Tropical Vedic Astrology Q&A

I haven’t engaged in extended discussion on this point in a long time, so… here we go:

In an article on vedic astrology at you wrote, “I personally feel [the sidereal zodiac] is a mistake which became standardized in relatively recent history and must be abandoned.

In another article, you pointed out some astronomy verses on the parallel sayana system which you then used to “prove” the sidereal zodiac is a later mistake. This is a formal logic fallacy called Affirming a disjunct. It is not unlike the informal fallacy of Equivocation in this case.

My proposal is neither a disjunct nor equivocation. It is simple: Sūrya Siddhanta explicitly defines the zodiac as tropical, and never defines it as sidereal (nor does any other astronomical work that I am aware of). The closest the Siddhānta comes to supporting a sidereal definition of the zodiac is the observation of a correlation between nakṣatra and rāśi (“Aśvinī begins Aries”). It defies mimaṁsa (Vedic hermeneutic) to give an indirect statement precedence over a direct definition, therefore it is wrong to interpret this as a permanent correlation between nakṣatra (stars, sidereal things) and rāśi (zones of the ecliptic).

You refer to the “lack of logic” in the sidereal zodiac, please explain what this alleged lack of logic is?

The orientation (cardinal, fixed, dual) and element (fire, earth, air, water) of every sign is rational and logical when the spring equinox is the anchor of the zodiac divisions – and thus the Sun has a permanent behavior (i.e. movement north and south of the equator) in each sign. If the zodiac has a stellar/sidereal anchor – there is no permanent correlation of the Sun’s behavior, and thus no logical basis for one zodiac sign to be considered cardinal or fire, and another to be considered fixed or earth, etc.

I have explained this in better detail in the video in my original article.

The southern hemisphere vernal equinox (0 Aries) is identical with the northern hemisphere autumnal equinox (0 Libra), and vice versa. This is a real lack of logic: (0 Aries = 0 Libra),

You do not understand the astronomy involved, and wrongly think that they tropical zodiac is defined by seasons. It is not defined by seasons, it is defined by the Sun’s position relative to the Earth’s equator.

The position of the Sun relative to the equator is the same everywhere on earth on any solstice or equinox (or any other day).

Again, I have explained this in better detail in the video in my original article.

Please explain how the Surya Siddhanta is an authoritative text – since you use verses from that text to confront an entire tradition?

There are three pramāṇa (epistemologies) in Vedic culture: direct perception (pratyakṣa), inference (anumāna), and revelation (śabda). In a Vedic Darśan (schools of thought about how to “see” reality) revelations is considered the foundation, and inference and perception are utilized as tools to realize the revealed knowledge. Thus revelation (śabda) is the supreme Vedic approach to knowing anything.

Revelation is often confused with “tradition” (aitihasa). Tradition, however, is more often quite disjointed from the true revelation – as seems to be the case now with the contemporary Indian concept of the sidereal zodiac.

Sūrya Siddhānta is the most complete and thorough Sanskrit text on astrological astronomy (observational astronomy) that I know of. As far as I know it is widely accepted as such by every traditional Indian astronomer/astrologer. Therefore it can act in the role of śabda though it is not literally a śruti or smṛti – but for the purpose of astrology we should consider it authoritative. Probably not absolutely authoritative, but more authoritative than your mind or A.B. Seedee E.’s opinion.

Also, please explain how the astronomy of the Srimad Bhagavatam is an authoritative text on astrology?

It is not a text on astrology. It is a text with relevant information on Astronomy. Astronomy is the basis of all astrological calculations. The astrology of the Purāṇas should be authoritative, at least for “Vedic” astrologers.

The Purāṇas complete the Vedas. They have 5 – 10 subjects. The lesser Purāṇas have 5, the greater have 10. Bhāgavata is the greatest Purāṇa, it has all 10 subjects in the greatest detail. One of these subjects is “sthiti” (“the situation of things in the cosmos”), and the constitution of the heavens is a considerable portion of this subject.

Constitution of the heavens is observational astronomy, which is the basis of astrological interpretation. Bhāgavatam is not about astrology, but it is an authoritative Vedic text on sthiti – observational astronomy, which in turn is the basis of astrological calculations.

Please explain your claim that the paucity of astrology in the vedas (religious texts) proves the lack of astrology in the vedic era?

Calendric astrology is certainly very important to Vedic culture. We, however, are concerned with natal astrology (astrology that describes the lives of individual human beings). I have not found many or any examples of natal astrology in the Purāṇa’s (etc.) that I have studied.

One of the subjects of all purāṇas – greater and lesser – is vaṁśa or vaṁśānucaritā, or itihasa: “history.” Specifically they describe the most important features of the most important characters of history. Natal astrology occasionally appears in the lives of these great people, but only vaguely. For example, Bhāgavatam describes Jataka glorifying the future of Mahārāja Parīkṣit. The relative lack of depiction of natal astrology does not prove that there was none in the Vedic era, but it is very significant evidence that natal astrology was not an extremely important part of the lives of most of the people, even the very important royalty. This shows that natal astrology was not an important part of Vedic spiritual culture – which many Vedic Astrologers amongst a Western clientele try to give the image of.

Astrology is awesome. I am not arguing against that. But just because it is awesome doesn’t mean it is part of the authentic Vedic spiritual tradition, as many people try to make it out to be. I am not arguing, either, that it is not a useful spiritual tool. I am simply saying that Vedic culture primarily relied on much more useful tools for their spiritual development (namely karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga, and bhakti-yoga).

– Vic DiCara []