A New Paradigm for Medical Astrology
Brendan Feeley is a doctor of naturopathy in Washington, DC, where he practices Jyotish and Ayurveda. He is a Jyotish Guru at SJVC. He has been a student of the vedas since 1975 and he practices bhakti yoga. This work is part of his forthcoming book on “Jyotish and Ayurveda.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ayurveda, the “knowledge of longevity”, is the oldest and the most comprehensive systems of healing in the world and it has its roots in the philosophy of the ancient Vedas. Ayurveda relies on the six systems of Indian Philosophy, the Shad Darshan, for its founding principles, particularly Sankhya philosophy of creation and evolution. Darshan is more than philosophy. It is a system of knowing based on perception and inner vision. The enlightened rishis were able to discover the truth of life through the purity of their hearts and their exalted sense of awareness. This knowledge was cognized in the state of deep meditation and has been passed down to us today in the form of sutras, threads of truth that awaken the latent knowledge of life hidden deep in our own unconscious mind. By constant reflection and meditation on these sutras, the knowledge imparted by the rishis begins to awaken inside us.
Jyotish and Ayurveda are an integral part of vedic philosophy, yoga practice and spiritual development. Jyotish is a Vedanga, a limb of the vedas, and as such it holds a divine status in the Vedic tradition. Ayurveda is an Upa-Veda, a supplementary or secondary Veda to the four main Vedas – Samaveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda, and Rigveda. Regardless of status, the same stream of spiritual consciousness permeates these two sciences that is to be found throughout all the vedas. Knowledge of Jyotish and Ayurveda is revealed knowledge and it was given to humanity by the Maharishi’s to uphold dharma and to guide the souls towards spiritual realization.
How do we integrate Jyotish and Ayurveda? First we must understand the building blocks of both subjects and proceed from there. We are given a hint in Brihat Parasara Hora Shastra, and if we are wise, we should follow the thread offered to us by the great Rishi. Parasara gives us the correspondence between the Rasi’s, Graha’s, Dosha and dhatus. They are as follows:
- Aries, Leo, Sagittarius – Pitta Dosha
- Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn – Vata Dosha
- Gemini, Libra, Aquarius – Tridoshic
- Cancer, Scorpio Pisces – Kapha Dosha
1) Rasa (plasma) – Mercury
2) Rakta (blood) – Moon
3) Mamsa (muscle) – Saturn
4) Meda (adipose & fat) – Jupiter
5) Asthi (bone) – Sun
6) Majja (marrow & nerves) – Mars
7) Shukra/ Artava (reproductive) – Venus
1) Sun – Pitta
2) Moon – Kapha/Vata
3) Mars – Pitta
4) Mercury – Tridoshic
5) Jupiter – Kapha
6) Venus – Vata/Kapha
7) Saturn – Vata
Parasara has also given us the correspondence between the planets, signs, organs and body sections and this is enough. With the marriage of this fundamental knowledge and Ayurveda, we can develop a system of diagnosis that can be used in clinical practice to determine the timing and severity of the disease.
In Ayurveda, we know that disease is caused not only by an aggravated Dosha but also by dhatu dushti – disorder in the dhatus. There is a six-stage model of pathogenesis, referred to as samprapti. In this model, the aggravated dosha moves from its site of origin in the digestive trace, and circulates throughout the body by entering rasa and rakta dhatu. The disturbed dosha finally locates itself in some weak tissue, organ or system of the body and alters its function. Symptoms begin to appear and the native seeks medical help. In the advanced stage of pathogenesis, destruction of tissue and organs occur and the disease becomes a chronic manifestation.
The goal of Ayurveda is to restore balance to the system. Disease is the abnormal expression of the vitiated doshas and to restore health, the increased dosha must be pacified and returned to its site of accumulation. At the same time the destruction of the dhatus and the organs must be addressed and suitable therapies must be used to restore their function. In Ayurveda prevention is emphasized. It is easier to treat the disease at its accumulation stage than at the later stages of complication and destruction. The reasons are obvious.
2. Sankhya Philosophy & Cosmic Anatomy
According to Sankhya philosophy, there are twenty-four cosmic principles or tattwas at work in the Universe. Purusha is the ultimate principle of creation – it is the formless, indivisible and undifferentiated state of pure consciousness or transcendental existence. Purusha is beyond time, space and causation. It the Absolute state of unmanifest reality and it is considered to be the male principle of creation. Prakruti is the female principle, the primal matter and mother of all that directs cosmic manifestation.
The first manifestation of prakruti is mahad or cosmic intelligence and out of this intelligence, the sense of “I am”, Ahamkar, comes into existence. Out of this state of ego consciousness arises the sense of individuality and separateness. Ahamkar has three qualities or gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas. Through the support of the gunas, ahamkar creates both the organic and inorganic universe, as well as the subjective and objective world. In addition, ahamkar, with the help of the gunas, creates the five subtle senses, the five organs of cognition, the five organs of action, the five great elements as well as the five sense objects. Sattva guna rules the subjective world, while tamo guna presides over the objective world and the two are brought into dynamic relationship by the kinetic force of Rajas. These are the eternal principles of creation.
3. Sankya Philosophy & Ayurveda
There is Purusha and purusha, the ‘Self’ and the ‘self’. Charaka tells us that everything about the purusha, the individual, is established in the human body. The classical works by the three great authorities on Ayurveda: Charaka, Shushrut and Vagbhat, use the term prakruti to describe the constitution of the individual. Prakruti is the genetic make-up that is unique to each individual and is expressed in terms of the three gunas. We saw that the three gunas are further differentiated into the five elements and the science of the three gunas and the five elements represent the building blocks of Ayurvedic medicine.
The Rishis further cognized that the three gunas and the five elements manifest in the human constitution as three fundamental principles or humors that under lie all mental, emotional and bodily functions. These three humors or doshas are known as vata, pitta and kapha, and they are responsible for the creation of the dhatus and thus the flesh and blood of the body itself.
The science of Ayurveda is the science of Tridosha, and an individual’s prakruti is described in terms of the doshas. Manas prakruti describes our mental constitution in terms of sattva, rajas, and tamas. Deha prakruti describes our physical attributes in terms of the doshas.
4. Ayurvedic Anatomy & Physiology
4.1 The Doshas
Even the casual reader of modern Ayurvedic writings has learned that the doshas are a manifestation of the five great elements, the pancha mahabhutas. Vata is a manifestation of the ether and air elements, pitta of fire and water, and kapha, water and earth.
Since vata rules space and air, it governs all the spaces in the body. It also controls all bodily movements and has specific authority over the nervous, sensory and motor systems. Vata accumulates in the large intestines, bones, skin and ears as these are the seat of vata.
Pitta is the fire principle and it therefore governs metabolism on the mental, emotional and biochemical/physiological levels and thus, it rules hunger as well as thirst. The primary location of pitta is the small intestines, blood, sweat glands, skin and eyes.
Kapha provides nourishment, structure, solidity and stability for all bodily tissues. It rules all secretions that lubricate the body – the mucous membranes and joints. Kapha is to be found in the chest, stomach, fatty tissue, sinuses, nasal passages, lymph, pancreas, joints, plasma and all mucous secretions.
The doshas accumulate at their primary locations and thus give rise to symptoms that are referred to as disease in allopathic medicine. An imbalance in the doshas, due to a faulty Agni and hence, incomplete digestion, causes toxins or ama to build-up in the digestive tract and circulate throughout the body. Ama accumulates in areas of weakness and prevents the assimilation of nutrients and deprives the dhatus of proper nutrition. Disease begins to manifest in that location. The first task in Ayurvedic treatment is to kindle Agni and to detoxify Ama from the system.
4.2 The Sapta Dhatus
The human body is made up seven Dhatus or tissues and these form the basic building blocks for all bodily structures. The dhatus are a manifestation of the five great elements – space, air, fire, water and earth. The different dhatus have different proportions of the elements. Each tissue has its own dhatu agni and when functioning properly, the dhatus provide protection and immunity to the entire organism. The product of digestion is referred to as ahara rasa and this provides nutrition for all the dhatus. Thus, the dhatus themselves are the product of digestion. Ahara rasa is transformed by the special agni of each dhatu in a sequential metabolic pathway. Along the way, the upadhatus, secondary tissues, and the malas, bodily wastes, are formed. The seven dhatus are as follows:
- Rasa – plasma,
- rakta – blood,
- mamsa – muscle,
- meda – fat,
- Asthi – bone,
- majja – marrow & nerves,
- shukra and artava – reproductive tissue.
The seven dhatus form the bulk of the body and the three doshas, vata, pitta and kapha function through them. The dhatus are the dwelling place of the mind and spirit and the doshas are responsible for the creation of the dhatus, the body. The dhatus cannot function independent of the doshas. When the doshas become deranged, they disturb the dhatus and give rise to abnormal conditions, hence disease is the result of abnormalities in the dhatus.
Thus, we see that there is an integral relationship between the body, mind and spirit, and Ayurveda honors this relationship in its treatment of the sick individual.
5. Clinical Case Study
5.1 The Disease
The native presented with a western diagnosis of Charcot-Marie- Tooth disease, a hereditary progressive nerve disorder. According to modern medicine, CMT disease causes demyelination of the myelin sheath protecting the nerve axon of the peroneal nerve. The nerve deteriorates and this causes wasting of muscles and loss of sensation in the extremities. It can cause claw/club foot, foot drop and ataxia. Progressive arm weakness can also be present as distal muscles atrophy affecting the arms, wrists and hands.
Those of us who are aligned with the traditional modalities of healing, such as Homeopathy, Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, know that the name is not the disease. We know that disease is a state of disorder, an energetic imbalance that manifests itself in terms of symptoms that must be seen as a totality in the person.
Dis-ease is a struggle with life itself and Jyotish is clearly able to tell us the nature of the struggle as well as the locations in the body where the stress causes the destruction of tissues and organs.
There is much that could be said about the following chart but the intention is to point some out of the striking features that support the model of the doshas and the dhatus that was presented to us by Maharishi Parasara.
In Ayurveda, the body, mind and spirit are said to be the tripod of life, and in Jyotish this tripod is represented by the Sun, Moon and ascendant. Thus, the Sun, Moon and ascendant must always be examined from a health perspective. Manas prakruti should be examined from the Moon.
The native has a Libra lagna with the lagna lord, Venus, placed in the 11th house, in the pitta rasi, Leo. Venus is aspected by Rahu from the pitta rasi, Sagittarius, by graha drishti. Venus is also aspected by rasi drishti from the Moon from the pitta rasi, Aries, and Saturn from tridoshic Libra. The lagna is occupied by Saturn, a vata planet and it is aspected by the Moon from a pitta rasi and Jupiter from tridoshic Gemini. We see a predominance of pitta dosha with some vata and kapha as a secondary influences.
From Chandra lagna, we have Aries rising and the lord, Mars, occupying the fiery sign of Sagittarius, conjoined Rahu. The lagna and lagna lord are aspected by vata Saturn. Venus is aspecting chandra lagna from fiery Leo. Again, the predominant influence is pitta dosha with vata and kapha as secondary influences.
From the Sun, Cancer is lagna as kapha rasi, with the lord occuping the fiery sign of Aries, while the Sun itself is aspected by Mars from Sagittarius. Saturn is also aspecting. Again the predominant influence is pitta dosha with kapha and some vata as secondary influences.
The prakruti is P3K2V1, with pitta as the overriding influence on the constitution. This assessment agrees with clinical findings from the pulse, lifestyle assessment, case history and particularly from personality/psychological evaluation.
Prakruti is the ratio of the doshas at the time of birth and this is reflected in the rasi chakra. The rasi chakra rules over the physical body. Prakruti must be known to carry out the appropriate treatment in terms of diet, lifestyle and herbal therapy. According to Ayurveda, prakruti is constantly changing and this can be due to seasonal changes, eating habits or mental emotional responses to one’s environment. Fear will aggravate vata, anger and irritability will aggravate pitta and emotional attachment will aggravate kapha. Prakruti indicates predisposition to disease, and a prominent dosha at birth will tend to become increased due to external modalities. For instance, a pitta individual loves competitive situations in all his activities, and these will tend to further increase his pitta nature. This change in the doshas is reflected in the vikruti, the present state of the constitution.
In astrological terms, changes in prakruti can be seen as we progress through the dasha sequence in our chart. Vikruti should also be examined from the Shastamsa (D-6), the varga chart that indicates the underlying causes as well as the fluctuations in health and disease.
5.4 Disease Proneness
So far we’ve looked at prakruti and vikruti. This is not enough to determine the predisposition towards a chronic illness or the timing of ill health and this is where astrological analysis can be an indispensable tool to the Ayurvedic practitioner.
In the case presented, Venus is the lagna lord and he occupies the 11th house. He is neecha in the Navamsa, in the 5th house, and hemmed-in between malefic planets. The 11th house is a bhadakasthana for a Libra lagna and the Sun is therefore bhadakesh. The Sun occupies his mrityu bhaga degree of Cancer, an unfavorable indication. The bhadakasthana will cause obstruction to the flow of energy in that part of the body, especially if other malefic influences are indicated. Venus is conjoined Mandi and Gulika, and he is also the lord of the 8th house from lagna, the lord of Mrityupada (A8) the arudha of the 8th, and the lord of Roga Saham (16 Ta 15). In fact, Venus is exactly conjoined Gulika, an ominous factor for the health of the native. Venus is also aspected by neecha Rahu from the nakshatra of poorva phalguni, which is owned by Venus.
In addition, Venus is aspected by the Moon and Saturn by rasi drishti and these planets are not without some maleficence. The Moon is nakshatra lord of Roga saham and a maraka for the native as he is placed in the 7th from lagna. Saturn is Yogakaraka for Libra lagna but he is also lord of the 22nd drekkana and the 8th house from AL.
The affliction to Venus, as lagna lord, shows that the native is predisposed to chronic health problem. Now we must determine the location of the problem.
All this affliction to Venus in the 11th house indicates that the affliction has to do with the lower extremeties and that it has to be a pitta disturbance with the fiery sign of Leo occupying the 11th bhava. The Sun, the lord of the 11th is aspected by pitta Mars from the fiery sign of Sagittarius, which further aggravates pitta dosha in that region of the body. Mars is a maraka planet, conjoined Rahu and placed exactly in his mrityu bhaga degree in Sagittarius and because of his influence on mrityu bhaga Sun, he can cause serious problems to the health.
The 3rd house is afflicted by excess fire and this indicates that the arms, wrists and hands are also sites for the disease. The sign of Gemini, is also afflicted, a significator of the upper limbs. Gemini is Shatrupada (A6) and it is occupied by AK Jupiter the 6th lord, as well as Mercury and debilitated Ketu. Mercury as 9th lord is neecha in D-9. The affliction to the 9th house shows that bhagya is destroyed.
Ketu is Maheshwara and he is also in his Mrityu bhaga degree and he exactly conjoins Jupiter, the atmakaraka. Jupiter is the 6th lord, and the additional aspect of Mars and Rahu on the 6th house and Jupiter shows that liver dysfunction and intestinal problems can be a prime cause of the native’s condition. The small intestines is the seat of pitta dosha and this is where the accumulation begins before it enters the blood stream and circulates throughout the body. Increased pitta or pitta type emotions can cause damage to the liver.
In D-6, the Shastamsa, Virgo is rising and Mercury, the lagna lord is placed in the 11th house, conjoined Venus. Venus is the lord of AL. The lagna lord and the aruda lagna lord are both aspected by Mars, the 8th lord from the lagna and the 12th from the aruda lagna. Mars is placed in his own sign, Aries, and he aspects the Sun, who is 12th lord and placed in 3rd house. The Moon is placed in the 8th house as 11th lord, and Mars aspects the 11th house. Both the Moon and Mars are aspected by the malefic nodes and Jupiter from the fire sign, Leo from the 12th bhava. Affliction to the 3rd, 11th and 12th, from Mars, show the destruction of tissue in the arms, wrists and hands, as well as legs and feet. The susceptibility to chronic health problems is indicated and the powerful Mars, as 3rd and 8th lord, shows that pitta dosha has entered deep into the body to cause destruction of the dhatus.
With maraka Jupiter placed in the 12th house in D-6, conjoined Rahu/Ketu and aspected by Mars by rasi drishti, indicates some serious incapacity for the liver to detoxify excess pitta from the body to prevent a chronic condition.
5.5 Dhatu Dushti – Disorder of the Tissues
The native complained of burning pains in the legs, arms and feet. The excess fire, pitta dosha, had entered rasa and rakta dhatu, to circulate through the body and finally settled in the weakest tissue, majja dhatu. Mars rules majja dhatu and the affliction to mrityu bhaga Mars in D-1, as well as his lordship and associations in D-6, causes destruction of that dhatu. The excess pitta in majja dhatu, destroys the myelin sheath in the nerve tissue and brings about this terrible condition. Because of the destruction of the dhatu, the tissue is unable to transmit the nerve impulses to the extremeties, a vata function.
5.6 The Timing of the Disorder
The native entered his Mars vimshottari dasha in January 1995. Symptoms developed in Mars/Ketu, mid-1999, and he received the diagnosis in Mars/Sun. Mars is a powerful maraka for Libra lagna, as lord of the 2nd and the 7th. He is conjoined with debilitated Rahu in the Upapada lagna, the arudapada of the 12th house. Marriage is seen from the Upapada, and the native had a sudden and unexpected breakup in his marriage and family in the Mars dasha, while neecha Sani was transiting the 7th from the lagna. Planets in the Upapada indicate the nature of the spouse. The presence of malefic Mars conjoined with debilitated Rahu is not good and the nature of the planets indicates the suddenness of the event. The native believed that his condition was brought on by the stress of this event. Mars dasha in D-6 further supports the timing of the disease.
Paryaaya dasha is a rasi dasha that has specific application to D-6, the Shastamsa. It is used to show periods of sickness and chronic illness. In my opinion, it can also be used to determine the derangement in the doshas and dhatus. If planets in D-6 are afflicted and badly placed, then the dhatus represented by those planets are going to be subject to abnormalities. The afflicting planets and signs will shows the dosha(s) that is the culprit. When those planets move into dusthanas from the paryaaya dasa, then we can expect the corresponding dhatu to deteriorate in its function. The afflicting dosha(s) can be seen from the current paryaaya dasa. In the case of this native, the sthira Paryaaya dasha of Scorpio began in 7/1999 and will continue until 7/2008. The first Bhukti was that of Leo. The native reported that he first noticed symptoms in mid-1999. Why does the paryaaya dasa of Scorpio make him vulnerable to health problems?
Scorpio is rogapada (A6), and is aspected by mrityupada (A8). Mars, placed in the 8th from the lagna, now occupies the 6th from the dasa rasi, and is the lagna lord and 6th lord. He receives drishti from Rahu/Ketu, Jupiter and the Sun. Jupiter cannot help and neither can the Moon. The Moon is bhadakesh for Scorpio. Mars, as the significator of majja dhatu, is now in trouble and the symptoms of excess pitta arise in that dhatu because of the natal promise. Mars, as the 6th lord aspects the Sun in the lagna, giving rise to powerful pitta disturbances in the dasa of Scorpio. He also aspects the 8th lord, Mercury, from the dasa rasi, thus promoting disease. Saturn, the lord of the 6th from lagna and also lord of mrityupada is aspecting Scorpio. These are not favorable influences.
Shoola dasha is another dasha that shows suffering and death as well as chronic illnesses. Shoola dasha is only applied to the D-1. The Shoola dasa of Pisces operates from 7/1999 to 7/2008. Pisces is the 6th house of disease and suffering. Jupiter is Atmakaraka and he also qualifies as Maheshwara (Upadesa Sutras, Sanjay Rath, 2.1.46 – 2.1.48). Jupiter is lord of Pisces and he is conjoined Ketu who is Rudra, and this brings suffering to the native and destruction to the body. Mars and Rahu also influence Pisces and its lord Jupiter. The AL, Virgo, and its lord Mercury, suffer similar influences. Since debilitating chronic disease affect one’s image in the world, malefic influences must also be seen from the AL. Thus, the Shoola dasa of Pisces is not good for the health.
Using the three dashas, we see that the onset of the disease is clearly indicated in mid-1999.
This article is an attempt to integrate the two great vedic sciences, Jyotisha and Ayurveda. The aim is to arrive at a model that honors the cause of disease rather than the effect. Ayurveda is based on a cosmology that views the individual and his relationship to universe to be the primary factor in health and disease. Our medical astrology thus far has relied on a reductionistic and mechanistic model of anatomy and pathology. It views the body to be an assembly of disparate and often unrelated parts in its view of disease. Disease is a manifestation of consciousness and is not to be found in a particular tissue or organ.
The true cause of disease is karmic and our karmas give rise to our doshic imbalances. Parasara tells us that when God created the Universe, He first created the grahas to deliver the karmas to the souls. Our karmas are none other than transgressions of Divine law and like all human tragedies, our sicknesses represents our most intelligent attempt to redeem our true spiritual nature in our sojourn through planet Earth.
I wish to express my sincere gratitude to my Jyotish Guru, Pt. Sanjay Rath, Sri Jagannath Center, Delhi, for his guidance, encouragement and inspiration in all matters of Jyotish. I also wish to acknowledge my colleagues Robert Koch and Narasimha Rao for their untiring devotion to Jyotish. I have learned much from their generous sharing and insight.
OM TAT SAT
- Crux of Vedic Astrology, Sanjay Rath, Sagar Publications.
- Jaimini Maharishi’s Upadesa Sutras, Sanjay Rath, Sagar Publications.