Largest Astrology School in the World
– Interview with Sri K.N. Rao
By Vaughn Paul Manley, M.A.
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2004. All Rights Reserved.
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan - New Delhi, India
article appeared in The Journal of Astrology - Winter 2004
Limitations of Learning Astrology
astrology is usually a private hobby, or for some – a private obsession.
Once you’ve learned enough to realize that astrology is a sacred
science that can give you reliable insights into your life and other’s
lives you’re at risk of becoming obsessed. You’ve entered
the minority of people on the planet who have seen beyond the all-too-common
notions of astrology as foolish hearsay and astrologers as fortune telling
charlatans. You’ll likely find yourself buying more books than can
fit on your shelf and spend many late nights trying to make sense of the
puzzle of existence.
the path of astrology is typically a solo journey. You may get readings,
take local classes, or eventually attend an annual conference but basically
you’re on your own. There are self-study certification courses available
but astrology is generally not recognized as a valid science or taught
at colleges or universities (except in some parts of India), even though
long lists of famous scientists believed in astrology.
- The Unrecognized Science
This is all quite ironic because archaeologists have found ancient records
of the study of astrology in the ruins of almost every ancient civilization
– Greece, Babylon, China, Rome, India. It is the oldest science
in the world and the mother of astronomy. Many of the great Western astronomers,
like Copernicus and Kepler, were also astrologers. In the East, the great
astronomers were always knowledgeable in astrology. There’s even
biblical reference of the three wise men being astrologers from the East.
astrology today is assigned an undignified place in the scientific and
academic world. Students of astrology sometimes feel ashamed of admitting
they’re studying or practicing astrology for fear of ridicule by
reputable professionals or academic scholars. When the famous Swiss psychologist,
Carl Jung, told Sigmund Freud of his professional use of astrology in
his psychiatric practice it represented his break from Freud and the conventional
The Research Problem
Without support from the scientific community, astrologers have had a
difficult time generating substantial research. Without substantial research
astrology has not been able to gain the recognition it deserves. It’s
been a catch 22 situation. The popularization of astrology through columns
in newspapers and magazines hasn’t helped in this regard and has
further removed it from science into the realm of fanciful superstition.
astrology is an unrecognized, virtually unregulated profession without
any licensing requirements to speak of. Anyone can claim to be a professional
astrologer; hence the opinion that astrologers are quacks and charlatans
is not without substantiation. And now with the explosion of the Internet
and worldwide, unregulated advertising anyone can represent astrology
in any manner whatsoever.
Sri K.N. Rao
The Work of Sri K.N. Rao
Sri K.N. Rao was all too aware of these problems with astrology. He saw
the great need for scientific research that gave solid, replicable results
to help restore astrology as a sacred science. Even though he had a full
time government position he spent his evenings doing his own pioneering
research into the ancient principles of Parashara and Jaimini - the great
sages of Vedic astrology. He published these finding in astrological journals
and publications across India and became well known as one of India’s
most brilliant astrologers. Many of his predictions proved to be dazzlingly
accurate which gained him widespread recognition.
Yogi Moorkhanandji and Sri K.N. Rao in 1981
The Prediction of Yogi Moorkhanandji
However, even with increasing recognition Rao developed a distaste for
astrology. He saw that most people were just interested in mundane concerns
like money, job, marriage, etc. instead of using astrology to understand
their karma and grow spiritually. He decided to give it up altogether.
1980, however, an event happened that changed all that. A great yogi,
Yogi Moorkhanandji (a.k.a. Swami Vidyaranya), told Rao, “This knowledge
of jyotisha (astrology) is not lost but is hidden, as at sunset. There
will be a revival of it and you will be the medium through whom it would
happen.” Mookhanandji forbade him to give up astrology saying that
he could not avoid this mission. It was his karma.
Mookhanandji’s words Rao writes, “Since I believe in the words
of such Mahatmas (great souls), I knew that sometime, even in the India
of my times, some chances would come and I would be fulfilling some astrological
mission, about which I had hints from others also. But none had said it
in so clear a language.”
The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan School
– New Delhi, India
With Moorkhanandji’s encouragement Rao continued with his astrology
work, always giving readings without charge, and focusing mainly on his
research and writings. Even though he had little time for teaching, Rao
naturally attracted students around him. He is charismatic, articulate,
possesses a wealth of classical knowledge, combined with a modern, systematic
approach based on original research. Teaching was inevitable.
the vision of creating a school of astrology took shape in the late 1980’s
after Rao’s job was transferred to New Delhi. This gave him the
opportunity to submit a proposal to start an astrology school at the Bharatiya
Vidya Bhavan, a worldwide institute devoted to the preservation of India’s
culture, based in New Delhi. The proposal was accepted and the school
began accepting students in July of 1987. It was designed as a two-year
course of study offering Jyotish Alankar and Jyotish Acharya degrees.
for more information about the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Institute of Astrology.
Meeting Sri. K.N. Rao
I first met my teacher, K.N. Rao, in the fall of 1993 on Rao’s first
visit to the US. He was giving an informal talk at the home of Vedic scholar,
David Frawley, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His school had already become
highly successful and had attracted the attention of the American Council
of Vedic Astrology (ACVA). Frawley, the president of ACVA, had visited
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and invited Rao to be the keynote speaker at the
Second International Symposium on Vedic Astrology in San Rafael, CA that
Rao’s mission had begun to take on a global influence. Never had
an astrologer from India captivated a Western audience like Rao. His visit
to the US represented a landmark for the study of Vedic astrology in the
West to the point that one Western student summed up the impact as “Vedic
astrology in the US before Rao, and after Rao.”
even with increasing global recognition, Rao preferred to remain in India
and focus on developing his school. In April 1997 he launched the first
issue of the quarterly research magazine called the “Journal of
Astrology" which was created in order to publish the ongoing research
produced at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. They have since published more than
25 issues, which are currently distributed worldwide. Click here
for more information about the Journal of Astrology.
A typical classroom of students at Bharatiya Vidya
The Largest Astrology School In
In the spring of 2000 I had the great privilege of spending a month in
New Delhi studying at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan with K.N. Rao and the
other talented teachers of the school. For many years the school had been
recognized as the largest astrology school in the world. Today there are
over 850 students and 26 teachers! For me it was like an International
Symposium on Vedic Astrology every weekend. I was thrilled.
K.N. Rao’s guidance many of the teachers had written books that
had not only become required course reading but had also become unique
contributions in the field - M.S. Mehta, Col. A.K. Gour, Manoj Pathak,
Naval Singh, Deepak Kapoor, K.K. Joshi, Dr. K.S. Charak, Shiv Raj Sharma,
Vinay Aditya, C.B. Prasad and others. This is in addition to the prolific
writings of Rao that are, of course, also required course materials. Nowhere
had astrology reached such a high level of academic and scientific excellence
that I’m aware of. Also, what I've always appreciated about their
books and journal is that there are always ample practical examples showing
how the classic principles can be applied in a modern context. Click here
for more information about books by K.N. Rao and the faculty of Bharatiya
Some of the teachers in the lounge between classes
Author M.S. Mehta is at center
Soon after arriving I learned that this was definitely
an advanced course of study. K.N. Rao’s approach to teaching is
systematic, practical, and rigorous. He requires that everyone learn to
make many calculations on the spot, preferably without the use of pen
and paper, let alone computers! He also requires that students learn through
practical application and not just through theoretical knowledge. Students
are required to produce papers showing the application of classical principles
on a regular basis. It was obvious to me that many of even the first year
students knew more than some of the professional Vedic astrologers in
Author Col. A.K. Gour teaching a second year class
Never had I been in such a dynamic learning environment
for astrology. Producing the quarterly research journal was a brilliant
part of the system. The kinds of researches that K.N. Rao used to do on
his own in the evenings could now get the additional collaboration of
hundreds of students and teachers. Publishing the journal also brought
excitement to the original research that many classes were working on
because of the chance of being published later. Individual students were
also given the chance to have outstanding research papers published. For
instance, one student who was a veterinarian was doing research into the
common astrological combinations seen in a cross section of many veterinarians.
Sri K.N Rao teaching an advanced research class
It was academically satisfying to be in the midst of such
excellent teaching. During one class K.N. Rao showed with remarkable ease
how the same events in the life of Rajiv Gandhi, India’s former
prime minister, could be seen from several different dasha or predictive
systems. In fact, Rao always promotes what he calls a “composite
approach,” which utilizes many dasha systems side by side in order
to confirm accuracy in chart interpretation. Rao has also revived the
use of many obscure dasha systems, written about in classical texts, and
proven their validity with modern research.
The Restoring of an Ancient Tradition
Astrology may still have a ways to go in order to become recognized as
a valid science and academic subject in the scientific community. But
without a doubt, K.N. Rao and the faculty and students of Bharatiya Vidya
Bhavan are in the process of making a significant contribution towards
this end. Arguably his school has produced the finest replicable, scientific
research on astrology ever. They are also setting an example for other
institutions to follow by teaching astrology with such a high degree of
academic excellence. I can’t help but think that Yogi Moorkanandji
and the great sages would be pleased with the great strides that are being
made towards restoring the ancient tradition of Vedic astrology as a sacred
science, or perhaps better yet, establishing it as what Rao calls “the
super-science of the New Age.”
Vaughn Paul and Sri K.N. Rao. May, 2000 in New Delhi
Interview with Sri K.N. Rao - January
VAUGHN PAUL: Tell me the history of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
institute of astrology. What year did it begin? How did you get the idea
to start it? What was your original intention?
KN RAO: In 1972, when I was in the eastern state of Bihar
in Patna I had to teach the nephew of a lawyer friend of mine who picked
up some astrology very wrongly, took disastrous decision and landed in
serious trouble. I scolded him and told him not to misapply the knowledge
of astrology from some books available in the market.
Other students also joined and I experimented with a non-Sanskrit style
of teaching as is done in Indian universities in teaching other subjects.
This direct method of teaching, without having to learn anything by rote,
was an instant success. I continued it in my subsequent posting in new
stations like Calcutta, and Delhi. In every station I had small group
of students from five to fifteen coming to me.
In 1985, when an all India body of astrologers was being formed, I was
unwilling to join it. When persuaded very strongly, I laid down the condition
that we should introduce the teaching of astrology as its main or a very
In 1987, when I was transferred back to Delhi from Bhubaneshwar, I decided
to introduce this in an organized way and thought of the Bharatiya Vidya
Bhavan, which believes in the ideal of encouraging Bharatiya or traditional
Indian vidyas (knowledge). In July 1987 the school began.
The intention was to teach it systematically, with different branches,
after an introduction of astronomy relevant to astrology.
VP: How many teachers and students do you now have? What
is your role today?
KN RAO: We have now, eight hundred and fifty students
and twenty-six teachers. I now teach only three research classes, which
are the higher classes and make the students do research and write articles,
present them in our monthly workshops and six monthly seminars. I also
take them to different places, mainly pilgrimages where we combine pilgrimage
with astrology seminars.
I do not think about any role. I leave it to God, something comes up and
I find myself in the midst of it. It is a new experience, which is both
exhilarating and disgusting. For instance, in the year 2000, astrology
was introduced as a course of study in Indian universities though it has
been there always in Sanskrit colleges and universities. Some leftists
and scientists opposed it and filed cases in courts of law. It reached
the highest court of India, the Supreme Court and was heard on 4 November
2003. Under the Indian law a non-lawyer can intervene in such cases as
petitioner-in-person. I did it since I am a non-lawyer and I was the only
astrologer fighting this greatest battle for astrology. Other
astrologers stayed out of the fight totally.
A fairly crowded court heard me and I was told by senior lawyers present
that I had made a very impressive case. One such senior lawyer told us
privately that he could infer that the court (meaning the judges) were
in our favor. The judgment has not come out yet (as of Jan. 2004). It
may come after some weeks or months.
VP: Where did you get this drive to preserve the ancient systems
of India's astrology?
KN RAO: In 1980, a great Yogi Moorkhanandji (Swami Vidyaranya)
told me that I would do it and would have to do it. I never had any bank
balance (which I do not have even now), no house, and no car. He told
me that if God willed it the institution would spring in spite of these
handicaps. That has happened.
VP: Who has been the most instrumental in instilling
this passion of yours?
KN RAO: My mother initially, later my Jyotish Guru Bhaskaranandji
and last Swami Moorkhanandji encouraged me in original research. Once
started, it continued in spite of the burden of office work, which continued
till 1990 when I retired. After my retirement I have been doing it individually
and now, with groups of students collectively.
VP: Did you intend to publish a journal based on your
research from the beginning or did that evolve?
KN RAO: No. I had been contributing articles on astrology,
popular and technical articles for various astrological journals both
in English and Hindi for many years. The idea of having an astrological
journal for the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New Delhi, was that of the authorities
of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. The entire burden had to fall on me, guidance,
editing and even rewriting some articles. And on popular demand, we had
to make it bilingual, with English and Hindi sections.
VP: What are some of the latest researches that are being
carried out by yourself or your faculty and students at BVB?
KN RAO: In various dashas, for example books on Dwisaptati
Sama Dasha, Chatursheeti Sama Dasha, Yogini Dasha have come out and the
book on Sthira Dasha is also completed. Then a collective research on
Varanasi Hora is being completed. Besides, there are many small researches.
VP: What are your future directions for the school?
KN RAO: Continuing to do statistical, replicable researches as
we have done in recent years and making it a tradition. I know that only
a few will stick to this line of painstaking research but I know that
VP: What is left to still accomplish?
KN RAO: There is so much left to be accomplished because
in the constantly changing society new challenges keep cropping up. For
example, the subjects of study now available in educational institutions
are so many that to do research on them, our students have been working
hard and we are to going produce a book initially. It will help many astrologers
do sound educational counseling. Psychologists cannot find out the correct
combinations of subjects for students. The book will contain horoscopes
of Americans and Russians and of different non-Indian countries to show
how the combinations we are working on apply universally.
VP: What are you most proud of in regards to what you
and students and staff have been able to accomplish and how the school
KN RAO: It is a weekend school and therefore meeting
only twice a week creates some limitations which I overcome by calling
some of the students to my house on different days for in depth discussion.
Yet, we have produced now more than forty books publishing our researches,
thirty-two of them being mine. The students producing fine researches
gives me pride and joy. But really I am proud of nothing. You are a nobody.
What God wills alone happens, and you are onlythe instrumentality through
which HIS will works.
VP: What is your most important advice to students of
KN RAO: Do not take what is given in books literally
but interpret them liberally as in changed times. Newer applications of
ancient principles will have to be done constantly.
For more information please visit Sri
K.N. Rao's website: www.journalofastrology.com