Jyotish or astrology forms a part of traditional Hindu practice. Whether you consult your astrological chart just for entertainment, to find auspicious days, or to find guidance in life, you will need a birth chart first. The easiest way to obtain a birth chart is to send your birth data to a professional jyotish kovid. You will need the place, date, and time of birth, correct down to the minute if possible. If you don’t have complete information, just do the best you can. Your jyotish advisor should provide you with a complete reading and interpretation for a nominal fee.
Supposing that you are willing to undertake some work and study, you can download free software on the internet and interpret your own chart. To begin, you will need to read some books on the subject. The following are highly recommended:
Behari, Bepin. Fundamentals of Vedic Astrology, V. 1. Twin Lakes, Wisconsin: Lotus Press, 2003.
Frawley, David (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri). Astrology of the Seers: A Guide to Vedic/Hindu Astrology. Twin Lakes, Wisconsin: Lotus Press, 2000.
Harness, Dennis M. The Nakshatras: The Lunar Mansions of Vedic Astrology. Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Lotus Press, 2009.
The Behari and Frawley books both provide a good overall introduction to Jyotish, and they agree on the main points. It can be useful to consult both when wanting a more in-depth explanation of a particular planetary influence. The Nakshatras or lunar mansions described by Harness are most often used in marital charts, but they can also be a good guide to understanding your personality. You could view the Nakshatras almost like a separate system to the Navagraha (the nine main planets of jyotish).
Okay, supposing you have done some background reading and are ready to go, you need the actual chart, which is best done by computer. I recommend the Jagannatha Hora program, available here. The program works best on PCs, but some people have had luck with Windows simulators on Macs. After installing it, open the program and click File/New. Then click this icon, which stands for edit birth data:
Then you’ll get a pop-up dialogue box that looks like this:
Use the boxes and drop-down menus to enter your birth data (Gregorian). The built-in atlas does not have every town and city in the world, but it will have a nearby city. If you know the latitude and longitude, you can enter that information as an alternative. After entering this information, hit ‘OK,’ and your birth chart will appear. This will be the upper left-hand chart that says, ‘Rasi,’ under the ‘Basics’ tab. As a beginner, you will not have to worry about the other divisional charts that appear along with it. By focusing only on the Rasi chart, you will not be intimidated by the wealth of features that Jagannatha Hora offers.
I will use my chart as an example in what follows. Each jyotish kovid will have a differing interpretation, but there are certain constants. First, the Ascendant house is regarded as the most important, followed by the sun sign, followed by the lunar sign. This is in contrast to Western astrology, in which the Sun sign is considered the most important. The Ascendant is conveniently labeled for you in the program. Take a look:
The ‘As’ stands for the birth ascendant, the constellation on the horizon at the time of birth, in this case Aquarius, which will henceforth be treated as the first house, which governs the soul and self-understanding. From there, we count inclusively, and the Sun house ends up being the eighth house, Virgo, which is the Vedic Sun sign. This will normally be close to the Western astrological sign, perhaps a house away or sometimes aligning. The eighth house governs occult wisdom as well as sex: it is a house of tantra more generally. The moon sign in this case is the fifth house (here Gemini), which governs creativity and the soul. The ascendant acts almost like its own planet, and is the most important, followed by the Sun and Moon.
The birth ascendant is Aquarius, associated in the West with the Age of Aquarius or New Age, with connotations of self-sacrifice and commitment in Vedic astrology. Note also the strong Saturn (Shani) in the sixth house, which produces nervous disorders like anxiety and epilepsy. The Mercury in house eight is a Mercury bhadra yoga (Mercury in its own house), indicating skill in communication and other Mercury-based qualities. Note also the craziness in house nine, with Venus, Mars, and Rahu coming closely together. This indicates a strong interest, perhaps obsession, with religion, philosophy, and ethics. Jupiter is weakened (indicated by parentheses) by Mercury from five houses away (succedent or panapara position). All of this makes perfect sense to me (as it is my chart!) and probably to those who know me the best. It is a bit odd to put my information out here like this, but it is also more revealing than a fake example.
One can easily dismiss all of this as superstitious nonsense, but I think the chart can be a powerful tool for meditation and self-understanding. It shows one’s strong and weak points and gives a total life picture. In addition to the chart, one needs to know the primary associations with each house, planet, and sign, along with a few rules for combinations. These can easily be obtained by a close reading of the above books and a lot of practice. The result will be a picture of the self that is at least as valid as any inventory taken by a psychologist. Interpreting one’s own chart for oneself is a great exercise in contemplation and will have an impact on how one chooses to use the planetary energies.
Free will should absolutely be emphasized, as past and present karma will affect how the planetary energies affect us. The blessings of gods and gurus also trump the nine planets, as many scriptures insist. It is also important to get oneself in the right frame of mind before attempting a reading. At the very least, one should do some silent meditation and mantra practice before beginning to get rid of the mental noise that could skew the results. That’s all for now. Future posts will provide quick and easy methods for jyotish that anyone can understand.