"While it is not unwise to initiate worthwhile undertakings at astrologically auspicious times, it merely affirms your passive dependence on fate to wait for a shift in the planets’ positions before making important changes in your life". ~ Sri Paramahansa Yogananda
Yoganandaji with horoscope
Astrology declares that everything happens at the appointed time, but it is rare that we select these moments for ourselves. When we ‘let go and let God’, a touch of kismet or serendipity tips the balance, yet still there is a powerful branch of Vedic astrology associated with optimal timing called Muhurta or Electional Astrology. This is where we choose an auspicious and appropriate moment to begin a particular action: start a business, get married, go on a journey, throw a party, anything. The Directory of Astrologers will connect you with your own personal astrology reading. The perfect moment is very elusive, if not an unreachable ideal, and the art of muhurta consists as much of nullifying obstacles as grasping a golden opportunity, balancing the good and bad within a given time frame. It’s a game of astrological snakes and ladders.
The expert astrologer gives advice – often very specific - about the prevailing cosmic weather and lets clients decide which way to turn. Knowing that you are facing a difficult time, or one where you may choose wrongly, can be a big help: you will agonize less and avoid the trap of trying too hard. Instead, you can take your time, get independent advice and are clearer and more objective about the whole matter. An astrology reading raises the client’s consciousness, and it is no exaggeration to say a one-hour session can help the individual’s life for years to come.
It is also said that a fully-qualified Vedic astrologer should be knowledgeable about rituals and techniques to remove obstacles. What is the point of knowing the future if you can’t change it? Western astrology once used to employ a similar approach, but its tradition has been distorted and lost, and today there are very few astrologers who can work reliably with it. Jyotish on the other hand has an ancient and unbroken system of mantra and gemstone correspondences, tested against experience, which form the very backbone of Indian culture. This knowledge is having a renaissance in our present time, which in part explains the rise of Indian economy and world influence today.
Traditional Yagyas, pujas and rituals to remove obstacles are an integral part of Vedic astrology. Astrological timing and symbolism are woven into these performances, which is something for scholars who claim Indian astrology is 'not Vedic' to think about. The Vedic devatas and demigods each have planetary correspondences which are aligned to days of the week, and tell us on which specific practices should be performed. Knowledge and practical use of astrology offers a vital roadmap in life and does not simply limit one to passive acceptance of fate. Yagyas bring to the individual effects which are karmically due, but they speed the process up and allow us to move through life’s obstacles more quickly. We can do things the easy way or hard way, and a yogic lifestyle consists of an inner and outer approach.
By your yagya the celestial gods will be pleased, and by cooperation
between humans and the celestial gods, prosperity will reign for all.
The celestial gods, being satisfied by the performance of yagya,
will grant you all the desired necessities of life.
Bhagavad Gita (3:11-12)
So far from giving up responsibility for one’s own life to the stars – or worse, usurping God’s prerogative, as Christian authorities warned - astrology is an empowering tool that allows the individual to live in harmony with the cosmos. It aids intelligent decision-making and allows one to see life in terms of cycles, so that challenges are not simply random and anarchic intrusions, but part of a logical scheme of events. Knowledge of the stars also refines the psyche and makes one’s spiritual intuition more acute. This creates a virtuous circle whereby we are more attuned by the astrology, which in turn gives up more of its insights. In Vedic astrology, this quality is called ‘Jyotish-mati pragya’ and means the power of all-knowing through astrology: the practitioner intuits answers almost without reference to a specific chart.
Sometimes one hears the expression ‘karmic astrology’, which gives great emphasis to the Nodal axis, as if there is a part of the horoscope that is not karmic. Vedic astrology is oriented (this word means ‘facing east’) around past lifetimes, and its whole philosophy is predicated on this life not being our sole chance to love, learn and be liberated. The birth map shows the aggregate of all our past experience - good, bad, mistaken, heavenly, torturous, and points to ways in which we free ourselves from rebirth. This is the ultimate goal of astrology, and life itself.
Spiritual masters have different ideas about astrology and its uses. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, for example, does not deny astrology as an art and says elsewhere that intuition grows through spiritual practice, and also that many people in his ashrams have great insight into people's lives and futures. He is himself very knowledgeable about astronomy. Yet Sadhguru completely forbids forecasting, for "by predicting someone's future, you don't alter the quality of his life in any way. You don't bring any kind of wellbeing".
Sri Paramahansa Yogananda was also highly ambivalent about astrology, even though his own master Sri Yukteshwar Giri was an adept astrologer. In the famous chapter in his autobiography, Yogananda finds belated respect for astrology, but ultimately his devotional temperament was moved more strongly by the power of will and prayer, which he saw as the way to overcome obstacles thrown down by the planets.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, on the other hand, was always very pro-astrology, which, when combined with yoga and yagya, he saw as the way to fulfil Patanjali's axiom from the Yoga Sutras: 'Avert the danger that has not yet arisen'. He believed there should be an expert astrologer in every community, and that on an international level, knowledge of the stars could help economies, end wars, and avert natural disasters. Maharishi encouraged everyone to know their own astrology and once said, "there is virtually no limit to the benefit a good Jyotishi can do for you".