Summary: This article examines the paradigm shift needed by Western Astrologers if they are going to stand any chance of understanding the fundamental concepts involved in the predictive and preventive Vedic Astrological system. (More in-depth articles about ‘Planetary Forces’ and Karma to follow).
Jyotish – A Major Paradigm Shift for Western Astologers
A fully Self–realized Vedic Master said this about Vedic astrology:‘The purpose of astrology is to take you to the ultimate truth that the entire universe is one organism. It’s one Being, one consciousness, one Self, that manifests itself into this varied universe’. 
For many centuries man thought that the Sun and planets revolved around the earth and that the earth was at the centre of the universe. These ideas were very deeply ingrained in our thinking and formed a conceptual framework which affected our whole outlook on life. The learned scholars and establishment of the time (the Church) supported these ideas.
Irrefutable scientific evidence later emerged to suggest that what had previously been taken as ‘self-evident fact’ was merely a result of an earth-centred perspective and that, contrary to what we observe, the earth and planets do indeed revolve in orbits around the Sun.
Looking back from our present time it is hard to imagine the upset this change in perspective caused and why those who supported the new theories were branded as heretics. It is also difficult to imagine why the established ideas had so much inertia.
The above is an example of what is known as a ‘paradigm shift’. There have been other examples. More recently the concept of ‘evolution of the species’ had to overthrow the entrenched ideas that God, at some time in the past, created life exactly as we see it now – and that there was no room in the divine plan for changes.
Yet another paradigm-shift occurred in the field of physics when the rules of motion as laid down by Isaac Newton were found to be inadequate at explaining all observed phenomena (e.g. those occurring close to the speed of light or at the minute atomic scale). Einstein’s’ theory of relativity and the whole of quantum physics then emerged. However, the shift from one view point to another is never easy and takes considerable time to get established in the consciousness of the general public.
Now Western Astrologers are often considered as being reasonably flexible and adaptable to ‘new ideas’. One problem with Jyotish Astrology is that it is not a ‘new idea’ – it has been in existence for thousands of years. Another problem is that in order to be able to fully grasp ‘where it is coming from’ a major paradigm shift is going to be needed by Astrologers born and bred into Western Astrological thinking patterns.
Here are some key concepts:
Planets do not affect people
The Jyotish Astrologer realises that planets do not affect people – it is people which affect people! In the West it is very easy to take on an ‘Astrological Victim Consciousness’ mode of thought e.g. ‘I’m having a bad time at the moment because of my Saturn transit’ i.e. Saturn is the agent responsible for my condition. Jyotish Astrology says this is nonsense. Any condition or situation we find ourselves in at the present is solely due to our past thoughts, words or deeds. Of course we could argue as follows, ‘I can’t remember doing anything which would give rise to what I am now experiencing.’
The answer to this, from a Jyotish viewpoint, is very simple. It says that our memory does not extend far enough back. In order to understand the present we might require a memory stretching back many lifetimes. So Jyotish has built into its structure the concepts of re-incarnation and the fruits of past actions returning to the individual.
The mechanics of Jyotish, at a fundamental level, rely on the Vedic Model of Reality: the universe and all the beings in it is an interconnected single entity!
We were not born at a particular time in the past merely by chance
We were not born at some particular time, when the planets were arranged in a particular way, merely by chance. Jyotish Astrology comes from a tradition which does not believe that the Creator plays dice! It would be grossly unfair if some people were born into very rich families and others into families of beggars just by accident.
Jyotish implies that we were born at a particular time and place due to our past karmas and latent impressions (samskaras). The celestial arrangement of the 9 planets amongst the twelve houses and 27 constellations (Nakshatras) at our birth simply reflects how our lives will unfold as a result of our past deeds. The moment of our incarnation on this planet therefore reflects the karmic lessons we needed to learn to maximise our evolution – and Jyotish Astrology can detect the nature and timing of the benefits we receive and challenges we face.
Planets do not emit some kind of ‘force’ that affects people
Many Western Astrologers believe that the planets emit some type of force which, as yet, has not been discovered by science, and which influences our lives. They therefore feel that Jyotish Astrology is in some way limited as it does not use the very slow moving planets Neptune, Uranus and Pluto and thus fails to take into account the ‘forces’ emitted by these planets.
The Western Astrological concept of a planet emitting a ‘force’ that affects human beings is very mechanistic and ‘Newtonian’. Vedic Astrology realises that it is just dealing with a field of information, not a physical, or even esoteric hidden force. The planetary arrangements present at the time of birth are a type of code that can be ‘read’ by skilled Vedic Astrologers and translated into predictions.
The lack of a physical force and the acceptance that planetary arrangements merely represent information is supported by the Jyotish axiom that the ‘effects’ of planets vary markedly with the individuals’ rising sign or ascendant. There is no such parallel in Western Astrology.
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.
Jyotish offers a range of remedial measures to modify returning karmic influences
Because we are part of an integrated whole, then by participating in certain vedic procedures , performing prescribed acts of charity, reciting certain 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! 
 HH Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: ‘The Daily Sutra’, 20 May 2003
 Vedic ceremonies such as yagnas, when performed correctly by enlightened pandits are said to modify returning karmas. Also, as the universe and the beings in it are viewed as an interconnected whole, then the wearing of certain gemstones associated with specific planets in a birthchart are said to modify returning karmas associated with those planets. The sanskrit mantras are also seen as a means of ‘upwardly managing’ the laws of nature to modify returning karmas.