What the stars foretell?

Shri NaMo’s horoscope AND his chances of becoming India’s Prime Minister

A good friend had sent me the analysis of the horoscope of the Gujarat Chief Minister, Shri. Narendra Modi (NaMo). The analysis has been done by an astrologer cum a big fan of Shri. NaMo. My friend felt that the astrologer has not been able to make a convincing case for Shri. NaMo to become the PM of India, based on his horoscope.

That email triggered some thoughts on astrology, on horoscopes and on the implications for the ‘weak astrological case’ for NaMo to become India’s PM.

I am not an astrologer but was born into a family, which relied on astrology for a living. That is, my mother’s father (my maternal grandfather) was an astrologer and he was a very pious man. So, I have faith in the science of astrology. The problem is that it is not a physical science. The interpretation of what the natal chart means is as much, if not more, art as it is mathematical calculation based.

That is why astrological predictions get the broad trend right but they fall well short on specifics. It is hard to distinguish accurate forecast from chance even in cases where specific predictions are borne out later. That does not discredit astrology nor does it credit astrologers. It is inherent in the science of astrology.

The reasons vary from the practical to the philosophical. The practical reason is that it is hard to know with reasonably high degree of accuracy the birth date and time of the person. That can make a big difference in the casting of the horoscope and the final predictions, especially their timing.

Today, software programmes exist that make it easy to cast the horoscope accurately once the time and place of birth are known with accuracy. Hence, one cannot go wrong.

But, the interpretations of what the planetary positions at the time of birth foretell, in conjunction with where they are placed now are entirely subjective.  It is not uncommon for astrologers to disagree. Again, that does not discredit either astrology or the astrologers. It happens in many other areas where human interpretation (and the inevitable judgement that is part of it) is involved.

Presented with the same financial statements, different analysts can reach entirely different conclusions about the underlying health of the company. They need to take into account information on the health of the competitors, on the personality of the CEOs, their experience, history, the company’s values, integrity, its attitude to consumers. The final assessment would thus rest on quantitative, quantifiable and qualitative factors.

The analogy with doctors, patients and diagnosis is closer.  A given set of symptoms can flag a wide range of possible underlying ailments and diseases. To zero in on the ailment that his patient is possibly suffering from, a skilled doctor has to rely as much on his judgement as he does on his theoretical knowledge. His judgement would have to factor in, but not limited to, the patient’s overall health, his appearance, his face, his eyes, his nails, his eating habits, his physical activity, patient’s history of illnesses and health and finally the doctor’s intuition.

The situation is similar with a horoscope. For certain configurations and the current positions of the planet, a wide range of predictions may be possible or even plausible. However, which one is more likely to occur in the case of the person whose horoscope is being examined is a matter of judgement. It would involve studying the subject’s horoscope, that of his parents, his children’s horoscope, the past experience of the subject during previous phases (how far they conformed (or, not) to what theory would predict, etc.

The intuition of an astrologer is to be honed through sadhana. It does not come easily. It takes years. It is not easy in the world of astrology or jyotisha as commerce. To a degree, commercialisation is inevitable and it may not often signal greed and avarice. One has to make a living. But, it is a fact that it detracts from prediction accuracy.

The sheer fact that astrologers are mortals on this earth implies that there is a natural, inherent limitation as to how much, how far and how reliably they can predict. This observation by Shri.M, made in a different context is apt:

The Avadhoot Gita – it’s a beautiful book and very interesting. The Avadhoot Dattatreya had twenty four teachers in his life and one of them was the honey–bee. The Avadhoot says ‘I learnt the lesson from the honey–bee – collecting and keeping something for a rainy day; and also how it goes from flower to flower, sucks the honey and gathers it all together’ – which means there is nobody on this earth who knows everything. As long as you have a physical body, there is nobody who knows everything. So we need to learn. At any time, one should be prepared to learn. And for learning – especially deep things like the Upanishads – one needs to have the humility to think that, ‘perhaps I am learning something new – let me listen and learn’. If I say ‘I know’ then I cannot learn; and in this field sometimes, all that we have studied also might act as an obstacle.

From my personal experience, I can cite several examples where astrological predictions were closer to the mark or were off-target. When I contemplated starting my own hedge fund in 2004, a well-known astrologer warned me not to do so. He was proven right. I closed down the Fund within eighteen months of my starting it. However, during the same phase, another astrologer was almost certain that the period would also entail health problems for me. My health held up well during that phase.

Fast forward, the period from late 2009 to early 2013 was tipped to be a difficult period for me – more at the level of the mind than through physical or real setbacks. It was broadly right. There was at least one big health alarm which turned out to be false eventually. Otherwise, I would not be around to write this blog post. However, during that phase, one astrologer said that I would not give up on my corporate career and that the stress I was expected to face during that period would arise from that. In reality, I gave up my corporate job in mid-2011. Another astrologer had, however, said that the phase I was going through entailed that. So, it was no surprise for him!

Then, in 2010, as we purchased an independent house in Singapore and were planning to move in, one astrologer felt that the period entailed serious health risk for my father with the inevitable fate that befalls all human beings being one of the possibilities. My father was already past 80. But, in the end, he was fine and the planned purchase and move went through smoothly.

Actually, the astrologer, who said that the phase I was going through entailed the loss of a job, gave a good analogy to describe the usefulness of astrology and of consulting astrologers. I had asked him about the role of karma (acts of omission and commission) or vasanas from previous births influencing one’s fortunes and outcomes in this birth. My subtext was that since karma was deemed the sole determining factor, what was there to be gained from consulting charts and astrologers?

He responded well. He said that if one’s karma was like the darkness of the night on the road (you cannot help it), astrological consultation could be like a lamp that helps to light up the path to enable you to walk through the darkness better.  I think his analogy is right. It could light up a part of it and there would still be darkness – hiding dangers or opportunities (both are possible). Further, even if it lights up the path, it might not help us avoid all dangers – the smallest nail or thorn might still prick us. There are no guarantees with astrology. Of course, neither astrology nor its practitioners of yore ever spoke in those terms.

Since the planetary positions at the time of one’s birth are something that cannot be changed, it is often felt that one’s future is pre-determined at the time of birth. We will not delve too much into the philosophical aspects of this eternal question. But, a philosophical detour is inevitable. Before that, a modern analogy is in order.

In modern parlance, the horoscope is equivalent to inheriting a balance sheet. A balance sheet is a snapshot of one’s assets and liabilities – consequences of past performance of the firm. The same is the case with a horoscope. It is a snapshot of past karma.

But, once someone inherits a balance sheet, his actions of commission and omission are like the annual income statements. It is true that the balance sheet influences the evolution of the income statement in the years ahead but it is also true that the income statement can change the composition of the balance sheet.

How does one make the evolution of the income statement influence the balance sheet for the better? This is where freewill comes into play. Not in the way one might guess, of course, because there is no free will, in the highest state of human evolution. We are getting ahead of ourselves.

A learned Hindu scholar told us in one of his recent lectures that between karma (actions in the past and in the present) and karta (the doer), there is God. In other words, there is no mechanical transference between past karma and their consequences. God intermediates.

Let us look at a more practical illustration. Just as past crimes might land someone in a jail but subsequent exemplary behaviour can get the sentence commuted, the consequences of karma can be mitigated by good behaviour. In fact, in a conversation with a seeker, the Sankaracharya of Sringeri has said that if YOUR past actions determined your present fate, then YOUR actions today can help to enhance their good effects or attenuate their bad consequences. Of course, as I wrote before, highly evolved souls do not think that free will exists at all.

What is that good behaviour that can mitigate the punishment for the past bad behaviour (bad karma) and how does it square with this notion of ‘no freewill’?

If, in the present birth, one acted with the total and ever-present realisation that one is but an instrument of God and performs one’s duties and actions in that spirit, then the imaginary conflict between fate and free-will disappears. There is neither fate nor free will. There is only divine will. Where the ego disappears, there is only divinity left. Once such a ‘divine will’ confronts fate, there is no scope for fate to exist or play out. The horoscope becomes meaningless.

Therefore, in the final analysis, it does not matter whether Shri.Narendra Modi’s horoscope foretells if he would become the Prime Minister of India. If he is performing his duties in the spirit of being an instrument of god, then his horoscope cannot stop him from being the Prime Minister of India, if god has chosen him to play that role.

On the other hand, if he does not carry the spirit of surrender, then his horoscope may come into play. Or, more pertinently, it may well be India’s fate (or its bad horoscope) if he did not get to become India’s Prime Minister for the other choices available to India do not bode well for the country.

In the final analysis, predicting his chances of becoming the Prime Minister of India based on his horoscope does not leave us any wiser about his chances or that of India’s.

(The link given at the beginning is from the article written by Shri. Utpal Pathak in December 2012. He has posted a few more analyses of Shri. Narendra Modi’s chart subsequently.  You can find them here. He appears to have become more confident of Mr. Modi becoming the PM, based on a reading of his birth chart juxtaposed with actual developments in 2013 )

9 thoughts on “What the stars foretell?

  1. Interesting article, Ananth, touching on two major eternal topics viz., Astrology and Freewill. And finally bringing in Mr.Modi in a way. I think your comments and views on Astrolgy are very apt. It is as much an art as it is science. Intuition and the sadhana do play a big part, as you have righlt said. Regarding freewill, in the past too we have exchanged our views. I am of the view that freewill exists, as given by God like Parents giving certain freedom to the children. And shastras & granthas such as Vedas/Upanishads/Brahmasutram/Bhagavad Gita & Itihasas exist as guidelines to use our freewill in a dharmic way and along a chosen sadhana path. eventually we reap what we sow but with God as the intermediary (as you have rightly quoted). I am not interested in Mr.Modi. So, no coments on that part of the article. I am hoping for a better quality Govt in India and a serious no-nonsense leader for Indian Population to emerge by June. I am with you that what exists currently is not that.
    Thanks for whipping up some thoughts on these topics.
    Best Regards

  2. What you have mentioned here as being an instrument of God is also otherwise known as Arpana-buddhi Prasada-buddhi. Everything we do is an offering and what you (think) you receive you accept as prasadam. It is a significant mind shift that changes the lens through which we view and live life. Your transactional priorities may or may not change however the way you flow through it changes. Even though arpanam and prasadam sound transactional with God, you do it in the mindset of God acting through you, as ‘swaha’. In your analogy, it is like God holding the torch with you. Depending on your extent of surrender you can say I don’t need the torch (i.e.astrology or some other support), I am fine that the guiding thought in me will take me and even if I stumble, fine, I will pick myself up….or you can say I still need the torch because I feel I need to still see my path (as an individual). The ‘wild card’ is you don’t know how much pain or pleasure is in store and it requires not just surrender/trust/faith but also guts in doing so and dropping the torch ‘cos there is no easy way out of your evolution. No pain no gain. Faith will be the painkiller that makes growing through pain most tolerable. My take is you still use all the learnings and tools that have helped you thus far, just that your approach to living changes. Surrender does not necessarily invalidate other tools that you may have found useful in ‘making sense of life’.

  3. Hi Ananth – Very nice article and thoughts. Hailing from an ancestry which depended on astrology for living, I too have positive vibes about astrology although the predictions are more an art than science – at least it seems so. The efficacy of predictions depend on intuition on applying the right set of principles as very often multiple counter-acting indications exist.

    I am reminded of a real-life quote from Sri. BV Raman’s book – his grandfather B Surianarayana Rao used to have a sadas of famed astrologers during his birthday (or some occasion every year, I can’t recollect). Once his grandfather gave a horoscope of a woman and asked all to predict about her married life. Almost everyone predicted that she would be a widow but one said she will have a good married life although mundane indications show otherwise. It seems even BV Raman challenged him how he came to that quotation and where is the Pramana for which he quoted some verse. BVR countered him that does not apply here. At the end of the arguments, his grand-father agreed with his analysis and confirmed that she has a good married life. So, it is a subtle subject.

    I am also seeing that almost 99% of the political predictions are turning out to be incorrect – I don’t know why but it is so. I remember reading in The New Astrological magazine that NaMo has an edge over Rahul Gandhi but the likelihood of some unknown entrant snatching PM from these two should not be discounted. We can only pray that it is not AAP – who are proving themselves to be a bunch of headline snatchers by hook or crook!

    People claim that it is possible to dissect one’s karma by a detailed analysis of 5th, 9th and 10th houses and divisional charts – but how many truly qualified astrologer exist is a moot question.

  4. Thanks for sharing this. It is an interesting analysis. Astrology is a great science for one to dismiss it altogether. But the problem as analysed in the article, the divurgent outcome from diffierent astrologers. Ultimately it becomes a personal choice like a physician whom we trust based on his diagonosis, prescription and the positive result one has experienced. We had a family astrologer who has tuned so fine with our family and we had enormous satisfaction on his predictions and suggestions, who was old and died some years back. After we could not pitch on any one to that level, meaning , no has come any way close to him. Having said that, one question remains in my mind, that I have seen many twins and their life style vary totally apart in every respect. If the subtle variation in the birth time can be so influential and the planets can throw different reactions and results, to what extent one can be sure of this science , however, efficient an astrologer may be. Even some of the astrogers to whom I have posed this question, could not give me a convincing reply.


  5. Thank you, Mr. Ramanathan. The story of twins is also especially useful reminder of the limitations. To an extent, astrology and relying on stars and horoscopes is our (mine too) attempt to make our life deterministic (removing the uncertainty) and that is, perhaps, an argument with divinity, in some sense.

  6. Now that Modi is confirmed to become the PM of India – confuting all the astrological prognostications and pragmatic conjectures of arithmetic strength BJP/Modi could possibly get – the topic is worth a relook! As I mentioned before, the political predictions in astrology have rarely come true – notwithstanding the personal level prediction accuracy to some. This is an area that needs research!

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