Vedic Astrology for the Westerner

Vedic astrology is gaining in popularity in the West, and more and more seekers are accessing it for life direction and getting answers to some of life’s more perplexing questions.  Its origins, techniques and concepts are somewhat shrouded in mystery to the new agers or alternative-oriented people; but I’m happy to inform you that it isn’t complicated or hard to understand at all, in fact its much simpler and more direct than its western astrology cousin.  


This article will give you a basic overview of the art of Vedic astrology, not getting too deep, but letting the reader understand it more fully in order that you might feel more comfortable in getting help from a Vedic astrologer yourself, to possibly better understand Vedic readings you’ve had before, or perhaps to embark on a personal journey to learn it yourself.  


First, let’s discover its history. 


Vedic astrology’s other name, Jyotish, basically meaning “science of life”, is one of the original six “arms” of the Vedas.  The Vedas were the earliest texts in what came to be known as Hinduism today, and they were concerned with living a spiritual life and the various rituals, prayers and life-habits that encompassed life.  

Those aforementioned “arms” being: 



  • Chandas – Metrics
  • Grammar – Vyakarana
  • Phoenetics – Shiksha
  • Etymology – Nirukta
  • Ritual – Kalpa
  • Astronomy - Jyotish

Jyotish then, concerned with doing the proper rituals at the proper time of day, evolved into the study of the influences of the stars, and the passage of the Moon and planets through them in the sky and how they correspond to events in human affairs, which we in the modern world call astrology.  


There are differing opinions as to where the actual art of horoscopic astrology came about (the actual drawing up of a chart and interpreting it), whether it actually started in the ancient Indus Valley or whether it was Mesopotamian region of the world, and there are many controversies and very interesting historical aspects to this story; but more importantly, whoever actually started it, astrology has proven itself to be a very powerful tool in successfully navigating the compelling journey we call life.  


There are a couple distinguishing characteristics of Vedic astrology compared to that of the Western style, and I will briefly outline them below.

Sidereal Zodiac

With the Vedic chart most of the planets in the chart will be one sign back from the sign positions of the western chart.  That is, is you were born with the Sun in Aries, or perhaps the Moon in Gemini in your chart with the Western style, they will probably be in Pisces and Taurus respectively in the Vedic chart; i.e. the sign before.  


This is because there are two zodiacs in use today, which have different demarcation points.  Vedic astrology uses the sidereal zodiac and is pinned on the actual stars in the sky as we see them; and the western style use the tropical zodiac which is pinned on the position of the vernal equinox in the sky, which has basically nothing to do with the stars in the sky.  


Further, the western tropical zodiac moves slowly backward through the millennia; it’s called the moving zodiac.  The sidereal zodiac is much, much, much more fixed in the sky.  It’s the same zodiac that the ancient sages (called Rishis) looked up at in the sky.  For all intents and purposes the sidereal zodiac is “eternal” whereas the western tropical is “changing.”


As to whether one zodiac is “better” than the other, or how can there be two different zodiacs, I always reply, “Well, we have Mac and Windows, is one of them better than the other?” Both are ‘right’ in themselves.  Regarding as to which is the “better” astrology, one must dispassionately analyze and compare the results of the two systems.  


If I were to summarize the differences I see in the two zodiacs, I would say that the tropical western zodiac is psychological, whereas the Vedic sidereal zodiac is more life-event oriented.  That is, the western astrology’s forte is understanding personality features, Vedic astrology is used for life-planning and goes deeper getting into more core life-issues.

Prediction Techniques

Vedic astrology uses the same techniques of prediction as does the western system (transits, solar returns and progressions, albeit with different names), but also uses a powerful system called dasas, or planetary periods, that characterize and predict the various chapters of our lives, which produce a continuous flowing narrative to better understand and navigate the course of our lives therefrom.  There is no counterpart to dasas in mainstream western astrology.  


To better understand what dasas are let’s use an example, if you are in a Saturn dasa (lasting up to 19 years) then you know beyond a doubt that your life during that span of time will be accentuated by hard work and overcoming, and balancing a lot of karmic debts in the process.  


Then if you know that you were about to enter a Jupiter dasa, you would know that that period (16 years) will be characterized by study, travel, opportunity and overall adventure.  


During a Venus dasa, you will be in an overarching mode of connectiveness to others, learning to appreciate the finer aspects of life, as well as a lot of potential romance happening.  Transits really can’t do what dasas do, they move too quickly and there is no cohesive pattern overall to their collective movements.  


Dasas are extremely powerful and accurate in their results and there are short-range sequences of dasas (called sub-dasas) that occur within larger dasa cycles; all of which produce (and in conjunction with the other predictive techniques) a simple, direct and relevant picture of the course of your life.


In Western astrology there are various aspects based on divisions of the circle by 1/3, ½, ¼, and so on; called trine, opposition, and square respectively, as well as other aspects.  


For instance, if in one’s horoscope, their Sun is about 120 degrees angular distance (called a trine) with Saturn, these planetary influences have an accentuated representation in the person’s life, and they may have a very stoic and hard working approach to life.  


Vedic astrology simplifies the use of aspects, making it easy to spot them in a chart, whereas the Western astrology aspect relationships sometimes require a sophisticated computer program to point them out. 

Omits the Outer Planets

Vedic astrology typically does not use the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto in their chart interpretations. The outer planets are here regarded as overly complicating to the reading and/or redundant because their effects are already shown through the traditional planets, i.e. the planets that are visible to the naked eye.


Many say that the ancients may indeed have known about the outer planets, but they do not fit into the deeper mathematical/geometrical system that the traditional planets do, and therefore they are considered outliers and not necessary to employ.  However, some Vedic astrology (like me) use them in their work. 





Another feature of Vedic astrology is the use of nakshatras, also called moon mansions. What this means is that every night the Moon occupies a new house or “mansion” in the sky, each of which have different meanings in chart interpretation as well as forecasting.  Nakshatras are like a secondary zodiac, which assists in the interpretation of the main one. 

Divisional Charts


Another chart commonly used in Vedic astrology is called the navamsha chart, which is derived from the natal (birth) chart.  In short, each sign within the natal chart is divided up (hence the name divisional charts) into separate sub-signs; and, as the planets in the natal chart fall within these divisions a new chart is formed, which is used in a secondary chart to fine tune the interpretation of the original chart.  


The nav in navamsha refers to the number nine, and therefore the navamsha chart is the ninth-divisional chart.  There are 16 divisional charts commonly used in Vedic astrology, but the navamsha chart is the most referenced one.


Called upayas, or remedies, these are employed by the individual to either enhance the positives or mitigate the negatives of a particular planetary configuration in their chart or planetary period they are in.  The remedies have a variety forms including the use of yantras (mystical symbols engraved on a piece of metal or just paper), gemstones, and mantras to be chanted.  


These remedies are not a magic pill that instantly solves problems in a person’s life, but the use of them in concentration over a period of time will inevitably produce good results and help avert some negatives predicted or help materialize potentials of good fortune as foreseen in the chart.  

Conclusion and Summary

A lot of the information in this article you don’t really need to understand, except possibly in a loose general way.  It’s the astrologer who translates it all into plain English and has an understanding of where you are and what are your needs.  A good astrologer is not necessarily one who can perform the most complicated or esoteric analyses; it’s an astrologer who can boil it all down to something that is relevant to you and your situation, which means they seek to understand you and take the time to do so.  


Vedic astrology has a long and interesting history, and we’ve just scratched the surface here.  I was originally a western astrologer in my practice, but as I started to experiment with the Vedic system I saw very quickly the power and effectiveness of it to help not only just myself but everybody.  The Eastern world should not benefit from Vedic astrology alone.  It’s definitely different, you get a whole new chart, as it were, and maybe one that you like better. 

About the Author

Curtis Burns has been an astrologer since the 1990’s, helping hundreds of people worldwide with personal readings as well as regular visitors to his website StarWorldNews.com.  He has studied Western, Medieval, ancient Greek and Babylonian astrology, as well as dabbled into Chinese astrology.  He became a full-fledge Vedic astrologer in the early 2000’s and has had a thriving astrology business ever since.  Curtis also loves the study of history, politics, economics and psychology.  Give him a call today at 1-651-274-5318, email at curtisburns555@gmail.com, or reach him at his website.