Some form of astrology was used in most ancient cultures to aid all aspects of life. In the Vedic culture as in others it set forth the ritual and the calendar and the main sacraments and initiations of life. The ancients did not look to the stars out of mental curiosity or primitive superstition but according to a profound reverence for the power of the cosmos. It was their means of making their action in harmony with the rhythms of the universe. Modern science also shows us a mysterious, dynamic and cataclysmic universe which we must pay homage to but has yet to provide us with a means of tuning into it to guide what we do.
Vedic astrology is not just another system of astrological interpretation. Its purpose is not just to tell us what our destiny is via the stars. It does not leave us helpless before fate but shows how we can use the planetary energies operative in our lives in the best possible way. It also has a practical side, its Yoga. This is its series of remedial measures aimed at purifying our subtle or psychic environment, balancing our planetary influences and maximizing our karma. Its methods include the use of gems, colors, mantras, deities, rituals, herbs and foods. Hence a competent Vedic astrologer can provide us with tools to harmonize our entire being with the stars and align us thereby with the beneficent forces of the entire cosmos. Astrology is the basis for a total examination of our life on all levels, inner and outer, and can be used for an integral life-counseling from which an integral life-regime can be developed.
We all clean our bodies and our houses on a regular basis. Yet few of us know how to clear our psychic or mental space. We are blind to the occult influences in the world around us. Such things as the use of rituals, mantras and the science of astrology help us to do this. The foremost of these psychic influences we have to deal with is that of the planets. Just as a person who walks around blindly is bound to come to some accident or calamity, so too by our blindness to the subtle forces of the stars we undergo many difficulties in life which are unnecessary. Even wars are often caused this way, by the impurity of our collective mental environment. Vedic astrology teaches us to see these influences and gives us the means of promoting those which are beneficial and warding off those which are harmful.
The Gods we find propitiated in ancient cultures are the planets and the stars or, to be more accurate, the subtle and cosmic forces working through them. The ancient calendar, ritual, worship and daily activity were all one. This was as true among the Mayans of the New World, as the Hindus and Egyptians of the old. Each hour, day, month and year relates to a particular form of the Divine or aspect of the cosmic energy. Understanding their qualities our actions can remain in harmony with the universe and act with its power. Even today the rituals done in India usually include the worship of the planets.
Such attitudes and actions are not based on fear or ignorance but on an understanding of the cosmic order and the interrelationship of man and the universe. The circling of the planets is not separate from the flowing of blood in our body, of impulses through our senses or thoughts through our mind. In fact, it is only through the movement of the planets that the other actions of life on Earth are possible. We live in a world of tremendous forces. It is an awesome and spectacular universe. It was the understanding of this power from which the science of astrology originated.
We pride ourselves in having gone beyond the limited views of ancient and medieval cultures. We have left the earth centered view of the solar system and look upon the ancients who saw the earth as the center of the universe to have been naive. We have broken through many other divisions of race, language and culture and find traditional cultures like India still to be caught in these narrow patterns. But we have not gone beyond what may be the most basic of all illusions and self-centered thinking processes, the materialistic idea of the world. We are almost entirely engrossed in the physical world as the sole reality and our personal ego as our real identity. While these traditional cultures had much less understanding or comprehension of the physical world than we do, they also had more knowledge of the subtle worlds and the spiritual reality behind them than we do. They would regard us as very naive and self-centered in this regard, tied to the sensory view of the world and blocked to any deeper inuition or inner perception. It is from this deeper perception they developed and used astrology. Though it may have been naive to outer realities, it does give us a better picture of the occult forces at work in life. As modern science begins to question the reality of time and space and the visible world, it may come to know these forces and appreciate more why the ancients took these more seriously than the forces of the outer world.
Modern science deals with the sensory perceivable and measurable world. Astrology deals more with the astral world than the physical, with the energy behind form rather than the forms themselves and with the energy of the mind more so than the energy of matter. It tells us that the visible is the outcome of invisible forces, that the forms of things follow impulses in the mind. As such, it is not contrary to modern science, but is a subtler form of science which can be added to it. To appreciate it we cannot just take an outer view of things. We must acknowledge our unity with all of life and discern how the forces of the cosmos, particularly those of the planets, affect us. While the effect of the Moon on life on Earth is well known, we have not examined those of the other planets with enough depth to discover their similarly significant actions.
Astrology can be validated through tests and experiments. Yet these must be sensitive to the level on which it is operating. It is not enough just to compare the Sun signs of people. What is necessary is to study many charts on an individual basis, noting not only how the same specific planetary factors may occur in each but also how overall patterns relate. To study the occurrence of a disease in the human body we have to note many patterns and combinations of external and internal factors. It does not follow a few simplistic interpretations. Astrology must be approached with the same comprehensiveness and intricacy of approach as any science. If we do this we find a profound connection between the birth chart and the nature of our lives and characters. We find many connections between the charts of those of similar destinies. What remains an art in astrology is the spiritual interpretation of the chart, as this transcends outer factors.
Classical Vedic astrology uses the seven visible planets; the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn, along with the two lunar nodes, the north and south nodes, Rahu and Ketu. Some modern practitioners incorporate Uranus, Neptune and Pluto but this is not necessary for an accurate reading. The effects of the distant planets is not as crucial. Many of their effects can be discerned through the functioning of the lunar nodes. Yet though Vedic astrology uses fewer planets it requires more calculations than a regular western astrological chart as it goes into much more detail in regard to the location and strength of the planets. Vedic astrology uses the twelve signs and twelve houses and planetary aspects, much like western astrology but with some differences, particularly in regard to the aspects.
By David Frawley > The American Institute of Vedic Studies > www.vedanet.com