"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain;
as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality ." - Albert Einstein
I can see the frowns on skeptical brows. Rest Assured. I do not have a trident in my hand and I am not an activist, communalist, revivalist or any other 'ist' for that matter. I do not need to be. A political party does not stake its claim upon my identity and the VHP are not the custodians of a civilization that is at least 10000 years old. I studied Sanskrit (because I wanted to read the Vedas in the original form) and Vedic astrology (with the sole intention of proving it to be a farce!!) a while ago and ever since have been asked why I 'a champion of science'. have been swallowed by the formless monsters of mysticism and ritualism. My friends mourned the loss of their rational friend. Not for long though.
Although I am rooted in the culture of the civilization, I have a low tolerance for ritualism and by and large never accept a statement without the whys in my head being answered first. But like most Indians, I grew up listening to stories about our gods and goddesses, mythology brought magic into my life. To me, mythologies (greco-roman, Hindu, Chinese, Mesopotamian etc) are a lot like the songs in Indian films. They are targeted for the masses, add color, infuse vibrancy and are often not well connected to the real story (assuming there is one) but serve to entertain and keep the viewer interested in the real story. They appeal to the heart and to the senses. And at the end of a long hard day the average man on the street does not want to think. The mind is only activated when our focus is not primarily on making enough for our next meal.
A poor man has no time to understand theories on philosophy or the intricacies of the universe. He has no patience for complex relationships, intricately woven plots and the grey areas of life (Ask a politician, a filmmaker or an advertising agency). His thought processes have to be simple because everything around him is too complicated and frustrating. That is one reason why mythology has survived and transformed itself through the ages. The reason why it originated has perhaps more to do with the barriers of language and the limitations it imposes, in terms of being able to explain something using the restricted dimensions of a language. Magic, is not necessarily something unreal, but rather something that is not visible when viewed through the prism of reality. And the real world does not begin or end where we choose it. Mythology, over the ages has been a tool by which one could explain, to the common man, concepts and ideas that are not easily definable. To enable individuals to identify with the manifestations of a creative power that is beyond their ability to comprehend in totality, and certainly not within their capacity to understand intellectually in entirety.
The idea is to understand why mythology is such an integral part of our classical works and why abstract symbolisms were used to convey ideas where words would not suffice and at a time when the scientific language of today did not exist. Jyotish was primarily a means to help the ordinary man in that age and those who practiced it were learned men in philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, medicine,
architecture, psychology and theology. I guess there were no specialists back then). Vedic astrology is nothing but a formulation based on astronomy connected in the language of mathematics and applied to individuals in a space-time framework using the colorful landscape of mythology. And Vaastu is an extension of the same to a living space. It assesses the probability of an event or occurrence based on the mathematical relationships between planets with reference to a person or a place with respect to a certain time. Its rules are completely mathematical and the only basic assumptions are firstly, that planets and fixed stars (even if we limit ourselves to just our own solar system) have a certain relationship with each other and secondly, that those relationships have certain significations with respect to their position at the time and place you were born. There is enough scientific evidence to support that planetary configurations not only affect each other but all living and non-living things on earth. Now, I do not see why human beings in particular would not fall within such a scope. Apart from these assumptions, everything else can not only be calculated mathematically but can only be applied scientifically. Given the complexities involved and the magnitude of its scope, it is possible that sometimes things are overlooked (and in those times they were no computers to do these complex calculations) and certain factors may not have been taken into consideration. Assumptions are made in every field of scientific endeavor and a certain framework created by which to formulate and test hypotheses.
Science does not make a claim to perfection, only to systematic analysis and tested hypotheses. And the analysis has been done for centuries and the hypotheses tested for 10000 years. If science means a state of knowing - Jyotish is that, if it means something learned by systemized knowledge - it is that, if it means knowledge covering general truths as obtained and tested through scientific method - it is that too and if it is a system reconciling practical ends with scientific laws - it is that as well. These are not my definitions of the word "science" but from the Webster's dictionary. (There now you have your western scientific stamp of approval !!!!?) So how is it by any stretch of imagination "unscientific"? The Sun is either at the summer solstice or not. Uranus is either aspecting Mercury or not. And if the moon is in Leo at 13 degrees 24 it either is or is not. There is no maybe about it.
Yes, the science of Jyotish has been abused. But then what theory has not. Yes, it is filled with symbolism and mysticism. But that must have been the language used in 6000 BC. Even in 2002 AD symbolism and abstraction are a more effective method of communication than mathematics and astronomy. Ask anybody working in the advertising and marketing world .Yes, it is full of quacks. Every profession is. This one perhaps more so because there is no formally recognized mode of instruction. Yes, some consultants take you for a ride. A lot of consultants in a lot of professions do. All these accusations do not qualify astrology. They qualify human nature. And we all know how perfect, just and rational that is !!
Of course, members of the astrological community have done the maximum damage themselves. With weekly sun sign and moon sign forecasts that are about as accurate and consistent as speculations on the performance of the Indian cricket team. And scaring people with predictions without explaining why and suggesting solutions that are often incomparable with the mental makeup of a person. To combine religion and ritual when explaining something to someone who has no tolerance for either is as effective as preaching universal brotherhood and liberalism to a religious fanatic. No harm trying, but what are the chances that anything you say is registering in the upper storey ?? If the purpose is to help someone or show him or her way out then an expert should be able to do it in a manner that is comprehensible to a layman. Explaining genetics to a villager is about as useful as expecting politicians to understand the concept of accountability !!! A way that seems rational to the person is the only way you will get that person to understand. There will always be skeptics and fanatics on either end of any spectrum of activity but they are usually a minority. It is also necessary to constantly reinforce the fact that it is only a science of probability and that no one can say anything with absolute certainty. If one could be absolutely certain about anything where does choice come into the picture? The choices are always there ... they may not be the ones you expect and whether you choose to exercise them is another matter. Creation is dynamic, not static. Any change in dimension will effect a change in reality. Knowledge can only help us change dimensions, not the consequent reality. Of course, to a lot of people not knowing is bliss. It is a choice that they have a right to make.
Jyotish would not have survived ten thousand years of scrutiny and remained largely unchanged if it was total hogwash. Nothing does. Science itself is the biggest repository of theories that have been debunked over a period of time. Newtonian mechanics did not account for relativity or quantum theory. Physics overhauled many of its fundamental principles time and again as did every other science in the course of just a few centuries. To survive change, a theory (about anything) has to be consistent and valid for a long length of time. Modern science has all the characteristics of youth : energy, enterprise, imagination and unfortunately, a large measure of arrogance as well. The need to rebel against the old order is part of a natural process. And somewhere along the path of time we too will realize that we could be wrong about some things. But that is a long way yet. Humility and youth often work at cross-purposes.
A lot of people from the scientific or rational (self-appointed custodians of science and reason) community are apprehensive about the fact that Jyotish will make the present and future generations more fatalistic and more prone to mysticism. That it may take them towards ritualism and away from science and rationality. That is one view and they are entitled to it. But a serious student of this science will also develop an interest in astronomy, mathematics, Ayurveda, philosophy, psychology, Sanskrit, the scriptures or the history of one of the world's oldest civilizations. In many it creates an understanding of outer space, planets and their wonders and a greater respect for the laws of the cosmos. If taught scientifically it will further science. It will also develop a systemized form of education for this field and increase awareness thereby removing much of its infamy. More than anything else it engenders a better understanding of the universe from a scientific point of view and also instills a certain humility and humanity into even the most cynical souls.
In my view, most astrologers (particularly the less commercially inclined ones) are learned in several disciplines. Learning anything that is not destructive in its application can never be negative. Of course, sometimes even constructive learning can be used for destructive purposes - like nuclear science or weapons. Does that mean we stop people from learning physics or chemistry ? As far as being able to prove anything consistently ... even a student of microbiology and sub-atomic physics will tell you that the more you delve into the complex machinations of Creation the more uncertain things get and the more assumptions you have to make. I don't hear anybody calling THAT unscientific. And some are better at what they do than others. and sometimes accuracy more consistent than other times. In every endeavor, the human element plays a vital role in determining success or accuracy.
Jyotish in the modern world has been equated with fatalism; but if it were truly fatalistic in its orientation then it would not have survived. If it could not contribute in any positive manner or help a human being change dimensions to a certain extent would it still be around? We are a very practical species and everything is seen from the perspective of benefit. When we do not spare politicians after a 5 year term (optimist that I am) do you think we would have spared a theory that had no practical relevance and did not benefit us at all. If we spend a few generations destroying the resources of this planet the succeeding generations will use their time to restore or replenish those very resources. We are capable of tremendous destruction but also unimaginable creativity and enterprise. Nothing escapes our attention for very long. So how did Jyotish manage to pull wool over the eyes of not one, twenty but almost 500 generations?
Knowledge on its own does not provide solutions. It does not decipher right and wrong. It does not make value judgments. That is for us to do. Effort need not always give results. The point is not that destiny controls us but that it has secret choices we may not know about. Knowledge is the key to making an informed choice, not a guarantor of success. Success not just in material terms but also in terms of health, contentment and the environment. Achievement not only in terms of career or family, but wherever peace, compassion and understanding are needed. There are those who live their lives without any thought towards the space-time framework and planetary influences and believe they are the sole masters of their destiny. And then there are those who seek to maximize latent potentials and minimize possible conflicts and distress by seeing their lives through the prism of Jyotish. Either way, it is entirely a matter of choice and if that choice can benefit a person in even one positive way it is not something to be ridiculed or denigrated. Choice is a "human" factor not a "natural" factor. Everything around us does not have the liberty of choosing. Even in human beings the scope for choice is largely governed by a lot of other factors. We may think that we are above such forces and again that is a choice we are free to make. It does not change nature; only us.