Keeping Jyotish Pure

by Hank Friedman

[I am deeply grateful to my Jyotish guru Hart de Fouw for his phenomenal wisdom and capacity to impart Vedic astrology to us, his students.]

In the West, the majority of Vedic astrology teachers and students have had no tutelage from a Jyotish master, and as a result, make the very understandable mistake of thinking that they can bring their Western astrological methods and understandings to Jyotish.

But Jyotish, like most schools of astrology, is a self-contained system that gets corrupted by random infusions.

I'd like to explore some of the most commonplace issues, and the reasons why such methods shouldn't be transplanted from West to East:

1. Zodiac.

In my recent article, What is the right Zodiac to use for astrological work? I explore the reasons why one should never use the Tropical Zodiac for Jyotish work.

Vedic astrology is founded upon observation of the planets and stars in the sky, and that's why it's based upon the Sidereal Zodiac. (The Tropical Zodiac, which is seasonally based, is independent of the placement of the stars.)

Some Western astrologers who are muddying up Jyotish even attempt to rationalize using the Tropical Zodiac in working with the Vimshottari Dasa.

The Vimshottari Dasa is the most widely used predictive system in Vedic astrology, and it isn't based upon the signs at all, but upon the Nakshatras, which are clusters of stars, and have nothing to do with the Tropical Zodiac.

2. Detriment.

The word Detriment as used in Western astrology means the sign opposite to the sign a planet rules. For example, Saturn rules Capricorn and is in detriment in Cancer.

Unfortunately, in Jyotish, the same word "detriment" is also used, but in Vedic astrology it means the same thing as Fall does, i.e. the sign opposite the sign a planet is exalted in. E.g. The Moon is exalted in Taurus and in Fall in Scorpio.

This causes a lot of confusion amongst novices coming from Western astrology into Jyotish.

To make matters even more confusing, in Jyotish, having a planet in the opposite sign to the sign it rules is good!

Why, because, as the proverb says, "even a rogue smiles at his own home," i.e. any planet in the opposite house to the house it rules smiles on the house it rules. Note: In both Vedic astrology and in Traditional Western astrology, Whole Sign houses and aspects are used and planets aspect empty houses. Therefore when a planet is looking at (aspecting) the opposite house that it owns, it strengthens that house and its themes.

An Introduction to the Whole Sign House System

The differences between modern Western House Systems and the Whole Sign approach are quite important and worth outlining:

1. Each house contains one complete sign. The boundary between signs is firm, like a wall, and planets on either side have no connection to each other, e.g. A planet at 29 degrees of Cancer has no influence on a planet at 1 degree of Leo.*

2. Planets within a house are all associated and influence each other no matter how far apart they are. E.g. A planet at 2 degrees Gemini and another at 26 degrees Gemini impact each other.

3. Planets in one house aspect the opposite house, and every planet in the opposite house, again independent of orb. This means both that planets aspect empty houses, and that a planet at 5 degrees of Sagittarius would aspect all planets in Gemini, no matter what degree they occupied in Gemini.

4. The Whole Sign House System is much more immune to birth time errors. In my article The Importance of an Accurate Birth Time I show an animation of both Western and Vedic charts and how insensitive to birth time errors the Whole Sign House System is.

5. Whole Sign Houses work with the Sidereal Zodiac. The Whole Sign House System is over two thousand years old, and was born at a time when the two Zodiacs were aligned (there was little difference between them). As the two Zodiacs diverged from each other, astrologers had to choose which one to use.

Astrologers in Medieval times embraced the Tropical Zodiac, and abandoned Whole Sign Houses. That's because Whole Sign house methods work best with the Sidereal Zodiac, just like Western techniques work best with the Tropical Zodiac (and with house systems based upon placing the Ascendant as the First House cusp).

* The only exceptions to the firm boundary between signs are visible events, specifically:

A. Combustion: A planet is combust if it is within 6 degrees of the Sun even across sign boundaries.

B. Planetary War: If two of the true planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn) are within one degree of each other, even across sign boundaries, they are at war.

3. Modern House Systems.

[Note: there are some recent techniques in Vedic astrology that use Placidus houses, i.e. KP Astrology, but not in classical Jyotish, which only uses Whole Sign Houses.]

As mentioned above, the Whole Sign House system is brilliant in enabling cultures with uncertain birth times to still do astrology effectively.

So much of Vedic astrology depends on using Whole Sign Houses, such as Yogas, aspects, house rulerships, etc. All of this breaks down if you use a different house system.

Also, the concept of "an intercepted house" -- a byproduct of unequal house systems -- has no place in Jyotish.

4. Western Aspects.

Traditional and Vedic astrologies consider aspects to be simply relationships between planets, and as such neither positive nor negative. Instead, the nature of the planets participating in each aspect that determines whether the aspect is positive or negative.

For example, Jupiter, as a benefic, only casts positive aspects, while Saturn, as a malefic, only casts negative aspects. So if Jupiter and Saturn are opposite, then Saturn is receiving a positive aspect (from Jupiter) and Jupiter is receiving a negative aspect (from Saturn).

In modern Western astrology, on the other hand, it is the aspects themselves that carry positive or negative meanings. A Jupiter square is negative, and a Saturn trine is positive.

Also, in Western all aspects are mutual, meaning both planets are aspecting each other, while in Vedic astrology only oppositions (and conjunctions) are.

Modern Western astrology also makes no distinction between forward and backward aspects, which are crucial in Vedic astrology. E.g. In Vedic, Saturn only makes a backwards square, not a forward one.

Additionally, while Western astrological aspects occur within specific orbs -- e.g. two planets are in square within a 6 degree orb of 90 degrees -- Vedic aspects are Whole Sign aspects and completely ignore orbs.

Finally, contemporary Western astrologers keep adding more and more aspects to the mix, while Vedic astrologers keep to the original ones -- 2 for most planets plus 4 special aspects -- which they've always used.

[Please remember, as a Western astrologer, I use Western methods of aspecting all of the time for Western Tropical charting, successfully. Just not in Jyotish.]

Three planets in Vedic astrology -- Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars -- are the only planets that cast aspects other than conjunctions and oppositions, and these aspects are all "one-sided" (E.g. Jupiter "sees", i.e. aspects, planets with its trine, but they don't see Jupiter).

The unilateral aspects in Jyotish -- the trines of Jupiter, the forward sextile and backwards square of Saturn, and the forward square and quincunx of Mars -- are very powerful in their usage, especially because they exert a one-sided control over the aspected planet. They are therefore not to be diluted by Western approaches.

5. The Nodes.

Western astrologers have reduced the North Node of the Moon as representing the path to follow, and the South Node of the Moon as the path to leave behind.

This is both reductionistic and simplistic thinking. Even before I knew any Vedic astrology, i.e. as a Western astrologer, it became very apparent to me that one should not apply such thinking mechanically.

I had a client with the North Node, Moon, and Pluto in the 4th house, and the South Node alone in the 10th house. As I grew to know her very well, it became apparent that her home (4th house) was a stuck place for her, and that she needed to move to the activities of the 10th house to round out her life.

Throughout this website, I have published many articles on the Jyotish use of the nodes, (e.g. here, here, and here) and ask my readers not to diminish the incredibly rich Vedic meanings of the Nodes by transferring the Western concept of their nature to Jyotish.

[For example, the North Node represents disguises, rebellion, insatiable urges, sudden windfalls, narcissism, and change, while the South Node represents uncontrollable impulses, self-abnegation, selflessness, paralysis, stagnation, and transcendence.]

6. Other Techniques.

Many other ideas in Western astrology also have no place in Jyotish.


Dissociative aspects: In Western astrology, two planets can aspect each other from "the wrong" signs. E.g. one planet at the end of Aries could conjunct a planet at the beginning of Taurus or oppose a planet at the beginning of Scorpio.

This has no place in Jyotish, as the Whole Sign approach must be preserved.

Planets in Containment: The idea here is that if a planet has adjacent planets on both sides of it, in the same sign, they can contain the planet (lift it up or hurt it).

This is a foreign concept to Vedic astrology.

Instead, Jyotish has a rich set of yogas based upon planets in adjacent signs to the sign one or more planets are in. E.g. If the Sun and Mercury are in Gemini, and Saturn is in Cancer and Mars is in Taurus, then the Sun and Mercury are "hemmed in by malefics".

Planetary Strength: Western astrology ascertains the strength of planets in a variety of ways, including dignity, aspect strength, chart shape, etc.

Vedic astrology has its own powerful methods of assessing planetary strength and needs no "help" (or harm) from bringing Western methods over to it.

In fact, as I've said throughout this website, I consider the Sidereal Zodiac far more accurate in assessing the strength of planets by sign than the Tropical Zodiac.

Harmonics: In the West, the use of Harmonic charts and harmonic aspects is still in its infancy.

But Vedic astrology has developed incredibly powerful and intricate methods of using harmonic charts over a thousand years ago.

The analysis of Amsha/Varga/Divisional charts is an incredible tool for the prediction of events in each area of life.

Medical Significations: Vedic astrology has its roots in the Vedas, alongside Ayurveda, and so its medical astrology is far older and more integrated with Jyotish than in the West.

Many of the medical correspondences in Jyotish differ from Western attributions (e.g. the 4th house is the lungs in Vedic astrology and the 3rd house is the lungs in Western astrology.)

So anyone who tries to merge the two will end up with a sorry mess.

There are many other significators in Jyotish that differ from those in Western. It is vital to keep both systems apart and pure.

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