Solar Eclipse – what does it mean from a Buddhist perspective?
Upcoming Total Solar Eclipse
On Fri. March 20, there will be an total Solar eclipse.This total solar eclipse will be especially striking because three celestial events will coincide this Friday: a new moon, an equinox, and an eclipse. In other words, a new moon will totally cover the sun while the moon is currently at the point of its elliptical orbit closest to the Earth. It’s a phenomenon astronomers call the perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system but more commonly known as an eclipsing supermoon.
“By both scientific and cultural standards, this will be a legendary moon”
The total eclipse – when moon completely obscures our view of the sun – will happen mostly over the north Atlantic Ocean Friday morning and will only be visible in the Faroe Islands, located halfway between Iceland and the tip of Scotland, and Norway’s Svalbard Islands.As in the past, we are requesting that you dedicate some extra time for your Dharma practice on this day.
When there is an interruption of this energy radiation, as during an eclipse, its effects can be observed and felt. It is a cessation, or a cutting off, of these vital energies. We can see this concept expressed by the word ‘eclipse;’ a Greek word that means ‘abandons’ in that the sun ‘abandons’ the earth during that time. Where there was light filtering through the elemental forces of the zodiac into the earth’s aura, there is suddenly darkness, a cutting off from the source of life. When these solar or lunar radiations are cut off, it creates an energetic stress on the planet and all life on it. This can be observed by the rise in disorders such as epilepsy and mental illness, the strange behaviors of animals – both land and sea, by the way the birds become silent, by the shift in the gravitational pull, and the arising of earthquakes, volcanoes, and other terrestrial phenomena.
According to tantric Buddhist cosmology, the energies that are lost during eclipses, cannot be recovered. This means that every time there is an eclipse, there is a gradual diminishment of energy on the planet. Over the course of decades, centuries, and millennia, this gradual decreasing of energy is what is known as ‘the degenerate age.’ This is evident by the gradual lessening of the power of the five elements – food and herbs loose their potency, there is less oxygen in the atmosphere, diseases and pollution increase, there is a worsening of natural disasters and suffering. This process of elemental degeneration is largely created as a result of these continual cycles of eclipses, until finally we reach the end of the kalpa when only one element predominates and consumes what is left.
For this reason, in the Buddhist tradition, much emphasis is placed on engaging in Dharma practice on these days. By generating merit and reciting prayers, we can lessen the overall diminishment of energy and slow down the process of degeneration. We can help to preserve the continuity of the elemental energies, and by doing so, it may be possible to save the lives of those beings who may die as a result of the stress caused by the eclipse. Some Buddhist sources say that during a solar eclipse the effects of positive and negative actions are multiplied by 10,000. Lama Dawa Rinpoche says that what this means is that if you engage in virtuous practice it will be more helpful than usual. However, if you engage in non-virtue, it will further the process of degeneration.
“During an eclipse, Dharma Prayer is the special method to not leak away the element’s energy that is the support for all beings” Lama Dawa Rinpoche
There are some special prayers, such as the ‘Kunzang Monlam’ (Aspiration Prayer of Samantabhadra) that state very specifically that the prayer should be recited during eclipses. However, any Dharma practice – whether it is prayers, mantras, sadhanas – will be helpful in preventing the loss of the vital energies provided by the sun; in particular, the mantra for Medicine Buddha, Amitayus, Tara, Vajra Guru, or reciting the ‘Tse-Do Tse-Sung’ Sutra. With this in mind, we request that you set aside some extra time on Friday to do whatever practice you are most familiar with and dedicate it to the benefit of all beings, and in particular to those beings who may be suffering during that time, as well as to strengthen the integrity of the three worlds.