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What is Astrology ?
Astrolgoy is a scientific study and application of the language of the heavenly bodies. These heavenly bodies, determined on the basis of astronomy and mathematics, are mapped in the form of a horoscope. Their specific locations in the horoscope indicate specific happenings in the case of individuals, of multitudes and of geographical regions. Whether the Sun, the Moon, the planets and the stars themselves influence the terrestrial phenomena, or they only inbdicate such phenomena by their various dispositions in immaterial. What is important to us is that variations in their disposition determine variations in the events on the earth; the correlations are only too strong to be brushed aside by the critics of astrology.
Who should practice astrology?
In the ancient times, a strict code of conduct was demanded of those who practiced astrology. A guru would teach astrology only to a deserving disciple who would adhere to such a code of conduct. The guru-shishya (i.e., the teacher-disciple) tradition is already long over in India. With changing times, it has become difficult to find an appropriate ‘guru’ and a deserving ‘shishya’ to pursue this sacred study within the rules laid by the sages of yore. It is, however, quite in order to be aware of this ancient code of conduct. Varahamihira, the celebrated authority on astrology, prescribes the following qualification for an astrologer:
  1. Physical features: According to the said author, the physical features reflect the inner nature of a man. The astrologer must be good to look at, with all his body parts complete and healthy. He should be of sound health, with sound hands, feet, nails, chin, teeth, ears, forehead and head, and having a loud and impressive voice.

  2. Moral soundness: He should be truthful, gentle, bereft of cravings and aversions, clean of heart, not inclined to be critical of the qualities of others, and devoid of base and worldly distractions.

  3. Behavior in an assembly: He should be clever, able to express himself, bold in an assembly, not intimidated by his fellow astrologers, dignified, and aware of the constraints of social and historical circumstances.

  4. Proficiency in the subject of astrology: He should be well - read, and proficient in the three branches of astrology known as the Ganita, the Samhita and the Hora. He must have studied the five Siddhantas (or mathematical treatises). His mathematical proficiency must include the knowledge of the various divisions of time, from the gross one like the Yuga to the finer ones. He must also possess knowledge of the various divisions, including the finest ones, of the zodiac.

  5. Proficiency in various branches of astrology: The astrologer is required to possess a knowledge of different aspects of astrology which deal with propitiation of planets, rendering the planets beneficial or hostile, conducting religious ceremonies, and rituals which help neutralize the natural calamities.

  6. Defence of astrology: The astrologer must be able to answer queries, and also pose relevant questions where appropriate. When necessary, he should be able to dazzle others by his knowledge, only to increase the dignity of astrology.

  7. More about the qualities of an astrologer: The astrologer must possess knowledge of solar, civil, nakshatric and lunar time measures; of intercalary months; of the sixty Samvatsaras, the yugas, years, months, days and horas; of varying opinions on varying aspects of mathematical astronomy; of various dispositions of planets, including their conjunctions as well as planetary warfare; of latitudes and longitudes of places on the surface of the earth; of the movements of the nakshatras; of the rising and setting of signs, Charakhandas for different latitudes, etc. He should be highly confidant and a clear expounder of the Shastras.
The sage Parashara advocates a similar code of conduct for astrologers, stressing particularly on the necessity for technical, intellectual and moral excellence; the capacity to weigh the pros and cons of a situation, along with an ability to synthesize a coherent prediction based on a sound knowledge of the principles, sometimes apparently contradictory, of astrology.
Sub-divisions of Astrology
There are three main sub-divisions of astrology.
  1. Samhita: This deals with collectivity or multitudes. It encompasses such varied areas as weather forecasts, agricultural produce, natural disasters, floods, famines, wars, earthquakes, cyclones, marker trends changes in government, national and international events, and virtually anything that influences the masses. The annual world predictions which are generally based either on the Hindu New Year commencing on the Chaitra Shukla Pratipada, or on the Solar Ingress into Mesha, fall under the Samhita astrology.

  2. Siddhanta or Tantra or Ganita: This deals with the mathematical aspects of astrology. There are several treatises on Siddhanta astrology but five, among them, are considered as particularly important. They are :
    1. Surya Siddhanta
    2. Paulisha Siddhantra
    3. Romaka (or Lomasha) Siddhanta
    4. Vasishtha Siddhanta
    5. Paitamaha Siddhanta
    A proficiency in these is considered as a prerequisite for a good astrologer, according to the celebrated Varahamihira.

  3. Hora: It deals with:
    1. Individual horoscopes, or Jataka, or natal charts.
    2. Muhurta or electional astrology, which concerns itself with the election of favourable planetary dispositions to achieve specific accomplishments in day-to-day life.
Astrology and Science
Study of astrology has been branded by the neo-scientists as a belief in superstition. Greater criticism has been heaped on astrology by those who have never bothered to study the subject. Many critics have questioned the basis of astrology, ignoring the fact that an understanding of a basis has to succeed and not precede an observation. The basis of gravitational pull was determined after the existence of the force of gravitation was recognized. Anyone who studies astrology with an open mind cannot but appreciate the fact that astrology is a highly developed science. By definition, science means a knowledge ascertained by observation and experiment, critically tested, systematized and brought under general principles. Astrology strictly fulfils all these criteria. Two aspects of astrology deserve a special mention:
  1. The cause and effect phenomenon: Critics of astrology boast that physical sciences depend upon a cause and effect relationship, which astrology apparently lacks. They, however, fail to appreciate that astrology is a cosmic science and not bound by the limitations of a laboratory. In physical sciences, there may be a gross cause or a subtle cause, producing a physically visible or gross effect. Gravitation, which is a subtle cause, produces a gross effect of attracting a physical body towards the earth. In the case of astrology, the cause is always subtle while the effect is appreciable and predictable according to rules, which have been developed and refined over the centuries. The subtle cause in case of astrology is the cosmic force represented by the disposition of the various heavenly bodies or ‘planets’. Physical scientists can only trace the cause from the apparent effect. It may be noted, however, that astrology deals with a multitude of phenomena on the earth. This being so, there are numerous parameters and a methodology more elaborate than any known physical science can boast of. Making correct predictions, therefore, is difficult and demands hand labour on the part of an astrologer. Unfortunately, the failure of an astrologer has been often misinterpreted as a failure of the science.

  2. The phenomenon of replication: Astrology is also criticized on the ground that its principles do not yield results, which can be invariable replicated or reproduced. Physical sciences can, on the other hand, boast of a reproducibility of their various principles. It may be pointed out here that every correct astrological prediction, in fact, underscores the principle of replication in astrology. Since astrology is a complex science, its every known principle has to be applied carefully, considering the numerous parameters and weighing the various pros and cons. In the ancient Indian scriptures, for example, numerous astrological dicta lie hidden. Unfolded and carefully applied today, they prove their eternal applicability and give dazzling results, which the open-minded scientists of today can only marvel at. It is no coincidence that a planetary combination present at the time of the Mahabharata war, and described by Karna to lord Krishna, also obtained, in a modified form, in 1914 when the World War I started in 1942 when World War II was in progress, and again in 1971 at the time of the Indo-Pak conflict. During all these occasions, India got involved in the mess quite intimately. In 1965 too, then India and Pakistan clashed, a similar but modified planetary disposition arose. Before heaping any criticism on astrology, it will be interesting to watch when such a combination is likely to obtain in future, and in what form.
Astrology and Karma
Karma is the sum total of one's physical, menatl and spiritual functions. The world goes on because there is a role of free will assigned to human beings. Where does then astrology fit in, deal as it does with predestination? Is there a conflict between belief in astrology and in free will? How can scriptures by lay emphasis on both if they are mutually conflicting? Astrology is based on the relationship of cause and effect. If there is an effect, there must be a cause preceding it. Thus if an event good or bad happens today, there must be a cause for it, whether or not that cause is appreciable. Certain functions or Karma preoduce an immediate result. Still others obtain fruition after a longer time period. Still others may take several years or decades (or even longer) to materialise. If one believes in the law of cause and effect, then the ambience of one's birth and the subsequent opportunities or their lack cannot be a matter of mere chance. This takes us to a belief in birth and rebirth. Karmas done in one birth must manifest sometime in a later birth. The past karmas produce limitations for us because they yield certain results, which influence our future karmas. We do have a free will, but within the limita tions prescribed by the results of our past actions. Karmas in fact manufacture destiny.
Astrology and Genetic Link
A fascinating aspect of astrologial study is the link that exists between members of the same family. This is an area of research also. Just as certain blood groups cannot exist amongst the children of particular parents, so also certain planetary combinations cannot obtain in certain families. Study of horoscopes belonging to a family indicates similarities, which can be easily appreciated. This aspect of astrology has a vast possible usage.
Interlinked Destinies
Different individuals who are linked to each other in one way or the other show distinct similarities in their horoscopic charts. An event, which is visible in the horoscope of a child, can also be seen inthe horoscopes of his parents as well as siblings. People who come in closer contact in mutual relationships or business parnerships show striking similarities in their charts at appropriate periods. Just as particles of similar densities sink to a similar extent on configuration, so also people who have similar pursuits tend to get grouped together.
Composite Approach for Astrological Predictions
In the ancient times, astrology was studied and practised in a highly scientific. Just as in medical sciences of today where multiple investigative tools are employed to diagnose a disease, in astrology too several different methods used to be employed. As the ancient tradiction disappeared, astrology shrank into a family tradition, getting confined to a few families only. Its approach became more and more rigid. Until recently, many astrologers have been using only limited methods to make only a limited range of predictions. Lately, however, highly educated people have started studying astrology giving it a modern and scientific look. This sacred subject is now taught in instituions like any other modern science. No longer is astrological study subject to limitations of method and approach. A highly effective composite approach for astrological predictions has been thus revived. Any given event is confirmed in a horoscopic chart by using a host of available techniques, like the use of both the Parashri and Jaimini systems, the application of various dashas and the use of several divisional charts and of Ashtakavarga. Besides, the same event is often studied in the charts of those closely related to or associated with the native. This increases the success of predictions and proves the superiority of astrology as a scientific discipline. In the pages of follow, an earnest attempt will be made to explain some of the elements of this sacred science.

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