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Astrology: ‘Is it written in the stars’?

Published:Sunday | April 12, 2015 | 12:00 AMDr Glenville Ashby
The planets rule according to Vedic astrology
Pundit Rakesh Maraj performing a puja (prayers).

"The sun is a great heart whose tremors run through our smallest veins. The moon is a great nerve centre from which we quiver forever. Who knows the power that Saturn has over us, or Venus? But it is a vital power, rippling exquisitely through us all the time."

- D. H. Lawrence


While many reject that our fate is already determined - literally written in the stars - others devoutly cling to the science behind Vedic astrology.

This is a discipline that is embedded in the Hindu archetype, and believed to be a psycho-spiritual road map of one's life. In fact, Indian universities have begun to offer advanced degrees in this field.

Admittedly, Vedic astrology is a highly complex computative system that uses charts, symbols and geometric signs. Although its depth and range are well beyond the scope of this article, there are salient points worthy of attention.

Not long ago, I spoke to Trinidad-born pundit, Rakesh Maraj, who resides in Queens, New York. He attempted to simplify this enigmatic subject.

"One's natal chart offers a panoramic picture of one's life," said Maraj. "The position of the stars and planets at the exact time of one's birth determines key events in your life. These stars and planets effuse distinct energies and qualities that affect us," according to Maraj. "Each planet defines a day of the week, for example, the moon relates to Monday; the sun has a bearing to Sunday; Venus to Friday, and Saturn to Saturday," argued Maraj.


astrological houses


"Every planet influences the houses of our natal chart. Each house represents a meaningful aspect of your life, for example: health, family relations, sexuality, spirituality, finance, career, friends, limitations and death."

Your sign offers a glimpse of how you are likely to deal with these matters. But more decisive are the planets that influence each of these areas of your life as they slowly move along the zodiac. One such planet is the moon that is said to influence our mental health and psychological state.

One piece of literature Maraj shared, reads: "The moon spends only about two and half days in a natal house. This means that its effects occur so quickly that you feel them more as subconscious urges and impulses than conscious reactions to situations."

Saturn proves an interesting planet that offers opportunities for discipline and responsibility as it poses great challenges during the two and a half years it remains in our natal house.

Uranus brings about major, traumatic changes as it severs ties with the past and offers opportunities for renewal. Its span could be as long as seven years.

Venus is believed to bring the urges to experience love and material pleasure for no more than three weeks at any given time.


Winning favour with the planetary gods


Maraj spoke about the gods that govern the planets. It is an interesting theological belief absent in Western astrology. "Knowing how to placate the god in question can temper adverse influences and effect desirable results," said Maraj as he added that Saturn is one planetary influence that believers pay particular attention to because of the daily challenges its presents.

This explains why Saturday and Sunday are considered propitious times to offer prayers to the lord of that planet.

Many believers fast and pray while repeating mantras (a word imbued with a spiritual attribute). Precious stones believed to carry energy are worn, and so too are specially designed talismans, all aimed at appeasing negative planetary influences.

Maraj also mentioned the 'tantric path' that wards off negativity. He decried this practice that calls upon devotees to sacrifice animals or perform unspecified acts in cemeteries. "It is a shortcut toward relief, but carries huge karmic debt."

He also stated that the time of our birth, our family, and where we are born are predetermined by the karma of our past lives. Maraj argued that, ultimately, we have the power to offset the powers of the planets by the choices we make.

"Regrettably, we are creatures of habit and don't use our inner ability to change and attract good karma in our lives. If we follow this counsel, we will not be forever driven by the planets," charged Maraj.


Is Astrology Scientific?


Recently, astrologer Asish Kumar Das said: "Astrology is the mother of all sciences ... astrology is not magic! It's purely based on astronomy and mathematics. It is the most beautiful palace of knowledge. The basic difference between the work of an astrologer and that of a doctor or a lawyer is that an astrologer should only narrate what he sees in a horoscope ... because everything is predestined."

Compare this assertion with the words expressed by journalist and researcher Udaylal Pai: "According to astrologers, God's will can be purchased by offering him some money. When astrologers say that God falls for a few Indian Rupees or US dollars, we can rub it off as just childish thinking. This mindset can only come from inferior beings who think even God is corrupt. Before going to an astrologer, ask yourself, should I trust in God or should I trust an astrologer? Both go in opposite directions."

Obviously, the jury is still out on this contentious debate.

- Dr Glenville Ashby is a social critic and president of Global Interfaith Council. Send feedback to or follow him on twitter@glenvilleashby