BA PART I : PAPER 4.5
Qualities and Qualificationsof a Vedic Astrologer
We can categorize the qualifications in terms of, firstly, proficiency of the subject matter in theory and practice, secondly, in the attitudes, intentions and character of the astrologer, and thirdly (since we are, in fact, astrologers) we can make brief mention of astrological considerations which may be helpful to the making of a good astrologer.
For inspiration and guidance we will be looking to some ancient Sanskrit texts, which, remarkably date back to 4000 B.C. One must consider how much the appearance of life changes in just a decade - or certainly in 100 years, to consider how different life would have been six thousand years ago. Still, truth survives time and the Vedic astrological tradition has been handed down generation to generation such that we can look to out ancient heritage for some answers to essential questions.
We do this mindful of the Desha, Kala and Dharma of our culture to help us separate what is relevant from the non-essential. We are aware, for example that the computer and modern almanacs make many computations, formally essential prerequisites - obsolete. But we can consider the kind of mental state achieved by a practitioner who would spend days married to the mathematics and vibrations of one horoscope. We can likewise appreciate the kind of focus possible in an environment unfettered with the conflicts and pressures of modern day urban life.
These are some of the issues we keep in mind as we look to our roots in the form of these early texts to help us define the criteria for a Vedic Astrologer in America.
The following are excerpts (in their English translation) from the classical Sanskrit texts, “PRASNA MARGA”, “BRHAT SAMHITA”, and “SARAVALI”. These volumes are greatly respected and are generally considered to be among the most recognized texts in delineating guidelines for the astrologer, including the qualifications of an astrologer, which is the focus of our subject.
Although the language is framed in the context of an ancient culture, in our discussion we will consider the significance of what the ancients are communicating in these texts, and how this knowledge impacts our understanding in establishing qualifications for the contemporary Vedic astrologer in America.
Comments are in Italics
Date: 1649 AD
Attributed to a Kerala Brahmin (author unknown)
I offer my sincere prayers to God Vishnu so that my mind may become enlightened, extensive and perfect.
No Sanskrit writer commences his work without first invoking Divine Grace.
I salute my preceptors and the planets, so that they may bless my speech with purity and truth.
There is a widespread belief in India that mere learning alone cannot make an astrologer a successful predictor. One should acquire what is called Vaksiddhi or the gift of correct prediction and this power, it is held, could be acquired by sincere prayers to God and preceptor. Hence the invocation that the author’s speech be blessed with truth.
I bow to my Guru Mangalasseri. His pupils being doctors of science are great seers of the future.
I salute my village, God Shiva and expound Prasna Marga for the benefit of my pupils.
In stanza 2, the invocation is addressed to preceptors in general while in stanza 3, the author salutes his own Guru by name Mangalasser whose pupils, he declares, are all highly learned astrologers. In stanza 4, salutation is made to his village, God Shiva after which the author begins his famous work on astrology which he himself learnt after due initiation and which he now intends for the benefit of his pupils.
Ancient astrological science is divided into three skandhas of six angas. The three skandhas are Ganita, Samhita and Hora.
Sages have classified the great science of astrology into six angas, viz. Jataka, Gola, Nimitta, Prasna, Muhurtha and Ganita.
Ganita Skandha deals with Gola and Ganita. Hora Skandha deals with horoscopy, Prasna, Muhurtha and a part of Nimitta. Samhita Skandha deals elaborately with Nimitta.
Samhita also deals with the varying fortunes of the people, changes in weather and progress of the animal kingdom. It sketches also the nature and shape of meteors, shooting stars and all the wonderful natural phenomena.
That astrology is divided into three principal sections or parts, viz. Astronomy, horoscopy and samhita is accepted by almost all great sages.
Who Can Study Astrology?
Astrology can also be divided into two: Pramana and Phala. Ganita Skandha comes under Pramana while the other two skandhas go under Phala.
The fruit (phala) is based on cause and effect. The horoscope merely indicates the results of one’s previous actions.
The Vedas have six limbs: Jyotisha, Kalpa, Nirukta, Siksha, Vyakarana and Chhandas.
The Vedas are represented by six important limbs: the feet, the face, the hands, the eyes, the nose and the ears are represented by Chhandas, Vyakarana, Kalpa, Jyotisha, Siksha and Nirukta respectively.
As astrology is the eye of the Vedas, it is given the pride of place. No person possessing all the organs intact but without eyesight can have an individuality.
Stanzas 10-12 stress the importance of astrology. The Vedas have 6 auxiliaries, and Astrology is the first and foremost in Veda Purusha represented by the eyes. The other limbs refer to: Rishis; Grammatical peculiarities found in Vedas, procedures in sacrifices; Sounds and phonetics of Vedas; Special meaning of Vedic words.
The exalted and recondite science of astrology is to be studied only by Brahmins. A proper study of the subject leads one to the acquisition of wealth, merit, salvation, respect and fame.
When even Mlechchas and Yavanas well versed in astrology are held in the same esteem as Rishis, who would deny respect to an astrologer who happens to be a Brahmin?
Though stanza 13 implies that Brahmins alone should study astrology, stanza 14 refers to the Yavanas (Greeks) and Mlechhas (Middle Easterners) who are “given the respect of Rishis”. This makes it clear that the text does not take the position that a Brahmin is born, but rather, as sage Vyasa says in the Mahabharat, “Everyone is born a sudra and becomes a Brahmin through his deeds.” Lord Krishna said similarly in the Bhagavad Gita when he said, “Brahmins are those who lead lives of piety, are forbearing, calm, self-controlled and seekers of knowledge.”
These verses suggest the caliber of individual who is qualified to practice astrology. He is, by his deeds to conform to the behaviors befitting of the priest, who represents the highest standard and status in the society. In so doing, all manner of rewards may come to him.
QUALIFICATIONS OF AN ASTROLOGER
That person, who has mastery of this science, who has a good knowledge of mathematics, who leads a spiritual life, who is truthful, who is free from conceit and who is well versed in the Vedas, mantras and tantras, he alone can be called a Daivajnya or seer.
All the predictions made by such a person will come true, and will never be false. The learned support this statement.
The predictions of one who has studied the ten kinds of planetary motions and who has understood the inner principles of astrology will never be falsified.
He who has acquired a thorough knowledge of the different Horas, who is an adept in the five siddhantas, who has inferential ability and who is initiated into a secret mantra by a preceptor, can alone know horoscopy.
Qualifications of an astrologer have been laid down in stanzas 15 to 18. In this connection, reference may also be made to similar qualifications laid down by Varahamihira in his Brhat Samhita. One who wishes to be a correct predictor should not only be an adept in Astrology, Astronomy, Vedas and Mantra Sastras, but also must be a man of character, religious, righteous and must have obtained siddhi of certain secret mantras which would confer on the astrologer the uncanny power of correct predictions.
Varahamihira goes to the extent of suggesting that the astrologer should be of noble birth, and agreeable appearance. Humility must characterize his behavior. His personal habits must be disciplined and above opprobrium. He should be well versed in ritual and expiatory ceremonies. He should be gifted to resolve independently any tough problems. [He should follow a] Disciplined life, faith in God, [have] a helpful nature and scrupulous adherence to resolve independently any tough problems. Disciplined life, faith in God, a helpful nature and scrupulous adherence to certain types of austerity would enable him to develop his power of intuition considerably and this would be a great asset to anyone who aspired to be a successful astrologer.
DIFFERENT KINDS IN GANITA
Stanzas 19 and 20
Kali day, mean positions of planets, true positions of planets, solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, planetary fights, lunar conjunctions, combustion, heliacal risings and settings and planetary conjunctions with constellations are the ten kinds of calculations.
The astrologer is expected to be thoroughly conversant with the method of calculating eclipses, planetary longitudes, heliacal risings and settings and other astronomical phenomena.
THE FIVE SIDDHANTAS
The five siddhantas are Brahma, Surya, Vasishta, Romasa and Poulasa.
Stanzas 22 and 23
Brahma Siddhanta is accurate. Romasa is more accurate and Surya is the most accurate. Vasishta and Poulasa are not accurate. The first three can be relied upon. And the last two are archaic in character.
BEGINNING THE STUDY OF ASTROLOGY
One should get initiation into the appropriate mantra from a qualified Guru, at an auspicious moment, and propitiate the mantra devata suitable. This will enable him to master all astrological knowledge.
An intelligent, calm and pious person should begin study of astrology on an auspicious day when Jupiter is in Lagna and the Moon occupies mridu (benefic) and seeghra (fast) vargas.
Mridu (soft) and seeghra (fast) vargas are interpreted by some as the vargas of Mercury. According to another reading, mridu vargas are Mrigasira, Anuradha, and revati and seeghra vargas are Aswini, Hasta and Pushyami
The study of this science should begin only after worshipping the nine planets (navagrahas) and the preceptor in the prescribed form.
Apart from the planets being huge masses of matter they are supposed to have their subtle or spiritual aspects. The navagraha pujas are intended to establish some sort of resonance between thought-vibrations of the individual and those released from the planetary bodies.
Mantras when properly practiced and recited give the desired results. So does this science when properly cultivated?
IMPORTANCE OF VARAHAMIHIRA
Brihat Jataka by Varahamihira, though short, is a very suggestive treatise pregnant with ideas. Though difficult to be comprehended by even intelligent persons, yet with the aid of the commentaries of Bhattotpala and others, it is possible to understand the book.
One wearing the garland of Varahamihira in his neck along with the necklace of Krishneeya can win laurels in any astrological assembly.
Brihat Jataka deals with horoscopy and Krishneeya with Prasna. One well acquainted with these two books can, according to the author, safely claim good scholarship.
An astrologer who wants to make predictions should specially study Dasadhyayi carefully.
Without a thorough study of the Dasadhyayi, it would be difficult to make correct predictions. So say the learned.
One, who attempts to predict without studying the Dasadhyayi would be like a man trying to cross an ocean without a boat.
One who attempts to predict without studying the Dasadhyayi would be like a man trying to cross an ocean without a boat. Dasadyayi is a commentary on the first ten chapters of Brhat Jataka. The author of Prasna Marga according to B V Raman’s “seems to have such a regard for Dasadyayi that he regards this commentary as a suitable boat for crossing the grand ocean of astrological knowledge.
Dr. Raman explains further that the author of Dasadhyayi interprets each sloka beyond its ordinary translations to others as well including the meanings derived from the numerical equivalent to its letters.
ROLE OF HOROSCOPY AND HORARY
A man is born in this world to enjoy or suffer the consequence of his deeds from his past birth. A portion of this he reaps in heaven or hell but for the remnant he has to take a new birth.
There are two kinds of Karma, sanchita and prarabdha. The effects of sanchita will be exhausted in heaven or hell. The result of the prarabdha karma will be lessened only by experiencing them.
Souls take fresh births for reaping the fruits of previous lives. This cycle of births goes on until the attainment of moksha.
Stanzas 36 and 37
Just as a lamp illumines objects in darkness, astrology reveals to us the effects of our previous Karma, good or bad. All the planets indicate clearly whether we are enjoying or suffering now as a result of our actions in our previous birth.
In stanzas 33-37 regard the theory of Karma. Karma has its philosophical as well as astrological aspects. The author of this work has tried to explain that sanchita karma can be exhausted by our sojourn in heaven and hell, whereas prarbdha karma must be experienced in this life. Prarbdha karma, at the end of this life, will result in our re-birth, this cycle of births and deaths going on until the attainment of gnana or true knowledge.
According to stanza 36, astrology merely indicates the results of past Karma. Planets are only an index of things to happen and they do not cause the events. The same idea is expressed by almost all classical writers.
The subject of karma is so vast that it would be impossible to make justice to it by way of a short note.