Jyotisha through the ages
------ © Dr. Satya Prakash Choudhary
Jyotisha, which is often referred to in the west as Vedic astrology, is an integral part of Indian life. It provides us with light on life. The ancient seers used it primarily for timing the rituals around which the Vedic culture was based. Broadly speaking ancient Indian arts and sciences has gone through four phases- Vedic, Puranic, Tantric and Modern .
There are two versions in vogue. According to the first the three traditions - the Vedic, Puranic and Tantric/Agamic are equally old and co-existent. It is just that they reveal the Truth in various ways. The other version prevalent is that the Vedic tradition is the oldest followed by the Puranic. Whatever may be the case, one thing is certain. Historically ancient wisdom seems to have been through various phases with each phase adopting/emphasizing one of the three traditions predominantly. In other words the Veda, the Purana and Tantra rose to popularity during various periods historically.
The Vedas are the most ancient spiritual literature of India . 'Veda' literally means knowledge, knowledge of truth based upon direct perception. This knowledge is not theoretical. It is based on an actual experience of Cosmic Consciousness. Such knowledge flows naturally through the seer in the state of pure consciousness. It was revealed knowledge springing from the One source, the source of all that is. The Vedas as they are handed down to us are the revelations of many seers who had achieved such high states of pure consciousness. Nobody can be said to be the author, since the knowledge is universal and eternal. The ancient seers and their disciples preserved this knowledge and handed it down to the next generations, with each generation learning it orally. It was many thousand years later that the Vedas were actually written. It is still a living tradition in India , albeit with some differences. The Rg vedic sages had identified the luminaries, the planets, the nodes and the 27 asterisms or nakshatras. They were primarily concerned with reckoning time in order to perform the sacrifices according to certain cycles. The nodes too have received the attention of the sages. In line with the principles underlying the Rg veda, a vedic astrologer should actually use the nakshatras and the nodes more than what is being done now by the vast majority.
Many thousand years later the Puranas taught the spiritual principles of the Vedas in the form of mythology. Concepts and ideas were symbolized as characters and depicted in the Puranas. The Puranas are probably semi-historical and mythological in nature. Whatever their actual nature, when demystified, the Puranas also speak of the same Vedic truths. But one should be cautious and not take the Puranas as an infallible authority. In fact some great thinkers of India have rejected the Puranas as not being fully authentic. Intolerance shown in some puranas to the Jains, or Buddhists, or even rival sects within Hinduism is quite often due to later additions, interpolations and expansions by certain over zealous followers.
Let me explain more about the puranas. As the Linga Purana says, it could be possible that sage Parasara taught the original Purana Samhita to his son Vyasa who in turn taught it to Romaharshana. Thus though all the puranas are attributed to Vyasadeva himself, the texts of the eighteen puranas were written by various disciples. This has resulted in some differences between the texts. Moreover, most of these texts that we see today in their present and final form were rewritten with many interpolations between 300AD and 1000AD. But earlier versions of the puranas were in existence even during 500BC. This also explains the differences and contradictions between the puranas. Hence to take everything in the puranas as final or authentic in a historical or factual sense may be erroneous. At the same time, this should not deter us from benefiting from the living wisdom. Moreover there are many gems, facts and spiritual truths in these myths in spite of the interpolations. Most of the interpolations are obvious to a discerning reader in their subject and style. Some accounts are amplified beyond their primary scope. At times efforts to glorify or elevate particular schools of thought or deities are made in these interpolations. But it is possible to still feel the common spirit and the original sense of the myth.
Later came the period of Agamas, when Tantra ' rose to' popularity (what I mean is that Tantra existed even before this time, but ROSE to popularity during this period of the Agamas. In fact Tantra is as old as the Veda and could possibly be related to the 'Vratya' culture whose remnants could have survived in the tantric tradition. There are many internal references to the Vratyas in the Vedas themselves. Unfortunately Tantra has been misrepresented and abused so much that today Tantra is associated with black magic and inferior practices and the very word carries a negative connotation to the lay person). The period of the Agamas was the period of techniques. A majority of the people had come far away from the natural state of the mind. With this came the need for techniques and formulae. Most of the works written in this period reflect this attitude. Nevertheless the Vedic principles still remained the basis. Remedial measures like yantras, gems etc reveal influences of the Tantric period. Let me add a note here.
The essence of Tantra is Vedic while the myths and deities are Puranic in origin. Present day Hinduism, it should be noted, is a mixture of all these approaches. In fact, a lot in Hinduism is closer to practical tantra than we imagine. The principal Vedic deities like Prajapati, Indra, Agni, Varuna, Soma etc., are not really an integral part of popular Hinduism today. There are almost no temples to these Vedic deities in India today, while all the key deities popular in present day India- like Shiva (the auspicious), Vishnu (the sustainer), Saraswati (patron Goddess of learning), Durga, Kali, Lalita (all aspects of Sakti) who are more Tantric and Puranic in origin- have hundred thousands of temples throughout India. Most of the scriptures today are at root Tantric- if not in source -at least in aspiration. It is hard to differentiate between the vedantic and tantric traditions in present day Hinduism, as they are intricately woven into each other. To say that Tantra came later and influenced the Vedic (vedantic) tradition, is far from the truth. Both the traditions seem to have existed since ancient times, influencing each other. Today even an orthodox Advaitic parampara like the Sringeri math, prescribes agamic (tantric) practices for its followers. Thus both the Tantric and Vedic (vedantic) traditions are co-existent and often intricately linked.
It now becomes clear that to understand any ancient Indian art or science all these three aspects are to be examined. So too with Jyotisha. The spiritual principles of astrology have their basis in the Vedas. The Puranas depict the same truth as interesting stories making use of the powers of imagination of the mind. To miss these illuminating stories is to miss part of the teachings. Many well known classical works of Hindu astrology have been compiled/written during the Agamic/Tantric period and thus necessitate a basic knowledge of the Agama sastra if one wishes to fully appreciate the context or meaning (for instance the most elaborate description of the astrological use of 'Sarvatobhadra chakra' is found not in an exclusively astrological text, but an agamic text called 'Brahma Yamala'). Hence all the above tools have to be employed in any attempt to learn Jyotisha if one hopes to glimpse even a fraction of the truth. In other words, the spiritual principles, the demystified stories and the classical works of astrology should all be utilized in the learning process.
The scientific aspect of Jyotisha
Apart from the above three aspects of learning Jyotisha, another important point has to be kept in mind. Astrology is both an art and science. As a science, its principles work in patterns that are replicable. Otherwise it would cease to be a science. Unless its principles can be demonstrated to be replicable (at least under certain conditions) the student cannot place his/her faith in astrology as a science. For this reason it has to be studied with a scientific attitude so that one can discern dogma from scientific principles. This is the growing trend during the modern times. This aspect too has to be studied, though one should not forget that Jyotisha is not a mundane science, but a divine science par excellence. The modern student of Jyotisha has to keep in mind all the above factors. Hence to appreciate Jyotisha fully one has to study all the following aspects.
The spiritual principles (Vedic and Tantric)
- The myths (Puranic)
- The classical techniques and combinations given in the texts (medieval)
- Replicability of the patterns (scientific or modern).
Now let us look at the history of Jyotisha briefly. It is hard to find the exact time of the origin of Jyotisha. Scholars do not agree with each other and are constantly changing their views. Yet one thing is certain. The roots of Jyotisha are as old as Vedic knowledge. As for the Vedas the traditional view is that they are 'Apauruseya'. The risis are said to be the ones through whom the knowledge was revealed. They are not its authors. Vedic wisdom is considered eternal. But for historical purposes one may have to use some dating process. The attempt here should be seen only in this light. Without taking the dates for the Vedic or Puranic period as definite, let us try to look at the issue objectively.
Vedic period : (>8000 BC?)
Many scholars say that astrology wasn't yet predictive and that the vedic emphasis was only on astronomy and muhurta (electional astrology). While a superficial study could lead to the above view, deeper study leaves no doubt that the Vedic hymns have a predictive basis at least in a seed form. Here a major distinction has to be made between the Veda, Vedanga Jyotisha and Jyothisha.
Veda, Vedanga Jyotisha and Jyotisha
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 is Vedanga Jyotisha (which is ascribed to the late Vedic period) that is astronomical, not the Veda or Jyotisha. It should be pointed out that there are at least four approaches to interpreting the Veda.
- The Adhi Yajna approach
- The Adhi Daivata approach
- The Adhyatma approach
- The Tritaya 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. Sayana has relied on the Adhi Yajna approach largely. In this approach the knowledge of the luminaries, Nakshatras etc is employed in fixing the time for the vedic rituals. The rules of Vedanga jyotisha seem to have been evolved for finding the Tithis and Nakshatras for the purposes of the Vedic rituals or yajnas.
Vedanga Jyotisha and the Siddhantas
Lagadha is said to have * compiled* the 36 slokas of Rgveda jyotisha. Vedanga Jyotisha is a collection of Rg, Yajur and Atharvaveda Jyotisha. As already stated the calculations of Vedanga Jyotisha seem to have been used for timing the Vedic rituals (yajnas). Since the calculations of Vedanga Jyotisha needed regular corrections which is a very tedious process, the Hindus took to the Siddhantas at a later date. The Siddhantas have more straightforward and accurate (in a way) methods of calculating. But where did the Siddhantas come from? According to tradition they were already existing (probably through the other traditions like the Puranic tradition) when they were adopted by the later day brahmins. They represented the teachings of various sages (a few of which seemed to be from foreign lands too though the majority of them are the teachings of the Hindu seers). So the Siddhantas did not spring forth suddenly, but rose to popularity due to the Brahmins favouring them due to reasons already stated.
It is interesting to note that scholars found many verses in 'Vedanga Jyotisha' quite obscure till the late Sri Shama Sastry came up with an interesting exposition based on 'light from an unexpected quarter'. He studied Jaina astrological works like 'Suryapragnapti' and 'Jyotishkaranda'. Curiously these works have preserved calculations along the lines of 'Vedanga Jyotisha' (probably for the observance of religious customs performed on Full Moon and New Moon days) though the Hindus themselves took to the Siddhantas.
I should remind the reader that I made a distinction between the 'Veda', 'Vedanga Jyotisha' and 'Jyotisha' earlier in this article. It is only 'Vedanga Jyotisha' (the reference here is to an actual text by that name) that is astronomical while Jyotisha can mean both astronomy as well as astrology. Of course the Veda itself does not speak directly of either. As already pointed out, there are at least four approaches to interpreting 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.
The Tritaya approach to the Veda
The 'tritaya' is a reconciliation of the adhiyajna, the adhi-daivata and adhyatma approaches as observed by the famous scholar Sri S. K. Ramachandra Rao in his 'Rgveda Darsana'. The adhyatma is implicit in the adhi-daivata which in turn is implicit in the adhiyajna.
The integrated 'tritaya' approach to the Veda is in accord with the eligibility and capability of the student or seeker of knowledge, each of the meanings being meant for one of the possible levels of the student. So at one level the Vedic hymns may refer to the individual devatas like Agni, Soma or Indra. At another level they refer to the one principal devata who is the origin and inner ruler of all devatas. At yet another level they may refer to the seeker's own psycho-physical constitution ruled by the Self. In accordance with the integrated approach some of the Vedic hymns can be interpreted to derive the fundamental basis of Jyotisha, specifically predictive astrology. For instance the various hymns involving the grahas refer to the significations (karakatwas) of the grahas which form the basis of every good prediction. Any astrologer with a good knowledge of the basics of predictive astrology as well as some knowledge of these vedic hymns, will be able to identify these karakatwas from the vedic hymns with little effort. It is only a misconception that the Vedas have no astrological basis at all. But that should be dealt with more elaborately in a separate article.
There is an important text called 'Atharva Jyotisha' containing 14 chapters and 162 slokas in all. As this text deals with the weekday too, it may be of recent origin relatively. Though it does not belong to the vedic period as such, its affiliation (at least by name) qualifies it to be discussed here. Moreover it deals with some of the basic foundations of Muhurta as well as predictive astrology though it is largely a Samhita text. I will describe some of its contents briefly. The division of time, Nakshatras- roudra, soumya and karma yoga taras, moon's strength as a basis for planetary results, tarabala, graha, ulka, vidyut, bhukampa (earthquakes) etc are all dealt with in this text. A famous verse from this text is from the seventh chapter (verse 21). "In the matter of their potency for bestowing benefits for rituals performed during their currency, the tithi ranks one-fold, the nakshatra four-fold, the Vara eight-fold and the karana sixteen fold." A later text by name 'Phalita Navaratna Samgraha' expands on this further by adding the relative significance of yoga, chandrabalam and tarabalam. The resultant points allotted now are as follows according to the 'Phalita Navaratna Samgraha':
Lunar day = 1,
Weekday = 8,
Constellation = 4
Yoga = 32,
Karana = 16
Chandrabala = 100
Tarabala = 60
Many references to calculations and predictive astrology are found in the epics. As already stated, the exact timing of these periods varies from scholar to scholar, with some conservative scholars trying to place the vedic period around 2000BC and the epic period even later till the 6 th century AD. Moreover it should be remembered that scholars often go by the written records, while the ancient seers passed on the wisdom orally for thousands of years, till it was finally recorded or compiled in a written form. The views of modern historians and archeologists are quite often arbitrary and subjective and at times even motivated. Either ways, the point here is that the sages belonged to the vedic period. Traditionally the knowledge handed down by the sages is considered as revealed, divine and hence authentic. Once Kali yuga started, imperfections are said to have crept in. Any source after this period is traditionally not considered infallible. I will confine myself to mentioning that puranas like the Narada purana deal with Jyotisha quite extensively while itihasas like Ramayana and Mahabharata too have references to eclipses, the Sun, Moon, Tithis, Nakshatras, grahas, yugas etc.
The Buddha and astrology
It is possible that the earliest form of predictive astrology is the Samhita division of astrology and that Hora sastra was evolved later. Historically speaking we don't know the exact level of knowledge of predictive astrology in India before the 6 th century BC. But it is well known that the astrologer Asita predicted that the newborn prince might become a renunciant. There are slightly variant versions of this (such as the Pali canon Nalaka Sutta in Sutta-Nipata ) though the essence is same. According to one version Asita was an astrologer while another suggests that he was a sage who came from the Himalayas . According to yet another version many leaned Brahmins were invited to the name giving ceremony (namakarana) on the fifteenth day. Eight of them were learned in interpreting the signs on the body (Samudrika sastra). Two of the many astrologers who were called by king Suddhodhana found that the position of the planets at the time of birth was such that the new born child would be a 'chakravarti' meaning 'one who would turn the wheel of law'. This could mean either 'the king of kings' (an emperor) or 'one who would set the wheel of dharma in motion'! It is said that Asita however, asserted that there was no question of an alternative meaning and that the child would grow up to establish dharma by founding a new order of religion. The prince did become the Buddha!
From this we know that predictive astrology was practiced during 6 th century BC itself in India though it is not definitely clear whether it was Hora or Samhita that was predominantly in use (I have used only the most widely accepted date for the Buddha here though there are other versions placing him at even earlier dates). The Buddha being a Gnani, insisted on Purushartha - that personal effort and discipline played a major role in spiritual development. Since his focus was on Nirvana, like most gnanis (the path of Gnana emphasizes Self-Knowledge), he condemned astrology. It is interesting that Swami Vivekananda condemned astrology while his own Guru Sri Ramakrishna was open to astrology; here again lies the difference between how a bhakta (devotee) and gnani see things. The Buddha felt that astrology made people weak. With the rise of Buddhism, interest in astrology too went down (but interestingly Tibetan Buddhism has embraced astrology as an integral part of its Medical studies!). By the time of king Ashoka (3 rd century BC), astrology was out of favor and was ignored.
Golden period in the history of Modern Jyotisha
However after the 3rd century BC, there was a revival of interest in astrology as is evident from some excavations at Sanchi. Around this time the teachings of the eighteen seers rose to prominence. By the 1 st century BC, Ujjain had become the Greenwich of India of those days. Ideas were exchanged and technical discussions held. Astrology was gaining strength and popularity again. Of course about the same time astrology was growing in both its form as well as popularity in the West too under the influence of certain intellectuals from Hipparchus (150 BC) to Ptolemy (140 AD). There was a surge in predictive astrology the world around by now.
Around the 1 st BC thanks to the Saka and Suhana rulers, predictive astrology RE-ENTERED India . Greek astrology had its influences on India . Scholars who argue that predictive astrology came to India from elsewhere focus on this RE-ENTRY conveniently forgetting the earlier references to predictive astrology as in the case of Asita. Here I am not suggesting that astrology originated only in India . It could even be possible that it originated simultaneously in certain other parts of the world in some other ancient civilizations too since some of the earliest civilizations had some connections or even shared a common origin (especially the ancient Indians and Babylonians). Yet it is only India that can definitely boast of an almost unbroken living tradition of astrology, while the other great ancient civilizations haven't left such unbroken living traditions). Based on both internal as well as external evidences most Indian astrologer-scholars hold that Indian astrology is distinctly original. Here let me clarify that I am not denying any external influences on Jyotisha at various points of time. External influences have surely enriched Jyotisha in more than a few ways. But as far as foreign origins (especially Greek) are concerned, such theories are untenable. Since this controversy is not really relevant to our present topic, I will leave it here and move on.
By around 400AD the Siddhantic calendar based on the Pancha Siddhantas was gaining prominence. Here I should refer to the eighteen (or nineteen) pravarthakas or pioneers of jyotisha. According to Kasyapa, the 18 pravarthakas are Surya, Pitamaha, Vyasa, Vasishta, Atri, Parasara, Kasyapa, Narada, Garga, ,Mareechi, Manu, Angeerasa, Lomasa, Poulisa, Chyavana, Yavana, Bhrigu and Saunaka. It can be seen that some of these seers figure as smrtikartas too as Jyotisha, Smrti (especially the Dharma sastras and Puranas) are all interlinked and have a similar purpose. To illustrate my point here I should draw attention to a very interesting text called 'Veerasimhavalokah' written by a scholar king by name Sri Vira Simha Dev. This text is unique in that it combines Ayurveda, Jyotisha and Dharma sastra while dealing with the etiology as well as treatment of various diseases. Such is the place of Jyotisha in India till the modern times. Resuming the main topic of the eighteen pravarthakas, to the above mentioned list Parasara adds one more name - that of Pulastya whom Narada seems to refer to as Poulastya. Another difference is that Narada refers to Acharya instead of Surya. Now let us see the various pravarthakas and their contribution.
The Pravarthakas of Jyotisha
Surya: It is said that Surya revealed the Surya Siddhanta to Maya. But there are three Surya siddhantas according to some- one belonging to the period of the rishis, another one referred to by Varahamihira in his 'Panchasiddhantika' and finally the modern 'Surya Siddhanta' which is a popular text for Siddhanta.
Brahma: While some opine that Pitamaha of 'Pitamaha Siddhanta' is the same as Brahma, a more traditional view of Brahma's role is found in the Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra in the following slokas from the 97 th chapter. "The great sage Parasara said: O Brahmin (meaning Maitreya)! I have described to you the Jyotish Sastra as narrated by Lord Brahma to the sage Narada and by Narada to Saunaka and other sages from whom I received the knowledge of this Sastra. I have narrated the same Jyotisha Sastra which I learnt from them." Of course Pitamaha of Pitamaha Siddhanta fame is not the same as Brahma.
Vyasa: Vyasa deserves special treatment due to various reasons which will become obvious as you read more. Instead of writing anything new, I will quote from an unpublished work of mine here.
""I am Vyasa among the sages", declared Lord Krishna to Arjuna. Such is the greatness of Vyasa. He is the most significant among all the incarnations of the Divine. According to most Puranas, Vyasa is the 17 th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Some puranas even include him in the ten major incarnations of Vishnu. What we call Hinduism today, its entire body of literature is directly or indirectly from Vyasa. He saved the ' Sacred Word ' or Veda as it was revealed. He divided the Vedas . He reclaimed the fourth Veda into the mainstream. He edited the Vedas and made a plan to preserve Vedic wisdom intact for the people of Kali Yuga. He composed the original 'Mahabharata' and thus the 'Bhagavad Gita' too. He gave the 'Purana Samhita' and thus the entire puranic literature in a way. He composed the essence of the Upanishads in the form of the 'Brahma Sutras'. Not satisfied with all this, he gave us the holy 'Srimad Bhagavatam', the book of books, one that takes spiritual love, the highest form of love, to its pinnacle. He gave us countless stotras (like Vishnu Sahasranama etc) embedded within the Puranic literature.
Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa is undoubtedly the architect of Spiritual India of Kali Yuga. As Sri Aurobindo said, the Mahabharata is the National poem and Vyasa the National poet of India . Vyasa gave us almost everything that we see as 'Sanatana Dharma' today. His life was dedicated to the ' Sacred Word '. He upheld Dharma. He authored an unbelievable body of knowledge. He is the most prolific author ever, an editor par excellence. The more you know of Hinduism, the more you realize the greatness of Vyasa. We would not have heard the Vedas in their pristine form without him. There wouldn't be the Puranas, or the Mahabharata, or the Brahma Sutras, or the Gita, or the various stotras, stutis and sahasranamas . Vyasa is thus, the most significant among all the incarnations of Vishnu. For how would we know about the various incarnations, if not through his works? Whatever we know of most incarnations of Vishnu, is through Vyasa.
. Vyasa is the editor par excellence. With unbelievable zeal and divine inspiration, he redacted the Vedas. He standardized the Vedas, the order and the accents of every mantra, which has come down to us intact since a few thousand years. Vyasa is by far the most prolific among writers. He survived the Kurukshetra war and later composed the original Mahabharata, on which, with interpolations and additions, the present structure of the epic rests. Today the Mahabharata is the world's longest epic, and is considered as the fifth veda. The highly revered Bhagawad Gita is just a portion of this great and inspiring epic. The Puranic literature, which originally was said to consist of ten million verses, is also attributed to him. He is said to have composed the Brahma Sutras. The list is endless. Such a gigantic feat and prolific intellectual work remain unparalleled.
. It is said that in each age (Mahayuga), in every Dwapara yuga, Vishnu in his form of Veda Vyasa, incarnates to uphold the Vedas. He divides the Vedas and helps to preserve them for the coming kali yuga. . In this Manvantara, twenty-eight mahayugas have elapsed. Thus twenty-eight Veda Vyasas have incarnated so far! The Vyasa for this Dwapara yuga is Krishna Dwaipayana, the son of the illustrious sage Parasara, who is considered the father of Vedic astrology, for it is held widely that it was he who composed the famous astrological text 'Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra'. Parasara was the son of Shaktri and the grandson of Vasishta, the greatest among sages. ."
The above extracts are from 'Vyasa and Parasara' - the lives of two of the greatest Vedic seers recreated" also subtitled " A story of the fulfillment of a great mission by a father and son" . As is evident from the general tone of the extracts it can be gleaned that the above work was not intended for historical purposes. In this unpublished work of mine, I tried to recreate the story of Vyasa and Parasara from all the references to their lives as found scattered in the various puranas and legends of India . Yet the reader can catch a glimpse of Vyasa's role traditionally speaking. Coming back to the eighteen pravarthakas-
Vasishta: Vasishta siddhanta has an important place among the Panchasiddhantas. It is more in depth than Pitamaha Siddhanta. Varahamihira quotes 13 slokas from Vasishta Siddhanta. During Brahmagupta's time there were two Vasishta Siddhantas, one old and another relatively new.
Atri: Atri and his descendants were well versed in the knowledge of Eclipses as revealed by the Rg Veda. Since eclipses and the nodes have a significant place in vedic knowledge, Atri is given a place among the 18 pravarthakas.
Parasara: Parasara needs no special introduction to a student of Jyotisha as he is more or less unanimously accepted as the father of Jyotisha. But some make a distinction between Parasara the smrtikarta and Parasara the author of BPHS. In that case, the second Parasara may be placed between 5 th BC and 5 th AD. Reference to Parasara is found in Kautilya's 'Arthasastra' too. There are many references to astrology and astrologers in the 'Arthasastra'.
Narada: He is said to have revealed the 'Narada Samhita' the first among the Samhitas. This text has 55 chapters. The original text seems to have had only 37 chapters to which 18 chapters were added later. The three major ancient divisions of Jyotisha- Siddhanta, Samhita and Hora are mentioned in the fourth sloka. It is mentioned in the text that Narada also wrote a text on Hora called 'Naradeeya Hora Sastra'. This text is not available today. Such early texts may throw further light on the origins of Hora sastra.
Garga: There are many works attributed to Garga. Though he does not seem to have authored these books, it is well accepted that Garga is among the most ancient authorities. Bhattotpala (8 th century AD) in his commentary on 'Brihat Jataka' tells us of Garga Hora Sastra. Moreover he is also among the most important figure-heads in Jaina astrology too.
Mareechi: Though there is no extant work of Mareechi, we can only infer that his work must have had been well known at one time as Govinda Daivagna quotes Mareechi.
Manu: He is better known for his contribution to Dharma sastra.
Angira: It is not uncommon to use the terms 'Angira' and 'Brihaspati' interchangeably. It is said that a text called 'Barhaspatya Samhita' was in existence in the past.
Romasa: Some suggest that Romasa, Lomasa and Romaka are all the same. Lomasa Samhita is among the ancient works while Romaka Siddhanta is among the Panchasiddhantas. But Romaka and Lomasa seem to be two different individuals. Both are accepted by some as pravarthakas. But Romaka Siddhanta is of foreign origin ( Rome ?) Some suggest that the knowledge of Jyotisha spread from the Hindus to other places and after subsequent developments again interacted with Jyotisha. Whatever be the case, Romaka Siddhantha has a foreign route of entry as we know it currently. As Varahamihira tells us (in the form of a conversation between Surya and Aruna in the beginning of his 'Panchasiddhantika') due to a curse Surya is said to have taken birth among the Yavanas and taught Romaka the subject. He in turn is said to have spread the teachings.
Paulisa: Paulisa siddhanta is an ancient work again considered to be a foreign one. Varahamihira says that Latadeva is the commentator of both Paulisa and Romaka Siddhantas. Paulaha, Paulisa, Paulastya are the other names which we come across in various places in this context. The Mahabharata mentions Paulastya and Pulaha as the sons of Brahma.
Chyavana: As in the case of Mareechi we can only infer the existence of Chyavana's work through Govinda Daivagna's quotes.
Yavana: Yavana parampara is also among the ancient recognized schools of astrology. Varahamihira, Bhattotpala and Kalyana Verma have all eulogized the Yavanas in their works. Sphudidwaja's 'Yavana Jataka' (269 or 270 AD) claims to be the versified version of a prose work of one previous Yavaneswara. Latadeva has written a commentary on 'Yavana Jataka'. All these three authors predate Varahamihira. Another later author by name Meena Raja authored a work called 'Vriddha Yavana Jataka'. While the influence of Greek astrology on these works need not be denied, it should be pointed that both these texts share more than 90% likeness with Hindu astrology (and culture) and show less resemblance (up to 5 to 10%) to Greek works as known today. Due to such reasons it is debatable whether original Greek works were thoroughly Indianised or whether Yavana jataka (as referred to by the Indian astrologers) itself is only a form of astrology practiced by the already Indianised Greeks or Ionians who grafted Greek ideas and concepts onto Indian astrology. But one thing is certain. The ancient Indians were universal and catholic in their outlook. They did not hesitate to openly acknowledge the greatness of the Yavanas too. A lesson or two may be learnt from such instances by all of us who dogmatically prefer to behave like the 'frog in the well'. Yet one should retain a healthy pride in the greatness of Jyotisha as taught by the Indian seers too.
Bhrigu : Bhrigu Samhita is a text that is quite famous. Govinda Daivagna has quoted the sayings of sage Bhrigu in his text. We also find Bhrigu readings (similar to the South Indian Nadis in some sense) in North India where the individual's horoscope is already found in the numerous palm leaf manuscripts written long back. Interestingly neither Varahamihira nor Kalyana Verma has mentioned anything about Bhrigu Samhita.
(I have come across a Bhrigu reader in Varanasi who allowed me to see the leaf for a brief moment only preferring to read it himself for reasons best known to him. During another visit to Varanasi during the Maha Kumbhamela of 2001, I also studied a few palm leaf manuscripts (with readings for some charts) of the said Bhrigu Samhita at the private library of Sri Brahma Gopal Bhaduri of Varanasi. Here I was allowed to even film some of the manuscripts. Sri Bhaduri has inherited a vast collection of thousands of rare and known manuscripts on various ancient sastras, from his father who seems to have been a versatile scholar. As for Sri Brahma Gopal Bhaduri himself, he seemed to be more knowledgeable in Samudrika sastra than Jyotisha.)
Saunaka : Both BPHS as well as Muhurta Chintamani mention Saunaka's name. He also figures in many puranas.
As already stated Narada refers to Acharya instead of Surya. It is possible according to some that the Acharya referred to by both Narada as well as Parasara, is actually a Jaina astrologer-sage.
Among the above mentioned pravarthakas, the works of five seers find a place in the 'Pancha Siddhanthas'. As already stated by around 400AD the Siddhantic calendar based on the Pancha Siddhantas had gained prominence. Varahamihira too has written a text called 'Panchasiddhantika' wherein he discusses the same. Most of the ancient works are not available today. We come across other works wherein the authors have quoted the more ancient works.
Among the most famous contributions to the science of astronomy, come Aryabhatta's and Bhaskara's works. Aryabhatta (AD 476-523) belonged to Tiruvankur in Kerala though he also seems to have lived in Kusumapura. He wrote the first edition of his 'Aryabhateeya' when he was just 23 years old. He also seems to have revised the book when he was older. It is this revised edition that has survived today. I cannot do justice to the greatness of his work in an article of this sort and will confine myself to merely asserting that in the world history of science Aryabhatta is among the greatest of the great. Whether it is the earth's motion around the Sun, the motion of the stars, or the calculation of the circumference of a circle, or the discovery of Sine, Aryabhatta's contributions span across various fields like astronomy, mathematics (including Geometry), and knowledge of Time etc. His works gave a big boost to astrology too as astrology includes the knowledge of ganita (mathematics), gola (astronomy) and kalakriya (Time and planetary motion), all of which the 'Aryabhateeya' takes to hitherto unknown heights in many ways. Hereafter began the period when many astrology classics came to be written. No wonder Aryabhatta's fame spread to foreign countries too, inspiring the Arabs to not only study his work but spread it across the world.
Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra
Some say that the Parasara who wrote BPHS (Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra) belonged to a period between 500 BC and 500 AD and that he is not the same as Parasara the father of Vyasa. One argument against this is that the language and style of BPHS indicate that it could be a relatively ancient work, written around the same time as Vyasa. But that alone wouldn't make a strong case. Instances of other good works authored by scholars with the same name as Sankaracharya or somebody else are not very uncommon. It is possible for someone else to write in an ancient style especially if he is trying to make it authentic (I am not suggesting that this is exactly the case with BPHS).
What seems to have happened (according to my understanding) is that Maharishi Parasara taught the principles of the BPHS to his disciple Maitreya. This set of teachings was handed down over the generations. But part of the teachings were lost or at least hidden during later times. When astrology surfaced back again, these teachings were not easily available. Between 5 th century BC and 5th century AD a great astrologer who was either referred to or adopted the name of Parasara, took it upon himself to revive the teachings. The currently available BPHS is probably the second Parasara's attempt to put together the original teachings of Parasara. It cannot be ruled out they could also be the same as sage Parasara's teachings largely. But the second Parasara must have attempted to fill in the gaps. This is one way that we could reconcile the two theories. Of course this is all speculation based on the available contradictory beliefs and scholars could go into hair-splitting arguments on this.
The very process through which the BPHS has been put together in the last century is prone to error. In fact if one starts getting into this, a lot of time will go into this with no definite conclusions finally. The available data is incomplete and altered. It is well known that the currently available BPHS has many interpolations, and individual copies of some traditional scholars from different places vary to some extent. I myself have come across at least four variant versions that differ here and there. Some scholars suggest that the Uttarakhanda of the BPHS was a subsequent addition. Due to various such reasons one cannot take any statement as INFALLIBLE since a lot that has been attributed to Parasara or Jaimini, may not be really true. The words of the later scholars should only be taken as a foundation and could be treated reasonably seriously, but not in an infallible manner. Leaving this controversy aside let me proceed with the story of Jyotish.
Apart from the division of the periods into Vedic, Puranic, Agamic/historic there is yet another division that appeals to an astrologer-historian as far as Jyotisha is considered.
Such is Varahamihira's place in the history of Jyotisha. He extracted the best of his predecessors' ideas and crystallized the science of astrology by adding his own insights and observations thus contributing to the systematization of Jyotisha. Varahamihira (505AD), the most famous of all Indian astrologers, came later to Parasara. I cannot agree with David Pingree's biased views about the dates of various Indian sages, astrologers and scholars as internal evidences clearly prove him wrong. Pingree places Parasara much later than Varahamihira based on untenable grounds. If that is so, how could Varahamihira mention Parasara's name in Brihat Jataka' (see chapter 2, second sloka)? While one may agree that Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra itself has been redacted and expanded upon many times (even after Varahamihira's times) Parasara's teachings were already in vogue in a major way during Varahamihira's times. That is why Varahamihira merely refers to Parasara's opinion without elaborating much.
A perusal of various chapters of Varahamihira's 'Brihat Jataka' like 'Ayurdayadhyaya', 'Rajayogadhyaya', 'Grahayoniprabedhadhyaya' etc allows us to draw a list of the ancient astrologers who predated Varahamihira. They are Maya, Yavana, Manitha, Saktipoorva or Parasara, Satyacharya, Vishnugupta, Devaswamy, Siddhasena, Jeevasena, etc. Satyacharya has established a school of thought that goes by the name 'Dhruva matham'. His 'Satya Jataka' is a very useful text to students of astrology.
A more complete list of all the illustrious ancient astrologers who predated Varahamihira (based on other works like Brihat Samhita, Panchasiddhantika etc) includes Pitamaha, Surya, Lagadha, Narada, Atri, Bhrigu, Vasishta, Kasyapa, Poulastya, Maya, Yavana, Visnugupta, Devaswamy, Siddhasena, Poulisa, Romaka, Jeevasarma, Satyacharya, Manitha, Sphudidhwaja, Latadeva, Aryabhatta etc.
As already stated Varahamihira systematized all astrological and astronomical knowledge available during his times in the form of books. He influenced and was in turn influenced by the western astronomers and astrologers. He has codified and verified the principles enunciated by various other astrologers and rishis. He was catholic in his outlook and embraced astrological principles from foreigners too, whom he held in respect. Varahamihira had written excellent books on all the three main divisions of Jyotisha- Jataka, Samhita and Siddhanta. While Parasara is considered the father of Jyotisha, one can say that in many respects Varahamihira is the father of modern Jyotisha. It is only later that others followed suit. There are at least five main commentaries on Varahamihira's 'Brihat Jataka'.
Though the dasadhyayee deals with only the first ten chapters, the illustrious author Bhattathiri has dealt with multiple meanings and interpretations for each sloka. Bhattathiri is a famous astrologer from Kerala who is said to belong to the period between the 13 th and 16 th centuries. That Bhattathiri's commentary enjoyed a special status in spite of it dealing with only the first ten chapters of Brihat Jataka is evident from the following sloka from 'Prasna Marga' , which itself is among the finest texts ever written in the history of astrology- "One who attempts to predict without studying the Dasadhyayi is like a person trying to cross an ocean without a boat". Till a few centuries back it was an established practice among Kerala astrologers to learn both the 'Brihat Jataka' and 'Dasadhayee' by heart. In addition to the many commentaries on Varahamihira's works, his influence is clearly seen on later authors in many ways. But before dealing with the later day classics it is apt that I acquaint the reader with Bhaskara I and II as well as Aryabhatta II.
Bhaskara I and Aryabhatta II
Like Aryabhatta, Bhaskara too belonged to Kerala. In addition to authoring 'Mahabhaskareeya' and 'Laghu Bhaskareeya' he is also known to have authored a commentary on 'Aryabhatteya'. This commentary is called 'Aryabhatta tantra bhasya which is unavailable today. Though written around 629 AD his work seems to have been widely followed up to the 15 th century. Aryabhatta II who seems to have lived around 950 AD authored the book 'Mahasiddhanta' consisting of eighteen chapters and 625 slokas. Likewise there is a second Bhaskara- Bhaskara II - who was born in 1114 AD in Vijjadavida village near the Sahyadri parvata in today's Maharashtra . The following Information is based on a silasasana at the Bhavani temple situated about 10 miles from Chalis gaon.
Bhaskara II (Bhaskaracharya)
Bhaskaracharya's (Bhaskara II) grandson Changadeva was an important astrologer in king Singhana's court. Singhana ruled Devagiri from 1210 to 1237 AD. Another by name Somadeva, a minor king under Singhana, donated towards a special school of astrology (matham based on the teachings of Bhaskaracharya and others) founded by Changadeva. It is known from other such silasasanas that Bhaskara's ancestors too were astrologers in their own right. Upto 6 generations of Bhaskara's ancestors have been referred to.
Bhaskaracharya himself authored two famous books- 'Siddhanta Siromani' and 'Karana Kutoohala' both dealing with Gola and Ganita largely. Bhaskaracharya was 69 years old when he authored 'Karana Kutoohala'. 'Siddhanta Siromani' is a popular text consisting of four divisions or parts- Leelavati, Beejaganita, Ganitadhyaya and Goladhyaya. He gives numbers upto parartha i.e. 10 17 . The eight methods of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, square, square root, cube, cube root, are all dealt with in this book. Permutations and combinations (ankapasa), unknown quantities (such as X, Y, Z) positive and negative values, zero and infinity, are all dealt with quite elaborately. Of course Bhaskaracharya seems to have followed Brahmagupta's 'Brahmaguptasphuta Siddhanta' (628 AD) as far as the use of Zero in geometry is concerned. Eclipses, planetary rise and set, the earth's radius, trigonometry etc are all covered by Bhaskara II. In the yantradhyaya while dealing with various yantras (mechanical devices) to calculate the planetary spheres, he asserts that intelligence is the best of all yantras. The popularity of Bhaskaracharya's works may be inferred from the fact that even Muslim kings like Akbar and Shahjahan supported the translation of Leelavati and Beejaganita to Persian. Without dwelling more on this, I will draw attention to the fact that numerous commentaries have been written on Bhaskaracharya's work.
Kalyana Verma, Vaidyanatha and Mantreswara
Kalyana Varma (6 th century AD), Vaidyanatha (13 th century AD) and Mantreswara (16 th century AD) are some other important names. Kalyana Varma crystallises very comprehensively Varahamihira's works as well as those of others like Yavana while Vaidyanatha models his wonderful work "Jataka Parijata" after Varahamihira and Kalyana Varma. His work is widely acclaimed and is also among the prescribed list of texts for any serious student. In fact it is second only to the 'Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra' in its treatment of the various topics of predictive astrology.
Mantreswara who hails from Tirunelveli district of South India has written a very useful text. His 'Phala Deepika' is unique in some ways. While other astrological works merely mention the Sarvatobhadra charka, Mantreswara actually deals with its use. His chapter on transits is quite useful. He also deals with other valuable concepts like Kshetra and Beeja sphutas.
It is almost impossible to list all the illustrious scholars and their contributions in an article of this sort, with such a rich tradition available, not to speak of the ancient Jaina astrologer-seers and their works. Moreover it becomes even more difficult to list all the sages and various schools of Jyotish like Bhrigu matham, Dhruva matham, Jaimini matham, etc. I will reserve that for a full-fledged discussion on the various schools of Jyotisha in another article though I will refer to Jaimini astrology briefly.
Jaimini's school of thought (Jaimini matham) is a slightly variant and specialized school of Jyotisha . Jaimini has codified the principles of this school in his 'Jaimini Sutras'. Many astrologers hold that this is a distinct system from Parasara's school of thought while some hold that Jaimini principles are part of Parasara's all encompassing classic. There are some chapters in Parasara's magnum opus (Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra) that deal with Jaimini matham too. While it is true that Parasara's text deals with parts of Jaimini, the definitive and more authoritative text for Jaimini methodology is the Jaimini Sutras and the commentaries on it. Whether Parasara's text was earlier or later than Jaimini is debatable. But what is certain is that Jaimini has specialized exclusively in this system
Among the most glaring of David Pingree's blunders is his dating of Jaimini's 'Upadesa Sutras'. He asserts that because of 'the lack of earlier citations and internal evidence', one cannot date the text of Jaimini (and his teachings) before c. 1700! Moreover he even writes that it shows a strong Greek influence! To my knowledge, Jaimini matham is so unique that leave alone a 'strong Greek influence' it is hard to draw even reasonable parallels between Jaimini and Greek astrology. As for the date, nothing can be more erroneous. Even 'Kalpalata' the commentary of Somanatha on Jaimini astrology is older than the date assigned to the original text itself. Sri Madhura Krishnasmurty Sastry (in a conversation that I had with him) opines that the Kalpalata itself belongs to the 11 th century AD. As is obvious from the text 'Kalpalata' certain areas of Jaimini methodology had already become obscure during Somanatha's times. So one may safely infer that the original teachings of Jaimini must have preceded Somanatha's times by a few centuries at least if not many centuries! For the reader's benefit I will list some of the interesting commentaries on Jaimini astrology that I have come across.
Krishna Misra's 'Jyotisha Phala Ratnamala',
Raghava Bhatta's 'Jataka Saara Sangraha',
Narasimha Suri's 'Jaimini Sutrartha Prakasika',
Nrisimha Daivagna's 'Jaimini Sutra Vyakhya',
Singayarya's 'Jataka Rajeeya'
Balakrsnananda Saraswati's commentaries
Most of the above works are available only in Sanskrit. The 'Kalpalata' of Somanatha Misra is a very interesting text among the above lot. Somanatha is the son of Krishna Misra the author of 'Jyotisha Phala Ratnamala'. While Venkateswara, Nilakantha and Narasimha Suri have commented on the first two chapters only, Somanath's 'Kalpalata' covers all the four chapters and can be easily rated as one of the exhaustive commentaries. To my knowledge it is not yet available in print. Nilakantha's commentary on the first two chapters is in great use and is the most easily available one. With this brief overview of Jaimini jyotisha I will now move on to yet another school of astrology- Tajika.
While some think that the varshaphal (solar return) and the progressed chart are both contributions of western astrology, most Indian astrologers maintain that it is definitely Indian in origin. During the Mughal rule, Tajika did gain prominence especially in north India . Certain Urdu or Persian words in Tajika do show the influence of Arabic (medieval) astrology leading one to infer some cross-cultural influences on Jyotisha as far as Tajika is considered. In fact the Sahams are in principle, the same as Arabic parts. But one has to be very cautious in claiming that Tajika is entirely western in origin as Tajika still uses most of the fundamentals of Parasari though certain foreign concepts have been grafted on to the mother plant of Jyotisha.
British and Post-Independence India
With the entry of the British in India , gradually all that was Indian fell out of favor. Astrology too suffered in general. Yet the secrets of astrology were well preserved in the traditional families, though some knowledge seems to have been lost. The biggest loss of astrological knowledge seems to have occurred during the period of the rise of Buddhism and not during any other time. Yet it is true that after and during the British rule, most educated Indians especially the politicians adopted a pseudo scientific attitude, leading to an irrational public denial of astrology, while during the evenings the same persons would be consulting astrologers!
In the past century, Jyotisha was revived by the efforts of one person more than anyone else. It is none other than the late Dr.B.V.Raman. His efforts to forward the cause of Jyotisha through his books and the Astrological Magazine (founded by his grandfather Sri B. Suryanarain Rao), easily entitle him to be named as the greatest popularizer and crusader of Jyotisha in the modern times. The ICAS too was founded by him. Yet it is some other astrologers who are said to have pioneered some researches into Jyotisha.
Sri Seshadri Iyer popularized the divisional charts with his 'New Techniques of Prediction'. In fact my first teacher of astrology was a student of Sri Seshadri Iyer. Meena's (Sri R. Gopalakrishna) nadi astrology was another innovative thought. Especially his idea of the sublords, based on Parasara's Vimsottari dasa, is a novel idea. But it was the late Sri Krishnamurti, who refined the sub lord theory by proposing 249 subs instead of Meena's 243 subs, and eventually evolved his much acclaimed as well as controversial Krishnamurti paddhati (system popularly called KP).
KP is a unique methodology that combines ruling planets, sublords, Placidus houses and cuspal sublords, the use of Nakshatras and a characteristically different way of arriving at significators that make it brilliant at times. That this methodology gives excellent results (at least with Prasna), is often acknowledged even by his detractors. Even forgetting his use of the sub lord for predictions, he deserves credit for first coming up with a near mathematical astrological working model for the phenomenon of Synchronicity- the reference here being to the 'Ruling Planets' theory. Of course there are no direct references to the phenomenon of Synchronicity in Krishnamurti's work. Nor does he seem to be aware of Carl Jung's work on Synchronicity. But the link is obvious to a serious student of both psychology as well as astrology. In fact many good astrologers laid emphasis on the use of nakshatras in the sixties and seventies. From Krishnamurti to Seshadri Iyer, the role of nakshatra as the sukshma (subtle) lord, received more prominence. In fact Krishnamurti called his methodology, 'Stellar astrology'. These two astrologers have influenced many students.
In the modern times among the generation of senior astrologers, though many other scholars like the late Sri D.V.Subba Rao, Prof.P.S.Sastri, Sri Madhura Krishnamurty Sastry and a host of others deserve mention, one name stands head and shoulders above all others for forwarding the cause of Indian astrology as also for inspiring thousands of astrology lovers and students. It is none other than Sri K. N. Rao, around whom, grew the largest body of astrologers. His role in moulding and guiding a whole generation of astrologers is awe-inspiring. He has guided groups of astrologers in conducting researches, trying to validate the replicability of certain astrological principles, often giving his own ideas for others to research. Whether or not one agrees with all his views, one thing cannot be denied even by his detractors - his role in inculcating a scientific temper among vedic astrologers, persuading astrologers not to be dogmatic, but be liberal in interpreting the classical works and finally in re-popularizing the varga charts by demonstrating their use (even with respect to the varga charts I consider his contribution to be at least as valuable or even more than Sri Seshadri Iyer's).
Jyotisha in the West
Though there were quite a few people studying Jyotisha in the west since decades back, it was only the nineties that saw Jyotisha pick up more momentum in the west, especially the US . The western disciples of gurus like Paramahamsa Yogananda, Srila Prabhupada, Maharshi Mahesh Yogi, and many others also contributed to the growing interest in Jyotisha in the west. The formation of the American Council of Vedic Astrology due to the efforts of David Frawley and group has resulted in a definite growth of interest in Vedic astrology both within and outside India and seems to have inspired other such Vedic astrology councils in a few more countries. The author of this article is the President of the Australian Council of Vedic Astrology which was founded in the late nineties by Keven Barrett. Other councils such as the British Council too deserve a mention.
The revival of Jyotisha
All this has led to the revival of Jyotisha in a big way, thanks to the internet too. The present Indian government's efforts to introduce Jyotisha courses in the Universities, comes at an interesting juncture. Today Jyotisha is at a vital phase of rejuvenation. It is going through many changes, both positive and negative.
Any art or science is bound to benefit when foreigners study it. Western astrologers will be able to add to the richness of Jyotisha, their ideas and views. While the general advantage of cross-cultural interactivity and the resultant liberalization of interpretation of the principles, along with the decline in dogmatism are encouraging, there may be another side to it. Lack of knowledge of the background of Jyotisha, cultural gap (with the resultant half-knowledge) and bastardization of some jyotisha techniques where they ought to remain pristine, are some things that worry some traditional jyotishis. Yet the Universe knows how to take care of itself. Eventually in the coming decade, a new phase or rebirth of Jyotisha is bound to occur. Jyotisha will be popular the world over, with more and more astrologers switching to, or at least learning Jyotish.
Tradition- a dual edged sword
One last word. Vedic astrologers have one big advantage that astrologers of other traditions probably have in a lesser measure- a rich body of knowledge, oral and written, as well as known and hidden. Yet it should be remembered that the available data is incomplete and altered. Due to various reasons, certain places have been altered, new verses inserted, and so on. A lot that is attributed to sages like Parasara or Jaimini may not be really authentic. While this is the case with the so-called teachings of the sages, we should be open to the fact that the works of later authors could be erroneous here and there. Of course they derived their ideas from the teachings of the sages. While they are all brilliant, couldn't we be open to the fact that they could also make some mistakes. Aren't there enough contradictions? So is it really worth repeating verses like parrots? Shouldn't we investigate first into the truth behind some dictums? Do they work as they are? Or do we need any research or modifications? What I am suggesting is that if we can doubt some words of a 20 th century scholar, how can we blindly think that a 15 th or 16 th century scholar, or for that matter, any other scholar is infallible? I am not questioning tradition here. All I am saying is that tradition shouldn't become binding. The rich base that these great minds gave us should be valued, but cannot be taken blindly. Most literature should be taken as a starting point, but not blindly in an unquestioning manner. Do western astrologers take Ptolemy or Hipparchus or anyone else as an infallible authority as some of us do with a Mantreswara or Vaidyanatha? Though they are all brilliant, can't we be open to change and a healthy research mind? Faith and perseverance will surely help, but will not further the cause of the subject. So what do we do? Lapse into inaction and despair? No. We should be cautious when we take certain verses literally.
Where do we draw the line? No one can say anything definitely. I can only say what I myself do. Take the words of the sages reverentially, but keep in mind that the available data is incomplete and altered. Treat the scholars' (human) works as the foundation, but have a healthy questioning attitude. Try new things to see if they really work. Be open to good ideas wherever they come from. Tradition has its role. Undeniably we are very lucky to have such a rich base handed down to us. But we cannot stop there. When in doubt over a scholar's opinion, a saint's words are taken as more authoritative. In all matters of basic spiritual principles, the teachings of the saints may be considered from time to time.
One can pray and hope for guidance and be open to the truth in whatever form or wherever it comes from. If there are certain techniques in Western astrology that can enhance our understanding or practice of Jyotisha as an art or science, we should gladly be open to studying them. Science cannot stagnate. Each generation has to contribute something to further our knowledge. While this is applicable to Jyotisha too as a science, the spiritual foundations of Jyotish will remain unchanged, for they are based on certain timeless truths. The spiritual principles of Jyotish are based on relatively higher occult truths and this part of Jyotisha will not change. Any attempt to tamper with these principles will break the very foundations of Jyotisha. As JK proclaimed, "Truth is a pathless land". No country or religion or path can claim it exclusively. Salutations to all the brilliant astrologers! Salutations to all the sages who revealed the divine knowledge! Salutations to the One radiant Self that shines in all!
There is a general trend, a shift in paradigm since the last century with the progress in Quantum physics, which has influenced all areas of human knowledge. Nichola Tesla, an eminent physicist opined that, "The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence." Quantum physics has already opened a dialogue with other arts and sciences. Art, philosophy, poetry, physics, psychology, medicine and astrology, are all beginning to meet again as they did in the ancient times. Multidisciplinary studies into the cross roads between some of these fields will interest more and more seekers, eventually leading us 'Back to our Cosmic Roots'- the One Source of all.
What will be its impact on Astrology as an academic subject? 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. Astrology will sooner or later have to be ready for its new (?) role. 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, while 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 .
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 and the above is only a modern way of saying the same.