How is Jyotish different from Western astrology?
There are many differences. A very fundamental difference is that Jyotish is more astronomically accurate, where planets are viewed in reference to the actual background stars (sidereal zodiac) instead of the seasons (tropical zodiac). There is a difference of about 24 degrees between these two zodiacs. What this means is that in Vedic astrology planets move backwards in the birth chart- often into the previous sign and house as compared to the Western chart.
In Jyotish, the sign rising on the eastern horizon at birth (ascendant) is of primary importance rather than the Sun sign, and the natal Moon is of great importance. In classical Jyotish, the outer planets (Neptune, Pluto and Uranus) are not used.
Dashas: The remarkable loops of time
Jyotish is characterized by its remarkable, highly specific timing cycles (called dashas). The dasha most widely used and highly regarded for its accuracy is called Vimshottari Dasha. This is a 120-year cycle made up of major planetary periods and smaller sub-periods. Where we personally begin this cycle depends on the degree of our natal Moon.
Each of us has much potential for various types of life experiences. Often it can seem as if we live several distinct lives over the course of one lifetime or are like more than one person. The dashas point to these major beginnings and endings of chapters in life. Dashas reveal which planets and houses of the birth chart are most strongly activated at a given time, helping us understand our current reality and the most likely timing of specific events.
The Divisional Charts: Where the Subtle Becomes Powerful
In addition to a main birth chart, approximately 15 other sub-charts (divisional charts or vargas) are commonly studied. Each divisional chart is connected to a specific area of life such as profession, marriage, parents, education, health, property, etc. These charts carry much weight and provide detailed information about various domains of life.
Rahu and Ketu
The North and South Nodes of the Moon, known as Rahu and Ketu respectively, are of great significance in Jyotish. These two powerful points in space give their own distinct effects but are considered similar to Saturn and Mars. They are factored in as two ‘shadowy planets’ along with the seven planets from the Sun through Saturn.
A truly profound glory of Jyotish is its use of 27nakshatras that are lunar constellations, that are commonly referred to as lunar mansions, or ‘stars’. Nakshatras have many unique qualities and layers of revealing symbolism, and are also used as a basis for overall birth chart analysis and for also making prediction. In the birth chart each planet sits not only in one of twelve signs of the zodiac, but also in a specific nakshatra. The nakshatra of one’s natal Moon is deeply revealing about one’s personality, temperament and external traits, and in India is regarded as a key indicator much in the same way that we look to our Sun sign in the West.
How and when might a Jyotish consultation be helpful?
People seek astrological consultation for all kinds of reasons. A reading is often especially helpful during times of transition. When life direction is unclear, Jyotish serves as a timely and powerful means to shed more light on one’s path.
When life is feeling a bit stuck or routine, Vedic astrology can kindle the inspiration or perspective that comes from knowing more about one’s unique gifts and the hidden strengths of the current period.
Jyotish offers a picture of a person’s inner and outer life that is unique in its detail, depth of vision and clarity. This tool can greatly help a person to understand their own very unique journey, patterns and timetable.
Daily life with its varied concerns is the familiar terrain of Jyotish. In India, people will commonly consult their astrologer with questions that can range from wanting to learn about marriage compatibility of a prospective mate, to questions such as whether and when one is likely to change jobs, move, have children, emigrate, face health issues, etc., etc. It is a system that can guide a person in understanding the kinds of spiritual practices and daily routines that are naturally most suitable at a given time.
Astrology points to the kinds of endeavors one is most naturally suited, both currently and over the years to come, helping one to purposefully and constructively direct their energy and skills.
Vedic astrology also reveals the kinds of hurdles one is likely to face. Knowing these potentials can help a person take active steps to avert difficulties and navigate complicated times as gracefully as possible. When one is pushing against life’s natural current and experiencing confusion or frustration, the birth chart serves as a vital resource for seeing one's life from a more insightful and spacious vantage point.