Vedic astrology was first elaborated by the ancient seers. The knowledge came down the Silk Road to Greece and then spread through the Middle East. Over time a Western version of astrology emerged that is quite different, yet completely valid in its own right. Western is more tied to the calendar. Vedic astrology is pinned to the actual location of the stars and planets in the sky.

The birth chart is a snapshot of your karma at the moment of your birth. It shows us where in the sky the planets were – in what constellations or signs of the Zodiac. Each sign is 30 degrees of the 360 degree circle around the earth. In Vedic astrology there is also an additional series of 27+ constellations that are called nakshatras, each about 13.3 degrees. This allows us to become even more specific.

Because Vedic astrology is tied to the actual location of the constellations and the planets in sky above, your sun will be located in a different zodiac sign than in Western astrology. And the ascendant (what degree was on the eastern horizon at the moment of birth) is most important to discern. Also called the Lagna, your ascendant gives an understanding of your identity in this lifetime as you further the soul’s journey, the most important planetary influences, and the domains of life (houses) in which those influences have a major effect (e.g., relationships, career, learning and gaining knowledge, transformation).

Vedic astrology emphasizes the planets visible to the eye: the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. Each planet has a domain of influence, a specific intelligence available to us. The sign and house placements, as well as the houses each planet rules, can unfold a complex picture of our identity and our dharma (life path, duty, right action).

For example, the Moon represents our mind and emotions, our connection with others, family, mother. Our karmic issues and conflicts are reflected in the moon. In other words, the moon’s placement will give a sense of some of the gifts and challenges you will encounter mentally and emotionally at various times throughout life. Through complex calculations (that fortunately the computer does for us these days), we can also get a sense of at what age certain issues might arise. And last, the moon will be located in a certain house. This will give a sense of the primary domain of life in which the moon’s gifts and challenges will play out.

There are four main aims of life: kama or desire (following and enjoying appropriately your passions – service, music, children, etc.); artha or abundance (achieving and enjoying appropriately financial wealth, as well as abundance in a larger sense); dharma or duty/morality (doing the right thing, following your life path); and moksha or enlightenment (pursing spiritual development). All of these aims are active in our lives, but there will be a main emphasis. The moon nakshatra sign can point to what our main aim is.

In addition, in Vedic astrology there are Rahu and Ketu, the nodes of the moon. These are the points in space where the moon crosses the earth’s elliptical orbit around the sun. The signs in which the lunar nodes are located will allow us to identify the karmic influences that will appear over time in your life. Rahu is the north or descending node and is that which propels us to expand ourselves into new territory. The karmic lessons play out primarily in the external world. Ketu is the south or ascending node. Ketu is more of an inward expansion – mental, emotional, intuitive, spiritual growth.

Many scholars think that Vedic astrology is the science that is seminal to all others. There is a phrase from the classical texts, Yagur Veda and the Upanishads, “Yatha Pinde Thatha Brahmande, Yatha Brahmande Thatha Pinda.” Translation: As is the atom, so is the universe. As is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm. Or, on another level: As is the individual, so is the universe, as is the universe, so is the individual. Or: As is the human body, so is the cosmic body, as is the cosmic body, so is the human body. Or more briefly: As it is above, so it is below. This is not just a philosophical statement, it is science. In fact, Carl Sagan wrote, “The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the Universe to know itself.”

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