Jyotish is a Sanskrit word that translates as the study of light (Jyoti means light). Rooted in a tradition that can be traced back thousands of years, Jyotish has a very long history of being a tool of self discovery and awakening.
The knowledge of jyotish is among the numerous Vedic texts. These ancient texts have been largely passed from generation to generation as an oral tradition, yet were originally cognized by enlightened rishis of the past. Eventually the knowledge and wisdom of these rishis was written into the volumes of Vedic texts we know today.
Each of these ancient Vedic texts has a purpose- which is to help humans awaken and become fully realized, enlightened. Although the Hindu religion uses the Vedic texts as resources for their beliefs, the Vedic texts pre-date this organized religion. This is an important distinction to make; the Vedic texts are not in and of themselves a religion, though the Hindu religion is based on them. Therefor, Jyotish is not a religion either.
The Jyotish texts are among the many recognized Vedic texts, and are part of the Angas, or Six Limbs of the Vedas. The Jyotish texts incorporate both astronomy and astrology, and are connected to the eyes, our ability to see; Jyotish is considered to be the "eye of the Vedas" quite literally. The purpose of the Jyotish texts is to awaken one to their cosmic, divine existence, to truly teach the reality of "as is the macrocosm, so is the microcosm."
The recognized grandfather of Jyotish is considered to be Parashara. He was truly a sage, an enlightened being by all accounts, who lived around 2 to 3,000 B.C. according to Indian historians. It was Parashara who wrote the Jyotish texts originally, into what is known today as the Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra. This has been a guiding resource for Jyotishis (students of Jyotish) for millenniums and is a foundational understanding of Jyotish, the principles, practices and cosmic intelligence that guides our human existence- whether we choose to recognize this phenomenon as reality or not.
The ancient tradition of Eastern astrology, or the sidereal system, has a profound lineage of masters, of seers, that is linked to it; this is unparalleled in the modern, Western astrology realms (also known as Tropical astrology). Though ancient Vedic astrologers were well aware of the difference between the fixed zodiac (sidereal or nirayana chakra in Sanskrit), versus the moveable zodiac (tropical or sayana chakra in Sanskrit), they chose to use the sidereal zodiac for reasons of accuracy.
Western astrology, the way it is used today is quite new, and it cannot be linked to ancient roots like that of the sidereal system. I believe this to be the most important distinction between the tropical and sidereal approaches to astrology. I'm a traditionalist in many regards. I want a lineage connected to my knowledge and resources. Lineage is important for me in order to trust the knowledge that I'm receiving. The wisdom and guidance of the ancient Jyotish system provides this for me.
Essentially, Eastern astrology, the sidereal approach to studying the cosmic self, is based on the fixed reality of life, that which is unchanging. The ancient Jyotishis knew that using a fixed zodiac was ideal as this mirrors the essence of our non-changing self, the Atman, or soul. This non-changing expression of reality, of our cosmic existence, is expressed eloquently in the Mahavakyas and can be stated quite simply as tat tvam asi, or thou art That.
In contrast, the Western approach to astrology, or Tropical approach, is based on the moveable, changing reality of life which is expressed through that fact that these charts are based on the unfixed zodiac. This is a decidedly poignant distinction that I feel truly accentuates the many differences, philosophically and otherwise, between Eastern and Western approaches. As with predominant Westerncentric ideals, there is an obsession with all aspects of life that are not lasting, that are fleeting illusions. The East knows better.
It is well documented that when the calendar shifted from Moon based, to Sun based during Caesar's rule, there was also a shift in how the divine feminine and women in general, were perceived, treated and recognized within society.
A shift happened during Roman rule which cost humanity greatly. This is when the ultimate shift occurred between honoring feminine ideals versus masculine ideals. This is when Western values and philosophies, and the mind, the mental body, became king. This is the historical time period when women, and our innate intuitive gifts, began to be feared and made evil. This is the time when dogmatic, base religious ideals took over, and ultimately suppressed the awareness of cosmic intelligence within every human being. This is when the goddess died, and the male god came into predominant power.
As a result of this intense shift in consciousness, a deep appreciation, respect and reverence for the divine feminine, the emotional body, intuition and women was lost. I've spent years studying the goddess and how the divine feminine was slowly killed off; killed not only within our cultural and historical understandings, but also killed within our own awareness. This absence, and Her denial, is what I consider to be the most tragic and striking loss for our Westerncentric civilization as a whole.
The issue of the goddess and the divine feminine may seem like a separate concern, not connected to the differences between sidereal and tropical astrology. However, I see the connection as a striking and important one.
The Vedic tradition recognizes that the energy of the Moon is feminine and has qualities that correlate to the divine feminine within us and also the function of the Divine Feminine in Nature as well. The Sun is recognized as a decidedly masculine energetic expression, which expresses itself within us and in Nature as well. (It is not just the Vedic tradition that honors the Moon as the feminine and the Sun as the masculine energy though.)
Using a solar based calendar and basing our sense of time on the solar aspects of life, the masculine, negates the important impact the Moon has on our life and on time itself. In fact, the Moon is our most remarkable entity for marking time accurately. The phases of the Moon, the ones we see as the Moon waxes and wanes, are perhaps the most basic expression of the Moon as natural time keeper. In Vedic astrology, the understanding that Moon is our time keeper, is quite elaborate and truly worth studying.
For me, these are all remarkable philosophical distinctions between the Eastern and Western approaches to astrology. As a Vedic astrology scholar (life long student), I never cease to be amazed at the depth, the understanding and the recognition of the masculine and feminine dynamic that is interwoven into the Vedic knowledge. The feminine is recognized in fact, as having more importance than the masculine in many ways. For without the Moon, its nurturing qualities, its ability to comfort, support and most importantly, to create, there would be no existence. No mother, no life. The feminine is who brings us life, brings us into being.
This foundational understanding within the Vedic texts, as well as the Jyotish texts, honors the Divine Feminine very intimately. It is one of the very important reasons Jyotish is a premier resource for understanding ourselves, our innate nature and the depths of our cosmic existence. But the depth and profundity doesn’t stop there. The vast layers of knowledge that Jyotish astrology offers, far surpasses anything that has come since. As we study our jyotish chart, we discover layer by layer, a portal into our cosmic existence.