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Vedic Astrology with Vaughn Paul Manley

Lesson 1:
Predictive Astrology -
Karma, Fate, & Free Will

by Vaughn Paul Manley, MA

Anyone interested in seriously learning astrology eventually has to grapple with the age old philosophical questions regarding fate and free will. Is our fate linked inexorably to our moment of birth or is there some wiggle room for free will? If so, how much? Obviously, astrologers can predict events, which proves there is some element of fate at work. But at other times predictions fail. This may either be a reflection on the astrologer’s skill level, the accuracy of the predictive system itself or because there really is the elusive power of free will at play. This article is written to help clarify these questions.

Fate Versus Free Will – East & West

In the West, we feel very uncomfortable with the idea of fate or destiny and relish our free will. It’s not uncommon to hear someone boldly defending the concept of “creating our own reality” and of being an unlimited co-creator with the divine. However, in India it’s much different. In their culture, it’s not uncommon to hear someone resign themselves to a situation by simply saying “this is just my fate.”

However, while on the surface it may appear that our Western attitude is the wiser of the two, we may want to reconsider. After all, how “free” really is our free will when we’re limited by our past conditioning? Usually, we’re such creatures of habit that we can’t even follow through with our new year’s resolutions past February! Our habits are often so difficult to change that it can be like trying to hold down a log in water – no matter how long we hold it down it quickly rises back to the surface. On the other hand, the attitude of resigning ourselves to our fate could reflect a level of acceptance and trust that could be considered very wise.

Due to the differences of cultural conditioning, generally the astrologers of India tend towards a fate orientation, while the astrologers in the West tends toward a free will orientation. And it’s very easy to err on one side or the other. We may not even be aware that what we’re saying to a client has a fatalistic tinge or an overly optimistic free will sugar coating.

As a general rule I believe it’s better to err on the side of being free will oriented. I tend to believe in the power of suggestion and how negative thoughts, spoon fed to us by astrologers, can become self-fulfilling prophecies. But, whichever you prefer, it’s our responsibility as astrologers to recognize the karmic implications of what we tell our clients.

The Predictive Systems in Vedic Astrology

People often get interested in learning Vedic astrology because they want to learn their famous predictive systems. It’s true - Vedic astrology has evolved many fascinating systems of prediction, over its some 5,000 year old history, making it possible to forecast time periods for marriage, career changes, financial rises and falls etc. often with remarkable accuracy.

The singular, most popular predictive system is the vimshottari dasa system, which we will cover in depth in this tutorial course. In addition, there are well over 50 other predictive systems like ashtakavarga and chara dasa. In other words, there is no shortage of predictive systems.

The Value of Predictive Astrology

The ancient seers, like the sages Parashara and Jaimini, devised these systems in order to help people align with their “dharma” or life purpose by giving them a bird’s eye view of their life and suggesting what to do and when. “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” Ecclesiastes 3:1. The value of predictive astrology is to help us come into harmony with the seasons of our lives. If we plant a seed out of season it has a more difficult time coming to fruition. Likewise, we can use predictive astrology to pin point favorable time periods for any activity in our life.

Predictive astrology is generally “event oriented” as opposed to “psychology oriented”. However, since astrology encompasses our entire lives, both the internal and external, it’s difficult to separate events from psychology. In other words, since events happen to people, with their unique psychological patterns, predictive astrology encompasses psychology. For instance, if a predictive astrologer foresees a difficult financial period, then the event discussed may be potential financial loss, but the psychological pattern discussed may be extravagant spending or excessive risk taking.

The astrology chart is a map of our life and the astrologer’s job, then, is to empower people by helping them navigate the map and make discriminative choices along the way. Vedic astrology gives us additional navigation systems to help us avoid the foreseeable roadblocks, and to learn how to use time to our best advantage – both materially and spiritually.

Misuses of Predictive Systems

Generally, astrology clients don’t consider positive predictions to be a problem. Bring them on! Marriage, money, travel, successful careers etc…We love having our ego’s pampered and puffed up with the possibilities of positive events in the future. It’s often why we seek out astrologers in the first place.

However, the problem is that many astrologers misuse predictive systems by making negative predictions using fatalistic terms. For instance, you might hear an astrologer say something like “you’re going to lose your job, get depressed and apathetic, and gain weight.” You’re left feeling discouraged because, according to your astrologer, your life (plus 20 more pounds!) is already predetermined and you’re just “along for the ride”. How useful is that? Astrology is not meant to paralyze our will – quite the opposite.

But it gets worse. I’ve heard repeated horror stories of clients seeking recovery after hearing negative predictions, like the onset of a terminal illness or a terrible car accident, from fatalistic astrologers. I fail to see any value in this.

However, there is one exception. In some cases, telling a client honestly that they’re entering a difficult period could help them “surrender” and come to acceptance of their situation, which could be a positive relief if they’ve made continued effort to improve their situation to no avail.

Two Schools of Thought:
Taking Action Versus Surrendering

There are two valid ways to responding to negative situations in our lives – taking action and surrendering. We take action to minimize or avert a negative outcome, which implies that we have the power of free will to effect change. Surrendering to a situation means that we give up our power to effect change and usually means we believe in the greater power of fate or destiny.

Both of these approaches, taking action and surrendering, represent one of two schools of thought in Vedic philosophy. The path of action, represents “Dvaita” or dualism and is generally a proponent of a free will orientation. The path of surrender or non-action, represents “Advaita” or non-dualism and is generally a proponent of fate orientation.

Here’s a quote of a modern seer and proponent of Dvaita and free will, Paramahansa Yogananda:

“ Occasionally I told astrologers to select my worse periods, according to planetary indications, and I would still accomplish whatever task I would set for myself. It is true that my success at such times has been preceded by extraordinary difficulties. But my conviction has always been justified: faith in divine protection, and right use of man’s God-given will, are forces more formidable than are influences flowing from the heavens.”

Here’s a quote of another modern seer and proponent of Advaita and fate, Ramana Maharshi:

“ The ordainer controls the fate of souls in accordance with their prarabdha karma. Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen, try as you may. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to prevent it. This is certain. The best course, therefore, is to remain silent."

Both of these modern seers speak with conviction and command respect in their respective schools of thought. Therefore, in order to understand how both seemingly paradoxical view points could indeed be valid, we need to understand the law of karma.

The Law of Karma

Our astrology chart is a map of our “karma”. Karma basically means “action”. When we talk about “our karma” we’re talking about the actions we’ve “sown” or performed in the past (including our past lives) that are the cause of what we “reap” in our current life situation. This either becomes our karmic burden or our karmic blessing depending on whether we’ve performed positive or negative actions in the past. The Vedic scripture, the Mahabharata, says that just as a calf can always find its mother, even if its wandered into a large herd, so our past karma will always seek us out and find us. This is the law of karma.

However, our astrology chart is a relatively flexible map because our karma is relatively flexible – meaning that some karma in our lives is fixed or fated and some karma is flexible and can be changed by our free will. Our lives, then, are a dynamic interrelationship between both fate and free will.

The Four Kinds of Karma

Our karma makes up both our fate and our free will because there are four kinds of karma – two that represent our fate and two that represent our free will. The two kinds of karma that represent our fate are:

1. Sanchita Karma – Our entire accumulated karma that represents all the actions we’ve performed in all our past our lifetimes.
2. Prarabdha Karma – Our current life karma. Our prarabdha karma is that portion of our entire sanchita karma that is allotted to us to experience in our current lives.

The two kinds of karma that represent our free will are:

3. Kriyamana Karma – This is our free will to take current actions to change our current life situation.
4. Agama Karma – This is our free will to make a plan or set an intention to take an action in the future.

To use our free will effectively we have to “plan our work” and “work our plan”. The former is our agama karma, while the latter is our kriyamana karma. Without kriyamana and agama karma our life would be entirely predestined at the moment of birth. We would, in effect, be automatons at the mercy of our past karma.

Let’s say we go on a bike ride and get into an accident. The accident would be considered our prarabdha karma – our allotted karma for this life out of entire sanchita karma. To bandage the wound in order to minimize our suffering would be our kriyamana karma. To set an intention to be more careful in the future would be our agama karma. To buy a bike light and reflectors in order to avoid future accidents would also be our kriyamana karma.

The Three Levels of Karmic Magnitude

In addition to the four kinds of karma, there are three levels of magnitude to any given karma. Karma can be fixed/strong or non-fixed/weak, or a combination of the two. If the karma is strong then the predetermined event will almost certainly happen. If the karma is weak then it may be relatively easy to avert it. The three levels of magnitude are:

1. Fixed karma (Dridha) – This is karma that cannot be changed by any effort on our part. Only the grace of
God can alter fixed karma (Dridha).
2. Mixed karma (Dridha/Adridha) – This is karma that can be changed but only with substantial effort.
3. Non-Fixed karma (Adridha) – This is karma that can be easily changed with some effort.

How Astrology Can Determine the Magnitude of Karma

Astrologers are like detectives. We’re looking for clues to reinforce a hypothesis. The more clues that we find to confirm our hypothesis, the more certain we become. Likewise, when we’re looking at a chart and trying to determine the level of magnitude of a particular karma we’re literally counting the number of reinforcing indications. A small number of indications represent a non-fixed karma (adridha), or only a possibility of the event manifesting. A large number of indications represent a more fixed karma (dridha) or a relative probability of the event manifesting. The following graph gives an illustration:

(uncertainty) - (certainty)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
(# of indications)

Examples of Karmic Magnitudes for Physical Health

In the following three example charts we will be acting like detectives and looking for either positive or negative indications for physical health. To simplify our study we will only be looking at the planets Saturn and the Sun, (without any planetary degrees) located in different houses, with Leo ascendant. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of indications and some combinations are not mentioned in order to keep it simple. This is meant to give an example of how astrology is used to determine karmic magnitudes.

In order to interpret the physical health of a chart we primarily look at:

1. Aspects to the ascendant and the ascendant lord.
2. Aspects to the Sun as the significator of the body.

Leo ascendant becomes a convenient example chart for examining physical health because the Sun is both the ruler of the ascendant and the significator of the body.

In order to help us in our detective work we need to understand a few basic interpretation rules:

1. Planets become harmed when they are located in the 3rd, 6th, 8th or 12th houses.

2. Planets cause harm to other planets when they rule the 3rd, 6th, 8th or 12th houses.

3. The malefic planets, Saturn, Mars, Rahu, Ketu, generally cause harm to other planets.

4. Malefic planets become more benefic when they are located in the “upachaya” houses - 3rd, 6th, 10th, or 11th.

5. Planets become more benefic when they are located in their own house.

6. Planets aspect the 7th house from where they’re located.

7. Planets aspecting their own house strengthen that house.

8. Planets gain strength when they are located in an angular house – 1st, 4th, 7th, or 10th.

9. There are two families of planetary friendships: Sun, Moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, Mercury, Venus. Planets in their own families are generally friends, while planets of the other family generally are an enemy. Planets are harmed when aspected by an enemy.

Example 1 - Chart of a relatively Fixed Karma (dridha) for Physical Health Problems

Indications for Physical Health:
1. Ruler of the Asc. Sun, is in the 8th House – Negative.
2. Ruler of the Asc. Sun, is with Saturn the 6th lord – Negative.
3. Ruler of the Asc. Sun, is with Saturn a malefic – Negative.
4. Ruler of the Asc. Sun, is with enemy Saturn – Negative.
5. Sun, significator of the body, is in the 8th House – Negative.
6. Sun, significator of the body, is with Saturn the 6th lord – Negative.
7. Sun, significator of the body, is with Saturn a malefic – Negative.
8. Sun, significator of the body, is with enemy Saturn – Negative.
9. Sun, ruler of the ascendant, is in a friends sign, Jupiter - Positive
10. Sun, significator of the body, is in a friends sign, Jupiter - Positive

TOTALS – 8 Negative Indications, 2 Positive Indications

Example 2 - Chart of a Mixed Karma (Dridha-Adridha) for Physical Health Problems

Indications for Physical Health:
1. Ruler of the Asc. Sun, is with Saturn the 6th lord – Negative.
2. Ruler of the Asc. Sun, is with Saturn a malefic – Negative.
3. Ruler of the Asc. Sun, is with enemy Saturn – Negative.
4. Ruler of the Asc. Sun, is in an enemies sign Saturn – Negative.
5. Sun, significator of the body, is with Saturn the 6th lord – Negative.
6. Sun, significator of the body, is with Saturn a malefic – Negative.
7. Sun, significator of the body, is with enemy Saturn – Negative.
8. Sun, significator of the body, is in enemies sign Saturn – Negative.
9. The Asc. is aspected by the 6th lord Saturn – Negative.
10. Ruler of the Asc. Sun, is located in 7th on an angle – Positive.
11. Ruler of the Asc. Sun, is w/planet in own sign Saturn – Positive.
12. Ruler of the Asc. Sun, aspects his own house – Positive.
13. Sun, significator of the body, is located in 7th on an angle – Positive.
14. Sun, significator of the body, is w/planet in own sign – Positive.
15. Sun, significator of the body, aspects his own house – Positive.

TOTALS – 9 Negative Indications, 6 Positive Indications

Example 3 - Chart of a Non-Fixed Karma (Adridha) for Physical Health Problems

Indications for Physical Health:
1. Ruler of the Asc. Sun, is in enemies sign Saturn - Negative
2. Ruler of the Asc. Sun, is located in 7th on an angle – Positive.
3. Ruler of the Asc. Sun, aspects his own house – Positive.
4. Ruler of the Asc. Sun, is not aspected by malefic – Positive.
5. Sun, significator of the body, is in an enemies sign Saturn – Negative.
6. Sun, significator of the body, is located in 7th on an angle – Positive.
7. Sun, significator of the body, aspects his own house – Positive.
8. Sun, significator of the body, is not aspected by malefic – Positive.
9. Saturn, is located in upachaya 6th house - Positive

TOTALS – 7 Positive Indications, 2 Negative Indications

Qualitative Factors in Determining Karmic Magnitude

In addition to developing a quantitative list of indications for a given chart, we also have to determine the qualitative factors involved. For instance, in the first example I listed 2 positive indications related to the Sun being located in a friends sign, Jupiter. However, this indication weighs much less heavily then the indication that the Sun is located in the malefic 8th house, or the fact that the Sun is aspected by his enemy Saturn. In other words, the house location and aspects to the planet get more weight in Vedic astrology than the sign location for predictive purposes.

Learning the specific qualitative factors that determine the relative weights of an indication is a more subtle and advanced interpretative skill. In the beginning, it’s enough just to learn the qualitative factors and listing them as positive and negative as shown above.

What to Do to Avert or Minimize Negative Karma

In the three example charts above the individuals would tend to have physical health problems to varying degrees. The individual in the first example, of a relatively fixed karma, would have to make considerably more focused and disciplined effort to gain good physical health then would the individual in the second example. By extension, the individual in the second example would have to make more effort then the individual in the third example.

The primary benefit of astrology is to learn how to navigate through the map of our karma and make wise, discriminative choices. There is no end to the kinds of positive actions that individuals can choose to take in order to avert or minimize negative karma. Vedic astrology is full of upayas or remedial measures – chanting mantras, practicing meditation, performing worship and fire ceremonies, giving donations to charities, wearing gems, reciting affirmations etc. There are specific remedies that can be prescribed for specific negative karma. Generally, any effort that brings a positive harmonious vibration into our minds and hearts and spreads that into the world is beneficial and will help.

Communicating to Clients About Negative Karma

Even in India, where the astrologers tend toward a fate orientation, it’s commonly believed that entirely fixed karma is rare. Almost all karma can be changed at least to some extent. Because of this, I think it’s better to never mention the idea of fixed karma to clients. What’s more, it places ourselves above God to assume that we know if a client’s karma is entirely fixed or not.

For instance, I would never say to a client “_______ will happen.” The most extreme I would say is “it’s like very, very likely that _______will happen.” As one astrologer friend said once, “we have to give God his share.” Even if we hold out that God’s share to effect positive change is only 1%, I believe it’s more helpful to clients if we do so. When we give a 100% negative prediction it usually creates fear, paralyzes the will or at best makes a person complacent. The only exception, as mentioned before, is if we communicate it in such a way that it helps our clients come to a positive place of surrender, trust and acceptance.

As a general rule, I believe it’s more helpful to give “descriptions” rather than to give “predictions”. When we describe the planetary influences for any given time and the possible outcomes that could manifest, then the client is left feeling empowered to take positive action to navigate their karma towards a positive outcome.

I usually find it more helpful to say something like “you’ll need to make a focused effort here to change this situation. It’s like when the current of the river is strong and you have to swim hard upstream. It’s difficult, but it is possible.” This kind of a statement is neither too sugar coating, or too fatalistic. Then, the client has the ability to decide, in that moment, whether that level of commitment and effort is what they want to pursue. They may choose to move toward surrender and acceptance on their own.

Astrology as a Helping Profession

I think that it’s underemphasized that astrology, like counseling, is a “helping profession.” Because of this, it’s important to ask ourselves, as a general rule, “is the information we’re sharing and how we’re sharing it helpful to our client?” When we’re able to accomplish this, then predictive astrology becomes a means for people to align with a larger vision of their dharma or life purpose and navigate the map of the karma of their lives effectively.

The following quote, by Swami Sri Yukteswar, gives the best summary of the question of karma, fate and free will that I’ve seen:

"A child is born on that day and at that hour when the celestial rays are in mathematical harmony with one's individual karma. His horoscope is a challenging portrait, revealing his unalterable past and it's probable future results…The message boldly blazoned across the heavens at the moment of birth is not meant to emphasize fate – the result of past good and evil - but to arouse man's will to escape from his universal thralldom. What he has done he can undo. None other than himself was the instigator of the causes of whatever effects are now prevalent in his life. He can overcome any limitation, because he created it by his own actions in the first place and because he possesses spiritual resources that are not subject to planetary pressure."
– Swami Sri Yukteswar, guru of Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi.

Jai Sri Ram