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Jyotish - Science or Divination?

By Deborah Allison

This is the first in a series of articles that highlight the unique features and tools of Vedic Astrology when compared to other astrological traditions.

The yearning to connect with the power that orders all of creation is a unifying theme for humanity reaching across cultures and across the boundaries of time. Whether seated in individuals or delegated to a select group, techniques for understanding the will of this ordering power was a primary goal for societies of mankind from the earliest civilizations to the present time.

The Vedic tradition in India is a culture that has extensively described and preserved the knowledge and understanding of how to connect with the ultimate order of reality -- the all-pervading spirit -- as well as understanding its relationship to Ishvara, the cosmic principle that we can call natural law.

In this tradition, both the subjective and objective means of gaining knowledge are highly valued. The consciousness of the knower, the process of knowing and the object under consideration are all woven together. This is distinctly different from the Western scientific style of objectifying the process and, as far as possible, removing the subjective element of pure awareness. In the Vedic culture, therefore, rich and diverse ways of developing subtle knowledge through culturing the knower gave rise, among other things, to methods of divination or discerning the cosmic "program." This knowledge would enable man to embark on the best courses of action for aligning with the most likely trajectories of the individual life and that of the larger society.

The divination system of India is an eight fold system all organized around the central principle of nimitta, which can be translated as omenology. It may be jarring for those who are busy establishing astrology as a science to think of it in this way. In fact, the "grandfather" divination system that informs all the other seven is called "antariksha," which means "the sky." Jyotish is therefore a unique combination of reliable core principles ultimately based on astronomical observations and the developed intuition and consciousness of the reader of these patterns. Unlike a totally spontaneous omen, the astrologer knows when various patterns will appear in the cosmos. The way those patterns are utilized in a reading is rooted in the concept of nimitta, in which the uniqueness of a pattern in the moment resonates with the consciousness of the seer in that moment, in order to shed light on the question of the- one-who-needs-to-know, which is also in that moment. The power of revelation that makes Jyotish hum is this intersection of the individual's intention to understand the divine plan, and the unique cosmic pattern that will light the path to truth for those who have the subtle vision to see.

(c) copyright 2006 Michael Laughrin

From the June/July 2006 issue of Michael Laughrin's North American Jyotish Newsletter. Click to subscribe to this free Jyotish newsletter.

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