An India Experience
How does one describe a month in India? Massive architecture: temples, palaces, tombs, forts, gates; intricate carving and inlay; exquisite saris on the women; great generosity from many people including Dr. Raman and his family in Bangalore, Dr. Thakkur and his family in Bombay, Mrs. Saraswathy and her family in Madras, and Professor B. Das and his family in Calcutta. All of the above individuals assisted me in my attempt to explore Indian systems of astrology. My limited time prevented any final conclusions. (Can we ever expect to be final?) I hope to do more exploring of the Nadi Amsas, the so-called “palm leaf” horoscopes which turned out to be descriptions of every 12 minutes of the zodiac applied to one’s Ascendant, rather than complete horoscopes. On the basis of this small segment, one fifth of a degree, astonishingly complex and detailed statements are made about the individual’s life situation and events. Much more investigation is needed to determine whether they are reliable, but Dr. Raman bases his ayanamsa on them.
Most Indians use a sidereal or constellation zodiac, but there is much controversy over the exact ayanamsa, the difference between the tropical zodiac of the signs (starting at the intersection of the ecliptic and the equator where the Sun is in the spring in the northern hemisphere) and the groups of stars traditionally given the same names as the signs. Dr. Thakkur also works with the nadi amsas, and has written a book on them, but unfortunately, it has never been translated into English. Dr. Thakkur (a medical doctor and student of palmistry as well as astrology) and Dr. Raman (publisher of the most widely read astrology magazine in India) and Mrs. Saraswathy (considered to be the leading woman astrologer in India) may all visit the United States in l978 in case any local groups are interested in sponsoring lectures or workshops. Dr. Thakkur expects to be here in California in late January. Dr. Raman may come in April or May. Mrs. Saraswathy expects to be here in late June and to attend the A.F.A. convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Write to the I.S.A.R. chapter in Los Angeles if you are interested in sponsoring any of them in your own area.
One of my short but informative contacts was with the Dean of the Department of Astrology at the Hindu University of Benares. Dean Upadhay says that they teach eighteen systems of Indian astrology to about eighty students, preparing them to be professional astrologers. They can get the equivalent of an A.A., a B.A., or an M.A. degree, studying for 2, 4, or 6 years.
In general, I found Indian astrology very different from Western, with limited emphasis on or insight into psychological dynamics. The general orientation is deterministic, with a focus on predicting events and often a real fear of the power of the planets. Saturn was coming into sidereal Leo while I was in India, and the statues of Saturn in the temples were garlanded by flower offerings from people hoping to propitiate it. Some Indians use transits, but the most universal system for current patterns in the life involves a series of time periods and sub-periods which have no obvious base in either astronomy or in logic. When I asked about the source of the system, or the rationale, I was told it was received by intuition in the ancient past. In checking it against my life, trying a couple of different ayanamsas (which completely change the timing of the sub-periods), I have not been impressed with its capacity for accuracy or helpfulness. But, of course, much more testing is needed.
I did leave a set of fifteen pairs of charts with one astrologer who was interested in participating in research. Each pair includes one mongoloid (Down’s syndrome) and one high I.Q. child (tested at l25 or more). An American student of Indian astrology tried out her ideas on the test and got eight right and seven wrong, but on the basis of the experience, she hopes to do much better on the next effort. One of our local ISAR members got eleven right and four wrong. A group I was teaching ranged from ten to twelve right. I do not know whether we will ever be able to be l00% accurate on such a test, but trying it is one way of finding out what we do not know. One reason for the challenge was my observation of the emphasis on the mental signs and houses in Mongoloid charts, leaving one in doubt as to whether they were super-bright or over-loaded and had blown the fuse. Massive stelliums are common in both types of individuals—the genius and the individuals with physical or emotional breakdowns.
Can I sum up the trip? It was an experience! I will probably go back, and try to visit an ashram next time, as well as meet other Indian astrologers. I had periods of depression over the poverty—there is constant pressure from beggars everywhere except in private dwellings. Across the road from a palatial home with marble floors is a woman living with two children under a lean-to in a vacant lot, and a stone’s throw farther is a millionaire’s home with peacocks in an indoor room. People live in such lean-tos beside roads, sidewalks, airplane runways—wherever there is unclaimed space. There are public faucets for water occasionally, but few public toilets. There are miles of beautiful countryside with tropical vegetation that reminds one of Florida; congested masses of people in the cities; narrow roads full of every possible variety of animal and vehicle. Where else can you see a troupe of sacred monkeys swarming around a man doling out bananas, or a peacock walking up the drive to the airport, or ride a camel on the beach where a small merry-go-round and Ferris wheel are pulled around by hand? The Taj Mahal is as ethereally beautiful as its photographs suggest, and the echo chambers under the tombs where a guard chants for you are incredible! Wow! I also took a boat ride on the Ganges and rode an elephant at Jaipur. I brought home a wardrobe of saris, along with sari blouses made for me by an Indian tailor. I participated in two Indian communion services, in one being permitted to enter the inner sanctum which is supposed to be open only to Hindus. I saw classical Indian dance and a studio making Indian movies. Yes, there are bugs—bars on windows, but no screens. But I drank the water everywhere and did not get sick. Some of the food was fantastic: I do like it hot, and it was! I had one 26 hour train trip because of a wildcat airline strike. One scheduled lecture was canceled because some students at the university rioted the day before my arrival. The one public lecture I gave was to an audience of nearly l00 men and 4 women, two of the latter being the wife and daughter of my host. I told them that in the United States, the sex proportions would be reversed. Yes, it was an experience. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.