Jyotisha is the ancient practice of astronomy and astrology that comes to us from India in an unbroken tradition that is at least 5000 years old. Cognized by the Rsis (literally, the seers) of ancient India, it is both beautiful and immense in essential truths and infinite nuance. In the centuries since its origin, it has incorporated many influences, and has several distinct schools.
Jyotisha, along with Hasta Samudrika, Nimitta, and other tools in the Indian corpus, provides a diagnostic for the varied karmas in an individual or family life. It is used as a way to bring light (Jyotir) to illuminate the nature and timing of ones’ potential in all areas of life – health, education, career, wealth, family, and spirituality.
The purpose of Jyotisha is to help people see more clearly the areas of opportunity and difficulty, and to understand where they may best direct energy to improve the circumstances of the life. The goal of Jyotisha is to help people live life in the most harmonious and elegant way possible.
Jyotisha illuminates the realm of the unseen (the adrstha), which is the essence of karma. That which is unseen cannot be understood or acted upon – and Jyotisha provides the light to allow karma to be “seen”.
In India, people seek the skills of a Jyotishi for advice in areas where thinking alone has not found a solution, to choose auspicious dates (see Muhurta) to begin an endeavour -like a marriage, building a house, or looking for a new job), and for remedies or means to help move an obstruction to a project or state of life. Such remedies are called Upayas, and are comprised of a huge range of activities and substances, of which the use of gemstones is only one.
These “esoteric” elements of Jyotisha are embedded in solid astronomical and mathematical foundations, and the approach to Time and Karma that is Jyotisha Shastra is a more inclusive understanding of how the universe works than other systems, including Western science. It is useful to remember that the knowledge of the orbits of the planets and moon was well known in India while the “west” was mired in the dark ages. The essence of the theory of relativity, “discovered” in the 20th century in the west, was well understood in India for thousands of years, and has many practical applications in everything from how to build a house to how to understand the Law of Karma.
Star Trail photo from Andreas Vailakis
Sky Map image from Rose Zimmerman