People have always been fascinated by the stars. With good reason. After all, who can look up at the expanse of the sky on a clear night and not feel humbled by its immensity? There is an overwhelming sense of being part of some greater order; our belief in our own importance recedes and our little problems pale into insignificance. But our understanding of this greater dimension and the name we give it can vary considerably. Astrology offers us one approach.
By studying the firmament, astrology seeks to describe the interaction between two systems: human experience on the one hand and the position and movements of particular heavenly bodies on the other. Whilst the future course of people’s lives remains shrouded in mystery, the movements of heavenly bodies can be precisely determined. This is where astrology comes in.
Human activities have precious little impact on the movements of the stars. The sun, the planets and the constellations rise predictably in the East and are quite unaffected by whether your mood is good or bad. But thousands of years of observations have led astrology to the conclusion that these same heavenly bodies do not leave your lives unaffected and may in fact be responsible for your mood (and many other aspects of your life) today.
Astrology is a tool that makes it possible to understand the effect of the movements of the heavenly bodies on the course of your life – in the past, the present and the future.
The future onboard
Every era and every culture have shaped astrology and produced different forms of this science, which generally differ considerably from one another. So-called Vedic astrology is one of these. Although the name Vedic astrology was only coined in the USA in the 1980s, it is now well established. The adjective Vedic refers to the Vedas (a collection of religious texts of a particular era), and the much older Vedic tradition, a body of knowledge dating back thousands of years and having its origin in the Indian subcontinent. What is today known as Vedic astrology is also the astrology of that noble tradition. It did not, however, arise from that tradition and is not limited to it. Historically, therefore, the term Vedic astrology is a misnomer.
The word Vedic is derived from the Sanskrit Veda, meaning subtle knowledge. Knowledge which is not accessible to the senses (hence subtle), which explains life and gives access to self-knowledge. As Vedic astrology enables the acquisition of this knowledge, the use of the term is acceptable. It is strange, however, that astrologers in a western country should have decided to give a new name to an ancient eastern tradition. It is rather as if we were to describe Feng Shui, the Chinese tradition of structuring space, as “Ming design” (after the Chinese Ming dynasty). The reason for this strange choice was perhaps the problem of marketing this form of astrology under its difficult-to-pronounce proper name, Jyotisha.
Jyotisha // Jyotish
Many cultures and epochs have produced their own forms of astrology, such as the Chinese, Tibetan, Babylonian, Greek and Persian cultures, but also our own western culture as well as that of the Maya and other indigenous peoples of the Americas. One of these is Jyotisha (sometimes colloquially shortened to Jyotish). Whilst all the other forms of astrology have declined in importance over time or have disappeared completely, Jyotisha has remained an integral part of the culture of the Indian subcontinent for millennia. This is remarkable. Jyotisha must have something that explains this durability and that is missing in other forms of astrology.
Jyotisha is often referred to as the “science of the light”, and the word itself has two components: Jyotir (light) and isha (seeking). Jyotisha is thus the seeking of light. This refers to two kinds of light. The first is the lights in the night sky, i.e. the heavenly bodies that are relevant to astrology and which are harnessed by Jyotisha in its horoscopes. The other aspect is the need that human beings experience to let their inner light shine through by making the best of their lives at all times. Jyotisha offers us a platform for doing this.
Is Jyotisha Indian astrology?
Beyond nations and cultures
Jyotisha has its roots in the Indian subcontinent, and it is still more present in India than in any other country. It is therefore sometimes referred to as Indian astrology. But India as a country was created by the British. Before the period of British colonial rule European seafarers called the whole of south and south-east Asia the Indies. Jyotisha is thousands of years old and has little to do with the name given to the subcontinent by Westerners. The region corresponding to modern India has had a lively history and has been subject to many and varied influences. The Persians, Arabs, Turks and even the Greeks all left their mark. Jyotisha was able to absorb these influences and thus enrich its store of knowledge, without however losing its age-old essence. Jyotisha is at home on the Indian subcontinent and in this sense it is the astrology of India. And yet Jyotisha is not Indian. Rather, it is a universal form of astrology, which cannot be reduced to a country, a culture or a religion. Jyotisha is for everyone.
The planets in Jyotisha
Jyotish makes use of heavenly bodies which are visible to the naked eye. Some of them are planets which, like the Earth and its moon, orbit the sun. Others are stars which form background patterns which we call constellations or star signs. What western astrology calls planets are known in Jyotisha as the Grahas. Together, the nine of them are called the Navagraha (nava meaning nine). The nine Grahas are the sun (central star), the moon (the Earth’s satellite) and the five actual planets: Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn, together with Rāhu und Ketu.
Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, which in western astrology function as planets, play no part in Jyotisha. Rāhu und Ketu, on the other hand, which in western astrology are described as lunar nodes, are considered full Grahas in Jyotisha. Rāhu and Ketu are not, however, visible heavenly bodies but rather mathematical points which can be used to calculate solar and lunar eclipses. In this sense Rāhu and Ketu have the power to darken the two light sources (Jyotir), the sun and the moon, which gives them great importance and makes them Grahas in astrological terms.
In Jyotisha, Grahas can be strong or weak and they generally control star signs and rule over the area of the sky in which these star signs are currently located. Grahas enter into mutual relationships and can influence each other unilaterally or reciprocally. All Grahas are personified in Jyotisha and have individual characteristics. They inhabit and control the horoscopes which Jyotisha uses.
The Vedic horoscope
Individual and alive
Horoscopes are the tool of astrology. Every horoscope is a star chart, which shows the area of the cosmos that is relevant to astrology. Part of this area is visible to us above the horizon and part is below the horizon. A horoscope focuses on the segment of the sky through which the sun appears to move in the course of 24 hours, the “ecliptic”. Of course we know that the sun does not actually travel across the firmament. Rather, the Earth revolves on its own axis once every 24 hours, which makes it appear as if the sky is revolving around the Earth. The ecliptic (the apparent path of the sun) is bounded by a narrow band that we call the Zodiac. The Zodiac is divided into twelve star signs: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces.
The nine Grahas (planets) are the most important components of the horoscope. For an observer on the Earth they are always in the area of the Zodiac and thus always in one of the twelve star signs. The star signs are thus valuable aids to navigation, which make it possible to determine the positions of the Grahas.
The Vedic star signs
Visible and intelligible
One of the main differences between western and Vedic astrology is the calculation and use of the star signs. In Jyotisha these are called Rāshis, which can be translated as “heaps of stars”. Jyotisha is a star-based form of astrology. The background of stars to the Grahas is decisive for interpretation. In the Vedic horoscope the star signs are depicted exactly as they appear to the observer at a given time, as a cosmic event in the sky. If, for example, Jupiter is in the sign of Pisces in the Vedic horoscope, you can observe this for yourself by looking at the sky on a clear night.
Western astrology is quite different, in that the star signs are not located against a visible background of stars. In western astrology the beginning of the star sign Aries is defined by the position of the sun at the beginning of spring. This occurs quite independently of the sun’s background of stars at that moment. In the western horoscope the representation of the star signs does not correspond to what an observer would see in the sky at that particular moment. Logically therefore Vedic horoscopes differ significantly from western ones. Unfortunately western astrology uses the same names for its time-related segments of the Zodiac as astronomy and Vedic astrology use for actual constellations. This is confusing for the layperson.
Bhāvas and the Ascendant
Den Blickwinkel strukturieren
An important element in the basic understanding of the horoscope, alongside the Grahas (planets) and the star signs, is the Bhāvas. These are the equivalent of houses in western astrology. They make it possible for any observer to gain a 360° spatial perception of the Zodiac at any location. The 1st Bhāva is always where the sun rises in the East, the 7th where it sets in the West. The other Bhāvas are located in between, five visible above the horizon and five below it. The twelve Bhāvas form a fixed framework, through which we can observe the Zodiac from our standpoint. They are like twelve imaginary screens within our field of view. Every day the star signs travel across these screens. Like the sun, they rise in the East, in the 1st Bhāva, and set in the West, in the 7th.
The 1st Bhāva, the star sign that is rising in the East, is described as the Ascendant. If someone tells you that his/her Ascendant is Libra, you know that when he/she was born the star sign Libra was rising in the East. This information is vital, because when you know which star sign is in the Ascendant (in this case Libra), you also know how the other star signs are distributed across the other 11 Bhāvas (Scorpio in the 2nd Bhāva, Sagittarius in the 3rd Bhāva etc.).
On average a new Vedic star sign appears on the eastern horizon, and thus in the Ascendant, every two hours. The star signs in the other Bhāvas change with the star sign in the Ascendant, like a wheel turning. With every change a completely new horoscope emerges. Do you now see why the time of birth is so important in drawing up a horoscope?
Would you like finally to be able to live your life to the full, or to make realistic plans and decisions with a view to the future? But all you ever find is "information" and "tips" instead of real answers and solutions.
If so, we should talk. Most of my clients say that a consultation not only allows them to cut through the inessentials and get to the crux of the matter but also to see with crystal clarity what they need to do.
How Jyotisha works
Personal and reliable
Everything we know and can give a name to has its place in the horoscope, whether it is a house, a tree, a relationship, a situation, an investment, an idea or something else completely. Grahas (planets), Rāshis (star signs) und Bhāvas (houses) have every imaginable characteristic and represent all possible experiences. As Grahas, Rāshis and Bhāvas are interrelated differently in every horoscope, a person’s individual experiences can be derived from this interaction.
Jupiter is considered to be the benefic among the Grahas, and it indicates, inter alia, children, as well as honesty and prosperity. Benefics make things easier and promote success. Saturn on the other hand is regarded as an malefic. It is sterile and stands for secrets and poverty. The 1st Bhāva, the Ascendant, represents someone’s personality, character, behaviour and health. The star sign Aries emphasises initiative, motivation and speed.
If Jupiter appears in a birth horoscope with Aries in the Ascendant, uninfluenced by other Grahas in the 1st Bhāva, then the individual to whom the horoscope refers will be an honest person who loves children, enjoys good health and is highly motivated and successful in his/her endeavours.
If, all other things being equal, we find Saturn instead of Jupiter in the 1st Bhāva in the star sign of Aries, the person behind the horoscope will tend to be reserved and reticent, experiencing episodes of poor health and repeatedly failing to manage the challenges of life.
But what if both Grahas – Jupiter and Saturn – appear in the 1st Bhāva in the horoscope with Aries in the Ascendant? In this case the characteristics will be mixed. The honest person’s children will cause difficulties; economic prosperity will be put at risk by unwise investments; motivation to pursue new initiatives will be present but short-lived.
A word of caution: the above examples are purely fictitious and far from complete and serve only to illustrate how different attributes in a horoscope can be translated into findings. Every horoscope with Aries in the Ascendant has seven other Grahas, all of which have an influence on the way the cosmic energy unfolds.
Ready for a deep dive? OK! Jupiter in Aries is strong in the Ascendant, but Saturn is very weak. A strong Graha delivers favourable results, a weak Graha rather negative ones. Both Jupiter and Saturn rule and influence certain Bhāvas in every horoscope, as in this case. The Grahas take the themes of the Bhāvas which they rule with them and project them, combined with their own attributes, onto the Grahas and Bhāvas which they influence. This makes things more complex but also more individual. Grahas can also form “Yogas”. In Jyotisha, Yogas are clearly defined and important combinations which bring together many factors and thus lead to specific results (positive or negative). Learning about and recognising Yogas is the astrologer’s favourite hobby!
Dashā – planetary phases
Every life brings mixed experiences with it. Every individual has good and bad times. No-one is always healthy or successful. In Jyotisha the birth horoscope makes use of Dashās in order to recognise which themes are playing out in your life, and when and how. A Dashā is a planetary phase, in which a particular Graha (planet) takes over control of the horoscope and expresses its themes. The first of these phases depends on the position of the moon at the time of birth, and gives way to the next phase after a specific time and in a specific order. In Mercury Dashā, for example, all the themes represented by Mercury in the horoscope are expressed. A Dashā can last between six and twenty years and it is divided up into Bhuktis (sub-phases), by means of which events can be further differentiated in time.
Different horoscopes for different purposes
Jyotisha is versatile and flexibel
The task of Jyotisha is to identify a person’s Karma. In other words, Jyotisha gives us insight into what is happening to a given person at a given time. Vedic astrology has a very pragmatic raison d’être. If you know what to expect, then you will also know how you need to behave in order to make a success of your life and cushion shocks. A Vedic astrology consultation will help you to align your goals and plans with your opportunities, even before you begin making concrete plans. You can integrate the future into your upcoming decision-making. In order to make this possible, Jyotish uses various horoscopes.
Natal horoscope (Janma Pattra)
You have probably already heard of the birth horoscope (Janma Pattra). This is a star chart which shows the configuration of the Zodiac with all its star signs and Grahas at a person’s time and place of birth. A kind of Jyotish birth diagram, as it were. Astrology is based on the conviction that the moment of a new beginning contains within it the potential of everything that follows on from it. Good start, good finish. In this way the birth horoscope reveals the course of a person’s life.
As the drawing-up of a birth horoscope requires the exact time of birth, Vedic astrology offers correction methods for discovering or adjusting the time of birth. Important events in a person’s past help the astrologer to make ever finer adjustments to the horoscope until the right time is found. An exciting and time-consuming process, and well worthwhile.
If you compare the birth horoscopes of two individuals, it is possible to discover ways in which they complement each other, challenges they may share and how they can provide mutual support and help one another to achieve their life goals. By bringing together the two horoscopes a partnership horoscope can be established.
Annual horoscope (Varshaphala)
Another horoscope in Jyotisha is the annual horoscope (Varshaphala). Around the time of your birthday the sun reaches exactly the same position in the Zodiac as at the time of your birth. At this moment a new star chart, a new horoscope, arises. This celestial snapshot is your annual horoscope, which makes it possible to forecast events in the year ahead.
Question horoscope (Prashna)
A question horoscope (Prashna), as its name suggests, aims to answer an important question. This horoscope is based on the moment in which the astrologer addresses the question.
Event horoscope (Muhūrta)
Anyone who is embarking on an important new venture should choose the right moment for it. In Jyotisha event horoscopes (Muhūrta) are drawn up for this purpose. In coordination with your birth horoscope a time is established which offers the best prospects for the planned undertaking. Event horoscopes can be useful for weddings, new business start-ups, building a house etc.
Elements, Gunas and related areas of knowledge
Part of a larger tradition
“Anyone who wishes to master Jyotisha must first master the Elements and the Gunas.”
Although this saying does not need to be taken literally, a basic understanding of the Elements and Gunas is very important. In this context, the Gunas are three qualities, which are described as Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The five Elements are ether, fire, water, air and earth. Both the Gunas and the Elements are to be found in everything that exists, e.g. in the Grahas, Vedic star signs and the Bhāvas. Thus for example, Jupiter’s Sattva component is greater than that of Saturn, and Jupiter is also more fiery. Astrologers who understand the Gunas and the Elements use this knowledge to interpret Jupiter’s characteristics and its role in an individual horoscope.
Jyotisha is embedded in the comprehensive knowledge cosmos of the Vedic tradition. This is perhaps the most striking difference from other forms of astrology, and the reason why Jyotisha, from Antiquity to the present day, has never lost its lustre.
The many areas of knowledge within the Vedic tradition inform and inspire each other, enabling a person to discover his or her task in life. Anyone who learns about Jyotisha will undoubtedly also come into contact with methods such as Āyurveda (knowledge of a healthy life) and Vāstu (Vedic interior design) and will be inspired by Vedic philosophies (Sad-Darshana) like Vedānta and Yoga.
Goals and visions
Our potential and our happiness develop through our ambitions and visions. To ensure that this succeeds, the Vedic tradition holds that our plans for the future should embrace four goals: Artha (prosperity and security), Kāma (enjoyment and regeneration), Dharma (righteousness and empathy), and Moksha (intellectual clarity). Every individual can achieve these goals in his or her own personal way, as everyone has different Karma. Jyotisha helps us to do this. It offers us aids to decision-making, to ensure that we are successful, that we live in accordance with our values and that we formulate and follow a responsible and realistic vision.
This is how you can use Jyotisha
Aid to decision-making and inspiration
The science of our time is based on objectivity. Astrology cannot be objectively verified. On the contrary, the training and inspiration of an astrologer are of decisive importance.
Alongside worldly considerations like relationships, family, health and prosperity, spirituality in the sense of finding yourself is an important aspect of Jyotisha.
Jyotisha is based on our solar system, which is the same for India as for every other country. Jyotisha is universal and thus not bound to any country, culture or religion.
Otherwise our will would be so strong that presumably none of us would have any problems at all. In fact we are part of a greater order and the dynamic of this order can be determined with the help of Vedic astrology.
Your first step. An important one.
"Good decisions help us to cultivate happiness and success."
- Bernd Roessler
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