Discussion on Vedic Astrology

Astro Dienst recently published my article, Vedic Astrology – What It Is and What It’s Not. An interesting discussion then arose on their forum. The text in quoted format are things posted in response to my article, to which I am replying.

There is a lot of cherishing for the indian astrology in this article. But the fundamental questions about the general validity of it raised by Dieter Kochs’s article among others are not answered in any way.

I do not go point for point against Dieter’s article because I basically agree with all his points. Everything he mentions is a valid criticism of what now goes under the name “Vedic astrology.” We who are students of “Vedic astrology” need the backbone and integrity to admit that and deal with it. The need for my article is not to correct what is already correct, but to set a different context for those critiques which does not neglect the positive contributions that Indian astrology has to offer if we approach it intelligently.

There are many different sidereal zodiacs. Which is the right one? Where do we find the exact starting point for it?

I address this point in the article, but I apologize for not doing so more clearly or at more length. I was brief in this article because I have another extensive article in draft on this topic. My opinion is that the modern Indian concept of twelve sidereal signs is a mistake. It is not supported by classical Indian definitions and needs to be corrected.

thanks for answering my post. I hope I understand you correct in the way that you want to base everything on 27 Fixstars (with the according 27 nakshatras) rather than the 12 signs.

Not exactly.

My opinion is that the ancient astrology of India did not involve the 12 signs, but over the centuries the Indians have developed and preserved very useful techniques for using the 12 signs interpretively. I don’t think these should be overlooked or thrown away, but I do believe that to utilize these techniques effectively at the modern stage of equinoctial precession we must abandon their erroneous sidereal definition.

Additionally, my opinion is that the true contribution of Indian astrology has yet to clearly emerge from India, because the Vedic system of 27 stars interacting with the Sun and Moon (and to some extent other heavenly entities) has yet to be presented coherently

That [27-star system] still raises the same problems IMO.

1. the Fixtars themselve are moving and aren’t fixed at all.

The excruciatingly slow movement of the “fixed” stars is of a scope that makes it irrelevant to the scope of human history. Astrology, at least in my opinion and practice, is build open practical subjective/observational astronomy, not objective/philosophical astronomy. Therefore, for astrological purposes, the stars are indeed “fixed.”

2. the 27 nakshatras are connected to the 12 signs. The 1. nakshatra Ashwini is related to 0-13.20 Aries for instance. [/quote]

No. This is absolutely incorrect and is a side-effect of the erroneous sidereal conception of the 12 signs.  Or in other cases it arises due to lack of familiarity with Sanskrit mathematical terminology.

The 12 signs are anchored to equinoxes and solstices, and are based on the intersection of the Moon’s monthly rhythm with the Sun’s yearly one. The 27 stars are anchored to actual visible stars, and are based on the intersection of the Sun’s daily rhythm with the Moon’s monthly one. The two are independent of one another, though there is perhaps no reason that they cannot be complimentary.

The meanings of the 27 Vedic stars have nothing to do with signs or planets. That is misinformation. No matter how prevalent and widely accepted misinformation becomes, it is still misinformation. The meaning of each star derives entirely from the Vedic god who empowers each. I am in the midst of writing an extensive book on exactly this subject.

I made an observation (probably I am not the first one):

The names of the two nakshatras Jyeshtha and Mula mean “the oldest one” and “root”. This raises the question whether the real starting point of the nakshatra system could be here – although the ancient texts do not speak about it.

Now, it is interesting that the galactic equator (the central line of the Milky Way) crosses the ecliptic about in the middle of the nakshatra Mula – if the Lahiri ayanamsha is used.

I wonder whether this is more than just a coincidence.

You’re correct in assuming that this is a fairly common speculation.

As you have noted, the ancient texts do not ascribe any importance to a “galactic center” or “galactic equator” so if we are seeking to understand the Vedic definition of their nakṣatras we should ignore these musings.

Jyeṣṭhā is so named because it belongs to the Vedic god Indra – who is the eldest of the 13 main gods, being the firstborn of the progenitress Aditi and thus the leader of the gods, as the elder brother (jyeṣṭha-putra) becomes the leader of the siblings. The name does not indicate that the Vedics considered it the oldest star, first star, or anything similar.

Mūla is so named because it belongs to the Vedic goddess Nirṛti – the lawless one who lives in the netherworld (below ground, under the roots of things). That this nakṣatra is also at the root of the Milky Way may be part of the reason that this goddess takes possession of it, but does not indicate that the Vedic nakṣatra should be counted or reckoned from a galactic equator, or its intersection with the earth’s. In my opinion that would be an error.

the exact location of the nakshatras depends on the ayanamsha and is therefore an unsolved problem.

Yes, but the implication of the problem is not severe since the discrepancy between various ayanāṁśa is small (compared to the more pressing problem of a sidereal zodiac).

You are a philosophical and theoretical intellect, and you apply this to your study of astrology. I greatly admire and respect that. Discrepancies of a few degrees are significant to such thinkers. But I think the roots of astrology are observational and practical. In such context a few degrees uncertainty is, honestly, not a big deal.

To me, ayanāṁśa literally means “portion to the equinox” (since aṁśa can mean portion and ayana in astrological context refers to the northward and southward movement of the Sun relative to the equator, i.e. the matrix of solstices and equinoxes). From Sūryasiddhānta I have learned that ayanāṁśa is a mathematical device to translate computations from sidereal nakṣatra coordinates to tropical coordinates (explicitly for the purpose of determining the ascendant, and implicitly for erecting the houses around that ascendant). So, the really important issue pressing Indian astrology today is not what ayanāṁśa to use! It is what to use it for.

They currently use it wrongly to translate tropical coordinates to sidereal echoes. This is really the big, huge problem in Indian astrology that needs to be tackled and confronted. The question of “which ayanāṁśa” is moot until we have established what ayanāṁśa is in the first place.

Ayanāṁśa  is a measurement of the position of the vernal equinox point relative to the nearest fixed star of the era in which the ayanāṁsa is computed.

Additionally, this definition resolves the misconception that the Indians had a “trepidation” theory.

Vedic astrology – the actual ancient stuff – was highly observational and natural. “Look up there. See that beautiful red star? OK, that is the reference point for Rohiṇī. Now, just a little to the side of it, see that beautiful blue cluster of stars? OK, those are the reference point for Kṛttika. Now, see the dim triangle next to it? That’s the reference for Bharaṇī.” If you ask me, that’s how it went down in the old, old, old days. And of course significant mathematics were then applied to refine and homogenize it, but the basis of it was observational, not mathematical. I think that is why an exact mathematical zero point for nakṣatra seems conspicuously absent from the texts on astrological computation.

Thanks for the great discussion!



Vic DiCara


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