A Journey into Vedic Astrology
Part One By Hank Friedman
[Like all of my Vedic astrology articles, this one would have never been written without the profound tutelage of my Vedic guru Hart de Fouw.]
Vedic astrology has a very long and continuous lineage, and while it has many, many branches, its main branch, called Parashari, is followed by the large majority of Vedic astrologers, and so that is what will be explored in this article.
It is very important to remember that the mindset in Jyotish (another name for Vedic astrology) differs greatly from modern Western thinking. Chart elements can be simultaneously good and bad and/or strong and weak, and disparate themes can all be outcomes of the same placement.
And so one must learn about the Vedic world view to begin to be able to approach a Vedic chart.
Before we examine the Vedic outlook, here are some core definitions.
A Brief Vedic Glossary
Aspects: In Jyotish, all planets in the same house as each other or in opposite houses "see" each other. Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn can also see other planets through their special aspects.
Planets also aspect houses, even when they are empty.
Benefics and Malefics: From strongest to weakest, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury (when not only aspected by malefics), and The Moon (unless dark, i.e. near New) are the natural benefics in a chart. They raise up the houses they occupy and aspect.
The Nodes (Rahu and Ketu), Saturn, and Mars are the natural malefics, harming the houses they occupy and aspect (except the house they occupy if in their own sign or exalted).
The Sun is seen at times as cruel, but also other times as positive.
In addition, Temporal benefics rule good houses (see below) and temporal malefics rule bad houses. When a planet rules two good houses, like Mars for Cancer and Leo Ascendants, it becomes the Raja Yoga Karaka, and can easily form yogas with other planets.
Bhava: While used synonymously with the word house in astrology, a Bhava signifies both a place and an energetic state. Since Jyotishis use Whole Sign Houses, the entirety of each house is one sign, and so house and sign are used interchangeably for specific charts.
Dasha: A time period wherein a specific planet's themes are dominant. During a planet's Dasha, the house it occupies, the houses it aspects and rules, the planets it is with and aspects, its significations, and its placement in D-charts all are enlivened.
Bhuktis are sub-cycles. Because Dashas can be from 6 to 20 years in length, in order to achieve greater specifity, the Dasha period is subdivided into smaller sections. The relationship between the Dasha lord (the planet activated by the Dasha) and the Bhukti lord reveals a great deal of information, including when the themes represented by their relationship will arise and be addressed.
D-Charts: In Jyotish, the birth chart is only one of many charts that are used. The other charts are all derived from the birth chart by magnifying the chart is a specific manner. These charts are called Varga charts, Amsha charts, divisional charts, or D-charts for short. Many are equivalent to Western astrology's harmonic charts
Dig Bala: The strength that planets get when they reside in a specific house.
Good Houses: All houses except 6, 8, and 12, which are the bad houses. The 3rd house is a mild bad house.
Graha: Loosely translated as planet, a graha is a seizer, i.e. a planet seizes you and has a major influence over your life.
Karma: Karma means two different things in Vedic astrology.
The most common meaning is the positive and negative past life impacts upon a person's life. There is fixed karma, hard-to-change karma, and easy-to-change karma. The 5th and 9th houses point to positive karmic patterns, and the 12th house to negative karmic patterns, but many other configurations in a chart also indicate different karmas.
A less common meaning of karma is "doing", i.e. achieving and accomplishing, all of which is the province of the 10th house.
Rashi: A sign, with the implication of representing a heap of significations.
Swa: A planet in its own sign. This makes a planet stronger.
Whole Sign Houses: A house system where each house begins with Zero degrees of a sign and ends at 30 degrees (the end) of that sign.
Yogas: Yoga means union, and in Jyotish it means the union of planets, specifically combinations of placement, house rulerships and strength/weakness that either lift a person's life above the ordinary or drag it down notably. Raja Yogas are positive yogas that significantly enhance the themes of the house(s) occupied by the yoga-forming planets.
As a general rule, if planets are strong and rule good houses, they form positive yogas, while if they are weak and rule bad houses, they form negative yogas.
The Grahas in Jyotish
While most of the meanings of the planets in Western astrology (which you can explore elsewhere on my Learn Astrology Free website) also work in Jyotish, Vedic astrology understands the planets in additional ways.
The Sun is Sattvic and as such represents the higher aspects of the Soul. Like in Western astrology, the Sun represents vitality, the Father, personal power, etc.
The Moon represents Manas, the physical apparatus of the brain, and dysfunctions therein. It represents liquids, happiness, and plants.
Mercury represents Buddhi, the intelligence, and is mercantile, and asexual and prepubescent.
Venus is the "counselor to the demons" and is the enemy of Jupiter, and as such is considered unreceptive to wisdom. In Jyotish, Venus represents sexuality much more than Mars does.
Mars: The orbit of Mars when it is retrograde was impossible for the ancients to predict, and so Mars is seen as the planet that "goes its own way" (much like Uranus in Western astrology), e.g. unpredictable, rebellious, and independent of others. Mars is too hot for relationships and can only marry another "Martian" well.
Jupiter is a deeply stabilizing influence. It works "within the system" and is steady, committed, and patient. As the "therapist to the Gods" it is wise, inspired, and an excellent counselor.
Saturn has the Ayurvedic body type of Vata in Jyotish, which means that it represents anxiety and stress and indecision/doubt and being ungrounded. Old age, disease, blue collar workers, and society's pariahs are represented by Saturn. Saturn also represents foreigners and heterodoxy, e.g. if in the 7th House, the spouse is very likely to be very different than the person (in age, or race, or religion, or culture, etc.).
Rahu: Please look at my many articles on Rahu and Ketu on this website. Rahu represents unquenchable desires, the drive to acquire and to achieve, an inflamed ego, deception of oneself and others, and unexpected rises.
Ketu can indicate feelings of invisibility, low self esteem, and vulnerability as well as impulsive actions, and also surrender and the relinquishment of ego, either to other people (codependence and self-effacement) or to God (spiritual pursuits and enlightenment).
The word "And" seems so simple, and yet in a world that is so often dichotomized, where things are either left or right, up or down, forward or backward, and positive or negative, it seems alien to think in ways where both sides of a polarity can be present and active at the same time.
When a planet rules both a good house and a bad house, for instance, it will do both good and bad in different circumstances. And a planet with both strength and weakness does not become neutral but instead manifests both attributes at different times.
The ability to work with opposite qualities in the same planet is actually how Vedic astrologers are able to be so incredibly adept at understanding life. People are indeed paradoxical and contradictory and so the Vedic approach understands people as they really are.
To state it another way, everything about each configuration in a chart will manifest, both its positive and its negative attributes, as well as both its strengths and weaknesses.
Again, when a planet is both strong and weak then some of its themes will be augmented and other of its themes will be diminished or challenging. It takes skilled pattern recognition and a deep grasp of Jyotish to develop great accuracy in knowing what will happen in different life contexts.
My Vedic Guru, Hart de Fouw, introduced and used this word frequently. Confluence means that in a chart, many different configurations all indicate the same results. There are many contradictory factors in a chart, so when the majority of factors in the chart "all point in the same direction", strong patterns emerge. And when this happens, the karma represented is quite fixed in nature.
For example, the first three Vedic astrologers who looked at my chart immediately said with certainty as their first words to me, "you had no children", and they were right. Every part of the chart having to do with children confluently showed that it wouldn't happen for me. I even wanted children but never had them.
When the indicators of theme in a chart do not all (confluently) point to either a positive or negative outcome, one has to determine if there is a discernible "tilt" in one direction or the other.
Outcomes are more likely to manifest positively if the planets involved are strong and well-placed by house, and more likely to manifest negatively if the planets are weak and poorly placed.
E.g. I have a Bright Moon in Scorpio in the 4th house opposite Mercury and Venus in Taurus. Because of the Moon's placement, there are both positive and negative indicators for my Mother.
The positive qualities are Dig Bala, a Bright Moon, aspected by a strong benefic, and a Neecha Bhanga Raja Yoga (a notable amelioration of the Moon's weakness by sign), while the negative qualities are that it's the 12th lord (i.e. ruler of the 12th house) and in its weakest sign.
Because the positives "outweigh" the negatives, my Mother was loving, devoted, and incredibly supportive. And the negative qualities did manifest too, as she was anxious and insecure and impacted by the early death of my Father.
Vedic astrology sees charts in a much more dynamic way than Western astrology. While there is certainly a lot to be understood about a chart by focusing on it without regard to unfolding cycles (Dashas), the central Vedic view is that many features of a chart will only manifest when their cycles occur. In other words, a planet's themes will fully arise when its Dasha runs.
For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger had a series of Dashas that prevented him from getting married. When he finally entered a Dasha that supported marriage, he tied the knot and settled down.
The Field Of
The concept of "The Field of" means that instead of presuming that a placement indicates just one possibility, e.g. of failure or success, placements can manifest in a variety of different ways.
For example, as alluded to above, there is a chart called the Navamsha used for assessing one's primary relationship. If a person is running a Dasha that is bad for the marriage chart, it could mean many different things.
A literalist might presume that the time period would be one of fighting with ones spouse, but that might not be it at all.
Instead, it could be that during that time a person can't find a partner,
or starts a short-lived relationship or one with lots of issues,
or if partnered, then the spouse is too busy at work to give time to the relationship, or that the spouse is wrestling with a major issue (e.g. health, financial, familial, professional, creative, etc.), or it could mean that the person themselves is preoccupied with other things -- causing the relationship to be neglected, or it could mean an infatuation or infidelity on either person's part, or it could mean that one of the pair is dealing with deep issues in therapy and unable to fully show up in the relationship, or ...
In other words, something in "the field of" relationship is less than optimal, but exactly what must be determined by the nature of the factors involved.
(And, of course, a different set of possibilities arise during challenging periods in the career chart, e.g. the inability to find a job, or conflict with the boss, or a project the person dislikes, or a too busy schedule, or missing out on a promotion, etc.)
To approach a chart this way requires a greater flexibility of mind and more openness and creativity, in order to be able to tease out exactly which of the myriad of possibilities is likely to occur.
While some Western astrologers give emphasis to the houses ruled by planets, Vedic astrologers use rulerships much, much more extensively. In fact, yogas are based primarily on house rulership.
The houses that planets rule have a huge influence on their expression, and affect the house they occupy, and as aforementioned, can create positive or negative yogas.
If a planet rules a "bad house" then it causes problems for the themes of the house it occupies. If two planets are in the same house and both rule good houses, then they greatly advance the matters of the house occupied.
Many types of astrology work even if the person interprets individual planets by themselves, that is without attending to the rest of the chart.
But Jyotish requires stepping back and understanding the inter-relating all of the planets and their signs and their rulerships in order to comprehend the person's life. Although this might seem daunting, the benefits of seeing the "gestalt", that is seeing the entirety, of the chart is phenomenal, which is why Vedic astrologers can have such incredible accuracy and deep understanding.
Same Planets, Different Results
There are a myriad of Vedic principles to consider when evaluating the placements of planets in a Vedic chart, and so the same exact planet or planets can indicate many different things at the same time.
For example, in the chart of Barack Obama, Jupiter retrograde in Capricorn in the First House with Saturn in Capricorn, aspecting the Sun and Mercury in the Seventh House, and the Fifth House (containing the exalted Moon) and Ninth House, has these meanings, among others:
As the 12th lord, Jupiter adds both humility and timidity to his personality (in the First House with the First Lord)
Since Jupiter, the 3rd lord, is aspecting the 5th house, I knew he had to be a writer (the 3rd House represents the hands and the 5th house creativity) and indeed I discovered (after perceiving this in his chart) that writing has been central to his life for a long time, and he has written and published several books (9th House of publishing, also aspected by Jupiter).
Because it's in its weakest sign, Jupiter represents self-doubt and his inability to fully trust his own wisdom, but the Neecha Bhanga Raja Yoga formed by Jupiter being in the same house as the lord of the sign (Saturn in Capricorn) creates a unique "reversal" giving him a very powerful mind and deep wisdom.
In other words, Jupiter in Obama's chart is strong and weak, and so he both is wise and doubtful.
While both Saturn and Mercury would argue against his getting married (both being neuter planets and influencing the 7th house), Jupiter is very strong (Dig Bala, Retrograde, and Swa in the Navamsha) and being the ultimate planet of commitment, enabled him to marry and stay married.
Jupiter's aspect on his 5th house, and on his exalted Moon, shows his deep devotion to his children, which he has written about.
The spiritual Raja Yoga formed by the 9th lord (Mercury) opposite the 1st lord (Saturn) shows his deeply spiritual nature, and both the aspect of Jupiter on both planets and the fact that Jupiter is also the 12th lord only reinforces this.
In Obama's chart, Jupiter, while being the strongest natural benefic, is also a temporal malefic because it rules the 3rd and 12th houses. Temporal malefics bring hardship to the area of life they occupy. Since Jupiter is in the First House (oneself), Barack himself suffered.
In his early life, his father left and had nothing to do with him, his parents divorced, he and his mother and step-father moved to Indonesia, and then he was sent back to Hawaii without his mother because she felt that he wasn't safe in Indonesia. That's a lot of turmoil and loss in a young person's life.
I would have surmised that with Saturn's aspects on both Jupiter (as 3rd lord) and the 3rd house itself, that Barack Obama would not have had any siblings. But I temporarily forgot that Saturn could stop full siblings but its heterodoxy could manifest as half-siblings. In fact, he only grew up with one half-sibling, and met the others as an adult.
A Living Organism
While a chart can be draw for events and other things, our primary focus is on the charts of people. Therefore the chart needs to be treated as if it were alive. And like a living organism, every part of the chart is like an organ of the body, of necessity influencing and being influenced by every other part of the chart.
When we approach a Jyotish horoscope, we need to expand our minds to embrace all of its diversity, contrasts, and synergies, looking at it with a very open and flexible mind. And as I've said elsewhere, listen to the whispers from both Spirit and the chart itself, in order to experience its stories and its truth.