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The Vedic system applies the real position of the planets used by astronomers against the background of certain fixed stars (or unchanging from our perspective). It is called the "sidereal zodiac". Hence, in the past the term Astronomy covered astrology as well as the study of the physical heavens.

Western astrology is based on the orientation of the Earth to the Sun, and applies the "Tropical zodiac". It "assumes" that every year the Sun at the spring and autumnal equinoxes is at the first degree of Aries and Libra respectively, and at the first degree of Cancer and Capricorn at the summer and winter solstices. By this fundamental assumption, the tropical zodiac ignores the Precession of the Equinox. As the Sun moves along its apparent path as viewed from the Earth, it does not return to the same position, against the background of the fixed stars, at the spring equinox on 21 March where it was at the same time one year early. It is short by 50 seconds of one degree. Over 72 years this difference amounts to one degree, and over 2160 years it grows to 30 degrees, or one whole sign of the zodiac. The whole cycle takes approximately 25,920 years.

On 21st March 1999, the Sun will be in 6 degrees of Pisces according to the Sidereal zodiac and not at first degree of Aries. Thus, there is a difference of about 24 degrees between the two zodiacs, which is growing each year. The two zodiacs were together around the year AD 285, and since that time we have been in what is known as the Age of Pisces.

The Aquarian Age is not due to start until about the year 2445. The effect of the difference between the zodiacs, called Ayanamsha, of 24 degrees is that 5 out of every 6 people were not born under constellation they have been lead to believe by the newspapers and western astrologers. For instance, according to western astrology the Sun is in the sign of Aries from 21 March to 20 April. Under Vedic, or Eastern astrology, the Sun is in Aries from 13 April to 14 May - a difference of 22 days. This positional variation also applies to all the other planets.

2. Vedic astrology acknowledges only nine planets - Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the two nodes of the Moon called Rahu and Ketu. These nodes, recognised by astronomers, are points on the ecliptic path of the Sun which the Moon cuts every month as it circles the Earth every 29.5 days.

The outer planets - Uranus, Neptune and Pluto - as well as the asteroids are not used in Vedic Astrology as they are considered to be too distant from the Earth and small to have an influence on human affairs.

3. The principles governing Vedic astrology have remained unaltered for thousands of years. On the other hand, Western Astrology has mainly evolved through research into cosmic influences as each new planet or major asteroid was discovered, which has then been added to the natal charts and included in their interpretation.

4. Tropical astrology is largely "Sun" based for the signs of Aries, Taurus, Gemini etc. may more accurately be called "solar houses". As such, it is primarily concerned with psychology, the personality and character-types, the solar side of our life and character.

Sidereal astrology can be called "Cosmic astrology" for it measures the relationship of the fixed stars and the solar system to ourselves. As such it covers all areas of life - our desires, talents, responsibilities and potential for spiritual growth - and has predictive powers to indicate the time and duration of major events in our life.

5. Besides the 12 signs, Vedic Astrology breaks down the 360 degree circle into 27 constellations called nakshatras, which were originally identified with particular stars, but these days cover a span of 13 degrees 20 minutes. This more detailed analysis is used for electional astrology to select the most propitious time to start any activity, such as a new business, constructing a home etc., or performing ceremonies such as marriage, coronations or initiations. There is no equivalent in Western astrology.

6. In timing major events or changes in our lives, Western Astrology uses progressions and transits. Vedic astrologers may also apply these systems, but their primary system will be the use of planetary periods, called dasha. Under this process, each of the nine planets are given periods from 6 to 20 years, totalling 120 years, when their influence will predominate in the individual's life.

Given an accurate birth time, the dasha system can accurately show when each period of fortune or misfortune will begin and end, and provide actual dates. Of two people with wonderful careers, good earnings and great accomplishments indicated in their charts, one may find his niche early in life, while the other must first navigate difficult waters before finally achieving prosperity. The system can indicate the timing of such events as well as their extent. It uses as the starting point the Moon's position against the background of a Nakshatra in calculations of the planetary periods within the 120 year potential lifespan. Again Western astrology has no comparable system.

There are other differences between the two astrological systems, such as the use of hundreds of planetary combinations, called Yogas, in Jyotish Shastra, which are used to make detailed assessments of the power and influence of planets in particular areas of a person's life. Knowledge of these detailed rules provides a more accurate interpretation of a horoscope.

Next > The Four Aims of Life

In this Section:

Introduction to Vedic Astrology
The Four Aims of Life
Dealing with Obstacles
How Vedic Astrology Works
Planets Main Significations
Interpreting the Horoscope

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