Foundational Concepts & Philosophy for Vedic Astrologers

Introduction to Parashara astrology

Vedic astrology is called the supreme limb of the vedas, what are the 6 limbs of the vedas?

      1. Kalpa: (Hands) Ritual
      2. Jyotisha: (Eyes) Astrology/astronomy
      3. Nirukta: (Ears) Etymology – the roots of words
      4. Chandah: (Legs) Metre – Number of syllables in a line
      5. Sikaha (Nose) Phonetics
      6. Vyakaranam (Face) Grammar – Panini

Three main divisions of Jyotish: 

      1. Hora: movement of the planets and the meaning of that movement
      2. Samhita: Technical manuals for doing or building things in right relation to the planets. Also details how to read signs & omens. (precursor to astrology)\
      3. Ganita: Mathematics. Trigonometry, algebra, geometry, ect

Lineage of 18 Sages

Surya, Pitamahah, Vyasa, Vashishta, Atree, Parashara, Kashyapa, Narada, Garga, Marichi, Manu, Angira, Lomasha, Paulisha, Chayavan, Yavana, Bringu, Saunaka.

Parashara: Grew up with his grandfather after his father was killed by a demon. Grandfather was a great rishi named Vashishta. Parashara sought revenge for his father’s death by seeking to kill all the demons with a special worship for the purpose. Eventually he was told that it was his father’s karma to be killed that way and he was only going to make new karmas for himself if he continued his deadly worship. 

In addition to this Hora shastra, Parashara is known to have compiled several sections of the vedas. His son, Ved Vyasa, is famous for having composed the Purana which made the knowledge of the Vedas accessible to common people. Vyasa is the product of a somewhat controversial union between Parashara the daughter of a boat man (or fisherman). She was operating the ferry to cross the river. She was known as Matsyagandha (stink of fish). Parashara’s desire for her overwhelmed him. He promised to mask their union as well as allow her to retain her virginity after the union. He also took away her fragrance and gave her a divine fragrance.

There was a dispute between Parashara and Brigu which caused Parashara to curse Brigu’s method as capable of predicting the past with accuracy, but not the future.   

Qualities of a student

      1. Should be a good person, honour their teachers and elders, speak the truth and be god fearing.
      2. We should not teach an unwilling student, an atheist, or a crafty person. 


      1. Creator and sustainer of the universe
      2. Endowed with the 3 gunas: Sattva, rajas, tamas
      3. Creates and administers with ¼ of his body: perceptible aspect

Mahavishnu + Shri Shakti = Vishnu (the sustainer}

Mahavishnu + Bhoo Shakti = Brahma (the creator)

Mahavishnu + Neela Shakti = Shiva (the destroyer)

GOD = Generator + Operator + Destroyer

  1. ¾ of his body is filled with divine nectar: imperceptible. The aspect of Vishnu can only be known by philosophers of maturity when they know the essence of things.
  2. Jeevatma amsha: The portion (amsha) which is mostly human
  3. Paramatam amsha: The portion of reality that has a preponderance of divinity. 

Six schools of Orthodox Philosophy

      1. Sankya: Dualistic, rational, atheistic
      2. Yoga: sankya + theism
      3. Nyaya: realism, analytics, logic
      4. Vaisheshika: Nyaya + atomism + naturalism
      5. Purva Mimamsa: Ritualism
      6. Vedanta (uttar mimamasa): Upanishads. Vedanta also has six limbs.

Theistic Philosophies (Tantras & Agamas): Kashmiri Shaivism is said to bring together not only the tantra under a single system or framework of philosophy, but to also incorporate the wisdom of vedic and upanishad corpus of texts. 

      1. Pashupata: forest naturalism 
      2. Shaiva: sankya + shiva/shakti worship (theism)
      3. Pratyabhijna: recognition
      4. Panini: grammar
      5. Rasgshvara: alchemy

Maya: the material cause that brings to fruition what is waiting to manifest. It does this by putting limits on unlimited potentiality. 

      1. Raga: attachment
      2. Vidya: limits knowledge
      3. Kaala: limits time
      4. Kalaa: limits power
      5. Niyati: necesity (cause and effect)

Malas: 3 self imposed limitations

      1. Anava mala: Desire. Sense of finitude
      2. Mayiya mala: Knowledge. Ontological division
      3. Karma mala: Impurity of action. Action being the cause of transmigratory existence

Karma: four kinds of karma 

      1. Sanchita: Accumulated karma of lifetimes (most fated)
      2. Parabdha: Current life karma
      3. Kriyamana: The free will to act in the moment
      4. Agama: ability to make choices not which will affect our future (most free willed)

Also keep in mind the three divisions of karma: 

      1. Fixed: (unchangable)
      2. Fixed – Non fixed: (we have minimal power to change this)
      3. Non-fixed: (we are capable of choosing our karma in the moment or makinging long term effort in order positively affect our future karma)

The 36 Tattva of Tantra 

“The individual experient also, in whom citi or consciousness is contracted, has the universe (as his body) in a contracted form.” ~Shiva Sutra~

“The Sun is the soul of Kalapurusha; the Moon, his mind; Mars, his strength; Mercury, his speech; Jupiter, his knowledge and happiness; Venus, his sexual love; and Saturn, his misery.” ~Jataka Desh Marga. Shloka 34~

“The 12 signs beginning from Aries are respectively the head, face, arms, heart, stomach, hips, space below the navel, the private parts, thighs, knees, ankles and feet of Kalapurusha.” ~Parashara, 4/4~

Self knowledge, the equal of universal knowledge in most of India, it is one of the most prized areas of knowledge. Various sciences and systems have been created just for this purpose. One of the oldest branches of knowledge in India is called Samkya and was compiled by a sage named Kapila. This is a dualist and materialist branch of knowledge that sought to map out and empirically categorize the various elements of material existence that allow us to have this human experience. Kapila can be credited with the arrangement of the lower 25 tattva from purusha and prakriti to fire, earth, air, water, and ether. Non-dualist looked at this and thought that something was clearly missing since all this matter is inert, insentient and incapable of the complexity that we see in life. So, the sages looked deeper and eventually expanded the categories of tattvas to include several higher elements that connect us to a divine well-spring of power that infuses matter with sentience. These higher tattva reflect the lower, just as Shakti is said to be a reflection of Shiva, and yin a reflection of yang. The interplay between each of the tattva as well as that between the microcosmos and macrocosms is dynamic, relative, and eternal.     

“As the world is inside, so it is outside.” ~Manduka Upanishad~    

The tattva are the cornerstone of most of the Indian sciences and philosophies: Ayurveda, the Science of Life, or what we would consider the health sciences; Jyotish, the Science of Light, otherwise known as Vedic Astrology, which, in times not so long past would have include all of the natural sciences; as well as Yoga, Tantra and the various spiritual sciences, which we might today categorize as psychology. Of course, anyone wishing to follow any of the paths of knowledge laid out in India should have at least a cursory knowledge of these tattwa. Since maya is essentially both this world that we must deal with as well as what abilities we have to deal with it, I have given a detailed outline of maya separately below the tattva. 

The 36 Tattva:  

The Macrocosmic & Microcosmic Existence of Man and the Universe


“…. Then he unfolds Himself in the totality of manifestations viz., principles (tattvas), worlds (bhuvanas), entities (bhaavas) and their respective experients that are only a solidified form of Cit-rasa [the juice of universal consciousness].” ~Pratyabhijnaahrdayam, Sutra 4~


Shiva Tattvas: Pure tattva 

Divine or blessed tattva: what they call citshakti or mahamaya. 

  1. Shiva Tattva

 Shiva is infamous for the performance of five functions in a cycle. One full rotation thru this cycle constitutes a movement of spanda: 

        1. Nigraha: act of self limitation/contraction. 
        2. Srsti: act of self manifestation of the world. 
        3. Sthiti: preservation of the world. 
        4. Samhara: absorption/withdrawal of worldly manifestation. 
        5. Anugraha: revelation or dispensation of grace. 


  1. Shakti Tattva 

Shakti is known for her five modes of expression. Shakti is herself the power of Shiva:

        1. Cit-shakti: conscious force; works thru Shiva.
        2. Ananda-shakti: power as bliss; works thru Shakti.
        3. Iccha-shakti: power as will; works thru Sadashiva. 
        4. Jnana-shakti: power as knowledge; works thru Ishwara.
        5. Kriya-shakti: spontaneous action as power; works thru Shuddhavidya.   

3.  Sadashiva: Unity 

4.  Ishwara: Unity in division

5.  Shuddhavidya : Division

Vidya Tattvas:

The tattwas which obscure true knowledge and bind us to our bodily existence 

  1. Maya:  and her five kanchukas (klosha/coverings): 
  2. Kalaa: limits power. 
  3. Vidya: limits knowledge.
  4. Raga: limits fullness.  
  5. Kaala: experience of time/change. 
  6. Niyati: experience of cause and effect. 


Atma Tattvas: Elements of the Individual Soul 

  1. Purusha (Iccha, will. The individual soul, the subject): at the place and time of our birth, the individual soul, complete with the karmic qualities of eons of time, meets with nature (prakriti) and there is the birth of an embodied soul.
  2. Prakriti (Kriya, spontaneous activity. The creatrix, the object): Prakriti provides Purusha with everything he needs for enjoyment. The physical body along with the senses of knowledge of powers of action. Prakriti is made up of the three gunas (kapha, vatta, pitta). 

Instruments of Cognition (Chitta or Antar-karana):  

 14.  Buddhi: (Intelligence) Buddhi is the abode of vital energy prana-shakti. It is the contracted  power of jnana-shakti. From here it flows through the different parts of the body via the nadis (the  meridians, channels and collaterals). This is the locus of every human experience.

“The emergence of the vital breath marks the submergence of the blissful awareness which is the repose of consciousness enjoys of its own nature” (Stanzas on Vibration 372). “The vital breath is essentially a state of consciousness which manifests as the movement of two breaths – prana and apana.” 

Five kinds of Prana-vayu (movements of prana): (for more on this topic)

      1. Prana: exhaled breath. Vital breath moves outward from the body, rests in the external object and then returns to the body. Sun. It’s considered receptive like the sense organs.
      2. Apaana: inhaled breath. moves downward. Moon. In Ayurveda they say move downward and outward. Like for the elimination of bodily waste. 
      3. Samaana: According to Ayurveda, it moves inwards, spinning towards a centre point like meditation. In the waking and dream state, pranaapana is active, however in states of deep-sleep samaana (the Equalizing breath) balances the inhalation and exhalation. They call it” the equinox.”
      4. Udaana: The Ascending breath. According to Ayurveda, it moves outwards, like speech, sound, and the limbs of the body. 
      5. Vyaana: expansion in all directions radiating from the navel outward in all directions. Often considered as the nadis energy system similar to the meridians of Chinese Medicine.       

15. Ahamkara (Ego/ I-sense): Instrument of rationality. Supervises/controls organs of knowledge and action. This is who we generally think we are when our awareness is not wandering down with our senses.   

16. Manas: Mind the material cause of events. Whatever is in the mind will reach out to its object, rest there, and withdraw again.

These last 20 Tattva connect us with the external world. Senses of Knowledge (Tattva 17-21) Senses of Action (22-26) Subtle Elements (27-31) Gross Elements (32-36) 

The Bhuta Planetary Ruler

(not part of Tattvas)

The Tanmatra Jnana Indriyas Karma Indriyas
Earth Mercury Odour Smelling Excretion
Water Venus (Moon) Flavour Tasting Pleasure
Fire Mars (Sun) Form/Colour Seeing Locomotion
Air Saturn Feel Touching Touch
Ether Jupiter Sound Hearing Speech

Extra Notes on Maya 

“Maayaa is the lack of discernment of the principles beginning with Kalaa.” “The principles (that obscure the individual soul) form a group that ranges from Kalaa to Earth. (They are called) “principles” tattva because the entire universe is pervaded by them. Kalaa is said to be (the individual soul’s) limited power of action.”  ~Aphorisms of Shiva 3/3 ~

“The more consciousness is freed from the impurity (mala) the more the light of the self is revealed.” ~Kashmir Shaivism p 377~

“He who is deprived of his power by the forces of obscuration (kalaa), and a victim of the powers arising from the mass of sounds (shabdarashi) is called a fettered soul.”  ~Stanzas on Vibration 45~

Maya is essentially the ground beneath our feet. Many traditions debase it by calling it illusion, but this is not entirely correct. Maya is not the truth, but it’s also not different from truth. If the whole of god, the whole of this universe, is within each speck of his dust, then maya is surely divine. In any case, it’s all we have to work with, negating it is not an option and ignoring the fundamental connection we have with it on both a material and divine level is not the key to advancing beyond where we are now. The key is just the opposite, it’s in attuning our self to maya; understanding it and learning the rules before we learn how to break them. “As within, so without,” so anything we do to understand ourselves or the world will be beneficial; there are no limits to spiritual knowledge since any knowledge that helps to bring the macrocosms and microcosmos in tune is spiritual knowledge. Knowledge is vast, the purpose is one. Replacing ignorance (ajnana) with knowledge (jnana) is the main prescription of Shaivism as well as most other spiritual paths. 

The impurities are due to the five coverings (kanchukas) and two types of ignorance (ajnana): 

    1. Paurusha ajnana: the innate ignorance regarding the truth of the self. 
    2. Bauddha ajnana: ignorance of the buddhi. We consider the subtle body and the gross body to be the self on account of what they call ashuddha vikalpas (ideation or thought constructs, irrational or psychological thought). 

There are three kinds of impurities (mala) of which maya is one with five parts. Those three impurities are: 

    1.  Anava mala: The root impurity. “The impurity of individuality.” (Aphorisms p15) This occurs in the first moment after Shiva self contracts to take manifestation in (and of) the universe.  Our true power becomes obscured by the notions of subject and object and of existence and non-existence.  This occurs at Sadashiva level. There are two kinds of root impurity 
          1.  Impurity which veils knowledge of divine awareness, but leaves     freedom of action intact. This is the human condition as we know it. 
          2. Impurity which leaves knowledge of divine awareness, but veils ability    to act freely. This is the condition of those gods or energies which do not descend thru maya.
    2. Mayiya mala: The impurity of maya and the five coverings (kanchuka). This    gives us our gross and subtle bodies by measuring out or filtering the various    divine attributes. This impurity brings about the sense of duality, robs us of all    sense of divinity and makes us oblivious to our true nature. The five Kanchukas (coverings/sheaths/klesha): Kalaa: limits power; Vidya: limits knowledge; Raga: limits fullness; Kaala: experience of time and change; Niyati: experience of cause and effect.
    3. Karma Mala: provides us with our physical body which is essentially a collective of residual impressions designed to carry out certain activities. Once karma mala defiles the jiva (the limited soul before it has taken a body), embodied individuals (humans) are then created (born, made manifest). This is where the whole microcosms above comes together to give us our individual characteristics and life as we know it.


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