Sunday, January 17, 2010

Activists drag astrology to the court (published in D.N.A. Mumbai edition on 20-jan-2010, pg.4)

In the context of a PIL filed in the Mumbai High Court seeking a ban on astrologers and similar practitioners, the following clarifications are made about vedic astrology.

1. Vedic astrology has a lot more to it than the weekly forecasts and claims by some unscrupulous persons about 100% accurate predictions and guaranteed results. Astrology has always been part and parcel of Hindu religion and faith. Astrology is one of the six angas (organs) of the veda, Siksha, Vyakarana, Chandas, Nirukta and Kalpa being the other five. It is called Vedasya chakshuh or eye of the veda.

2. Eighteen Rishis – Surya, Pitamahah, Vyasa, Vasishta, Atri, Parasara, Kasyapa, Narada, Garga, Marichi, Manu, Angiras, Lomasha, Paulisha, Chyavana, Yavana, Bhrigu and Saunaka are the creators of astrology and the classical texts of astrology are written by these sages. Some of these texts are Parasara Hora, Garga Hora and Yavana Hora.There are also texts from eminent scholars such as Jaimini ,Varahamihira, Mantresvara, and Kalyanavarma. Uttarakalamrita by Kalidasa is a treasure house of astrological knowledge and Naradapurana deals extensively in astrology. More than one thousand text books on astrology are in print both classical and contemporary.

3. The planets and nakshatras have been assigned divine attributes in the vedas and puranas and there are mantras and rituals meant to worship them. Astrology is a matter of faith and worship for the Hindu. There are navagraha temples all over the country and it is part of Hindu faith to recognize the divine power of the planets and worship them. While the planets themselves are treated as divine beings, there are also adhidevatas, pratyadhidevatas and abhimanadevatas as their associate deities. In Hindu religion, the planets are considered as agents responsible for fructification of one’s own past karma. Atharva veda contains mantras to predict the outcome of a battle.

4. The planets in vedic astrology are not the physical planets we see in the sky. There is a difference of about 22 to 23 degrees between the physical longitude of the planet and its longitude in the horoscope. This difference is called ayanamsa. The planets in astrology can be best described as karmic influences aligned with the physical planets. The graha word in Sanskrit means “one who takes hold of or control of ” and not planet as in science.

5. Identification of muhurtas for yajnas and rituals such as marriage is based on the tenets of astrology and the ritualistic side of Hindu religion is closely linked to astrology. In the absence of Hindu almanac based on vedic astrology the festivals in our day to day life such as Ram Navami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali, Gudi padwa and Makara Samkranti will disappear.

6. The Government of India publishes Rashtriya Panchanga giving the planetary positions on a daily basis which are widely used for casting horoscopes and other astrological purposes.

7. Astrology is a regular curriculum in many Universities approved by the UGC. Degrees such as B.A., M.A., M.Phil and Ph.D. or their equivalents are awarded on successful completion of the courses. Rashtriya Samskrita Samsthanam deemed university established under the Ministry of HRD offers all these courses. Sastra University - Thanjavur, PSR University – Hyderabad and Kalidas Sanskrit University – Ramtek are some of the universities offering PG level courses in astrology. In addition to this, there are many more universities having well established departments of astrology such as the eminent Banaras Hindu University and Sampurnanad Sanskrit University, Kashi. Serious research into many aspects of astrology are conducted in these universities.

8. There are widely read journals in astrology and the contributors include a wide spectrum of personalities like retired judges, scientists, doctors, technocrats, professors, bureaucrats along with professional astrologers.

9. There are many remedies prescribed by Hindu Dharmasatras, the vedic treatises and also the mantra sastras. In fact every Hindu ritual has a goal and this is the expected result of the ritual. The success depends on so many factors. The penances and rituals prescribed in texts such as Santhikusumakara depend entirely on the horoscope for arriving at the right remedy. The bona fide of the all solving yantras and gadgets is of course questionable. Indiscriminate advertising and tall claims have definitely cast a shadow upon this ancient knowledge.

10. No genuine astrologer would claim that all his predictions will come true just as even the scientific weather forecasts also at times turn out to be incorrect. No genuine priest would guarantee results. “ The sastra itself says that “phalani grahacharena soochayanti maneeshinaha. Ko vakta taratamyasya tamekam vedhasam vina “ – the scholars only indicate the future results. Who other than the creator himself can say for sure what will happen. Hindu dharmasastra and astrology are inseparable and a good astrologer is called daivajna (one who knows God). His qualities in addition to astrological knowledge are honesty, awareness , humility, vedic knowledge and devotion to the navagrahas.

11. It is not fair to insist that everything has to be scientific. That is only one way of looking at things. Is God a scientific concept? Is religion scientific? Is the entertainment industry comprising of movies, serials etc. scientific or pieces of imagination? What is scientific about poetry? It is a fundamental right of every Indian citizen to follow his religious system and faith. Even science does not promise 100% results. Does the Medical Science cure every patient? There are quacks and frauds even in the Medical profession. That does not call for a ban on the profession. It is up to the law to deal with them. The argument is that astrology is not scientifically proved. The question is “Has it been scientifically disproved, if so by what authority ?”

12. Vedic astrology has stood the test of time. It is our ancient knowledge with great social value. In the hands of genuine practitioners it is a great tool of counseling in times of distress and confusion. While cleaning the system of frauds and cheats is welcome, it should not in any way hamper the faith of millions and the true pursuit of this branch of knowledge.