Commonly Asked Questions About Vedic Astrology (Jyotish)
WHAT IS VEDIC ASTROLOGY (JYOTISH)? WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF THIS BODY OF KNOWLEDGE? Vedic astrology (Jyotish) was cognized well over 5,000 years ago in ancient India and provides a sacred body of knowledge and divine wisdom which reveals each individual’s life path & purpose. The main goal of Vedic astrology is to offer a deeper level of awareness and understanding about all aspects of a person’s life. By some historical accounts, Vedic astrology was the very first system of astrology to come into existence. Other astrological systems emerged in the context of other cultures long after the Indian system was established. These other astrological approaches may all be traced back to ancient Indian culture. Vedic civilization itself may be over 8,000 years old.
The term “Vedic” is derived from the Sanskrit word “Veda” which translates as “knowledge” or “wisdom.” The Vedas are the four sacred texts derived by enlightened sages, including Sage Saunaka, who comprised the Rig Veda. The great sage Parasara (pronounced “Parashara”), is known as the “father” of Vedic Astrology and he wrote one of the most important texts for all “aspiring” jyotishis, “Brihat Parasara Hora Shastra,” which has been translated down the ages and is read today for understanding the rules and procedures utilized in Vedic astrological analysis. While Parashara is known as the “father” of Vedic astrology, there are actually eighteen great sages (including Parashara) mentioned in the literature who are credited with “creating” the great sacred science of Vedic astrology as we know it today.
The four Vedas specifically are: The Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. There are specific references to both astronomy and astrology within the Vedas, dating back before 4,000 BCE. As a whole, the Vedas examine the true nature of the Universe, the order and connection of events and the meaning of existence. The Vedas, in and of themselves, require more than a lifetime of study.
The Veda is comprised of six limbs (domains), known as “Vedangas.” These six limbs include: grammar, meter, intonation, etymology, ritual and astrology. The Vedanga is perceived as a living being with these six limbs. Astrology comprises the “eyes” of the Vedanga, out of which creation and the meaning of life can be understood. Knowledge is taken in through perception and analysis, leading to deeper understanding, synthesis and awareness. Then, proper steps/actions can be taken to achieve ultimate desires and to advance in life.
Vedic astrology offers us “EYES” to see on a much deeper level, what we are missing by our limited perceptions. This body of knowledge stems directly from the Vedas, and is therefore “sacred” and must be revered and treated with utmost respect. Otherwise, astrological acumen will fall flat and predictive abilities will be faulty. Attitude is highly important, for both the astrologer and client. You may consider the idea that one’s subjective “mental attitude” accounts strongly for how life is experienced and final outcomes are perceived.
Vedic (Indian) Astrology is also known as “Hindu Astrology” or “Jyotish” which is the Sanskrit term meaning, “the science of light.” The term “Jyotish” is derived from “jyotir” which refers to “light.” Hence, “Jyotish” provides the “light” to “see” much more deeply and clearly into the soul, into an individual’s past, present and future.
Traditionally, Vedic astrological knowledge was only obtained through a sacred oral tradition and nothing was written in textual form. Not until Parashara, who was the disciple of Sage Saunaka, did the astrological knowledge become available in written form. Even today, in 2008, Vedic astrological knowledge is typically taught through a mentorship with a more experienced Jyotishi (Vedic Astrologer) guiding the student. In my estimation, one may not become a scholar of Vedic astrology without such a personal relationship and mentorship. The subject is so vast and magnificent, possessing so many facets and intricacies, that a student could never learn this subject in any depth from mere books or correspondence courses. Just as a medical doctor could never learn the field of medicine from only books, so too a serious student of Vedic astrology should not even be called a “student” without proper mentorship, under the guidance of a reputable role model. The true Vedic Astrologer must be dedicated to the knowledge throughout his lifetime in order to advance his skills.
In fact, even a seasoned Jyotishi who has studied the subject for 20, 30, 50 years or more knows deep in his heart that he has barely touched the surface of this great body of knowledge. He must maintain his studies forever, deepening his knowledge and awareness on a daily basis. Being a student of Jyotish is a humbling experience due to the extensive depths of knowledge that are involved. The more one learns, the more one sees he is missing. This compels a Jyotishi to continue to learn and deepen his knowledge base, striving to achieve even a fraction of the greatness of Parashara.
HOW CAN VEDIC ASTROLOGY HELP TO IMPROVE MY LIFE? The Vedic astrological chart may be viewed as a blueprint or roadmap of the soul’s past, present and future potential, with an emphasis on spiritual development and meeting one’s true dharma (purpose) along the pathway toward enlightenment. Knowledge is true power. Preparation for what’s coming down the road offers peace-of-mind, and allows one to take advantage of the opportunities that are likely to present themselves during different stages of life. Vedic astrology is stunningly powerful and accurate at revealing both the qualitative experience and timing of significant life events. Based on the sidereal zodiac, Vedic astrology accurately reveals your soul’s destiny, and is particularly unique in its ability to predict future trends and events in each person’s life with precision.
Gaining a deeper context and perspective about your specific current life cycle (Dasha) offers a unique ability to make decisions and choices about the course of your life. You gain information that applies specifically to you. You are provided with your own Vedic astrological roadmap showing you where the scenic views are, where the potholes exist, where you are likely to encounter a detour or slowdown, and where you can make progress by traveling on your unique super highway of life. Then, it is completely up to you to decide how you are going to utilize the information and take your journey.
In addition, Vedic astrology offers practical remedial measures aimed at helping you to strengthen targeted areas. These remedial measures may take the form of chanting mantras, performing certain actions, seeking assistance from other professionals, wearing a specific gemstone and/or taking other deliberate steps for self improvement. At times, the remedial measures are very practical and all require effort on your part.
For example, if an individual is 50 pounds overweight and is suffering with high blood pressure, then the remedial measure is to lose the weight, exercise and develop healthier life style habits. This takes hard work and perseverance on a daily basis.
There is no substitution for motivation and effort. Either you respond and make the changes in your life or you don’t. You may join Weight Watchers or get some advice from a nutritionist or physician, but ultimately, you have to decide to do the work for improvement. No one else can do that for you. There are no short cuts. Some people progress farther than others. Some people struggle much more than others. Other people “appear” to have an easy ride through life. Appearances can be deceiving. Ultimately, you are responsible for advancing or not in this lifetime, no matter what your circumstances may be.
Perhaps the measurement system employed should be based on whether you “perceive yourself” as advancing, improving and evolving through life in the areas you deem most important. No one else can judge that for you. For some people, putting food on the table and taking care of one’s family is a huge achievement. For others, life may involve climbing Mt. Everest or dealing with a lifelong chronic illness and rising above it. Spiritual paths take many material forms, even though ultimately they all lead to the same goal, moksha (becoming enlightened). Vedic astrology is a “tool” to assist you in deepening perception and gaining self-awareness. Once you see more clearly, you will be empowered to make choices that are more aligned with your personality and life purpose.
Since the Vedic astrological chart reveals a person’s talents, strengths, abilities and skills, it is important to recognize these areas and bring your attention to them. At times, it is most helpful to have this reflected back to you from another source. Particularly during periods of change, transition or discomfort, it is important to focus on your purpose and to direct your energies appropriately. Hence, Vedic astrology is a serious tool, which facilitates within the individual, a deep understanding of his genuine life direction, purpose and goals.
HOW IS VEDIC ASTROLOGY DIFFERENT FROM WESTERN (TROPICAL) ASTROLOGY?
Several major features distinguish Vedic astrology from the more familiar western (tropical) astrology known to most westerners. They are:
(a) Use of the Sidereal vs. Tropical Zodiac:
One of the most salient differences resides in how each astrological system calculates the positions of the planets. Western (tropical—refers to the seasons) astrology considers the first day of spring each year as the first degree of Aries. For example if you were born during the first week of August, you may consider that your “Sun” resides in the zodiac sign (constellation) of Leo. This would have been true about 1500 years ago, but not in this century or during the previous century when you were born.
Astronomically, in this example, the Sun actually resides in the constellation of Cancer during the first week of August. Why? Tropical astrology uses the seasons for defining the position of the Sun and the other planets. Whereas, in sidereal (star-based) Vedic astrology, the planetary placements are closely aligned with the actual positions of the constellations in the sky as they are at the present time. So, if you look up at the sky during the first week of August, you will find that the Sun is placed in the constellation of Cancer, not Leo. The sidereal zodiac is the zodiac that astronomers consider to be accurate for planetary positions, not the tropical zodiac.
What causes this difference between the two zodiacs? As the Earth spins on its axis, this causes the Earth to wobble unevenly. This creates an astronomical phenomenon known as the “precession of the Earth’s equinox.” The Earth’s precession causes the first day of spring to occur approximately 50 seconds back from its previous point, every year. Keep in mind that there are 30 degrees per zodiac sign and 60 seconds = 1 degree. Therefore, over the course of time, the difference between the tropical and sidereal zodiacs has grown farther apart. In 285 A.D., the first degree of Aries and the first day of spring were in perfect correspondence. Since that year, however, the effect of precession has been in effect causing this disparity. In the tropical zodiac, this disparity of the precession of the equinox is not taken into account. So, each year, this difference between the two zodiacs grows wider by approximately 50 seconds.
Ayanamsha (Measurement describing the difference between the sidereal and tropical zodiacs): this is a measure of the difference in degrees and seconds between the two zodiacs. There are several different ayanamshas in use by astrologers today which place this mathematical difference between 22 and 25 degrees. The most commonly used ayanamsha is known as Lahiri and it is also sanctioned by the government of India. In my chart calculations, I have found the Lahiri ayanamsha to be perfectly accurate. When calculating the planetary positions, the exact month and year of birth will determine the ayanamsha value.
As of January 1, 2008, the Lahiri ayanamsha was measured at: 23º 58’.
If a person were born on January 1, 2008, this exact number would be subtracted from the tropical placement of the planets in that given birth chart. Keep in mind that all planets in the Vedic chart are calculated on the sidereal zodiac. So, most of the planets in the Vedic chart go back 23 – 24 degrees from their tropical positions. For this reason, if you compare the western chart with a Vedic chart for the same individual, the planets will often be in different zodiac signs (going back by one sign).
(b) Chart Interpretation Difference:
Vedic astrology utilizes a completely different set of rules and guidelines when interpreting the astrological chart as compared to tropical astrology. Planets aspect differently, planetary rulerships take on different significance based on the particular houses they rule, and planets can take on benefic or malefic qualities based on the Ascendant or Lagna of the chart. Houses also take on some different meanings. In addition, the application of planetary yogas (planets in various combinations) takes on unique significance in Vedic astrology. There are thousands of these planetary yogas, which offer important information and some of these yogas may overrule and influence the chart beyond other chart factors.
Another important difference lies in the use of several Ascendant points within the same chart. The Ascendant is termed, “Lagna,” (refers to the beginning of the 1st house) and there are several lagnas in the Vedic chart. The Vedic astrologer examines the chart from multiple viewpoints and checks for confluence among several factors before proclaiming a particular prediction. These different lagnas include: the Moon (“Chandra lagna”), the Sun (“Surya lagna), Arudha lagna, Indu lagna, etc. In each of these instances, the first house is oriented based on the natal position of the Moon, Sun, Arudha point, etc. At a minimum, the chart should be examined from the main birth lagna, Chandra lagna and Surya lagna.
(c) The incorporation of Nakshatras:
Vedic astrology employs a completely unique view of the constellations. Rather than interpret only 12 zodiac signs, this system incorporates 27 constellations contained within the 12 zodiac signs. Each of these 27 segments is termed a nakshatra, which consists of one 13o 20’ portion of a sign. The nakshatras are also known as a lunar mansions. Hence each day, as the Moon moves through the zodiac, it moves through a different nakshatra. Each nakshatra has important meaning, symbolism, energetics (shakti), associations, a particular diety, planetary ruler and stories/history associated with it. Every planet resides within a nakshatra, similar to each planet residing in a particular zodiac sign or constellation. The nakshatra position of a planet provides certain qualities and details which color the behavior of that planet in a particular astrological chart. Incorporating these nakshatras in the chart analysis, enhances the Vedic astrologer’s ability to offer precise, detailed predictions.
(d) The planetary periods (Vimshottari Mahadasa) for prediction:
Vedic astrology uniquely incorporates a highly accurate system of predicting an individual’s salient life trends and life cycles known as “mahadasha or dasha/bhukti” (major and minor) planetary periods. Each major and minor life cycle corresponds to a particular area of focus within each stage of life, and is determined directly from a person’s particular date and time of birth. The Moon’s position in the chart determines which planetary mahadasha cycle begins at birth. Throughout the lifetime, every individual is always under the influence of a mahadasha cycle, corresponding to a particular planet that is activated. The actual experience of that cycle is determined by the status of that “dasha” planet in the natal chart. There are over forty different mahadasa systems that the Vedic astrologer may analyze. The majority of Vedic astrologers follow the “Vimshottari Mahadasha” system advocated by Parashara and it is known to be highly accurate for predicting events.
In my practice, Vimshottari mahadasha is used primarily for prediction. I also incorporate Chara and Yogini dasha systems under certain circumstances. The transiting planets play a major role in timing the anticipated events previously identified from the Vimshottari mahadasha/bhukti periods in force. Also, there are “third level” sub-sub-periods known as pratyantara periods which help to time the event more precisely and within a shorter time frame. The combined influences of Vimshottari mahadasa/bhukti/pratyantara periods in force and the transiting planets directly influencing these cyclic planets, yields a powerful predictive process for timing and predicting important life events.
Understanding your planetary (dasha) cycles will help you prepare for future situations and phases of your life. Difficult periods may be examined from a broader perspective, as lessons to be mastered. Opportunities are highlighted based on the particular planetary cycles in force.
Awareness of these planetary cycles assists a person to optimize inherent talents and abilities and to specifically direct efforts toward reaching particular goals at the most auspicious time.