The Background of Vedic Astrology
We can see in our past a great emphasis in ancient civilizations of the importance of understanding, feeling and honouring the celestial forces that are commonly known as Astrology.
While the science of understanding the physical astro bodies is known as the science of Astronomy, the modern science does not acknowledge the unseen, intangible evidence of the vibrational influence on humans as Astrology.
Yet, the first Astronomers were actually Astrologers. Ancient astrologers were revered amongst kings and queens, as personal advisors. Many kings would have 2 astrologers, so that when both astrologers reported the same conclusion or date of action (like timing of war) he or she would feel more confident to act.
In the past these great civilizations enjoyed a reduced amount of distraction and interference, in comparison to our modern living conditions. Being exposed to advertising, television, mobiles and all sorts of electronic and other high vibration interference, harms our connection to the subtle vibrations from the heavenly bodies above.
The modern vibrational forces can be seen as helpful in the present age of technology with social media’s, business and communications, bringing humans together in a modern form of yoga. Yet in the past, Rishi’s and Seers of Astrology required stillness and quiet meditation in nature to lessen the vibrational influence of their environments. These amazing beings, could feel the energetic forces of the planets and interpret their qualities and transits with accuracy over thousands of years of study. Many of them would be found deep in a forest or high on a mountain, to access the secret codes of the stars above.
Vedic astrology is rooted deeply in Indian Hindu culture, with the Vedic, Yogic and Vedantic view of life and the universe. The law of karma, rebirth and the embodied evolution of the soul in consciousness as our primary life goal or dharma.
Vedic tradition has a different view of the world than modern science or Western astrology. It views human history and civilization in a different light from the great gurus and yogis. In the Vedic view we live in a Self-aware Conscious Universe and astrology is an integral part of it and showing the connection between its forces at different levels, dimensions, worlds or lokas.
Karma and World Ages (or Yugas)
Vedic astrology reflects a different view of time, life and history that differs to modern science or western religions. It emphasizes how natural time is connected with cosmic energies. It sees time cycles, both nature and historical, in terms of world-ages or yugas.
The Vedic view of human history reflects astronomical time-cycles and their effect upon human life. This spiritual view of history differs radically from that of history as we generally know it. Modern science considers Astrology an esoteric knowledge, and the connection of life on Earth separate to other domains of the universe.
The Vedic view is that humanity is guided by longer astronomical cycles that our current civilization is neither at its lowest or the highest cycle. Consciousness connects the entire universe and is not just a human experience. We need to recognize and respect these cosmic time cycles, as it will be difficult for us to understand the karmic circumstance of our lives or our society if we don’t.
When seeking legitimacy for karma from a modern scientific perspective, the question of `why do bad things happen to good people’ is asked. If we are not able to open our minds to the possibility of past lives and karma, then we will feel an instant disconnect and disbelief when a perceived good person or people in the present time, endure a great loss or suffering.
Astrology interprets both individual and collective karma. Once we understand this fact, we learn to respect what astrology indicates and its usage for understanding personal and collective karma.
Spirituality and Astrology
Time, called Kala in Sanskrit, is not a mere abstract field of physical forces, but is endowed with subtle energies and rhythms according to cosmic influences and various times cycles or yugas, from the day, month, year, to longer planetary cycles and cosmic cycles of many billions of years.
These cosmic time cycles affect us at both individual and collective levels. Vedic astrology sees the planets as powers of cosmic consciousness and intelligence that guide our karma and can help us properly understand, manage and transcend our karma to higher powers of light. This requires that we approach the planets with respect as representing powers of Cosmic Consciousness. Note the nature of time according to Vedic thought.
Time itself or Kala is also Maha-Kala or Lord Shiva, who is also the deity of eternity. The VGods or Devas, such as described in yogic and Vedic through, as powers of cosmic intelligence relate to the planets as cosmic powers of time. That is why we look at the planets as deities or Devatas in Vedic astrology. It is part of a spiritual science of time, not mere worship of the literal planets. Time is the dominant cosmic force that rules over our lives and the universe as a whole. Time creates the Cosmic Prana or life force which is the basis of all other energies, both animate and inanimate. This Cosmic Prana moves according to the forces of karma universal, collective and individual levels. Astrology reflects the Cosmic Prana and its karmic movement. Astrology is a science of karma, not just an outer science. It presumes an intelligent order to the universe, dispensed on all levels. The planets represent the cosmic influences or deities governing our lives and the movement of time and karma, not just certain planets in the solar system. The planets are conduits for broader cosmic forces beyond those of our solar system and apply these at the level of our solar system. They represent the prime principles and powers or tattvas of the entire universe in our local manifestation.
Tropical and Sideral Zodiacs – Ayanamsha
Western tropical and Vedic sidereal astrology differ on how the signs are calculated, though the signs in both instances have the same basic meanings and planetary connections. “Sidereal” refers fixed star based zodiac as in the Vedic zodiac, which is measured by certain points in the fixed stars. “Tropical” astrology refers to an equinox based as in most western astrology, which is no longer aligned with the fixed stars, a situation that occurred around two thousand years ago. Astronomically the difference between these two zodiacs is around 24 degrees or approaching one full sign. The sidereal zodiac is preferred in Vedic Astrology because of its connection with the fixed stars and through them with the greater cosmic order.
In summary, sidereal astrology measures the zodiac relative to the fixed stars, while tropical astrology measures the zodiac relative to the shifting positions of the equinoxes. We must understand their different calculations.
We must remember that the term “astrology” means “that which relates to the stars”. This implies that only a sidereal astrology based upon the actual stars is a true astrology or science of the stars. The tropical zodiac commonly used in the West is based upon a seasonal division and does not directly relate to the fixed stars.
It bases its signs upon the solstices and equinoxes, the points of which are slowly moving background in the zodiac over a 25,000-year period. Astrology began historically with astronomy as an observation of the stars and planets from actually looking at the sky, and so should be sidereal in basis. There has been much historical debate on this topic, with some scholars proposing that astrology was tropical from its origins, which we cannot accept. We hold that Vedic astrology reflects the original zodiac of the fixed stars. A tropical zodiac is not observable in the heavens as it is a mathematical abstraction. Originally astrology was obviously based upon observing the fixed stars, not on abstract calculations. We can easily note this as the signs of the zodiac or constellations were originally sidereal in nature, marking certain groups of stars.
People in the West tend to identify astrology with the tropical signs and do not understand that these tropical signs, as used in Sun signs of western astrology, no longer reflect actual astronomical positions.
We may need to be able to clarify this to people coming from a background of western astrology. Many people still consider that the tropical zodiac is observable, when it actually was based upon stellar positions of two thousand years ago. It has replaced these with a division of time based upon the equinoxes that no longer reflects the actual stars.
For easy calculation purposes with existing western astrology charts, we can take any existing tropical chart and turn it into a sidereal chart by subtracting the appropriate amount from all planetary positions. This will take most positions back into the previous sign, as the different between the two zodiacs is around 24 degrees according to the most commonly used Lahiri Ayanamsha.
Planets & The Three Gunas
Planets & Signs
The Nine Planets (Navagraha)
The nine planets of Sun (Surya), Moon (Chandra), Mercury (Budha), Venus (Shukra), Mars (Kuja), Jupiter (Brihaspati, Guru), Saturn (Shani), Rahu and Ketu are the main factors in Vedic astrology.
If you can understand the planets, you can easily understand all the rest of Vedic astrology. Vedic astrology is a science of understanding planetary influences. Other astrological factors like signs and houses develop out of these.
Note that traditional Vedic astrology does not use Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, though some Vedic astrologers do. Rahul and Ketu are not actual planets but eclipse nodes that have a secondary planet nature in Vedic thought, but are very important
The nine planets relate to the three primary qualities or gunas of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, Nature’s prime qualities of harmony, movement and inertia, which is part of their natural status.
Vedic knowledge systems aim at promoting sattva guna as the power of balance and higher awareness as the factor of growth for the mind and the soul. Rajas or the quality of action is reflecting more in our sense and motor organs along with our emotional impulses. Tamas or the quality of inertia is reflected in the body and the forces that pull us down in life, like gravity. We must consider these three forces relative to the planets as well.
Sattvic Planets that promote awareness, harmony, intelligence, balance – Sun, Moon, Jupiter
Rajasic Planets that promote action, expression, movement, change – Mercury, Venus
Tamasic Planets that develop inertia, resistance, opposition, obstruction – Mars, Saturn, Rahu, Ketu
There is some crossover of this information with benefic and malefic status discussed below. Malefic planets are tamasic, except the Sun. All benefic planets are either sattvic or rajasic.
Planets & The Five Elements
The planets relate to the five elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether as part of their natural status. The Five Elements are one of the key concepts in Vedic thought and have several levels of applications relative to the planets and signs, as well as on other levels. For example, they also relate to the five lower chakras of yogic thought and to the structure and function of the physical body in Ayurvedic medicine. The five elements have psychological and spiritual indications, not just physical connections. The five elements form the basic vibratory levels of all existence of matter, life and mind. They are also fields of acting as Earth and work, water and emotion, fire and will, air and thought, space and awareness.
Earth – Mercury: allows us to deal with the earth element, though in itself is more airy
Water – Moon: Venus: promote watery tendencies physically, emotionally and spiritually
Fire – Sun, Mars: develop fire, aggression, assertion, perception
Air – Saturn: causes instability, ungroundedness, separation
Ether – Jupiter: promote expansion, harmony and ascension
Some planets consist of the same element but have different gunas (like the Sun as relating to the fire element and sattva guna, with Mars as fire and tamas). The Sun promotes spiritual knowledge, health and well-being, while Mars tends to be impulsive and caught in eventual inertia.
Some planets consist of the same gunas but different elements (like Mars and Saturn as tamas in gunas but as fire and air in elements respectively, which both can be destructive). No two planets are the same in terms of both elements and gunas. This helps us determine their unique characteristics.
The gunas and elements of the planets fit in with the basic nature and character of the planets. Yet take this information as general guidelines, not as the last word on the planets. Planets are also influenced by the elements of the signs in which they are located and which they rule.
Planets As Benefic Or Malefic/Natural Status
Vedic astrology designates planets as benefic (supportive in action) or malefic (obstructive in action), which characterizes their influences and functions overall. This is perhaps their most important distinction that should always be carefully remembered and considered. It should not be taken literally as good or bad, much less good or evil, but as expansive and contractive, supporting or negating. It is not a question of morality or religion but of the working out of energies. Note the main factors below.
The Sun is a natural malefic as by its power of heat and light tends to damage the houses and planets it gets associated with in the chart. Its action is powerful but can be harsh.
The Moon is a natural benefic as it has a nourishing and softening effect wherever it is placed, but note that the Moon loses its benefic power to some dgree when new or waning.
Jupiter is the greater benefic and the most positive planet in the chart for promoting growth, expansion, success, health and good karma on all levels.
Saturn is the great malefic, opposite to Jupiter in qualities, the most negative planet overall, promoting decline, contraction, defeat, disease and difficult karmas.
Venus is the lesser benefic and also has a positive, expansive and creative effect like Jupiter.
Mars is the lesser malefic and also has a destructive, divisive and negative effect like Saturn.
Mercury is benefic, supportive and communicative in its own nature but easily comes under the influence of the planets it is associated with and can change its nature (except the Sun which it is commonly connected to.
Rahu, the north node of the Moon, is much like Saturn as a malefic and disintegrating force but more subtle and psychic in its actions.
Ketu has a similar malefic influence as Mars but more subtle in its actions, negative and potentially destructive or transcendanet.
Note that benefics planets are not always good in their effects in the chart, in that benefics promote the powers of the houses that they rule – which can be problematical if these are difficult houses (like 6, 8 or 12, which cause loss and destruction). Similarly, malefics can be good in the chart, in that they can destroy the negative influences of negative factors that they may influence, like negating the factors of disease. So, interpretation must be nuanced accordingly.
House locations also matters relative to benefits and malefics and whether their effects are overall good or bad for the chart and in what way. We will explore this in detail later. As an important general rule that we emphasize; benefics are good when located in angles and trines (houses 1, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10), while malefics are good in upachaya houses (3, 6, 11 and sometimes 10). This is the most basic rule of planetary location in Vedic astrology, and should never be overlooked.
Planets In Terms Of Qualities & Characteristics
Each planet in addition to these general categories has its own qualities and characteristics, including the two lunar nodes, Rahu and Ketu. You must understand the range of meaning of each planet, which is extensive. Each can function on a lower and mundane or higher spiritual level. The planets as an all-encompassing symbolism have their counterparts for all processes in life and all levels of consciousness. Note the meaning of the planets and their different qualities of energy.
The Sun as the largest and brightest heavenly body represents authority, the king or ruler, leader, father, success, power, prana, will-power, ego, soul and Self.
The Moon represents the female ruler, queen, mother, public influence, fertility, creativity, mind, emotions and feelings. It is the fastest moving and most variable of the planets and so its influences change quickly.
Mars has a similar fiery energy to the Sun but reduced and specialized as the son, brother, prince, male energy, prowess, aggression, competition, legal and military factors.
Venus as the brightest star morning or evening has a similar energy to the Moon but reduced and specialized as the daughter, wife, female energy, attraction, beauty, inspiration, art, luxury, and adornment.
Jupiter as the brightest star in the night sky indicates cosmic energy, law, dharma, religion, spirituality, education, wealth, prosperity, abundance, wellbeing and health.
Mercury as close to the Sun but of diminished brightness indicates the child, intellect, perception, knowledge, prana, speech, commerce and communication.
Saturn as the slowest moving of the planets indicates destiny, time, karma, obstruction, inertia, poverty, disease, longevity, detachment and renunciation.
Rahu as the north lunar node indicates illusion, desire, the media, Maya, expansion, deception, notoriety and dissolution.
Ketu as the south lunar node indicates perception, research, spiritual knowledge and inquiry but as related to Mars energy also death, termination, injuries, negation.
Each planet functions as interrelated with the others and reflect upon each other. For example, the Moon and Saturn are opposite in qualities as fast- and slow-moving planets, affording them a contrary interaction. Become intimate with planetary meanings on all levels and begin to look at life through the nine windows of the nine planets. Learn to see the primary factors in the chart that each planet indicates, as well as their variations.
The Twelve Signs Or Rashis
The twelve signs of the zodiac – Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces – determine the fields of activity for the planets that rule over them. Each has its own characteristics, qualities and energies reflecting those of their ruling planets. Planets are moving forces, while signs are fixed fields of their operation. The signs are prime factors in Vedic astrology that must be carefully understood, which means understanding their ruling planets. While the Vedic signs have the same names as in western astrology, remember that their calculation is different. Their qualities are similar to those of tropical astrology but with some variations. The signs are called Rashis in Sanskrit which refers to an allotment or calculation, showing their karmic connections.
The signs relate to cosmic evolution and the different portions of the cosmic person as time personified (Kala Purusha). As such the twelve signs provide a blueprint for the working out of forces on all levels, whether individual or collective. Be able to articulate through a short description the meaning and characteristics of each of the twelve signs, particularly as rising signs (Ascendants), which is where their main qualities are in evidence. You will need to be able to explain this to your clients. We will explore the 12 Ascendants in detail in a separate lesson.
Each planet rules two signs of the zodiac, except Sun and Moon that rule one.
Aries and Mars, Taurus and Venus, Gemini and Mercury, Cancer and Moon, Leo and Sun, Virgo and Mercury
Libra and Venus, Scorpio and Mars, Sagittarius and Jupiter, Capricorn and Saturn, Aquarius and Saturn, Pisces and Jupiter
The signs reflect the meaning of the planets that rule them. They are fields created by their ruling planets and are best understood according to the characteristics of their ruling planets. Aries, for example, as a Mars ruled sign, reflects Mars energies in its indications and operation.
Become conversant with the signs as expressions of the planets and as twelve windows on life, a blueprint for the twelve phases or twelve aspects of any aspect of life. Learn to be able to explain the basic meanings and indications of each sign.
The signs have three overall qualities or energetic orientations:
Cardinal (moveable, chara) for Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn
Fixed (sthira) for Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius
Mutable (dual, dvisvabhava) signs for Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces
A majority of planets in moveable signs will make a person moveable and active both outwardly and inwardly, usually in a focused direction, but can cause assertion, aggression or instability. Can cause changes in residence or the seeking of new gains in life.
A majority of planets in fixed signs will make a person fixed in their personal traits and in their outer action, providing stability but also inertia and unwillingness to change. the person may be stubborn and unyielding. Outwardly their residence or profession may remain the same and seldom change.
A majority of planets in mutable or dual signs will be sensitive, changing and adaptable, but also wavering and vulnerable, volatile and unpredictable, intelligent but ungrounded. Note that moveable signs relate to the mental planets Mercury and Jupiter.
Generally, planets in moveable signs are more rajasic (wilful and assertive), in fixed signs more tamasic (steady but conservative), and in dual signs more sattvic in qualities (ruled by Jupiter and Mercury, intelligent but sensitive). Should Ascendant, Sun and Moon all be located in signs of the same quality, the effects will be more pronounced/ Over time look at these qualities within yourself, in other people and in different circumstances and see if you can find correlations with the chart.
Signs & Elements
Each Sign has one of the Four Elements from Earth to Air.
Earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn)
Water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces)
Fire (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius)
Air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius)
The elements of the sign are important for delineating the fields of activity for each sign and their different personality characteristics. Yet the elements for the signs are always not identical with the elements of their ruling planets and have their own characteristics and value.
Saturn, Mercury and Venus each rule an Earth sign and Air sign. Saturn with Capricorn and Aquarius, Mercury with Virgo and Gemini, and Venus with Taurus and Libra. Mars and Jupiter, on the other hand, each rule a fire sign and a water sign. Mars with Aries and Scorpio and Jupiter with Sagittarius and Aquarius. This is not the same as the elements that the planets rule by nature.
A person with many planets in earth signs will have a lot of activity in the field of the earth, body, nature or the physical world and may be earthly in nature.
A person with many planets in water signs will be emotional, feeling oriented, relationship oriented and personal in their interactions.
A person with many planets in fire signs will be wilful, aggressive, intelligent and assertive.
A person with many planets in air signs will be changeable, sensitive, expansive and socially minded.
Yet do not forget the elements of the planets either and their relationship with the elements of the signs. For example, Mars will do well in Leo, a fiery planet in a fire sign. Venus will usually suffer in Leo as a watery planet in a fire sign.
The Meanings Of The Twelve Signs
The signs have an additional twofold quality as odd and even, active and passive, positive and negative. Odd-numbered signs will generally be more masculine and assertive, while even-numbered signs will be more feminine and response.
Odd or masculine signs: Aries, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Sagittarius, Aquarius
Even or feminine signs: Taurus, Cancer, Virgo, Scorpio, Capricorn, Pisces
Note the differences in the signs by the sides (active and passive) of their ruling planet predominant in them (though this is only one factor in comparing sign influences).
Aries as the odd sign 1 for Mars is the positive, active, aggressive sign of Mars gives a more independent Mars energy, while Scorpio as its even sign 8 is its negative, passive, resistant sign and works more behind the scenes.
Taurus as the even or feminine sign for Venus will give more feminine, creative and artistic Venus energies and gathering material resources. Libra as the odd or masculine sign for Venus will be more concerned with public, commerce, communication, ideals and politics.
Gemini as the odd or masculine sign for Mercury will be more expressive, communicative, extroverted, mathematical, scientific and abstract in its approach. Virgo as the even or feminine sign of Mercury will be more feminine, artistic, home oriented, healing oriented and introverted.
Sagittarius as the odd or masculine sign for Jupiter will be more expressive, assertive, legalistic, military, judgmental and expansive. Pisces as the feminine sign will be more intuitive, emotional, creative, receptive and nurturing.
Capricorn as the even or feminine sign for Saturn will be more public oriented, influenceable, work oriented and adaptable. Aquarius as the odd or masculine sign will be more principled, expansive and intellectual.
Combining Qualities and Elements of Signs
We can differentiate the meaning of signs further by their contrasts of qualities and elements. For example, Libra as moveable air is more expressive than Aquarius as fixed air, which is more withdrawn, while Gemini as mutable or dual-natured air, will be more volatile. Cancer as moveable water is more emotional than Capricorn as moveable earth that is more practical.
Planets reflect the elements of the signs in which they are located, more so if they share a common element. The element of the Ascendant or rising sign colours the chart as a whole. Planets gain strength if located in signs of similar elements, like the fiery Sun in a fiery sign like Sagittarius. Planets are weaker in signs ruled by an opposite element, like the fiery Sun being weaker in a watery sign like Pisces.
Begin to examine the twelve signs and how they relate and how they differ. It is important that we begin to think about these planetary factors ourselves, rather than just rely upon descriptions in books. We must learn to think in terms of Vedic astrology and learn its language. Above all, learn to look into the balance of the energies of the Ascendant, Moon and Sun signs as representing body, mind and character. In this regard signs create a typology of their own. Planetary types are one of the key factors of chart interpretation.