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'An integrated psycho-spiritual approach to Jyotish'

  ------ © Dr. Satya Prakash Choudhary

The word Jyotisha can mean both Astronomy as well as Astrology. As for the Vedas, they do not speak directly about either, be it astrology or astronomy. The Samhitas refer to the luminaries, constellations etc. This knowledge may be employed for various purposes. The purpose depends on the user too and not just the knowledge revealed. It should be pointed out that there are at least four approaches to interpreting the Vedic corpus.

  1. The Adhi Yajna approach which is primarily ritual based
  2. The Adhi Daivata approach which is primarily archetypal
  3. The Adhyatma approach which is primarily psycho-spiritual
  4. The Tritaya approach or the integrated approach

While the Vedas have a ritualistic basis too, the roots are even deeper, running into psychological, philosophical and spiritual depths. Hence the need for various approaches to interpret the Veda. The seemingly different approaches are not contradictory or disparate. They are co-existent in a way. Thus the Vedic hymns can be interpreted in more than one way and at more than one level- ritualistic, psychological and spiritual. As the Skanda Smrti suggests the Vedic corpus has three meanings ('trayorthas sarva-vedeshu' ). These three meanings can be accommodated in an integrated and interrelated approach which the 'Tritaya' school of thought purports to do. Even within Jyotish there is an integrated approach to astrology incorporating both the psychological and predictive perspectives simultaneously. The famous South Indian text ' Prasna Marga' delineates the significations of various houses (bhavas) under two categories- external (bahya) and internal (antara). Even Varahamihira adopts a similar approach in his 'Brihat Jataka' . The 'internal' refers to the abstract psycho-spiritual phenomena/principles while the 'external' refers to the more concrete manifestation as events, persons and places. The external events are an extension or reflection of the internal psycho-spiritual principles. This integrated approach to houses and planets paves way to a simultaneous approach to both the psychological/ internal and predictive/ external levels of astrological understanding or practice. Moreover such an integrated approach is more in keeping with the current overall paradigm shift.

 

While the spiritual foundations of Jyotisha are unchanging and timeless in some sense, the approach to astrology could be influenced by the times and the paradigm shift. A strong influence of Humanistic and/or Transpersonal psychology is increasingly evident on a large number of intellectuals during the modern times. Carl Jung's works have begun to influence some in the Jyotisha camp too, while most western astrologers are already looking at astrology through the eyes of modern psychology. Yet one should not mistake the superficial approach to psychology that some western astrologers adopt in the name of "psychological readings". Likewise one shouldn't mistake the fatalistic approach to life that some eastern astrologers adopt in the name of karma . Most vedic astrologers feel that psychological astrology is for lesser brains who dare not predict, whilst most tropical astrologers are wary of and look down upon "fortune telling", as they refer to predicting. As an astrologer who studied and practiced both the approaches, I feel that both are wrong. How can one predict without understanding the psychological roots? On the other hand how would one be sure that all these psychological readings are right unless one is able to predict fairly well based on one's understanding of such psychological roots. After all, any science does try to predict, though in a different sense. One has to pay tribute to Indian astrology for keeping alive the tradition of predictive astrology in tact. Nowhere else in the world is astrology a continuous living tradition as it has been in India .

 

Personally I feel that the primary purpose of astrology is not fortune telling, but an exploration of consciousness, a journey into the psyche, into the unconscious forces which stem from the past vasanas , into the 'shadow' (a term used by Carl Jung which comes close to the tantric papa purusha ), into the universe that we have within us, into the conflict between the opposing forces and the process of attaining equilibrium. Of course these forces manifest as our (as well as others') reactions to situations, situations that we attract to ourselves because of these unconscious drives ( vasanas and samskaras ), which thus indirectly influence our life path. Fortune telling based on such symbols of the psyche like the horoscope, dreams, omens etc is the most ordinary usage of this knowledge, albeit an application prone to error due to various factors. Nevertheless astrology can help us understand our karma, especially the hidden or unseen factors that shape our life as our own karmic forces, and thereby encourage us to take responsibility for our actions. But the highest benefit of a study of this kind of a subject is Self-actualization or individuation- a process that assists the individual in an expression of one 'self', taking one to the final stages of Nirvana. Astrology can help an individual in integrating the many facets of the psyche to become "'ONE'-'SELF'". When this happens the individual feels a sense of psychic "wholeness", which is a natural state of equilibrium. Don't the ancient texts promise that anyone who studies and teaches astrology is assured of final liberation ( moksha )? Perhaps that is the ultimate goal of a spiritual system like astrology.