Our ancient ancestors looked to the sky; and in the patterns of the Dance of the Cosmos, they found answers to their everyday concerns as well as the deeper questions they had about their lives and their place in the universe. Fast forward six thousand years and so many who walk amongst us dismiss this ancient knowledge as superstition, pseudo-science and perhaps even quackery.
However, for the one who seeks and searches, the Nine Great Celestial Beings–the planets of the night sky–will always be there; watching and secretly guiding one’s footsteps. In my debut novel The Little Light, I narrated a tale–a story of a humble soul that meets the planets before it is born. My fascination with the night sky and the ageless wisdom they bestow is one that has continued to deepen with the annals of time.
Welcome to another Fireside Chat at Mith Books. I am privileged to have with me Prakash Sundaramoorthy, the Founder at Prakash Jyotisa Academy. His YouTube channel is full of invaluable insights on Jyotisa Vedic astrology and Hindu philosophy. We have a chat about the ageless wisdom of Jyotisha.
Dipa: Ancient people all over the world saw a relationship between the cycles of the planets and their everyday lives. What role do you believe the ancient myths of the nine planets play in the lives of modern humans? How has it changed since ancient times?
Prakash: Astrology in ancient times was such a commodity! Knowing its mechanics directly made a kingdom or an empire prosper. This is simply because it gives the right timing for agricultural planning. This includes, time to reap the harvest, planting, storing, labour, facilities and other modern civilization requirements. It’s such an integral part of growth. The one that has this knowledge rules the world!
Fast forward six thousand years, what was once science, is now considered pseudo-science. This is because we have outgrown and developed sophistication which no longer requires astrology nor agriculture to rule the world.
So, why are we still using Jyotisa? We have undoubtedly gained supremacy in understanding the workings of our physical world but where are we in knowing the nature of humans? Jyotisa is not mere psychological assessment, but an invaluable reference of human evolution which spans six thousand years. Dismissing it is simply foolish and outright arrogance by the scientific community.
Dipa: Could you tell us about your background—how did you discover astrology and what led to you become a Vedic astrologer?
Prakash: Innately! It’s almost a calling that I had to be an astrologer. My earliest memory is sitting on my grandfather’s lap listening to how “grahas” that a millions of light-years away influences the way we think and act.
As I grew older, my perspective swayed from magical entities to more rationalized approach – science. There was a time, I had even considered to let go Jyotisa altogether, for its non-standard texts and exploitative means by bogus practitioners. So much so, here in Malaysia, Jyotisa shastra was something laughed at or not taken seriously.
Thankfully my faith was revived when my father presented me a few books from Bepin Behari. Since then, I became a believer and an evangelist to advocate the “true” application of Jyotisa. I feel that my purpose as an astrologer is not just limited to prediction but to bring back the glory of Jyotisa.
Dipa: Ever since I was young, I felt a sense of peace and happiness whenever I visited a temple with the Navagraha. In Hinduism, Lord Shiva is seen as the ‘Head of the Planets’. What is the relationship between Lord Shiva and the Nine Planets?
Prakash: The temple, in my humble opinion is a spiritual clinic. It’s a place to align ourselves with the universe. If it’s properly built in accordance with Shilpa Shastra we would naturally feel peace and calmness. The Navagraha acts as a protective mechanism as part of the temple building framework. In the scriptures it’s to be said that the nine grahas are the unborn form of Maha Vishnu and there are other schools of thoughts that claims Lord Shiva governs them. Either way, the grahas personifies the qualities of either Maha Vishnu or Parameshwara which really goes down to the parampara tradition of the astrologer.
Dipa: In my work as an astrologer, I’ve always been fascinated by the role that Saturn, Rahu and Ketu play in the birth chart. According to you, what role do these three planets play in the natal chart?
Prakash: Saturn, Rahu and Ketu are karmic in nature, meaning they directly influence us by either bestowing or punishing us for our deeds both good and bad. Saturn is considered mild-mannered if compared with Rahu and Ketu.
Rahu and Ketu are one entity with two unique facets. They function differently but with a common goal, where Rahu gives us immense pleasure and at the zenith of it, snatches everything pushing us to the ground; while Ketu bereft us with any pleasure and continually torments with the pangs of ill health and destitute for both are the greatest teachers of life.
Saturn, on the hand, makes us go through hardship to make us understand how grateful we are with what we have. If we’re looking for straight answers, these grahas will give us right in the face for its audacious nature has nothing to hide and one can learn a great deal of events with utmost transparency.
Dipa: Over the years, I have heard many people describe Saturn as ‘the great malefic’. I believe that this is a severe misunderstanding of the energy of the planet. Saturn is neither malefic nor benefic—but rather wishes to teach mankind through difficult life lessons and harsh realities. How can one best understand—perhaps even foresee—the impact that Saturn might have in one’s life?
Prakash: That’s true! All grahas are great teachers of life. One should not associate them with a common dichotomy i.e. between evil and benign. The problem with this idea is that it fuels the bogus astrologer with avenues to con innocent querents. In my humble view, Saturn ushers discipline, harsh reality and most importantly, “acceptance” for the life that we have. To aid us in recognizing what’s real from Maya.
Dipa: For those who are ‘blessed by Saturn’, these blessings manifest later in life and are often not apparent in one’s younger years. Could you explain why this is so?
Prakash: The answer to that is based on the delay of Saturn (28 years) to orbit the Sun. The Sun is metaphorically associated with “knowledge”, which is why is also said that the only way to remove darkness is to shine the light of knowledge. Saturn receives the bhāskara effulgence of the Sun only at a later age (28 onwards) which gifts a person the boon of wisdom!
Dipa: In Vedic astrology, the planets are personified as having a relationship with one another. What is the relationship between Saturn and Rahu—and how might it manifest in one’s life?
Prakash: Saturn’s purpose is to remove all vagaries of illusion (Maya) and to reveal the truth of life. Rahu on the other hand is an advocate of Maya.
Maya is one of the core philosophical truths in Vedantic dharma/Hinduism. It’s an understanding that by default we (as humans) perceive this world through the lens of materialism. This so-called “lens” makes us stray away from the path of Dharma righteousness and leads us to a life filled with misery, pain, wickedness and a strong sense of selfishness.
Rahu is the agent of Maya! She sends Him to ensure humans are lured into this materialistic lifestyle and ensuring that we neglect dharma. If we really come to think about this, the position of Rahu in one’s chart shows in what area a person would wander away and fall into this trap of Maya.
Dipa: We cannot speak of Rahu without speaking of Ketu. What is the relationship between these two shadow planets?
Prakash: They are a single entity with a taste of their own. They complement each other in such an extreme fashion, but in real fact, they are within the same spectrum. The secret of these grahas lies is when we realize that within their obvious “punishments” they are guiding us towards salvation.