|Simon Chokoisky: Can you tell us something about your life, where you grew up and what youíve done.|
Gregory Brozek: Well, I grew up in Toronto in a very multicultural neighborhood. I was raised Catholic but never identified with it until just recently. My father died when I was young and it brought up all kinds of questions for me of a more metaphysical nature. I remember being 8 years old and asking my teachers if they knew the meaning of life? Of course no one did, not even the catechism teacher, so I became at age 14 an agnostic and seeker.
Simon: How were you drawn to Music?
Gregory: The first mystical language I got into was music. I started guitar at age 13 and took it seriously, writing a lot of my own songs. Even my English teachers saw I had an artistic streak and so, much to my motherís consternation, I pursued and completed my degree in music at York University. It was in university that I first encountered really deep ideas in the humanities, philosophy, and world religions. I saw then that the most profound poetry and art was to be found in the various religious traditions in the world and although I wasnít a devotional person, I liked studying religion and various other schools of thought having to do with our purpose on this earth. Studying music also taught me how a language doesnít have to be linguistic.
Simon: What spiritual teacher first influenced you?
kind or another, with some interest in astrology, but I heard he was an Indian astrologer, just the sort of thing Iíd get sucked into, so I did my best to avoid him.
|Gregory: Probably the most influential of the teachers I studied was Gurdjieff. I donít know why but it just resonated with me, especially as it is elucidated in Ouspenskyís In Search of the Miraculous. It struck me as a well-codified compendium of eastern teachings filtered through a brilliant Western mind and I just liked it. I liked that Gurdjieff was this mysterious, profound thinker and teacher and that he was such a bad-ass at the same time. I did music for many years and was a very prolific songwriter but I was always drawn to a more spiritual life, or at the very least spiritual teachings. |
Simon: When did you first encounter Jyotish?
Gregory: I was at a friendís place and she was a student of someone named Mantriji. Iíd heard of him but was really trying to avoid him. I was already hip-deep in esoteric studies of one
So I was getting ready to leave when he mysteriously arrives 20 minutes early for her lesson, something he never does because he lived only 5 minutes away, and he invited me to stay. So, I did, and found myself to be the impromptu subject of her lesson. They drew up my chart and this very nice Indian man with a thick accent proceeded to tell me I had no father, two sisters, in what year I injured my back, in what year I changed girlfriends, he somehow knew my motherís health issues, that I was a heretic, and on and on. I canít remember everything he said, but about 80 percent of it was bang on.
I was amazed and left there as if floating on a cloud. I was already a student of philosophy and so this highlighted for me the issue of freewill. Are we free or are we governed by forces greater than ourselves? Itís a good question. So, I asked to meet with him again and this time I brought a friend. But this time, he didnít use an astrological chart, he just gave my friend a reading based on his facial features and Iím assuming the prashna of our arrival time. Again, I was blown away, not only by this manís ability but by his personality. He seemed so sweet and wise and unassuming and yet I could feel he was a man of tremendous power and insight. So I started to see him weekly for lessons, Sundays at 5 p.m. This went on for seven years.
Simon: Did you realize his stature in the Jyotish community?
he liked how I talked because Iím a musician and I know a lot of slang, so I would teach him certain slang terms like Ďknow what Iím sayiní?í or ĎAre you fíreal?í and he would repeat it and laugh and just revel in being a badass. He was a huge fan of The Simpsons.
|Gregory: Not at all. I didnít know he was the Ďvenerable Mantriji.í I mean, I knew he was a teacher and all, but I didnít know he was world famous. I didnít know he was Robert Svobodaís first teacher. He never mentioned Light on Life or Hart DeFouw, or any of that. He recommended that I buy one book: James Brahaís Ancient Hindu Astrology for the Western Astrologer, which I did and thatís where it started. He leant me an ephemeris and Book of Tables and I did charts from scratch, using a calculator. No software for the first three years.|
But I really had no ambition to be an astrologer. I was not looking to learn Sanskrit or study the Gita, or touch his feet or even have a guru. I just liked him as a person; he had no pretense about him. I enjoyed our conversations, and he seemed to like me. We laughed a lot together and he would like it when I got into philosophy or Gurdjieff or when I brought him new jokes. He said
I saw that his apartment was littered with books, mostly on scripture, astrology, etc. dictionaries, English grammar books, joke books. I didnít ask him too many personal questions but I could gleam from his apartment that he wasnít an ordinary man with a regular job. To be honest, I didnít realize he was world famous until about three years into my studies with him, and I think he liked that. I came to see later how so many people worshipped him but itís not my culture so I never treated him that way and I think he liked it. I respected and came to love him for sure, but only near the end did I sort of start to venerate him like the others did, but he didnít like it. He used to say, ďPoem (my nickname), why do you come to satsang? You are a Gurdjieff man; you already know all this.Ē But I went because I just liked being around him. Certain people emit light and he was one of them. You just sat next to him and youíd feel better. He had the Shakti.
learned and the more fascinated I became. I write about all this in my book, which is largely a comedyówell, a divine comedy.
|Simon: You wrote a book about your experience with him.|
Gregory: Yes, Diamonds on the Bottom of the Sea. The title is a parable he conveyed to me when I got back from a crazy time in the States. Itís more my story but he makes up nearly half of it, or rather our discussions make up nearly half of it. Itís about how I met him when I was going through a difficult time then despite his warnings I took off to New Orleans and squandered my life there. Then in Prodigal Son-like fashion I returned to Toronto and spent the next seven years under his tutelage and eventually became, almost reluctantly, an astrologer myself.
Simon: Why reluctantly?
Gregory: I studied with him because I liked him. The astrology was just an excuse to visit with him. But the more I got into it, the more I
So, in 2007 I was living with a couple in an Ďart schoolí who knew I was studying astrology and one day they asked if I could do readings for a psychic night event. I agreed to do it, mostly as a favor to them, but when I did it, I realized wow, not only does astrology work, but Iím pretty good at it. Itís funny because over my years of study with him, I began to adopt some of his mannerisms, verbal phrasings, and itís like I channel him when I do readings or when I eventually started teaching as well. I guess itís a way of passing on the lineage, like learning how to play Hendrix and then passing it on to another.
I was good enough that people would ask me back to do more shows or people would come for a second reading or they would recommend me to others. I never advertised myself because there was just so much more to learn, and being Virgo lagna, I suffer from the desire to be perfect. But at a certain point, like with anything, you become good enough to be able to help others. And that is the main purpose of astrology: not to pull the rabbit out of the hat, but to truly help someone understand whatís going on in their life, metaphysically, or to help them discern their dharma. I see astrology readings as, essentially, karmic weather reports, and people usually just wanna know when itís gonna stop raining.
But the weird thing is that I never really chased Jyotish, it always chased me.
Simon Did you study Jyotish with any other teachers?
Gregory: The only other teacher I took classes with was Davis Batson but they were more like Intro classes when I was already fairly advanced in my understanding. I just liked listening to him speak because heís very knowledgeable and articulate with Jyotish. I always learned something new from him. His primary teacher was Hart DeFouw, whom Iíve never met, even though we know a lot of the same people. Mostly I just know Jyotishis or people who are studying it and we learn from each other just by talking about it.
Astrology is one of those vast subjects that just about everything you learn in life you can apply to an astrological reading. Making predictions is one thing but relating to people is another. You can be a brilliant astrologer but if you donít know how to talk to people, all your knowledge may not amount to much. But if you can move them with a key phrase or metaphor or story, then you can help them. Mantriji would say that when giving a reading, stick to one or two things. If you say too much, theyíll forget everything in a couple days. If you stick to one or two important things and really hammer it home, theyíll remember it and it will change their life.
Simon: Why do you think astrology (Jyotish) is important?
on an individual basis, like, ďshould I buy this house at this time,Ē or ďwhat can I do to alleviate the bad karma weighing me down?Ē Sometimes the best you can do is just wait it out. ĎAs opportunity can be lost through inaction, so suffering can be reduced by right expectation.í
|Gregory:I think itís important because of its implications. Astrology is predicated on this idea of reincarnation. This means we came from somewhere and we are going somewhere. It also means that we are connected to the cosmos; that our environmental influences extend beyond this earth. This is the part Iím interested in most, the Vidya part of Jyotish, the knowledge or cosmology of it, or you might say the epistemology of astrology is what fascinates me. And I donít think itís causative. I think astrology is indicative and when we practice astrology, we are essentially measuring time, in all its complexity. The planets are like the hands of a giant, multifarious clock, and weíre all just trying to figure out what time it is, sometimes on a global scale, like with the weather or geopolitics, or |
Iíve always been fascinated by the Ďmeaning of lifeí or whether our lives have a purpose. Astrology says yes to this and it helps us understand our lives in a profound way. So, you can get a reading but itís also an interesting topic to study or take a class in, just to get the discussion going. It feeds a part of your soul that the back-scratcher canít reach. But you need a good teacher. I guess this is the importance of the guru tradition in Indian culture, like Bible class, or any great art, literature, musicÖ A good teacher will guide you because he/she has been there and can show you the way and the pitfalls. Mantriji used to say, ďThere is no bad astrology, only bad astrologers.Ē
Simon: You wrote one book about your experience studying with an astrologer and becoming an astrologer. Will you ever write just a straight book on astrology?
Gregory: Actually, I started writing the astrology book first but then I realized that a lot of the extemporaneous discussions and happenings of that seven years was pretty interesting too so I thought before it fades from memory, Iíll record the story first, because I have the notes for the textbook version.
Anyhow, Iím writing it as a dialectic between teacher and student and using this back and forth to flesh out the various inferences and conceptual harmonies that are in an astrological chart.
Iím hoping thereís some nice patron or publisher out there who would be interested in commissioning me.
Simon: Your teacher Mantriji died recently. How was that for you?
Gregory: Honestly, I think he just got bigger. That was my feeling when I heard it. I attended a memorial and people were crying but he pushed me out of the nest a few years ago and I think our karma with each other was complete, at least for this life.
I wrote a song for him for his 75th birthday, which I played to him, and he tapped along with big eyes, bobbling his head in that Indian way. I adore that man and he is not dead. He is liberated and I am certain I will see him again, in what capacity I donít know. But I knew him before even this lifetime and I donít think weíre done with each other yet. He always treated me as an equal and once said to me I may have been his father in a previous life. I donít know why he liked me. There was a long line of people who would travel from other countries to study with him and he would say no, but for some reason he took me on, and not because Iím some great student, but because I think we just resonated and again, we laughed a lot together. I bought him Ouspenskyís In Search of the Miraculous for Christmas one year and he said it was the greatest gift anyone ever got him. I dunno, maybe with all that guru worship that surrounded him, people forgot that inside that great man was a boy who was still looking to learn and wonder at the universe.
Simon: What are your current projects in Jyotish?
Gregory: My friend Andrea Olivera wrote a bookówell, itís more of an anthology of Mantrijiís various students, but I contributed a chapter and am editing it as well. Weíre gonna launch it in April 2017. Itís called A Rishi Among Us and is a series of testimonials, stories, anecdotes, etc. of how this great man touched so many lives through Jyotish and other scriptures.
Iím also working on a Vedic/Ayurveda calendar with Andrea for 2018. Itís in the design stage right now but the idea is to have a planner/astronomical calendar that uses the panchanga to forecast the general tenure of each day, a sort of almanac. I wonít give too much away because I think it may be the first of its kind. My goal is simply to make it as accurate and useful as possible.
Of course, I continue to do readings and I am a very good teacher of the subject. I think I will be teaching more again this year. The opportunities are there. Itís funny, it just keeps chasing me.
Simon: Thank you Gregory for interviewing for the Jyotish Star!
Gregory Brozek Biography
|Gregory Brozek is a writer, composer and philosopher with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in music. He spent his early adult life as a guitarist, prolific songwriter and bandleader, performing under the name Adi Poem, all the while investigating world religions and the Human Potential Movement, in particular the works of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. He met master astrologer Mantriji in 2002 and spent the next seven years studying Jyotish with him while, among other things, running a business and working in municipal politics. An avid swimmer and long-time tutor of Music and English, he started practicing and teaching Jyotish in 2007. |
Simon Chokoisky Biography:
|Simon is the author of the popular books The 5 Dharma Types and Sex, Love, & Dharma, as well as the forthcoming Secrets of the Sacred and Gambler's Dharma , both due in 2017. A pioneer using Vedic astrology and Dharma Typing to help clients discover their dharma, Simon has a gift for making complex concepts easy to digest, and simple truths profound. Simon taught along side Dr. Vasant Lad at the renowned Ayurvedic Institute before venturing out in his own consulting business and Dharma Type Certification course. Simon's DVD programs include: Sanskrit Without Stress, Decoding Your Dharma, Decoding Your LIfe Map With Vedic Astrology, Transcending the Gunas- Ayurvedic Psychology, and others. Simon has written for multiple publications and appeared on dozens of radio and TV programs, and travels widely conducting seminars. His website is: http://www.spirittype.com./ To contact, email: firstname.lastname@example.org|