The Differences between Western & Vedic Astrology

An Introduction by Hank Friedman


Note: in 2005 I wrote an article called "Approaching Jyotish: A Comparison of Western and Vedic Astrology" which was oriented towards helping the Western astrologer to begin to approach Vedic astrology. I highly recommend that you read it, as its content complements that of this article.

I prepared this article, which includes a table -- placed at the end of this article -- clearly illustrating the differences between both systems, because I wanted to focus on the procedures of both approaches, not just Jyotish, and to cover a little more ground.

I have a great deal of respect for both Western and Vedic astrology. I practice both, and find the "dance" between them exceptionally enriching. Please understand, however, that – especially when learning each system – one should carefully avoid applying the principles present in one of the approaches to the other approach, as it can "muddy the waters".

When I first learned Jyotish, I was careful to keep all of my understandings of Western astrology compartmentalized and separate, until I had gained fluency in Vedic astrology. Only after doing so was I able to begin to see how each system might interact with the other.

1. Definitions

In truth, there is no unified approach used by most Western astrologers. They may favor using Outer Planet transits or Progressions or Directions for their primary predictive tool, and some include additional bodies like asteroids, the comet Chiron, Arabic Parts (Greek Lots), Fixed Stars, Hypothetical Points, and Uranians and Plutonians, or even adopt radically different approaches like the Huber method, Evolutionary Astrology, or Symmetrical Astrology (aka Cosmobiology).

Similarly, there are literally thousands of Vedic astrological approaches, including -- among the most popular systems -- Parashari, Jaimini, Laghu Parashari, Krishnamurti Paddhati, and Shri Pati Paddhati. In point of fact, the "bible" of Vedic astrology, called Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, is actually a compendium of independent approaches, some of which actually contradict others. This has led some Jaimini astrologers to call their approach Parashari (since there are many Jaimini chapters in BPHS), further confusing the issue.

For the purposes of this article, I am focusing on modern Western astrology as practiced by many professional astrologers (ignoring the multitudinous variations), and on Parashari astrology as explicated in Phaladeepika and much of BPHS.

2. Fundamental differences between Western and Vedic astrology

Zodiac

The most foundational difference between Western and Vedic astrology is each system's choice of Zodiac. Western astrologers use the Tropical Zodiac, where the beginnings of the twelve signs are determined by the Sun's apparent orbit around the Earth, i.e. the onset of the four seasons, i.e. when the Sun crosses the Equator (going North at Spring which defines Aries and South in the Fall indicating the beginning of Libra) and its uppermost and lowest points (the Summer and Winter Solstices).

Vedic astrologers, on the other hand, use the Sidereal Zodiac, which is based upon the physical positions of the constellations in the sky. They choose a starting point (most commonly the place in the sky opposite to Spica) for the beginning of Aries, and proceed in equal 30 degree segments for subsequent signs.

While planets in signs are used extensively in Western astrology as the major definer of the expression of a planet, Vedic astrology uses signs differently, and reviewed in my article The Vedic Signs at: http://www.learnastrologyfree.com/vedicsigns.htm

House System

In addition, most modern Western astrologers use one of the many house systems that places the degree of the Ascendant as the beginning of the First House, with either unequally- or equally-sized houses. Vedic astrologers, by and large, use Whole Sign Houses, where the Ascendant can fall anywhere in the First House, and each house comprises all of one sign. Many also use Bhava/Shri Pati houses for a portion of their work.

Planets and Sign rulerships

Western astrologers use all of the major planets including Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, and most attribute rulership of Aquarius to Uranus, Pisces to Neptune, and Scorpio to Pluto. Vedic astrologers, on the other hand, stick to the visible planets, i.e. those through Saturn, using the traditional rulerships, of Aquarius to Saturn, Pisces to Jupiter, and Scorpio to Mars.

While planets in signs are used extensively in Western astrology as the major definer of the expression of a planet, Vedic astrology uses signs differently, as reviewed in my article The Vedic Signs at: http://www.learnastrologyfree.com/vedicsigns.htm

Aspects, Orbs, Aspect Patterns & Chart Shape

Western astrologers use an assortment of aspects, always including the five Ptolemaic aspects (conjunction, sextile, square, trine, and opposition), with tight orbs of 10 degrees or less, determined by the type of aspect. Planets only aspect other planets and the angles (Ascendant and Midheaven).

Vedic astrologers use a different approach: each planet associates with all planets in the same house, and aspects the opposite house and any planets in that house. Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter also have additional (unilateral) special aspects to both planets and houses.

Western astrologers also place importance upon aspect patterns like Grand Trines, T-squares, Yods, etc. which are unused by Vedic astrologers. However, while many Western astrologers employ the seven whole chart shapes originated by Marc Edmund Jones (e.g. Bucket, Splash, etc.), Vedic astrologers have a very large set of delineations of whole chart patterns, seen as yogas.

3. Differences in Approaches and Methodology

Strengths and Weaknesses of Planets

In Western astrology, retrograde planets are seen as weak, but since Vedic astrology is oriented towards how planets appear in the actual sky, retrograde planets are seen as strong (because planets that are retrograde are at their closest approach to the earth, and therefore visibly both brighter and larger).

Western astrologers also see planets occupying the sign opposite to the sign they rule as weak (which they call debilitated), while Vedic astrologers do not see such sign positions as weak. (This gets confusing to Western readers of Vedic texts, because Vedic astrologers do see planets in the sign opposite to their exaltation sign as weak, and call such planets either debilitated or fallen interchangeably.)

Modern Western astrologers seldom employ the concept of combustion (i.e. when a planets is near the Sun), but Vedic astrologers utilize combustion as a fundamental principle: a planets is weak when within 6 degrees of the Sun (and very weak within 3 degrees of the Sun).

Some Western astrologers interpret 8 lunar phases, but they generally don't assess Lunar strength by phase. Vedic astrologers place great importance on Lunar phase, and delineate 30 different Tithis, and consider the Moon as weak when it's within 72 degrees of the Sun, and strong when within one sign of opposite to the Sun. (They also see the Moon as weaker when waning than when waxing.)

Vedic astrologers consider true planets (Mercury through Saturn) that are within one degree of each other as at war, and this indicates a major weakness. This is not used in Western astrology.

When a planet is in the same sign in both the natal chart and the Navamsha chart (with the exception of it being in fall), this gives the planet strength, (in Vedic astrology), but this is not used in Western astrology.

In Vedic astrology, planets get directional strength (Dig Bala) by occupying specific angles: Jupiter & Mercury in the 1st, Moon & Venus in the 4th, Sun & Mars in the 10th, and Saturn in the 7th. Western astrologers do not use this concept.

The status of a planet's dispositor is rarely focused on in Western astrology, but in Vedic astrology, each planet's dispositor is seen as the soul of the planet, and is therefore very important. In fact, while exalted planets in Western astrology are always seen as very strong without qualification, in Vedic astrology, if the planet ruling the sign occupied by an exalted planet is weak by sign, then the exalted planet is not seen as strong. Similarly, Fallen planets are seen as invariably weak in Western astrology, but in Vedic astrology they are strengthened if their dispositor is strong, angular, or meets other criteria.

Mutual reception is used by some Western astrologers and by all Vedic astrologers. In Vedic astrology, it is called a Parivartana yoga, and has extensive interpretive meanings including strengthening planets in both the natal and divisional charts.

Benefics and Malefics

While Western astrology recognizes Saturn as challenging, the concept of benefic and malefic planets is employed to a much greater extent in Vedic astrology. E.g. Mercury is benefic unless solely under the influence of other malefics, the Moon is benefic unless within 72 degrees of the Sun, and Jupiter and Venus are always benefic. The Sun, Mars, Saturn, and the Nodes are malefics.

House Meanings and Rulership

Houses in Western astrology are rarely classified beyond their angularity or lack thereof, and their elemental affiliation. In Vedic astrology, houses are classified by a multitude of criteria including good/bad, upachaya/apachaya (improving or not), kendras & trikonas, marakas, and more.

The rulership of houses is used by some Western astrologers, but is at the core of Vedic astrological interpretation. The analysis of planetary yogas in the Vedic chart relies mainly upon the houses ruled by individual planets and pairs of planets.

Additional Methods of Analysis

Transits, especially by the outer planets, are the main predictive device used by Western astrologers, but some use progressions and/or directions too. Vedic astrologers rely primarily upon the Vimshottari dasa system (cycles and sub-cycles wherein specific natal planets are activated ), and secondarily employ the transits of Jupiter and Saturn (but not the transits by Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto). Some also employ other dasa systems.

Lunar Mansions/Nakshatras

It is the rare Western astrologer who uses lunar mansions, but Vedic astrologers, who call them Nakshatras, use them for dasa calculation, electional astrology (Muhurta), and for natal work. In fact, the use of Nakshatras for Muhurta may even precede the use of the 12 signs in astrology.

Harmonic/Divisional Charts

Harmonic charts, called Varga or Divisional charts in Vedic astrology, are essential to natal and predictive analysis in Jyotish, but are largely unused in Western astrology.

Synastry

Western astrology is rich in methods of compatibility analysis including examining placement of planets in each other's houses, inter-aspects (between the charts), and a variety of combined (e.g. Composite) charts.

Vedic compatibility assessment is primarily done by examining the two partner's Moon positions, examining many Lunar attributes. In addition, the Navamsha chart is used in both in assessing the partner and in timing of relationships (and the changing relationship climate).

Additional Points

Western astrologers often add the comet Chiron and the four major asteroids to charts, as well as the Part of Fortune. Some even add many other points. Vedic astrologers generally don't add other points, but a small minority add Upagrahas (hypothetical points) or Sahams (aka Arabic Parts).

A Note on Traditional Astrology: There are many more commonalities between Traditional (aka Hellenistic) Astrology and Vedic Astrology than between either of these with modern Western astrology , including the aforementioned Whole Sign Houses and aspects, traditional rulerships, the use of only the visible planets, good and bad houses, and more. For Robert Schmidt's view on both systems, click here.

The Differences Between Western and Vedic Astrology

Component

Western

Vedic

Fundamental differences

Zodiac

Tropical (Seasonal)

Sidereal (Constellational)

House System

Ascendant on First House cusp,

one of many house systems selected

Whole Signs (Ascendant in the 1st)

two major house systems used

Planets

Visible plus Uranus, Neptune, Pluto

Visible only

Planets in signs

Central to chart interpretation

Used differently, especially to assess planetary strength

Sign rulerships

Aquarius to Uranus, Pisces to Neptune, Scorpio to Pluto

Traditional (Aquarius to Saturn, Pisces to Jupiter, Scorpio to Mars)

Aspects

conjunction, sextile, square, trine & opposition with <10 degree orbs; aspects only to planets & angles

conjunction & opposition by whole sign, with Mars, Jupiter & Saturn having special whole sign aspects

Differences in Approaches and Methodology

Assessing Strength and Weakness

Retrogradation

weakness

strength

planet in sign opposite to ruled

weak, called debilitated

not used

Combust

rarely used

important weakness

strong-weak Moon by phase

unused

Dark Moon/ waning is weak,

 Bright Moon strong/waxing strong

planetary war

unused

major weakness

vargottama

unused

significant strength

dig bala

unused

major strength

dispositorship

sometimes used

of major importance

mutual reception

used by some astrologers

a major yoga used in delineation

exalted by sign

strong

strong unless sign ruler weak

fallen by sign

weak

weak unless sign ruler strong +

benefic/malefic planets

not used per se

(although Saturn is seen as highly impactful)

Sun, Mars, Saturn & Nodes malefic

Venus, Jupiter benefic & usually Moon and Mercury too

House Meanings and Rulership

good/bad houses

largely ignored

crucial to chart interpretation

house classifications

angular, succedent, cadent

fire, air, water, earth

Western types + maraka, upachaya, good/bad, kendra/trikona & more

rulership of houses

used occasionally by some Western astrologers

deeply central to chart analysis, e.g. the formation of planetary yogas

Additional Methods of Analysis

Aspect Patterns

Grand Trine, T-Square, Grand Cross, Yod, and others used

not used

Chart shape

Marc Edmund Jones patterns

an extensive set of yogas

Lunar phases

8 lunar phases

16 Tithis

methods of prediction

transits (especially by outer planets), progressions, directions

Vimshottari dasas, secondarily transits by Jupiter & Saturn

lunar mansions

aka Nakshatras

rarely used

central to dasa calculation & elections, of major importance

harmonic/

Varga Charts

seldom used

used extensively in both natal and predictive work

assessing compatibility

interaspects between charts, cross-house placement, composite charts

Kuta analysis &

Navamsha assessment

added chart points

the comet Chiron, the four major asteroids, and possibly others.

usually no extra points, but some add upagrahas and sahams.



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