The term “Combustion” is used in both Astrology as well as Physics. In Physics combustion is a property exhibited by fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum and in this process, they release energy. So it becomes a useful process as most of the energy requirements of the world are met through the property of “combustion” exhibited by fossil fuels. In Astrology, the word “Combustion” occurs as a diametrically opposite phenomenon, namely the tendency of a planet to lose energy due to its proximity to the Sun. The “Combustion” we learn in Astrology is all about “Energy-depletion or the inability of a planet to release its energy and vitality to a horoscope, mainly due to its proximity to the Sun.This is in contrast to the principle of combustion in physics which is all about “ Energy-generation”.In Astrology,Combustion is all about wastage of planetary properties that renders it worthless whereas in Physics ,combustion is all about utilization of latent resources,which makes it worthwhile. In this article I propose to dwell at length on the rules, exceptions, nuances and paradoxes relating to combustion, which hopefully would set at rest any doubts, both scholars and laymen would have on this oft-discussed subject.
What is Combustion?
Combustion is an astronomical (or rather astrological) phenomenon wherein a planet is supposed to be “Combust” while it comes close to the Sun, say within certain degrees( See table below). The corollary of this phenomenon, which is what this dissertation is all about, is that a planet in combustion “loses its power to good”. Does it lose all its power? Can this statement be modified to say, “a certain percentage of its power”? Is the combust planet supposed to confer inauspicious results exclusively? These are some of the crucial questions we are going to address, in the course of this article. While textbooks have chosen to maintain a dignified state of silence in respect to combustion, scholars have maintained a view similar to our saying. “All is not lost”, while adopting a liberal approach. A third category of Astrologers have chosen to adopt the view, which is similar to Buddha’s middle path to Nirvana, while advocating the view that though, a combust planet is a “no-gooder” still it cannot be classified as a malefic. Which of these three conflicting views is correct? I am sure, you will come out with your answer, once we are through with this essay.
A planet is supposed to be combust, according to Surya Siddhanta, when it is very close to the Sun, within a specified degree.
A rider is also imposed stating that in retrogression Venus and Mercury are combust within a specified degree.
In the case of the nodes, Rahu and Ketu, one might say that the rules of combustion don’t apply but I am prepared to travel the extra mile to say that when Rahu or Ketu is in close proximity to the Sun, it is the latter which gets eclipsed! So a combust Rahu weakens the Sun and not the other way around!
Western astrology gives an allowance of 8’’30’ on either side of the Sun for a planet to become combust and in this process does not discriminate between the planets unlike we understood in Vedic Astrology. According to Ptolemy, Father of Western Astrology, a combust planet tends to “Impregnate” the Sun with its own qualities.
Mantreswara, in his magnum opus “Phaladeepika” puts forth the view that, a combust planet is similar to one in debilitation as both are powerless (Ch. 20 Verse 30). Prof B S Rao in his path breaking commentary on Sarwartha Chintamani views the status of a planet in combustion, in debilitation and in an inimical house on similar lines. The principle of combustion is found to be applicable in the computation of longevity on quantitative lines found in the textbooks on Astrology. 50% of the quantum of years supplied by a planet is deducted for arriving at the longevity figure, while in combustion or debilitation, in Mantreswara’s approach while a liberalized approach is adopted by the author of Jataka Parijatha in exempting Venus and Saturn from mandatory deductions.Some Scholars have made an attempt to question the discriminatory approach in exempting Venus and Saturn from these “deductions” when all planets come under the phenomenon of combustion uniformly.
Sun is debilitated in Libra. If it conjoins Venus or Saturn it would get relief through the interference of formation of a “Neecha Bhanga Raja Yoga” while the debilitated Sun conjoins either an exalted Saturn or a well-placed Venus in its own house in Libra. My humble view is that the exemption conferred upon Venus or Saturn bears a direct linkage to the principle of “Neechabhanga” getting imported to combustion and resulting in “Moudya bhanga” or the concept of cancellation of combustion. If longevity is not affected merely because Saturn or Venus is combust, is there not a ground to infer that karakatwas of a combust planet are not “Completely destroyed “in this celestial phenomenon?
A new concept introduced by the author of Jataka Parijatha is “Planets which do not possess benefic aspect or other good influences prove to be inauspicious when they are debilitated, in inimical house, associated with malefics, combust, in junction points, have fewer points in Ashtakavarga or when they occupy the evil parts of a sign” (II/34 )
The correct interpretation of this verse would be:
A planet is deemed to be inauspicious if it
a) Has some defect in the form of combustion or debilitation or any one of the negative features discussed in verse 34 of chapter II of Jataka Parijatha and
b) The aforesaid planet fails to obtain the aspect of a benefic
The aspect of a benefic is curative in nature. One may even say it is preventive since it prevents the aforesaid weak planet from delivering bad results. In the absence of benefic aspect, the negative qualities of the planet are experienced by the chart holder. Within the matrix of this doctrine there are certain exceptions. A planet debilitated in both Rasi and in navamsa gets the benefit of Vargottama and thereby is transformed into a benefic.
A planet debilitated in Rasi but exalted in Navamsa acquires the status of an exalted planet (vide Jataka Parijatha VI / 36)
A planet in debilitation is treated as an exalted planet while in retrogression (vide Uttara Kalamrtam II/6)
This verse incidentally gives rise to one of the causative factors for Moudya bhanga (or cancellation of combustion) namely when a combusted planet is aspected by a benefic, the evil attributable to combustion is removed.
Take for instance the Sun-Saturn conjunction in Aries. This is a perfect case for Neechabhanga Raja Yoga. A debilitated Saturn has its weakness covered up by an exalted Sun.In this case. If Saturn is also subject to combustion, then I would prefer to say it is not just Neechabhanga but also Moudya bhanga. In case this conjunction, occurs in Libra, then we are faced with a piquant situation wherein a combust Saturn is aligned with a debilitated Sun.In this situation, I would go with the verdict that Moudya bhanga coexists with Neecha Bhanga in as much as a weak Sun is incapable of providing the required ammunition for combustion so as to immobilize a powerful Saturn.
According to Jataka Parijatha “A planet may be even badly placed or in an inimical Amsa or debilitated; it will nevertheless prove to be beneficial when the navamsa or Rasi occupied it is its own or exaltation sign or of a friendly planet no less when a benefic aspect it (XI / 9)
This verse highlights the dictum that the navamsa plays an important role is Predictive Astrology. If we view combustion from this angle, then even a combusted planet could provide good results provided they are well placed in Rasi or Amsa. Adding to our quota of ambiguity, textbooks on Astrology fail to distinguish between an exalted planet combusted and a debilitated planet similarly placed. The Sun-Jupiter conjunction in Cancer cannot be equated with the Sun-Jupiter conjunction in Capricorn. In the former case both planets occupy a state of dignity. In the latter case, Sun occupies the house of its dire enemy Saturn, while Jupiter is debilitated. In that situation one cannot expect either of the planets to individually deliver positive results leave alone the prospects of this yoga.
The Budha-Aditya yoga is extolled in ancient texts. Polite speech, Fame, respect of the king, greatness, wealth, happiness and beauty all follow a person who has Budha Aditya Yoga in the natal chart. What if under the given circumstance, Mercury is combust? Some scholars opine that a combust Mercury cannot give rise to Budha Aditya Yoga. The sine qua non for occurrence of the Budha Aditya yoga is a non-combust Mercury. A certain section of scholars hold the view that the word “Yoga” does not differentiate rapt conjunction from conjunction in the sense in which it is ordinarily understood. For a conjunction to take place all that is needed is for the two planets – Sun and Mercury – to occupy the same sign. Using this argument this school holds the view that combustion of Mercury is negated by occurrence of Budha-Aditya Yoga. In their view, Mercury can never suffer the blemish of combustion.( The horoscope of former French President Chirac stands out as an example of this dictum)
In his article, “Role of Combustion in Yogas”, Y.Keshava Menon writes “In the examination of hundreds of horoscopes I have found the yogas per se valid for what results are predicted .Combustion does its work independently of the yogas……of course one swallow does never make a summer – a thousand might. Our difficulty is that in the thousand not one is the same absolutely as another. Therefore, we ought to look for variations and figure out how and the why on scientific lines, not philosophic. The effect of combustion then is always felt and seen. But yogas are not captives of the combustion principle. The founding fathers must at least be credited with the knowledge that certain planets in their yoga formulations are vulnerable to combustion. We find no qualifying classes in the stipulation of such yogas. After a careful and close scrutiny of the relevant horoscopes I have come to the conclusion that conjunction with the Sun does not deprive a planet of his Yoga-forming powers. Its disadvantages would come to be expressed in other aspects of his functioning (The Astrological Magazine, September 1978, page 699)
Pravrajya or Sanyasa Yoga is generally considered an inauspicious yoga wherein a person renounces his routine life to take up the life of a mendicant. While the quest for spiritual realization is a goal common to all of mankind, what renders Pravrajya yoga inauspicious is the fact that the chartholder is denied the happiness associated with family and belongings. In the process of reaching “Moksha”, Artha (wealth) and Kama (pleasure) are not just intermediary stages, but an essential part of the preparatory journey - without partaking the legitimate quota of mundane pleasures, the human birth is rendered infructuous. Self-realization is the ultimate quest of all mankind but nor without the allowances for wealth or pleasures. It is the deprivation of all forms of mundane happiness that makes “Pravrajya”, a not-so alluring prospect even for a spiritual aspirant.
You can look at Pravrajya Bhanga Yoga due to a combusted planet from two angles. By denying access to mendicancy, it can effectively scuttle the prospects of asceticism. The fallout of this rule is that it makes a person a spiritual aspirant within the framework of a family thereby leading to krama mukti or salvation in a progressive way.When found in the chart of a householder (Grihasta), it makes him a detached witness to family life but does not permit him to shirk the duties, attendant on the breadwinner of a family. Pravrajya yoga can help identify a person who is best suited for heading Ashrams, hermitages or Mutts but in case one of the planets giving rise to this Yoga is combust then the person merely has admiration for an ascetic but does not become an ascetic himself.Not every fan of Sachin Tendulkar is a cricketer.Some have aptitude and training for playing the game while others have a passion for the sport though they may not have held a cricket bat in their hand all through their lives..This analogy would explain the dichotomy between Pravrajya Yoga and Pravrajya bhanga yoga (.I am using the term “Pravrajya bhanga yoga” for want of a better terminology)
Bhattotpala gives a clue to determining whether a planet is combust or not. Assuming that a planet occupies the 2nd house from Sun does not mean it is not combust nor does the yoga of a planet in conjunction with the Sun automatically make it combust. The mathematical degrees alone are the guiding principle to ascertain whether a planet is combust or not.
According to Varahamira, “If the Sun conjoins the Moon, the person will be skilled in Machinery and Masonry” (vide Brihat Jataka XIV/1). In his commentary to this verse, B S Rao writes “The Sun and the Moon in conjunction produce men skilled in making, handling or dealing with all machinery and under this head we may bring in mechanics, engineers, chemists and other workmen”.
According to Jataka Parijatha “If a person is born in Amavasya, he will be credulous and devoted to the worship of the Manes and the Gods”(IX/37). Further “If the Sun is in conjunction with the Moon, the chartholder will be submissive to his wife and clever in every work he undertakes”(Ibid, VIII/1). Both these learn authors seem to concur in their view that a person who has the Sun-Moon conjunction would be skillful in his work. Therefore, the combustion of the Moon cannot be considered a blemish. On the other hand, the yoga of Sun with Moon, which inter alia may include the phenomenon of combustion of Moon, would produce a child who would have reverence for pitris (Manes) and towards God, both laudable traits. In southern parts of India people prefer to buy jewelry on the New Moon day rather than the immediately succeeding day, Prathama, since the latter is considered an evil-producing day whereas Amavasya is considered good, mainly because people take the blessings of their ancestors by offering oblations; in the form of “Pitr tarpan”.
An inauspicious yoga by name “Rekha yoga” is produced when three planets are either depressed or obscured by Sun’s rays (Jataka Parijatha VI/32). A person born under Rekha yoga has neither knowledge nor wealth; he is penurious, hostile, lustful and wrathful. His mind is always distressed he is disagreeable, having no beauty or grace; he lives on alms; he is filthy and quarrelsome; he is full of envy and rage; he reviles Gods and Brahmins and he in turn is reviled by his wife, children and his whole family. My humble observation about Rekha yoga is that it is not just three planets should be debilitated or combust but also the 5th house denoting poorva punya must be considered before we judge whether the above effects will come to pass. Further I wish to add, combusted planets increase the probability of existence of Rekha yoga and therefore we need to examine the role of combusted planets in the formation of such adverse yogas.
Auspicious events such as Marriage, Upanayana, ear piercing, tonsure are to be avoided when Jupiter or Venus is combust while in transit. There are couple of exceptions suggested by scholars on Astrology.
1.The evil effect of Jupiter’s combustion is overcome by Venus in Lagna.
2.The evil effect of Venus in combustion is overcome by Jupiter in Lagna and malefics in 3,6 or 11.
We will now take a look at some of the features of combustion.
1.If the Lord of the sign where combustion takes place is in own, exalted or in friend’s house, the bad effects of combustion get mitigated.
2.A person becomes issueless if the 5th lord is combust and is conjunct a malefic.In Such cases though combustion can eventually lead to denial of progeny,Remedial measures as prescribed in Dharma sastra can mitigate the evil effects of such planets and confer the boon of progeny.A fatalistic approach should be shunned by all Astrologers in practice in such cases.The benefit of the doubt should be given to Purushakara( Free will) rather than Daiva( destiny)
3.A planet in exaltation gives good results even when it is in combustion.
4.Venus and Saturn do not lose their strength even when they are combust (Uttarakalamrta 4.15)
5.When a combusted planet is aspected by a yogakaraka, the former is bestowed with the power of gifting a Raja yoga.
6.A combusted planet exalted in Navamsa would confer good results in the latter half of its Dasa period.
7.The lords of 6,8 and 12 are inauspicious planets by virtue of ownership of dustanas. Needless to say, they promote the beneficial effects of a chart not by their strength but by their weakness. Giving strength to them tantamounts to giving the key to a house to a thief or a knife to a murderer. The less empowered they are to do evil, the better it is for the chartholder. When the Lords of 6,8 or 12 are combusted, there is nothing to mourn; on the otherhand, there is everything to rejoice. The 6th house denotes the enemy. If the lord of 6 is combusted or if a combusted planet occupies the 6th, the one who has to worry is not the chartholder but the chartholder’s foe. Yogas like Hamsa, Vimala and Sarala operate on this dictum by mitigating the impact of evil lordship. (To understand the impact of a combusted planet in 6, one can refer to the horoscope of Charlie Chaplin)
With these words we will take a look at some of the horoscopes to understand in a lucid way, the role of combusted planets in delivering results.
In the horoscope of Jacques Chirac, Former President of France, combusted Mercury occupies the 11th in conjunction with Sun, thereby generating a Budha Aditya yoga. It is worth noting that Mercury is also retrograde. Further a planet which is simultaneously combust as well as retrograde cannot be classified as a “Weak” planet by denying the benefits of retrogression. The view of Kalidasa in Uttarakalamrtam gets invoked elevating Mercury to the status of an exalted planet. Needless to say, Mercury as 9th lord has not denied royal fortune to Chirac in spite of combustion.
In the horoscope of noted British actor Charlie Chaplin both Mars and Mercury are combusted. In his chart the Dasa of Mercury operated between 1928 and 1945. As discussed, a combusted planet in 6 is more a boon than a bane .Further in his chart it is the originator of a partial Vipareetha Raja Yoga. In Mercury dasa, Charlie Chaplin scaled dizzy heights in his career starring in City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936) and The Great Dictator (1940).
Noted Physician and New age author Deepak Chopra has a combusted Jupiter in 9. The Dasa of Jupiter operated from 1983 to 1999 and in this period Chopra acquired world-wide name and fame through his books. “The Way of the Wizard”, “Return of the Rishi”, Ageless Body Timeless Mind” and “The Seven Spiritual laws of Success” were some of the classics he authored in this period. Needless to say, combusted Jupiter did not affect his career growth. On the other hand, he climbed greater heights in Jupiter Dasa.
Though textbooks on astrology uniformly state that combustion is evil, it is important to study the overall influence of a planet before it is classified as a malefic. To judge a planet as “malefic” merely on the basis of combustion, would be to do injustice to astrology and one runs the grave risk of coming to erroneous conclusions. To say that, “All is Lost” in respect of combusted planets would give a skewed meaning to Astrology by failing to see the trees for the woods. A balanced interpretation would mean that the arguments in favour of benefits accruing through the mode of a combusted planet are not thwarted by resorting to a lopsided interpretation of textbook rules.