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VEDIC ASTROLOGY - Published in the Theosophical Society e-zine

Vedic astrology is the ancient system of astrological and astronomical study originally practised in India.  The modern Sanskrit name is ‘Jyotish’ which may be translated as the ‘Science of Light’, indicating the essential spiritual nature of the discipline.

Vedic or sidereal astrology is based on observation. Hence only nine ‘planets’ or ‘grahas’ are considered. The word ‘graha’ is a Sanskrit term which may be interpreted as ‘that which grabs or seizes us’.  These planets are the ones that are visible to the eye, namely the real planets Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn, plus the two luminaries, the Sun and Moon. In addition there are two ‘shadow’ planets, Rahu and Ketu (as represented by the north and south nodes of the Moon, respectively). The outer planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) are not used in traditional Vedic studies, in contrast to western or ‘tropical’ astrology.  Moreover, the earth’s wobble or precession is taken into account, so that the positions of the planets and stars are broadly consistent with the positions as studied in modern astronomy.  There is currently a difference of about 24 degrees in the positions of the stars and planets as expressed by Vedic and western astrology.
Western astrology puts great emphasis on the importance of the Sun in the expression of the personality.  However, in Vedic studies the Sun represents the Atman or soul of an individual.  It is the Moon which plays a critical role.  It represents the mind and emotions, and Vedic charts may be studied from the Moon’s position as well as from the ascendant house or ‘lagna’ which represents the constellation on the eastern horizon at the moment of birth. Vedic astrology uses the same twelve constellations of the zodiac as western astrology.   The Moon’s journey through the zodiac itself constitutes an astrological system known as the ‘nakshatras’ or lunar mansions, and is one of the most ancient forms of Vedic study.
There are 27 nakshatras (or 28 in a different system). Each nakshatra represents the daily motion of the Moon transiting just over 13 degrees of the zodiac.  Every nakshatra is characterised by symbols, animal totems, ruling planets, directions and sounds, guna qualities (tamas/rajas/sattvic), and mythic elements and deities (which may be taken to represent forces of nature), thereby providing subtle tools for the detailed analysis and interpretation of a person’s chart.
The concepts of karma and re-incarnation are fundamental to Jyotish. The events that unfold in life are revealed by the influence of the grahas in the natal chart which acts as a kind of blueprint of life. The timing of these events when someone meets their karma is based on a unique system called planetary dashas, when particular grahas hold sway.  The ultimate aim of life may be expressed as an attempt to escape from the hold of the grahas and of karma altogether, by following a spiritual path leading to moksha, or final liberation. Vedic astrology teaches that we have the power to break free from the grip of the material world of illusion. A deeper study of Jyotish goes beyond chart analysis and would include the application of mantras, pujas and other devotional activities. These can lead to the development of intuitive faculties which together with a correct interpretation of the ancient sutras of Jyotish can reveal aspects of our past lives that have brought us to this point, as well as indicate the future. Such an approach can give insights into our destiny and the reasons for the soul’s incarnation. It challenges us to make a decision on which path we intend to follow.  Above all Jyotish teaches us to accept that we are responsible for our present circumstances and for the karma yet to be experienced in our future lives.



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