An Introduction to Dasas
by Hank Friedman
(Note: This is the handout I created for my keynote presentation at the Blast Conference in Sedona.)
A Dasa is simply a period of time ruled by a specific planet, during which that planet's themes dominate ones life. The planet whose Dasa is running is called the Dasa lord. The most commonly used Dasa system is called Vimshottari Dasa which means 120 year period (the length of the entire cycle).
The implicit understanding in Vedic astrology is that every factor in a person's chart is not active at all times. In fact, some may never fully appear in a person's life. A planet's themes fully emerge during the running of its Dasa. During such a period, there may be dynamic ripening of ones gifts, the working through and resolution of karmic issues, the arising of events signified by the planet, etc. Everything a Dasa lord influences is activated during its period - the houses it occupies and rules, every planet it aspects, and the themes it signifies (e.g. Venus signifies relationships and vehicles).
One dasa follows another in a fixed planetary sequence. The order is Ketu (the Moon's South Node), Venus, Sun, Moon, Mars, Rahu (the Moon's North Node), Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, and back to Ketu. E.g. after running their Venus dasa, a person will always run their Sun dasa next. The duration of each Dasa period is also fixed: the Sun Dasa lasts 6 years, Mars & Ketu 7 years each, Moon 10 years, Jupiter 16 years, Mercury 17 years, Rahu 18 years, Saturn 19 years, and Venus 20 years.
The starting point of the Dasa sequence for each person is calculated from the position of their Moon at birth. The Dasa system came into being at a time when the Moon's movement in the sky was closely watched. The section of the heavens transited by the Moon each day is called its lunar mansion or Nakshatra. Every day the Moon moves into a new nakshatra, and each nakshatra is ruled by a different planet. At the time of a person's birth, the planet that rules the nakshatra the Moon occupies becomes the first Dasa lord. For example, Tom Hanks birth Moon was in the Nakshatra called Pushyami, which is ruled by Saturn. Therefore, the first Dasa in his life was his Saturn Dasha. Since the Moon had almost finished its transit through Pushyami by the time Tom was born, he quickly entered his Mercury Dasa when he was one month old.
The period at the end of one Dasa and the beginning of the next is called a Sandhi (which means "break") and is a major transitional time, i.e. substantial life changes often occur during Sandhis, such as people getting married or divorced, starting new careers, or moving.
Because each Dasa lasts for many years, Vedic astrologers sub-divide Dasas into sub-periods called Bhuktis. The notation for a Dasa Bhukti is Dasa Lord/Bhukti Lord, e.g. Venus/Saturn would be the Dasa of Venus and the Bhukti of Saturn. Whenever a Dasa lord influences a Bhukti lord in the birth chart (or vice versa), the Dasa and Bhukti of the pair is significant because it brings to the surface what is represented by their relationship. For example, one of my friends had powerful spiritual experiences during both her Sun/Moon and Moon/Sun dasa/bhuktis because she was born on a Full Moon (Sun opposite Moon) which in Vedic astrology is considered very auspicious.
Vedic astrologers use combinations of planets, signs, house rulerships and house placements as indicators of significant boons or challenges in a person's life. These combinations are called Yogas, and they raise or lower the person's life beyond the ordinary. Jyotishis pay careful attention to when yogas will come into fruition, during the Dasas (and Bhuktis) of the planet(s) forming them. When a person runs the dasa of a planet involved in many positive yogas, breakthroughs often happen in the arenas of life where the yogas occur. For example, Julia Roberts has multiple yogas involving the planet Venus, and during her Venus Dasa, she became both successful and famous.
Besides evaluating the placement of Dasa and Bhukti lords in the birth chart, Jyotishis also make use of what are called divisional or Varga charts. If you divide each astrological sign in the birth chart by a whole number (e.g. 5 or 9) and assign a new sign to each of these slices, you can then construct a new chart using the new sign positions of the planets and Rising Sign. For example, if each sign is divided into three slices, and we assign to the first slice to the sign itself, and to the next slice the next sign in the same element, and to the last slice the final sign in the element, we get what Western astrologers call decanates and Vedic astrologers call Drekkanas. The extra step that Vedic astrologers make is to then build a new chart from these positions. If the Ascendant was 15 degrees of Leo, for instance, it would fall into the sign of Sagittarius (the next Fire sign after Leo) and so the Rising Sign for the Drekkana chart would be Sagittarius.
Divisional charts (also called D-charts) are named for the number of slices used in their division. A chart divided by nine, for example is called the Navamsha and often notated as a D-9 chart, for example. (The suffix amsha means division, and sometimes these charts are called amsha charts.) Each divisional chart represents a specific area of life. E.g. the D-9 reveals the ups and downs in relationship and the D-3 (Drekkana mentioned above) covers themes around siblings. The use of D-charts allows astrologers to gain a deeper understanding of the changes in tenor of many different areas of life over time. In fact, the placement of the Dasa lord in each D-chart has more influence on the specific life themes represented by that D-chart than its position in the birth chart.
When you magnify sections of a sign, as is done in creating D-charts, you create sub-charts that are very sensitive to birth time accuracy. This means that with an inaccurate birth time, many of the predictions made using D-charts will fail. It also means, however, that D-charts can be used to adjust the birth time to greater accuracy. For example, if a Jyotishi finds that many major life events are indicated by the D-charts only if you shift the birth time two minutes earlier, then astrologers will adjust the birth time earlier to rectify the chart.
Before we go any further, it is important to focus upon how Vedic astrologers think. If a person is running the dasa of a planet with poor placement in the D-9 chart, the "space of " relationship is disrupted. That could mean that the partners are fighting with each other, or it could just as easily mean that they are getting along wonderfully but don't have enough time for each other, or that one of them (especially the spouse) could be wresting with health, financial, or other life issues. In other words, something in the field of the relationship is not working (even the possibility of no relationship at that time), but not necessarily the relationship itself.
The Dasa system is the preeminent tool for prediction in Vedic astrology. It enables astrologers to forecast with great accuracy and precision what kind of events will occur, and when they will reach their heights and depths. It can help us to find the "windows of time" when the resolution of issues is possible, and to know when our greatest gifts will fully emerge.
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