The Vedic Tradition of Jyotisha

 by Steve Hubball

The Vedas are the guiding light of eternal wisdom, handed down through the ages from time immemorial by a system of teaching known as the guru-shishya tradition, or parampara, and leading man to enlightenment and supreme knowledge.

The Sanskrit word ‘parampara’ literally means an uninterrupted series or succession, and is traditionally the word used to describe the succession of teachers and disciples in the ancient Vedic culture in which spiritual knowledge is transmitted from teacher (guru) to disciple (shishya). It is a lineage that ensures the continuation of knowledge from generation to generation, as those who receive the knowledge then have the responsibility and good karma to convey this wisdom to their own students. In this way, just as life continues from seed to plant to seed, the eternal truth of Vedic wisdom is never lost to successive generations.

There are many lineages existing in the Vedic culture of India, such as the spiritual lineage of specific Vedas, artistic lineages of music and dance, medical lineages of Ayurveda and educational lineages of Jyotish (Vedic Astrology), Vastu Shastra (Vedic architecture) and Samudrika Shastra (palmistry). However, all the Vedic sciences are interdependent and interconnected, descending originally from Rishi Atri, one of the ten sons of Brahma.

The wisdom of Jyotish has been part of the parampara dating back thousands of years ago to the enlightened sage Maharishi Parashara, who gave us the Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra (the ancient text of Vedic Astrology) and whose son, Sri Veda Vyasa, classified and compiled the Vedas into their current four branches of Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Veda. In fact, Maharishi Parashara himself descended directly from Rishi Atri, one of the ten sons of Brahma (together with Angira, Bhrigu, Vashistha etc). Rishi Atri was both a Brahmarishi (having complete understanding of Brahman or Supreme Truth) and a Maharishi (the original teacher of Ayurveda and Jyotisha). The parampara of Jyotish continued with Maharishi Jaimini who was a student of Sri Vyasa, the son of Maharishi Parashara, and who produced the work Upadesa Sutras, an extension of Parashara’s teaching revealing further detailed secrets of Jyotisha. Thus Jaimini’s guru’s guru was Parashara. And so, in this way, the knowledge was passed on, from guru to disciple, to this present day.

In this modern age we are blessed to have the opportunity to be part of this parampara of Jyotish through the Jaimini Scholar Program under the guidance of the esteemed Jyotish Guru Pandit Sanjay Rath, who belongs to Atri Gotra, the lineage of Rishi Atri, and who is part of the unbroken lineage of illustrious Jyotishis dating directly back to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

According to the Shiva Mahapurana, a parampara must be defined by four specific teachers at any point in time. These are: (1) Guru, or immediate living teacher, who passes the wisdom directly to the student. (2) Paratpara Guru, or the most senior living guru of the tradition. For Sanjay, this was his grandfather Sri Sri Pandit Jagannath Rath, Jyotishi Ratna of Orissa. (3) Parama Guru, the highest teacher of the lineage. In our Jyotish lineage, this is Sri Achyutananda Das, the most illustrious of all Jyotishis, born in 1510, and astrologer to the king of Puri, Orissa. (4) Parameshthi Guru, the total embodiment of the knowledge, a personification of Shiva and Veda Incarnate. In our tradition this is Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, born in 1486, an avatar (incarnation) of Jagannath Krishna.

Therefore, the lineage to which we belong can be traced directly back to Sri Achyutananda Das, who was one of the Panchasakha (five great disciples) of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and who authored hundreds of books and established many schools of astrology and other Vedic sciences. Sri Chaitanya himself is said to be the incarnation of Sri Garuda, the golden eagle of Jagannath Krishna (Vishnu) who came to prevent the light (jyoti) from being extinguished in this Kali Yuga. This light, the light of Jyotish, is thus truly a Vedanga (limb of the Veda) and a very deep spiritual science.

For the first time outside of a few Brahmin families in Orissa, and by the grace of the Rishis through our Paratpara Guru Pandit Sanjay Rath, the real deep secrets of Maharishi Jaimini’s Upadesha Sutras are now being taught through the Jaimini Scholar Program. Maharishi Jaimini’s guru’s guru was Parashara and these Upadesha sutras actually explain the correct method of applying many of the techniques found in Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra. For centuries many erudite astrologers have struggled to interpret what Parashara and Jaimini meant, even to the extent that many thought Jaimini had created his own tradition separate from that of Parashara. However, the true meaning of the word Upadesha is: ‘instructions and advice from the master’, clearly showing that the sutras are the teaching of the tradition and thus coming down from Parashara.

The Jaimini Scholar Program therefore seeks to continue the esteemed Jyotish lineage of Pandit Sanjay Rath and Atri Gotra, and reveal the true teachings and spiritual wisdom of Maharishi Parashara and Maharishi Jaimini. This lineage traces directly from the enlightened Jyotishi Sri Achutyananda Das, the teaching being passed down within the Brahmin families unbroken for more than 500 years. To this lineage we are greatly indebted and those who are part of it aspire to uphold this sacred knowledge to its highest dignity. Om Gurave Namah.

To learn more about the Jaimini Scholar Program please click here.