Astrology is as old as the Vedas themselves. The Vedas, which
are the sacred Hindu scriptures, embody eternal knowledge. Strict moral and
spiritual practices along with a deep study are the prerequisites to understand
the essence of the Vedas. To the uninitiated, the Vedas might appear as nothing
more than ritualistic oblations to air, water and thunder, etc Deep truths,
however, begin to unfold to the true seeker as his search goes on.
In times of yore, sincere seekers of truth and knowledge in India used to spend years and years at the feet of their ‘gurus’, learning the meaning hidden in the Vedas.
In order to decipher what lies concealed in the Vedas, a study of certain subjects is considered a prerequisite. These subjects are called the ‘Vedangas’ or the body organs of the Vedas. There are six such Vedangas. They are:
- Shiksha, which deals with an understanding of the
Vedic ‘Vernas’, ‘Swaras’ and ‘Matras’, and thus with the technique of correct
- Chhanda, dealing with the appropriate lyrical
utterance of the Vedic ‘Suktas’.
- Vyakarana, expouding the grammatical aspects of
- Nirukta, which explains the difficult words,
‘padas’ and ‘mantras’.
- Kalpa, dealing with the understanding of Sutras
and the use of Mantras, hence concerned with the ritualistic aspect of the
- Jyotisha or astrology.
- Of the body called the Vedas, astrology represents
the ‘eyes’, with its capacity to ‘see’ the past, the present and the future.
Astrology is considered as the most imporatnt of the Vedangas.
What is Astrology?
Astrology is a scientific study and application of the language of the heavenly bodies. These heavenly bodies, determined on the basis of astronomy and mathematics, are mapped in the form of a horoscope. Their specific locations in the horoscope indicate specific happenings in the case of individuals, of multitudes and of geographical regions. Whether the Sun, the Moon, the planets and the stars themselves influence the terrestrial phenomena, or they only indicate such phenomena by their various dispositions, is immaterial. What is important to us is that variations in their disposition determine variations in the events on the earth; the correlations are only too strong to be brushed aside by the critics of astrology.
Who should practice astrology?
In the ancient times, a strict code of conduct was demanded of those who practised astrology. A guru would teach astrology only to a deserving disciple who would adhere to such a code of conduct. The guru-shishya (ie., the teacher-disciple) tradition is already long over in India. With changing times, it ha become difficult to find an appropriate ‘guru’ and a deserving ‘shishya’ to pursue this sacred study within the rules laid by the sages of yore. It is, however, quite in order to be aware of this ancient code of conduct. Varahamihira, the celebrated authority on astrology, prescribes the following qualifications for an astrologe:
- Physical features: According to the said author,
the physical feature reflect the inner nature of a man. The astrologer must be
good to look at, with all his body parts complete and healthy. He should be of
sound health, with sound hands, feet, nails, chin, teeth, ears, forehead and
head, and heaving a loud and impressive voice.
- Moral soundness: He should be truthful, gentle,
bereft of cravings and aversions, clean of heart, not inclined to be critical
of the qualities of others, and devoid of base and worldly distractions.
- Behaviour in an assembly: He should be clever,
able to express himself, bold in an assembly, not intimidated by his fellow
astrologers, dignified, and aware of the constraints of social and historical
- Proficiency in the subject of astrology: He should be well-read, and proficient in the three branches of astrology known as the Ganita, the Samhita and the Hora. He must have studied the five Siddhantas (or mathematical treatises). His mathematical proficiency must include a knowledge of the various divisions of time, from the gross ones like the Yuga to the finer ones. He must also possess
knowledge of the various divisions, including the finest ones, of the zodiac.
- Proficiency in various branches of astrology: The
astrologer is required to posses a knowledge of different aspects of astrology
which deal with propitiation of plaents, rendering the planets beneficial or
hostile, conducting religious ceremonies, and rituals which help neutralise
the natural calamities.
- Defence of astrology: The astrology must be able
to answer queries, and also pose relevant questions where appropriate. When
necessary, he should be able to dazzle others by his knowledge, only to
increase the dignity of astrology.
- More about the qualities of an astrologer: The
astrologer must possess knowledge of solar, civil, nakshatric and lunar time
measures; of intercalary months; of the sixty Samvatsaras, the yugas, years,
months, days and Horas; of varying opinions on varying aspects of mathematical
astronomy; of various dispositions of planets, including their exaltations,
debilitations, fast and slow motions, there conjunctions as well as planetary
warfares; of latitudes and longitude of places on the surface of the earth; of
the movements of the nakshatras; of the rising and setting of signs,
Charakhandas for different latitudes, etc. he should be highly confident and a
clear expounder of the Shastras.
The sage Parashara advocates a similar code of conduct for astrologers, stressing particularly on the necessity for technical, intellectual and moral excellence; the capacity to weigh the pros and cons of a situation, along with an ability to synthesize a coherent prediction based on a sound knowledge of the principles, sometimes apparently contradictory, of astrology.
Sub-divisions of Astrology
There are three main sub-divisions of astrology.
- Samhita: This deals with collectivity or
multitudes It encompasses such varied areas as weather forecasts, agricultural
produce, natural disasters, floods, famines, wars, earthquakes, cyclones,
market trends, changes in government, national and international events, and
virtually anything that influences the masses. The annual world predictions
which are generally based either on the Hindu New Year commencing on the
Chaitra Shukla Pratipada, or on the Solar Ingress into Mesha, fall under the
- Siddhanta or Tanra or Ganita: This deals with the
mathematical aspects of astrology. There are several treatises on Siddhanta
astrology but five, among then, are considered as particularly important. They
- Surya Siddhanta
- Paulisha Siddhanta
- Romaka (or Lomasha) Siddhanta
- Vasishtha Siddhanta
- Paitamaha Siddhanta
A proficiency in these is considered as a prerequisite for a good astrologer, according to the celebrated Varahamihira.
3.Hore: It deals with:
- Individual horoscopes, or Jataka, or natal charts.
- Muhurta or electional astrology, which cdoncerns
itself with the election of favourable planetary disposition to achieve
specific accomplishments in day-to-day life.
Astrology and Science
Study of astrology has been branded by the neo-scientists as a belief in superstition. Greater criticism ahs been heaped on astrology by those who have never bothered to study the subject. Many critics have questioned the basis of astrology, ignoring the fact that an understanding of a basis has to succeed and not precede an observation The basis of gravitational pull was determined after the existence of the force of gravitation was recognised. Anyone who studies astrology with an open mind cannot but appreciate the fact that astrology is a highly developed science.
By definition, science means a knowledge ascertained by observation and experiment, critically tested, systematised and brought under general principles. Astrology strictly fulfils all these criteria. Two aspects of astrology deserve a special mention;
- The cause and effect phenomenon: Critics of
astrology boast that physical sciences depend upon a cause and effect
relationship, which astrology apparently lacks. They, however, fail to
appreciate that astrology is a cosmic science and not bound by the limitations
of a laboratory. In physical sciences, there may be a gross cause or a subtle
cause, producing a physically visible or gross effect. Gravitation, which is a
subtle cause, produces a gross effect of attracting a physical body towards
the earth. In the case of astrology, the cause is always subtle while the
effect is appreciable and predictable according to rules which have been
developed and refined over the centuries. The subtle cause in case of
astrology is the cosmic force represented by the disposition of the various
heavenly bodies or ‘planets’. Physical scientists can only trace the cause
from the apparent effect.
It may be noted, however, that astrology deals with a multitude of phenomena on the earth. This being so, there re numerous parameters and a methodology more eleborate than any known physical science can boast of. Making correct predictions, therefore, is difficult and demands hard labour on the part of an astrologer. Unfortunately, the failure of an astrologer has been often misinterpreted as a failure of the science.
- The phenomenon of replication: Astrology is also criticised on the ground that its principles do not yield result which can be invariably replicated or reproduced. Physical sciences can, on the other hand, boast of a reproducibility of their various principles. It may be pointed out here that every correct astrological prediction, in fact, underscores the principle of replication in astrology. Since astrology is a complex science, its every known principle
has to be applied carefully, considering the numerous parameters and weighing
the various pros and cons. In he ancient Indian scriptures, for example,
numerous astrological dicta lie hidden. Unfolded and carefully applied today,
they prove their eternal applicability and give dazzling results which the
popen minded scientists of today can only marvel at. It is no coincidence that
a planetary combination present at the time of the Mahabharata war, and
described by Karna to lord Krishna, also obtained, in a modified form, in 1914
when the World War I started; in 1942 when World War II was in progress, and
again in 1971 at the time of the Indo-Pak conflict. During all these
occasions, India got involved in the mess quite intimately. In 1965 too, when
India and Pakistan clashed, a similar but modified planetary disposition
arose. Before heaping any criticism on astrology, it will be interesting to
watch when such a combination is likely to obtain in future, and in what form.
Astrology and Karma
Karma is the sum total of one’s physical, mental and spiritual functions. The world goes on because there is a role of free will assigned to human beings. Where does then astrology fit in, deal as it does with predestination? Is there a conflicts between belief in astrology and in free will? How can scriptures lay emphasis on both if they are mutually conflicting?
Astrology is based on the relationship of cause and effect. If there is an effect, there must be a cause preceding it. Thus, if an event good or bad happens today, there must be a cause for it, whether or not that cause is appreciable. Certain functions or Karmas produce an immediate result. Still others obtain fruition after a longer time period. Still others may take several years or decades (or even longer) to materialise. If one believes in the law of cause and effect, then the ambience of one’s birth and the subsequent opportunities or their lack cannot be a matter of mere chance. This takes us to a belief in birth and rebirth. Karmas done in one birth must manifest sometimes in a latter birth.
The past karmas produce limitations for us because they yield certain results which influence our future karmas. We do have a free will, but within the limitations prescribed by the results of our past actions. Karmas in fact manufacture destiny.
An astrologer can point out which of the result from the past karmas can be overcome, and which cannot be overcome and, therefore, have to be suffered. A karma done is like a missile fired; it may or may not be neutralised by a counter-missile, depending upon the relative strength of the two.
Astrology and Genetic Link
A fascinating aspect of astrological study is the link that exists between members of the same family. This is an area of research also. Just as certain blood groups cannot exist amongst the children of particular parents, so also certain planetary combinations cannot obtain in certain families. Study of horoscopes belonging to a family indicate similarities which can be easily appreciated. This aspect of astrology has a vast possible usage.
Different individuals who are linked to each other in one way or the other show distinct similarities in their horoscopic charts. An event which is visible in the horoscope of a child can also be seen in the horoscopes of his parents as well as siblings. People who come in closer contact in mutual relationships or business partnerships show striking similarities in their charts at appropriate periods. Just as particles of similar densities sink to a similar extent on centrifugation, so also people who have similar pursuits tend to get grouped together.
Composite Approach for Astrological Predictions
In the ancient times, astrology was studied and practised in a highly scientific manner. Just as in medical sciences of today where multiple investigative tools are employed to diagnose a disease, in astrology too several different methods used to be employed. As the ancient tradition disappeared, astrology shrank into a family tradition, getting confined to a few families only. Its approach became more and more rigid. Until recently, many astrologers have been using only limited methods to make only a limited range of predictions.
Lately, however, highly educated people have started studying astrology giving it a modern and scientific look. This sacred subject is now taught in institutions like any other modern science. No longer is astrological study subject to limitations of method and approach. A highly effective composite approach for astrological predictions has been thus revived. Any given event is confirmed in a horoscopic chart by using a host of available techniques, like the use of both the Parashari and the Jaimini systems, the application of various dashas and the use of several divisional charts and of Ashtakavarga. Besides, the same event is often studied in the charts of those closely related to or associated with the native. This increases the success of predictions and proves the superiority of astrology as a scientific discipline.