Resurrecting Jyotish Shastra

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Resurrecting Jyotish Shastra

Resurrecting Jyotish Shastra

Jyotish Shastra, or ‘Vedic Astrology’ as it is fashionably known today, is an ancient, divine science. Unfortunately, it has degenerated into a disreputable art of conning the gullible into parting with their money. Who is responsible for this state of affairs?

One should not pass judgment on a subject without diligently understanding it. But, a vast section of Indian society today indulges in ridiculing Jyotish without having studied it. This set of people has never bothered to understand our rich heritage, of which Jyotish is an integral part. Very few individuals occupying important positions in society display the integrity to openly support this science, though many of them, especially from the 30+ age group, do privately consult astrologers. Why this hypocrisy?

At the heart of this shocking malaise is the misplaced conception of modernity and progress, which makes many of us unquestioningly dissociate ourselves from practices passed down through the ages. Jyotish is a casualty of this tendency. For example, carrying out rigorous research in Jyotish requires proficiency in the Sanskrit language. The misdirected efforts at appearing ‘modern’ have made parents force their children to learn foreign languages such as French and Spanish in primary school. This scribe’s acquaintance, a staunch adherent to traditional values, insisted on admitting his prodigious child in the Sanskrit-section in grade four of a well-known school in a metro city. He was advised by the teacher not to do so since only ‘weak’ students opted for Sanskrit in lieu of French! He persisted, and his child is making rapid strides in not just Sanskrit, but in all other subjects too. But, this incident is representative of the step-motherly treatment we give our heritage. How can Jyotish not be adversely affected in such a sociocultural environment?

It is well-documented that in times of distress the human mind desperately searches for an anchor that promises alleviation of misery. This anchor might turn out to be any addiction such as alcohol, if the mind were inclined more towards sensory pleasures. Inevitably, the anchor turns out to be an astrologer, in several cases. With otherwise intelligent and well-qualified people not pursuing Jyotish as a course of enquiry and practice, the field is ripe for charlatans to step-in and make a killing. With a smattering of terminology gleaned from dubious sources and assisted by the popularity of ‘pop-astrology’ being propagated especially by the electronic media, they don the garb of sanctity and set out to fleece people who are already traumatized. The result is the environment of fear in society created by these unscrupulous astrologers who hold out the threat of adverse planets, sade-sattikaal-sarpa doshamangala doshapitru dosha, and what have you. People who approach them are prescribed expensive gemstones to wear and equally costly homams to get performed by pandits. Needless to say, there is a vast network of jewellers and fraudulent priests, hand-in-glove with these astrologers, all waiting to milk the hapless victim. The victim is also a willing participant in this rigmarole. As the saying goes, ‘Vinaash kale vipreeta buddhi.’ But this aspect, that of the shortcomings of the demand side, has to wait for a subsequent article.

The supply side needs to be made more efficient from the social welfare perspective by bringing in widespread awareness and appreciation of this divine science, as well as by transforming the practice of this Shastra into a scientific, research-based vocation. Stalwarts like K. N. Rao, P. S. Shastri, C. S. Patel, Bepin Behari, and J. N. Bhasin are among a handful of scholars who have, through their original researches, persevered on this path of clearing up the mess and restoring this ancient science to its rightful place of pride in society. They have been ably supported by many Western scholars too who have studied Jyotish and have made valuable contributions to professionalizing the practice of this science through their in-depth researches. It almost appears as though we are bound to look West for any progress, even into knowledge of our ancient scriptures, due to our paying scant attention to what we already possess. The institutional environment, including our universities, will have to be strengthened and supported to resurrect Jyotish Shastra and accord it the respect it deserves in society. As J. P. Morgan famously put it – “Millionaires do not use astrology. Only billionaires do.” Herein lies part of the answer to our nation’s prosperity in the future.

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