An Answer to: Vedic Astrology, Critically Examined
BY: DHARMAPAD DAS (DEAN DOMINIC DE LUCIA)
May 27, 2012 BRAZIL (SUN) Well, the article, "Vedic Astrology, Critically Examined, certainly cries out for an answer. I guess it's my turn, why not? Gaurakishore das presents a segment from the book, and he seems to stand by it as an authoritative critique. This is unfortunate. Why? Let us see.
The author of the book mentions "What makes the situation really difficult is the fact that in a traditional teaching in the guru-disciple relationship an objective discussion of facts is not admitted. Studying the authoritative texts does not mean that they be read, discussed, and their meaning discovered with a simple, unprejudiced mind." Well, this is probably true of the Hindu astrology gurus who come to the West with vested interests and motives, but this doesn't show that anything is wrong with Vedic astrology per se; it just means that gurus can be materialistic in the age of Kali.
It was quoted that: "Different traditions that rely on the same authoritative works do not discuss with each other, but each one does their own thing." From what I have seen, most of them apply the same dictums and judge horoscopes according to those dictums, with minor differences of emphasis. E.g., one group might favor one system of planetary periods while another group favors another one. But such differences are actually mutually supportive and can be compared with one another to confirm an astrologer's abstraction. They simply go to show that there is more than one way of arriving at the truth, which is very much in consonance with the concept of variety and plurality that we vaishnavas hold dear. Shri Lalita might favor serving Shri Krishna in one way, Shrimati Radharani in another, while another gopi favors a yet different way. None are wrong, and they all indicate the same thing, pure love of Godhead. So different emphases may be found, but no contradictions in the system itself can be proven because of this. If Hindus in the Kali Yuga want to squabble among themselves, this does not reflect on the system.
At the same time, there truly are some deviations from the parampara system of astrology, usually when and where Muslim astrology becomes incorporated into the Hindu scheme. But again, this has no reflection on pure Hindu astrology.
And then there is the complaint against using the term Vedic in Vedic astrology: While Indian astrology may be "Vedic" in that it is part of today's Vedic tradition, the Vedas themselves, the core corpus of sacred writings of Hinduism (śruti), do not know any astrology of this kind. The "astrological" passages of these texts are mainly interested in the position of the moon in the 27 or 28 lunar mansions, as well as in the lunar phases, the solstices, and the equinoxes. Such astronomical observations played an important part in the Vedic sacrificial cult, but there is scanty, if any, evidence for practices of a more "astrological" kind. Planets play no role at all in the Vedas, zodiac signs are completely unknown, 4 and natal horoscopy as we know it today is never mentioned."
What is the problem? "Vedic" can be used to loosely encompass everything related to Vedic culture, to all elements that were included in it. None of the Hindu astrological scholars, or even everyday practitioners, have been so ignorant and badly informed that they think that predictive astrology was presented in the four Vedas. How misleading and overdramatic! A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Prabhupad, took the term Krishna sambhanda and translated it as Krishna consciousness, and nobody became upset about it. The four Vedas only made use of astrology insofar as timing events by the passage of the Moon through the nakshatras, which is fine, but they were never meant to be works on predictive astrology. But we can still call it Vedic astrology and everyone knows what it is. A rose, by any other name, is still a rose.
Then we have "Also revealing are the details of the astrological "birth chart" of Krsna that are found in the Harivamśa and in some Purāna texts. Tradition interprets the texts in such a way, that Krsna was born in the month of Śrāvana during the rainy season at midnight in the eighth night after full moon, so was born during the waning half-moon with the moon in the lunar mansion of Rohinī (in sidereal Taurus). "
"It seems that the texts are not interested at all in zodiac signs and the exact positions of the planets. Krsna's ascendant becomes apparent only incidentally: because the waning half-moon at midnight was rising in the east. But there is no reason to believe that the ascendant was of interest as such, as it is not expressly mentioned and zodiac signs seem not to be of any interest. After all, it is clear that some kind of natal astrology was known to these texts. They also state that all "lights" were in an auspicious position, when Krsna was born."
It may seem that Krishna's ascendant "only becomes apparent incidentally", but when we know that the Moon is in the nakshatra Rohini we automatically know that the sign was Taurus because that is where Rohini sits and yes, when it was midnight Taurus was on the horizon, thus Taurus was the ascendant. Oftentimes, only the nakshatra was mentioned in Vedic, Puranic and Itihasa texts because the nakshatra is in the sign and knowing the nakshatra, one can know the sign (to make a long story short). To speak that way is actually a matter of a typical, technical-language jargon for the astrological profession, and it shouldn't be concluded that the signs were not so important.
True, there were 28 nakshatras in Vedic times, including Abhijit. But Abhijit has moved to the side and is not counted as a nakshatra/asterism within the Zodiac anymore. This is not a problem, either. In the Brihat Jataka, from Greek times, an alignment involving the distance between the Sun and Venus is quoted from earlier times, and this alignment is not currently possible according to celestial mechanics; Venus never strays so far as depicted by that quote. But the Vedic literature often mentions that the Kali Yuga was brought on by Kala, which the Hindus translate as "planetary influence." To translate Kala as time is the same thing because it is the planets that indicate time. The Zodiac and planets form a huge clock in the heavens.
But Dieter Koch tells us: "From all this it becomes clear that even though we do not know much about the "astrology" of the Vedic period, it must have been radically different from so-called "Vedic" astrology as we know it today.
However, could our current system of Jyotir Vidya be defective because it was meant to be used with 28 nakshatras, and now there are only 27? (There! I didn't use the term Vedic astrology. I hope that Dieter Koch is satisfied.) The truth is that our system of astrology was given to us by Parashara Rishi; his treatise on predictive astrology is the only literature from Vedic times that presents the entire system of Vedic astrology from beginning to end. (All of those other big books with Sanskrit names were written in the post-vedic era, after the Kali Yuga had started.) In the section dealing with the planetary periods and in the section dealing with shad balas, planetary strength, the great rishi mentions that the system he presents is appropriate for the Kali Yuga. Thus, his system is a system for the Kali Yuga. (It seems that the Jaimini system was in vogue during the previous yuga, and it is not completely known anymore.) So Parashara Rishi, the father of Veda Vyas, and the author of the Vishnu Purana and the Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, presented us with a system of astrology for the Kali Yuga and it takes into consideration 27 nakshatras and excludes Abhijit. The absence of Abijit does not make Vedic astrology defective or cockamamie.
The Zodiac was not imported from the West around the second century A.D. because it was already mentioned in Parashara Rishi's work around the end of the Dvarpara Yuga/beginning of Kali. And Viraha Mihir mentions the Zodiac in his Brihat Jataka during Greek times. If Vedic astrology is typically referred to as Parashari astrology by the Hindus, (i.e., that's what it is, the astrology of Parashara), then how come Dieter Koch doesn't seem incorporate who Parashara was, what Parashara wrote, and what the implications are? Someone familiar with Parashara can't make the statements that Dieter Koch has made.
Another thing that Dieter Koch has mentioned in his book is that: "Also later, when Indian astronomy had progressed further and the speed of precession was roughly known, astrologers did not consider to use a tropical zodiac."
Well, if Vedic astrology comes to us via the disciplic succession as a set system, then how is would it be that astrology would progress and something would be added? The Surya Siddhanta gives us a fixed, sidereal Zodiac and, according to the parampara concept, we want to adhere to the original system.
As far as the true starting point of that zodiac, there can be some difference of opinion among scholars of as much as 3* (three degrees); granted. But, among working astrologers who look at horoscopes everyday, there is not such a difference of opinions, not much. At any rate, it is not that the scholars hand down a calculation, and then the astrologers work with it. They practically see what works and what doesn't. For example, let's say that an astrologer looks at the horoscope of a friend, and sees that 28* of Cancer was on the ascendant when this friend was born. But the astrologer thinks, "hmmm … Cancer is such a passive, feminine, maternal and caring sign. How could my friend be a Cancer rising? He is so aggressive, bossy and autocratic. But Leo the Lion is just two degrees away. Could it be that he is really a Leo, and that this ayanamsha just isn't exactly right?" And then the astrologer would experiment with an ayanamsha that is a few degrees different. There are several different scenarios that would alert an astrologer to a bad ayanamsha, especially scenarios involving the calculation of the planetary periods. In India, the astrologers have had a few thousand years to work on this issue, observing and then making adjustments. There is a silent majority out there that does just fine with Lahiri.
About the descriptions typically offered in the Vedic literature about the zodiacal signs and the placement of planets within them, Dieter Koch wrote: "The briefness and disorder in the texts are symptomatic of the low importance that is given to the interpretation of zodiac signs in India."
But this is just his interpretation. How about interpreting that the nature of the signs and sign placement were already known to astrologers and that those were the first and simplest things that astrologers would learn back then. And the tradition was mostly oral anyway. What we could surmise is that the brief descriptions might just highlight some of the more unusual traits, or that the descriptive shokas might just have been written according to rhyme and meter of Sanskrit poetry, with no real need for completeness.
Do any of the readers remember the expression "If you had half a brain, you'd be dangerous." It seems the author of the book Vedic Astrology, Critically Examined, Dieter Koch, read three books, hung his professional shingle, and presented himself as knowing enough to be an expert and make a critique. I really think Dieter is very much mistaken and incomplete in his comments, unfortunately. (So why did Gaurakishore das send his book to us???)
I could take issue with a few more points, but I hope that the reader gets the general idea by now. Which brings us to …