Courtesy Prabuddha Bharata
Smt Gayatri Devi Vasudev is Editor, The Astrological Magazine - the world’s foremost journal on astrology – and Vice-President, Indian Council of Astrological Sciences. She is the daughter of the illustrious crusader for astrology, Dr B. V. Raman. After a brilliant academic career, Smt Vasudev began assisting her father, and has travelled extensively, lecturing on astrology at important international platforms. She is the first lady to deliver the keynote address at the Third International Symposium on Vedic Astrology at San Rafael, California, USA. She has written and edited many books, and was awarded, among others, the Lifetime Achievement Award at California. She is one of IBC’s 2000 Outstanding People of the 20th Century. In this inspiring article, Smt Vasudev presents astrology as the science of the future.
We have just stepped into the new millennium. The 21st century is based on the Gregorian calendar which, though prevalent throughout the world, has little to do with scientific calendaring, based as it is on the caprice of egoistic Roman emperors-Julius and then Augustus Caesar-and later adjusted by the Church ( Pope Gregory ) in medieval Europe. On the other hand, we in India have a great tradition of calendar-keeping, developed on purely astronomical and, therefore, scientific factors, and which is universally applicable. It is a pity that in our country which has a wonderful heritage of science (obsession is quite different from a healthy interest) something as important as calendar science should be based on non-science factors of a trifling nature, and that too, from medieval Europe. Be that as it may, under the Indian system, we have stepped into the lunar year Vikrama in April 2000, and will step into the lunar New Year Visu in March 2001. Visu incidentally marks the beginning of the fourth year of the 52nd century of Kali, which began in 3102 BC. This date, please note, marks the year when Lord Krishna gave up his physical body.
Kali Yuga is a time cycle, not mythological as disdainfully dismissed by our so-called secular intellectuals who are but poor excuses for western clones, but the last part of the 4-part cycle or Maha Yuga comprising of Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali Yugas. This major time-cycle is defined by ancient Indian astronomers as starting from the point of mean conjunction of the planets at the first point of Aries at a place near Sri Lanka and ending with the same planetary phenomenon when it occurs again after 4,320,000 years. Such large expanses of time were known to the Indians alone. The noted astronomer Carl Sagan paid rich tribute to the ancient Indian intellect when he said that while western science has not been able to conceive of time periods beyond a few thousand years, it was only the Hindus of Vedic India who had a thorough and scientific conception of immense time-cycles like the Yugas, Maha Yugas, Manvantaras, Kalpas, etc-stretching to millions of years, and the most minutest units of time known as krati, which is equal to one part of the 3400th of the second.
This science of time and space goes under the name of Jyotisa and is the discovery of the ancient Indian thinkers. Jyotisa has been a ‘happening event’ of the last 100 years. A far-reaching event of the 20th century was Dr Raman’s crusade for astrology with its origins in our country but inundating western shores and engaging the attention of serious thinkers there. Dr Raman not only took astrology to the West, he revived and rejuvenated the science in the country of its origin, creating new respect for it amongst the intelligentsia. This wave of interest in Jyotisa generated in the West is bound to gain greater momentum in the new millennium and will come back to us again probably with western certification, when our own intellectuals will hail it as the science of the new millennium. The 21st century will undoubtedly be the century of India, the century of astrology and the century of the great philosophical system of Vedic India.
Most Ancient Civilization
India, as the home of the most ancient civilization, has contributed not a little to the history of scientific thought and techniques. Most scholars, when they think of the genius of the Vedic Hindu, are naturally more attracted to their noble religion, sublime philosophy and the most varied character of her rich literature and charming devotional poetry. The Vedic Hindu, in his great quest of the para-vidya made much progress in the apara-vidya or the so-called inferior knowledge of relative truths-positive sciences included with a completeness which unparalleled in antiquity.
As Old as the Vedas
Astrology is one of the oldest sciences the world has ever known. It is a vedanga or a limb of the Vedas and a study of it was a must before taking up the study of the Vedas. The Vedas comprise knowledge leading to the supreme realization. The vedangas are six in number-Jyotisa or astrology-cum-astronomy, Kalpa or the procedure to be followed in sacrificial rituals, Nirukta or the principles of intonations and meaning of the Vedas, Siksa or phonetics, Vyakarana or Vedic grammar, and Chandas or metre. It was imperative in ancient days to be thorough in these six disciplines if one were to take up the study of the Vedas. In other words, Jyotisa is as old as the Vedas themselves.
The Vedas are said to be apauruseya or revealed. In fact, scholars date Vedanga Jyotisa as early as between 7000 to 5000 BC. Astrology was always an integral part of the ancient social life in Vedic India.
References in Epics
References to astrological phenomena occur in the great epics of India. The Ramayana and Mahabharata prove not only the antiquity of Hindu astrology but also show how widely it prevaded all spheres of life even in those days. In the Ramayana (18.7-10), Valmiki says, describing Rama’s birth: Then during the 12th month, on the 9th tithi of sukla paksa in the Punarvasu Naksatra and Karkataka Lagna, Kausalya gave birth to Jagannatha Sri Rama. … At that time five planets were in their exaltation and in the ascendant was posited Jupiter with the moon.’
In the Mahabharata, the Great War was anticipated by Vedas Vyasa, Lord Krsna, Vidura, Bhisma and others much before its actual occurrence on the basis of planetary phenomena. Vyasa, when he meets King Dhrtarastra before the war, speaks of the impending fortnight of 13 days as unusual and indicative of great slaughter and killing. Two eclipses falling within a 13-days fortnight are feared as filled with ominous portents. All this shows astrology was an integral part of social life even during the Ramayana period which is much anterior to the Mahabharata. An astrologer was expected to have certain basic qualifications:
Mantro janati jatakam.
An astrologer should be an adept in the different horas and five siddhantas, must be endowed with inferential ability or power of deduction, and must be a siddha in mantra.
Law of Karma and Rebirth Theory
Astrology or Jyotisa is the science of Light. It sheds light on all aspects of life:
Asubham tasya karmanah patim;
Tamasi dravyani dipa iva.
‘Just as a lamp illumines objects in darkness, astrologyreveals to us the effect of our previous karma, good or bad.’
The entire edifice of astrology is built on the theory of rebirth and law of karma. Why is one born a prince and another a pauper? Why is one born in an affluent cultured family with opportunities handed to one on a platter, while the child of a jail-bird is born with damning limitations? How can such inequalities occur in a universe that is otherwise outwardly and obviously so precise, so orderly and so beautiful? The planets move in their orbits with mathematical precision: the Sun and moon bring in day and night; the season follows in order for earthlings. When so much order is seen in the so-called inanimate celestial bodies, would it not be unreasonable to say that there is no order in God’s most perfect creature – man – and his life? Can we say it is accident or chance that gives birth to the diversities in human life around us? Such a charge would not stand against the strong overwhelming orderliness of the rest of the cosmos of which the earth is only an infinitely tiny part. The apparent diversities we see around us are as much a part of the order as that which prevails in the rest of God’s creation.
According to Indian philosophy, when a person dies he sheds his bodily garment. The jiva or soul, at the time we call death, is said to take with it all its limiting adjuncts of avidya or ignorance-its good and bad deeds done at the physical, mental, moral, spiritual levels of existence-its likes and dislikes, its hates and loves, and its entire personality with it. This bundle of consciousness stays in a state of hibernation until the time comes for it to enter the physical plane of existence again; until the planetary pattern is such as to allow it to work out its karmic debts, its evolution in its journey towards perfection.
Astrology is the study of the planetary pattern at birth, and its results are consistent with the karma at the individual’s disposal which is scheduled to operate in this birth.
The theory of karma is very interesting and equally complicated. Broadly speaking it is of three kinds – sancita (the stored – up effects of actions), prarabdha (that which has begun to produce effect), and agami (that karma which is yet to be performed). Prarabdha karma is portrayed in the birth chart in the form of, not events, but tendencies or vasanas (propensities) and samskaras (those stored – in results of actions which produce birth, life and misery).These are the propelling agents that propel us into specific relationships, situations and activities. Since they are only in the form of tendencies, their quanta and quality can be modified through right effort and faith in God. The Prasna Marga says that all the planets indicate whether we enjoy or suffer as a result of our actions in previous births. In Phala-dipika ( 22 : 32 ), Mantresvara says: This spand of life has been declared by wise men with respect to only those who are engaged in the practice of virtuous actions, who keep their senses under control, who eat wholesome diet, who are devoted to the Vedic class and God, and who preserve the character and conduct of their families.’ Conversely, the span of life (ayus) indicated by the chart can be shortened by abusing the body, the senses and the mind. The Jataka Parijata (5:100) says that when a malefic planet occupies the 8th bhava, the 8th lord occupies the 12th or a kendra and the lord of the rising sign is deficient in strength. Death is said to result from the evil effects of pursuing a wicked course of life.
Drdha – adrdha
It is not that karma is always absolutely deterministic. There are several categories of karma of varying intensities-even in prarabdha karma-like compoundable (drdha) and non-compoundable (adrdha). Depending upon the cause which generates a specific karmic result, it is either alterable or unalterable. Prarabdha karma is simply that portion of karma that is set apart for fruition in this birth-the part best suited to help the jiva in its spiritual evolution.
The means of generating karma are mainly three-through bodily (kayika), verbal (vacika) and mental (manasika) actions. Planets symbolically indicate the language of the penalties and decrees, as also the rewards passed against us for our deeds of omission and commission in previous births or states of existence. If Venus is bad and afflicted by Saturn, Mars or Rahu with no relief from benefices, the interpretation would be that the karma of the native in his / her pervious births is such as to call for punishment in the direction of a marital partner-either husband or wife. The punishment is not only punitive but also reformative. Depending upon the intensity of the affliction, the intensity of suffering will be determined. But this is not always absolute and unalterable: it can be averted by timely remedies and this is the position or role of astrology. Depending upon the nature of the affliction, it may be augmented, neutralised, or counteracted according to the strength of mind the native possesses or has developed, and the recourse available to him.
Talking of mental strength, the Moon rules the mind a strong Moon invariably endows one with certain positive traits such as optimism, grit, and perseverance. Such natives automatically tend to work harder, fight obstacles and not get bogged down by impediments. But suppose the Moon is nica or is in debility. Then such a native has certain inherent drawbacks-moodiness, self-pity, diffidence, etc, and he has to overcome these traits if he wants to succeed. But if the same Moon gets nicabhanga or cancellation of debility, the natives, though initially endowed with the negative traits, learn in the face of circumstances to overcome them and forge ahead to become extraordinary achievers. Many times, great souls like the illumined ones have the moon debilitated, but with effort, they cancel this debility. They are the best examples of what effort can do to conquer and overcome the adverse indications in the chart.
The very fact that there is a branch called muhurta or election-astrology bears ample testimony to the indicative nature of astrology. A muhurta is a time-segment rendered powerful by the planetary positions at that time in such a manner as to aid the success of a venture or project begun then. There are muhurtas for good works such as marriages, opening of business establishments or industries, house warming, surgery, etc, and there are muhurtas to aid destructive activity also, such war, arson, demolition of buildings, deforestation, etc.
The muhurta idea would have been redundant if karmic factors were all-powerful and human effort had no role to play at all. One has to keep trying to augment the good tendencies and to weaken and discourage the bad tendencies. Effort and prayer to God must go hand in hand. One can never say when effort will over come the indication and so we have to keep trying. When we pray to God we are directed towards right effort. Fate cannot be absolute. In a world of relativity such as light and darkness, hate and love, happiness and unhappiness, it has to be fate and also free-will and one cannot exist without the other.
Scope of Astrology
Although astrology is one of the oldest sciences the world has known, in terms of explored potential it is still very much in its infancy. Astrology is of tremendous import in forecasting weather and natural calamities- not days or weeks ahead, but months and even years in advance. For this what is required is a team of competent astrologers. Each team must be assigned one geographical area. This team can draw charts for major transits, eclipses, and new-and full-moon details, and predict the possibility of natural disaster striking that area. Whether it is an earth-quake, a cyclone, hurricane winds, torrential rains, volcanoes, dry spells of drought or famine, advance knowledge is invaluable in taking protective measures.
The usual criticism about astrology is: What is the use of knowing our future? Astrology is not just knowing our future? It is planning our future. Astrological indications are not deterministic. By suitable effort, the adverse trends can be overcome. How do we do that? I am purposely using the term ‘trends’ That is how Dr Raman, who has given people a right understanding of astrology during the last century, always emphasized its role. As Mantresvara, an authority of the 16th century, says we must remember that it is within our power to harness the planetary influences to produce favorable results to ourselves and to the country. He says:
Dharmarjita dhanasya ca;
Sada sanugraha grahah.
To one who causes no harm to others, to one who is restrained in behaviour and conduct, to one who earns wealth through righteous means [this appears to be the most flaunted moral law today and that could also explain the sorry state of the modern world] and to one whose conduct is regulated by fairness and principles of natural justice, favorable results always accrue.’ Therefore it is within our own power to attract good results at all levels-individuals as well as collective.
The Future of Astrology
There is virtually no field in which astrology cannot work. The list of areas where astrology gives insights, which no other discipline can do, is endless. Agriculture, public health, social problems, children marital counseling, elections, addictions, business, crime detection, accidents, and female problems-the list goes on. It has been proved times without number that most astrological predictions have come true; failures only show the deficiency of the calculators. It may interest readers that The Astrological Magazine has predicted a number of national and international events over the years correctly, such as Indira Gandhi’s assassination, the election of George Bush, the recent Kargil war, the fire at the Bharatpur arms depot, violence in Sri Lanka, etc. It all goes to show that astrology, under competent and trained hands, could be a powerful tool to avoid at least some disasters and calamities.
Astrology as a regular science has been presented before the West in particular and the world in general by Dr Raman, who may be rightly called the father of modern astrology. What I propose is that the negative ideas about any science for that matter should be given up and the true scientific spirit of observing everything objectively, without bias, should be cultivated.