Science of (Celestial) Light
Updated: Dec 28, 2021
Before you go any further, this is not about Light Therapy. This is a share of my Jyotisha/Jyotishya, sometimes referred to as Vedic Astrology, awareness here.
A general few bits of info from me are below, followed by links to teachers and books because the depth of my personal exploration thus far leans more into other philosophies and sciences from that area of this globe, so I think much of it is better received directly from those more saturated with a fuller scope of this area of knowledge. I hope this info is of service to micro and macro. Happy Today!
Jyotisha translates as "science of light". It stems from the Sanskrit word Jyotiṣa from Jyóti, which means "light / heavenly body". It is also called Hindu, Indian, and more recently Vedic Astrology. Use of the word Vedic arose in recent decades due to the increased awareness, recognition, and use of the Vedic sciences in places and by cultures beyond India and those born or with ancestors from India. Jyotisha does stem, at least in part, from the wisdom of the Vedas, specifically the Vedanga Jyotisha. Veda here means knowledge (system) / science – all Vedas are sciences / knowledge systems; Ayur-Veda is the Science of Life, for example.
There are various distinguishing elements between Western* and Vedic and Jyotisha, as I have learned thus far. Simultaneously there things that overlap. Where we focus, how open we might be to allowing that focus to shift as that which we focus on shifts, and what we incorporate from the wisdom of others, are things that move us toward some differences that can be seen almost immediately upon looking at these sciences. We all share the same sky, similar abilities to observe, to record our interpretations, to communicate them via story and archetype, curiosity, a developed understanding that movement and change are constants of this reality, etc.
We also might all share a connection to Hellenistic Astrology. This is a topic of debate because some maintain that Jyotisha evolved in purity in its own separate space vie the Veda. The Vedas are considered by many to be channeled, so this perspective is absolutely understandable. Still, again, as it has been taught to me thus far, there are distinctions between Jyotisha and purely Vedic astrological wisdom. Due to these aspects, many others maintain that there is a shared link to the Hellenistic point of view (literally - the way that they looked at the sky). We can also see that links are absolutely possible, considering all the evolutions, unities, separations, and changes in + connections and communications among civilizations going back to Babylonia, and all of their various trade routes, etc. (I dipped my toes into Tibetan Astrology too and it shares this story of an integrative system, as does the medicine. It also, like many ancient knowledge systems, often employs collaboration among its astrology, holistic medical science, and spiritual / philosophy tradition. Tibetan teachers I have studied with actually tend to emphasize the likelihood of a connection with Greece, in part due to connections along the silk roads. A few specifically site mirrors of certain perspectives and practices in Greek and Tibetan medicines, which is thought by some to connect with a medical conference held in Tibet hundreds of years ago at which there is a record of a Greek doctor in attendance...Digression, complete.)
Regardless of the roots, one key distinction among Vedic, Jyotisha, and Western, are that Western is Solar, Jyotisha is Soli Lunar, and Vedic wisdom speaks solely of the lunar constellations. What I mean by constellations is the constellations spoken of in Western (and other systems, considering that they're viewing the same star map) are from following the path of the Su through the sky map, as we see it. Vedic Astrology followed the path of the moon and its placement in the sky each night, (more detail below), and Jyotisha considers both.
So, honing in on Western and Jyotish; Western goes by the tropical line and equinoxes; the Sun; while Jyotisha gives as much weight to the Moon as the Sun. In Jyotisha, the Moon has a different constellation for every day of the 28(ish) day of the lunar cycle. For numerological purposes, it has been narrowed down to 27 (or 28 at one point) constellations, or places in the sky that the moon is on any given night.
The aforementioned Lunar constellations are called Nakshatras. They have been married with and illuminated by Indian Mythology and the archetypes, storylines, and relationships therein, which I might go into in a later post, but the purpose of this one is to distinguish these sciences. Perhaps since the Moon is so much closer to us, and has such obvious, strong, and well-documented influences on the water (and therefore every other element) of this planet, I have personally found these evaluations of the shifts in energies to be accurate in close-view hindsight; both as far as how I felt and how things went in the macro world and micro environment. What I mean by close-view hindsight is, for example, learning on a Thursday about what the Nakshatra was on the previous Tuesday and seeing if I think the description of that Nakshatra's influence aligns with what went on that Tuesday. The more prove-it-to-me side of my brain prefers to entertain things this way, and my more of-course-anything's-possible side is happy to accommodate - not only because it tends to be more patient and birdseye-viewed and intuits what will likely work, but because it knows that the "proof", the. more it will get the fulfillment of exploring something further and benefitting from it.
As to the number of constellations and days and phases of the Moon and Moonth - or Moonth; like 365, 28 isn't a perfect measurement wit the math we humans have clung to over tie, even creating an extra day every four years to accommodate it instead of just adjusting the system to accommodate an obvious reality that the system that is used is flawed... Before this systemization, things could be more fluid and people could simply observe and align with Nature and reality as it is. Due to this systemization, as with having to add an extra day to "leap" back into a better semblance of alignment with what time has actually passed (so we needn't cease attempting to bend the entire universe to our preference and numbering system...); so it is with Astrology. The times of day vary as to when the transition from one lunar constellation, or day, to another actually is. Even a solar day changes in its behavior as far as the lengths between sunrise and sunset. As with so much of life and light, these little details matter and including them in a system with as much consideration as those of the Sun seems to be one contributing factor that has added to the overall depth and detail of the picture that Jyotisha paints of one's specific chart. The Nakshatras can be fun to explore, at least for a nerd like me. I've found them an interesting lens to look at things through.
Some writings on Jyotisha will point to it being different from Western because it prioritizes a rising, or ascendant sign (what is happening where the Sun rises in the East at the time of birth). As many are aware (and if you aren't, now you will be!), Western Astrology prioritizes this too. I'll even dare to say, how could it not; it focuses so closely on the very path of the Sun. Western Astrology in purity prioritizes the Rising sign - before (and still today outside of) the capitalist reframing that was created to sell periodicals because the Sun sign is easier for any layman who knows their birth date to identify, so more people would then be likely to keep using a periodical to check back for their daily horoscope. The Sun sign is not the constantly shifting activity on the Eastern horizon; it is what sign the Sun is passing through in the sky at the time of birth, This only changes once every "Moonth". As you might have guessed from that sentence, the changes of the Rising sign (changes every 2 hours) are much more frequent - making it not something you share with 1/12th of the planet at any given moment. Then we take all the other aspects that contribute to one's chart analysis into account. These include include, but for the sake of brevity are not limited to; one's day of birth, one's exact time of birth (a bit more on this later), one's exact location of birth, and the location of every other heavenly body visible to the naked eye in our sky map. According to my learning thus far, these factors create an estimated shift in one's possible chart reading maximum every four minutes (some say 1 minute+/- and a practitioner of Jyotisha said even a second - perhaps if on the edge of that 1 or 4 minute mark). Even 4 minutes is quite a shift from it only changing once per month - which any mathletes reading this (why? - also thanks) would know is anywhere from 40320 minutes in 28 days - to - 44640 minutes in 31... That's a pretty extreme closeup zoom in toward specificity of analysis for any given chart. It' just also more complex to find so it doesn't make it as easy to get as many people hooked and sell as many periodicals. And the Sun sign is related in large part to the mathematical equation of our life's possibilities. It's just not necessarily in the areas those publications often claim. This is why many people can find similarities even when the reading isn't incredibly general, yet they still see that is isn't exactly very specific either. It certainly is not as specific as it would be if it was based in an ascendant situation.
There IS another distinguishing detail between Jyotisha and Western that relates to the Sun as a heavenly body, if not as a sign. As I said, Western focuses on equinoxes and the tropical line. This approach is called tropical, ("tropic of Cancer", etc). The Jyotisha approach goes by contemporary Astro-nomy according to fixed star positions in the sky as we see it today and is called sidereal. Western's tropical approach doesn't adjust calculations for any slow but evident changes ("fixed" stars do change but their changes are incredibly subtle, whereas the equinox is estimated to shift a degree about every 72 years). By shifts and changes, I mean that, as we all know, Mama Earth shakes what Cosmic Mama gave her and wobbles on her axis. That dancing has gradually yet surely moved the positions of the ways we relate to other celestial bodies. While the two systems are said to have lined up as of about 2,000 years ago, as of a 2020 estimate, there is a difference of about 23 degrees between the original calculations and the calculations of today, to which Jyotisha has adjusted over time. Jyotisha does this with a system called ayanamsa to make these adjustments. Ayanamsa is a Sanskrit word that combines two root words; movement (ayana) component (aṃśa). Side note: Many words in Sanskrit are hybrids. Side note to the side note: These hybrids are sculpted in part with consideration as to how they sound; I find this to be one of the many layers that makes Sanskrit such a wonderfully poetic language. Third side note for those mathletes; I also recently learned that Sanskrit has been evaluated to be the best language to use for and developing with AI and converting binary...WHAT. Okay, back to the converting approach within Jyotisha; ayanamsa adjusts charts to any observed precession, or movement of the equinoxes. Something about calling it 'precession' gives me a visual of those rotating dances in films made about Jane Austen's period of life where people moved around in a circle and changed partners every few steps. Like the planets, themselves; whirling in smaller circles while whirling in larger circles. Anyone who has done this knows that such movement makes it very challenging to be precise and one is always changing one's relationship to the very circular pattern itself as well as to the rest of the room and to the rotating partners in the dance. Western Astrology does not make adjustments for this cosmic dance called Precession. I did study Astronnomy in school, (because me), and astronomers don't tend to easily appreciate Western Astrology specifically because they see this difference between contemporary celestial relationships and the ones they see in a Western analysis.
As far as Jyotisha and Western interpretations and any resulting calculations, this difference of 23 degrees fosters variations - to a degree (swidt) - in the solar constellation / astrological sign calendar itself as well as in one's astrological chart. For example; in a Western chart, I have a Gemini Sun and Sagittarius Rising. In a Jyotisha chart, I have a Taurus Sun and Scorpio Rising. Next to one another but my day/timing/placement of birth puts me into the adjacent sign. Meanwhile, in BOTH sciences, my Moon is in Aquarius, (convenient because, little known fact, I like to at least partly be in fashion with the age that I incarnate in. I also like to rebel, so differences in the rest of the chart are cool - and conveniently enough for this age; Aquarians are cool with differences and rebellion, and they even tend to celebrate such things). As to this part of my particular chart; the Moon sign; the Lunar calendar did not alter with the 23 degrees difference in that chart analysis. Nor, of course, do my planetary day of the week, location, planetary time of the day, etc. SO, while some factors change as far as their relationships to the other calculations, what they mean in and of themselves can stay the same or similar, which means not everything between the two analyses is necessarily different. That point made, it's possible to perceive a not at all parallel picture of possibilities could be painted. (Apologies, I watched Mr. Poppers Penguins recently and enjoyed the alliteration of the character, Penny).
There are practitioners of Astrology in the Western model that use palm reading and numerology. Those things are just not integral parts of the system itself, nor necessarily designed to be used in alignment or integration with it. It's a more Western / specialization viewpoint of learning each thing one chooses, and then some people decide to integrate all the different things together instead of learning a system that incorporates all of them as complimentary pieces that inform one another from the outset.
I am not arguing for or against either system. I tend to see both Jyotisha and Western Astrology as being valuable. 23 degrees is not huge and there are so many variables and tiny details that go into a chart that it doesn't seem enough to me to negate a strong enough portrait. While I personally have found certain Jyotisha forecasts to be more precise, that's my subjective experience. It's also my experience that the two systems often seem to inform different things in different ways and thereby collaborate to paint a more colorful, nuanced, and therefore form a more information-filled image. In my opinion, adding Tibetan, Chinese, and other interpretations to this is actually that much better and more holistic impression of this aspect of the bigger picture.
On that note, when it comes to all of this, as in much of life, I'm reminded of something Dr.'s Robert Svoboda and Claudia Welch often say of traditional medical sciences; none of this is necessarily reality. These are ways we have passed down to relate to, describe, define, understand, etc, reality. Not one of them is absolutely perfect, definite (esp. due to all the other pixels in the screen of life), or even necessarily more right or wrong. As Shakespeare wrote, A rose by any other name... - or perhaps it was Amelia Bassano...a writer by any other name..
The above is that much more true when we bring one’s personal dharma, karma, spiritual and/or physical ancestries (whatever your POV), and beyond into play. For any number of reasons, one might be, or at least feel, a stronger resonance with Western, another Jyotisha, another Tibetan, another Greek, another Chinese, etc.— and every bit of that is okay! It actually might be even better because then we can each continue to step out of spaces of stating one is "right" and stay curious and humble and explore and learn all that much more from one another and from one another's system-s-s-s-s-s, and eventually we might possibly then find the threads of truth embedded in each along the way.
Love Light and Healing – that's an order,
Binary - Sanskrit:
23 degrees - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidereal_and_tropical_astrology
There are MANY more resources available than listed, these are just some I and teachers I have learned from and been exposed to recommend.
If you have additional sources, please feel so free to comment with them. I do delight in this (and anything anthropological).
Happy explorations to all; from those of you who enjoy exploring surface level on through those who are more into diving deep:
Foremost in the US, and really one of the foremost in this whirled, is Hart De Fouw. He cowrote a book called Light on Life with one of our foremost Ayurveda and overall Indian (especially spiritual) studies explorers, Dr. Robert Svoboda. He was a long time student of the Aghori Vimalananda and others and also the first Westerner to graduate from an Indian Ayurveda college - no small feat for too many reasons to list here. ("light" comes from the English translation of Jyotisha in this context - the "light" from celestial entities coming to us, and a reflection of the illuminations those facilitate in our awareness, etc. - Jyotish meaning "science of light", as I said in the post). Dr. Robert and Hart de Fouw are each well versed and deeply immersed in these studies and traditions respectively and have strong skills for communication that bridges intellectual expertise and interested laymanese. I think they do especially well in translating an Indian view to a Western student. They meet and relay teachings from a very grounded/down-to-Earth space that includes humility, integrity, and humor. They each also have a great respect and appreciation for the entirety of the traditions of India and the marvelous language that is Sanskrit (I could go on about that highly conscious, profoundly intelligent, magically multi-layered, exquisitely yet precisely and efficiently structured, and thought-provokingly poetic language all day. I think those descriptors are far more than enough for here and now).
Finding Your Birth Nakshatra:
Ernst Wilhelm (also teaches, just studied a different lineage than my teachers that I can't speak to) wrote a book called Energies of the 27 Nakshatras. More about his work here:
Find past/now/future Nakshatras:
There is a nice podcast inter/overview from the show, Simple Ayurveda with one of the trusted Jyotishi’s in the "West", Michael Manzella. He studied with Hart de Fouw.
These Videos are some of many with and/or by Dr. Svoboda:
Ayurveda, Tantra, and Jyotish (1hr 11 min)
What is Jyotisha? (5ish min)
Saturn: (5ish min)
(he also wrote a book translating the Shani Mahatmya called, The Greatness of Saturn; A Therapeutic Myth. He layered in overviews of every planet, its archetype, and an offering of an Upaya (which in this context means remedy), for each. The story itself is said to be an Upaya for Shani / Saturn.)
Rahu (5ish min)
If you want to go deeper with Dr. Robert in any traditional Indian studies, he has myriad 5ish minutes videos, courses on Teachable, and some offerings in with Dr. Claudia Welch on Dr. Welch’s site with her other offerings on traditional sciences (including ones for navigating the health and hormones of women). In terms of cultural appreciation, I am not sure either way about Dr. Welch or de Fouw, Dr. Svoboda has reported that he donates percentages of earnings.
For those drawn in by a celeb connection, here's a bit from Deepak Chopra's community:
Manzella, de Fouw, and others offer direct teachings, and in so many traditions, things are thought to be best transmitted by verbal communication, which is an entirely different downloading process for your bodies/systems. For that reason, I recommend at least video or audio, if not personal learning IF it is accessible to, and feels truly right for, you.
A colleague recommended another Jyotish to me who I haven't worked with yet, but who IS a lineage holder, offers education, and has an e-book that you can check out:
Dr. Robert Svoboda has recommended to his students to study with another of de Fouw's students, Steven Highburger:
If you want to go closer to the source and work with a native of India, I get it and I have contact info for someone who also offers virtual teachings from India. I was lucky enough to meet him in September of 2019, as did many in the cohort of Ayurveda students I was visiting the Himalayas with to learn pulse reading, and that was game-changing for the year+ to come. He was taught by his father in the lineage his father was educated in. It's more of a personal referral than a general link sort of thing; just DM me for that info.
*I used 'Western' and not 'Hellenistic' due distinguishing factors between Hellenistic and conventional Western Astrology.