Difference between Western Astrology and Jyotisha?

By Liberty Elliot

Having first understood the Western Astrology system, I admit that I too considered it to be somewhat of pseudoscience, but that misconception is due to the fact that it is greatly simplified, sometimes just boiled down to a convenient pickup line "What's your sign?" which refers to the Sun Sign in a person's Natal Chart. The first great differentiation which I have learned from Vedic Astrology is that there is a much more complex system of sub-classifications, Planets, Constellations, and Houses, commonly called the Grahas, Rasis, and Bhavas in a person Chart, all of them interact to paint a combined picture of the result of a person's past Karma, and what I understand to be the lessons which we are most seeking in this incarnation in order to better align with our true Soul and purpose.

One major difference between to two systems is the adjustment of the Planetary positions relative to the Constellations or Backdrop of Stars, as we have come to know, this backdrop is not fixed and moves counterclockwise in the Zodiac belt approximately 1 degree every Seventy-two years. At one time the two Systems coincided in their positions but this precession of the Zodiac causes a current discrepancy of around 23 degrees and 51 minutes, called the Ayanamsha.

For me, this was a stark discrepancy because my Natal Sun Sign actually does differ in the two systems. Having always identified as an Aries since my birthday is on March 25th, it was a mind-blowing moment when I discovered that according to my Vedic Chart, my Sun sign is actually in Pisces.

Western Astrology utilizes a more fixed placement of the Constellations which begins always with Aries at the Spring Equinox and therefore the Signs are based on the Sun's position and the Seasons. I appreciate the Vedic system which accounts for the actual position of the Planets in Relation to the Stars and Constellations.

Secondly, what is striking to me is something I mentioned at the beginning. There are complex systems of the different Planets, Constellations (or Signs), and Houses that all interact to paint a full picture.

I never even knew of the Planets in Astrology other than knowledge of the Sun Sign, so it was a great expansion of my understanding to know that we're all these Planets-Seven plus two Shadow-like Nodes of the Moon which are located in both the Houses and the Constellations. Where they are in relation to each other casts great meaning for each individual.

Additionally, there is the Dasa or Planetary period that is determined by when an individual is born. It is super interesting to me how the Current positions affect each individual differently, depending on their particular Dasa as represented in the Vimshottari. Essentially a planet that is ruling over a specific Dasa may gain more power over an individual, influencing them to act per the nature of that Planet.

A planetary effect is also amplified when the current Planetary position crosses over a Constellation in someone's Birth chart, for example, Saturn in Capricorn (current position) for someone with Saturn in Capricorn on their Natal Chart, or is presiding over a current Planetary period that is the same as a person's Dasa, example a current Venus Dasa for someone who is also experiencing their Venus Dasa at this time.

The final difference I will note is the importance of the Moon in Vedic Astrology versus the Sun in Western Astrology. Moon is representative of our Mind and sub-conscious Mind. Tropical Astrology emphasizes the Sun Sign or our outer personality, a sort of "Business Card we present to the World." Vedic Astrology is paying more attention to the Journey and evolution of the Soul, often the transformation of Consciousness occurs when inward work is done and we unplug from the expectations of outer reality.
Moon representing our mind influences our emotions, peace of mind, and general well-being. It casts a shade through which we perceive our external reality and circumstances as they occur. A weak position or an afflicted Moon often means the individual's Peace of Mind may be disturbed.

The Moon also has a separate divisional System in Vedic Astrology called Nakshatras, 27 Lunar Mansions which occupy the Zodiac and are identified by the brightest star in each one. They also occupy the Rasis, each Nakshatra equals 13 degrees, 20 minutes of the Zodiac, and each Constellation 30 degrees, so there is a little more than two Nakshatras per Constellation and one that is split between Constellations.

The Moon travels through all 27 each Lunar Cycle and each Nakshatra adds further meaning to the current placement of the Moon and Planets.

There are so many layers and aspects to this Beautiful Science or "Study of Light", and it is based on a premise that what is happening in the Universe also occurs on a micro level within a person's body, mind, and consciousness, their entire being. Utilizing this subtle information can help us to identify a person's strengths and potential challenges or places where growth is required.

We can then prescribe balancing or remedial measures including the wearing of Gemstones, Mantras performed to a specific Deity or Planet, and Pujas or Ritualistic Practices and Sacrifices which can strengthen or appease the Planets and their energies in order to achieve the desired outcome or to soften the challenges presented by their placements.