[INDOLOGY] 'Vedic' astrology

Nagaraj Paturi nagarajpaturi at gmail.com
Thu Nov 17 01:21:45 UTC 2016

> The irony of modernization and popularization of “Vedic astrology” means
that *most *practitioners these days would rely on their PC or mobile
applications to generate horoscopes without truly understanding the science
behind them as their predecessors, *at least some*, did. (Highlighting mine)

----- In the place of 'most' a more diligent student of culture would have
used 'many' and such a student would have avoided unnecessary quantifiers
like 'at least some'. There are several different levels of 'users' of
astrology. Some would only 'read' a ready horoscope, some would know how to
make one. Among those who make, some would know why they have to do what
they do, some others mechanically follow the procedure of making learnt
from a human teacher or a book. Among those who know why they do what they
do, some might know the depths of the siddhaanta to be able to make their
own new theories within it , some may not be able to do that. Some may be
able to explain to a curious Indologist in English (without knowing or
bothering about what that Indologist might use that knowledge for), some
may not be able to converse with an outsider in his language. The situation
is similar in all fields of knowledge world over. People with higher and
higher levels of knowledge are smaller and smaller in number. A mature
observer takes such a situation for granted without being hasty or
judgemental about the observed.

On Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 4:17 AM, Bill Mak <bill.m.mak at gmail.com> wrote:

> In connection to contemporary "field works” on “Indian astrology,” the
> works by Yano and Guenzi are helpful. There must be scholarly works on the
> subject in English which I am not aware of. Yano’s work is particularly
> interesting as it documented the transition from traditional Indian
> astrology to modern Indian astrology where some astrologers were still
> capable of preparing the Pañcāṅga in the traditional ways instead of
> relying on the data from government observatory. The irony of modernization
> and popularization of “Vedic astrology” means that most practitioners these
> days would rely on their PC or mobile applications to generate horoscopes
> without truly understanding the science behind them as their predecessors,
> at least some, did.
> Yano Michio. 1992. *Senseijutsu-tachi-no Indo* 占星術師たちのインド. 東京: 中央公論社.
> Guenzi, Caterina. 2013. *Le Discours Du Destin*. Paris: CNRS éditions.
> On Nov 16, 2016, at 3:13 PM, patrick mccartney <psdmccartney at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> 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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Nagaraj Paturi

Hyderabad, Telangana, INDIA.

Former Senior Professor of Cultural Studies

FLAME School of Communication and FLAME School of  Liberal Education,

(Pune, Maharashtra, INDIA )

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