“The purpose of Vedic astrology is not to make us feel subject to external forces but to help us use our life in a positive way for a greater Self-unfoldment.”
- Dr. David Frawley, The Astrology of the Seers
The Sanskrit word for Vedic astrology is jyotish, which means “the science of light”.
It’s a perfect name for many reasons, including how well it illuminates our path and provides both inner and outer guidance.
As a jyotishi, I’m often asked what the difference is between Western astrology and jyotish. And when I did a guest post for Angela Artemis at her blog Powered by Intuition recently, she asked me to write about exactly that.
As I wrote, though, I became increasingly aware of just how many differences there actually are.
Way too many for one article!
In the end I decided that that article should just highlight a few of the main differences that even non-astrologers would care about, and that I would write this article too with even more differences, including those that astrologers might want to know about.
5 Main Differences
Briefly, the 5 main differences I covered in the Powered by Intuition post are:
1. The charts look different. I explain how and show you some examples.
2. Jyotish uses the sidereal zodiac whereas Western uses the tropical zodiac. I explain the zodiacs and why most peoples’ Sun sign shifts back one sign.
3. Jyotish is Moon based, and emphasizes the Ascendant and Moon more than the Sun. It relies on 27 smaller constellations called “Lunar Mansions” or nakshatras.
4. Jyotish is renowned for being predictive, and I discuss its brilliant timing system called dasas or planetary periods.
5. Jyotish offers built-in remedial measures called upayas that are used to help correct challenging situations and strengthen opportunities. I talk about this and what some of the upayas are.
Of course there’s more detail in that post so I encourage you to read it once you’ve finished this one. It has an especially good explanation of the two zodiacs.
18 More Big Differences
In jyotish, it’s important to know your birth time to the minute. That way, you can take advantage of its powerful and unique predictive features.
If you don’t, a jyotishi can do a complex and time-consuming process called rectification. This uses events in your life to “reverse-engineer” what your birth time must have been.
If you can’t get the time to the minute, then other systems of analysis can be used but they won’t give as detailed information.
2. Dasas (planetary periods) are nested
Nested Dasas (Barack Obama)
If your birth time is very precise, the dasa periods used for forecasting can be nested several levels deep to see progressively smaller time intervals.
This helps pin-point developments or events with levels of accuracy or detail that are sometimes downright startling.
Transits are used as a secondary indicator for timing. They’re done similarly to but differently than in Western astrology, with some special jyotish transits that are especially relevant and often indicate major life transitions.
Precision is required not only to determine the dasa periods already mentioned, but also to calculate vargas (also called amsas or harmonic charts).
There are dozens of vargas that are calculated for various areas of your life, e.g relationship, money, career, children, parents, spirituality, etc. and they enable an in-depth view into areas of interest.
They’re also used to fine-tune and confirm indications that are observed in the birth chart itself.
These are very sensitive to even slight changes in birth time.
(Western astrology has added something like these relatively recently called harmonic charts, but they’re calculated differently and have not been there since the inception like these have.)
5. Navamsa, chart of the soul
The most important varga of all is the navamsa. It’s used as a secondary chart along with the birth chart for all aspects of life.
It’s also the all-important relationship chart.
It’s sometimes called the “chart of the soul” and it’s said that you progressively reflect your navamsa as you get older almost moreso than your birth chart. It shows the karma of your soul and what you long to realize at a deep level.
6. Jyotish has a spiritual essence
Born as it is, from the heart of the Vedas (the ancient Hindu scriptures), I would be remiss not to mention the profoundly spiritual essence of jyotish. It’s so much a part of this sacred art and science that I often forget that not all astrology is so integrated with a spiritual philosophy.
Combined with its remarkable predictive abilities, this is what makes jyotish such an outstanding tool for both inner and outer guidance.
Astrology, properly employed, shows us the world within us and our self within the entire world so that we might understand the unity of all creation.
- Dr. David Frawley, The Astrology of the Seers
Besides all this, jyotish itself is an ongoing sadhana (spiritual practice) for the jyotishi when approached correctly.
A precise birth time also gives accurate varshaphal or annual charts.
Varshaphal charts are rich in information and enable the jyotishi to see in detail what’s likely to occur over the next year. They use yet another system of aspects (the Tajika system) and cycle through all the planetary periods in just one year. As in the other charts, the dasa periods are nested for detailed predictions.
Yoga in this context means “combination” and planetary yogas play a major role in jyotish.
These are amazingly revealing indicators and can show opportunities and challenges in all areas of life, such as finances, vocation, relationships, etc.
There are hundreds of yogas with a dozen or so that are very important.
Just a few examples are:
- Maha Purusa yogas or “great person” yogas. These are fairly rare and show extraordinary qualities.
- Raja yogas show success. They indicate areas where you will be both capable and fulfilled. These are used a lot for career-related analysis.
- Dhana yogas show wealth and its surrounding circumstances.
- Kuja Dosa can show difficulties in relationship.
Just as jyotish has yogas, it also has karakas or indicators. They can show certain people, areas of life, attributes, qualities, difficulties, opportunities, etc.
There are several sets that are calculated differently. Some are related to yogas, some to house rulership, some to planetary position, etc.
These are used extensively and are very illuminating.
It would be impossible to over-emphasize the importance of nakshatras in jyotish. They are rich in symbolism and are used extensively in all aspects of analysis.
Of special importance is the Moon’s nakshatra at the time of birth. In fact, in India, if you asked someone their sign, they would answer with the sidereal nakshatra of their Moon, not the tropical sign of their Sun.
11. Bhavat Bhavam (referred houses)
Bhavat Bhavam (referred houses) means “from house to house” and is a special jyotish technique for seeing indications for all areas of life and even for people you have a relationship with (such as spouse, children, parents, employees, employer, etc.)
It’s one of the features of jyotish that give additional information and/or help confirm what’s seen elsewhere (also known as confluence) which is what makes jyotish so accurate when done properly.
It’s also great for checking on others whose charts aren’t available. For example, you can get an idea of the health of your mother, the personality of your children, etc. even without their charts.
12. Prasna Shastra & Nimitta
Prasna Shastra (sometimes called horary astrology) is an integral part of jytoish and is a handy way to answer any one question.
At the moment the question is asked of the jyotishi, that question is “born” and a chart is drawn up for that moment.
Prasna incorporates nimitta or the reading of omens that’s done hand in hand with the prasna chart (or sometimes even in place of the chart).
Jyotish also defines alternate ways to calculate a prasna chart when exact planetary positions or ascendant degrees are unknown (such as when no computer or ephemeris is available).
Like varshaphal, this type of chart uses special techniques that differ from how a normal birth chart is analyzed.
These charts are handy when you need to make a decision and they provide an amazing amount of accurate and helpful information.
For Astrologers: Differences in Analysis
Jyotish typically uses the sign boundaries as house boundaries, unlike Western astrology where they’re staggered.
Aspects work differently. Some planets have special aspects, and planets aspect whole houses rather than other planets to the degree.
Aspects aren’t drawn on the charts like in Western astrology.
15. 7 planets
Jyotish traditionally uses only 7 of the planets: Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn, ordered by the days of the week they rule. They act as a complete system and no others are necessary.
Along with the jyotishi’s judgement, planetary strength is calculated numerically using several different systems.
Some jyotishis use Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto but usually just for Mundane (worldly) predictions.
16. Rahu & Ketu
Jyotish also uses Rahu and Ketu as important planets.
They have significantly different meanings than in Western astrology where they are known as the north and south nodes of the Moon.
17. House, Sign, and Planet meanings
Most of the houses, signs, and planets have similar meanings as Western but there are differences, some more significant than others.
18. Additional Relationship Indicators
Relationship compatibility is highly important in jyotish and besides methods that are also used in Western astrology, jyotish includes several specific tools (such as relationship kutas) for analyzing partnerships.
A Stellar Combination
We’ve reached the end of our highlights for today. Whew!
Even with all this, we’ve barely begun noting the unique characteristics of this remarkable system.
Jyotish is very complex but the overlapping tools and systems-within-systems make it possible to fine-tune and confirm indications.
When these are properly analyzed and cross-checked, jyotish can give a high level of accuracy and reliability.
Wow. This is a long article. To print it or save it as a PDF report, click here. (You can always do this with my posts by clicking the “print” button below. It gives you the option to save as PDF.)
Do you have any questions about this article, other things you’d like to know about jyotish, or something you’d like to add? Please let me know in the comments!
Note: If you already know the basics of jyotish, be sure to check out my Jyotish Tutorial Series sponsored by Pundit Mahesh Shastriji at My Panchang. I’ll be starting with intermediate lessons on financial indicators.
UPDATE Monday, October 10, 2011:
If you’re looking for the special, sorry! It expired yesterday. But thanks for checking!
If you took advantage of the free chart offer, thank you! I had a lot of fun interacting with you.
I ended up doing a little mini-reading along with the chart, and will offer this special again sometime.
EXPIRED - A “Thank-You” Special - EXPIRED
You’re a good sport making it all the way through this article.
Want a copy of your Vedic chart? This week only, I’m offering free chart calculation. No strings attached.
Click here to get yours!
Please share this with your astrology-minded friends — I’d appreciate it! (Buttons below … you know the drill. )
You can also subscribe here to get my posts by email.