda, primarily celebrated by Sinhala-Buddhists and Hindu-Tamils, also sees recognition from Christians, who may acknowledge auspicious times even though they don’t actively participate due to their prior Christmas festivities.

 Despite its cultural emphasis,  Avurudu fosters unity and a sense of shared identity among all communities through its rich customs and traditions. All Sri Lankans strictly adhere to the officially declared times and come together for a meal at the designated hour, a practice unique to Sri Lanka. This significant event and practice should not be overshadowed by attention-seeking astrologers. Hence, regardless of accuracy, maintaining one standard formula is essential.

According to Section 141 of the Khuddakavatthu kkhandhako of Cullavaggapali of the Vinaya Pitaka, the Buddha explicitly prohibited Bhikkus and Bhikkunis of the Sangha from engaging in the study and practice of “tiracchana vijja” [lowly arts]. Therefore, the practice of astrology by a Buddhist monk, along with other occult arts, would be considered a violation of the rules outlined in the Vinaya, though, astrology may offer some sort of placebo soothing effect or a false sense of security that we can manage our future or our wellbeing. But ultimately it is just an illusion. Why not focus at the present moment, mindfulness or Sathi? 

Official records

Despite some scholars’ beliefs, official records of Avurudu are not found until the Kandyan period. The practice of Avurudu customs has a history of only a little over two centuries. This challenges the notion of Avurudu as an ancient tradition, suggesting that its customs may have evolved relatively recently in Sri Lankan history. During the reign of the Malabar Nayakkar kings in the Kandyan Kingdom, the celebration of Aluth Avurudu took on a religious significance. Four important festivals were annually observed at the Sri Dalada Maligawa: Alut Sahal Mangalyya, Esala Perahera, Alut Avurudda,   and Karthika Mangalyya. These practices, initiated by royal command, continue as a tradition to this day. The preparation of nekath, or auspicious times, for the devala and Maligawa rituals is meticulously detailed in the Avurudu Seettuwa. The Nekath Rala, entrusted with this responsibility, had to exercise extreme caution, as any mistake could incur the King’s fury, leading to severe penalties. This historical account underscores the importance and seriousness attached to the observance of Aluth Avurudu rituals during that era.

In conclusion, the debate over astrology revolves around the fundamental question of whether astrologers possess genuine knowledge or if astrology is simply a vestige of mythology. While astrology continues to captivate the imaginations of many, its validity remains a subject of skepticism and inquiry. As the discourse unfolds, a clearer understanding of astrology’s place within the realms of knowledge and belief may emerge, shedding light on its enduring appeal and cultural significance.

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