Introduction to Jyotish

Author: Krishna Darshan - Alan Wiuker
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Origin and philosophy:
Vedic Astrology, or Indian astrology, called JYOTISH, literally means "the science of light". It has its origin in ancient India many thousands of years ago, by the Rishis.
The Rishis were the Yogis (literally: "seers") who dedicated their lives entirely to meditation and spiritual practices.Among them was sage Parashara, father of Vyasa, author or compiler of The Vedas, the ancient indian sacred scriptures, and other illustrous sages like Jaimini, Brighu and others.
From those Rishis deep meditative experiences, all the knowledge of Yoga, astrology, mantras, music, ayurveda (the science of health) was revealed, all those being branches of the same science.

Vedic astrology is therefore spiritual by nature, and aims to help to understand the personal Karma, to be able to correct it, unidentified with it, and eventually be free of its bondage to dwell fully in our divine inner nature, the immortal Soul or "Atman".
The Rishis knew, thousands of years before the invention of the telescope, very advanced astronomical principles. They knew that the earth and planets orbit around the Sun and could calculate their position very precisely, and they understood their function as the instruments or agents by which the law of Karma operates.

Jyotish is one of the 6 "vedangas" or limbs of the Vedas, 6 sciences which are to be studied beforw being able to understand fully and practice the Vedic teaching.
Each of the vedangas represent one limb of the Vedas, and Jyotish is called "The eye of the Vedas"

The 6 angas are

Grammar (face)
Meter(rithm) (legs)
Meaning of words, etymology (ears)
Pronunciation (nose)
Pujas, Homas, rituals, ceremonies (hands)
Astronomy / Astrology (eyes)

There are six branches of Jyotish, called:

  • Gola: observational astronomy
  • Ganita: astronomical and mathematical calculations
  • Jataka: Natal astrology, understanding the effects of karma in the birth of an individual
  • Muhurta: Electional astrology, choosing the auspicious time to start an important activity
  • Prashna: Horary astrology, answering a specific question based on the moment of the query
  • Nimitha: interpretation of omens

To understand Jyotish we must understand the principle of Karma.

Karma is the universal law of action and reaction, cause and effect.
Every action we perform, starting from the very thought and intention behind it, will sow a seed that will sprout and later bear a fruit which we will have to reap, a life situation which we will have to experience, which could be pleasant or painful, depending on the type of action.
Life is a school towards illumination and perfect happiness, were we learn by experience and error.
Every selfish or harmful action generates a situation of suffering that will teach us the lesson, and every generous, selfless, loving and detached action will create a more favorable situation for happiness and illumination.
The effects of an action may manifest after long time, therefore one life is not enough to work it all out, especially since we are creating new karma while experiencing the results of the previous one.
That is the cause of reincarnation, as a form to continue the learning process and experience the karmic debts from the past.
When we are born, we don't do it just by "chance" in a particular place and time, but in the condition which is the ripening of the previous actions or Karma, were we will continue what we left unfinished in the past.
The Vedas declare that the planets and stars are the instruments of God by which Karma operates, and by analyzing their position in the sky at the moment of birth we can understand the "prarabda karma" - the portion of the past karma that will manifest in this life, as well as the creative tools or potentials to create a new Karma.
The Vedic and yogic view is not "fatalist" and emphasizes that through the "agami"or "kriyamana" karma, the karma that we create in this life by our actions, we can correct our past actions and create a new destiny. It is here where we have the free will to choose in which direction we project our life, and sow the future.
There is also a part of the Karma that we cannot change, and we need to understand it and work it out. So aceptance of that Karma with detachment, wisdom and surender to God's will is also important for inner peace.
The philosophy of Vedic astrology goes hand to hand with the practice of Yoga, the powerful path of self discipline by which the soul can develop it's higher spiritual potentials, enabling him to go beyond the bondage of Karma, and attain "Moksha", liberation or illumination.
Jyotish can show us the "samskaras"or mental tendencies and deep-rooted patterns that we bring from the past, that are the cause of our present and future situations, but it is Yoga that is the method by which one can change those samskaras and liberate oneself from their grip.
As an analogy we can say that Jyotish can show you the battlefield of this life, and which are your friends, allies and foes, but Yoga is the powerful weapon by which you fight and win the battle.

The 4 aspects or goals of life:
The Vedic Rishis understood life in 4 main aspects, which we can analyze in Jyotish:

  • Dharma (divine law)
    It is the duty or main responsibility in this life.
    It has to do with the moral and ethic awareness, recognizing the personal duty and sense of justice in every situation and acting accordingly.
    Each of us, according to our previous karma, have a duty, a job or task to do in this life, a particular responsibility and service to perform, which will be a form of purification, evolution and spiritual progress.
    By performing our own duty without attachment, we pay our past karmic debts without creating new ones.
  • Artha (prosperity)
    Is the need to maintain the physical and material needs.
    Economic prosperity, work, possession or lack of food, home and material needs, are dependant on previous karmas and can be analyzed in jyotish.
  • Kama (desires or enjoyments)
    The kind of desires or enjoyments, sensual and sexual life, art and beauty, are related to past mental tendencies and impressions, and the capacity to obtain the desired objects depends on previous karma.
    But attachment to sensual pleasures and desires is considered as an obstacle to inner peace, and is a cause of future sufferings.
  • Moksha (liberation or illumination)
    It is the very purpose of existence and it is considered the most important goal of life.
    It means the complete liberation of suffering through the realization of the divine and eternal inner and outer nature and the union or fusion of the individuality in the cosmic consciousness or God.
    When this is attained, the wheel of “samsara”, the wheel of births and deaths is broken, to dwell forever in a state of absolute bliss.
    To free oneself from the grip of karma and samsara requires a development of the inner potential spiritual powers as well as the grace of God.
    This inner spiritual power can be developed by a life dedicated to “Sadhana” - spiritual practices and self-discipline like yoga, meditation, renunciation to all attachments, devotion and surrender to God.
    Vedic astrology can help us a great deal to understand the main lessons we have to learn in this life, discover our inner potentials and creative energy, and choose the type of sadhana or yoga practice, personal Mantra, “Ishta Devata” or personal tutelary deity, spiritual teacher, etc.

Differences between Vedic and Western Astrology

There are many important differences between the western and Vedic systems of astrology.
One of the most important one is that western astrology uses the “tropical” zodiac, considering the vernal equinox as the 0 degree of Aries, but there is a phenomena called the precesion of the echinoxes, and every year it goes back a fraction of degree. Now a days the vernal echinoxe takes place in Pices about 4 degrees. So there is a difference of around -24 degrees. This difference is called the “Ayanamsha” and is the base of the “Sidereal” Zodiac, used in Vedic astrology. So the western tropical zodiac is more a kind of symbolic or archetypical zodiac but it doesn’t reflect the real position of the planets in relation with the stars and the universe, but is more based in the relation between the Sun and the Earth and the seasons, and therefore, more concerned about the worldly matters, while the Sidereal zodiac used in Vedic astrology is very precise in making accurate predictions, and for understanding the relationship of the individual with the entire universe, and is more suitable for spiritual maters.
Becose of the diferent zodiac sistems, the position of the planets will be diferent in the chart, and many planets will be in a previous sign, creating a whole diferent chart.
Another point is that vedic astrology is a Moon based sistem, instead of the Sun based sistem in western. A special importance is given to the ascendant as well.
Even though the Sun is the soul of the universe and has an importan signification, all the experience of the individual take place on the mind, and that is seen on the Moon. The Moon is the “prana” or vital force in each individual and each action, wich will determine his actions, reaction and therefore, Karma.
So in the vedic sistem, when we talk about somebody’s “Sign”, we do not usually refer to the Sun sign, like in the western system, but more to the Ascendant and Moon signs.
Even the sun sign may often be on the sign previous than the western system and the same with all the other planets and the ascendant
There are also different interpretative rules, different rules of the planetary and house aspects and simbolism, different house systems, but there are several common rules and symbolisms as well.
If you are used to the western system and tropical zodiac, which also has its validity for some uses, it is recommended not to “mix” the two sistems, and try to understand each of them independently with their own rules and frame of mind.
Vedic astrology also has a unique system of dividing the sky in 27 sections of 13:20 degrees called “Nakshatras” or Stars, which gives a more precise division of the signs and the zodiac, and very useful to understand the mind frame of the native and some inherent karmas related with them.
There is also a unique and very accurate system of prediction and timing of events which is the Dasha system of planetary periods of life, which doesn’t exist in the western system. There are many Dasha systems but the Vimshottari Dasha is the most commonly used and appreciated. The Dashas are use together with the transits for fine tuning of predictions.

Another important factor to understand is that unlike the western system, the Vedic understanding of the birth chart is thet it represents the “maya” or illusion of the person. The Yogi does not identify with it, but rather understands that the chart represents the ignorant tendency of the mind to cling to a personality, which actually limits and prevents the spiritual experience, the realization of the true Self.
The planets show the karma, and karma means bondage to the material consciousness, it is something that the Yogi wants to liberate from, and not strength the identification with it.
We can clearly see that the western culture in general is based on strengthening and identifying with the ego and uses astrology to justify the personality.
Even many modern Vedic astrologers who only study the astrological techniques, without the knowledge of Vedanta philosophy and study of the Vedas and without a personal Sadhana or experience in yoga and meditation, tend to do the same mistake.

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