Vedic Astrology in the West

Vedic Astrology in the West

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In the last few years, as part of the greater interest in Hindu and yogic teachings, Hindu, or Vedic, astrology has made tremendous inroads into the Western world. It is now being hailed as one of the most profound and innovative systems of astrology, with tremendous predictive value. Many Western astrologers are now familiar at least with its basic principles. This has been the culmination of several decades of less visible groundwork by a number of people.

Perhaps the point of emergence for Vedic astrology in the West was the First International Symposium on Vedic Astrology, held in October 1992 at Dominican College in San Rafael, California. The keynote speaker was B. V. Raman, who is currently considered by many to be the foremost astrologer of India. He was presented with a lifetime achievement award for his numerous contributions to the field of Vedic astrology.

The symposium was an historic event that symbolized the birth of a new era of Vedic astrology in the West. Since that time, interest in Vedic astrology has continued to flourish. Five annual international symposiums on Vedic astrology have followed, with attendance growing each year. The conferences not only stimulated the interest of individual students of astrology throughout the Western world, but it also led in 1993 to the formation of the American Council of Vedic Astrology (ACVA), a nonprofit organization devoted to the promotion of Vedic astrology in the West.

Throughout this century, several individuals have played prominent roles in bringing Indian astrological knowledge into the Western world. The most important has been Raman. In his classic book Hindu Astrology and the West, Raman recounted his many visits to America and Europe. He has written more than 30 books and was the chief editor of the Astrological Magazine. Some of his famous predictions include the fall of Adolf Hitler and Richard Nixon as well as India’s independence. Raman had contact with many of the great political and social leaders of the twentieth century. He even commented that Hitler had once written to him asking for his astrological advice. And in September 1947, Raman received a letter received from Carl G. Jung, in which the prominent Swiss psychiatrist gave his opinon of astrology:

Since you want to know my opinion of astrology I can tell you that I’ve been interested in this particular activity of the human mind for more than 30 years. As I am a psychologist, I am chiefly interested in the particular light the horoscope sheds on certain complications in the character. In cases of difficult psychological diagnosis, I usually get a horoscope in order to have a further point of view form an entirely different angle. I must say that I often found that the astrological data elucidated certain points which I otherwise would have been unable to understand. From such experiences I formed the opinion that astrology is of particular interest to the psychologist, since it contains a sort of psychological experience which we call “projected”—this means that we find the psychological facts as it were in the constellations. This originally gave rise to the idea that these factors derive from the stars, whereas they are merely in a relation of synchronicity with them. I admit that this a very curious fact which throws a peculiar light on the structure of the human mind.

What I miss in the astrological literature is chiefly the statistical method by which certain fundamental facts could be scientifically established. Hoping that this answer meets your request.

It is interesting to note that Jung often used astrology as a diagnostic tool in his clinical psychology practice. Psychotherapy and counseling astrology share a common goal of assisting the unconscious aspects of self to become more conscious. As Jung once stated, “That which we do not face in the unconscious, we will live as fate.”

World-renowned astrologer Chakrapani Ullal is perhaps the most important astrologer to move to from India to America to spread the word on Vedic astrology. From Kerala, South India, Chakrapani was born into a family of illustrious astrologers and has had continuous contact with many of the leading spiritual teachers of India. In 1979, he was invited by Swami Muktananda to come to the United States as an astrological consultant and has remained here since. In February 1996, Ullal was awarded a lifetime achievement award for his numerous contributions to the field of astrology by the ACVA. He now resides in the Los Angeles area and travels extensively throughout the world teaching students and providing consultations for his diverse international clientele. He continues to be a popular featured speaker at conferences throughout the United States.

Ullal has always emphasized that an astrological chart is only the indicative of planetary forces and does not determine the events of a life in a fatalistic way. The person can make use of the astrological indications as a karmic road map to change the course of his or her life, by using willpower and self-effort and by gaining the grace of God.

Vedic astrology has followed on the coattails of the interest in yoga and other aspects of Eastern and Hindu spirituality and healing that began in a major way in the United States in the late 1960s. Several yoga, Vedanta, and Hindu movements have promoted it, most notably the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement founded by Maharishi Yoga that has emphasized Jyotish strongly for more than ten years now. The ISKCON movement (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) is another important group that promotes aspects of Vedic thought, including Jyotish. Sri Yukteswar, the guru, of Paramahansa Yogananda, the founder of SRF (Self-Realization Fellowship), was an astrologer and this had led to much interest in the subject among his disciples. While a decade ago Vedic astrology was almost unknown even in Western yoga groups, now there is interest in it throughout the whole greater sphere of Vedic-and Hindu-based movements.

In particular, Vedic astrology has gained popularity along with Ayurveda, or Vedic medicine, which has recently been growing rapidly as well. Along with the astrology, Vastu or Vedic geomancy (feng shui) is gaining its adherents as well. The many Hindu immigrants, including many scientists and computer programmers, to the United States over the last 20 years have also brought with them an interest in the subject.

During the past few decades, numerous books written by Westerners on Vedic astrology have emerged. One of the first books was Constellation Astrology According to the Hindu System, written by Robert De Luce in 1963. This groundbreaking book was primarily addressed to Western astrologers to produce a bridge of understanding between followers of the two systems. A Western sidereal astrology (the Fagan-Bradley system) eventually arose, taking aspects of Hindu astrology.

Perhaps the most important single Westerner promoting Vedic astrology has been James Braha. He began with Ancient Hindu Astrology for the Modern Western Astrologer in 1986, the first comprehensive book on Vedic astrology published in the West, and has continued with several more important titles. A year later, Tom Hopke (Nalinikanta Das) wrote How to Read Your Horoscope, which provided in-depth information on Jyotish from a Vedantic perspective. Then, in 1990, David Frawley wrote Astrology of the Seers: A Guide to Vedic/Hindu Astrology. Frawley’s extensive background in Jyotish, Ayurveda, and Vedic philosophy provided the reader with much Vedic knowledge.

In recent years, several new books on Vedic astrology have been written. Light on Life: An Introduction to the Astrology of India, by Hart Defouw and Robert Svoboda, is already considered a classic in the field. Also, Beneath a Vedic Sky by William R. Levacy, The Astrology of Death by Richard Houck, and Vedic Astrology by Ronnie Gale Dreyer, have been well received.

Many Vedic astrologers from India have come to the West to teach and have brought their books with them. Gayatri Vasudeva and Niranjan Babu, the son and daughter of B. V. Raman, are among these. So are many noted Delhi astrologers, including Bepin Behari, K. S. Charak, Dinesh Sharma, and K. N. Rao. Several of Behari’s titles have been published directly in the West. The English literature on Jyotish has burgeoned with many new titles coming every year, producing a veritable renaissance in the subject.

In the computer age Vedic astrology computer programs have come as well. There are now several important programs available devised in the West, including Parashara’s “Light,” Gorvani’s “Jyotish” and “Shri Jyoti,” to mention a few. Deepak Chopra uses Vedic astrology to help people find the right mantra for their individual nature.

Many Americans have become professional Vedic astrologers, and several Indians have taken up this occupation here as well. In most major cities, there are professionals who can be consulted for all astrological matters, from birth charts to astrological forecasting. People of all walks of life are drawn to such Vedic astrologers because of the abundance of tools and resources these astrologers have to offer and the support of an entire spiritual tradition that they carry.

This new Western Vedic astrology is taking its own form both by the American-born and Indian practitioners. While in India, clients are concerned about predicting the hard facts of life, such as job and marriage potentials; in the United States, people come to Vedic astrology more for spiritual, psychological, or relationship needs, placing it more in a counseling model. After all, the outer factors of life are not as hard to get or unpredictable as they are in India.

Another interesting difference is that in India few people want to pay astrologers, who are regarded as serving in Brahmical roles that should not charge for services. Informed Americans look upon Vedic astrologers with the same respect as doctors or psychologists and are willing to pay them accordingly. This allows practitioners here to make a livelihood from Vedic astrology, enabling them to spend more time with the system.

There has, of course, been some abuse of Vedic astrology. Partly trained individuals have given wrong predictions. Some charlatans from India have offered magical cures for karmic ills—at the right price. Overly priced gems or yajnas (rituals) have left their mark. But instances of such abuse have been rare, probably less than in other occult and psychic pursuits, which always have room for much wishful thinking.

The main potential abuse is that many Westerners do not have the spiritual or ethical background to use Jyotish to its full potential and may be inclined to use it in a more mundane or personal matter, or simply turn it into a business. However, Indians today seem to share the same inclinations. For this reason, the Hindu and Vedic background of the astrology should not be forgotten, particularly if one wants its spiritual benefits.

Some Hindu terms like “karma” and “rebirth” have already entered into Western or New Age Western astrology, but often in a different way. Many New Agers see rebirth not as a cycle of suffering to transcend, but as a way of continued existence, if not enjoyment. The concept of moksha, or liberation, is not understood.

Others misunderstand karma and equate it with some sort of fate or destiny. “After all, it is my karma,” people will say, meaning that there is nothing they can do about a situation. Karma in the Vedic sense means action, or more specifically, the effect of past actions. According to the Vedic view, people create themselves by their own actions, but as these occur through the course of time, they remain under the influence of what they have done in the past. Vedic astrology helps people to understand their karma and act in such a way in the present that they can alter their karma for the future and gain the liberation of the soul. That is why Vedic astrology emphasizes remedial measures to change the movement of karma and always leads to sadhana, or spiritual practice as the real pursuit in life.

—Dennis M. Harness, Ph.D., and David Frawley


Braha, James T. Ancient Hindu Astrology for the Modern Western Astrologer. Miami, FL: Hermetician Press, 1986.
De Luce, Robert. Constellation Astrology According to the Hindu System. Los Angeles: De Luce Pub. Co., 1963.
Defouw, Hart, and Robert Svoboda. Light on Life: An Introduction to the Astrology of India. New York: Arkana, 1996.
Dreyer, Ronnie Gale. Vedic Astrology: A Guide to the Fundamentals of Jyotish. York Beach, ME: S. Weiser, 1997.
Frawley, David. Astrology of the Seers: A Guide to Vedic/Hindu Astrology. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press, 2000.
Hopke, Tom (Nalinikanta Das). How to Read Your Horoscope. Los Angeles: Vedic Cultural Association, 1987.
Houck, Richard. The Astrology of Death. Gaithersburg, MD: Groundswell Press, 1994.
Levacy, William R. Beneath a Vedic Sky: A Beginner’s Guide to the Astrology of Ancient India. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 1999.
The Astrology Book, Second Edition © 2003 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.