With the Covid-19 era focusing humanity on wellness more than ever before, we present a little-known branch of knowledge—medical astrology
By Vamadeva Shastri
Our human lives are governed by the same cosmic forces that rule over the universe as a whole. Hindu thought teaches us that the individual human being is a reflection of the universal Being and explains how we can link the two together for overall well-being and for ultimate Self-realization. This connection is mirrored in the discipline of Vedic astrology, or Jyotish, the science of light, which shows how the influences of the stars and planets at a cosmic level affect the movement of our personal human lives through our karma and our dharma.
Modern physics is recognizing our human activities are interrelated with those of the cosmos, both on subtle and vast levels. Modern medicine is slowly accepting the existence of powers of life and intelligence in nature that we cannot reduce to mere chemistry and which we are an integral part of.
One of the most important branches of astrology is medical astrology. After all, among the first questions everyone asks an astrologer are “How long am I going to live?” and “Will my health remain good?” Medical astrology assesses our health potential, our likely diseases, their timing and their treatments. Yet it is not confined to the physical. Medical astrology encompasses our psychological well-being and addresses emotional and mental afflictions, as these are usually our main source of suffering in life. It helps us discern the karmic issues in what we experience, which are mirrored in the placement of the planets in the Vedic birth chart.
Vedic astrology is a limb of the Vedas (Vedanga). It is connected with Ayurveda, which is a secondary Veda (Upaveda). Vedic medical astrology, also called Ayurvedic astrology, is cast in the mold of Ayurvedic medicine, sharing concepts, principles and values relating to human life. Many Ayurvedic doctors use Vedic astrology or consult with Vedic astrologers, particularly about difficult-to-treat cases. They examine the birth chart to assess the client’s well-being and possible issues and timing relative to disease. Similarly, many Vedic astrologers consult with Ayurvedic doctors on their patients’ health conditions. Some Vedic practitioners are trained in depth in both Jyotish (Vedic astrology) and Ayurveda.
Astrology, Health and Disease
Ayurveda and Jyotish work best when used together. Ayurveda examines individual constitution and disease factors according to the three doshas, or biological humors, vata, pitta and kapha, which correspond generally to the air, fire and water elements respectively, as imbued with prana and functioning at a biological level.
The nine planets of Vedic astrology relate to the Ayurvedic doshas (biological humors). When dominant in the chart, planets set their corresponding doshas in motion. While I have indicated the general dosha and planet correspondence below, the actual interrelationship is more specific. Each planet has its doshic signature and effects.
Mars, the Sun and Ketu are pitta or fiery planets. Moon, Venus and Jupiter are kapha or watery in nature. Saturn, Mercury and Rahu are vata or airy in nature.
Similarly, the twelve signs of the zodiac ( rashis ) follow the scheme of the elements as earth, water, fire or air signs, starting with Aries and the fire element. The twelve houses ( bhavas ) relate to different parts of the body, functions of the mind and factors of health and disease, starting with the first house as the head and relating to our overall health.
According to Ayurveda, most diseases are caused by vata dosha, the biological air humor that governs our overall pranic energy and the aging process. Reflecting this fact, the main planet for causing disease is vata-ruling Saturn, which shares vata dosha qualities of being dry, cold, light and depleting. Saturn, like vata, is responsible for most chronic and degenerative conditions, from arthritis to cancer and nervous debility, including poor immunity and limited longevity, as well as vata-based emotional conditions like depression, fear and anxiety.
Fiery Mars, which governs most pitta diseases, does its share of damage, causing acute diseases, fever, infection and bleeding, extending to fiery mental conditions like anger and jealousy, and often causing physical injuries. Even watery or kapha Moon, Venus and Jupiter, which generally promote positive health, can cause illness, such as diabetes and heart disease.
As factors that cause eclipses, the lunar nodes, Rahu (cut off head of the serpent) and Ketu (cut off tail of the serpent), said to be like Saturn and Mars respectively, are dangerous relative to our long-term vitality and immunity. In addition, they can subject us to collective karmas beyond our personal control, such as wars and epidemics. The nodes govern mysterious psychological and nervous system derangements, often involving the subtle body, and produce karmic conditions that are difficult to cure or treat.
In Vedic astrology, the malefic or difficulty- and disease-causing planets (Saturn, Mars, Rahu, Ketu) are most dangerous when placed in angular houses in the chart (houses one, four, seven and ten) or located with the Sun or Moon, where their influences are stronger.
Usually benefic planets—the Moon, Venus, Jupiter and Mercury—promote positive health and happiness, as do the planets ruling trine houses (first, fifth and ninth). These planets can counter the effects of disease-causing planets, particularly if located in angular or trine houses in the chart. Yet, malefic planets can protect one’s health if located in certain houses ( upachayas like the third, sixth and eleventh), where they promote immunity, mental and physical strength.
Even naturally benefic planets, like Jupiter, Venus, Moon and Mercury, can cause health problems if they rule difficult houses in the birth chart from the ascendant, or if afflicted by malefic planets. The sixth and eighth house lords, which govern disease and death, in particular can cause disease and sorrow.
The Practice of Ayurvedic Astrology
Vedic medical astrology can appear ominous. Everyone has periods of ill health and will eventually get sick and die, so every chart has negative health potentials. To look for these combinations, particularly in one’s own chart or that of someone close to us, can be disturbing. One is bound to find something. This looking for health afflictions should be balanced by looking for positive health-promoting combinations to counter them.
Like other factors of Vedic astrology, the medical side can be quite accurate. For example, I have seen a lot of consistency in the charts of cancer patients in terms of planetary afflictions and timing of the disease.
One chart in particular had typical combinations for breast cancer, from which the patient eventually died. Years later I saw the same combinations in the third house of another client. As these combinations related to the third house of younger siblings, I thought they might affect the client’s younger sister. I also saw that the timing would not be favorable for the sister.
Proceeding carefully, I first asked the woman if she had a younger sister. When she said yes, I asked if that sister had any major health problems. She replied that she was very ill. I asked if it could be cancer, perhaps breast cancer. She confirmed my suspicion and said that was one of the reasons she was consulting me. She thought I was a psychic, but I was merely applying classical principles of Vedic astrology based upon previous chart experience.
More recently I have specialized in psychological astrology. Combinations and timing for such conditions as depression, bipolar disorder and even suicide can be found in the chart, particularly relative to the Moon, Mercury, Rahu, Ketu and Saturn. For example, if there are joint Saturn and Mars aspects on the Moon, which is otherwise weak, personal or domestic happiness will be difficult to achieve and a life of renunciation or independent living would be better for overall emotional well-being.
Use of Medical Astrology
Medical astrology has many usages and levels of application. It can show if a person is likely to become ill and when they are likely to recover. If a person with a major illness is entering into a difficult planetary period ( dasha ), the prognosis is not likely to be good. But if the planetary periods are positive, a quick recovery can be indicated. The chart can also show the types of treatment the person may receive or which treatments may work best for them. Even malpractice or wrong treatment shows up in the chart!
The Vedic system does not leave us helpless before negative planetary forces. By warning us of impending negative planetary periods for health or emotional well-being, Vedic astrology helps us take precautions and be prepared so as to minimize the dangers.
Special remedial measures of Vedic astrology are used to promote health as well as the other goals of life. Gems, yantras, mantras and rituals for planetary Deities or difficult birth times can make a real difference in the vitality of a person and strengthen the immune system. These are commonly prescribed in India and at Hindu temples.
The right gems fortify the pranic field and subtle body, which is highly sensitive to cosmic rays. Yellow sapphire, the stone for benefic Jupiter, is often the best in this regard. Mantras and rituals are even more powerful, but must be performed regularly and with devotion. Rituals are particularly good for problems caused by Rahu and Ketu that have an occult influence or for psychological disorders in general.
However, we cannot simply remove negative karmas with expensive gems or complex rituals. The devas cannot be bought, cheated or treated without proper respect. To counter our negative karmas, we must understand and face them, then change how we live. We must develop more humility, or these measures may not work. We can also use astrology to improve our practice of Ayurveda through the right timing of treatments and by using a person’s chart to guide the treatments overall, or bringing in gems and mantras to help enhance dietary or herbal treatments with their subtle energies.
Medical Astrology and Global Health
Mundane astrology is the astrology of the world at large, looking at similar factors as the birth chart but for different countries. Ten years ago I predicted 2020 as the beginning of a “New Time of Troubles for Humanity” based upon difficult astrological factors that were impending. This prediction extended not only to global health problems but to ecological and political issues and dangers.
The lunar nodes, Rahu and Ketu, are the main indicators of collective karma, as they govern eclipses. One difficult type of Rahu/Ketu influence for collective karma is called a Kalasarpa Yoga, or “Serpent of Time” combination. This occurs when all the planets are located between Rahu and Ketu on one side of the zodiac. As the nodes move backward in the zodiac, the Kalasarpa can be either Rahu predominant, if all the planets are behind Rahu in the zodiac, or Ketu predominant if all the planets are behind Ketu.
A Kalasarpa Yoga occurred in 2020 in a rare and ominous manner, with Ketu, which indicates death, transformation or liberation, located in early Sagittarius in the nakshatra or lunar constellation of Mula, which marks a crucial point of the galactic center, suggesting major karmic changes.
The Rahu-Ketu axis goes backward through the zodiac every 18-19 years, so Ketu crossing the galactic center in itself is not that unusual. It was rendered unusual by the fact that it occurred along with a Kalasarpa Yoga. Most crucial was the fact that this Yoga occurred on the Yugadi or yearly annual chart for the Earth as a whole (new Moon in Pisces), affecting various countries according the rising sign at that time.
This 2020 Kalasarpa Yoga was dominated by Rahu in Gemini at the point in the zodiac opposite the galactic center. Rahu is the planet of epidemics and Gemini is the sign relating to the lungs and respiratory disorders.
Looking at the annual chart for different countries, I found Rahu was rising in Gemini in western Europe, notably Italy. This included a malefic Saturn/Mars combination in the eighth house of death, particularly afflicting the elderly (who are ruled by Saturn and the eighth house of longevity).
Based on different rising signs in different countries, problems of a related nature occurred globally. In addition, Rahu and Gemini relate to the mind and the media, which shows the many psychological disturbances created by this transit.
Ketu retrograding over the galactic center in this situation brings up deep-seated collective karmic issues and planetary karmic rectification. Ketu, when positive, rules over liberation, higher knowledge and astrology. At a lower level, however, it indicates dangerous technologies, weapons, conflict and terrorism, with a weakening physical and psychological immunity.
While this particular Kalasarpa Yoga has ended now, its side effects remain. Another Kalasarpa Yoga will come up later in 2021, not as dangerous but still reflecting the ongoing difficulties of our new time of troubles, which is related to yet other astrological factors we do not have the space to address here. A previous difficult Kalasarpa Yoga in 2019 prepared the way for that of 2020.
With a growing interest in traditional medicine and natural healing, people are developing a new interest in medical astrology, and the Ayurveda/Jyotish connection is gaining recognition once more. By understanding our Vedic birth chart as well as our Ayurvedic constitution, we gain a compelling model for life counseling and the development of positive life strategies, for physical health and right living on all levels. National or planetary well-being as examined through medical astrology is yet another important area of study that needs more trained astrologers to examine and verify.
This important branch of Vedic medical astrology will remain at the forefront and grow worldwide as Vedic knowledge continues its modern renaissance. Not surprisingly, Ayurvedic schools often teach astrology, and Vedic astrology conferences and seminars include medical astrology with an emphasis on Ayurveda.
If we can bring the beneficent forces of the universe into our lives, starting with the planets, we can greatly increase the spiritual powers at work within and around us. For this we must remember that the entire universe dwells within us, and that we ourselves ultimately transcend all time, space and karma as the Self of all.
The Planets Don’t Decree Our Fate
While astrologers speak a language in which “Saturn is the main planet causing disease” and “Venus promotes health and happiness,” this is actually shorthand for a deeper understanding of the influences of the planets in our life. The birth chart, it turns out, is an accounting, a reckoning of our summed karmas. The planets’ unique positions in our chart form a cypher, which astrologers can interpret as a repository of our karmic potentiality.
Planets have no active agency. They do not cause disease or health; they do not produce poverty or wealth. Nor do they decree our fate. Rather they indicate latent or inherent possibilities, some would say probabilities for our life, possibilities that we ourselves created.
Understanding this, one astrologer turned the tables on the planets, writing: “The popular view is that the placement of our planets in our natal chart ‘causes’ our behavior. I have long believed that it’s the other way around; our actions from past lives create the placement of our planets. In other words, our natal chart in this lifetime reveals our ‘karmic package’ brought from the past.”
Chakrapani D. Ullal, widely honored as the father of Vedic astrology in the West, observes, “Astrology is a science of indications only, it is not fatalistic. Therefore, people should have the idea that they have the power, if they want to—to bring amendments and changes, to modify the influence by their effort and their willingness. When I give a reading, I say, ‘By using the willpower, by gaining the grace of God or guru, we can change everything.’ Otherwise, people misunderstand astrology by thinking ‘Oh, it is in the stars.’ It is in the stars only for those people who do not want to take responsibility for their life.”
Vamadeva Shastri observes, “A fatalistic and predictive jyotish is indeed dangerous, but we must also respect that karma cannot be merely wished away or ignored, and that jyotish helps us understand its consequences. Planets do not directly cause karma, but they do reflect it. Much of the chart indicates prarabdha karma, which is difficult to change. We need to be humble before the cosmic forces and not think that at an ego level we can control our destiny, or that planets, doshas and gunas do not affect us.”
John Heisler wrote: “The position of the stars and planets do not cause illness in our body or changes in our state of mind, rather they reflect our own karmic patterning, whether it is group or individual karma.”
There is another truth at play—that the physical cosmos is not separate from us, that the planets orbit within our own consciousness. Everything is within us. Comprehending this cosmic unity removes the notion that we are being influenced by outside forces. Saint Yogaswami of Sri Lanka offered a yogi’s insight: “All planets are auspicious for the true Sivabhaktar.”