Rahu and Ketu are not two entities. They are the two parts of the same demon Swarbhanu who was a dragon. The relevant story goes like this. It was desired to bring out the gems lying hidden in the womb of the ocean. The gems were not the precious stones that we often get out of the sea. What is meant here is perhaps the secrets unknown so far. Incidentally, it may be added here that by water they never meant the compound two gases. In occult and spiritual literature water is the base of all manifestation. Water is used as a purifying agent in all religions the world over. As the butter in the milk is not visible but can be obtained by churning the milk, the gods and demons representing good and bad forces wanted to churn the ocean. The work cannot be done by one or a few persons. It was decided to harness all the available forces of the suras ( gods) and Asuras (demons). As the result would be precious to both the parties they decided to work together and share all that comes out. Sumeru mountain was selected as the stick for churning. A serpent was used as the cord for the stick. Many gems came out of the sea one by one. Amrita, the nectar that makes one immortal who drinks it, was the last to appear.
The gods did not want to share this nectar with the demons lest the demons become immortal and evil perpetuates. The demons were already apprehensive of the intentions of gods. The latter approached Lord Vishnu who is always partial to gods. The latter appeared before the quarrelling parties in the form of a charming damsel. The damsel assured justice to both parties and asked them to stand in two rows. Swarbhanu one of the demons, apprehensive of the justice by the damsel infiltrated into the row of gods incognito and got his share of the nectar. It was only after drinking the nectar that he was detected by Sun and Moon who complained about it to Lord Vishnu who got enraged and chopped off the head of the demon. The two portions, head and the headless trunk have since been going round in the zodiac. As Sun and Moon are both their enemies they try to devour them which is the cause of solar and lunar eclipses. Swarbhanu before drinking the nectar had observed great penaces and Tapas and got a boon from Lord Brahma that he would be worshipped along with all the planets. Sun and Moon. It was on account of this boon of Lord Brahma that Lord Vishnu(the damsel) deliberately ignored his infiltration and gave him the nectar. The head portion of the demon is known Rahu and the trunk as Ketu.
On the face it looks funny but an intelligent interpretation of it would lead us to great truth. Gods and demons have always existed side by side, each fearful of the other and each struggling for existence and supremacy over the other. Churning of the ocean for taking out the gems was to have the secrets of life and of the manifestation. The Mt. Sumera is nothing but our spinal cord. The nectar that appeared last of all was nothing but the secrets of life and death and the way to liberation. The serpent used as a rope to bind the mountain is the wise man, perhaps, under whose guidance the operation should be undertaken. In short the churning of the sea is nothing but awakening and activating the Kundalini/ Serpent power. The person who detected the demon was Moon who represents an illumined mind. Only and illumined mind can distinguish between good and bad. Head is the governing portion of the entire body and the experiences and the knowledge deposited in the lower portion of the body cannot be utilized by a headless man. In fact knowledge of truth and being one with it are two different things. Even the secret knowledge of truth provides the knower with many Siddhis and accomplishments which may be used as well as misused in the daily affairs of life. Chopping off the head means a separation of the governing part of the body from real truth.
The most significant point in the story is that the head comprising the mind and the faculty of distinction and power to govern the body is termed as Rahu. Because he was a demon his eyes are cast downwards, that is, towards earth or material pursuits. The material pleasures may give short time benefits but in the long run the individual gets disillusioned and starts looking towards the heavens for long term or permanent peace and bliss. As Rahu has gained the secrets of life and death he becomes invincible. He will try to get what he wants. If the circumstances are conducive or he will manipulate if they are not conductive. In other words, speaking astrologically, Rahu will get whatever it stands for by hook or by crook. It is compared with Saturn. The discussion on this aspect is possible only after we have learnt more about Rahu. One thing, however, is certain. Rahu in eclipses is active in dark fortnight and Ketu in bright fortnight. It is on this account that Ketu is considered as the Karaka or significator of Moksha or liberation. Both the nodes are malefic because the individuals gets troubles in both the paths whether spiritual or material.
Rahu and Ketu
Rahu and Ketu have no house of their owns. They are guided by the lord of the house they occupy. They are also influenced by the planets co-occupying the houses with them and also by those aspecting them. This supports our assumption that the nodes affect more than one aspect of life.
Further, the two nodes are always opposite to each other Normally the planets opposing each other affect each other’s results. This may not be so with the nodes because the results in each case may not have to be opposed or affected. If at all they affect each other that may be only supplementary and not otherwise.
According to mythological tales Rahu is the head of the dragon. Head as we know contain the brain and controls the functioning of the entire body. This suggests that Rahu is the controlling and active node. Ketu rules of the body, sends feelings and sensations to the brain. To analyse those sensations and take action if necessary is within the jurisdiction of Rahu. More precisely Ketu has the power of transforming the events into experience which turn into wisdom. On the basis of the above we can assume that the wisdom derived from events is stored by Kety and may be lying some where at the unconscious level. The wisdom lying at the unconscious may come up to rule conscious or even the conscious level which inspires us to respond involuntarily to some events even knowing fully well that a particularly action shall go against our interests, we take that action.
Nobody can predict such action. We may call it mysterious because we do not know the reason (s) why we took certain action which was not at all warranted under the then prevailing circumstances. This is the bridge linking the fact with the present. Ignoring Rahu and Ketu we would be missing this link.
The sign dispositors of the nodes function as the channels for them. Modern writers have started to link them with our previous incarnations. Ketu stores the past events in its own way and delivers their results through the agency of its sign dispositors and the planets connected with it.
Astrologically speaking human life has been divided into three stages as Rajasik. Tamasik, Sattwik phases. Ketu is the first Graha in each of these three stages. In Pisces the egos were fast sleep and had lost their individually. The first step was to awaken the dormant egos. There may be noised around them yet they are not awakened unless called out by name. This is so because the sleeping egos had not lost their individually. The persons generally identify themselves with the name. They will not easily be awakened by calling out by their names. Ketu as the first Graha required for awakening the ego indicates that it has some thing to do with the activities the sleeping ego had identified itself with. Ketu thus can be taken to be concerned with the life earlier than when the egos went dormant. In other words Ketu implants in the egos their earlier identification. Ketu was the repository of its past deeds in some form or the other. It was however, at mental stage.
In Tamasik phase the individual is ready to face the world manifest physically and mentally. Ketu’s appearance as first again means that the experiences gained in the earlier life release their talent faculties. Sattwik attributes lead to enlightenment on the basis of its existence in the world of matter. Molla in the group asks individual once again to indentify himself in accordance with his past experience. He may like to go for more experiences of the world of matter or to change the course of piolgirmage to spiritualism. This is one aspect of Ketu that is its contribution to the process of evolution. This is the main function of Ketu and all the others Grahas for that matter. When we talk of astrological function we have to keep this in mind that Ketu is the repository of our past Karmas or deeds and misdeeds that bring us to this world of matter and manifestation.
Astrologically speaking Ketu’s Nakshatra fall in the signs Aries Leo and Sagittarius. The indication is that Ketu does whatever it likes on an impulse. It does not analyse its action objectively. It has no tolerance or forbearance. Seeking reasons for such impulsive actions. We go to the study of the rulers of its Nakshatra’s four quarters. The Nakshatras fall in different signs of the zodiac but their quarters are governed by Mars. Venus, Mercury and Moon. They all belong to the first phase of evolution. Their impact is on subjective mind and they all seek externalization of themselves. Externalisation means an impulse of expressing in physical terms all that they feel inside. The moon as the lord of Cancer governs the cosmic Hiranyagarbha the womb of all manifestation. The egos get all type of nourishment that is required by the ego for all its manoeuvres that it cherished. It is for this reason that Ketu is compared with Mars.
Ketu is called Shikhi which means the top. Ketu prepare the individual for each phase of journey. Preparation for any action requires a conviction that he can do the work required of him. Ketu for this purpose gives flashes of the inner self of the individual which is omnipotent. The aspect of Ketu is present in all its Nakashatras. It tries to take you to spiritualism, the way to the cosmic self. Ketu’s action is always on the mental plane irrespective of the phase of evolution it is concerned with. In Aries it stimulates the mind because the emerging egos had attained the stage of floating masses. In Pisces they were merely the floating nebulae.
In Leo it again stimulated the mind, increased self centredness to the degree of beingand egotist. It did so because the ego wanted to have more experience the material world. In the last phase of development it stimulated the mind again to take a decision and if need be to change the course of journey. In short, Ketu does not produce the circumstances. It creates the mind. It is the top executive of human actions.
It is true that by affecting the mind Ketu causesa great mental turbulence because the matter does not move according to its dictates. This often causes great agonies and even frustrations. Repeated failures and frustrations lead to a situation of helplessness and isolation, then the individual tries to seek remedies and divine help. Ketu does not ask him to withdraw into his shell and that is possible only when we surrender ourselves. Our western friends are of the opinion that Ketu is Mars conjunct Saturn. It cannot be said how this assumption has gained ground . Mars gives up its impulsive nature in the Saturnian sign Capricorn. Esoterically Saturn is considered to be a god of retribution and turning all Karmik accumulation into impersonal universe energy. Karmik retribution is the department under Rahu as we have seen during our study of Nakshatras. Ketu is not concerned with retribution. Its department is storing of all the deeds or misdeeds in the form or wisdom or experiences. It is difficult to agree with western assumption. The discussion can be summariased briefly.
1. Ketu is the Karmik planet in the sense that it is the store house of all our past deeds or misdeeds and egoic aspirations and ambitions of the previous incarnations.
2. Ketu does not create circumstances. It is the circumstances which churn the contents of Ketu and become the stimulants to bring out the past relevant experiences etc to the fore to influence the mind.
3. Ketu is like Mars because it works at the spur of the moment.
4. Ketu brings out the specific ray to the fore.
It was Ketu that sowed the seed of re-incarnation of the ego. It gave them them wisdom and experience that they had gathered during their last sojourn in the world. It was subjective and purely on mental plane. It was too early to be effective but it was very important because it demarcated the line of action of each ego. By the time Rahu appeared on the scene various other developments had taken place. Rahu gave to the egos a human shape. All the organs of sense and action were fully developed. It was a human being with animal instinct. There was need to plant something that was anti animalism. The possibility of any action arises only when there are two aims different from each other. Kety no doubt gave the flashes of divinity. It was Rahu which made the ego in human shape realize divinity in him along with animalism but along with the instincts. Rahu also imparted the knowledge that the divinity in him was only a bounded divinity. It had its own limitation in manifestation. Rahu is considered as on of the Rudras who know the law of evolution, law of Karmas and law of retribution. It was thus assigned the most important task of enforcement of all the three laws.
It is Rahu only can suspend the operation of the function of any or all the planets at any particular moment. This does not mean that the achievements of the earlier lives or incarnations are lost to the individual. He will be rewarded or punished as the case may be at some future date. They remain in the personal ledger of the individual. It is the full bloomed flower that is to go on its journey towards his destiny. Swati is the next asterism falling in Libra. The sign belongs to Tamasik Vrittis or the attributes. Under this influence the egos immerse themselves deeper and deeper in matter . Rahu here arouses deeper wisdom and spirituality and teaches the ego to have a balanced life. Vayu or the wind god by its “sieving process” shows the distinction between the useful and non useful or real and unreal. The septenary principle starts functioning and the ego pick up its unique thread that it had developed in earliear lives. Rahu oversees the operations of all three laws, namely, the law of evolution, law or Karma and law of retribution.
The third Nakshatra of Rahu is Satbhishak in Aquarius. Lord of Aquarius is Saturn another Rudra governed by Lord Shiva, the Maha Rudra. Saturnian sign Aquarius teaches the individual that his body etc should be considered merely as a channel for the fulfillment of the Divine will and all that he has achieved should be used for the benefit of the world. Personalism gives way to impersonalism. VGaruna the presiding deity over the asterism has the responsibility of purifying the soul and cleaning it by removing all the traces of Avidya i.e. ignorance. In critical times when the individual is unable to bear the sieving action of Varuna he looks downward that is, he does not call for the divine assistance but looks for his own faults. In other words the ego again tries to seek the help of its unique ray.
It would be clear from the above that Rahu is not actually the demon but an enlightened demon who is determined to have its divinity back. The sacrifice, however big it may be, is his least concern.
Rahu like Ketu is also a Karmik planet. While Ketu being a store house can be taken as the Karmik (intake) planet and Rahu the active and distributing. Their effects may be termed as Karmik (distribution). Their sign depositors can also be classified like this. The sign lords of Ketu and Rahu on the same analogy are termed as Karmik planet (inlet) and Karmik planet (distribution).
As regards the houses affected by these Karmik Grahas some eminent astrologers say that their influence is in the houses 1, 3 and 5 from them. This is perhaps on the basis that the later eminent astrologers have granted them some aspect. Much work on this point has not been done so far. It is therefore, difficult to agree or disagree with these assertions. As these nodes work through the planets related to them either as sign lords or by association or aspects, we have good reason to believe that the planets show the house affected by the nodes.
The nodes are always retrograde in motion indicating that they relate to the past rather than the present. On this analogy all the retrograde planets at the time of the birth should be treated as the karmik planets. Much research work is required for the purpose.
The sign of the zodiac containing the Nakshatras of Rahu are all airy signs which have their effects on mind. As Rahu governs or controls the part that rules over the entire body it does create material condition conductive to the actions it proposes to take by the actions of the individual. The individual behaves in a way that the required material conditions are produced for him to take punishment or reward as the case may be, for its action.
Rahu is compared with Saturn. Saturn is a slow moving planet having many faces (masks) to get its work done ultimately. Rahu is not slow like Saturn but it does have many masks and it uses them as and when required. Saturn is non- sparing body and so is also Rahu. Both try to clear off the Karmik impediments that stand in the way of the individual to unite with the original self. They are cruel but their cruelty is for making the individual better.
Rahu like Saturn is considered to be a liar. In fact none of them is liar. They only keep their cards close to their chest. The individual mis-understands and misinterprets the situation and experiences the untoward results. Diplomacy of Rahu or Saturn may, however, be taken as their untruthfulness.
Rahu is supposed to be mysterious in action and often treading the unbeaten tracks. This belief also does not carry much of a conviction. Rahu is a celestial being.