Is Jyotish incapable of reaching beyond events?

Some modern astrologers subscribe to the view that Jyotish, the Indian system of astrology is an approach that is exclusively event-oriented. This is a mistaken perception, partly attributable to many students of Jyotish who are attracted to and tend to focus on the plethora of techniques for timing of events that it offers. This is encouraged by some modern teachers who feel an internal pressure to establish jyotish as some modern physical science or who are uncomfortable with esoteric and a psychosocial framework that jyotish is very much capable of. 

Even in its native home, jyotish is practiced in a social environment where pressures of daily living and ever-present economical concerns make prediction of events and conditions gain undue prominence. With economic and materialistic concerns becoming a major preoccupation, clients in India (and increasingly so elsewhere) can hardly be faulted for paying less attention to the psycho-spiritual growth aspect of jyotish, and instead focusing on questions such as, "Will I get this contract or not?" or "When will my daughter get married?" or, “How may I dodge my karma?”. This last question goes beyond jyotish and has also been phrased in a different setting as, “How can I have my cake and eat it too?.

We must not lose sight of the fact that astrology is a language that we use to describe our foci of interest. Any astrological approach can be labeled in a certain way based on its popular usage, but it is our loss not to realize that it can have a wider spectrum of applicability. All schools and forms of astrology, like any language, utilize symbolism at the very minimum and while one may attempt to define the rational nature of the symbolic links there lies a non-linear 'gap' that defies logic, between the symbol and what it represents to the interpreter. By itself, this does not invalidate the significance of symbolism or reduce the value of using the symbol to signify an apparently unrelated phenomenon or attribute. Given that truth, no form of astrology is truly superior to or even different from another.

Once the religious and arcane metaphors, which are somewhat too literally employed by some modern purveyors of jyotish, are stripped away we begin to see in jyotish a system that is capable of describing all facets of the "human experience". Only an unwillingness to do so, then, stands between the astrologer and jyotish to be able to utilize it as a tool or aid, for analyzing the psycho-philosophical weave of human beings, their motivations and behaviors, their perceptions and expressions, responses and reactions, their spiritual strengths and lessons, attributes and tasks in this life time. Additionally, jyotish may also be utilized for predicting events, trends and tendencies. Together, the blend of these different components comprises the total human experience.

In some fundamental ways, modern western astrology and Jyotish are not all that different. The intrinsic qualities of the signs interacting with those represented by planets and other astrological indicators form the basic matrix of symbolism that is used in all astrological deductions and delineations, be they event-oriented or catering to those with a psycho-philosophical leaning.

An important astrological consideration, from the tropical viewpoint might appear to lie in the significance of the arcs, the interplanetary links of astrological energy that have been used by skilled tropical astrologers very effectively. Aspects are also used in the Indian system in a slightly different way. Apart from their utilization in planetary strength determinations, minor aspects are generally ignored. The 'full' aspect that is used in Vedic delineations for all planets is similar to the 'opposition' aspect of tropical astrology; additionally, the trines in the case of Jupiter, the applying sextile and separating square of Saturn, directed at planets and houses 3rd and 10th from its location, and the applying square and the applying in conjunct or quincunx of mars (4th and 8th signs from its placement) are used as full aspects, albeit with very wide orbs compared to tropical astrology. It must be kept in mind that the apparent lack of a large set of aspects in jyotish is more than made up by their utilization through the divisional charts. For instance, two planets that are 40oapart in the radix (or multiples thereof; known as novile or nonile aspect), show up as being conjoined in the navamsha sign. The 'connection' so identified can be incorporated in the delineation. Other divisional charts similarly examine other interplanetary relationships (aspects) utilizing a different arc. Aspect relationships also enter into play when using nakshatras. All planets that are in partile (exact) trines to each other fall in two different asterisms (nakshatras, lunar mansions), both ruled by the same planet. Interplanetary relationships that the aspects represent are considered in Vedic delineation also through the consideration of planetary combinations or Yogas. While the orbs are considerably wider, it is hard not to see that angular aspects are being examined in Gajakeshari
 Yoga (moon in conjunction, opposition, or square to Jupiter), or the in conjunct aspects that are inherently present in the chandrashtama (transit moon in conjunct natal moon) or ashtama-shani (transit Saturn in conjunct natal moon). A kuja-dosha is another way of saying that mars is forming a semi-sextile, square, opposition or is in conjunct to the ascendant. It must be cautioned that the interpretation of most of these 'aspects' is radically different from that utilized in tropical astrology, but the concept and underlying theme of interplanetary relationships that is used in jyotish is not all that different from that used in tropical astrology.

There is undeniably a deterministic tone that appears in many of the ancient scriptural references in Vedic astrology, and even in the modern translations and transliterations, which can be a bit. However, on the other hand, the observation of different shades of interpretations that are given by different ancient authorities for similar indications point to the fact that not everything was cast in stone even back then and there was considerable room left for disagreement and for widening the domain of interpretation. Or perhaps, a degree of distortion has crept into available texts, which remarkably survived with a lot of wisdom intact despite centuries of invasions and takeovers, internal and external.

Some of the 'nadi' grinthas, which form a unique subclass of Vedic texts are often claimed as using some yet to be deciphered methodology that, in some instances, gives quite uncanny interpretations. These readings may give the impression that determinism and delineation of events enjoyed a prominent place in Vedic astrology. We must remember that the body of Vedic astrology that we inherit today, came from diverse time periods and was produced by many generations of astrologers. A culture that historically had been invaded many times, by outsiders and by intruders from within, tends to have its 'history' saved in a pithy, and somewhat encrypted form that makes it difficult to understand on superficial examination. This is highlighted in the rather condensed nature of most astrological verses. It could also be a matter of style prevalent in those times. And, finally, it is certainly possible that over the course of time, 'gaps' and distortions in interpretations got introduced into the body of jyotish. Some of the missing details are, therefore, likely to give rise to a somewhat distorted picture of the original. That so much of Vedic astrology has reached us in a remarkably well preserved form is hardly a minor miracle!

The body of Indian astrological literature was composed in the same period when its system of healthcare, ayurveda, was developed. The description of the humors, remedies, both herbal and gemstones, or those through sound and aroma are too similar between those given in ayurveda and those employed in Vedic astrology. Even a casual perusal of the ancient Hindu literature, its mythology and allegories would immediately show the complex psycho-philosophical framework of view that the Vedic man held. It would, therefore, make no sense to assume that during the very same era, some individuals were so engrossed in viewing the human being as a complex psycho-physiological entity and yet other scholars of equal stature (and perhaps sharing an interest in ayurveda as well) were using a deterministic, event-oriented framework when examining the very same human being through astrology! Astrology was probably never too far removed from the rest of the Hindu Vedic thought and literature. It has been referred to as a vedanga (a limb of the Vedas) all along and hence must have leaned heavily on the psycho-philosophical models that were in vogue then. The spiritual model that Hinduism promotes is, in essence, very flexible. People often see the idol worship, but forget that Hinduism also includes the concept of the formless Creator. One may hastily judge the concept of karma as indicative of simplistic and arcane fatalistic thinking, but there is also the law of Grace, or dharma described right next to karma. People in their haste to dismiss fatalistic determinism, miss that in the same 'book' of fatalistic astrology are given remedies and recommendations, physical, mental and spiritual, how best to discharge and reduce or even dissolve a part of the 'karma'. If Vedic Hindu astrology promoted incontrovertible fatalism, why would it then undermine its stand by prescribing measures that can be chosen through freewill to undo such karma

For those who are interested in exploring some practical examples of non event-oriented Vedic astrology, a book named "Notable Horoscopes", by B.V. Raman can be very illustrative. His editorials and many articles that have appeared in his "The Astrological Magazine" from time to time provide delineations that illustrate the efficacy of Vedic astrology when used for examining the psycho-philosophical nature of human beings, in addition to examining other aspects of the human experience, including events, just as a complete system of astrology would be expected to. Bepin Behari’s writings are very poignantly illustrative of the reaches of jyotish symbolism and synthesis at its finest. 

The most difficult myths to dispel are those that are contemporary, for they speak to us using the language and metaphors of contemporary times! However, the fact remains that astrology of any kind that is capable of describing the 'human experience' is like a Swiss army knife. While some may choose to use a Swiss army knife only for opening cans, but does that limit a Swiss army knife to being merely a can-opener? 

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