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.
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.”
while on the surface it may appear that our Western attitude
is the wiser of the two, we may want
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
to the differences of cultural conditioning, generally the
astrologers of India tend towards a fate orientation,
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
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
get interested in learning Vedic astrology because they want
to learn their famous predictive
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.
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
The astrology chart is a map of our life and the
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.
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.
the problem is that many astrologers misuse predictive systems
by making negative predictions using
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.
it gets worse. I’ve heard repeated horror
stories of clients seeking recovery after hearing negative predictions,
the onset of a terminal illness or a terrible car accident, from
fatalistic astrologers. I fail to see any value in this.
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.
Taking Action Versus Surrendering
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
usually means we believe in the greater power of fate or destiny.
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.
a quote of a modern seer and proponent of Dvaita and free will,
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.”
a quote of another modern seer and proponent of Advaita and fate,
“ 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
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.
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
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
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
easily changed with
How Astrology Can Determine the Magnitude of Karma
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
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
In order to
help us in our detective work we need to understand a few basic
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
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:
TOTALS – 8 Negative Indications, 2 Positive
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
10. Sun, significator of the body, is in a friends sign, Jupiter
2 - Chart of a Mixed Karma (Dridha-Adridha) for Physical Health
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
Example 3 - Chart of a Non-Fixed Karma (Adridha) for Physical
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
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
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
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
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.
following quote, by Swami Sri Yukteswar, gives the best summary
of the question of karma, fate and
free will that I’ve
"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."
Sri Yukteswar, guru of Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography
of a Yogi.
Jai Sri Ram