Vedic astrology, or Jyotisha as it is called in Sanskrit, is an ancient system of divination developed many centuries ago in India during the Vedic period. This divine system, an integral part of the Vedic tradition, was revealed in its earliest form by the rishis, or Vedic seers, and has evolved over the millennia into many varied and diverse forms. The form used in this practice is the most commonly used, called Parashari Jyotisha, which was organized and codified by the great sage Maharishi Parashara.
The Sanskrit roots of the term Jyotisha are Jyoti, or ‘light’, and Isha, or ‘Lord’. These ‘Lords of Light’ are the Sun, Moon, and visible planets, which form a common aspect of the environment of all living creatures on the earth. Vedic astrology is, in effect, a study of the correlation between these celestial bodies and conditions and events in our individual lives.
Jyotisha, unlike other forms of astrology, is not a ‘standalone’ system, but is rather an integral part of the vast tapestry of Vedic thought, an edifice which includes medicine (Ayurveda), spiritual practice (Yoga), philosophy, political science, and other related disciplines. They support and enhance each other to a degree that is unparalleled in any other system of knowledge known.
Central to the philosophy of Jyotisha are the concepts of karma and reincarnation. Karma is the law of action and reaction. But rather than being a means of punishment or reward, as is commonly believed, karma is rather a process for learning. It is the means by which we experience, and learn from, all aspects of a particular action or dynamic. If our actions, be they helpful or hurtful, affect another person, then we cannot fully understand that dynamic until we have experienced it from both points of view, i.e. the doer and the recipient of the action.
As we go through life, we experience the results of our past karmas and, by our actions and intent, generate new ones. The karmic patterns that we thus generate are stored in our being at a very deep level. After we die and are about to incarnate into a new life, we do so into one that will give us the best opportunities for learning based upon our store of past karmas. The positions of the planets at the moment we are born indicate the general pattern of circumstances and events in the life to come. In the same way that we select a course of study at a university or college, by choosing the courses which will best match our goals, the pattern of events to happen in a particular lifetime – as shown by the planetary positions – can be matched to our karmic leaning needs.
Additional to this general static karmic life pattern, as indicated by the planetary positions at birth, Jyotisha has a system of dynamic life cycles which indicate, for any given time in a person’s life, which of the karmic potentials shown in the birth chart will be active, and to whst degree. Knowing these patterns can help us to ‘go with the flow’ and give us valuable insights into the best way to live our life. It can show us where we should focus our energy, and what aspects of our life we need to let go of.
In its earlier forms Vedic astrology seems to have been a Moon-based system, oriented around 27 Nakshatras or lunar mansions located along the zodiac circle. In time, though, it came to incorporate the 12 signs of the Sun-based zodiac, which are central to modern Western astrology. As the Sun and Moon generally represent male and female respectively in both systems, Jyotisha thus places roughly equal emphasis on each. Western astrology, on the other hand, gives primacy to the Sun.
Another major difference between the two systems is that they use different zodiacs (the circle made by the earth as it orbits the Sun). Western astrology uses the tropical zodiac, which is constantly moving, and varies in location according to the position of the Sun with respect to the earth’s axial tilt. Vedic astrology, on the other hand, uses the unmoving sidereal zodiac of fixed star patterns. The Sun represents our individuality, or who we are with respect to ourself, and since Western astrology uses the tropical or Sun-based zodiac, it reflects this orientation in its tone and scope. The sidereal zodiac, on the other hand, reflects our karmic life patterns, and shows who we are with respect to the external or ‘outer’ world.
For example, Western astrology can show us our general attitude towards money, but the Vedic system reveals whether we will be rich or poor, and how our financial conditions will change over the course of our life.
The basic elements of Vedic astrology are similar to those of the Western system, i.e. the planets, signs, houses, aspects, etc., but the rules of interpretation are very different. Vedic astrology also has a vast array of methodologies that give a great deal of information about many aspects of our life.
One of the most common uses of Vedic astrology in India has been the matching of two people for the purpose of matrimony. Since most marriages in India have traditionally been arranged, and the couple did not usually meet until their wedding day, Jyotisha was used to ensure that the partners-to-be would be compatible.
This comparison was done for a variety of criteria, such as health and longevity, children, wealth, sexual compatibility, mutual attraction, and respect. The couple can also be assessed from the point of view of compatibility in the areas of life circumstances, emotional nature, ideals, and means of enjoyment. When comparing the charts of two people, it is very important to see both the karmic issues each person has in their own chart, and the nature of the dynamic with the other person. If a person wishes to leave a relationship, but the issues they are having with a partner are indicated by a pattern in their own chart, then they will likely encounter the same issue with another partner.
Sometimes difficulties in a relationship arise because one of the partners is going through a particularly challenging life cycle. Knowing when the cycle will end, and when the issues will be resolved can sometimes save a relationship.
The comparison of two charts can be done for potential business partners, as well as for marriage. It can be done in advance, if a couple is considering marriage, or during marriage for the purposes of helping the couple understand the dynamics of their relationship.