Foundation of Vedic Astrology – The Philosophy

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. — Lao-tzu

{tab=Creation}
Creation of the Universe has been a popular theme with philosophies and so also with Vedic Astrology. Parāśara[1] teaches that the entire manifested[2] Universe is but one-eighth portion of the body of Nārāyaṇa[3]. The size of the unmanifested Nārāyaṇa is infinite and just like dividing infinity by any number the quotient is still infinity, so also the size of the manifested potion of Nārāyaṇa is infinite[4]. Essentially, the absolute Nārāyaṇa is Nirguna[5] but as a part of His pleasure[6], does attain the three guṇa[7] due to Yoga (union) with the three kinds of śaktī[8].

The whole body of Nārāyaṇa is divided into four parts called (1) Param-Brahmä, (2) Maha-Viṣṇu, (3) Sada-Shiva and (4) Vāsudeva. These parts cannot really be differentiated from the whole as the pure nectar pervades them and the names used here are merely to aid understanding. Thus, Nārāyaṇa with Śrī[9] śaktī is called Maha-Viṣṇu and is of pure[10] sattva guṇa; Nārāyaṇa with Bhū[11] śaktī is Param-Brahmä and is of pure Rajas guṇa; while Nārāyaṇa with Nila[12] śaktī is Sada-Shiva and is of pure Tamas guṇa. These three parts are full of nectar and are imperceptible. The fourth part of Nārāyaṇa is Vāsudeva. This quarter is further divided into two parts – one part that is perceptible (with three śaktī i.e. Śrī-śaktī, Bhū-śaktī & Nila-śaktī and three guṇa’s intermingling) and the other part that is imperceptible (with two śaktī’s: Śrī-śaktī & Bhū-śaktī).
{tab=Vāsudeva}
The Expansion of Vāsudeva
The perceptible part of Vāsudeva is Karanodakasayi-Viṣṇu or the principal evolver and the first intention of creation is seen in the evolution of the sixteen principles of material action[13]. Śrīla Prabhupada[14] opines that many such universes come out of the pores of the skin of Karanodakasayi-Viṣṇu. This is the first expansion (first Pada) of Viṣṇu of the three Pada[15] (steps) in which the Lord manifests. Having created the universes Vāsudeva/Viṣṇu enters into them for continuing the process of creation. In the next two-stages/ steps, He is known as Garbhodakasayi Viṣṇu and Kshirodakasayi Viṣṇu.

The three-fold division continues into the next level due to the expansion of this perceptible part of Vāsudeva with the motive of entering into each universe. Vāsudeva takes the form of Garbhodakasayi Viṣṇu lying within the half of the universe, which is full with the water of His perspiration from the pangs of multiple births. Vāsudeva (Garbhodakasayi Viṣṇu) with nīla śaktī (Tamas) evolves as the Shankarshana; with Bhū śaktī He expands into Pradyumna (Rajas) and with Śrī śaktī He evolves as Aniruddha (sattva guṇa)[16]. There is an intermingling of the guṇa’s (modes of nature), and the prevailing modes shall dominate the nature of the expansion.

Figure 1: Nārāyaṇa & Creation

Figure 1: Nārāyaṇa & Creation

The expansions of Saṅkarśaṇa (Nīla śaktī – Tamas) further evolve into the Mahā Tattva (the primordial five states of physical existence) while those of Pradyumna (Bhū śaktī – Rajas) evolve into Ahaṁkāra (individual ego) and Aniruddha (Śrī śaktī – sattva) evolves into the demiurge Brahma (Ahaṁkāra mūrti). This is conceived as the stem of the lotus (akin to the umbilical cord) growing out of the navel of Garbhodakasayi Viṣṇu (as Aniruddha). The stem has a thousand petal lotus as its apex (like the Sahasrara Chakra – thousand petal Chakra in the cranium) on which resided Brahma. The stem has been equated to the three Loka (planes of existence) or to fourteen Loka depending on the context. Such brilliant imagery helps to clear many a misconception. For example there is this never ending debate about the correct time of birth – as to (a) whether it is the Garbha pravesha or coming out of the uterus, (b) Nadi sodhana – cutting of the umbilicus or (c) Prathama rodana – first cry? If we were to accept this imagery of Brahma on the umbilicus of Garbhodakasayi Viṣṇu as symbolizing birth, then it is time of cutting of the umbilical chord, which is the correct birth moment.

Figure 2: Karanodakasayi-Viṣṇu

Figure 2: Karanodakasayi-Viṣṇu

Ahamkara born of predominant Rajas further evolves into three parts based on the guṇa’s. A more Satvic expansion (born from sattva or goodness) is into a Deva; Rajasik expansion (born from Rajas or Passion) is unto the Indriya’s {five Gyanendriya or senses related to knowledge (1) smell, (2) taste, (3) sight (4) hear and (5) touch or feel and five Karmendriya or five primary actions (1) speech, (2) grasping, (3) walking, (4) evacuation/cleansing and (5) procreation}; and the Tamasik expansion (born of Tamas or ignorance) is into Pancha Bhoota (five states of physical existence) called (1) Agni – fire/energy (2) Pṛthvi – earth/solid (3) Jala – water/liquid (4) Vāyu – wind/gas and (5) Ākāśa – ether/vacuum.  The Dhi (Supreme intelligence of Vāsudeva) enters the process of creation through Ahamkara and besides the creation of the Tanmatra {five subtle elements – (1) Energy – Agni (2) Solid – Pṛthvi (3) Liquid – Jala (4) Gas – Vāyu and (5) Ākāśa – Vacuum in the physical sense but an ethereal substance in the metaphysical sense} and the Indriya as indicated, also creates the Mana (Mind or consciousness). All these creations are ‘active’ as they arise with their individual śaktī’s. In fact, Ahamkara itself has been created from the Rajas of Pradyumna and in turn its creations will also exhibit such traits as associating for the purpose of creating active elements and bodies that are principally Rajasik. Thus all creatures and living bodies are created from Ahamkara.

reclining vishnu

Figure 3: Garbhodakasayi Viṣṇu

The Viṣṇu Purana confirms this postulation and adds that the ‘Paramatma’ is the ‘Purusha’ and adds that He is ‘Kaala’ or time (the controller of the sixteen laws of material action). Thus evolved the concept of Kaala Purusha (personification of time as an aspect of God) and the Bha-Chakra (zodiac) as the celestial clock that not only represents the Kaala Purusha but also indicates the quality of time. Kshirodakasayi Viṣṇu or the Paramatma expands from Vāsudeva/Garbhodakasayi Viṣṇu into the body of Brahma (through the Satvic incarnation Aniruddha) and thereafter enters the body of every living being to reside in the heart (lotus[17]). By a similar process, the Jeevatma (or the individual personal soul) also enters the body and shares a berth next to the Param Atma in the heart. Parāśara[18] has opined that the Paramatma resides in all Jeeva’s i.e. all living beings have a portion of the divine spark of Viṣṇu within their hearts. The potency of this spark of Viṣṇu is called Paramatma-amsa whereas the potency of his or her own individual soul is called Jeeva-amsa.
{tab=Sāṁkhya}
Sankhya Shastra has a similar postulation (as taught by Śrī Krishna in the Śrīmad Bhagavat Gita and Kapila Muni an incarnation of Viṣṇu in the Śrīmad Bhagavatam) in so far as the expansion of Garbhodakasayi Viṣṇu is concerned. This teaching is grossly different from the fundamental atheism of the Sankhya Shastra given in the Sankhya Karika of Isvarakrishna attributed to Kapila. Kapila Muni the legendary founder of this system of philosophy[19] gave this knowledge to His mother Devahuti and is different from Kapila Muni as indicated in the Bhagavatam. The principal difference is in the view of the Purusha as being the prime creator (Krishna/Kapila) and just an inactive spectator of the evolution of Prakriti (Isvarakrishna).

The expansion of Vāsudeva is based on twenty-five principles (Tattva). The first principle is [1] the Puruṣa or Vāsudeva the principal evolver Who glances at [2] Prākṛti (śaktī – personified as Mother Nature) while lying on the Karana Sagar (causal ocean). The Puruṣa has three forms[20] as (a) Maha Viṣṇu or Karanodakasayi Viṣṇu, (b) Garbhodakasayi Viṣṇu and (c) Kshirodakasayi Viṣṇu at the three levels of evolution. At the first level, the exhalation of Karanodakasayi Viṣṇu produces innumerable universes that start as a seed and expand as they float above the causal ocean. At the second level, Garbhodakasayi Viṣṇu enters each of these universes and interacts with Prakriti in its three constituent qualities called guṇa to produce besides others, [3] Intelligence (Dhi or buddhi called Mahāḥ ‘the Great One’). From intelligence is produced [4]Ahamkara (Self-consciousness).

Ahaṁkāra interacts with nīla śaktī in the mode of Tamas to produce the tanmātrā (five forms of material existence in the particle form). The Tanmātrā or particle forms of physical existence are [5] Ākāśa – Vacuum or ether depending on context, [6] Vāyu – Gas, [7] Jala – liquid, [8] Pṛthvi – Solid, and [9] Agni – Energy. The five forms of gross physical matter called Mahā Bhūta was created from these molecular forms. These are also named as the molecular forms (as they are not different from their constituent molecules) as [10] Ākāśa – Vacuum or ether, [11] Vāyu – Gas, [12] Jala – liquid, [13] Pṛthvi – Solid, and [14] Agni – Energy.

Ahaṁkāra interacts with bhū śaktī in the mode of Rajas to produce the five sense organs called jñānendriya – [15] hearing, [16] touch, [17] sight, [18] taste and, [19] smell and the five organs of action called Karmendriya – [20] speech, [21] grasping, [22] walking, [23] procreation and, [24] evacuation. Each of these organs and senses correspond to a tanmātrā – Mahā Bhūta respectively. The final product of Ahaṁkāra is the manas (Mind) that interacts with the various jñānendriya and karmendriya and is influenced by the tanmātrā and Mahā bhūta i.e. the mind is the link between the senses and organs that are in constant interaction with the molecular and gross material forms.

{tab= Śaktī}
Śaktī is viewed as the principal field of evolution and in that sense is construed as a feminine personality but is viewed as a potency or energy type. Nārāyaṇa, the Supreme Lord has two types of energies. These are the superior Spiritual energy and the other is the inferior material energy that manifests. The spiritual energy is further classified as internal and marginal. These are called Antaranga śaktī (internal spiritual energy), Tathastha śaktī (marginal spiritual energy) and Bahiranga śaktī (external material energy). Just as light loses its intensity as it goes further from the lamp (bulb source), so also the Antaranga śaktī is viewed as the concentrated effulgence existing within the Lord and is called Para śaktī as it exists only at the Para level. Tathastha śaktī is like the light just outside the lamp (glass cage of the bulb) and is also spiritual in the sense that it does not serve the purpose of  making objects visible. The light which is outside the bulb helps us to see objects by reflecting from their surface and in a similar manner the Bahiranga śaktī is the original effulgence, field or potency that is involved in the process of creation.
narayana02
The Antaranga śaktī (internal spiritual energy) has three attributes. One is called Hladini śaktī and is like nīla śaktī or the pleasure potency and this internal quarter of the Supreme Lord is akin to Sadashiva. The other attribute is called Sandhini śaktī which is like Śrī śaktī or the existential potency and this quarter portion of the Supreme lord is Maha Viṣṇu. The third attribute of the spiritual energy is called Samvit śaktī and is like Bhū śaktī or cognitive potency and this quarter of the Supreme Lord is Param Brahma. Refer Figure-1 where these are schematically shown as the three complete quarters in the imperceptible portion. The Padma Purana refers to these as the Tri-Pada –Vibhuti (three quarters) and provides elaborate details. It adds that the material manifestation is in the Eka-Pada-Vibhuti (one quarter).

The Tathastha śaktī is present in the fourth quarter as the margin or meeting point between the internal Antaranga śaktī and the external Bahiranga śaktī. As mentioned above, this is also spiritual energy and is viewed by Parāśara as having two attributes – Śrī śaktī and Bhū śaktī. Nārāyaṇa in His interaction with the Tathastha śaktī is known as Vāsudeva and is represented as a half of the fourth quarter in the schematic diagram (Figure-1). This portion is also imperceptible. Vāsudeva in His multiple expansions as Kshirodakasayi Viṣṇu is the Paramatma (Universal soul or Macrocosmic expansion). The name Kshirodakasayi ‘Viṣṇu’ implies the yoga (union) of Vāsudeva and Śrī śaktī and indicates the perception of the Paramatma as being of pure sattva guṇa. This is viewed as the pure white light as indicated by the descriptive term Kshirodakasayi[21]. The other Yoga of Vāsudeva is with Bhū śaktī and this multiple expansion is called the Jeevatma (Individual spirit soul or Microcosmic expansion). These are like the various colors of visible light as well as the invisible ‘dark’ ultraviolet. Just as the diffracted light colors are like the original white light in every possible sense except the breadth of their spectrum, so also the Jīvātmā have the potency of the Paramātma but are different in their individual potency.

These Jīvātmā or jīva are like water particles that have acquired excessive energy (‘Rajas’ from Bhū śaktī) to become steam and have left the surface of the boiling water. Having moved away from the surface of the water these tiny water particles acquire various forms in various substances and being to believe in their independent existence in these substances as being different from the water reservoir from where they originated. In a similar manner the Jīvātmā dwelling in the material substances begin to believe in their independent existence as different from the Paramātma. The closest contact that any being has with God is the juxtaposition of the Jīvātmā and the Paramātma in the heart (lotus).

The external Bahiranga śaktī is present in the other half of the fourth quarter and has Yoga with Vāsudeva as Śrī, Bhū and Nīla śaktī for the process of creation.

Whereas Śrī Jiva Gosvami lists twenty śaktī in the Bhagavat Sandarbha, Parāśara lists forty śaktī in two groups of twenty each as the potencies of the spiritual energy. This shall be discussed in a separate volume under Viṁśāṁśa.

{tab=Deva}

Most scholars misinterpret the word ‘Deva’ as meaning ‘God’. In reality, there are 33 Deva’s with about 330 million forms. The word is derived from the root Divu that has ten meanings[22] (for a better understanding, refer to the glossary) –

  1. Krida – sporting
  2. Vijigisha – conquest
  3. Vyavahar – occupation/pursuit
  4. Dyuti – intellectual inspiration or brilliancy
  5. Stuti – praise
  6. Moda – pleasure
  7. Mada – exhilaration, intoxication
  8. Swapna – dream
  9. Kanti – splendor
  10. Gati – direction, movement

These words define the purpose of a Deva. Jaimini defines Deva or Devata as indicated by the Devatā Karaka[23] planet. This is the third in the hierarchy (of spiritual needs) after the Ātmakāraka (helps in the determination of the Iṣṭa/Isa directing emancipation from the cycle of rebirth) and Amātya Karaka (deity symbolizing sustenance in this world). Thus Deva or Devatā is the Guru and guides or illuminates certain inherent abilities that will develop in this life or the spiritual path or that which leads to fulfilment of desires etc. Nirukta[24] defines Deva as that which (a) confers benefits (dhanāda) (b) illumines (dīpanāda) or (c) is the source of such knowledge or illumination (dyutanāda). Thus, translating deva as God is conceptually incorrect. This view is further confirmed without an iota of doubt in the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa[25] as well as the Satapatha Brāhmaṇa[26]. The natural question is ‘if Deva’s are not Gods, then who or what are the Deva’s and in what manner are they linked to Jyotiṣa’?

Satapatha Brāhmaṇa 14.6.9.3

स होवाच महिमान एवैषामेते त्रयस्त्रिंशत्त्वेव देवा इति कतमे ते
त्रयस्त्रिंशदित्यष्टौ वसव एकादश रुद्रा द्वादशादित्यास्त एकत्रिंशदिन्द्रश्चैव प्रजापतिश्च त्रयस्त्रिंशाविति
sa hovāca mahimāna evaiṣāmete trayastriṁśattveva devā iti katame te
trayastriṁśĀdityaṣṭau vasava ekādaśa rudrā dvādaśādityāsta ekatriṁśadindraścaiva prajāpatiśca trayastriṁśāviti 14|6|9|3

Translation: (We) speak of the thirty three (Deva) of which eight Vasu, eleven Rudra and twelve Āditya add up to thirty one. Indra and Prajāpati included bring their number to thirty three.

Asta Vasava (Eight Vasu’s)
Satapatha Brāhmaṇa 14.6.9.4

कतमे वसव इति अग्निश्च पृथिवी च वायुश्चान्तरिक्षं चादित्यश्च द्यौश्च चन्द्रमाश्च
नक्षत्राणि चैते वसव एतेषु हीदं सर्वं वसु हितमेते हीदं सर्वं वासयन्ते
तद्यदिदं सर्वं वासयन्ते तस्माद्वसव इति
katame vasava iti agniśca pṛthivī ca vāyuścāntarikṣaṁ cādityaśca dyauśca candramāśca
nakṣatrāṇi caite vasava eteṣu hīdaṁ sarvaṁ vasu hitamete hīdaṁ sarvaṁ vāsayante
tadyadidaṁ sarvaṁ vāsayante tasmādvasava iti

The Satapatha Brāhmaṇa gives the list of eight Vasu as (1) Agni (2) Pṛthvi (3) Vāyu (4) Antarikṣa (5) Āditya (6) Dyou (7) Chandramā and (8) Nakṣatra. Prima facie this may seem a bit contradictory as Āditya has also been mentioned separately but here it refers to the Sun, Chandra refers to the Moon, Nakṣatra are the lunar mansions or the constellations and the remaining five represent the states of material existence. These eight form the primary source of enlightenment about the self. They represent the basic variables that define every creation and its original source of illumination in the ten methods defined earlier as the purpose of the deva. The Viṣṇu Purāṇa makes this more lucid in the definition of the Vasu as

  1. Apa – Jala Tattva or liquid
  2. Dhara – Pṛthvi Tattva or solid
  3. Anila – Vāyu Tattva or Gas
  4. Anala – Agni Tattva or Energy
  5. Dhruva – the pole star representing
  6. Ākāśa Tattva – the sky or Vacuum and
  7. fixity of the zodiac i.e. the relevance of Ayanamsa
  8. Soma – The Moon
  9. Pratyuṣa – the recurring dawn representing
  10. The Sun – as causing the night and day i.e. the source of light behind the dawn,
  11. Lagna – The ascendant or the point in the eastern horizon as representing the self and is equated to the dawn.
  12. Prabhāsa – splendorous lights of the stars that are grouped into 27/28 Nakṣatra (Constellations).

This list is the first principle of Jyotiṣa where the bodies that create all beings as well as guide them through various activities are defined. These include (a) the Sun, (b) the Moon, (c) the constellations called Nakṣatra and (d) the Pañca Tattva or (the guidance/direction from) the five states of existence of all matter and energy. Thus, the luminaries (Sun & Moon), the five planets Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus & Saturn [ruling the five states of energy (Agni), solid (Pṛthvi), ether (Ākāśa), liquid (Jala) and gas (Vāyu) respectively] and the 27 (or 28) lunar mansion called Nakṣatra form the first principle. Birth implies creation and this is the Sāttvika principle of sustenance of the born or created being.

Ekādaśa Rudra
Satapatha Brāhmaṇa 14.6.9.5

कतमे रुद्रा इति दशेमे पुरुषे प्राणा आत्मैकादशस्ते
यदास्मान्मर्त्याचरीरादुत्क्रामन्त्यथ रोदयन्ति तद्यद्रोदयन्ति तस्माद्रुद्रा इति
katame rudrā iti daśeme puruṣe prāṇā ātmaikādaśaste
yadāsmānmartyācarīrādutkrāmantyatha rodayanti tadyadrodayanti tasmādrudrā iti

The eleven Rudra[27] are defined as Deva’s. Ten of these are Rudra are responsible for holding the ‘Prāṇa’ (vital life force or air) within the body that sustains the breathing and life. Thus, their nature is akin to Māruta or storm god and in a sense like Vāyu (the air element). The eleventh Rudra is Maheśvara and is responsible for the Ātmā (soul). These are called Rudra from the root rud meaning to weep as their ‘going away’ results in the death of the native and the near and dear ones weep.

These eleven Rudra (including Maheśvara) are responsible for the destruction of everything that has been created and form the second principle of Jyotiṣa. In the first stage there is the destruction of the physical body by the ‘going away’ of any of the ten Rudra. Thereafter the Ātmā (soul) is separated from the manas (mind) by Maheśvara (Shiva) the eleventh Rudra.  The two nodes of the Moon called Rāhu & Ketu are the destroyers. Rāhu has the responsibility of destroying the Luminaries and the signs (dvādaśa Āditya). Ketu destroys the material creation represented by the Pañca Tattva (in Jyotiṣa the five planets Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn) and the Nakṣatra. The Rudra can be viewed as the binding forces in any created being, both living and non-living. They symbolize the strength of God and are also the strength of the created being as their going away results in the weakness of the body and it is destroyed.

Dvādaśa Āditya
Satapatha Brāhmaṇa 14.6.9.6

कतम आदित्या इति द्वादश मासाः संवत्सरस्यैत आदित्या एते हीदं सर्वमाददाना
यन्ति तद्यदिदं सर्वमाददाना यन्ति तस्मादादित्या इति
katama ādityā iti dvādaśa māsāḥ saṁvatsarasyaita ādityā ete hīdaṁ sarvamādadānā
yanti tadyadidaṁ sarvamādadānā yanti tasmādādityā iti

Dvādaśa means twelve and māsa means the month – thus the dvādaśa (twelve) Āditya are the twelve months represented by the twelve signs in the zodiac. The month is variously defined in Jyotiṣa and this specific reference indicates the motion of the Sun during the period between two consecutive conjunctions with the Moon. This is the synodic month and is about 29.5 days, which for convenience is taken as 30 days. Since the average geo-centric motion of the Sun during 30 days is 30 degrees, this defines the Saura māsa (solar month) which is the third principle of Jyotiṣa. Twelve such ’30 degree motions’ result in the Sun returning to its original position and this defines the Saṁvatsara or ‘solar year’. Thus, the third principle of Jyotiṣa is that of time & space which is defined by the dvādaśa Āditya (twelve signs of the zodiac with the Sun as their overlord). The solar month and solar year are the foundation of Vedic astrology and that further sub-divisions of time are to be determined based on solar motion. The word Saṁvatsara means ‘year’ and specifically ‘solar year’ as this is based on the dvādaśa Āditya. This knowledge is of vital importance in determining the period of influence of the planets called ‘daśā’. Often astrologers are bogged down with misconceptions about using the solar or lunar year or even other variously defined time periods. This indicates the lack of appreciation of this principle of time & space relationship as defined by the dvādaśa Āditya.

They are called Āditya as they are the distributors of food and all materials required for creation and sustenance as well as inspiration, exhilaration, intoxication, sexual vitality and vigour (mada). The Āditya are the givers and everything comes from them. Thus, the twelve signs represent all the material forms of creation.

Indra & Prajāpati
Satapatha Brāhmaṇa 14.6.9.7

कतम इन्द्रः कतमः प्रजापतिरिति स्तनयित्नुरेवेन्द्रो यज्ञः प्रजापतिरिति कतम
स्तनयित्नुरित्यशनिरिति कतमो यज्ञ इति पशव इति
katama indraḥ katamaḥ prajāpatiriti stanayitnurevendro yajñaḥ prajāpatiriti katama
stanayitnurityaśaniriti katamo yajña iti paśava iti

Stanayitnu means thunder or lightening and refers to the electrical impulses that are used by the brain to control the senses. Thus Indra is the demigod controlling the senses and the working of the brain as well as the intelligence of all creation. Yagyam is the worship or praise for Prajāpati the progenitor. This is the fourth principle of Jyotiṣa and is called Lagna or the ascendant representing the seat of Prajāpati the progenitor and the ‘praise worthy one’. Indra is seated on the throne of the zodiac indicated by the point in the mid-heaven. This is the area of the tenth house counted from the Lagna or ascendant sign.

The zodiac at any point of time is divided into two halves by the line of the horizon. Since the earth rotates from the west to the east, the planets and other stars seem to move in the opposite direction from any stationary point of observation on the earth. The Sun rises in the east in the morning, ascends to mid-heaven (middle of the sky) by mid-day and then starts descending till it sets in the western horizon. Lagna is the point in the eastern horizon that is just about to ascend or rise into the heavens signified by the visible half of the zodiac and is akin to sunrise. This is called the ascendant. Similarly the point in the western horizon which is just about to descend or go under the horizon is called the descendant. The zodiac is divided into two halves called the Dṛśya (visible) and Adṛṣya (invisible) by the line of the horizon with the sky in the visible half and the portion below the horizon in the invisible half. The Dṛṣya Rāśi or zodiac signs (complete or portions) in the visible half are the heavens called loka whereas the Adṛśya Rāśi or zodiac signs (complete or portions) in the invisible portion or below the horizon are called hell or Tala. There are two postulates based on (1) material or physical existence and (2) spiritual existence to describe these heavens and hell.

{tab=Loka}

The three material worlds

The physical universe can be classified into three parts called Bhū loka (earth), Bhuva loka (firmament or the solar system which contains the nava graha) and Svarga loka (Sky containing the fixed stars which is the residence of the demi-gods). The geocentric zodiac (Bhū loka as its center) limited to the Bhuva loka is called the Viṣṇu chakra (Tropical zodiac where the weather and other phenomena of the atmosphere and beyond are experienced). The geocentric zodiac based on the fixed stars in the sky is called the Nārāyaṇa chakra (Sidereal zodiac). These terms find specific mention in the Viṣṇu purāṇa. The pious Hindu recited the prayer “Om Bhūr-bhuva-svah” every morning for the blessings of this material creation as a prefix to the Gayatri mantra.

The Fourteen spiritual worlds

Thus, there are seven heavens and seven hells. The heavens called loka[28] are in seven parts:

  1. Visible portion of the Lagna (ascendant sign/house) that has ascended i.e. from the start of the sign to the longitude of the ascendant called Satya loka symbolized by the thousand petal lotus on which rests Prajāpati (form of Brahma) the progenitor. This is the seat of the creator and He is praised by all His creation. It shows fame as a consequence of the praise and health and vigour.
  2. Visible portion of the seventh house/sign that is about to descend or go into the invisible half i.e. from the longitude of the descendant to the end of the sign called Bhū loka (the earthly plane). It shows the death and re-birth as this is also the Mrityu loka or ‘where death occurs’.
  3. The tenth house/sign (with the mid-heaven as the throne of Indra in it) called Svah or Svarga loka.
  4. The remaining signs/houses in the visible portion (8th, 9th, 11th & 12th) are the Bhuva, Mahar, Janar and Tapar loka.

Thus, the seven heavens are Bhū, Bhuva, Svah, Maha, Janah, Tapah & Satya loka[29] and the deities of the planets Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, Saturn and Jupiter respectively, preside over these loka. The seven hell are the seven signs in the invisible portion of the zodiac called Atala, Bitala, Sutala, Talatala, Rasatala, Mahatala and Patala respectively. There are seven Narka (most inferior hells for punishment) below these seven Tala and are all situated at the nadir i.e. the point exactly opposite mid-heaven in the fourth house. The pious Hindu recites the mantra “Om Bhūr- Om Bhuva – Om svah – Om Maha – Om Gyana – Om Tapah – Om Satyam” everyday as a prefix to the Gayatri mantra aspiring for the highest heavens.

Thus, in any chart, the seventh house is examined for death and rebirth. If death occurs during the period of the planet in the seventh house or its lord, then rebirth is sure to occur. The place of rebirth can be guessed from the planet / sign in the seventh house. If Mars is in the seventh house, then rebirth shall be in an island like Śrī Lanka. Others indications can be read from standard texts. It is also for this very reason that Parāśara recommends the Mritunjaya Mantra with its prayer for Moksha (emancipation from the cycle of rebirth) during such periods of planets connected with the seventh house. The 12th house or the portion just before the Lagna is the Satya Loka, the highest spiritual point  and beyond this is the spiritual region of no-return. By constantly repeating Om Tat Sat and living a truthful life, the worshipper attains Satya Loka and the highest heavens beyond from where there is no return to this Mrityu loka.

Thus, we conclude that the 33 Deva’s are the basic paradigm of Jyotiṣa and that they can also be grouped based on mobility. These groups would include:

  1. The immobile or stationary stars form the group of 27 (or 28) Nakṣatra,
  2. The space and time divisions form the group of Rasi or dvādaśa Āditya and
  3. The luminaries (1) Sun & (2) Moon, the Pancha Tattva controllers (3) Mars, (4) Mercury, (5) Jupiter, (6) Venus & (7) Saturn and the Rudra representatives (8)Rahu & (9)Ketu form the third group of mobile bodies called Graha. Since these are nine in number, they are called Nava Graha. We shall use the forced definition of ‘planets’ to indicate these nine mobile bodies. The Sun is not mobile within the solar system but from a geocentric viewpoint i.e. assuming the earth to be stationary, its movement is translated to be the movement of the Sun.

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Pancha Tattva
The five principal forms of existence of all matter and energy which is the physical manifestation from Tamas are called Pañca Tattva (lit. five elements). These five forms of existence are Agni (Energy), Pṛthvi (Solid), Jala (Liquid), Vāyu (Gas) and Ākāśa (Vacuum). Thus everybody or physical manifestation in this Universe must exist in one or more of these five principal forms of physical existence. This is a well-known principle of Physics and that these forms of existence are mutually convertible i.e. matter and energy can change from one form to another or that the Tattva are changing from one to another all the time. Gasoline (petrol) is primarily a liquid substance (Jala Tattva) which is ignited in the engine of a car and is converted to energy (Agni Tattva) that propels the car. The human being consumes solid food (Pṛthvi Tattva) and various liquids (Jala Tattva) which are digested at various levels and the necessary elements are extracted into the blood especially glucose (the gasoline for the human body). For ignition, the presence of oxygen is necessary and this is drawn from the air (Vāyu Tattva) we breathe. Oxygen also gets dissolved into the blood which is like the engine of the car where the glucose and oxygen meet and are ignited to give energy (Agni Tattva) to the muscles to work.

The Pañca Tattva are not deva’s in their physical manifestation but their ability to guide the life process and course through various forms and manifestations is the Deva. Water for example, is Jala Tattva and is primarily a physical element (Bhūta) born from Tamas. However, the knowledge that water can quench thirst is a Deva. This difference between the physical element itself and the body of knowledge associated with it should be understood as the difference between the Bhūta and the Deva. In the human body, neither the food nor liquids consumed nor the air we breathe nor the ignition and energy formed are Deva. They are simply the tattva or the elements working as per the natural laws.

{tab=Guṇa}
Guṇa is the state of being of a body (or element composed of the principal forms of existence). It is a measure of the energy level as well as the nature of the motion. If the motion is balanced, then it can continue without resistance for infinite time like the rotation of the planets around the Sun has been going on for ages. Such bodies possess sattva guṇa or the quality of goodness in good measure that causes them to continue in perfect motion for a long time. It is for this reason that Parāśara teaches that the planets possess the goodness that causes them to represent the Dasavatāra (ten forms of Viṣṇu – Sustainer, the embodiment of Goodness). Others tend to accelerate with excess energy and then decelerate as the energy level is diminished until they come to a standstill. The process of uneven motion is called Rajas guṇa and is a sign of life (Brahma – Creator). The point where the body comes to a standstill or has no motion is called Tamas guṇa and is a state equated with death (Shiva- Destroyer).

From a heliocentric viewpoint, the planets possess sattva guṇa, but this situation changes from a geocentric view point, where we find the planets accelerating, decelerating and also coming to a standstill. These motions have been studied and various mental attitudes have been attributed to them. For example, a planet that is accelerating and moving very fast is said to be in Bhīta Avasthā i.e. frightened and is running away.

Divine Incarnations
From the above it is evident that every aspect of this manifested universe is a part of Viṣṇu and thus, every being is but an incarnation of God. There are umpteen incarnations of Viṣṇu as given in the Bhagavat Gita[30], Śrīmad Bhagavataṁ[31] and other literature. The translations of Śrīla Prabhupada  are recommended for study and these will require an elaborate commentary to fully appreciate each incarnation from the Jyotiṣa viewpoint and understanding. The Bhagavataṁ is also the best source for understanding the principles of creation and what has been given here is merely a gist.

One of the important teachings of the Bhagavataṁ is that the different incarnations and forms of God are worshipped by people for attainment of different desires.

Recommended reading:

  • Bṛhat Parāśara Horā Śāstra
  • Satapatha Brāhmaṇa
  • Śrīmad Bhagavataṁ

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[1] BPHS 1.9
[2] The manifest is referred to as ‘Maya’ or illusion, and in the Bhagavat Gita is called the Akshara’ (syllable), immutable Brahma. Thus, if Narayana is said to be even above this sound syllable.
[3] Narayana is composed of two words ‘Nara’ meaning ‘any body’ and ‘Ayana’ meaning ‘Goal’. Thus the composite word Narayana means the ultimate goal of every body both living and non-living or mobile and immobile. In a more subtle sense it refers to the individual soul (Microcosm) endeavoring to attain Union (Yoga) with the Universal Soul (Macrocosm). Thus, Narayana also means this universal soul or supreme personality of God.
[4] Poornamada poornamidam poornatapoornamudachyate; poornasya poornamadaya poornamevavasisyate.
[5] Nirguna means untouched by material contamination – [Prabhupada]. Beyond the Guna’s or without Guna.
[6] Bhagavat Gita 9.8
[7] Guna are the material qualities of Prakriti (personified nature) as Satwa (Goodness), Rajas (Passion) and Tamas (Ignorance).
[8] Shakti literally means strength or power and specifically indicates the strength to achieve an objective. The three primary objectives are creation, preservation and dissolution.
[9] Sri Shakti is the phoneme causing Satwa Guna and is personified as Maha-Lakshmi. Satwa Guna is of the nature of Goodness causing preservation.
[10] The word ‘pure’ has been used to indicate the presence of Amrita (nectar) that causes immortality or perceived immortality in a relative time concept.
[11] Bhu Shakti is the phoneme causing Rajas Guna and is personified as Maha-Saraswati. Satwa Guna is of the nature of Passion causing creation.
[12] Nila Shakti is the phoneme causing Tamas Guna and is personified as Maha-Kali. Tamas Guna is of the nature of Ignorance causing destruction.
[13] SB 1.3.1
[14] SB 1.3.1 purport
[15] Trinipada vichakrame Vishnur-gopa adabhya. Atho dharmani dharayen. RV
[16] This postulation of Parasara (BPHS 1.14 –1.17) is corroborated by the Sloka – Om namastubhyam Bhagavate Vasudevaaya dhimahi. Pradyumnayaaya, Aniruddhaaya namah Sankarshanaya cha. In addition we are taught that the intellect ‘Dhi’ evolves with these expansions which in turn, results in the creation of (a) Brahma and the 14 Loka, (b) Ahamkara that creates living beings and (c) Maha Tatwa. These expansions are spontaneous without any time lag.
[17] Ref: Appendix-1 – Heart lotus is the Hridaya Padma or a psychic energy center in the region of the heart.
[18] BPHS 1.21 -24
[19] There are six systems of Philosophy called Shad-Darshan. Refer Appendix-4 for more details.
[20] Laghu Bhagavatamrita, Purva Khanda, 33
[21] Kshira means milk and Kshirodakasayi means sleeping on the ocean of milk thereby referring to the pure white effulgence of the Paramatma.
[22] Dhatupatha
[23] Refer Chapter 8
[24] ibid 7.16
[25] Sloka 1.6 Satyasamhita vai deva
[26] Sloka 3.7.3.10 Vidmanso hi deva
[27] Jaimini has given considerable details on calculating these eleven Rudra (infact ten Rudra and the eleventh he calls Maheswara or Shiva Who is responsible for delivering the soul). These have been discussed in Volume VIII (Ayur Khand – Longevity).
[28] The names of the seven loka as given here are from the Markandeya Purana. Human beings reside in the Bhu loka (earthly plane) while birds, clouds and the demigods reside in the Bhuva loka. The names given for the seven heavens indicated by the seven signs are different in other Vedic literature. However, the names given here are accepted as authentic as Rishi Markandeya was the recipient of the Vedic knowledge from the Maharishi’s through Rishi Chyavan & Daksha Prajapati. He was also the grandfather of Parasara.
[29] The names of the seven loka as given here are from the Markandeya Purana. Human beings reside in the Bhu loka (earthly plane) while birds, clouds and the demigods reside in the Bhuva loka. The names given for the seven heavens indicated by the seven signs are different in other Vedic literature. However, the names given here are accepted as authentic as Rishi Markandeya was the recipient of the Vedic knowledge from the Maharishi’s through Rishi Chyavan & Daksha Prajapati. He was also the grandfather of Parasara.
[30] BG 10.19 – 10.37
[31] SB 1.1.7,