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You Know All About Yoga, You’ve Heard Of Ayurveda – What is Jyotisha?

Jyotisha is the Science of Light, an ancient Indian system for studying the Sun, Moon, planets and stars as a path to self-knowledge.

Jyotisha, the Science of Light
Jyotisha, the Science of Light

As the eminent life sciences of ancient India trickle into our paradigm, there’s one that has been left behind. Why?

Jyotisha is the Science of Light, a strictly codified system for studying the Sun, Moon, planets  and stars as a path to self-knowledge. 

The nature of the Western mind is to categorize. We call one person a Hindu, another a Muslim, and another a Christian. In the same way, the ancient sciences of India have been divvied up into separate parts, when they were once a unified whole.

Those who dive deeply into the practice of Yoga inevitably find themselves immersed in Ayurveda, India’s traditional medical system. Those who study Ayurveda find that in the ancient texts, healing methodologies are given alongside astrological guidance. 

Why, then, do we know almost nothing of Indian astrology?

Yoga, and Ayurveda, in our culture, are meant to be taken with a grain of salt. We practice the physical postures of Yoga as a fitness routine, but neglect that these postures are meant to produce powerful energies. We practice Ayurveda as a lifestyle, but are cautioned that in the event of a true medical condition, we should seek out a Western physician. 

In the case of astrology, we have gone too far out of the known. We will accept that performing Yoga postures will improve our flexibility, and that following Ayurvedic dietary advice will improve our digestion. But to most of us, accepting that the Sun, Moon, planets and stars have an immediate influence on our lives would be totally superstitious. 

You might say, “I read my horoscope everyday!” 

Western astrology has assumed its own niche in our culture. We know that it’s far out , and we embrace it as entertainment. Or, if we are really “into the woo”, we may seek out astrology readings as a way of validating our personalities. 

Jyotisha is an objective system. The Jyotishi, the astrologer, is simply an interpreter of data. 

Having read up to this point, the scientifically-minded among us will be on the verge of screaming and shouting. They will be demanding empirically valid, peer-reviewed studies.

The sages of ancient India will fold their hands in silence. 

Consider the Surya Siddhanta, a Sanskrit treatise that dates to the late 4th century, CE. In one section of this treatise, the diameter of the Earth is mathematically calculated. The author gives the Earth’s diameter as about 8,000 miles. Modern calculations have the Earth’s diameter at 7,928 miles. 

We are well-aware of Galileo Galilei, the astronomer who was persecuted by the Roman Catholic Inquisition for his promotion of the heliocentric theory, hypothesizing that the Sun lies at the center of our solar system. In school, we are taught that his was a major advancement in the scientific development of all human civilization.

What we are not taught, is that Aryabhata, an Indian astronomer of the 6th century, CE, promoted the theory of heliocentrism many centuries before Galileo. The ancient astronomers of India were aware that that our solar system is part of a larger galaxy. One constellation of ancient India is called mula – “the root” – and is oriented toward the center of our galaxy.

Why this history is not common knowledge is up to speculation. Perhaps this information was just not available to those who wrote our school textbooks. 

Or, perhaps, our society is imbued with a not-so-subtle elitism that obscures the truth from our eyes. 

Jyotisha has manifold applications. 

For example, Jyotisha is used as a diagnostic tool in the case of illness, and to predict the onset of illness. When used in conjunction with a medical practice, Ayurvedic or otherwise, this is an invaluable lense. 

New couples often jokingly refer to their “signs”, and whether they are compatible or not. Jyotisha makes a systematic study of how any two people will fair in a lifelong relationship (or shorterm, as the case may be), which can save many couples from confusion further down the road. 

Many people are ambivalent about their own careers, or hate their job. They wonder if their life holds any purpose, or if their birth was simply a cosmic blip. Jyotisha can indicate a person’s natural talents, and their hidden potentials. It can show us what work will bring us financial success, and what will bring us the satisfaction of having truly been of service. 

Jyotisha does not condemn any person to a fate written in stone. It is understood that all people, if they have  intention, commitment, and discipline, are capable of transforming themselves, and their life’s circumstances. 

Our world is undergoing a major paradigm shift. We are seeing that the “old way” is not working. 

This “old way”, ironically, is not so old. It was not so long ago that all people understand the interconnectedness of life, and that there is more to our universe than meets the five senses. 

As the river rushes into the ocean, we are understanding that we are part of a much greater whole. 

Jyotisha is a system that recognizes our place in the cosmos, and that the Sun and Moon are not so far away as they appear.

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