Abhaya Mudra Dasi
Shukracharya, deity of the planet Venus, is a great devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is great soul although he is often disregarded simply because he is the guru of the asuras. Shukracharya is not a simple character; his exalted qualities are hidden. Often he acts in a twisted manner because it is not easy to direct his demonic disciples towards the path of devotion. Still on so many occasions--as verified by shastra--Shukracharya has been very successful with his tactics.
Let us look at the story of Vamanadeva. When Bali Maharaja usurped the kingdom of Lord Indra the demigods required help. Thus Vamanadeva appeared as Lord Indra’s brother seeking justice for the demigods. When the Supreme Lord in the form of a dwarf brahmana appeared in front of Bali Maharaja, the king had no idea about the identity of Lord Vamanadeva. That information came from Shukracharya. The guru told his disciple, “This dwarf is directly the imperishable Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vishnu...” Yet, in order to play along with the other asuras and to demonstrate some concern for their rights, Shukracharya also added, “...After giving everything to Vishnu you will have no means of livelihood.” There have been many misunderstandings about this particular episode of the epic Shri Vamandeva avatara-lila. Apparently Bali Maharaja disregarded the warning of his guru in such a way that he became a mahajana and a great devotee of the Supreme Lord. Scant regard is given to the fact that the credit should go to Shukracharya for informing Bali Maharaja about the true identity of the Personality of Godhead.
Few recognize Shukracharya for his exceptional devotion. He is accepted as the deity of the feminine planet Venus. Natural law gives credit to the male and not to the subtle female energy. According to the flawless and perfect order of the Universe as ordained by the Supreme Person, the female is considered part of the male foundation. Nonetheless Shuracharya is very much a male and is not a female as wrongly portrayed by western astrology. Venus, like all other planets in Vedic astrology, is a demigod and not a demi-goddess. Some of the characteristics of Shukracharya are well known and others are more obscure. But as followers of the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya headed by Brahma, we side with the opinions of the demigods.
Shukracharya was born as the son of Brighu muni. With his curly black hair, he is described as beautiful to behold. He has a slender physique and rides a camel. In his hands he holds beads, a stick and a lotus. He dresses in a neat white dhoti. One of his daughters is Devayani. Devayani is famous for being cursed by Kacha, the son of Brihaspati. Kacha became a student of Shukracharya to learn the art of mrityu-sanjivani or reviving the dead, a science well known to the guru of the demons. As Shrila Prabhupada explains in the Bhaktivedanta Purport to SB 9.18.22 Devayani fell in love with the handsome Kacha and desired to marry him, but Kacha refused because she was the daughter of his teacher. She retaliated by cursing him that when he needed to employ the art of mrityu-sanjivani, it would be ineffective. Kacha retaliated by cursing the beautiful lady that she would never marry a brahmana. As a result of Kacha’s curse, the daughter of Shukracharya eventually married the great King Yayati.
Shukra means white liquid. Another tinge of meaning assigned to the name of Shukracharya is “bright” or ”shiny”. By connotation, shukra is equated with semen, the most refined substance in one’s body. Shukra is identified as well with soma rasa, or the drink of immortality. It is no wonder that Shukracharya has the ability to revive those among the dead if their bodies are intact.
In Vedic astrology, the malefic seven-year period (mahadasha) of Ketu is followed by the benefic twenty-year period of Shukra. The intense Ketu mahadasha can leave one torn between life and death or spirit and matter. Therefore who would not welcome the reviving touch of the planetary period of Venus? Sometimes the only individuals to whom one who is undergoing Ketu dasha can relate to are those who are running the Venus planetary period. That is not at all surprising because Venus--the brahmana Shukracharrya--is very merciful to all suffering and misdirected souls.
In Bhagavad Gita (10.37) Shri Krishna describes Shri Shukracharya as one of His representatives. It is not by chance that he is honored in the same verse as the great sage Vyasadeva, “...muninam apy aham vyasah kavinam ushana kavih.” In this verse Krishna confirms, “Among great thinkers I am Ushana (Shukra)”. In the purport to the same verse, Shrila Prabhupada is likewise generous in his glorification of Shukracharya, “...Ushana was the spiritual master of the demons; he was extremely intelligent, far-seeing, political and spiritual in every way...”
Often in astrology, Jupiter or Brihaspati is called the “greater benefic” because his portfolio rules such assets as religion, philosophy, banking, progeny and education. Shukracharya is referred to as the “lesser benefic” because his benefits range from dining, luxuries and various pleasures of sense gratification to the arts. But, as we have seen in the Bhagavad Gita, the opinion of Shri Krishna is that both the Deva Guru (Jupiter) and Asura Guru (Venus) represent Him.
Soma, the demi-god of the Moon, is another feminine planet. Soma is equated with the left eye of the Universal form of Shri Krishna. Like Venus, the Moon also rules liquids since water is the most fertile of all elements. The Moon also does not get credit from gross materialists for infusing all living entities with their individual characteristics. The movements of the Moon are likewise mysterious as are the movements of the bright Venus. In Shrimad Bhagavatam (5.22.12) Venus is described as always moving in proximity to the Sun. Shukracharya is never seen in opposition to the Sun--despite the fact that he is considered as one of the Sun’s enemies for technical reasons in astrology. Shukra, with his captivating brightness, is the first celestial body to appear upon the horizon while setting in the evening. Or he is the last luminary before sunrise.
The same verse from the Fifth Canto further describes Venus as being ever beneficial for all universal activities. One may wonder why it is that in Parashari Jyotish, Venus becomes exalted in the house of Jupiter. Brihaspati stands in staunch opposition to the policies of Shukracharya. But it is his challenge to the guru of the auras to fight or debate over the rights of this universe that makes Shukracharya stand out in his true light. Venus, being imbued with feminine passivity, has that sort of character that has to be provoked from outside forces in order to display his real spirit. Shukracharya’s only true equal is Brihaspati. On the battlefield he is often seen fighting with Brihaspati. In order to help the asuras convert to the right path of dharma, Shukracharya hides his true nature and secretly enjoys the rebukes of Brihaspati. In his heart the guru of the asuras holds a conviction that equals the guru of the demigods: they both worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Once Venus used his powers to revive the slain army of the demon Andhaka. For this act he was swallowed by Lord Shiva. Shukracharya was not able to free himself for one hundred celestial years. During this time he meditated upon Lord Vishnu’s universal form in the belly of the angry Lord Shiva. But when Shukra managed to emerge, even Shiva was amazed. The greatest of the demigods blessed Shukracharya with powers that no other jiva in this universe can equal. Venus can revitalize the universe or an individual because of these splendid blessings. But his position as the asura guru is always tricky and difficut to understand.
Many great devotees have debilitated Venus in their charts pointing to their renounced spirit. This is so in the case of Shrila Prabhupada whose debilitated Venus, though powerfully neecha-bhang in the tenth house, indicates a temperament far above any attraction to sense gratification. Still other worshipers of Lord Shri Krishna have Venus exalted in their horoscopes, pointing to their desire to employ all beautiful things in life in the service of the Supreme Lord. We can find Venus in all different positions in the chart of devotees. It is Jupiter whose position in the horoscope of a devotee describes the extent of devotional influence (by emphasizing the houses of dharma), while the position of Venus further refines the chart.
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