Summary: Vedic Astrology (Jyotish) basic FAQs – including its origins, use of the sidereal zodiac and only nine planets, and remedial measures to modify returning karmas
Q. What are the origins of Vedic Astrology?
A. Vedic Astrology was cognised over 5000 years ago by an ancient, fully enlightened sage called ‘Maharishi Parashara’ . He is said to have ‘discovered’ mathematical and astronomical rules to predict the future and so avoid potential problems. This ancient but eternal wisdom has withstood the test of time. Long experience over many generations has proved the validity of its techniques.
Maharishi Parashara‘s work forms the central reference for to-days Vedic Astrologers.
Parashara was a highly evolved soul whose elevated consciousness was fully awake within itself, aware of its own structure and at the same time the dynamics of evolution. To him, the cosmos was an intelligently organised, inter-connected whole; so that one event led into another event and that this unfoldment of life could be predicted. Vedic Astrology therefore demonstrates the relationship between the individual and the cosmic totality, man and the universe.
Q. As Vedic astrology comes from India is it linked to the Hindu religion?
A. We could ask a similar question about yoga, which originated in India. However, we all realize we don’t have to have Hindu beliefs in order to experience the benefits of doing Yoga! The situation is exactly the same with any of the Vedic ‘Sciences’ (e.g. Jyotish, Ayurveda and Vastu). They exist for the benefit of everyone, regardless of race, religion, belief system or country of origin. This ancient wisdom is for everyone in this modern age.
Q. Is Vedic astrology a science?
A. It is certainly highly mathematical, logical and systematic in its application of the rules and axioms of Jyotish as applied to chart interpretation and prediction.
Because Jyotish sees the universe as a field of energy and information it is quite in keeping with modern scientific thought about the nature of reality. Although many thousands of years old, its concepts about the nature of reality have close parallels with modern neuroscience, cosmology and particle physics.
Vedic Astrology acts like a long-range weather forecasting system, so is essentially probabilistic. It attempts to predict when and how the actions we have performed in the past 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.
Vedic astrology is however, not experimentally derived knowledge. Rather, it is cognized and revealed wisdom, said to be given to us for the benefit of all mankind. Vedic astrology is based on wisdom that was revealed to a great Sage over 5000 years ago. The ancient Sanskrit texts form part of the Vedic tradition of India which also includes the ‘sciences’ of Yoga and Ayurveda. A revival of interest in this eternal wisdom is currently taking place.
Q. When I had my Jyotish chart drawn up I noticed that both my sun and ascendant are in different astrological signs compared with my Western Astrological chart. How can this be possible?
A. Vedic astrology divides the celestial sphere into the same thirty degree segments used by Western astrology and the segments are given the same names e.g. Aries, Taurus, etc. But there is one major difference that accounts for the change in planetary positions between the two systems. The difference is in the starting points of each zodiac .
The Sidereal Zodiac used by Vedic Astrologers never moves with respect to the distant or ‘fixed’ background stars. So the segment called ‘Aries’ always remains in the same place relative to the fixed stars and the constellations (groups of stars).The starting point of Aries is always towards a fixed star in Jyotish.
However, Western Astrology uses the Tropical Zodiac whose starting point is based on the position of the spring equinox. This equinox point moves slightly each year relative to the fixed background stars. Over many years this slight movement makes a big difference. The starting point of both zodiacs coincided about 1700 years ago, but now differs (because of an astronomical phenomenon called ‘the precession of the equinoxes’) by about 24 degrees. It is this difference of 24 degrees that causes many planetary positions to be in different signs in the two systems . Of course, if you were born around 300 AD there would have been no difference!
Q. Why does Vedic Astrology only use the nine ‘planets’ up to and including Saturn? Surely the other planets beyond Saturn affect our lives?
A. In Vedic Astrology, all the information needed for prediction in all life areas is encoded in the arrangements of the nine ‘planets’  at the time of birth. In Jyotish the planets do not emit some type of ‘force’ that affects individuals. It is more a matter of coded information. It is not a mechanistic ‘Newtonian force’ type of concept. Rather, Vedic Astrology sees the universe and the beings in it as part of an interconnected whole: a field of energy, order and ‘intelligence’. The celestial arrangement of the nine planets amongst the twelve zodiacal signs, the twelve houses and the 27 constellations (Nakshatras) at our birth reflects how our lives will unfold in time as a result of our past deeds. So we are dealing with ‘coded karmic information’ (which gives us all the information we need) and not ‘planetary forces’.
Q. Can we change our returning karmas without recourse to the remedial measure of Vedic astrology?
A. Yes, this is certainly possible. It is said that the grace of the Guru can greatly modify returning karmas. Anyone in a position to receive the grace of an enlightened spiritual master should consider themselves truly blessed!
Spiritual practices such as regular meditation can also modify karmas. Many Jyotish astrologers are amazed that the predictions they made from the birth-chart about returning negative karmas are greatly reduced in the lives of long-term meditators.
It is also said that acts of charity are valuable at modifying certain karmas. An enlightened Vedic scholar has said that we are more likely to hold on to our hard earned wealth if we give a small proportion (e.g. a few percent) of it away to charity every month! In addition, helping and serving others (the Indian concept of ‘Seva’) is extremely worthwhile.
 Further information on Maharishi Parashara can be found on Wikipedia – although the article would benefit from additional scholarly review.
 The difference in planetary positions between the zodiacs is now around 24 degrees. If your sun was, say 14 degrees in Virgo in Western Astrology, it will now be at 14 – 24 = – 10 degrees Virgo in the Vedic or sidereal system! The negative sign simply means it has has moved backwards and changed sign into the position of 20 degrees in Leo in the Vedic system (as -10 + 30 = 20). However if your sun was at 28 degrees Virgo in Western astrology (tropical or moveable zodiac) it will now be at 28 – 24 = 4 degrees Virgo in Jyotish (fixed or sidereal system). In this case it has not changed sign
 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. It does not use any planets (or sub-planets such as Chiron) which cannot be observed with the unaided eye (e.g. planets beyond Saturn)
1. More Frequently asked questions on Vedic Astrology: Introductory FAQ’s 1
2. Detailed differences between the Western and Vedic Astrological systems