My apologies to everyone who either feels really good or impresses a lot of people by claiming that Indian Astrology (“Vedic astrology”) is legitimately “Vedic” and “spiritual” because it is part of the Veda, specifically the Vedāṅga called jyotish. It’s not.
Please allow me a moment or two to explain…
Six appendices (aṅga) accompany the Veda – called vedāṅga. These appendices contain all the knowledge required to effectively comprehend and utilize the information contained in the words of the Veda. The first pair is about how to pronounce words. The second pair is about how to understand the words. The third pair is about when to use the words.
The pair concerning pronunciation:
śikṣā — Pronunciation.
How to pronounce letters, words, and sentences with accents, stress, and melody.
chandas — Meter.
How to recite the various poetic meters used in the Veda.
The pair concerning meaning:
vyākaraṇa — Grammar.
How words combine to form sophisticated and elaborate meanings.
nirukta — Etymology.
Dictionaries giving denotations of words, and their connotations in various contexts.
The pair concerning “when to use the Vedic words” has to do with when to hold rituals, because the Vedic words are chanted as the central part of Vedic ritual:
kalpa — Rites of Passage.
Definition of major life events at which certain Vedic rituals should be performed.
jyotiṣa — Calendrics.
Definition of the astronomical math and observation necessary to ascertain the proper time for certain Vedic rituals.
Vedāṅga jyotiṣa therefore has nothing to do with predicting your future, determining your compatibility with a potential mate, or knowing when you should sell your stock in gold. It is about how the movement of the heavenly bodies marks the passage of time, and how to use that knowledge to know that right times for performing the right cultural ceremonies and rituals.
No, the way astrology is practiced today is not a part of the Veda itself, and certainly isn’t defined therein, not even in the Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa (as people seeking legitimacy in spiritual circles often claim). No, divination was not a fundamental part of Vedic culture, not even in matchmaking – as evidenced clearly in the depictions of matchmaking found in the Veda themselves. No, “Vedic astrology” is not an integral part of any authenticly Vedic yogic path – even though Vedic astrology uses the word yoga alot, since the word literally means “combination.”
Yes, because the Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa is astronomical, it is the foundation upon which divinatory astrology can be based. Yes, many forms of divination (likely including some form of astrology) were a peripheral part of Vedic culture (evidenced by the histories told in the Veda themselves). Yes, divinatory astrology is super cool and awesome, and might even be an important part of “spirituality” for many individuals.
In short, divinatory astrology is totally cool. But that doesn’t make it “Vedic.”