[INDOLOGY] 'Vedic' astrology

patrick mccartney psdmccartney at gmail.com
Wed Nov 16 20:13:54 UTC 2016

Dear Bill, I agree with you completely about the fascinating role of things
like the planetarium in negotiations over identity and history. My
frustration is specific, and likely a result of the precarious nature of my
current method. In my humble experience, cyber-ethnography does not really
generate the type of rapport required to effectively conduct 'field work'.
There doesn't seem to be a critical mass of 'vedic astrologers' in my city,
so I feel forced in some way to reach out through the Internet and 'cold
call'.  If funds were made available I would certainly aim to include trips
to the planetarium with the intention of conducting interviews with
visitors. This would certainly yield less bland results.

On 17 Nov 2016 12:04 AM, "Bill Mak" <bill.m.mak at gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear Patrick,
> I believe rather than simply bland, "uncritical absorption of the/a Vedic
> narrative,” the examples of ISKCON “Vedic Planetarium” and ‘Vedic model of
> universe” I mentioned earlier illustrates quite tellingly, at least in this
> particular instance, what the intention was. To me, it seems to be part of
> an ongoing negotiation of the role of Indian culture in the modern world
> and an alternative narrative to the one created in the Western culture, one
> that Indians today both love and hate. In doing so, some sought to reclaim
> their identities as defined by themselves and not others.
> In this particular case, if Vedic is defined historically as the Western
> historians and philologists do, there is no question that “Vedic
> Planetarium” is a pure misnomer. There was not even any planet beside Sun
> and Moon mentioned explicitly in the early Vedic corpus and the
> Vedāṅgajyotiṣa had no discussion of planets. The Purāṇic cosmology is a
> hodgepodge of ideas from various sources, both foreign and indigenous and
> across a long stretch of time. But this model of the universe was created
> in reaction to the Western model, to the one created by the Greeks, e.g.
> Ptolemy’s geocentric model, and eventually the development of the model of
> universe in Western astronomy up to the present day — a powerful image to
> represent science and progress, which many today sought to align their
> values and belief-system to .
> What ISKCON tried to achieve was to say to the readers that just like in
> the West one has the history of science, so does India. The proponents of
> the so-called “Vedic science” suggest that not only India has science, it
> is a different science based on a possibly superior authority, i.e., a
> spiritual, all-encompassing revelation beyond human reasoning based on the
> “Vedas," rather than philology and history based on fragments of the
> reality interpreted by humans. Of course, the arguments they constructed
> were practically entirely in Western terms, and the evidences they use are
> so methodologically and philologically unsound that most scholars do not
> consider them worthy of even consideration and decry them as
> pseudo-science. This seems to applies from more ludicrous claims such as
> “Vedic astrophysics” or “Vedic aeronautical science”, to the seemingly more
> benign “Vedic mathematics” and “Vedic astronomy”.
> --
> Bill M. Mak
> Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW)
> New York University
> 15 East 84th Street
> New York, NY 10028
> US
> Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University
> Yoshidahonmachi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501
> Japan
> 〒606-8501 京都市左京区吉田本町
> 京都大学人文科学研究所
> Tel:+81-75-753-6961
> Fax:+81-75-753-6903
> copies of my publications may be found at:
> http://www.billmak.com
> On Nov 16, 2016, at 4:29 AM, patrick mccartney <psdmccartney at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> Some cyber-ethnography I am conducting tentatively supports the claim that
> "Vedic Astrology" is usually interpreted to mean precisely, "traditional
> Indian astrology". One interesting thing is that, even though my
> interlocutors (westerners for the most part)  almost all assert it means
> the above; when pressed to define what they consider the 'Vedic' part of
> the phrase to more specifically mean, the typical answer is overwhelmingly:
> "I don't really know". If asked to discuss the difference between the
> astrological, ie predictive systems, or the historical, parallel
> development of these systems, even some people who claim to be
> 'professional Vedic astrologers' seem unable to clearly differentiate them.
> The same can be said for my tentative investigations into people's
> attitudes toward 'vedic maths'. Most people, and to be honest I include
> myself in this group, seem unable to clearly articulate what this type of
> maths is meant to be, and how it is any different from 'maths'.
> These anecdotes would at least point towards support of an analysis that
> 'vedic', for the most part, does simply refer to a vague,
> 'historico-mythical' past that is 'pure' and not influenced by premodern,
> transcultural flows of ideas.
> But, it still does not help me, nor my interlocutors, to really pin down
> what a 'Vedic-X' is . Apart from "it's really old", which = 'better'.
> However,  I find this conclusion of sorts frustratingly bland.
> Regardless, it is this seemingly uncritical absorption of the/a Vedic
> narrative, and its narritival power to infuse the past, present and future
> with meaning and potential that intrigues me most. This is at both micro
> and macro scales of analysis.
> On 16 Nov 2016 7:17 PM, "Martin Gansten" <martin.gansten at pbhome.se> wrote:
>> Bill,
>> I have read and re-read that section, and searched for various phrases
>> within the book as a whole (searchable PDF files are a boon), but I can't
>> find any mention of 'Vedic astrology' or anything like it. Dikshit seems to
>> have a western academic understanding of 'Vedic' as a historical period,
>> and he claims that the 'seeds' of a predictive system are present in
>> Atharvajyotiṣa, but he is also very clear that such a system is not the one
>> based on the twelve-sign zodiac, although he thinks it 'probable' that the
>> latter system, when it was imported into India, was influenced by the
>> parallel, indigenous system. (Which undoubtedly it was, if perhaps not to
>> the extent that Dikshit would have liked to think. The nakṣatras are used
>> in horā, after all.) This is stated at the beginning of p. 100.
>> In my view this is quite different from the development that we have seen
>> over the past few decades, where practitioners themselves label all Indian
>> astrology (often including the Tājika school) as 'Vedic', typically without
>> any idea of that label referring to a particular historical period -- if it
>> is used in any historical sense, it is with reference to a vague, mythical
>> past. 'Vedic' is used here simply in the sense of 'traditional Indian', the
>> implied idea being a tradition that is not only ancient and unbroken, but
>> essentially unchanged (and, as Robert has pointed out, sanctioned by
>> Brahmanic authority).
>> Jean-Michel's mention of so-called Vedic mathematics in this context
>> seems very relevant; does anyone know when that designation first appears?
>> Also, of course, Dagmar's reference to āyurveda, though I don't think
>> anyone has yet decided to call that system 'Vedic medicine' (or have they?).
>> Martin
>> Den 2016-11-15 kl. 21:45, skrev Bill Mak:
>>> Martin, not exactly. This was precisely my point. Dikshit did refer to
>>> horoscopy under Vedic astrology. See “Jātaka branch of astrology” under
>>> “Atharva jyotiṣa” in the section Vedaṅga (Vol.1 p.97-98). Things might have
>>> come to the forefront in recent time, but such ideas have certainly been
>>> around.
>>> Bill
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