The following is respectfully quoted from “Treasury of Knowledge” by Jamgön Kongtrul:
The celestial sphere pervades space between Mount Meru and the mountain of fire.
It is a belt of wind, within which the twelve houses
And the twenty-eight constellations formed first.
The celestial sphere pervades the space between the outer circumference at which the [outermost impenetrable] enclosure of Mount Meru meets Cool Mountain Range and the inner circumference of the mountains [ring] of fire [i.e., Horse-faced Fire]. The celestial sphere is a circular belt possessing the nature of wind that supports [all] the celestial palaces of the gods. Since it is slightly higher near Mount Meru, it has the bent shape of a bow. Near the mountainous [ring] of fire, it is slightly lower, resembling a lotus petal. It forms a complete circle [around Mount Meru].
Concerning the meaning of the word,
The [Sanskrit] term gola (celestial sphere) may be translated
As hollow, concave and convex, circular, heavy and light, and so forth.
Translated precisely, it denotes “that which holds up the heavens.”
The form [of the celestial sphere] is described differently by different scholars–as resembling the spokes of a wheel; rising up or spreading out; as resembling a stack of helmets, a chain or shield. [These descriptions] are based on reason and scriptural reference. The view that the celestial sphere is shaped like a cluster of boats eventually became the most prevalent. The eight lord [Karmapa] Mikyö Dorjé, with some amusement, provided a clear description of this in the Ocean of Mind.
The term “house,” from the [Sanskrit} raśi, denotes a gathering or cluster. The Fundamental Tantra of Manjuśri states that there are thirty-six houses; other sources present different enumerations. Regardless of how many houses have formed on the celestial sphere, twelve houses exert the most pronounced influence–both positive and negative–on [the affairs of] this world. They are:
Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces.
Infinite numbers of stars are contained within the houses, which are the area of their rotation. The sage Delight in Stars (Jyotiráma) has stated:
Know that the number of stars
Is two hundered and eighty-five million.
In some discussions related to phenomenology, it is said
That in the sky of six empty spheres,
Ngāga eyes see the number of stars.
Thus, there are [many viewpoints] such as [this one that asserts] there are 28,000,000 [stars]. In the center of all stars is the pole-star and Canopus, which are shaped like a top ornament and its surrounding canopy. In addition, twenty-seven constellations are considered in astrological calculations to predict the outcomes of specific actions:
- Beta Arietis
- Thirty-five Arietis
- Eta Tauri
- Lambda Orionis
- Alpha Orionis
- Beta Geminorum
- Delta Cancri
- Alpha Hydroe
- Delta Leonis
- Beta Leonis
- Delta Corvi
- Spica Virgis
- Alpha Libroe
- Delta Scorpio
- Lambda Scorpi
- Delta Sagittari
- Sigma Sagittari
- Alpha Aquiloe
- Beta Delphinum
- Lambda Aquarius
- Alpha Pegasi
- Gama Pegasi
- Zeta Piscum
The constellations called Lyra and Alpha Aquiloe are both situated in one star cluster; however, they may be counted separately to make twenty-eight. Concisely expressed, the houses, the twenty-eight constellations, and so on formed [before the planets].
[The houses] are situated in a clockwise arrangement.
Planets such as the sun and moon rise above them.
[Eight] move counter-clockwise; Eclipser [moves] clockwise.
Each constellation is divided into four quarters nine such quarters situated in each house. Thus, Beta Arietis, Thirty-five Arietis, and one quarter of Eta Tauri are situated in Aries House and so on. [The houses and constellations] are situated in a clockwise arrangement. The first of these houses is Aries, and the first constellation is Beta Aries, since this is where the movement of the sun begins [at the beginning of the year].
The planets rise above the stars that are positioned within their respective houses. These include the Sun in the last quarter of Beta Geminorum and the moon in the first [quarter] of Beta Arietis, and so forth. These planets govern the houses and constellations like lords.
The ten planets are Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Long Tail of [Smoke], Eclipser, and Fire of Time.
The eight from the Sun to Long Tail begin their natural movement counterclockwise around Mount Meru, and Eclipser and Fire of Time clockwise. Four of these–Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn–are called malelfic planets because they are right branches; and the four–Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Long Tail–are called benefic planets because they are left branches.