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Like Ayurveda, Vedic Astrology (Jyotish) is a gift of the creator to help us live in bliss and avoid suffering by anticipating the future. Jyotish is one of the six Vedangas (limbs of the Ved). It represents the eyes (vision and insight). Jyotish expresses the All-Knowing aspect of Veda, which is itself the eternal, unexpressed storehouse of total knowledge (see: Vedic Science).
Jyotish addresses the field of action (Karma). All thought, speech and action reverberates throughout the universe and eventually returns to us. Karma guides life in the evolutionary direction as it returns both from our current life and our past lives. From this perspective, what we term good or bad luck and those diseases which we call congential, genetic or inherited may be the expression of past actions.
Jyotish is able to fathom the package of ripened Karma attached to a point value, namely the time and place of birth, for an individual or a nation. Jyotish can predict how accrued Karma will return to us for better or worse. It combines a detailed mathematical analysis of the positions of key heavenly bodies at the time and place in question, the effects of their subsequent movements (transits) and their role in ruling various periods of the lifetime (Dasas) with a synthesis of meanings attached to their inter-relationships.
Jyotish can also identify the most auspicious time to initiate an action so as to engage maximum support of nature for success. For example, in the process of constructing my Vāstu home/office, I consulted a Jyotishi to identify Muhurtas (auspicious dates and times) for the ground-breaking, cornerstone placement and move-in ceremonies. The Nakshatras (see below) play an important role in evaluating Muhurtas. In addition, Jyotish is of value in assessing compatibility of two individuals who are entertaining a partnership, whether in marriage or business. Furthermore, Jyotish can be applied to answer specific questions (a process called prashna) or interpret omens.
This whole process is amazingly complex. It takes years to become a competent Jyotishi under the tutelage of a Guru. Study of Jyotish contributes to growth of individual consciousness. The accuracy of a Jyotishi's predictions are a function of that consciousness, such that the supreme practice of Jyotish comes with the dawn of a higher level of consciousness (Jyotish Mati Pragya). Even so, it is useful to gain a basic understanding of how Jyotish works and of the potential remedies for Karmic problems.
Jyotish is distinct from western astrology. It references the sidereal (actual) zodiac rather than the tropical zodiac (which artifically freezes the the spring equinox as the beginning of the sign Aires notwithstanding the precession of the earth's axis which is moving the equinox toward the constellation Aquarius). Thus, the signs of western astrology do not correspond to the physical constellations of the same name. Western astrology anchors on the effects of the Sun, Moon and planets. Jyotish disregards the planets beyond Saturn, but includes the effects of the lunar nodes (Rahu and Ketu) which are "responsible" for eclipses of the Sun and Moon. These shadowy planets are difficult to know, but can produce sudden and dramatic effects. In addition, Jyotish recognizes the effects of the 27 constellations (Nakshatras) through which the Moon passes each monthly cycle. The Moon's Nakshatra at birth sets the 120-year Dasa cycle of a normal lifespan in Kali Yuga, which together with transits, determines when celestial bodies will likely give their effects. Moreover, western astrology gives great emphasis to the Sun sign, while Jyotish balances it among the rising sign (Lagna) which attaches the houses (Bhavas - states of existence) to the stellar constellations (Rashis) of the zodiac, the Sun, Moon and planets, their locations, and their inter-relationships.
Jyotish and Ayurveda are closely connected. I routinely ask clients for birth information. The Lagna, in particular, gives useful information about the physical body and general well-being. Sometimes, the client is doing all the right things, but still having difficulties. In these situations, it helps to look for Karmic influences to assess prognosis and additional options for relief.
In Jyotish, the nine planets (including the Sun, Moon, Rahu and Ketu) are termed Grahas (literally, "seizers"). The nine Grahas are the celestial aspects of the "planets." They are the agents of the cosmic administrator responsible for delivering the fruits of Karma to us. For this reason, many prefer to use their Sanskrit to better differentiate this function from they way we typically think of them. The following table gives these relationships along with a taste of their significations.
|Sun||Surya||Soul, father, head, stomach, liver, gallbladder, kidneys||Bone|
|Moon||Chandra||Mind, emotions, mother, face, chest, lungs, heart||Blood|
|Mars||Mangal||Courage, initiative, energy, head, brain, genitals||Muscle & Marrow|
|Mercury||Budha||Intellect, speech, diplomacy, shoulders, arms hips, back||Skin|
|Jupiter||Guru||Wisdom, wealth, husband, thighs, feet||Fat|
|Venus||Shukra||Desires, beauty, spouse, pelvis, face||Reproductive|
|Saturn||Shani||Sorrows, obstacles, servants, knees, legs, ankles||Nerves|
|North Node||Rahu||Karma, materiality, unusual/foreign things, knees||n/a|
|South Node||Ketu||Spirituality, genitals||n/a|
The 12 Rashis (constellations of the zodiac) each are "ruled" by a specific Graha, which thereby influences any other Grahas that might be found within and colors the Bhava it represents. In turn, the Grahas carry the significations of the Bhavas represented by the Rashis they rule to where ever they are positioned. The Rashis are further characterized by various qualities such as length, gender, place, direction in addition to their Mahabhuta (primordial element) and propensity to promote movement given in this table.
The Rashi on the eastern horizon at the time of birth is the Lagna (rising sign) and becomes the first Bhava ("house" or state of existence) for the chart. The next Rashi in the zodiac order becomes the 2nd Bhava and so on. The Jyotishi pays close attention to the way the Rashis color the Bhavas and to the planetary influences on each Bhava and its ruler when analyzing the chart for its signfications. This table gives a small sampling of the possible significations of the 12 Bhavas.
|2||Wealth||Dhanu||Speech||Family||Face & its Organs|
|3||Brothers||Sahaja||Valor||Siblings||Arms & Throat|
|4||Relatives||Bandu||Confidence||Mother||Chest & Heart|
|5||Children||Putra||Knowledge||Children||Stomach, Liver & Kidneys|
|7||Spouse||Yuvati||Desires||Spouse & Partners||Lower Abdomen|
|10||Action & Career||Karma||Power||Government||Knees|
|11||Gains||Labha||Income||Elder Sibling||Ankles & Calves|
|12||Loss||Vyaya||Enlightment; Expenses||Comforts of the Bed||Feet|
The birth chart is a simple map of the positions of the Grahas and assignment of Rashis to Bhavas from the perspective of an observer on earth. There are several ways to do this. I find the North Indian format shown here the easiest to understand. It fixes the Lagna at the top (east) of the chart. This means that the Bhavas will always appear in the same place in counter-clockwise order. So, the seventh Bhava representing the western horizon will always be at the bottom. Likewise, the fourth Bhava [underfoot - south] will always be on the left and the 10th Bhava [the zenith overhead - north] on the right. These four quadrants are bounded by the inner square, which I have colored red. The numbers identify the constellations. Two letter abbreviations give the placements of the Grahas. Parentheses indicate retrograde motion (e.g., Guru in this chart).
In this sample birth chart, the strong influence of Fire is easy to see. Mangal is placed in the Lagna in the constellation Leo, which is ruled by Surya. We can also see that Chandra, the natural signifier of the emotional mind, is placed in the fourth Bhava in the constellation Scorpio (its sign of debilitation), ruled by Mangal. The brilliant fullness of the Moon is eclipsed by Ketu, which has a firey influence like Mangal. In evaluating a client with a chart having similar features, I would not be surprised to find a Pitta imbalance.
In addition to the Rashi chart, Vedic astrologers may consult other charts (Vargas) prepared by sub-dividing each Rashi. These divisional or harmonic charts assist with the evaluation of planetary strength and the interpretation of specific significations. For example, the Navamsa (9 divisions chart) gives information about the spouse, business partner and other seventh Bhava matters.
The Grahas deliver their effects locally in the Rashi they occupy in the chart, as well as through their influence on the Rashis that they rule and through aspects they make on other Rashis and Grahas. All Grahas deliver a full aspect to the Rashi opposite (180°) to their placement. By convention we say this effect carries to the seventh Rashi going counter-clockwise and counting the starting Rashi.
In addition, some Grahas have special aspects: Shani throws its full influence on Rashis 3 & 10 away; Mangal on those 4 & 8 away; and Guru on those 5 & 9 away. The ability of a Graha to deliver its significations is a function of strength largely deriving from its location in Rashi, Bhava and Vargas, apparent movement (normal or retrograde) and the influence of other Grahas.
Yoga means union. One-sided effects through rulership or special aspects are not yogas. While the term may be applied to interactions via conjunction or opposition, it is often reserved to refer to the special ways Grahas combine to give specific results (wealth, poverty, fame, brilliant intellect, death in childhood, etc.) identified by the ancient Rishis (seers). Such yogas may involve mutual exchange (being positioned in each others' Rashi), mutual aspect, or some unique pattern.
Jyotish's predictions enable us to take full advantage of favorable opportunities and to take precautions to minimize potential harms coming our way through Yagya and other rememdies. Yagyas are Vedic performances that engage support of the unmanifest forces of nature at their level. They are the most powerful technology for modifying Karma to avert the danger that has not yet come.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi devoted his life to the revival of Vedic knowledge for the purpose of creating heaven on earth. His top three recommendations for individual well-being were to practice Transcendental Meditation, follow Ayurvedic principles, and live in Vāstu. Close behind, he extolled the virtues of Jyotish and Yagya to anticipate and avoid problems. Moreover, he focused considerable attention to the challenge of training sufficient numbers of Vedic pandits to be able to perform Yagyas, not only for individuals desiring them, but also to support every nation's well-being and world peace.
Other possible remedies include things like meditation, charitable work, vows, wearing of gemstones, chanting of mantras, and acts of worship. Karmic influences vary widely in their intensity and fixity—some are more easily modified than others. With the dawn of Cosmic Consciousness, all actions are spontaneously in accord with Natural Law. This "burns the seeds" of Karma and ends the cycle of rebirth. An enlightened person continues to live out whatever residual Karma remains to be experienced in this life, but remains in bliss throughout.
If you are interested in developing a deeper understanding of Jyotish, here are a few books that I would recommend. They won't make you a Jyotishi, but they will give you some insight as to what is required to prepare and interpret a birth chart. You might also want to look at the work of PVR Narasimha Rao which includes free Jyotish software.