EXPLAIN VEDIC ASTROLOGY IN A NUTSHELL, PLEASE…
Are you kidding? Beginners have balls…
Yet, only a beginner could ask a question like this. And I like beginners. So, I’m going to try to answer, from a technical perspective, rather than a philosophical one.
To get from your western birth chart to a Vedic natal chart, known as a "rasi", you have to remember that the Ascendant and every single planet moves 23.5 degrees from its western position for those born around the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, and 24 degrees sharp for those born in 2010. The western tropical zodiac moves apart from the sidereal zodiac 1 full degree every 72 years.
• Let’s look at an example for a native born in 1970 with the Moon at 1 degree of western Taurus.
• Subtract 23.5 degrees from this Moon. It is roughly 7 degrees Aries in the Vedic zodiac, which locates this Moon in Ashwini, the first of the 27 asterisms.
You can do this to determine your own nakshatra. The 27 Vedic moon signs are more precisely delineated than the western sun signs – they are the jewels of the Vedic system.
• Most folks will use software to do these calculations. Solar Fire calculates a rasi (pronounced "ra-shi") and a navamsa (pronounced "na-vam-sha"). But you become a better astrologer if you learn to calculate an approximate sidereal degree in your head - this technique will allow you to glance at a subject's Western horoscope and quickly "ballpark" their Vedic rasi, a useful skill for anyone who consults using both systems. For manual calculation of a navamsa, a navamsa table is needed.
• Your natal nakshatra, or Vedic Moon sign, describes your personality, and also sets up your planetary dasa structure. It is far more important than the Sun in Vedic astrology.
Now, you need to make the same calculation for the Ascendant, which is the second most important consideration in the Vedic system, and is also considered more important than the sign of the Vedic Sun.
• Let’s look at an example for a native born in 1970 with the western Ascendant at 14 degrees Virgo.
• Subtract 23.5 degrees from this Ascendant. It is roughly 21 degrees Leo in the Vedic zodiac, which locates this Ascendant under the asterism of Purva Phalguni.
You will now make the same calculation for each of the seven traditional planets (Sun through Saturn) and the North Node (Rahu) and South Node (Ketu). Vedic astrologers use only the planets that were visible in the night sky, so the outer planets are not considered.
You will find that many of your planets will shift houses and signs as you move from a western tropical zodiac to a Vedic sidereal zodiac. This is because your Ascendant has shifted to a different sign. This tends to throw off a lot of beginners, who insist that a horoscope is meaningless if it doesn’t match the western horoscope.
The important thing to remember is that this does not make Jyotish inaccurate. It is a different system, and house meanings are different. Most people find that their Vedic horoscope complements the information found in their Western horoscope.
Let’s take a look at some examples, to see how this works. In Vedic astrology, the sign on the Ascendant often has an impact on career choice, or in some cases, life purpose other than one’s career – and it must make an accurate prediction about the native’s life.
In western astrology, the sign on the Ascendant describes personality traits, and sometimes, physical appearance. It also has an impact on career choice, so there is overlap between western and Vedic interpretation.
Roommate - Western Libra Ascendant, Vedic Virgo Ascendant.
She is pretty and popular, with a strong interest in pop-culture and new bands and cool music. She is also fair in her assessments of people – very Libra. It is pretty clear how Venus operates as the lord of her western chart.
When I first tried explaining Vedic astrology to her, she insisted that she couldn’t possibly have a Virgo ascendant, which is the case in her Vedic chart. Yet, what does she do for a living?
She is an executive secretary who supports a hospital CEO. The job entails strong organizational skills and a detail-oriented focus, and these traits are supported elsewhere in her western chart. But the Vedic chart makes a prediction – Mercury as lord will determine the shape of her career choice, and it did.
Sometimes, the shift operates on a more subtle level that is not immediately obvious. Consider the following example:
Western Virgo Ascendant and Gemini Mid-Heaven, Vedic Leo Ascendant
This woman is detail-oriented, and has always worked in Mercury-dominated career fields. She has been a secretary and a teacher (Gemini MC). She enjoys writing, and majored in journalism. A lot speaks to the western Virgo Ascendant, particularly in terms of career choice.
Yet, the Sun is the lord of her Vedic Leo Ascendant. To be valid, it needs to make some sort of accurate prediction about her life. A Leo Sun has to leave some sort of a lasting legacy, and this woman is me, the author of this blog.
WHAT’S THE BEST “GO-TO” RESOURCE FOR JYOTISH ON THE WEB?
Hands down, the best resource on the web is the vast and wonderful website at www.barbarpijan.com.
Barbara Pijan has made an incredible amount of material for Vedic students available for free on the Internet. No other Vedic astrologer in the US has made this kind of treasure trove available without charge. This website inspires my intent for this blog – I am striving to build the kind of treasure that Pijan and her husband have built, and make it available for free. In the best Vedic tradition, Pijan has acted as my role model or guru, even though I have never met or corresponded with her.
When I first encountered this website, the wealth of knowledge on the nakshatras alone kept me busy for a week. But there’s a lot more on here than just nakshatras.
This website will seem overwhelming at first. There is so much here that it boggles the beginner’s mind. But if the beginner persists, Pijan’s gift yields like a cornucopia.
She uses the Sanskrit terms for the planets (also called “grahas”) and signs (also called “rashis”) – this alone can scare away the beginner. You have to do a little bit of memorization of Sanskrit terms to be able to navigate easily in her world, so a quick run-down of the Vedic signs is shown below.
Sun = Surya
Moon = Chandra
Mercury = Budha
Venus = Shukra (note the similarity to the English word for "sugar")
Mars = Kuja or Mangala
Jupiter = Guru
Saturn = Shani
Aries = Mesha
Taurus = Vrishabha
Gemini = Mithuna
Cancer = Karkata
Leo = Simha
Virgo = Kanya
Libra = Thula
Scorpio = Vrischika
Sagittarius = Dhanushya
Capricorn = Makara
Aquarius = Kumbha
Pisces = Meena
ARE THERE OTHER GOOD SOURCES ON THE WEB?
Other good sources for articles on the web include the library at Komilla Sutton’s website (located under the Resources tab).
James Kelleher also maintains a well-written archive of articles on his website, which may be reached from the heading “About Jyotish” to the left of the mandala on the home page.
Another good stash of Vedic articles by Veno is available on her website. Veno is the illustrator of Prash Trivedi’s wonderful nakshatra book, “The 27 Celestial Portals”.
Veno's essays are a quirky collection with a little bit of everything from the “Cosmic Cow” to “Polynesian Astronomy”. In particular, I liked “Venus, The Beautiful One” and “Random Thoughts on Tantra”.
PART TWO - If you want the previous article in this series.
PART FOUR - If you want the next article in this series.