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The Role Of The Astrologer

by Ronnie Gale Dryer

Excerpted from INDIAN ASTROLOGY by Ronnie Gale Dryer Thorsons Publishing Group, UK

A book about Hindu astrology would be incomplete without a more definitive description of the Hindu astrologer and the invaluable services he provides. His influential and multi-functional role as therapist, medical practitioner and-- at times -- priest gas earned him the utmost praise and respect within the Hindu community.

In order to maintain a commercial practice, an astrologer must possess a university degree in Jyotish -- a complicated study of precise mathematical and astronomical principles of the heavenly bodies -- sometimes taking up to eight years to complete.

Although he may never use every facet of his study, the astrologer must none the less know them all, while, as a devout Hindu, must have the ability to transmit the spiritual implications of a horoscope with his clientele.

When the Jyotish degree is obtained, he must apprentice for many years before opening his own practice in order to gain first-hand experience in applying the astronomical principles to the art of interpretation.

Since it is common for professions to be handed down through generation of families, he usually serves his apprenticeship in w3the practice or shop of his father, uncle or other relative before sharing or taking over his business -- work he has been geared for since childhood.

It is quite usual to have a chart constructed by an astrologer when a child is born. During the time I studied with my second teacher, the practicing astrologer Deoki Nandan Shastri, I was present on many occasions when parents brought their children to his office for horoscope readings -- a common practice in India tantamount to a check-up at the pediatrician's in the West.

The horoscope is usually presented to the parents in multi-page booklet form and always includes the Rashi Chakr(a), the Moon Chart [Chandr(a) Lagn(a)], the Navamsa Chart and the planetary periods of Vimshottari Dasha (the inclusion of other Shodashavarga charts is optional).

These drawings and diagrams are accompanied by long, hand-written explanations of character traits, learning capabilities, parental descriptions, possible illness(es), the profession one is most suited for (though many times it is that of the father), the most suitable marriage partner, and a general summary as to how the child's life will proceed.

Also included are prognostications for auspicious and inauspicious periods, and times most conducive for education, marriage, children, residence, and/or travel. The information is then relayed orally and is then followed by a question-and-answer session when parents may ask anything they wish to about th destiny of their child. Until the child weds, it is very common for the astrologer to advise the parents about eating habits, behaviour patterns, upbringing, education, or any phase affecting the formative years.

Since a great majority of Hindus have had their charts erected at birth, throughout their lies they usually consult the same astrologer who guides them medically and developmentally much like a general practitioner or family doctor.

The astrologer is almost always acquainted with the entire family whose horoscopes he has also constructed. Since he is usually knowledgeable in medicine and child psychology, he is also very often called upon by doctors and teachers to render a second opinion.

Medical astrology is a very important branch of Hindu astrology and practiced by astrologers in varying degrees. By assessing the planets in terms of their physical correspondences, the astrologer can easily see which part or parts of the body are weak and the periods during which they will be most problematic.

The astrologer may suggest that a gemstone or amulet be worn close to the affected part of the body i order to revive it. He may also recommend the use of various tinctures, medicinal and herbal remedies.

Though there are a wide variety of reasons why people pay an astrologer an office visit, his advice is most often sought when making major long-term decisions (i.e. change of residence, choosing a career, marriage, etc.) and short-term decisions (one's business, the signing of a document, the purchase of a car or house, etc.)

If the client so requests, the astrologer may even choose the precise moment when an event should take place based on the Nakshatr(a) [1/27th equal division of the zodiacal band] the Moon occupies and the nature of any transiting planets [and numerous other calculation results]. If the client requires short-term counsel or needs to chat, a visit is possible without an appointment.

Though his advice is based on precise mathematical calculations, his real ability to counsel is predicated on an unselfish concern for others, objective insight and experiential wisdom.

In addition to the astrologer's position in the community as general seer, confidante, and therapist, he is also the source of sacred knowledge. In ancient times the astrologer believed he had a direct line to the Gods, that his words had a divine source, that he was an intermediary who transmitted sacred teachings.

Although there are some religious gurus in India who teach meditative techniques and others who profess to have the ability to heal and power to bless, it is the astrologer who, like the priest or rabbi, provides non-judgmental and wise counsel.

His astrological sessions are, at times, "confessionals" furnishing comfort, hope and encouragement in bleaker moments. Unlike his Western counterpart, the Hindu astrologer serves the community and is available for advice whenever needed.

Modern young Hindus do not always visit an astrologer for accurate lifelong prediction as their parents did. Instead they seek him for unbiased advice, or simply to discuss their problems. If they leave less burdened, their visit was worthwhile.

Perhaps the astrologer's most significant duty towards his community is sanctioning marriages, still mostly pre-arranged by the parents and one of the most important decisions a woman and a man must make.

As is the case with many contemporary cultures and religions whose ancient traditions are still practiced, Hindu matrimony is not merely the marriage of two individuals but the union of two families. More often than not, it is part of a business merger or other profitable exchange in which each family, as a result of the wedding, gives something the other needs.

If a business transaction is not the criterion, the parents will seek out a prospective son or daughter-in-law from a family of appropriate caste [class] who will be a good provider for their children and grandchildren.

Because marriage is such an important decision to be made, te astrologer tells the family how he feels about a possible union in no uncertain terms. If he approves, his enthusiasm is boundless. If, however, he feels strongly that the marriage will bring disastrous results, he adamantly orders a rejection of the proposal. It also illustrates the power he wields over lives, a quality which, ironically, endears him to the Hindu community.

Although an astrologer's office will reflect his individuality, there are certain objects which remain constant. What I remember most about Pandit Shastri's office was that there were books in every corner of the room, not only about astrology but about healing rituals, medicine, child development and other related subjects.

As an example of his devotion, there was a miniature altar upon which stood a photo of his spiritual guru or patron God/Goddess, flowers and burning incense. Covering the walls were murals and photos of various Gods, Goddesses and astrological and Vedic sages, all of which tied to the study of astrology.

Most importantly, somewhere in most every astrologer's room or office, there is a photograph or reproduction of the elephant-God, Ganesh -- who guards the realm of secret knowledge, including astrology -- one of the highest forms of knowledge that the Gods and Goddesses are said to have bestowed upon Earth.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti