Simplified Basic Concepts - Part 1

         The basic concepts are quite simple, really, but the
following description may gain as well as suffer from the
simplicity contained therein.

         In astrology we are concerned with the observation of
the positions of certain bodies and points of significance in
space in relation to the Earth, as well as to each other, and
with the correspondences between these relative positions and the
events which occur on Earth and elsewhere.

         To make the necessary observations and to translate them
into terms of correspondence with events occurring on earth, both
physical and subtle, our ancient sages evolved a rational
procedure that is based on five main factors:

 1.  The Zodiac - A fixed background to which all cosmic
       bodies are referred.  This circular band is divided into
       12 equal parts called Rashi(s) each measuring 30 degrees
       in angular extent.

 2.  The Nakshatr(as) - These are also called asterisms, and
       are subdivisions of the fixed background or Zodiac
       into smaller equal parts marked by the fixed stars.
       The so-called fixed stars themselves move too, but
       their motion with respect to the planets is very small.
       Today, most astrologers use 27 Nakshatr(as).

 3.  The Solar System - the Sun, the Moon and the planets which,
       like the Earth, comprise our own solar system.  The
       motions of these bodies from point to point within the
       fixed background and in relation to the Earth.  In what is
       known as heliocentric astrology, these positions are
       observed in relation to the Sun as the center.

 4.  The Houses - Visualized divisions in space, radiating out
       vertically from any particular point on Earth's surface,
       and marking out divisions of space, traversed by this
       point during each twenty-four hours, as the Earth turns on
       its own axis.  By "vertical" is meant that the demarcation
       lines are perpendicular to a linear plane that is
       tangential to the curved surface of the earth at the point
       under consideration.
 5.  Time - Any given moment at which an event occurs, and other
        moments of significance.

1. The Zodiac

     In order to determine the planetary and other positions
accurately, we use the fixed background called Zodiac as a plane
of reference.  This zodiacal belt, with the earth as its center
in geocentric astrology, is divided into twelve equal sections by
lines radiating outwards from the earth at angles 30 degrees
    These twelve equal sections or divisions of the Zodiac are
named and numbered as follows:

Division  Vedic or Hindu  Western
Number    Terminology     Terminology

   1      Maysh(a)         Aries
   2      Vrishabh(a)      Taurus        Note: The a's within
   3      Mithun(a)        Gemini              parentheses are
   4      Kark(a)          Cancer              pronounced only
   5      Singh(a)         Leo                 subtly.
   6      Kanya            Virgo
   7      Tula             Libra
   8      Vrishchik(a)     Scorpio
   9      Dhanush          Sagittarius
  10      Makar(a)         Capricorn
  11      Kumbh(a)         Aquarius
  12      Meen(a)          Pisces

    The zodiacal band is in the same plane as the ecliptic, which
is the apparent path of the Sun all the way around.  In one
sense, therefore, the Zodiac is the ecliptic extended limitlessly
into space.

    We now arrive at the first great difference between Western
astrology as derived from the Egyptians through the Greeks and
Romans, and Jyotishi, Vedic astrology -- an original science the
records of which are continuous and unmixed with other cultures.
This involves the determination of the first, starting point of
the circular Zodiac, or the first degree of Mesh(a) or Aries.

    The original Zodiac as created by the ancient sage-scientists
corresponded with the constellations or groups of those fixed
stars that are found approximately 30 degrees apart in a belt
which appears to encircle the Earth at the ecliptic.

    Originally, the first degree of Mesh(a) or Aries coincided
with some fixed star within the constellation Mesh(a).  Vedic
astrologers have always used this fixed zodiac and still do.
Western Tropical astrologers, on the other hand, use the Vernal
Equinoctial Point as the first degree of Aries and this results
in a Zodiac which continuously changes position with respect to
the stars, due to what is known as the precession of the
equinoxes.  Today in 1997, this value is about 23 degrees,
49 minutes.

    Since this point of difference is vital, it is necessary to
understand the reasons for this difference and to explain what is
meant by precession of the equinoxes.  The Earth has four
separate and distinct motions.  It rotates like a top around its
own axis, making a complete rotation every twenty-four hours
approximately.  It travels in a path or orbit, nearly elliptical
in shape, around the Sun, traversing this path in approximately a
year.  Thirdly, the Earth is tilted at an angle of approximately
23 degrees and at this angle revolves slowly as a top does when
coming to rest, tracing as it does so, the figure of an inverted
cone whose apex is the South Pole and and whose circular base is
traced out by the North Pole.  The Earth completes this cycle in
approximately 25,870 years.  This motion is also called the
wobble of the spinning Earth caused by the forces produced by the
Sun and the Moon.  The fourth type of motion is the motion
through the cosmos of our entire solar system and of the galaxy
containing it, etc.  Let us consider this motion later.

    It follows that if the Earth were not tilted, the Sun would
appear to remain at the Equator at all times, that is, if the
imaginary line connecting our North and South planes were
perpendicular to the plane containing our orbit around the Sun.
But, since the Earth is tilted with respect to this plane, the
Sun each year appears to move back and forth across the equator
from one hemisphere to the other.  The point in its journey
northwards where the Sun crosses the celestial equator is called
the Vernal Equinox.  It occurs about March 21 each year.  The
celestial equator is the projection of the Earth's equator into
the sky and is parallel to the daily east-to-west paths of the
stars as they appear to wheel around the celestial poles.

    The point at which, on its return journey southwards, the Sun
crosses the equator again is called the Autumnal Equinox and
occurs about September 23 each year.

    If the Earth, although tilted, did not slowly revolve, its
axis describing the cone-shaped figure like a spinning top coming
to rest, the Equinoctial Points described above would remain in
the same position with reference to the fixed points in the
cosmos each year.  However, it is due to this motion that the
Equinoctial Points change position in reference to fixed points
in the cosmos at the rate of approximately 50.25 angular seconds
per year.  Despite this fact, Western Tropical astrologers
continue to use the Vernal Equinox as the first degree of Aries

    Now, the ancient sage-scientists recorded their observations
and the rules of the correspondence between planetary positions
and events on earth for thousands of years based on a fixed
Zodiac.  It follows then, that if one uses a moving Zodiac with
respect to the fixed background, then the rules of interpretation
must also remain in a state of flux, experimentation and much
debate and discussion.  Indeed, this is very true of the state of
affairs in the system which, for only a little over 1700 years
has used a moving Zodiac.  The ability of event prediction
suffers the most.

    It is true that every 25,870 years or so the Vernal Equinox
will coincide with the fixed star in the constellation Aries
which originally marked the beginning of Aries.  The last time
this phenomenon occurred was about the year 240 CE.  Since then,
the Vernal Equinox has retrograded away more than 23 degrees.
This is why Vedic, Chinese, African and Arab astrologers -- more
than 90% of the world's astrologers -- continue to use the
relatively-fixed Zodiac that will nearly always be the same with
respect to the stars, on the basis of which the hundreds of
thousands of rules of horoscope interpretation are based.

    At the time the fixed Zodiac was adopted for astrological
purposes, it had been observed that each of the twelve sections
that divided the cosmos into segments or zones of 30 degrees
each, indicated certain definite characteristics peculiar to each
section.  These properties were decisively identified with the
particular section of the sky in which they were observed and each
segment of the Zodiac thus was eventually distinguished and
described by the specific conditions observed to exist in it.

    The characteristics assigned to the segments of the cosmos
are as true today as they were thousands of years ago.  That
these properties and conditions, unique to each segment of the
skies mapped out by fixed stars, should move around with the
changing position of that arbitrary point in the cosmos called
the Vernal Equinox is illogical and unscientific to the point of

    The error, however, was a natural one and originated with
Ptolemy.  It is a trap into which modern astrologers fell because
they followed the lead of modern astronomers in using the
equinoctial points in defining the Zodiac and its divisions.  Of
course, as has been explained these points are continually moving
in relation to the fixed celestial points.  The rules of
astrological interpretation have been written for thousands of
years with respect to the fixed celestial points.

    But, modern astronomers redefined their constellations about
sixty years ago.  The International Astronomical Union redrew the
boundaries in skies, adding a constellation which they named
Ophiuchus.  This is the result of their recent revision.  The
table below lists the dates when the Sun is in the newly defined
astronomical constellations of the Zodiac.  The dates fluctuate
by a day from year to year:

         *------------*    *-------------*
         Constellations         Dates
         *------------*    *-------------*
          Capriconus       Jan 19 - Feb 15
          Aquarius         Feb 16 - Mar 11
          Pisces           Mar 12 - Apr 18
          Aries            Apr 19 - May 13
          Taurus           May 14 - Jun 19
          Gemini           Jun 20 - Jul 20
          Cancer           Jul 21 - Aug  9
          Leo              Aug 10 - Sep 15
          Virgo            Sep 16 - Oct 30
          Libra            Oct 31 - Nov 22
          Scorpius         Nov 23 - Nov 29
          Ophiuchus        Nov 30 - Dec 17
          Sagittarius      Dec 18 - Jan 18

    In the days of Ptolemy, the Equinoctial Points had once again
almost completed another precessional cycle and were indeed
approximately aligned with the fixed points in the constellations
from which they were originally derived.  Hence, the confusion
arose which has resulted in perpetuating an astrological error
among a small minority of astrologers, namely Tropical

    The Zodiac, therefore, is used first as a plane of reference
to facilitate the description of te positions of celestial bodies
in such a way that their relationships among themselves can
be determined.  Secondly, the Zodiac is used to divide the skies
into zones of apparently specific indications.

    To repeat, each of these divisions extends through an arc of
30 degrees; twelve segments therefore completing the 360 degrees
of a complete circle.  If a planet or star be situated, say,
halfway between th beginning of Aries and the beginning of the
next segment Taurus, then the position of that planet or star
will be described as being fifteen degrees of Aries.  If the
planet be situated one-third of the distance between the
beginning of Gemini and the beginning of cancer, this position
will be designated as ten degrees of Gemini.

    Positions of planets are described in this manner in degrees,
minutes and seconds of the segment in which they are located.
Each segment is called a Rashi.  One could call it a
constellation also, except that the modern astronomers have
redefined their constellations just sixty years ago and this can
cause the same confusion as would be caused by calling these
segments "signs" since Tropical astrologers started using "signs"
just about 1700 years ago to describe the zones in the moving

2. The Nakshtr(as), or Asterisms

     Ancient astronomers observed that numerous changes occurred
with the 30-degree zones, or Rashi(s), mapped out by the Zodiac.
They found it necessary to sub-divide each of the twelves sections
of the Zodiac.  Using the belt of fixed stars which encircle the
earth as markers, the divided the zodiacal background into 27
segments, the boundary of each being marked by a particular fixed
star located near the zodiacal belt.  These segments are known as
the Nakshatr(as) or Asterisms.

    They begin at the same point in the Rashi of Mesh(a). or
Aries, which marks the beginning of the Zodiac, and since each
extends over an arc of 13 degrees, 20 minutes, all 27 of them
make up the full circle of 360 degrees.  Each Nakshatr(a) is
further sub-divided into quarters of equal arc.  These quarters
are called Pada(s).  This way, we have now discussed total of 108
divisions superimposing the 12 Rashi divisions.

    The names of the twenty-seven Nakshatr(as) are:

1 Ashwini        10 Maagh(a)            19 Mool(a)
2 Bharani        11 Poorv(a) Phalguni   20 Poorv(a) Ashadh(a)
3 Krittik(a)     12 Uttar(a) Phalguni   21 Uttar(a) Ashadh(a)
4 Rohini         13 Hasta               22 Shravan(a)
5 Mrigashir(a)   14 Chaitr(a)           23 Dhanisht(a)
6 Ardra          15 Swati               24 Shatabhish(a)
7 Punarvasu      16 Vaishakh(a)         25 Poorv(a) Bhadrapad(a)
8 Paushya        17 Anuradha            26 Uttar(a) Bhadrapad(a)
9 Ashlesh(a)     18 Jyeshth(a)          27 Revati

    The 27 Nakshatr(as) are divisions of 13 degrees, 20 minutes
each and each quarter, Pad(a), of a Nakshatr(a) is therefore
3 degrees, 20 minutes of arc.  The angular measurements may be
written as 3d20m0s, where d, m and s stand for degrees, minutes and
seconds, respectively.

    We will learn in later lessons that it is necessary to sub-
divide the 3d20m quarters into still-smaller divisions as finer
properties and characteristics of the star groups are illuminated
in the discussion.

Jai Maharaj
Jyotishi, Vedic Astrologer
Om Shanti

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