Category Archives: Jyotish Concepts

Key concepts needed to understand the methodology and principles of Vedic Astrology – Jyotish.

Jyotish and Karma

Summary: This article examines the concepts of karma and reincarnation which are central to the understanding of Jyotish Astrology. It also explains how returning karmas can be predicted then modified through Vedic Astrology’s remedial measures.

Vedic Astrology, Karma and Reincarnation

In the West we tend to confuse, and often mispronounce, the words ‘kama’ and ‘karma’. ‘Kama’ means desire and in the West many are familiar with the Kama Sutra. ‘Karma’ literally means action, so the world is full of karma as actions are going on all the time.

There are subtle meanings attached to the concept of karma. On an individual basis we usually understand karma to mean the returning consequences of our past actions (‘as you sow, so shall you reap’). Karma is also linked with the concept of samskara (or sanskara) – the deep seated desires, or latent impressions in our mind that drive us to perform specific actions [1].

In Jyotish, the planets are seen as representing the ‘Cosmic Postman’. They ‘deliver’, in this lifetime, some of the consequences of our actions carried over from past lifetimes. We tend to regard these karmas as ‘positive’ when they are life enhancing or ‘negative’ when they create problems and obstacles for us [2]. However, that is merely our subjective interpretation. From a higher state of consciousness the terms ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ simply do not apply – stuff just is!

In Vedic astrology, the soul (for want of a better word in the English language) does not incarnate at random. Vedic Masters tell us that it incarnates into a human body with certain physical characteristics according to past karmas. The specific family, its position in society and country of birth are also determined by past karmas.

Major karmic consequences for an individual’s present incarnation can be predicted with Jyotish – simply by deciphering the ‘code’ contained in the planetary arrangements at the time of our birth. Just as DNA contains the code that structures our human physiology, so the planetary arrangement at the time of our birth is the code that structures our returning karmas [3].

When these karmic influences are likely to take place in our lifetime can also be predicted through Vedic Astrology’s unique Maha Dasa system [4]. This is based on the position of the moon in the constellations or Nakshatras at the time of our birth.

The Vedic tradition believes that people should live healthy, happy and fulfilled lives. So Vedic Astrology contains a whole range of remedial measures that are designed to greatly reduce the influence of our returning negative karmas. These measures can help restore balance and harmony in our lives. Because we are part of an integrated whole, then by participating in certain vedic ceremonies (yagnas or yagyas) , performing prescribed acts of charity, reciting specific sanskrit mantras  or wearing appropriate gemstones we can modify or deflect (to a large extent) returning karmas so that we do not have to suffer the consequences in this lifetime. So, Jyotish enables us to both detect and ‘deflect’ returning karmas!

Jyotish techniques can also enhance the benefits of our returning positive karmas. So Jyotish really is the ultimate ‘Karmic Engineering System’!

Our returning karmas can also be greatly influenced by our spiritual practices in this lifetime. Ask any Jyotish astrologer and they will agree that regular meditation and sadhana (spiritual practices) really reduce the predicted effects of negative returning karmas. Paramahansa Yogananda [5] confirmed this by saying that as a person moves ‘into the orbit of the Divine, they move out of the orbit of planetary influences’. When Self-realization occurs, all karmas are transcended.

On a day to day basis most of our actions are neutral in terms of the karma they incur. A reasonably vegetarian diet helps in this respect.

It is not just our actions that matters, but also our intentions behind them. Again, regular meditation and sadhana means our intentions are more likely to be life enhancing rather than us just acting on the impulses of previous impressions carried over from past lifetimes.

Vedic astrology tells us that we are not the victims of our birth-chart and the planetary arrangements contained therein. We cannot blame the planets for our current condition and difficulties. What we are currently experiencing, either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, is merely the result of our returning karmas. The planets indicate this, but are not responsible for it. Some of these may be the result of actions from previous lifetimes, some from this lifetime.

The Vedas clearly identify three major categories of karma: Sanchita, Prarabdha and Agami. Jyotish astrology only deals with the Prarabdha aspect of karma [6].

Footnotes

[1] Samskaras are deep seated desires and impressions left in the ‘mind’ by past actions, including those from previous lifetimes.  Note that in the Vedic sense ‘our mind’ is not localised in our brain, in fact the ‘mind’ surrounds the body! One Vedic pandit described the latent impressions as ‘post-it notes stuck to the soul!

Karma is often described as a wheel: latent impressions in the mind give rise to actions. These actions then produce new impressions. Future actions are then influenced by these new impressions. The process is cyclical. But the cycle can be broken by meditation and spiritual practices. So karma and samskara are inextricably linked.

[2] What produces negative karma? A vedic scholar said ‘simply doing to others that which we would not like done to ourselves’! Perhaps this includes actions towards all living beings and the environment too?

[3] Karmic influences in all areas of our lives are decoded by Vedic Astrology from the position of the nine planets in the twelve astrological signs, twelve houses and twenty-seven constellations – as shown in a person’s birth-chart drawn in the sidereal zodiac.

[4] The time when certain karmic influences are likely to ‘take centre stage’ in our lives is calculated via the Vimsottari Maha Dasa system using the natal position of the moon in one of the 27 constellation or Nakshatras

[5] Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) was a Self-realised sage who spent a considerable part of his life in the West teaching yoga and Vedic philosophy. His most well-read and highly recommended work: Autobiography of a Yogi, published by Yogoda Satsanga Society of India; 2013 edition ISBN-10: 818953551X,   ISBN-13: 978-8189535513

[6] Categories of karma.  Sanchita – the store of all karmas from previous births. Prarabdhathat part of the Sanchita that must be worked through in this lifetime. It is said Prarabdha karma is most suited for our optimum evolutionary path in this lifetime. Agami – new karma accumulated in this lifetime which is carried forward into future incarnations.

Jyotish – Forecasting Analogies

Summary: This article examines a few of the analogies used to describe the probabilistic nature of prediction in Vedic Astrology.  It helps our understanding of how planetary arrangements can be used to predict the chances of future events occurring.

Forecasting Analogies in Vedic Astrology

Vedic Astrology is essentially probabilistic. It is therefore similar to a long-range weather forecasting system. It attempts to predict when and how the actions we have performed in the past (our past karmas) return to us in the form of present and future influences on our lives.  If ‘potential storms’ are seen on the horizon we can take appropriate action to avert any potential problems that have not yet manifested.  We can also make maximum progress and fulfil our desires most easily when ‘fine weather’ is forecast. Just as weather forecasters cannot be 100% accurate all of the time, Jyotish is not an exact science. Skilled and experienced Vedic Astrologers are said to achieve around the 70% mark. However, if there are many different factors in an individual’s birth chart all pointing to either benefits, or issues, in a specific life area, then a Jyotish astrologer can be much more confident in his or her predictions.

 Different seeds produce different trees.  A Botanist can look at two seeds.  He predicts one will grow into a silver birch; the other into a red wood.  We find nothing surprising in his prediction. He cannot say exactly how many branches each specific tree will have, or even what height they will reach as this depends on the soil conditions, climate and local environment.  He cannot say how long each tree will live either. But he can make general predictions about their overall characteristics.  A birth chart is like the seed – we should not be surprised that Vedic  Astrologers can predict general trends.

We know that the structure and characteristic growth of the tree is encoded in the DNA within its seed. Similarly the probable effects of our returning karmas (which are governed by the sequential unfoldment of the laws of nature) are reflected in the ‘code’ contained within the planetary arrangements in our birth-chart. This implies we were not born at a random time by chance and reflects the Vedic view of the interconnectedness of all life and matter in the universe.

Vedic Astrology gives a vantage point which transcends space and time. Instead of driving along an unknown road we can take a perspective ‘from a helicopter’ and see the future turns, terrain, and road surface. It is a bit like navigating with a map rather than trying to navigate without one. In some areas of life the road is straight and the going easy. In other areas we need to take more care. These benefits and difficulties also change with time as we progress along the journey. Life simply becomes easier and more fulfilling as a result of having a perspective from the viewpoint of Vedic astrology.

Sidereal astrology shows the relationship between the cosmic totality and the individual reality. The whole of sidereal astrology was cognized by an ancient sage called Maharishi Parashara who is said to have discovered mathematical and astronomical rules to predict the future and remedial measures needed to avoid any potential problems. To him, the cosmos was an intelligently organised and inter-connected whole; so that one event led into another event and that this unfoldment of life could be predicted from the code contained within the arrangement of the planets at the time of birth.


Additional Information

Frequently asked questions on Vedic Astrology: FAQ’s-1, FAQ’s-2

Jyotish – Planetary Forces

Summary: Vedic Astrology, unlike Western Astrology, takes the view that planets do not emit forces that influence people. Rather, the planetary arrangements at birth and subsequent transits merely represent information in a codified form. This can then be decoded by a skilled Jyotish astrologer to make predictions. Vedic Astrology comes from a tradition that views the cosmos and all the beings in it as part of an integrated whole.

Planetary Forces in Vedic astrology

Many Western Astrologers believe that each of the planets emit some type of force, however subtle, which influences our lives.  They therefore feel that Jyotish Astrology is limited as it does not use the very slow moving outer planets Neptune, Uranus and Pluto (and other celestial objects such as Chiron) as it fails to take into account the ‘forces’ emitted by these planets.

Vedic Astrology however deals with a field of information and not physical forces. The planetary arrangements present at the time of birth are simply a type of code that can be ‘read’ by skilled Vedic Astrologers and translated into predictions about returning karmas. Thus the arrangement of the seven ‘planets’ and the two nodes of the moon [1] between the twelve signs, twelve houses and twenty-seven stellar constellations (Nakshatras) is in effect, just highly coded information. The transit of planets, as they appear to move through signs and ‘houses’, is also seen as codified information.

The lack of a physical force and the acceptance that planetary arrangement merely represents information is supported by the Jyotish axiom that the ‘effects’ of planets vary markedly with the individuals’ rising sign or ascendant [2]There is no such parallel in Western Astrology.

In addition, Jyotish pays considerable attention to the moon’s nodes; Rahu and Ketu. These have no material existence whatsoever! They are just calculated points where the orbit of the moon around the earth crosses the ecliptic [3]. But they signal significant and very tangible karmic effects.

In order to fully understand Jyotish we need to transcend our current mechanistic models of reality. We have to abandon our Newtonian mechanistic view and replace it with one in which ‘consciousness’ is the primary ingredient of the universe.  At a fundamental level, the mechanics of Vedic Astrology depend on the Vedic Model of Reality.

Jyotish Astrology comes from a tradition which sees the Universe as one perfectly integrated whole. At the basis of this whole is an all pervading field of Cosmic Intelligence. We, in our essential nature are part of that Cosmic Intelligence and it is therefore not surprising that the Intelligence which created us in the first place should be able to provide some information regarding our past, present and possible future.

In many ways a birth-chart can be likened to a strand of DNA in a sperm or egg cell in that it stores information in a highly condensed form!  As time progresses that information gets translated into more of a concrete and observable reality until tissues and organs are built up, structures emerge, and finally the living being is recognised.

Jyotish Astrology consists of a number of axioms and mathematical rules of transformation for enabling the Astrologer to predict how the highly encoded information present in a birth chart will transform itself into possible physical situations.  The process is analogous to that of modern bio-chemistry which can ‘translate’ sections of the DNA code in our genes into recognisable physical features.  Jyotish simply does not need to invent forces being emitted by planetary bodies – it deals directly with a field of information.

Footnotes

[1] Jyotish uses only nine ‘Grahas’  or celestial objects (roughly translated as ‘planets’): the Sun and Moon (although from an astronomical viewpoint these are not planets), Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. It also uses two calculated points called ‘Rahu’ and ‘Ketu’; these are the Moon’s nodes and linked to the position of eclipses.

[2] In Jyotish the planet Mars is (generally) a very positive influence in the birth chart of someone with a Leo ascendant (sign rising on the horizon at birth).  It is also (generally) an extremely negative influence for a person with a Virgo ascendant.  So the same planet signals both positive effects for some individuals and negative for others. Clearly this is not due to any physical force emanating from the planet! This gives evidence to the fact that we are really dealing with an integrated field of information (or intelligence) where the individual is linked to the Cosmic Totality.

[3] Wiki says: ‘The lunar nodes are the orbital nodes of the Moon, that is, the two points at which the orbit of the Moon crosses the ecliptic. The ascending (or north) node is where the Moon moves into the northern ecliptic hemisphere, while the descending (or south) node is where the Moon enters the southern ecliptic hemisphere. Eclipses involving the Moon occur only near the lunar nodes. A solar eclipse occurs when the passage of the Moon through a node coincides with the new moon, while a lunar eclipse occurs when the passage coincides with the full moon’.


Jyotish – Origins of Vedic Astrology

Summary: This article discusses the origins of Vedic Astrology ( Jyotish) and the process of Vedic cognition. It identifies the great Vedic Seer Maharishi Parashara as the ‘father of Jyotish Astrology’ and discusses his classical text on Jyotish: the ‘Brihat Parasara Hora Shastra’

Origins of Vedic Astrology and the process of Vedic Cognition

Ask any Western Astrologer about the origins of their subject and they will give you a chronological account of how Astrology passed from country to country and from culture to culture. Western thought modes find this comfortable because it agrees with our sense of history. We enjoy quantifying the past with names, dates, timelines and places.

Ask any Jyotish Astrologer about the origins of their subject and they will tell you itcame from God[1]. This is a very important point and a fundamental difference between Jyotish and Western Astrology. According to tradition, the knowledge of Jyotish Astrology, just like the knowledge of how to maintain perfect health – Ayurveda, and all the rest of the vast Vedic literature was ‘revealed’ or ‘cognized’. It was not discovered – neither was it invented by mankind, nor developed experimentally over many centuries.

We have no clear parallels in Western thought to the mechanics of Vedic cognition. The closest we can get is perhaps to consider flashes of artistic or creative genius, or scientific insight, where all the ‘information’ for a great work of art or theorem came into someone’s mind ‘in an instant’.

All the great Vedic works involved ‘revealed knowledge’ or ‘cognition’ in the consciousness of highly evolved sages, seers and rishis in a bygone age. They spent lifetimes practising yoga and meditation to facilitate this. A modern day analogy would be like using the Internet to connect our personal computer to a remote server (or even ‘The Cloud’) and downloading into our PC all the information we required. Of course, we must know how to operate our local PC correctly and have the right password (maybe the ‘right mantras’) to access the data on the remote server!

If we examine this analogy further, it is obvious that the information on the server exists whether or not it can be accessed by our remote device (PC, tablet, phone, etc.). The situation is exactly the same with the knowledge of Vedic Astrology. The information in the ‘Cosmic Computer’ is there all the time waiting to be accessed. In certain ages it may available to a few enlightened individuals. In the present ‘Dark Age’ of Kali Yuga [2] it is totally unavailable by direct cognition. So we have to rely on the cognition of saints from past ages.

The Vedic Sage (or seer) who is regarded as the ‘father of Jyotish Astrology’ is Maharishi Parashara (Maha meaning ‘great’: rishi meaning ‘seer’) [3]. His Sanskrit text ‘Brihat Parasara Hora Shastra [4] is a key work in Vedic Astrology. When or where he lived does not matter. If his knowledge became lost over the long passage of time, that would not matter either, simply because it was not ‘his’ knowledge in the first place! Other rishis would be born in future Ages and the whole of the Jyotish Shastra (teachings) could be re-cognised for the benefit of mankind.

Footnotes

[1] The Vedic concept of God is very different from that of the remote, judgemental God of the Abrahamic religions. The Vedic tradition perceives the all-pervading ‘GOD’  as a three letter acronym representing key principles of nature: G – Generator (personified as Brahma), O – Operator (personified as Vishnu), D – Destroyer (personified as Maheshwara or Shiva).

[2] The Vedic literature identifies four major ages or great time periods, each of which has a predominant characteristic. Currently most (but not all) scholars say we are in the age of Kali Yuga, although exactly when it started (some estimate around 5000 years ago around 3102 BCE when Krishna left his incarnation on earth) and how long it will last (some say another 19,000 years) is a matter for debate. Some have also proposed there are minor cycles, each with their own characteristics, even within the major time periods.

[3] Further information on Maharishi Parashara can be found on Wikipedia – although the article would benefit from additional scholarly review.

[4] There is debate amongst scholars as to exactly which chapters in the currently available printed versions of the ‘Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra’ are actually attributable to Parashara  and which to the sage Jaimini. Although these systems appear to conflict, it is generally agreed that Parashara’s systems are suited to the current age of Kali Yuga and those of Jaimini to a different age.

Vedic and Western Astrology: Key Differences

Summary:  This article examines the key differences between Vedic Astrology and Western Astrology. Vedic Astrological system differs dramatically from the Western Astrological system in its origins, paradigms and methodology.

Vedic Astrology’s Concepts and Paradigms

Jyotish is predictive. It is fundamentally involved with ‘karmic engineering’. It identifies possible obstacles in life and predicts both positive and more difficult periods in the future. It attempts to detect a person’s returning karmas and predicts when they are likely to manifest.

Jyotish is preventive. It uses a wide range of remedial measures deigned to influence an individual’s returning karma.

Jyotish astrology employs techniques for predicting the optimum time to commence major undertakings e.g. starting a business, getting married, building a house, etc.

Vedic Astrology comes from the same traditions as yoga. Unlike Western Astrology, which was developed by people over centuries, Jyotish was cognized. In Vedic cognition a great seer or rishi (in this case Maharishi Parashara) connected his individual consciousness to the ‘cosmic computer’ and ‘downloaded’ the whole of Vedic Astrology’s knowledge and techniques.

Because Vedic Astrology sees the universe and the beings in it as part of an interconnected whole – a field of energy, order and ‘intelligence’, it deals with coded information. Western astrology is more ‘Newtonian’ and mechanistic in that it suggests all planets emit some type of, as yet undiscovered, force that affects humans on Earth. So every time astronomers discover a new celestial object in our solar system Western Astrology adapts and devises astrological properties for the object. Jyotish regards this as unnecessary.

Vedic Astrology’s Methods

Jyotish Astrology uses only nine Grahas – roughly translated as the nine ‘planets’ – the seven visible ‘planets’ up to and including Saturn, plus the two nodes of the Moon. Unlike Western Astrology, it does not use the planets beyond Saturn. In Vedic Astrology, all the information needed for prediction is encoded in the arrangements of the nine planets at the time of birth. In Jyotish the planets do not emit some type of, as yet undiscovered, ‘ force’ that affects individuals. It is more a matter of coded information. It is not a mechanistic ‘Newtonian force’ type of concept!

Jyotish uses the totally unique mahadasha system of prediction to delineate time periods of major karmic influence. In common with Western Astrology it also uses transits, but their effect is usually of much less importance than the mahadashas.

In Vedic Astrology an individual’s ascendant (the sign that was rising on the eastern horizon at the time of birth) is of fundamental importance. The sun sign used by Western Astrology is of relatively little importance.

Although Jyotish uses the same twelve signs of the zodiac that the Western system uses, this zodiac is permanently referenced to the fixed stars. Jyotish uses the fixed or sidereal zodiac.

The starting point of the Western Astrologer’s zodiac is referenced to the movable equinox points, not the fixed stars. This Tropical zodiac moves slowly through the sky against the background of the fixed stars. This means that the part of the zodiac called ‘Aries’ in the Western system is not actually linked to a particular constellation and changes over a period of time.

Traditional Jyotish astrology always involves the equal house concept – every house occupies 30 degrees of the sky and houses correspond exactly with signs in the sidereal zodiac. The Western system frequently uses unequal angular house divisions.