by William R. Levacy
Vedic astrology is an ancient behavioral analysis and forecasting system. It employs a diagram of the positions of the planets relative to the earth and sky, based on the time and place of a person's birth. An astrologer reviews this chart to find information about an individual's concerns and about terrestrial events. The astrologer, depending on skill and clarity of consciousness, makes inferences regarding an individual's disposition and character and may foretell events in that person's life. Using advanced techniques, an astrologer may even forecast events on a community, national, or global scale.
What draws people to astrology through the ages, I believe, is the desire to make the right decisions. Plagued with poor decision-making capabilities, a person can retreat and inordinately reduce their expectations. Taking lower risks, they attain lower results, lower rewards, and basically, a life of diminished joy. Astrologers help their clients understand whether they are in a slump or a surge and what might be the anticipated duration of either one. Astrologers, as counselors, want to help lead their clients to positive outcomes and to help them build a psychology that naturally triggers life-supporting behaviors.
Inser1 Ultimately, the best way to get out of trouble is not to get into trouble to start with. Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, offered a timely aphorism: "Avoid the danger which has not come yet:" Vedic astrology offers us a map to guide our life and gives us an analytical time profile of our behavior to help us understand what compels us to act. Vedic astrology helps us determine which behavioral traits to promote and which ones to target for self improvement.
As a final note, it is not Vedic astrology's purpose to replace an individual's responsibility to decide for themselves what is best. Astrology tells us about the absence or presence of certain tendencies. We may use this information as a tool to form our own decisions and take our own actions. Armed with that, we can move forward joyfully in our lives, anticipating the best and averting the rest.
How Does It Work?
At the time and place of birth, there is a specific astronomical pattern in the heavens. This sky model is recorded from a distinct geographical point. Astrologers document this planet-earth-sky pattern and call it a chart. On the chart, they mark significant features such as the following:
Where the planets are in the sky -- by listing their location in a constellation, or sign of the zodiac
The location on the earth -- by using latitude and longitude; these are called houses
Which sign is on the horizon, or that part of the sky east of the birth location, at the time of birth -- this point is called the rising sign or ascendant.
The above are the three most significant Components of a chart. As the earth rotates, the signs move through the houses, following the clock throughout the day. The birth diagram is called a horoscope (from Greek horo, indicating time, and scope, meaning to look at). In India, the chart is called the chakra (wheel), Janma Kundali (rising), or Kala Purusha (body of time). In Vedic astrology, a chart is drawn as a square and/or a box of triangles, but in Western astrology, it is drawn as a wheel.
The birth chart diagram is interpreted according to specific rules of Vedic astrology as laid out by the ancient rishis, or seers, such as Maharishi Parasara. Fundamentally, Vedic astrology, or Jyotish, is a system for interpreting how behavior will unfold over time. Modern Western psychology analyzes behavior, but Vedic astrology shows how behavior might change over time. Life patterns seen in the birth chart are matched by the astrologer against the patterns seen in historical rules and records of parallel astronomical information. For predictive purposes, the Jyotishi uses a Vedic planetary almanac, or a computer program, to track the location of planets from sign to sign, and house to house, to locate when circumstances will emerge.
An astrologer determines when a planet will cross a sensitive point in the birth chart, stimulating a specific event. This event, waiting in the storehouse of that person's destiny, occurs as promised in the birth chart, modified somewhat by actions performed in this life. While these events are not necessarily predestined or even required to happen, they show a tendency to do so over the course of a person's life. The chart is a record of that person's karma. The astrologer's role is to match the patterns in the birth chart with the current patterns in the heavens, and to understand the nature of that person's environment. The astrologer consults the records in the ancient texts, much of which is memorized, and then analyzes, synthesizes, and draws a conclusion about the events at hand. The correctness of the reading is directly proportional to the experience and spiritual advancement of the astrologer, as well as to the recipient's desire and receptivity to having their chart read clearly. The reading is a short-term partnership.
Some authors feel that planets actually cause events to happen. They attempt to scientifically verify astrology with references to gravity, cosmic radiation, and the like. While this may or may not be true exactly, I think it more useful to view the planets as indicators of vast emerging patterns more than singular causative agents. To me, that's a bit like saying that the city limit signs for Los Angeles cause the city to exist, rather than to mark where it begins and ends.
As background material, it is good to know that the Vedic texts declare that Vishnu, the great maintainer of the universe, incarnated and reincarnated in cycles born of the essence of the nine planets. Brahma, the creator, acting on behalf of Vishnu, uses the planets in specific ways to disperse the creation around the universe.
How Is Vedic Astrology Different?
The Vedic system is a more accurate astronomical representation of the Sun's position in relation to the skies. The Western systems emphasize the relationship of the Sun to the earth and the seasons. For this reason, Western astrology can be referred to as "tropical astrology", and Vedic astrology can be called "sidereal astrology." Sidereal astrology simply means that planetary movements are tracked against the positions of the stars, thus favoring the astral positions. In contrast, tropical astrology favors our point of view from Earth, tracking the planets in reference to seasonal points, such as the springtime.
Over the last several hundred years, this difference has caused the two systems to drift apart by about 24 degrees on where they mark the start of an astrological year. Both use the vernal or spring equinox as the start, but in Vedic systems, the vernal equinox currently marks 6 degrees of the Sun in Pisces -- this is 24 degrees back from where western astrologers mark the equinox as the beginning of Aries.
The difference between the Western start of the astrological year in Aries, and the Vedic or sidereal start in Pisces, is called the ayanamsa. Ayanamsa means "division of the year". Unless you were born between about the 15th and 20th of the month, you will find your "Western" Sun has most likely moved back by one sign in a Vedic astrological chart. Vedic scholars have differences of opinion as to the exact date and time when the two systems started drifting away from each other (the ayanamsa point). The government of India chose the calculations of N. C. Lahiri. Ayanamsas also exist for Raman, Krishnamurti, and Sri Yukteswar. However, they are all close to plus or minus 6 degrees of Pisces.
Vedic astrology traditionally uses one house system, called the "equal house" system. (There is another system, called the Bhava Chalita, which adjusts the size of the houses according to the latitude of the birth place.) In Western astrology, there are numerous methods for dividing up the earth's latitude and longitude and forming the astrological land and time divisions called the houses.
Vedic, sidereal astrology also incorporates star signs based on the movement of the moon -- about one day per Sun sign. These 27 moon signs are called nakshatras. Vedic astrology also divides the ecliptic, or the Sun's path, into 15 additional divisions, so we not only have the 30 degree divisions of each Sun sign, but further divisions of up to 150 segments. These are called the Shodasavargas. It's like having an additional 15 birth charts to read from. Vedic astrology also distinguishes itself in its predictive tools. Of especial note is the 120-year cycle forecasting system called the Vimshottari Dasa, where each planet is allotted a specific period of influence in the chart and is used to forecast more deeply into the nature of an individual's future.
Vedic astrology is also integrated into Hindu societal functions and remains to this day an accepted part of religion and of most daily life. It is not uncommon to see heads of state as key speakers at Vedic astrology conferences. Many modern Indian business managers and computer experts working in the United States still wear astrological pendants to bring them success.
Vedic astrology is also a companion system to Ayurveda, the major health care system of India. In fact, Vaidyas, or "doctors" of Ayurveda, often consult the astrological chart of a client to seek additional diagnostic information. Vastu, the art of architectural measurement and placement (similar to China's Feng Shui), can be linked to the astrological tendencies of an individual's birth chart. Finally, Vedic astrology has its roots in consciousness, and so remedial measures can be taken, which can include religious performances (yagyas, pujas, and shantis); gemstones; mantras; charitable acts; gandarvaveda musical renditions; stotras (prayers); vratas (vows); herbs; and mineral concoctions (bashmas). All of these corrective measures are held to counterbalance the negative impressions from previous actions (samskaras).
Taking such countermeasures, the client of astrology can not only know what needs to be corrected, but how to apply restorative techniques as indicated in their birth chart.
About The Author
William R. Levacy holds a B.A. in literature, a master's in the science of creative intelligence, and is one of the few Westerners to receive the prestigious Jyotish Kovid award from the Indian Council of Astrological Sciences (ICAS). Bill has conducted a busy Vedic astrology practice for over 15 years and is a steering committee member for the American Council of Vedic Astrology (ACVA). Working also as a business consultant in the aerospace industry, Bill resides in Southern California.