Bookmans Recommends: Light On Life
Eastern Indian astrology has some similarities to western astrology and just as many differences. Jyotish was closed to the west for many years, primarily because to understand Indian astrology one must first understand the religious, psychological and physical spirit of India. In 1980 Robert Svoboda graduated from the Talak Ayurveda College of the University of Poona and became the first westerner licensed as a Ayurvedic physician. He also learned the Tantric traditions of his instructor Vimalananda, who encouraged Svoboda to study Jyotish and work with other experts. That led Svoboda to Hart deFouw. Svoboda and deFouw later co-authored Light On Life, which brought the hidden traditions of Indian astrology to the west.
As complex as Jyotish is, we can start to understand this fascinating system of belief. Jyotish translates as “light” and by extension as “the study of light”. It is an Indian system of divination. Outside of India this is sometimes referred to as Hindu or Vedic astrology. Jyotish is “a model of reality which interprets the observed conditions of the cosmos at the time of an event in order to provide insight into the nature of that event.”
Models do not consistently represent reality. In this tradition, an inadequate model must be refined. India is the only one of the world’s major civilizations that has maintained and refined many divinatory models during its long history. In Indian culture, astrologers continue to perfect the system. It is part of India’s religious and cultural life.
Jyotish is based on the observations of nine planets: Sun (a star), Moon (Earth’s satellite), Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu and Ketu. Rahu and Ketu do not have a physical existence, they are both areas. Rahu is the northern intersection, the North Node, and Ketu is the southern intersection, the South Node, of the plane of the Moon’s orbit around the Earth with the plane of the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun as it is perceived by us on Earth as the Sun orbits around us. See how this gets tricky quick?
Some counter that the discovery of new planets and asteroids changes the system and that they should be added into the model, but because the number of planets used in Jyotish are single-digit integers in our base-ten numbering system, it needs no more than those nine planets. These nine planets describe more than material entities.
In the Golden Age of India’s astrology, a traditional system was created whereby the branches of Jyotish were classified into either skandhas (parts) or angas (limbs). There are three skandhas and six angas, each one having its own meaning and purpose.
There is more to cover in Indian astrology, but it’s like trying to give the Cliff Notes to Christianity and its effects on western culture. The best thing about Jyotish is that the more you learn, the more interesting it is. It is an entirely different way to look at belief, the world around us, cosmology and how humans are influenced by them.
For more on the astrology of India grab a copy of Light on Life. A related title is Symbolism in Hinduism by Swami Nityanand. For a look at the divine feminine in Hindu tradition, read Hindu Goddesses by David Kinsley.
* Bookmans is your store to explore. If you would like to pick up Light On Life or any specific title from our astrology section, please give us a call and we will check our shelves for you. Otherwise, we hope you will come and browse.
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