Vedic Astrology: Introduction & History
Every ancient civilization has evolved a science of astrology, the study of the effects of the zodiacal signs and planets on the tides of civilizations, world events, and individual lives. It has been in existence for countless millenia and has helped to shape and influence some of the greatest cultures in recorded history: India, China, Egypt, Rome, Babylon, Greece and the Mayan empire, to name only a few, charted their destinies according to the movements of Earth's celestial neighbors. Among the oldest of these, and surely the oldest still in use today, is the Vedic astrology of ancient India known as Jyotish, or the "science of light."
The scientific canon of Jyotish was reduced to writing between 1300 BCE and 590 CE. The earliest Vedic astrologers whose names are known today include Aryabhatu (476-523 CE) and Parasara (5th century CE) whose Hora Sastra was the first major individually-authored text to appear. The most renown Vedic astrologer, however, is Parasara's student, Vaharamihira (505-587 CE). Vaharamihira summarized all of the existing astrological and astronomical knowledge of his time into his master-work, Brihat Jataka, which is still today considered to be the definitive text in the field.
Jyotish represents the essential link between events at the macrocosmic, or universal level (Brahmanda) and the microcosm (Pindanda), viewed in the light of the non-dual unity of all creation (Advaitheeyam). Just as the position of Earth's moon exerts a mighty influence on the ebb and flow of ocean tides, so does it along with the other planet, exert just such an impact on the ebb and flow of energies through the human body and influence its propensity toward health and disease, integrity and dissolution, strength and weakness.
The unique sophistication of India's astrological system is the outcome of numberless generations of saints and sages immersed in the search of knowledge and truth. The Chaturvedas (four Vedas) are a rich source of documentation of the search for knowledge.
In India, Jyotish (alternately, Jyotisha) is considered a Vedanga (a part, or limb of the vedas), or Divinely-ratified science. The science of Jyotish comprises three branches: Siddhanta (celestial mechanics, or astronomy), Samhita (mundane astrology, or the astrology of weather, commerce, agriculture, epidemics, political changes, wars etc.) and Hora (predictive astrology, including the subdiscipline of Jataka, or natal horoscopy). It is within the realm of Jataka that the study and practice of medical astrology is placed.
Tropical vs. Siderial Zodiacs
As is the case with Western astrology, Jyotish makes use of a zodiac of twelve signs in houses occupied by nine planets: the five inner planets of antiquity (omitting the trans-Saturnian planets), the sun, the moon, and Rahu and Ketu (the north and south nodes of the moon). Each of the houses of the Vedic zodiac addresses a particular area of concern (or in the case of medical astrology, a particular bodily part, organ or tissue) and the planets occupying those houses bring their specific individual energies to those areas. There are, however, three striking differences between western and Vedic astrology: these are the use of a sidereal zodiac, the emphasis placed on the ascendant sign, and the concept of lunar mansions, or Nakshatras
Unlike western astrology, Jyotish employs a siderial rather than a tropical zodiac, using the stars as a fixed background against which to measure the motion of the planets. This differs completely from the system used by most western astrologers, which utilizes a system of measurement based on the Sun. Because of the gradual tilting of the earth in space on it's axis, the zodiac, if calculated from the Sun's relationship to the Earth, appears to be moving at the rate of about 1/60th of a degree annually. Currently, the relative or movable zodiac is out of alignment with the fixed or real star-based zodiac by roughly 23 degrees, which is almost one entire sign of the zodiac.
The Nakshatras are perhaps the most ancient part of Vedic astrology and are a uniquely Indian tool. They are the lunar constellations, or "Mansions of the Moon" comprising individual stars (known also as asterisms) of the zodiacal constellations. The Moon enters a new Nakshatra approximately each day of the month, and they provide a wealth of information far more specific than that offered by the stellar constellations.
The third major difference between western and Vedic astrology is the relative lack of emphasis placed on the natal Sun in favor of the ascendant sign.
In a biomedical context, each planet and sign of the zodiac is analogous to a body part, tissue or organ. To ascertain the state of an individual's health, the zodiacal signs found on the ascendant and the 6th house with their corresponding planetary rulers are first examined.. The part, tissue or organ associated with that sign or planet is held to be an especially vulnerable area in which pathology is likely to arise during potential health crises. Additionally, the 8th house is said to indicate vulnerabilities in the the realm of health and relates to issues of longevity.
In the medical natal horoscope, all twelve houses are taken to correspond to various parts of human body, thus:
1st House (Head, face, brain);
2nd (Neck and throat area);
3rd (Arms hands, lungs);
4th (Stomach, chest area, breasts);
5th (Heart, spleen, thoracic spine);
6th (Illness in general; small intestine, colon);
7th (Lumbar spine, reproductive organs, buttocks, kidneys);
8th (Chronic diseases, venereal diseases, pelvis, genitalia, anus);
9th (Arteries, liver, hips, thighs, bone marrow);
10th (Bones generally; knees, teeth);
11th (Circulatory system, ankles, ears); and
12th House: (Feet).
According to one text (the Phaladeepika of Manteswar, 15th century CE) a woman's ability to conceive is determined by whether the signs occupying the 5th and 7th houses of the Rasa Chakra (the birth chart) and the moon chart (formed by placing the moon in the ascendant position, and used only in the horoscopes of women) are fertile, semi-fertile or barren.
Similarly, the planets are seen to correlate to the seven tissues (saptadhatus) of the body:
Sun: Asthi (Bones);
Mercury: Rasa (Plasma);
Moon: Rakta (Blood);
Mars: Majja (Bone Marrow and Nerve);
Jupiter: Medda (Adipose tissue); Venus:
Shukra (reproductive tissue);
Saturn: Mamsa (Muscle)
If the sign or planet is well placed in the chart this will usually not present a serious health problem. If however that sign or planet is exceptionally weak in the context of the birth chart, the astrologer may prescribe the wearing of certain amulets of healing gemstones (corresponding to the signs or planets involved) to be worn around the neck or placed on an altar. A stone or stones may remedy a specific ailment, improve the state of the afflicted planet, or simply provide general protection for the person before a crisis arises.
The astrologer may also suggest praying to the afflicted planet's corresponding deity on a certain day of the week. The planet's color is taken into account when choosing the flowers to be placed n the altar when chanting certain prayers or mantras. The remedies corresponding to the strongest planets in the afflicted individual's chart are also sometimes used as added protection against illness.
Jyotish Applications in Ayurveda: Constitutional Determination
Jyotish's applications in the realm of health matters and in the practice of Ayurveda are many: we can diagnose disease, predict which body part or tissues will be affected, and determine the timing of health crises and their duration. We can prevent and assist in the treatment or palliation of disease processes with such astrologically-derived remedies as gemstones and by employing the tantra, mantra and yantra of health-promoting planets. In addition to its use in the prediction, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease, Vedic astrology can also play a role in establishing the individual mind-body constitution, or dosha and aid in the formulation of lifestyle and spiritual practices intended to optimize health based on doshic category.
In the determination of patient constitutions, Jyotish at least suggests, and quite often indicates, doshic category. The sage Sushrutha writes that "just as the Sun, the Moon and wind are necessary for the regular functioning of this world, so also are Vata, Pitta and Kapha necessary for the regulation of health in the human body." These three qualities work along the same lines in the cosmos as in the individual body. The Sun mostly governs Pitta, and a slight degree of impact upon of Vata. The Moon is held to govern Vata.
Astrology can also play a role in establishing the dosha, although it is most often used by Ayurvedic practitioners as a confirmation of conclusions drawn through subjective or objective examination. In diagnosing the constitution, the practitioner uses the ascendant and the lord of the ascendant (that is to say, the planet assigned as ruler to that zodiacal sign). By way of illustration, If the ascendant is Aries - a Pitta sign -, and the lord of the ascendant (Mars) is in Scorpio (a Pitta sign), it will point to a Pitta constitution.
Planets in the first house are also important, especially if they are close to the ascendant degree. Suppose someone has Saturn in the first, this is a strong indication for a Vata constitution. If a person has Jupiter in the first then that person tends to gain weight and may have a Kapha constitution (however, if Saturn aspects that Jupiter this tendency may not surface)
One also needs to ascertain which planets are in the sixth house and where their lord of the sixth house is placed. If Mercury is in the sixth house and in Pisces, that points to either a Vata (Mercury is a Vata planet) and/or a Kapha (Pisces is a Kapha sign) constitution. Furthermore, Jupiter is a Kapha planet (with a secondary Pitta character), the Sun is Pitta, Mars is Pitta, Saturn is Vata, the Moon is Kapha and Venus is Kapha (and to a lesser degree Vata).
Another factor that plays a role in the analysis is the position of the Moon. The Moon is an important influence on the human body. The questions we have to ask here are in which sign is the Moon placed and is the Moon in conjunction with other planets.
The strongest planet in the natal horoscope is important. Often this concerns a planet placed in its own sign or one that is exalted and placed in a house where it can develop its energy (for example houses 1, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10 or 11). If a certain planet in the horoscope is prominent, then that planet will color all the aspects of the life of the person involved, including his constitution.
There is an additional important point to be born: the natal chart that has been the subject of this article is but one of seventeen charts based on natal data. The other sixteen, known as Navamsa charts, are based upon divisions other than 12 houses of 30 degrees each. These Navamsa provide much deeper detail about the native, his or her health and other life conditions. Without dealing in detail at all with the sophisticated issues given rise to in the interpretation of Navamsas, their importance may be reckoned thus: if the natal chart tells us that the native is an American, the appropriate Navamsa will inform us that the native specifically is a Californian, a San Franciscan, a resident of the Castro neighborhood and living in a house on Polk Street.
Given the enormous breadth of information obtainable, the sophistication of Jyotish techniques, the sometimes indeterminate results of horoscopic analysis and the subtleties of horoscopic interpretation, it is unlikely that most Ayurvedic practitioners will undertake the superlatively rigorous steps needed to become full-time professional Vedic astrologers. But it is critically important that the practitioner of Ayurveda have a knowledge of this ancient and ennobled science, as well as its closely allied sister science of Numerology - sufficient to utilize its many facets to the maximum benefit of his or her patients.
Article provided by William Courson, BVSA, D.Ayur., CH, an Ayurvedic Practitioner, faculty member and the College Dean of Institutional Development at Sai Ayurvedic College & Ayurvedic Wellness Center in Miami, FL.