Versatile South African astrologer, Richard Fidler, gave an enlivening talk at the Tuks Bhakti Yoga Society (BYS), in Pretoria, on 6 October 2008.

Richard explained that jyotish is considered ‘the eyes of the Vedas’. He explained that jyotish is connected to ayurveda (Vedic natural medicine). The sciences of the Vedas are interconnected whereas western understanding is compartmentalized.

How is jyotish related to Indian culture, destiny, spirituality (ie. Deities, spiritual paths, the guru and human relationships?

In Vaishnavism (God-conscious Indian spirituality), we see an ancient culture practiced in modern times. Richard went on to explain that astrological interpretation brings home ‘timeless truths of uniqueness of individuality’ to light. We are re-connected with rhythms of nature, the universe and Divinity. Astrologers see the karma (material destiny) of people and this gives them a sense of empathy for them.

Vedic concepts of dharma, artha, kama and moksha are revealed in a chart. Even if you are very spiritual, you need to eat food…you still need basic resources.

Another point that arose was that astrology can be an objective affirmation of a direction we are headed in. This is one use of astrology since so many scenarios arise. Reminds me of the point where the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, Swami Prabhupada, said of the usefulness of jyotish, ‘If you know it’s going to rain take an umbrella with you.’

Richard introduced me to a quote on astrology some time ago: ‘There are those who are born under the stars and those born born seeing stars. ‘ In other words, some are born ignorant of their destiny; while others ‘see’ theirs – through astrology.

After the talk, there was a question-and-answer session. Was astrology only applicable to individuals? Richard explained to the students that astrology was not confined to one individual. Astrology could be applied to ‘a state of energy’ and had political, religious and economic applications. There is an ‘astrology of world events’ or an ‘astrology of collective karma.’ Collective karma could pertain to families, communities and certain planets or universes (eg. the heavenly planets).

Another student asked about the different yugas (epochs described in the Vedas). Richard answered that the Yugas are, in a sense, part of astrology and time-cycles. He cited an example from the ancient Indian history the Mahabharata wherein mention of a solar eclipse is made.

Richard answered another question about the relevance of astrology in our lives. He spoke of the macrocosmic and microcosmic applications of astrology. The Moon is a jewel on lord Siva’s head. The cosmic machine is a little piece of the reality of the Devas (Demigods or higher beings that “run” the material manifestation on behalf of the Supreme Being, Vishnu). We find it difficult to understand the miracle of what it means to be a human being. With respect to astrology, Richard made the point that ‘God does not play dice’ and also mentioned that Jesus said that every hair on our head is numbered. The basic point being that astrology helps us understand the cosmic being we are part of. Cells serve the body; and we are meant to serve God. Astrology could be part of the spiritual path of the intellectuals and would help an organization like ISKCON in an individual and collective sense.

”Where does the observance of Krishna’s birthday come from?’ Astrology.

Someone asked a question about Vastu (Vedic architecture/feng-shui) and Richard gave some simple explanations about the Sun in the east being auspicious and Saturn in the west being inauspicious. He also spoke a little about Vastu grids (being based on jyotish).

Richard made some other points in the discussion after his talk about how astrologers generally accept that there is a higher intelligence governing the material universe. He also mentioned that most astrologers become more spiritual through the practice of the science. Western science teaches that consciousness is random and comes from matter. The spiritual world-view is different: consciousness creates matter. Consciousness reveals the relationship between the soul and the material form, since the gross manifests from the subtle.

Astrology helps us to re-define events. External, physical events are the result of consciousness and, therefore, have a relation to psychology.

Astrology is intimately connected to religion. Astrology assumes there is a God and that our worldly activities should be aligned with the will of God. Astrology is the language of God. It is not trying to be separate from God.

Hemant (one of the students) asked about having a ‘good day’ or ‘bad day’ in spiritual practise. Richard mentioned that there are various forces that influence us, such as the sun, earth and water. Astrology helps us to time things better – remember Prabhupada’s point about the umbrella? There is a reason that certain activities take place within a religious calendar. To create auspiciousness. In addition to this, your consciousness will have a lot to do with how you respond to certain ‘events.’ With respect to difficulties in the course of our spiritual lives, you may not be able to find an outlet for that energy. Richard made a cogent point, ‘Even relatively enlightened people have “off days”. It probably has something to do with the stars.’ He went on to explain that pujas (worship), bugles, astrological rings (ie. gemstones which correspond favourably to certain constellations or planets) etc. ‘deflect bad energy, like a lightning rod on a house.’

After the question-and-answer session the devotees, students and Richard all took some prasada (vegetarian snacks offered to Krishna).

Thank you Richard. Hare Krishna.