Jyotish, the knowledge of light


S. Ainavolu

2/27/2022 10 min read

Jyotish, the knowledge of light – An overview of insightful enquiry’s potential

The Jyotish shastra, acknowledged vendanga, has received increased attention in the recent half century or more. One of the reasons for this is the democratization of the knowledge through translation of works into English and regional languages. Another possible reason is the inquisitiveness of the modern educated generations to find out the truth held by the shashtra. Possible other reason can be increased attention around the subject in the western world too around “Astrology,” the study of large bodies. This seeker’s original quest to find out the causation contained in the body of knowledge, descriptive and predictive nuances, the extent of possible dependence on prescriptive tones shall be shared here. What we need is the open-mindedness that is required for any enquiry.

Macro influence on micro – Assumptions behind the framework

It is of common knowledge that the beings on the mother planet Earth experience highs and lows. It is also observed by ancient generations that macro bodies are around us as the planetary system and also as stars. Now the attempt was made through various revelations and visions that what is the relation between the conduct and structure visible at the larger distances. It is akin to our managerial inquiries along the lines of “structure – conduct – performance”. Here through the macro structure of the planetary bodies, conduct of the beings on earth gets influenced and the performance outcomes get decided by the conduct. The common linking thread behind this framework is the karma theory that one creates the seeds through the actions and has to undergo the fruits of the same in life times. Again, behind the notion of karma theory is the belief of perpetuity of life, changing from body to body, the underlying spirit continues the existence and the fruits of the actions have to be lived through. Thus, the sine-qua-non for the enquiry is the firm belief that life continues and the fruits of the karma have to be faced.

Snapshot of the “stock” – The birth chart

For descriptive or prescriptive purposes, one needs the astrological chart called a birth chart. It is cast for the time of birth and place of birth, as per the celestial condition. Relative and absolute versions of charting may vary. The stock one may have brought into the life gets cast through the birth chart. It is static and represents the stock. When the question of flows viz. current flows are concerned, the same do matter is what the wise say. If only the original stock-based chart matters, this would have reduced the enquiry into almost meaningless for prescriptive purposes. No scope for corrections is possible. On the other hand, if the original stock-based possibilities can be modified and the outcomes can be modified through positive assertions and efforts, then huge possibilities exist. Often this is the case. The predictions based on the static, birth time and place-based chart are “indicative”. The directionality and the intensity often get moderated or worsened with the current actions or “flows.” This is the ray of hope.

Various dashas and human longevity

When we say Jyotish often the underlying implication is that of a Vedic Jyotish, in the Indian way. It is based on the navagrahas (“nine” planets) and the implications of their positioning in the chart on the individual. Often the unit of analysis of the enquiry is the individual or possible joint venture possibilities and the quality of such engagement. The planet Earth based charting considers Sun as one of the grahas or planets. Other six are easy to appreciate and find acceptance. Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn are orderly set. One may have qualms around Moon but more serious are the chhaya grahas (head and tail of the dragon), Rahu and Ketu. Vedic astrology or Jyotish considers these, the inimical or friendly relations between these, various strengths and weakness and combinations as Yogas to predict the possible outcomes.

Major planets have “house ownerships”; they have friends/equals/enemies. They lose some strengths when placed in certain houses or in combination with select planets. The planets have drishtis (aspects). Planets have their own nature, characteristics and gravitas. The human life is estimated to be 120 years and this is divided into various dashas (influencing phases). Again, there are different methods of dividing the long period of 120 years. If we follow the Paraashari method, Nakshatra (star) dashas have variable lengths ranging from six years of Sun to twenty years of Venus. Sum total duration of all these dashas is hundred and twenty years. On the other hand, Jaimini system divides the 120-year span into twelve equal dashas of ten years each, going by each of twelve “rashis”. Thus, both the systems have a total of 120 years for human existence and are characterized based on their specialty.

Prediction variables and richness

The Western Astrology method is widely known and popular, and uses Sun centric prediction method. Various planets are cast in the chart and predictions are given based on the positioning of Sun in the chart and relative position and combinations of other planets. The angles between different planets also play a role in finding out the relative strengths and weaknesses of different aspects. Many inquisitive would have come across various “Sun signs” like Aries, Libra, Pisces etc. depending on the date of their birth. Typically, around 21/22 of a month till next 21/22 or so is one Sun sign. Couple of days either side of the transition date phase is called “cusp period,” and mixed results are predicted.

Comparatively, Vedic astrology as we have seen above is a multi-variable prediction model and hence richer. The ascendant is called “Lagna,” and the placement of Moon is called “Rashi”. Bodily features and general outlook are indicated by the lagna of the person which changes after an hour and half or so. This explains why one has to be precise around the time of birth and also know the place of birth (we know time is local). The rashi often indicates the mental disposition of the person. Ocean highs and lows based on Moon positions is well known, so also on the conduct of abnormal individuals. Transit of Moon in the eighth house is called “Chandrashtama” and one of the lowest couple of days in a monthly lunar cycle. Thus, we know the influence of Moon on individuals and systems. Open/close, risk averse or taker, intro/extrovert, high/depressed and many more psychological features often can be told from the rashi, influences on it and placement of planets. The Parashari method broadly uses shadbalas (six strengths), ashtakavarga calculations (how total points are distributed along different bhavas/houses), and dasha/antardasha based predictions.

Bhavas (houses) and the outcome aspects

A typical birth chart has twelve houses called bhavas, each of which are indicated and mapped to few outcome measures. First of the houses or the lagna is said to indicate overall about the person, the outlook, nature, physical features etc. Second house indicates the speech, family, money position and even right eye. Third talks of one’s siblings, initiative levels and written communication abilities. Fourth shall give details of immovable property, mother details, and general comfort in life. Fifth is the house of creativity, education, and children. The sixth indicates the runa/roga/shatru or loans/diseases and enemy. Day to day office concerns and activities are also indicates by this. Seventh is the house of partnerships, life or business. Eighth house is often feared. It indicates ones mystical orientation, interests into occult and inclination to “deep dive”. It may also indicate ancestral wealth inheritance etc. In business parlance, working capital funding if indicated by sixth house, capital funding is mapped to eighth. Ninth house is the house of pilgrimages, long travels, good deeds, “higher” education. In the modern age doctoral/research studies may be mapped to it. Often father aspects are seen from this. The tenth house is that of the profession and social capital. Eleventh indicates the gains one can have from one’s career. It also indicates one’s elder brothers or equivalent (mentors or sponsors!). Going by the principle of ‘bhavet bhavam’, being sixth from sixth, it is mini replica of sixth house. This principle is true for all houses, for instance eight from eighth house is three, so also ninth from ninth is fifth bhava. Thus, looking holistically may lead to richer predictions. Finally, the twelfth house is of expenses, far off places, other world, worries. It also includes left eye. Similarly, different houses do indicate different body geography and any ailments/issues pertaining to that part of the body can be well appreciated by studying that house related aspects. More shall be dealt when we zoom around medical astrology.

Method in the complexity

For beginner, the predicting appears as a huge intellectual challenge. Reasons are simple. There are nine grahas, twelve houses, various aspects of different grahas, friendly/inimical relations, the “stars” in which grahas are present, combinations of the grahas, various houses/bhavas in which the grahas are present, various strength giving/inhibiting causes, influence of dasha and antardashas and even the influence of the closely related peoples’ astrological influences on the individual. Millions of possibilities and hence the complexity. However, there is a method of prioritizing and looking for “what matters”. Often, we begin with basic question of “what is the current issue?”. Issue can be marriage, children, education of self or of children, business concerns, health or property related and anything else. Centre the pointer around the issue related and look for the possible “explanatory variables” that are causing the current state. Next level is that of prescriptive and normative. What needs to be done to pacify the impactful variables and how do we improve the situation. The normal concerns have to have a meaningful and positive outcome in terms of closures is the general expectation. For instance, if someone is suffering from a disease, such person’s near and dear would like to know along the lines of ‘what needs to be done to improve the situation?’. Descriptive is interesting but prescription is what most look for.

Suppose someone’s higher education efforts are stuck and not yielding outcomes. In that case, the search begins with the 9th house, 9th house lord, placements, influences (aspects or conjunctions), relative strength of related planets, current dasha and antardasha, major influencing phases like sade-sati or dhaiya etc. Similarly, office dynamics may be seen from the 6th house in the same manner as above, children’s issues from 5th bhava, marriage or business partnership matters from the 7th house and related. The same can be a specific health concern like one’s right eye is progressively losing power, or one is suffering from liver enlargement, or quick bouts of temper are causing the person and the eco-system huge damage. In all such cases, we do conduct the above comprehensive analysis and also look for specific or more causatory planets for specific condition of body. 2nd house and Sun for the right eye, Jupiter for the liver issues, Mars placement and influences on the first and fourth house for the quick temperament case. These are indicative only. More deep-dive analysis with the help of the insights gained from the intense sadhana alone complement. This partly answers why the machine-driven predictions often won’t hold water. Although the fact that these are structured is a positive, these are often reductionistic. We need richer, insightful, holistic outcome after the prediction process. Thus, Jyotish is both a science and an art, agnostic of the individual for calculation purposes and individual’s skill dependent for predictions. Hence, the variability gets introduced into the system.

Debate of determinism vs free-will

Since the childhood the debate was heard and either side’s views were silently absorbed by this seeker. There appears merit on either side and in their arguments. If the chart is static and a “stock” that was at the time of the birth and determined for this life, all the efforts are futile and fatalistic existence is the only means of “going through the life”. In other words, things are already decided and hence “why try” can be the really fatal take-away. Various Vedantic schools too offer their versions of truth around the debate of determinism vs free-will. We often hear “you are captain” type of pep-talk and alternatively the determinism of fixed charts and pre-determined dasha order. Where lies the truth is a fundamental enquiry one has to satisfy oneself when one becomes student of Jyotish. This person went through the same soul searching for finding a satisfactory explanation for the answer one may side with.

The answer found for self is through mixed means approach, respecting both stock and flow arguments. One is endowed with certain sets and karmas. However, one is free to pursue higher (or lower) orbits than one is bestowed with. This is free-will. Based on the actions arising from this free-will exercising, one may end up at better (or worser) outcomes than one otherwise would have. In other words, it is like focusing a torch light on the white wall. The focus circle is small and quite dense in light terms. This is the highest possible and probable zone of outcomes. However, through the exercise of free-will one may overshoot towards the upper zone through positive assertions and reverse too is possible. So, multiple outcomes and achievement zones are possible for the same initial conditions. Simpler analogy is if a student with the initial conditions and working habit pattern is “destined” to get say 60 marks out of a hundred, he/she may improve it to 70 or 80 though better assertion and application. Equally likely is the slip or drop possible to 50 or 40 due to “take it easy” policy! ‘Mean’ is likely, ‘variance’ zone is the possibility through self-effort caused by free-will. It may be noted that free-will can make one act in either direction of improvement or slippage. External influences, charts of close associates, influence of specific incidents may trigger free-will actions, and a few may say these too are “pre-determined”! Broad consensus that may be arrived at is along the lines of dense light zone of torch with possibility of moving up or down.

On a closing note

Jyotish is light provider. One can move up aspirationally by aligning with the flow and working on the weaknesses. It should not be used for manipulations. Man often acts as control freak and would like to have things as per one’s direction. This often gives rise to muhurat manipulation, looking for the best muhurat for swearing in, foundation stones, and even birth through C-section. The maniacal thirst to control the micro is leading to major mishaps on the macro front. Border wars, climate change, sustainability absent schemes and projects, megalomaniac tendencies all are happening when the directionality should have been otherwise. Jyotish helps one in knowing the possible reasons for the current unpalatable moves and affecting state and improve from there, both individually and from collective perspective. This approach alone is best both from the micro and macro point of view. Anything else charges the eco-system adversely and the adage to remember is “planet can meet everyone's needs but not a few people’s greed”. Jyotish has to be a tool for moving up, aspirationally reaching for better collective good. Then it serves its purpose. Currently, huge consciousness shifts are happening and let us be optimistic around this favourable possibility. We pray inclusively, Sarve janah sukhino bhavantu, Lokah samasta sukhina bhavantu.