Twelve Nidanas Into Astrology

Astrology, Karma & Nidanas
By Kim Graae Munch, 2012

Nidanas and the Zodiac

The twelve Nidanas are the karmic powers keeping man reincarnating on the Earth. This is an experiment where I test the thesis: “They are the powers of the Zodiac, but they are not following the same sequence around the Zodiac as the star signs.”

The twelve Nidanas consists of three groups, the first group of four is the Cardinal signs, the next group are the Mutable and the last group are the Fixed star signs. In the following tables and zodiac I have placed the Nidanas on the zodiac following these principles. The following paragraph is by Rudolf Steiner, the tables are extended by me and the figure is my design, and I had reformatted and added star signs.

Nidanas and the Signs

When man returns from Devachan, the astral, etheric and physical forces arrange themselves around him according to twelve forces of karma which in Indian esotericism are called Nidanas:

Nidanas Sign Keywords Comments from Wikipedia
Avidya ♈ Aries Non-knowledge, ignorance Not knowing suffering, not knowing the origination of suffering, not knowing the cessation of suffering, not knowing the way of practice leading to the cessation of suffering: This is called ignorance.
Sanskara ♋ Cancer Organizing tendencies, desire These three are fabrications: bodily fabrications, verbal fabrications, mental fabrications. These are called fabrications.
Vijnana ♎ Libra Consciousness, understanding, intellectual knowledge These six are classes of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, intellect-consciousness.
Namarupa ♑ Capricorn Names and form, distinction between name and form (subject and object) Feeling, perception, intention, contact, and attention: This is called name. The four great elements, and the body dependent on the four great elements: This is called form.
Shadayadana ♊ Gemini What the intellect makes of things The eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind are the six sense media.
Sparsha ♍ Virgo Contact with existence The coming together of the object, the sense medium and the consciousness of that sense medium is called contact.
Vedana ♐ Sagittarius Feeling, karmic results of feelings and sensations Feeling or sensations are of six forms: vision, hearing, olfactory sensation, gustatory sensation, tactile sensation, and intellectual sensation (thought).
Trishna ♓ Pisces Thirst for existense There are these six forms of cravings: cravings with respect to forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touch (massage, sex, pain), and ideas.
Upadana ♉ Taurus A sense of comfort in existence These four are clingings: sensual clinging, view clinging, practice clinging, and self clinging
Bhava ♌ Leo Birth, individual existense These three are becoming: sensual becoming, form becoming, formless becoming
Jati ♏ Scorpio The urge towards birth Birth is any coming-to-be or coming-forth. It refers not just to birth at the beginning of a lifetime, but to birth as new person, acquisition of a new status or position etc.
Jaramarana ♒ Aquarius What frees from earthly existence

In Indian esotericism twelve forces are differentiated which draw man down again into physical existence.

  1. Aries – The first of these forces is Avidja: ignorance.  Avidja is what draws us down again into physical existence for the simple reason that we shall only have fulfilled our mission on the Earth when we have extracted from it all possible knowledge.  On the other hand we have not fulfilled our mission as long as everything that we should learn from physical existence has not yet been extracted.
  2. Cancer – After Avidja what next draws us back is what the earth contains because we ourselves have made it, which therefore belongs to our Organisation.  When a mason, for instance, has worked on the building of a cathedral, this has become a part of himself.  There is a reciprocal attraction between them.  What has an organ-creating tendency for the original instigator, whether it be the work of Leonardo da Vinci or the smallest piece of work, forms an organ in the human being and this is the cause of his return.  All that the man has done, taken together, is called Sanskara or the organising tendency which builds up the human being.  This is the second thing which draws him back.
  3. Libra – Now comes the third.  Before the human being entered into any incarnation he knew nothing of an outer-world.  Self-awareness first began with the first incarnation; previously man had no consciousness of self.  He had first to perceive the outer objects on the physical plane before he could develop consciousness of self.  True as it is that what a man has done draws him back to the physical plane, so is it true that knowledge of things draws him back.  Consciousness is a new force which binds him to what is here.  This is the third element that draws him into a new earth-life.  This third force is called Vijnana = consciousness.
  4. Capricorn – Up to this point we have remained very intimately within the human soul.  As the fourth stage appears what comes towards the consciousness from outside, what was indeed already there without man, but what he had first to learn to know with his consciousness-this was present outside in his previous existence, but only disclosed itself after his consciousness opened to it. It is the separation between subject and object, or, as the Sanscrit writer says, the separation between name and form (Namarupa).  Through this man reached the outer object.  This is the fourth force that draws him back, for instance the memory of a being to which he has attached himself.
  5. Gemini – Next comes what we form as mental image in connection with an external object: for example, picturing a dog is merely making a mental image, which is however the essential thing for the painter.  It is what the intellect makes of a thing: Shadayadana.
  6. Virgo – Now there is a further descent into the earthly.  The mental picture leads us to what we call contact with existence: Sparsha.  Whoever depends on the object stands at the stage of Namarupa; whoever forms pictures stands at the stage of Shadayadana.  The one however who differentiates between the pleasing and the unpleasing will reach the point where he prefers the beautiful to the unbeautiful.  This is called contact with existence: Sparsha.
  7. Sagittarius – Somewhat different however from this contact with the outer-world is what at the same time stirs inwardly as feeling.  Now I myself come into action: I connect my feeling with one thing or another.  That is a new element.  Man becomes more involved.  It is called Vedana: Feeling.
  8. Pisces – Through Vedana something quite new again arises, that is, longing for existence.  The forces which draw man back into existence awaken more and more strongly within himself.  The higher forces compel all human beings to a greater or lesser degree; they are not individual.  Eventually however, quite personal forces appear which draw him back again into the earthly world.  That is the eighth force. Trishna = Thirst for existence.
  9. Taurus – Still more subjective than the thirst for existence is what is named Upadana: Comfort in existence.  With Upadana man has something in common with the animal, but he experiences it more spiritually and it is the task of man to spiritualise what is gross in this soul element.
  10. Leo – Then comes individual existence itself, the sum of all the earlier incarnations when he was already on the earth: Bhava = individual existence, the force of the totality of earlier incarnations.  Previous incarnations draw him down into existence.
  11. Scorpio – With this we have retraced the stages of the Nidanas up to individual birth.  The esotericist differentiates two further stages which go beyond the period of individual existence.  Here he differentiates a previous condition that gave the impetus towards birth, before man had ever been incarnated.  This is called Jata: what before birth gave the impetus to birth.
  12. Aquarius – The impetus towards birth is interconnected with a different impulse. It brings with it the germ of dissolution, the urge to extricate oneself from individual birth.  What interests us is that this earthly existence of ours falls again into decay and we are freed, able to become old and die (jaramarana).

These are the twelve Nidanas which work like strings, drawing us ever and again down into existence. (The meaning of Nidana is string, loop.)

There are three groups which belong together:

Consciousness Soul
Intellectual soul
Sentient Soul
Avidya Shadayadana Upadana
Sanskara Sparsha Bhava
Vijnana Vedana jati
Namarupa Trishna jaramarana

The soul has three members: the consciousness soul as the highest member, then the intellectual or mind soul and the sentient soul.  The first group of the Nidanas from Avidya to Namarupa is connected with the consciousness soul: the second group with the intellectual soul and the third, from Upadana to Jaramarana, with the sentient soul.

Vijnana is characteristic of the consciousness soul; Shadayadana of the intellectual soul and the last four are bound with the sentient soul.  These last four are present in both animal and man.


A person can affect his Karma to the degree in which he himself possesses Intuition; or he must receive it from the high initiates in the form of great moral laws.  Vijnana is the name used for the consciousness necessary for the overcoming of Karma.  And now let us think of a man living in the world, carrying out his actions and dying.  After his death something of him nevertheless remains here in this world which he has woven into it: Rupa, Vedana, Sanjna, Sanskara and Vijnana.  These five are the balance of his account: his personal destiny as Rupa; the destiny of the nation into which he is born, as Vedana; the actual fact of his birth on this earth as Sanjna. In addition, working with Sanskara, the desire nature, and Vijnana, the consciousness. These are the five Skandhas.

What a man gives out into the world remains as the five Skandhas in the world.  These are the foundation of his new existence.  They have progressively less effect when he has consciously developed something of the last two.  The more he has gained conscious power over Vijnana, the more does he gain the power of consciously incarnating in the physical body.  In their essential nature the Skandhas are identical with Karma.

  1. Rupa: Corporality, Actions. ♑
  2. Vedana: Feeling. ♐
  3. Sanjna: Perception. ♊
  4. Sanskara: Desire. ♋
  5. Vijnana: Consciousness necessary to the overcoming of Karma. ♎

The above was from Steiner: Foundation of Esoreticism Lecture XIV and following lectures.


Elements of the Wheel

The wheel is is driven by its hub of Three Poisons: craving or attachment, aversion or hatred, and delusion or ignorance, and by the byproduct of our actions that are motivated by these three, karma.

The segments between spokes are the different realms into which sentient beings take rebirth.

The realms relate to six distinct conditions.
In the two higher realms, they are Pride and Jealousy:

0. Devas or gods – Pride.
Long enjoyable lives full of pleasure and abundance, full of meaningless distractions.

1. Ahuras or titans – Jealousy.
Pleasure and abundance like the gods, but fighting among themselves and with the gods, caused by jealousy.

In the Realm, where it is easiest to attain Enlightenment, humans are afflicted with five disturbing emotions:

6. Manushyas or humans – Desire.
Humans suffer from hunger, thirst, heat, cold, separation from friends, being attacked by enemies, not getting what they want, and getting what they don’t want. Suffer also from general sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death.

The lower realms are associated with Ignorance, Desire and Anger:

3. Tiryakas or animals – Ignorance.
This is the animal realm where sentient beings from whales to insects are confined in fear and ignorance. Animals suffers by being attacked and eaten by other animals, and domesticated by being slaughtered.

5. Pretas or hungry ghosts – Greed.
Lives with constant hunger and thirst. When they reach the goal it either disappears or not what they expected. It’s the realm for those who, after death, are still so attached by desire to this world that they stay as ghosts.

4. Narakas or demons – Anger.
At the bottom is the hell realm showing both hot and cold forms of torment. The Sutra of Remembrance of the True Law describes 8 different hells but they are the product of our own mind.

In-between states are called bardo in Tibetan. This is also the locale of consciousness while it is not embodied, as in some dreaming.

In the following drawing animals and hungry ghosts have changed position.

There are different variations on the Wheel of Rebirth. In some there is a buddha figure in each segment; in others symbols are used to represent the dharma.


The 12 Links of Causality

On the outer edge or rim of the wheel are twelve images. They symbolically refer to the factors that interact to determine the consequences of activity or karma.

  1. ♈ – At top is a blind man with his stick representing spiritual blindness; this is the state of ignorance in which we can easily lose our way. Sometimes we do not even know there is a way.
  2. ♋ – Next is a potter at work on his own products. These are the deeds and actions we perform ~ the formations, preparations or samskaras. We are responsible for our own pots, not fate.
  3. ♎ – A monkey playing in a tree. It depicts ordinary attention or consciousness which shifts continuously in the undisciplined mind. Meditation seeks to calm the monkey in order to gain access to the nature of consciousness.
  4. ♑ – A boat with two people in it, Name and Form. These act together as the conditioned way in which we experience the world. The boat is the mind moving about on ‘reality’.
  5. ♊ – Next is a house with six openings: five shuttered windows and a closed door. These are the five senses plus a sixth which is the faculty of apperception by which we interpret the input of the senses. That is, the sixth sense is apperception, recognition at the sub-conscious level.
  6. ♍ – A man and a woman embracing demonstrates contact, the consequence of sensual perceptions.
  7. ♐ – A person who has been struck in the eye by an arrow. He is wounded by emotion, the subsequent feelings that can have a “fatal” effect. They create suffering.
  8. ♓ – A woman offering a drink to a man. It illustrates desire that has been stimulated by perceptions and emotions which leads us to drink more from the world of appearances.
  9. ♉ – A person picking the fruit of his tree. He receives the consequence he expects will be sweet.
  10. ♌ – A maiden about to cross the stream. In one version of the Wheel, there is one person beckoning another to go or to come back or a couple engaged in intercourse, a standing, leaping or reflective person..
  11. ♏– A woman giving birth. The new life is determined by the fruits of the old and is attracted to the parents accordingly, in order to be born.
  12. ♒ – One or two people carrying a burden burden. This is the body, a corpse wrapped up on its way to be disposed of. Other people suffer as they bear the burden of another’s death. Ending and starting a new round.

Through our own minds, we create the six realms of existence and move through them. We create the realms and moves through the endless cycle known as samsara.


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2 thoughts on “Twelve Nidanas Into Astrology

  1. At Dream State June 21, 2015 at 12:32 pm Reply

    Hmmm. I like the article, and the explanations to each part make sense. But I miss the link between the signs and the explanations. E.g., Cancer is notorious for clinging and craving, but here it is linked to Pisces? It is interesting, so I shall seek some articles on it and see if I can find some answers myself too. :-\

  2. thesevenminds June 25, 2015 at 11:10 pm Reply

    Astrology fits the Navagrahas better. Or the animal year-ring. This is more of an archetypical matching that requires insight in both the zodiac (stars) ruling houses as the wheel that governs (re)incarnation. That may be why it is difficult to find decent articles on it. I have another one up already, but suit yourself.

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