On September 25, 2014 India’s space craft “Mangalyaan”, successfully reached the orbit of Mars after a grueling ten month journey. On the same day the progressive media outlet NPR* radio ran a short five minute segment - "Science and Astrology comfortably co-exist in India".
The news story was pretty lackluster; after all, how much can you really say in a 5 minute segment? However, what was most interesting were the comments posted on line from the listeners – the vast majority of the NPR audience of intellectual elites were really ticked off with NPR for covering this extremely intellectually unfashionable topic, especially without editorializing or debunking astrology.
Here is a sample of the comments (most comments were not from Indians).
“I had to turn off my radio… way to go NPR for doing a story on Astrology the same day as India’s greatest scientific achievement”
“Giving astrology the time of day and comparing it to science is an embarrassment to real scientists - I guess that's why India will be forever stuck in the 3rd world mindset”
“It doesn't matter what curtsey spin is put on it or how smart the person doing Astrology is, Astrology is not a science and never will be and never will coexist with science in any serious way”
“Sad, simply sad”
“It's all nonsense. My Ouija Board told me so”.
I have to say, I don’t fault these responses (I was one of them two decades ago), the segment was incomplete and the audience ill informed about the scholarly, spiritual, historical and cultural depths of this ancient tradition.
The news story introduced Mr. K.N.Rao, the retired head of the Indian Department of Treasury, who now heads up one of India’s premier school of Vedic Astrology.
The interviewer asked, “is it superstition or is it science?"
Mr.Rao’s answer: "It's a superscience, not an ordinary science, because it is extraterrestrial. It is extraphysical, it is superphysical, therefore supernormal.”
Judging from the comments, it seems many listeners of NPR failed to get the point of the segment - most Indians don’t feel there should be an intellectual ban on discussing Astrology.
Indians love science ever since their independence from the British in 1947, when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru called for creating a “scientific temper” among Indian citizens, and the government has invested heavily in science education and research.
Indians have loved Vedic Astrology for thousands of years because it is a time tested proven method of spiritual inquiry and it is part and parcel of the Hindu way of life. It is built into our religion, myths, rituals, festivals, ceremonies and psyche.
Of course, most NPR listeners probably practice Yoga with a passion but don’t realize that Yoga and Indian Astrology are “sister super sciences” and they were cognized thousands of years ago by the same ancient mystics and Yogis of India. Their roots go back to the ancient scriptures called the Vedas and they share the same language, philosophy, and foundational principles. It was not that long ago when people were writing off Yoga as some weird unscientific, hippy practice of putting yourself into pretzel shapes.
The primary text book of Vedic Astrology, Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra, that every astrologer still uses, was authored by the much revered enlightened sage and seer Maharishi Parashara, who lived around 3000 BCE. He is a descendant of a long line of sages and seers of India who cognized the mysteries of the cosmos through deep meditative states. He is believed to be the author of many other important Hindu spiritual texts also, as well as one of the world’s earliest texts on botany.
His Son Sri Veda Vyasa, was also a great scholar like his father. He is the author of the great Hindu epic Mahabharta and also compiler of the Vedas, the foundational scriptures of Hinduism, into their current four branches of Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva.
Separating Yoga from Vedic Astrology is like separating Biology from Physics.
While physics and metaphysics, science and spirituality co-exist in every culture, there is something unique in the Indian culture, where the two opposites merge with more fluidity and acceptance.
For example, my spiritual teacher Amma, the famous hugging saint, heads up one of the largest aid organizations in the world. Like most charities her organizations provide everything from free food, clothing, disaster relief, widow’s pensions and orphanages to help ease the life of poor people in India.
However, her charitable institutions also run universities, high tech medical hospitals and medical schools that offer some of the best science education in the world and where scientists do cutting edge research in bio-technology, engineering, computer sciences, medical sciences, and even business management .
Amma has built far fewer temples, yoga studios and Ayurveda clinics, and more institutions of sciences. On the occasion of Amma receiving an honorary doctorate from the State University of New York a couple of years ago, she said:
“It is Amma’s prayer that we develop the expansive-mindedness to embrace both scientific knowledge and spiritual wisdom. We can no longer afford to see these two streams of knowledge as flowing in opposite directions. In truth, they complement one another. If we merge these streams, we will find that we are able to create a mighty river—a river whose waters can remove suffering and spread life to all of humanity.”
So what is different about the Indian culture that it produces some of the world's greatest scientists as well as spiritual teachers and traditions?
It is the influence of eons of the Vedic/Yogic tradition in which the universe is seen as dependent on the equilibrium of opposing forces or of pairs united in opposition. It is believed that this duality or two-ness: thought and the object of thought, self and the thing it is aware of, is the inherent struggle that causes suffering in human life.
All yogic practices, such as Yoga, Vedic Astrology and Ayurveda seek to help us embrace this inherent paradox, which can only be achieved in a deeply balanced mind/body that can perceive the contradiction as joined and complementary.
The ultimate goal of yoga is Samadhi, the deepest meditative state, where duality completely vanishes and only pure consciousness, the non-dual Reality, exists.
In Vedic Astrology, most spiritual, physical, and mental suffering that brings people to the astrologer results from overuse, underuse or superficial use of the opposing house. This equilibrium is achieved when the opposing signs/houses are functioning in a balanced and harmonious way:
- The first house (me, ego or self) balanced with the seventh house (other or partner) allows for successful relationships dynamics.
- The second house (tangible resources and physical security) balanced with the eighth house (intangible resources and emotional security) removes underlying fears of survival and protection.
- The third house (intellectual analysis) balanced with the ninth house (inspiration, faith, intuition) provides true understanding and advancement of knowledge.
- The fourth house (inner world, home, family, emotional happiness, resting) balanced with the tenth house (work/job, career, responsibility, activity) gives happiness, connection, family, success and status.
- The fifth house (my unique creative expression) balanced with the eleventh house (joining and participating in the creative process of my community’s growth) gives the joy of creativity expressed within the great good.
- Finally the sixth house (order, organization, daily routine) balanced with twelfth house (chaos, uncertainty, meditation) gives balanced health and spiritual wealth.
When Indians place both hands together in front of their heart to say Namaste, which is both a mantra(sacred sound) and a mudra (or sacred gesture) it is a literal and symbolic pairing of the opposites, the left and right, matter and spirit, yin and yang - a reconciliation, interaction and union of the contradiction inherent in nature.
So my message to NPR listeners, keep an open mind, give Vedic Astrology an unprejudiced opportunity to prove itself to you before you write it off… after all is that not why we listen to NPR and not Fox News??!!
*For my readers who are not in the US, NPR is a non-commercial, non-profit media outlet in the US with an audience of mostly highly educated, civic minded, professional and intellectual elites.