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How I Came to Vedic Astrology

The connectedness of everything is a reality that underpins Jyotish. How is it that a planetary configuration at the moment of birth can reveal such powerful insights about human character? How is it that the movement of the planets through time parallels the development of a human life? How is it that everything in any moment intrinsically belongs to the quality of that moment? Incredible, but it is so; every detail contributes. As Hamlet says, “There is special Providence in the fall of a sparrow.”

From the point of view of the absolute, none of these details really matter. Pure consciousness is an eternal singularity, and all separate forms are temporal and ephemeral, appearances in consciousness like ripples upon the surface of a still lake.

But from the point of view of relativity, life does matter, and long ago it became clear to me (though I have wondered sometimes . . .) that the path of renunciation was not for me. I belong to the world. My heart responds passionately to the flow of life, and my path has always been in relationship with others. I have come to trust that there is purpose in that, that there is something for me to learn through this ongoing involvement with the world.

Time is a river. It has brought me to the study and practice of Jyotish. All was there as potential from the beginning. My natal chart points towards that possibility. Yet it is how karma unfolds through time that determines which seeds come to fruition and which continue to lie dormant. The divine lila makes for powerful drama. Certain events, certain encounters, certain experiences appear larger than life, propelling us onwards towards the fulfillment of our dharma. For me, the “how” of coming to Jyotish was complex, an intellectual and spiritual journey with many episodes. All that is a certain story. But another more experiential story is equally true. Often it is the unspoken, the unconscious influences that impact us most profoundly and determine the particular way our dharma becomes clear.

Ever since childhood, the night sky has fascinated me. During the long summers, I spent a lot of time sleeping outside, particularly in the High Sierras of California, where the altitude, dry atmosphere and distance from civilization made the stars crystal clear. The dazzling brilliance of that celestial canopy mesmerized me. For hours I would lie awake watching shooting stars and the twinkling of so many jewels. I knew from school that they were all very, very distant, but it did not feel that way. Their power held me in an embrace. I felt such peace, comfort and connection, as gradually I would drift off to sleep. In the early morning, when the sun’s first rays peaking over the mountaintops awakened me, I could catch a glimpse of those last lingering stars, just about to fade into the blueness of morning. They seemed to me like the glow of fairy light.

As I grew older, those summer nights grew more rare. Life took me to cloudier abodes, and the night sky faded into abstraction. Two instances, however, stand out in relief, as if the night sky were nudging me about something, telling me to remember. The first happened in the late 1970’s, when I was crossing the desert of Nevada at night. I stepped out of the car for a stretch, and all I could see was that vast dome of dazzling starlight. The fragrance of sage and the scurry of rabbits belonged to the flat land, but above was that sky of my childhood, more mysterious and mesmerizing than ever.

The second time this occurred was truly extraordinary. It happened just past midnight at the turning of the millennium. The year 2000 was less than an hour old! I was on Inis Mor, one of the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway, a place well-known for its misty skies and drizzly rain. It was a wet evening as I stepped outside to head back to the hostel with my family. We were barely ten minutes down the road, torches in hand as we could hardly see one foot ahead, when suddenly the skies cleared completely. All cloud cover vanished instantly, and the night sky appeared unveiled, its dazzling luminosity lighting up that narrow island as if it were day. To our right were the waters of Galway Bay, to our left the Atlantic Ocean.

In that elemental landscape of stone and sea, nothing breaks the horizon, not even a tree, never mind a mountain range. The celestial dome arched from sea to sea, and I was walking through it. Except for the earth under my feet, nothing but dazzling starlight surrounded me. With torch extinguished, I made my way slowly, savouring the astonishing clarity. Though in thirty minutes the clouds returned, that extraordinary light felt like a powerful omen for the new millennium. For a moment, the door of heaven opened wide. For me personally, it was a celestial beckoning, the sky flashing out with its truth and reiterating once again its call for me to remember something.

This time the message got through, and soon afterwards the seeds of Jyotish planted long ago in my consciousness began to sprout. When I think that half a century had passed since the night sky first drew me into its embrace, I marvel at the ways of karma. But everything is a preparation for what comes next. At a very tender age, the mystical wonder of the night sky touched me profoundly. Those images stayed with me, directing my path eventually to Jyotish. Shortly before my 60th birthday I moved into the cycle of Mercury, planet of borders, discernment and higher mind. It is a time for new beginnings, and the practice of Jyotish seems a fitting challenge for this phase of life.