FIXING A MUHURTA- AN OUTLINE OF THE STEPS INVOLVED
------ © Dr. Satya Prakash Choudhary
Sometime back, immediately after a talk at an astrology meeting, a student who seemed to have been learning the subject for a few years came to me with a doubt, just to see if her method of fixing a muhurta needed any finishing touches. I looked into her notes and was shocked to say the least. She had done a mix of one 'system' and another 'paddhathi' on which she had a miserly sprinkling of few other jyotish principles! That was her way of fixing a muhurta. It betrayed her ignorance of the fundamentals of jyotish in its pure form. It is perhaps for reasons like this, that genuine lovers of traditional jyotish are allergic to such methodologies. No man's methodology, whatever its advantages, can replace or stand up to the ocean of Jyotish . A wave just cannot replace the ocean. While I had always been open to testing any methodology outside conventional jyotish, I was always aware that the authors of such paddhathis/systems claimed unreasonable things at times. I never took their criticism about traditional astrology seriously. But a beginner takes them too seriously and misses out on a large and substantial part of the learning process. Such rebel or non-traditional methodologies may perhaps be fine for discussion with a well-grounded astrologer. But it is a very good idea for a beginner to stick to traditional, so as to avoid the common pitfalls. The average learner tries various methods with partial knowledge, hops from one author to the other, manages to catch pieces of information from each place and person, and eventually tries to make sense of those fragments. The result? His knowledge of astrology is quite often a mass of ideas-undigested, unassimilated and unharmonised - running riot in his mind!
The process of selecting an auspicious moment to start any activity, is quite complex and needs a very good knowledge of Jyotish. Perhaps it is here that a vedic astrologer's actual acid test is. A large proportion of the self-styled vedic astrologers are ignorant of even the basics of fixing a muhurta. If one wants to learn pure jyotish first without any corruptions by the many so called researches, paddhathis and systems, if one wants to see how much one knows or has understood jyotish truly, before attempting to practice jyotish, one should really try his or her hand at muhurta. Jataka and Prasna have both been through certain influences of other schools of thought over the years. But Muhurta is perhaps the only area which has maintained its vedic origins and form intact over the thousands of years. Moreover the original purpose for which the vedic seers used a knowledge of astronomy, the main purpose for which vedanga jyotisa was evolved, is to time the various rituals in tune with the cosmic influences, in order to go with the flow of the cosmic currents. Since a good muhurta will ensure optimum outcome for the desired activity, the principles behind muhurta, are largely useful in deciding the outcome of any moment, based on an analysis of the quality of the moment or quality of the time. Since a natal chart is also a moment in time, the same principles are actually at work in Jataka too. It is for this reason that I would urge every sincere student of jyotish to learn muhurta well and then decide how much he really knows jyotish. But many underestimate the value of Muhurta as a subject in their eagerness to start predicting.
There are many books on this subject in the market. But no book addresses the subject FULLY and in a clear systematic and comprehensive manner. Generally in most books, the common topics are dealt with and then the steps in evaluating a muhurta are given. Since muhurta deals with hundreds of principles, one comes to cross-roads many times in fixing an auspicious moment. The most common questions that students ask are: Which component of the panchanga (pancha + anga = five limbs/components) is more important? What is the order of priority? Which one should be given preference? Is there a QUANTITATIVE way of justifying the choice of one muhurta over the other? And what of the quality? It is here that an astrologer's grasp of the subject comes across unmistakably.
The various components have a degree of preference/priority. There are quantitative as well as qualitative methods that are part and parcel of electing an auspicious moment. Since the subject is vast, I will outline the process in a very very skeletal manner in this post first. Later as time permits, I will expand upon various areas for the students. In fact when I outlined the whole subject with headings, side headings, key words, tables etc and left gaps for explanations to be inserted later, the file came to four hundred pages. This post may not teach you muhurta really, especially the beginner. But the student who has been around for a few years can check his knowledge and see how much of what is given below, is already a part of his practice.
I will simplify and outline the steps in fixing a muhurta now. I can expand them in later posts whenever possible. Other learned members may also expand on the topics if they wish to. I am dividing the process into various steps for convenience and clarity.
STEPS IN FIXING A MUHURTA :
1. General for any purpose on any chart
There are many doshas that an astrologer seeks to avoid in the muhurta chart, irrespective of the specific activity and individual chart, for which he is doing the job. After eliminating maximum number of doshas stated in the list, one should check for the malefic combinations that prevail due to the combinations of various components of the Panchanga. Malefic combinations are avoided while the presence of benefic combinations is preferred. A list of these is given later at the end.
2. Specific to the individual chart
Chandra bala (natal moon check)
Tara bala (strength of star)
After eliminating all malefic days in a particular period, we get some days free from those effects. With those days in hand we move on from the preliminary analysis to the main step of fixing the muhurta now.
Till now we have only avoided or eliminated certain days etc. Hereafter we will actually evaluate and consider certain days and ascendants for the muhurta. This involves the following four steps:
Finding the days having the suitable combination of the five components (pancha + anga= five limbs/components).
Finding a suitable ascendant depending upon the activity.
Ensuring the Strength and Appropriateness of Dasa, antardasa, and Significator of the activity
Finding the most auspicious moments within the ascendant chosen/ Amsha charts etc
Miscellaneous/Special considerations for various activities like marriage etc
Now I will outline and enumerate these steps below.
Finding the days having the suitable combination of the five components:
The first and the foremost requirement to fix a muhurta is the availability of the suitable five components. Depending upon the activity we first check whether the five components of panchanga, prevailing on the days free from malefic effects, suit the activity for which the muhurta is desired. The process of evaluating those energies is part of the initial evaluation. It is a process of choosing a good lunar day, weekday, Constellation, yoga and Karana.
The marks allotted are as follows according to the 'Phalita Navaratna Samgraha':
Lunar day = 1,
Weekday = 8,
Constellation = 4
Yoga = 32,
Karana = 16
Chandrabala = 100
Tarabala = 60
Now we move to the second step.
2. Fixing a suitable ascendant depending upon the activity.
Depending upon the nature of the activity, one should choose fixed, dual or movable signs as ascendants. After fixing a particular ascendant we should make sure of its strength and check whether it is free from certain malefic effects. This process can further be divided into three stages.
a.) Avoiding malefic combinations of the ascendent
The five major malefic effects that we should try to avoid with respect to an ascendant are given below.
Udayastha shuddhi (Ensuring Benefic Asc and 7 th houses)
Kartari (Malefics Scissoring)
Bhrigu Shatka (Venus in 6 th in fixed sign etc)
Moon in 6,8,12
Sagraha Chandra (Conjunctions with Moon)
b.) Quantitative Evaluation of the Ascendant
This is a process of checking the placement of planets with respect to that ascendant to make sure they add strength. For that we have two main methods are quantitative (marks can be allotted). They are:
In this step, we check whether five important planets in the muhurta chart are well placed. The five important planets that should be happy are: the lord of time (kaladhipa), ascendant lord, Jupiter, Moon and Sun. These planets are, in other words, like five bricks/panchestika that support a wall and make it strong.
This is different from the Vimshopaka bala of varga charts. This is more like rasi balam in that it allots points based on the positions of various planets in houses/rasis in the rasi chart. Each planet is decided to give positive, negative or neutral results depending upon its placement from the lagna. This varies from activity to activity, as each activity needs a different kind of energy.
3. Ensuring the Strength and Appropriateness of Dasa, antardasa, and Significator of the activity
After evaluating the ascendant in the above two ways we then check whether the signification house and the planet pertaining to the activity are happy; if possible, the dasa and the antara dasa lords should also be well placed in the chart.
4. Finding the most auspicious moments within the ascendant chosen/ Amsha charts etc
After making sure that we have an auspicious lagna in hand we proceed to the other subtle factors, which play an important role in the auspiciousness of a muhurta. For this, we use varga or divisional charts. Main points checked in this stage are:
Shodasa or Shadvargas (whichever is feasible)
Now I will enumerate the most important doshas to be avoided in the preliminary analysis. Hope you remember that I skipped this enumeration there to do list them here. This is actually part of the preliminary analysis.
Preliminary Doshas and malefic considerations
- Jupiter in Leo
- Jupiter in Capricorn
- Solar ingress
- Adhika masa
- Kshaya masa
- Kakracha yoga
- Samvartaka yoga
- Dagdha yoga
- Madhusarpisha yoga
- Hatashana yoga
- Dagdha yoga
- Yamghantha yoga
- Kaal danda yoga
- Dhumra yoga
- Dhwansha yoga
- Vajra yoga
- Mudgara yoga
- Padma yoga
- Lumba yoga
- Utpaata yoga
- Mrityu yoga
- Kaana yoga
- Musala yoga
- Gada yoga
- Maatanga yoga
- Raksha yoga
- Masa-shoonya tithis
- Masa shoonya Nakshatras
- Masa shoonya rashis
- Tithi shoonya rashis
- Tithi shoonya Nakshatras
- Tithi shoonya lagna
- Tripushkara yoga
- Dwipushkara yoga
- Adal yoga
- Vidal yoga
- Afflicted constellations
- Parva tithis
- Galgraha tithis
- Dagdha tithis
- Chidra tithis
As already stated earlier, expanding the above outlined steps, points and considerations, one may end up with a four hundred-page file. Instead of doing that, we could expand upon selected topics as required. Learned members on this list could also take up various topics. I will end this post by reiterating that knowledge of muhurta is a must to be a complete astrologer. A thorough understanding of the principles of Muhurta can actually help an astrologer appreciate the principles of traditional predictive astrology (Jataka) better and thereby make a better astrologer. In my next article I will introduce the five limbs/components of the panchanga/calendar, as also other variables like ayana, masa, etc for the benefit of a beginner.
Postscript: After I posted this article on a discussion forum, a reader raised a question on Yoga. It is an interesting question raised in good spirit. Since both the question and the answer are quite useful to a student and practitioner, I am including them in the postscript. I will reproduce the content of the letter without the other details.
"Thank you very much for your post on the above-mentioned subject. There is however a small clarification that I require:
According to Atharvana Jyotisha, Chapter 7, 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 Vaara eight-fold and the karana sixteen fold."
We find here that the Yoga is not given any weight age. Also in books on Muhurata, we find that the yoga is hardly ever given any consideration. But in your post, the yoga is given the maximum weight age of 32 points. May I know the rationale behind this?
A couple of years ago there was a very good article in the Martand Panchanga ( a very popular Panchanga in North India ), entitled " Kya Panchang Vaastav mein Panchanga hai ?" Here too, the author questioned the relevance of the yoga as it was hardly ever used in the practice of selecting a good Muhurata.
Your views, as well as those of the Gurus will be enlightening".
Now read the contents of my reply to the above.
I will answer your question as briefly as possible, as I am in a hurry since it is Monday morning. You raised a very interesting question by quoting the Hindi article. Why then do we call it 'PANCHA'nga if we are to use only four limbs? As opposed to what you say, every standard text discusses Yoga as an important limb of the Panchanga. Kalaprakasika? Narada Samhita? Phalita Navaratna Samgraha? Muhurta Chintamani? Muhurta Ganapati? All these texts discuss Yoga as an integral part of Muhurta.
The Kalaprakasika clearly says, " He who makes a study of the Panchangam-the tithi, the varam, the nakshatra, the yoga, the karana, of every day becomes free from all sins. Knowledge of tithi brings prosperity, knowledge of varam provides long life, knowledge of nakshatra causes the destruction of sins, knowledge of yoga gives immunity from disease; knowledge of karana leads to success in all endeavors. Thus Panchangam (the five angas or limbs) bestows five kinds of blessings".
Take the Narada Samhita now. After discussing the basics in the first three chapters, the next five chapters are devoted to the five limbs respectively. In fact the chapters are even referred to as:
4th chapter: 'Tithi'lakshanadhaya
5th chapter: 'Vara'lakshanadhyaya
6th chapter: 'Nakshatra'phaladhyaya
7th chapter: 'Yoga'adhyaya
8th chapter: 'Karana'dhyaya
It is true that some texts discuss Yoga in just a few verses as compared to Nakshatra or Tithi. But Karana generally gets even less space compared to Yoga. Space is not a criteria anyway. Most texts (such as Muhurta Chintamani, Kalaprakasika etc)include the nine malefic naisargika yogas in the list of 21 evils or doshas to be avoided, while the remaining texts (such as Muhurta Sindhu, Poorva Kalamrtam etc) deal with the two most malefic Yogas. Even a text like Poorvakalamrtam which hardly deals with Karana, Yoga etc, specifically refers to Vyatipata and Vaidhriti yogas as MAHA doshas to be avoided. I could list the many references to Yoga in the standard texts. But since your question pertains to yoga as an **integral limb of the Panchanga, the treatment of the five limbs in five seperate chapters named after the very limb (anga), as done by Narada Samhita, is the best proof that I can give you, apart from Kalaprakasika's assurance of the five kinds of blessings arising from a study of the five limbs.
And now to your doubt as to the rationale of assigning 32 points to Yoga and the verse from Atharvana Jyotisa that you quoted. If you observe closely, the number of points allotted to Tithi, Vara, Nakshatra and Karana are still the same in my post, as in Atharvana Jyotisa. Additionally Yoga, Chandra balam and Tarabalam are also dealt with. The points as allotted in my post is nothing but a verbatim application of what is given in the 'Phalita Navaratna Samgraha', not my opinion. And there is no contradiction between the two texts, as it may appear in the first look.
Take Vimpsopaka strengths for instance. The points allotted to various vargas varies in each scheme, depending on whether you are using Shadvargas or Dasavargas or Shodasavargas. The rasi which gets maximum weightage in Shadvarga scheme, occupies second place, the moment Shastyamsa is considered, as in Shodasavargas. Likewise when Yoga, Tarabala and Chandrabala are also considered, more weightage is given to them. In a general treatment of the limbs with no reference to a *SPECIFIC chart, Karana may get more marks. But when an individual chart is considered, TARABALA becomes the most important. What is the use if the tithi, vara and Nakshatra are generally good, but the Nakshatra is a Vipat, Pratyak or Naidhana tara with **reference to one's janma nakshatra? The weightage given to various factors keeps changing with the level of information and precision available. In a general sense, Karana is very important. But TARABALA is more important in an INDIVIDUAL chart. This is the rationale behind texts like 'Phalitanavaratna Samgraha'. At the same time they do not contradict Atharvana Jyotisa or any other text.
Moreover, even if one chooses a suitable nakshatra for an activity (not considering tarabala for a moment), if the yoga is malefic, it can mar the effects. So Yoga gets prominence. As the Kalaprakasika states, "The YOGA of the Nakshatra of the day chosen for the activity should be beneficial; if so, the result will be satisfactory". Thus a malefic Yoga can mar the effects of a nakshatra. That is why in Kalaprakasika, knowledge of Yoga is said to give immunity from disease, probably in a symbolic way. Just as sickness can reduce or at times mar one's chances of succeeding, Mahadoshas like Vaidhriti or Vyatipata can mar a muhurta. Any of the nine malefic nitya yogas can spoil the muhurta.
Thus in *FULLFLEDGED work in fixing a muhurta, the Nakshatra emerges as the most important, among all the five limbs, by vitue of **TARA BALA, not Tithi, or Vara or Karana or Yoga. But when a person does not know his birth details, or much about the other limbs of the panchanga, then Vara or Weekday is considered. So whether they have their charts or not, even illiterate villagers avoid Tuesdays and Saturdays generally for any activity. But an astrologer may choose a Tuesday for a Kroora and Ugra activity , after a close study of the chart and the Panchanga, since Tuesday has an Ugra-Krura (Aggressive-Cruel) quality to it. So Tuesdays are considered for activities like 'roga mukta snana' (taking bath after recovering from illness), cultivation of land, acts involving killing of birds/animals etc (not that I approve such activities!). But this doesnt contradict the general verses that state that tuesdays are inauspicious, since the texts state elsewhere that tuesdays may be considered for *some activities. So quoting one verse and trying to justify a view that no standard text on muhurta supports is highly misleading.
As for the original question of whether Yoga is to be used as an integral part of the Panchanga, it has been used and SHOULD be used as an important limb of the Panchanga, as it was meant to be. Any attempt to distort this fact cannot be justified, as the standard texts unambigiously declare Yoga not only as an integral limb of the Panchangam, but also as a very important consideration, since it can spoil the effects of an otherwise carefully chosen muhurta.
Hope this clarifies your doubts. An interesting question though!