The Dalai Lama: an exemplar of the Compassion of water

We have moved from Melancholic (earth) to Phlegmatic (water) season. Phlegmatic season is the coldest, wettest time of year. Of the four temperaments, the Phlegmatic is the most sensitive. Life’s hard edges are unpleasant for them to negotiate, and they find our predominately airy and fiery culture tough going. Water likes earth because it is calm and predictable and modest, earth gives water boundaries and grounds them. While water often does the feeling for practical, uncomplicated, earth. Water signs may be Phlegmatic, but your temperament is calculated from your season of birth, your Ascendant, and your Moon sign, so you may have a fire sun but still be Phlegmatic[1].

The emotion of the Phlegmatic temperament is love. They are often found in the caring professions or where they show compassion and take responsibility for the care of others. An excellent example of a Phlegmatic temperament is the Dali Lama, who describes his religion as one of kindness and compassion.

Green Tara

‘Ultimately, the reason why love and compassion bring the greatest happiness is simply that our nature cherishes them above all else. The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another. However capable and skilful an individual may be, left alone, he or she will not survive.’ (www.dalailama.com)

The Dalai Lama was born to a farming family in Amdo, Tibet (which apparently no longer exists-see birth-chart below). In 1937 at the age of two, he was recognised as the reincarnation of the deceased 13th Dalai Lama. He is the 14th Spiritual leader of the Gelug or ‘Yellow Hat’ School of Tibetan Buddhism which is the dominant form of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Dalai Lamas are believed to be the reincarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings, who are approaching Buddhahood but who put off entering paradise to help others attain enlightenment. The term Dalai Lama means the Lama whose wisdom is as deep, as vast, and as embracing as the ocean. Wonderful watery imagery: sacrifice, love, compassion, deep and embracing are all words that can be used to describe the Phlegmatic temperament.

Can we see this in his chart? The first thing to notice is he is a double Cancer, Sun conjunct the Ascendant, which shows he was born around sunrise. Sun Cancer is the epitome of the Phlegmatic temperament. Sensitive, kind, clannish, protective of loved ones, suspicious of outsiders, cautious and hesitant, adaptable, and flexible, caring, funny, and gentle. Water is sometimes described as the strongest element because of its flexibility and ability to transform without changing its underlying nature; water can turn to steam or ice or snow and turn back again, essentially unchanged. All these qualities can be seen in the Dali Lama, have a look at the pictures on his website www.dalailama.com he is seen joking and teasing the great and the good, while especially taking the trouble to connect with children and the disadvantaged.

One story about the Dalai Lama, exemplifies his phlegmatic nature. He was visiting California, all the Buddhists turned out to greet him dressed in their finest. As the Dalai Lama walked past them, he saw a black man dressed in rags, who maybe was an addict, or mentally ill or impoverished or all three. The Dalai Lama stopped in front of the man and pulled him into a long, deep hug, so long that those waiting became restless, and still he held onto him, healing or offering succour or simply transmitting his very powerful energy to the troubled man.

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. Our prime purpose in this life is to help others’                                                               

                                                               Twitter 12th, Feb 2019 @DalaiLama.

Sun on the Ascendant gives the native great power and clarity of purpose. Sun Cancer shows the Dalai Lama’s life’s purpose is to embody (the Ascendant rules the body) compassion and love. When he was born, he was named Lhamo Thondup or ‘Wish-Fulfilling Goddess’. Cancer is of course, a feminine sign, ruled by the Moon.

His Sun is part of a Water Grand Trine, of Jupiter in Scorpio and Saturn in Pisces, so his emotional/spiritual nature is amplified and dominant. Saturn, weak in Pisces in the 9th suggests a life abroad and a spiritual practice that has been hard and lonely. He describes being sent to a monastery age four which he found was very hard to bear, Cancerians are very attached to their mothers and families. Living in India would have been heart-breaking. Cancerians are home bodies, the Dalai Lama had to learn to make the world his home, but it would have been very painful to be an exile, knowing he will probably never see his country again.

‘Our lives depend on hope. If you have hope, you’ll be able to overcome problems you face. But if you’re without hope, your difficulties will increase. Hope is linked to compassion and loving kindness. In my life, I’ve faced all sorts of difficulties, but I never gave up hope.’                                                                                       Twitter: Dec 20th, 2021: @DalaiLama.

The other corner of the Grand Trine is Jupiter in Scorpio in the 5th, which is also weak, having no dignity (peregrine). However, Scorpio would have given him great tenacity (fixed water) and Scorpio’s fearlessness helped him overcome the dangers he faced as a young man. The Dalai Lama is a unifying figure within Tibet and of the different spiritual traditions and until 1950, the Dalai Lamas headed the government in Lhasa. After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1951, the Dalai Lama had tried and failed to reach an accommodation with them. In early March 1959 he received an invitation from a Chinese official to see a dance troupe and was asked to come without his bodyguards. Releasing this may be a trap, news travelled fast in Lhasa, and thousands of Tibetans surrounded his palace to protect him. He had been living as a virtual prisoner there. On the 17th of March 1959, the Dalai Lama performed a divination of the Nechung Oracle which told him to leave the country immediately. That night, just before 10pm, he escaped into the huge crowd dressed as a simple soldier.


The chart for his escape shows the Ascendant at 15’47 Scorpio, conjunct his audacious Jupiter in Scorpio. Jupiter in Scorpio is lucky, devious (it was a secret escape) and very daring (Scorpio is the sign of the white-knuckle ride). It was no means certain that the Dalai Lama would be able to escape alive, but he had to risk hoping boldness (Scorpio) and luck (Jupiter) would protect him. He had no choice; it was likely he would be assassinated if he stayed in Lhasa. Scorpio is the sign of life and death struggles and choices.

In the escape chart, the Moon was at 26’ Gemini, hidden in the secretive 8th house and conjunct his natal Mercury. Mercury and Gemini make great spies and this deceptive moon helped his disguise and allowed him to trick the Chinese (Mercury the trickster) and slip away.  The Moon had just passed over Mars also in the 8th house, perhaps giving him the courage to make this bold decision (Gemini, choice). The Sun was at 26’ Pisces a few days before, when it would have passed over his MC, perhaps when the invitation was sent, highlighting (Sun) his public role (MC) and when his people began gathering outside his palace to protect him (Sun as the life force).

Notice the chart ruler, Mars in the eighth house of death, and the co-ruler Pluto, in the 10th house of Government. The astrology emphasizes the threat to his life, It seems certain that had he not escaped he would have been killed (Mars, Pluto) by government forces (10th house). Lucky Fortuna is conjunct Uranus in the 9th, the fates were with him in this extremely perilous journey (9th) as he split (Uranus) from his country and left his people.

With a small retinue, his mother and younger siblings, the Dalai Lama travelled to India on horseback over the Himalayas, moving only at night (very Jupiter in Scorpio). They hid during the day in small monasteries on the route. The party crossed the huge Brahmaputra River at one point. All the time, Chinese planes flew over searching for them. Afterwards it was said that the prayers of the monks, the Tibetan people, and Buddhist priests created mist and low clouds which hid them from view. They were not discovered. Certainly, the 10th house Pluto of the escape chart suggests not only death but disappearance, (Pluto had a cap of invisibility). There were huge riots in Lhasa, people were afraid the Dalai Lama had been murdered. The British and American governments declined to help Tibet. The Indian Prime Minister Nehru agreed to give him sanctuary and at the end of a fifteen-day journey he was met at the Indian border by Indian soldiers.

‘Every time I visit these areas, the Tawang area, it is very emotional for me. I see the place where I had enjoyed freedom for the first time’, said Dalai Lama in April 2017 while on a visit to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.’                                        (www.dalailama.com).

The Dalai Lama was welcomed allowed to set up a government in exile in Dharamsala where he has remained ever since.

What else does his birth-chart say? He has a hardworking and down to earth Moon in Virgo closely conjunct Neptune (10’ and 12’) in the 2nd house. Virgo is the sign of ritual and Neptune is spirituality, so it would fit a deep spiritual practice would be central to his existence. This aspect indicates he would bring his deep, spiritual wisdom to people in a practical no-nonsense Virgo way. His down-to-earth Moon Virgo has embraced the technology of the modern world, he is active on social media.

The Dalai Lama has Mercury in Gemini and was eager to document everything he could even his journey over the Himalayas (see: www.dalailama.com) and his life in India. No other Dalai Lama has travelled, written, and taught the peoples of the world as he has done.

Although a personal tragedy for him and his people, the Dalai Lama’s exile has arguably seeded (Virgo) his teachings throughout the whole world at the time when people were searching for a spiritual practice which neither capitalism not conventional, monotheistic religions don’t offer.

‘The ultimate source of happiness is within us. Not money, not power, not status. Some of my friends are billionaires, but they are very unhappy people. Power and money fail to bring inner peace. Outward attainment will not bring real inner joyfulness. We must look inside.’  

                                                                Twitter: Jan 7th, 2022 @DalaiLama.

The Dalai Lama has a mutable T Square involving that exiled Saturn in the 9th opposite the spiritual Moon Neptune in Virgo and square Chiron at 13’ Gemini in the 12th house. The Moon, Neptune also picks up the Water Grand Trine making it a Kite formation which further deepens his spiritual (Neptune, water) practice (Virgo) in exile (Saturn in the 9th) courageously (Jupiter). The Sun on the Ascendant gives him his sunny, fun-loving nature, there are so many pictures of him playing with the ‘great and the good’ (see www.dalailama.com). The Sun shows the yellow of the yellow hat Buddhism which is his public identity (Ascendant) while his Pisces MC shows his career and life’s work (compassion, suffering, spirituality).

‘From my own limited experience, I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquillity comes from the development of love and compassion.’

(www.dalailama.com).

Pluto in the first house can shows a life which is subject to danger and massive transformation. Certainly, he has lived a life totally different from the one he was born into, both as a Tibetan and as Dalai Lama. Pluto in that placement also signifies someone who will, consciously or not, threaten and challenge authority.

‘The impulse to try to solve problems by use of force is out of date and old-fashioned. Since we are now all so interdependent, the appropriate solution is to engage in dialogue—it’s something to which we can all contribute.’            

Twitter:17th Dec. 2021@DalaiLama

 The Dalai Lama has endeavoured to find ‘the middle way’ in his dealings with the Chinese but has made no headway whatsoever. Pluto can represent power struggles and destruction at the hands of others. The jury is out as to whether his approach was the best one, as there has been no freedom for Tibetans and the country has been swamped by imported Han Chinese to ‘dilute’ Tibetan culture. There have been periodic uprisings which were brutally crushed. On the first anniversary of the Tibetan uprising the Dalai Lama said,

On this first occasion, I stressed the need for my people to take a long-term view of the situation in Tibet. For those of us in exile, I said that our priority must be resettlement and the continuity of our cultural traditions. As to the future, I stated my belief that, with truth, justice and courage as our weapons, we Tibetans would eventually prevail in regaining freedom for Tibet’. 

(www.dalailama.com)

Realistically, there is no chance Tibetans can defeat or expel the Chinese with their huge army. After he escaped from Lhasa, it is estimated 85,000 Tibetans were killed. One aspect of his compassion then, would be to prevent further loss of life or suffering through rebellion. Because of his promise to Nehru, not to involve himself in politics, the Dalai Lama has held back and discouraged Tibetans from involving themselves in arguments with the Chinese. Tibet in exile exists because the Indian Government allows it to be in their country, so he must follow their rules. As a Phlegmatic, the Dalai Lama avoids confrontation and disharmony, which from another perspective could be seen as weakness or appeasement.

Everyone wants to live in a peaceful world, but it’s necessary to understand that what destroys peace is anger and hatred. This is why the long term goal is to create inner peace within individuals, so contributing to a more compassionate humanity.

                                                                       Twitter, Sept. 13th, 2021. @DalaiLama

No longer head of the Tibetan government in exile, the Dalai Lama continues to teach and support Buddhists all over the world. He is especially supportive of the young, and their struggle to save the world from ecological collapse. Many Phlegmatics have poor health, but this does not seem to be the case for the Dalai Lama, perhaps his tough Moon in Virgo has kept him healthy. Now in his 86th year his schedule continues undiminished.

Above the peaks of the eastern snow mountains
White clouds float high in the sky.
There comes to me a vision of my teachers.
Again, and again am I reminded of their kindness,
Again, and again am I moved by faith.                                

1st Dalai Lama, Gendun Drup’s (1391-1474) ‘Song of the Eastern Snow Mountains’ from (www.dalailama.com)

[1] See my:Traditional Western Herbal Medicine (2019) Aeon Books, for how to calculate the temperament.

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