Of Horoscopes and Divination

How Astrology (Jyotish) works

To everything there is a time..

Every rock, leaf, and line on your body has a meaning and purpose, but those who can read this script are few.

Our teacher, Babuji, once made this cryptic comment and thereby set fire to our curiosity. In the years that followed, he taught us more about these matters directly through certain methods, namely specific formulae for seeking Divine guidance (Istikhara), and indirectly, through the art of Vedic Astrology, or Jyotish. These subjects are often considered taboo by theologians and labeled pseudo-science by modernists. Perhaps the best answer to such attitudes was given by the Indian sage, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, the Guru of the famous Paramhamsa Yogananda, who said: “It [Jyotish] is never a question of belief; the only scientific attitude one can take on any subject is whether it is true.” (Autobiography of a Yogi, pp. 162). In other words, Reality does not require sanction or permission from belief, be it scientific or religious. Lest the sun not rise thanks to a blind man’s folly! All it demands is a sincere desire to know, which it seems, most human beings are inherently possessed of. Indeed, irrespective of the general suspicioun and scorn, interest in such “occult” topics has hardly waned in the 21st-century. So let’s take a deeper look into this area for greater clarity and a different perspective.

Divination (Istikhara) and Astrology (Jyotish)

Before we start, do note that there is a clear distinction between the subject of Jyotish and Istikhara and other popular forms of divination, such as tarot readings or popular astrology (commonly found in newspapers). Assuredly, the latter is fascinating and fun, but both Jyotish, and Istikhara have roots in authentic traditions (Hinduism and Islam, respectively) that have carefully preserved them over the ages. Jyotish is much more than just horoscopes and stars – it has a clear scriptural underpinning. It is also one of the six primary systems of Hindu philosophy used to study the Vedas (Indian scriptures). Similarly, Istikhara has been developed and refined by Sufi mystics over the centuries and requires adherence to specific disciplines, rituals, and training. Neither are mere trifles for idle curiosity. Applied correctly, both have beneficial effects.

Fate vs Freewill? 

All of us can use some guidance on occasion, especially when making important decisions. Despite due diligence and cost-benefit analysis, the results of these decisions may still not turn out optimally. At other times, decisions made without any proper preparation seem to bear good outcomes. Why do such things happen? Is there a callous and capricious power that takes pleasure in throwing us such dilemmas? The answer is a resounding “No”, humans are not slaves of their fate, on the contrary, both Istikhara and Jyotish teach us that we are (or can be) masters of our destiny. Every individual experiences life in a particular manner because of the karmic wheels set in motion by one’s actions. And since we have scripted our life events, we can also write our futures. These are two classical instruments that enable us to write our life stories in a manner that is positive and uplifting for all. Think of them as powerful tools with which we can navigate through life – no more, no less. 

Of Horoscopes (Birth  chart) and Istikhara

In ancient cultures, it was customary to look up to the heavens to seek guidance. In some surviving ancient cultures like India, it is still common practice to consult an astrologer (Jyotishi) for all important decisions and events in life, and get a horoscope drawn up for a child upon birth. A horoscope is simply a snapshot of certain heavenly factors (such as the planetary positions) relative to the twelve zodiac signs, and 27 asterisms. These positions are then superimposed upon a static quadrant of life that represents the four main aspects of individual life – one’s purpose¹ (Dharma), the resources, opportunities and abilities available to fulfil it (Artha), the will and desire to succeed in this purpose (kama), and finally Self-Realization (Moksha). Based on a rather large number of resultant combinations, an almost infinite number of interpretations can be derived. Various texts and scriptures guide the skillful astrologer in choosing the most suitable translation of this picture. Even though the combinations and results of Vedic astrology are mathematical in precision, interpretations can still go haywire. The reason for this difficulty lies in interpretation, and correct interpretation not only depends upon individual knowledge and skills, but also intuitive ability gathered from years of study and practice. 

In the Sufi system of Istikhara or Divination, there are again a number of variations. More often than not, an individual becomes expert at this only after having undergone years of training in the use of a given method. Here too, poor results are more often the result of poor skill rather than any issue in terms of the method itself. It is a poor craftsman who blames the tool for his own incompetence! As with any field of study, these methods require many hours of disciplined study and practice. But gaining knowledge and skill is the “science” part of such methods, the “art” lies in something a bit more esoteric and intuitive. 

The Key to successful astrology and divination

The pre-requisite to becoming adept at the use of these tools is actually sheer spiritual practice. To be a seer (Rushi) or mystic (one who explores the mysteries of life), one must cultivate the faculties of foresight and intuitive perception. And this is done through consistent, disciplined effort. Through diligent exertion, these tools become very valuable in guiding us to making the optimum decision. The absence of spiritual practice invariably ends in superficial dabbling, inconsistent results, and ultimately, a bad name wrongly attributed to these noble disciplines. With appropriate spiritual discipline and study (or consultation), these tools can help us achieve our purpose in harmony with all of creation for the greatest good possible. 

In conclusion, we recommend, first of all, to consciously and deliberately start your spiritual journey by engaging in some form of regular spiritual practice (if you have not already). If you have questions and need assistance, we encourage you to use the tools on this website. Feel free to join us for meditation sessions, or schedule a free Jyotish consultation, or take the spirituality quiz to learn more about yourself – it serves as a great starting point! 

Notes

¹ See our article – What is My Purpose: Finding True North

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