In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7, verse 16) Lord Krishna describes the four categories of devotees and their reasons for worshipping God. They are: 1) the seeker of relief from distress, 2) the seeker of knowledge, 3) the seeker of wealth, and 4) the man imbued with wisdom. Of these four types of seekers, the man of wisdom is the rarest, and also the dearest, to the Lord.
In a similar way, people may approach astrologers for various reasons, but their motivations appear to fall into these same four categories. Most people are coming for relief from distress, for knowledge about their future, and for greater prosperity. But rarely is it that people come to an astrologer with the intention of broadening the understanding of their life purpose, their swadharma, and to gain insight into the fulfillment of the divine destiny which God has ordained for them.
Perhaps it can be argued that the astrologer is not qualified to give such an exalted level of spiritual advice, therefore people do not enquire along these lines. But this is, and has always been, the highest purpose of astrology--to delineate the karmic patterns that help or hinder the Soul's journey to moksha, or spiritual liberation. Secondarily, it provides us with a useful map for navigating through the obstacle course of daily living.
The astrology of India, called jyotisha, historically has been considered the foremost branch of Vedic studies. If the Vedas can be figuratively described as having a body, then jyotisha holds the pride of place as the "eye of the Vedas", providing us with the understanding of stellar and planetary influences, and their effects upon all levels of human existence and natural phenomena. For the timing of religious ceremonies and auspicious events; for predictions concerning the weather, floods, and earthquakes; for the understanding of the karmic patterns which affect the destiny of individuals and nations, astrology has been, and is, the supreme spiritual science.
It is a little known fact that the ancient maharishis from the Vedic era of India (c. 3000 B.C.) were also master astrologers. Parashara, considered the grandfather of modern Vedic Astrology, was the grandson of the Rishi Vasishta, and the father of Veda Vyasa, who compiled the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, and many other major scriptures in the Vedic tradition. Throughout the centuries of India's long history, countless saints, scholars, and sages have studied and practiced the sacred science of astrology. They have left for posterity a vast body of knowledge concerning astrological principles, most of which is still valid today, even for people who live in very different cultures.
There are many people who, inculcated with the skepticism of the scientific method, will publicly express disdain and question the scientific validity of astrology. But these very same individuals--when afflicted by the troubles of life beyond their control--can be seen to privately seek the advice and counsel of an astrologer, or other seer, to gain a glimpse of their future destiny. Without exception, we all sense the presence of a greater power which exerts its influence over the affairs of our lives.
Lord Krishna states: "Oh Arjuna, the Lord dwells in the heart of all beings, and by His Maya causes all beings to revolve as though mounted on a machine." (Bhagavad Gita, 18.61). While God exists within our own being as our own Self--infinite, unchanging, and eternal--still we must experience the fruits of our previous actions in the realm of Maya, the realm of Name and Form, Time and Space. This is the inexorable Law of Karma, and astrology, which is based upon the quantum mechanics of karma, will indicate very specifically what types of karma an individual will experience in this lifetime.
There is an all-comprehensive order and structure and direction for cosmic evolution. And there is a web of energy and consciousness which connects all of life. Astrology describes the interactions of a portion of this web of consciousness. Though our individual lives on this tiny planet Earth constitute just a minute portion of the cosmos, and though we have been inculated with the concept of the unity and interconnectedness of all of life, we still believe that we each have a separate, individual existence operating independently of the forces of nature, that we are insensitive to the energetic influences of distant heavenly bodies. This is just not so. Whether it is the specific radiation emanating from a planet or star, or whether there is merely some corresponding relationship between planetary positions and observed events, the astrological influence is discernible, and often dominant, in the experience of everyday life. Therefore, we can all benefit by increasing our understanding of these astrological influences.
Through Vedic Astrology we can discover the underlying unity of existence, the cosmic connection between the macrocosm and the microcosm. It can be a doorway to mystical awakening, a window into the Infinite, a pathway to Self-knowledge. It can be all of these things for you, if you choose to become a seeker of wisdom.
Aum Tat Sat Aum.
Stephen Quong (Umananda)
Life Fellow, Indian Council of Astrological Sciences (Chennai)
Jyotisha Kovida, Jyotisha Vachaspati