BA PART I : PAPER 4.3
PRASNA MARGA 3
Previously we used the metaphor of photography in regard to astrology and said that the general natal reading was like using a wide-angled lens. Once one has got a general idea of where his life is going, he may want to zoom in on a particular time frame to get more details. This is called an "update reading."
A person's life cannot be encapsulated in a few hours. Because it is impossible to do everything in one sitting, people often have follow-up readings that cover certain time frames. People usually ask about what the next six months or one year will hold in store for them. Many people have their charts updated around the beginning of the New Year, or near their birthday, and thereby have a report for the upcoming year. One may want a chart updated because of contemplating a new business, changing his residence, having marital, legal, or health problems, etc. There are no hard-and-fast rules regarding when or why to have a chart done, or for what span of time. One's needs should be the guideline for this.
Follow-up readings are almost exclusively predictive in nature. They will reveal in greater detail the types of situations, both physically and mentally, that you one will find oneself in--times of strength or weakness, happiness and sadness, romance, love, health, illness, travel, education, etc. This type of reading is quite popular with business people, executives, and anyone (that includes you) who needs to have the best information available for decision- making and planning. These kinds of people know the value of a good advisor who can suggest strategy for progressing in material or spiritual life.
Closely related to update charts but of generally longer duration are charts that focus on a particular planetary period or sub-period. These will normally cover time frames of several years in duration. It is advisable for anyone who had such a longer forecast done to have his chart updated at least annually, if not every six months. The reason is simple: the shorter the span of time investigated, the more detail revealed.
The Need For Counsel
Now we shall briefly diverge and take a glimpse at what Vedic thinkers have said about the need of good counsel; then we shall return back to the topic. Since ancient times, good astrologers have been recognized as among the best of advisors. Canakya Pandita (circa 1550 BC) has said that every king should have ministers to guide him:
"One without an adviser has no certainty of counsel."
"All things begin with counsel."
"The country prospers by proper ministerial counsel."
"Through ministerial eyes others' weaknesses are seen."
"Counselors (ministers) are the ones who see the true implications of what ought to be done and what ought not to be done."
"Governance is possible only with assistance. A single wheel does not move. Hence ministers should be appointed and their counsel listened to."
Of the many ministers to the king, Canakya explains that:
"The royal astrologer should know reading, writing, and arithmetic, explain well and interpret the secrets of the planets." And, "The brahmana who knows mathematics, interprets scripts, is interested in the ancient scriptures, and is able to interpret the secrets of planets, is worthy of worship like a god."
And finally Varaha Mihira said:
"There is no better boat than a horoscope to help a man cross over the troubled sea of life."
Though you may not be a king, you can still avail yourself of good astrological counsel to help you plan your life.
Jataka-Vicara -- Compatibility Charts
The potential of the natal chart has not been exhausted yet; it can also be used to determine marriage compatibility.
It is said that "Marriages are made in heaven." And the cynics have added: "But often end in hell." The situation is common: you meet someone, you are attracted, become attached, get into the relationship, but after sometime find out that it is not right for you--usually after much pain. There must be a better way. There is!
It is a time-honored tradition in India to compare and match horoscopes of prospective marriage partners. This is usually done by the parents (who were detached from the effects of their offsprings' hormonal interactions.) Not surprisingly, the guidance of good astrologers has resulted in a high marital success rate for happy marriages.
A main problem is that many Vedic astrologers nowadays don't know how to do compatibilities correctly. They rely on a very simplistic system called the Kuta method. In the Kuta method the Moons in both charts are compared by a set of twelve criteria based on their position in Nakshatra and Rasi (lunar mansion and sign of the zodiac). Points are allotted for each of the twelve criteria. The maximum value theoretically possible is 36 points, yet in practice no two Moons can get a compatibility rating of more than 33 points out of 36. There are tables available which give the result of all possible combinations. (I once taught a non-astrologer how to do this Kuta method of chart compatibility in 15 minutes. It is that simple, yet many astrologers are charging $50-$60 for this service, which is little more than looking up a number on a table.) I have recently seen a website that does a computerized version of this service for $4.95. It should not be surprising to discover that this method has a high failure rate.
Astrologers using this method will simply calculate the charts, look up the lunar positions, look at the table, and then declare that the couple has X% marital compatibility. For example, if the boy has got his Moon in Scorpio in the nakshatra Vishaka, and the girl has got her Moon in Sagittarius in the nakshatra Purvashadha, then according to the Kuta method the table says that they have only 16 points out of a possible 36, or only a 44% compatibility. Before having a compatibility reading done, ask the astrologer if he uses the Kuta method. If he says yes, then avoid him.
A well trained and experienced astrologer employs a system that thoroughly examines the two horoscopes on three tiers:
The general strength of each chart individually, with special attention paid to capacity for relationship and marriage.
A detailed examination of compatibility between the two charts based on all the planets, not just the Moon.
Calculations to determine the durability of the relationship. Many couples are attracted and seem compatible but later end up in divorce court, giving rise to the saying: "Married in haste; lamented at leisure."
For persons who are capable of maintaining a relationship (for it will be impossible to match up someone whose karma is not to marry), this Vedic method of horoscopic matching is quite useful. It saves the client much time, energy, and money, and protects sensitive emotions from unnecessary pain. One needs to know only the date, time, and place of birth of the subjects.
So be sure that the astrologer you are considering to do a compatibility reading is experienced in this area and that he uses a sophisticated technique such as outlined above.
Though compatibility studies are generally done for prospective marriages, they are not limited to this use. For example, the same principles can be adjusted and utilized in conjunction with other astrological techniques to develop an excellent method for choosing personnel.
Let's say you are prepared to pay someone a salary of $50,000 or $100,000 (or more) per year. It would be wise to hire someone who not only presented a good resume (which could have been forged) but who fits the job, fits in well with the others on your team, and, most importantly, works well with you. An astrologer could easily determine if the candidate is honest or a cheater, and if he has the capacity to fulfill the position. And by comparing his chart to the others he would be interacting with, it could be quickly determined with whom he would get along well and with whom he would not. If he fits in with most of your people, you could decide to take him on the team but being careful to minimize his interaction with those whose charts showed a negative reaction. Thus by nicely harmonizing workers into an effective team, esprit de corps is instilled, and competitiveness is greatly enhanced.
Parents often consult astrologers to find out how they can best guide their beloved children. Astrology can point out what the compatibilities and incompatibilities are between parent and child. An astrologer can suggest strategies for dealing with problem areas in the parent-child relationship, and can guide the parents in understanding the nature of their child, what the child's creative potential is, what areas should be encouraged, or what areas may be problematic
I have saved one of the most useful and dynamic branches of Vedic astrology until last--that being prasna, which literally means question. We again remind you of the metaphor of photography, in which a natal chart reading is like using a wide-angle lens. One gets the full view, but it seems far away, and one cannot see all the details. To get more detail one could zoom in and look at a smaller segment of time, say, the duration of a planetary major period or, even smaller, the planetary sub-period, or perhaps a year or six months. The real close-up shot or microscopic view would be to focus just on one question for a specific period of time. This is prasna.
Imagine parents of a traditional Indian household, who meet a particularly qualified girl who perchance is the perfect match for their son. But they don't want to make any commitment just yet or reveal their intentions; thus they certainly don't want to jeopardize their interests by directly asking for the girl's birth particulars. What to do? After suitably pondering the situation, they would ask a Vedic astrologer the question: What will be the result for my son if he marries girl X? The Vedic astrologer notes the time the question is asked, calculates the chart, analyzes it, and then gives a scientific answer.
How does it work? The conception of a question is the thought which enters one's mind. Pondering, worrying, and brooding over it is the gestation period. And asking is the birth of the question. You might be surprised to learn how accurately a trained astrologer is able to zero in on the correct answer.
Of course prasna is not limited to romantic ponderings, but can be applied to almost any situation wherein humans have questions. The following list is a small sample of the thousands of questions I have been asked in the course of my practice. I have chosen them to show the wide variety and almost endless application that is limited only by one's own imagination and personal experiences:
Which of the following three places, A, B, or C, is the best place to sink a well?
My daughter is missing. Is she all right? When will she return?
Who murdered the victim; what can you tell me about the murderer?
What shall be the result for me if I move to Los Angeles next month?
Should I file a legal suit against X?
Will the IRS come after me?
My health isn't good. The doctor recommended some treatment; should I do it?
I have lost my wedding ring; will I recover it?
What is the sex of my unborn child?
Should I take [spiritual] initiation from X?
Should I purchase the land in India?
What will be the result for me if I marry X?
Many people have heard of prasna and its power; but unfortunately they cannot always take advantage of it for two reasons:
Prasna is very difficult to perform, and it requires extensive special training. Even an astrologer capable to adequately read a natal chart will not be able to do a prasna chart properly unless trained to do so, because there are special rules in prasna that are not applicable to natal astrology, and vice versa.
The person fails to ask the question properly. Even a properly trained astrologer will not be able to answer an ill-conceived question.
In the first case, the seeker should carefully ascertain if the astrologer he is dealing with has had any special training in prasna. If he has not had this special training yet is consulted, the results could be disastrous. I know of one case in which a woman asked a well regarded West coast astrologer the question: "Should I approach the man I am interested in?" The untrained (in Prasna) astrologer told her yes. But it was likely the worst mistake of her life; it led to a major scandal, forcing her to leave town in a rush, hurriedly giving away all her possessions. The astrologer was untrained in prasna, so he did not charge her much; but it turned out to be a very costly consultation indeed. It cost her thousands of dollar plus the complete ruination of her reputation. The pity was that when she showed me the prasna chart, it was obvious that she should not have gone forward.
The second case simply requires some basic training on the part of the seeker as to how to ask a prasna.
How to Ask a Prasna
I have done literally thousands of prasnas since 1981 and the results are amazingly accurate (I have a 95+% success rate), provided the seeker follows a few simple rules when asking a question. The importance of correctly formulating a question cannot be overstated. In ancient Greece, the Oracle of Delphi was famous for giving accurate answers. But sometimes the answers were so enigmatic that no one could understand them, the reason being that the question itself was unclear.The astrological texts also state that the questions of certain persons should not be entertained:
One who asks in a casual or nonchalant manner
One who uses abusive language while asking
One who is a heretic or atheist
One who comes empty-handed
One who is proceeding on a journey
One who is answering the calls of nature
One who asks questions at dusk
For formulating a question to get a clear unambiguous answer, consider the following guidelines:
Pray to God that He will reveal His answer to you through the astrologer.
Keep your mind clear, and meditate on your question. If your mind is confused and you are thinking of many different questions at once, then the chart will reflect your nebulous state of mind and be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to answer. This can be likened to a woman who gives birth to five or six children at one time; the survival of any of them is doubtful.
Ask only one question at a time. If you have other questions, keep your mind clear and ask them only after you have received an answer to your first question.
Don't ask more than three questions in one day. (Brghu Muni says that it is best to approach the astrologer with only one question, of an auspicious nature.)
It is necessary to formulate a clear, truthful question in one's mind, getting right down to fundamentals and leaving out irrelevant details which can be added later if necessary, possibly by asking further questions. Decide exactly what it is that you wish to know. The clearer the question, the clearer the answer will be. A vague or ambiguous question will be reflected in the prasna chart, and it will be impossible to answer.
Always write down your question before asking the astrologer. This forces you to think clearly and concisely. The question should be formulated into one sentence--not a novel.
Don't ask convoluted questions. Keep them as straightforward as possible.
Ambiguous, "either/or" questions must be avoided; otherwise, one cannot know which part of the question has been answered. Better to divide into two or more questions and ask them at separate intervals, as mentioned above.
Similar to the "either/or" question is the "if/then" question; it also must be avoided.
To avoid confounding the meaning of an answer, one should be careful to ask questions in the positive, rather than the negative, attitude. For example:
Question: "Should I visit Mr. X?"
If the configuration of the chart is positive, then the answer will be yes--otherwise it would be no.
Question: "Should I remain at home and not visit Mr. X?"
If the configuration of the prasna chart is positive, does it mean that you should stay at home? Or does it perhaps mean that you should actually go to visit Mr. X? Which is correct? Or if the configuration were negative, does it mean that you should not visit him? Or does it perhaps mean that you should not remain at home? Which is correct?
An example of a convoluted question that would be impossible to answer is as follows: "Should I get into the herbal import business? If not, then should I get into real estate, or move back to England?"
The above example uses the "either/or", "if/then," and negative attitude. It should be divided into a series of questions, beginning first with, "Should I get into the herbal import business?" Depending upon the answer, the person would then ask the next question. In any case, one should not jumble so many questions into one.
Do not ask the exact same question within a three-month period; allow time to act. Sometimes people don't like the answer they get, so they keep asking the same question hoping that they'll get a better answer. Or they are impatiently waiting for results to arrive. This is actually disrespectful to God. Don't forget that we are doing divination, that is, approaching God for our answer through the astrologer. (It is also very irritating to the astrologer.)
If your mind is set upon getting only a certain answer, then you should wait before asking the question. In other words, if you want only a "yes" and not a "no" to a question, then you are not really prepared to receive the mercy of God via the astrologer's reply. You must realize that which ever answer He gives (through the astrologer) is in your best interest, even a "no." If you are attached to receiving only one answer, then you are not really open to divine guidance. And the answer which you want could actually lead you to disaster.
Some questions may have options which appear to be like multiple questions but are actually only one question. Suppose a person wanted to move to a different location and had several different options in mind. The questioner should try to narrow his choices as far as possible, with the understanding that he is allowed up to three options. Then he should write on paper: Should I move to 'A', 'B', or 'C' (where A, B, and C represent the names of the places he is considering)? When asking the astrologer, he needn't even reveal the actual names of the places, as long as he knows what they mean. But this method of using options can be used only when A, B, and C represent the same category of entity (in this case, locations). If the seeker has more than three options, then he will have to ask more than once in order to cover all the options.
You don't have to directly name an object or person you can just call it or them "X" to maintain confidentiality.
If you are consulting by mail, write each question on a separate piece of paper, fold it, and then number the questions consecutively. Maximum of three.
With these simple pointers, you now know how to ask questions properly in order to get a clear answer: perfect questions, perfect answers.
How to differentiate the good astrologer from the bad?
Unlike doctors, dentists, engineers, architects, or other licensed professionals, presently there is no regulating body for Vedic astrologers such as the AMA, which polices allopathic physicians. (Of course quack doctors still exist, and some people scorn the entire enterprise of allopathic medicine; but at least, to be a licensed MD the license-holder has had to pass specific criteria of rigorous educational training spanning several years.) Vedic astrology is just now becoming popular in the West; unfortunately this has given rise to a number of poorly trained persons claiming rights to the title of Vedic astrologer, and in the process giving Vedic astrology a black eye. Typically, such pretenders have read one or two books and then claim to be astrologers, or are dilettantes who have dabbled in it for years but never undergone any serious training.
I once saw an advertisement by a Vedic astrologer whom I didn't know, and because I knew most of the contemporary practitioners, I was curious as to who he was. So I telephoned him and asked if he was interested in the astrology software I had written. During the conversation I asked him whom he had studied under and for how long. I was stunned when he said that he had never learned from any teacher; he had read an astrology book only a year prior and now considered himself an astrologer. And his is not a unique case. Some tyros have even written popular texts on Vedic astrology, more like "cookbook" astrology, with no realizations included therein. (How could there be? They had just come in contact with the science only a year or two before.) Therefore it is essential for the seeker to actually find a master astrologer, not a beginner; for it is an observed phenomenon that most people when first seeking astrological consultation are very much psychologically susceptible, credulous, and impressionable to whatever the astrologer will say. The novice astrologer can thus harm the seeker and thereby bring disrepute upon the science. To aid your search for a good astrologer, I offer the following guidelines and questions that you should ask before consulting a given astrologer:
Q. How long has he studied astrology? Was it continuous study or sporadic?
Like medicine, mathematics, engineering, or any other science, astrology is very technical, complex, and subtle, with many branches and sub-branches. In fact, the Vedas say that astrology is the most complex science of all, because of its unique interdisciplinary nature. It requires at least five to seven years of intense, rigorous, full-time study under qualified teachers. Therefore, you should be doubtful of any astrologer with less than five years of training And we must emphasize the important distinction between years of experience, and years of training. An astrologer may have ten years of experience, but that tells nothing of his training. (He may have studied for seven years and practiced for three years, or vice versa.) While field experience is very important, it is no substitute for a solid astrological education; the benefit derived from experience will be vastly different for an educated versus an ignorant astrologer.
Regarding the untutored astrologer, often the case is one of "re-inventing the wheel." He will make many mistakes, with you as the guinea pig. For the learned astrologer, experience brings polish and elegance--he also expands his knowledge, but not at your expense.
There are also persons who claim to have studied astrology for twenty years. But further inquiry reveals that twenty years ago a friend read their chart, and that over the years they developed an interest in astrology, reading a book here and there, having a chart done here and there. This rather spastic, unsystematic method of study should make you cautious, at the very least. This is like someone who had his tonsils removed when a child and then developed an interest in medicine; over the years, between occasional visits to the family doctor and reading a few elementary medical books, he decided that he was now competent to practice medicine. Would you want to be treated by such a person? Of course not. Then why consult the astrological equivalent?
Furthermore, any reputable educational institution sets time limits on its courses of study, to ensure that education is continuous, that the student is meeting course requirements timely, and that he is maintaining maximum retention of the study material. For example, if a four-year course is spread over ten or fifteen years, then by the time the student has finished he will likely will have forgotten what he learned in the beginning. (This is especially true in doctoral programs.)
Q. Where did he study? Who were his teachers?
India, especially South India, is the land of Vedic astrology. There one will find at least some recognized astrological organizations sponsoring astrological study, and some universities offering degree programs in astrology. But the best way to study astrology is the old, traditional way of guru-sisya (teacher-disciple); this is a very personal and intense way of learning from a master astrologer. While not every astrologer in India is worth studying under, still there are many eminent panditas who are recognized by their peers for their accomplishments as actual scholars and masters of astrology. Noted astrologers have written learned books on this science and/or are sought out by the elite and their own peers. Of course, being Indian is no guarantee that an astrologer is competent. There are literally millions of astrologers in India, but only a fraction of them are accomplished.
If an astrologer says that he is self-taught from a book, then remember what the wit said: "One who teaches himself has a fool for a student." And we might add that he also has "a fool for a teacher." Yes, there are many books on Vedic astrology, but they can never replace a living teacher. Vedic astrology books were meant as mnemonic guides to help the student remember lessons taught by the guru. As Varaha Mihira, a famous astrologer, has said: "Little is written but much is meant." In other words there is even more information, not in books, that can be taught only personally. And, there is also so much information within books that cannot be understood properly without the help of a guru.
At this time there are very few qualified teachers in North America, but this is gradually improving. There are even some accredited, degree granting institutions that are developing courses in Vedic astrology, e.g. the Bhaktivedanta College. The Bhaktivedanta College School of Jyotish takes the traditional approach to teaching astrology.
In summary, if an "astrologer" says he has no teacher, is self-taught, or has never been to India, you should be doubtful of his qualifications.
Q. How many branches of Vedic astrology did he study?
There are six branches of Vedic astrology: gola (astronomy), ganita (mathematical astrology), jataka (natal astrology), prasna, muhurta, and nimitta (omens). A good astrologer will have studied five of these branches. These days, with the advent of computers and ephemerides, few astrologers study gola. Expertise in ganita, jataka, and prasna are essential. Training in muhurta and nimitta is strongly recommended.
If the astrologer knows only natal astrology he is probably self-taught. Or even if properly schooled, he will likely be of limited use, for he will be lacking in versatility. Obviously the more knowledge and expertise, the better.
Q. How much experience does he have?
Generally, more experience is better. But suppose you have a choice between one astrologer with little or no formal training but ten years of experience, and another astrologer with five years of formal training and only two or three years experience. The astrologer with the formal training is most sure to be in a superior position of knowledge. Consider this: as a serious student of astrology, as he progressed to higher levels of knowledge he may have studied under two or three astrology teachers, each of them having had perhaps 50 years or more of training and experience. In other words, the formal training he has received is the distilled essence of 150 or more years of his teachers' combined experience. Also, the training period includes apprenticeship in which the student practices astrology--it is not just theory. Of course if the astrologer has both real formal training plus long experience, so much the better. But be careful of those who count their years of self-study as experience--that is not strictly honest, just as no one would count years spent in college as work experience. So when inquiring about an astrologer's experience, be sure to determine if it is experience after formal study with a teacher, after self-study, or a combination of both study and active practice time.
Q. What is the astrologer's background education?
A. Traditionally in India there was a natural screening process that allowed only the most gifted intellects to study astrology. First of all, the person had to master Sanskrit in order to read mathematical texts. After mastering mathematics, the student mastered astronomy in order to be able to calculate the planetary positions. (In those days there were no ephemerides, calculators, or computers-- only good brains.) Then only, at the culmination, would the student study astrology.
Even today in India I have seen that the most respectable and able astrologers are scholars in fields other than astrology. I have met astrologers who were high-court judges, doctors, engineers,Sanskritists, etc.--men eminent and learned in several fields. For example, my astrology teacher from Calcutta, the late Harihara Majumdara, aside from being an author of several astrology books in English and Bengali, was also a barrister and Sanskritist. And, my astrology teacher in Bangalore, Sashi Kanta Jain, was truly a versatile genius who could: read, write, and speak at least ten languages; was a qualified Ayurvedic physician; was learned in mantra-sastra, philosophy, and the Vedas; and knew mathematics and Vedic astronomy; as well as being a first-class astrologer. And, Krsnan Potti of Trivandram, with whom I studied prasna, was a well-known scholar and author of over a dozen books. So it is important to know the background of the astrologer. Is he a scholar and deeply learned? If so, this indicates that most likely he is also a scholar of astrology.
If on the other hand an "astrologer" is devoid of scholarship and mathematical ability, or his other interests center on activities such as playing in a rock 'n' roll band, surfing, or some other incompatible activity, you might want to reconsider before having him do your chart. He doesn't exactly fit the prototype of the learned Brahmana astrologer, which might even be grounds to question his competence to perform the mathematics involved in astrology.
Q. Is he an intuitive or psychic astrologer?
If he answers yes, then be careful. These days, people who are too lazy to undergo the hard work necessary for studying astrology often present themselves as "intuitive" or "psychic" astrologers, which simply means that they speak whatever notions enter into their minds--wild guessing, you might say. Would you go to an "intuitive" mechanic or dentist?
If an astrologer has undergone the austerities required of him, then naturally he develops a feel for his art. In very rare cases one may be a prodigy with a gift for such things, but they are quite rare indeed. Even these gifted persons improve still further with training. A gifted student will aspire for a gifted teacher who can inspire him to become even better; there is always more to learn. And besides, it is the Vedic tradition for everyone to accept a master as teacher.