As we gear up for spring, we talked to Madhavi Rathod, a fourth generation Vedic astrologer who focuses on assisting people in living a life better aligned with their higher purpose in life, or their dharma. Combining Vedic astrology (Jyotish) with Eastern palmistry and Ayurveda (the East Indian system of holistic healing), Madhavi shared with us some wisdom, along with a few predictions for the year. Vedic astrology, or Jyotish, originated in India thousands of years ago. Its goal is to provide us with a deeper understanding of ourselves through a fuller appreciation of our destiny.
LM: Holding a Master’s degree in Finance and Marketing, how did you first become interested in becoming an Ayurvedic Practitioner?
MR: Well, it was never intentional. I had just begun graduate school and working about 60 hours a week in the brokerage industry in Chicago. I encountered health issues and had a very difficult time finding relief. A few years later, someone suggested Ayurvedic treatments. It was actually my sister who was interested in studying Ayurveda. So, I decided to go check out the school for her. I went to New Mexico and had panchakarma. The teacher, Dr. Lad, planted a seed, and invited me to come study there. After much contemplation, I decided to take responsibility for my own healing and moved to New Mexico several months later. I didn’t realize how bad the economy was in New Mexico and it was difficult to find the same type of employment there. Three years later, I returned to Chicago and was again unable to find the type of work in which I had been trained. So I worked in a medical setting. As an adjunct, I set up an Ayurvedic practice. That eventually grew and became a primary focus for me.
LM: Having studied Vedic Astrology and Palmistry since 1995 with renowned astrologer Hart deFouw, the co-author of ‘Light on Life: An Introduction to Vedic Astrology’ and ‘Light on Relationships,’ what lead you to include astrology and palmistry into the suite of Ayurvedic services you offer your clients?
MR: I also met Hartji in New Mexico, as he was on the staff at the Ayurvedic Institute. Once I had briefly shown him my astrological chart and he pinpointed what was happening in my life, without my providing any details. Thus, I then made it my mission to learn what he knew and began taking all the seminars he offered. Traditionally in India, Ayurveda, Jyotish, Yoga, Hasta Samudrika Shastra (Palmistry), and Vaastu Shastra (Vedic architecture) are all sister sciences. A skilled Vaidya (Ayurvedic physician) also knew Vedic Astrology and Palmistry so they could use these sciences as other tools in their analysis. They’d recommend specific yoga asanas for common health ailments. And by knowing Vaastu, you can learn how an individual’s living environment may be impacting their health.
For me, it was a natural progression. Having a birth chart alongside an Ayurvedic consultation provides me with deeper insight into what is happening in a client’s life. It’s particularly helpful in instances where the individual has not had any success with past treatments. It helps me see the planetary influences contributing the disease, as well as cycles for vitality, ill health, and recovery.
Knowing medical palmistry shows me health markings on the hands. When I see multiple factors (i.e. pulse, the hand, and the chart), then I get confluence and that better allows me to devise a plan of treatment for the individual.
LM: Can you share with us what of the main differences are between Vedic astrology (Jyotish) and Western astrology? Are there any similarities between the two?
MR: Primarily, Jyotish is a lunar based system; we are concerned with the placement of your Moon – by sign and also what nakshatra (constellation or star) it is in. Western astrology emphasizes your Sun sign.
Vedic astrology also accounts for the fact a phenomenon known as the precession of the equinox. Since the earth is tilted on its axis, it’s not possible for the Sun to return to the exact same place as it was on that date a year ago. Over 1000s of years, this has resulted in approximately a 24 degree difference between where planets are in the heavens, vs. where they were originally placed.
Thus, most planets shift back one sign in Vedic astrology, as compared to your Western chart.
Jyotish also utilizes the dasha system; this is a mathematical calculation of planetary cycles which you experience from birth to death. Your dasha period has a tremendous impact on what you experience at any given time. Western astrology does not have this concept. Additionally, Jyotish uses the amsha or divisional charts to provide details on matters of specific interest to an individual. For example, there are charts pertaining to your relationships, siblings, career, health, children, parents, spiritual practices, etc. These types of charts are not utilized in Western astrology.
Yes, there are plenty of similarities. Both systems utilize the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn in their interpretation. The significance of the planets is fairly alike in both Western astrology and Jyotish. We also have the concepts of the nodes (known as Rahu and Ketu in Jyotish) in both system, but with different interpretations. Jyotish does not traditionally utilize outer planets: Neptune, Pluto, and Uranus, though you do see some Jyotishis (Vedic astrologers) in America who do use them in their chart interpretation.
We also primarily agree on what each house (1-12) means in both systems, as well as what each sign indicates.
Many of my fellow jyotishis are former Western astrologers who enjoy the added nuances that Jyotish offers them and their clients. (More here)
LM: Having worked at and graduating from the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, NM, what key takeaways can you provide to all those interested in pursuing a similar career path? (ie, how many years of study did this require, how much is need for tuition, things you were surprised to learn – completely different than what you thought before you studied Ayurveda, learned more about)
MR: I spent 3 years at the Ayurvedic Institute. The first year was the general studies program. The next 2 years, I spent in the Gurukula program, where we were instructed about treating specific illnesses and saw patients each week with Dr. Lad. We also learned Sanskrit, Anatomy & Physiology, and Yoga. Additionally, I worked in the herbal department and prepared client herbal formulations daily. That proved to be tremendously useful in knowing how to approach various imbalances. I now have a pharmacy of over 40 herbs that I keep for my clients.
The program has become much more structured since I left and the students are required to do more classes and group work. Now, level 1 is 720 hours of classroom time. Year 2 is 750 hours. There is also an optional Gurukula program at Dr. Lad’s clinic in India. It is 120 hours.
For this academic year, year 1 is a little over $10,000 and year 2 is $11,000. Tuition alone for the India program is about $3,000. (For more info)
It was tremendously helpful to learn how to pay close attention to my body, what agrees with me in terms of diet and lifestyle, and how to make the appropriate changes. Ayurveda is not a “one size fits all” prescription, and knowing how to tweak my daily routine through Ayurvedic methods which restore balance proved to be tremendously helpful in my personal healing process.
LM: Having also studied with Maya Tiwari at the Wise Earth School in North Carolina, what are some important Vedic rituals our readers can benefit from as we gear up for 2014?
MR: Mother Maya (as she is called) emphasized living in harmony with our environment, and practicing ahimsa. Ahimsa is the practice of non-violence, to ourselves and others. If people are so inclined, they can take a vow of ahmisa online.
They can incorporate chanting while they are cooking. Mother Maya has a beautiful cd of Vedic chants: Darshana. And say a prayer of blessing before they eat their food.
Mother Maya also stressed the importance of eating foods which our ancestors ate. For instance, in India, the main grain is basmati rice. So, it’s important for Indians to have that as part of their diet, as that is in their lineage. Learn what grains your ancestors ate, and incorporate that into your diet in 2014. Tap into your heritage.
After eating, sit on your heels for 10 minutes (in vajrasana) or go for a short walk, to facilitate digestion.
Practice pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation to quiet the mind and bring the body back into harmony.
LM: At Vedic Healing, you offer both Jyotish and Ayurvedic consultations. What are the key areas you focus on in these personal one on one consultations? How are they customized to meet the individual where they are?
MR: My first objective is to find out what the client’s initial concern(s) are and then focus on those topics. For an Ayurvedic consultation, I send the clients a questionnaire in advance. I ask them about what their primary health issues(s), get information on their health history, diet, daily routine, etc. Additionally, I ask them how much time and effort they are willing and able to make to implement any suggested changes. So, this advance information provides me with a solid foundation for our meeting. It affords me the opportunity to have additional questions prepared for them, think of some possible ways to balance their health, and do any research on medications that they may be taking. I also ask for copies of their medical tests. I used to work in medical laboratories during high school and college, so that background comes in handy. I can see what’s going on from a Western perspective and then apply the Eastern approach to healing. When we meet, I take their pulse, look at their tongue, nails, and facial features. I also assess how they fast or slowly they may walk and talk, and incorporate medical palmistry to arrive at a fuller reason for the cause of their dis-ease.
In Jyotish readings, I ask the client in advance what their main concerns are, so that I can focus on those arenas, along with providing a broad overview of their chart. The main topics always come down to the honey and the money. It’s about relationships (lack of one or problems with the current one) and finances (jobs, promotions, money flow). I see the karmic patterns and look at the planetary transits and their cycles. What I attempt to do is to provide an objective perspective on what they are experiencing, when the situation may change, how to best utilize the current cycle to their optimum benefit, and what to potentially avoid.
LM: Can you share a story with our readers on how you were able to assist a client – on both, Ayurvedic and Jyotish side? (Doesn’t have to be one client, can be one client on ayurvedic side, one on jyotish side)
MR: Sure, on the Ayurvedic side, I’ll use a current example of client whom I’ll call Mary is in her late 70s. She was dealing with thyroid issues, fatigue, osteoporosis, rashes, digestive issues and a host of other complaints. She was very motivated to make changes and had some background in Ayurveda. Part of her problem was that she had been told to do certain practices by young students, which were creating a greater imbalance. . It was clear from my assessment that Vata was the dosha which needed to be pacified. As we age, Vata is also more likely to go out of balance. I had her modify her diet and start doing simple oil massage and gargling with sesame oil. I also suggested some simple teas and herbs to assist with her digestion.
She’d contact me with questions between visits and then come back every few months so that we could plan the next phase of her treatment. She began to feel more energetic. Her digestion improved tremendously. Some of her chronic complaints began to subside and she felt more empowered to take charge of her health. Mary started making rituals out of some of the practices I’d given her and they became part of her daily routine. I started to see a visual shift in her appearance. She skin was glowing and others also saw the change. Mary started studying Sanskrit recently, and has been taking Ayurvedic herbs to help with memory and concentration. They’ve made a huge difference, she reported. She asked me recently about doing a detox so that will our next step in restoring her to wellness.
A long-standing Jyotish client of mine is someone I’ll call John. He came to me years ago at the suggestion of his wife. He was at a crossroads in his career and needed to make some important decisions. I evaluated his options astrologically and gave him the pros and cons of each offer. Over the years, we’ve spoken regularly about career promotions, his bosses, and other job offers. There was an instance where John had the opportunity to relocate for work. I utilized an astrocartography program and evaluated how the move would impact him and his entire family. Like John, the better I get to know a client and their personal nuances, the easier it is for me to provide them with guidance. We’ve also discussed his health issues, from both an Ayurvedic and astrological perspective, and how he could remedy them.
As John’s children are growing. I’ve looked at each of their charts and provided some insight into their education, personality traits, and interpersonal dynamics
What jyotish allows me to do for John and others is to provide an objective perspective on situations. In each instance, the ultimate decision was his (that’s where the free will comes in), though he has chosen to follow my guidance.
LM: Can you offer any advice to budding Vedic Astrologers?
MR: First, I’d commend them on their courage to take on such an endeavor. In the Vedic culture, it is said that there are 64 kalas (or skills), and of them, Jyotish is considered to be the most difficult to master, with Ayurveda being a close second. You need to commit to ongoing study. And that should not be just via books or the internet. Jyotish and its sister sciences are aural and oral traditions that are part of the Vedic sampradaya. You need a teacher who is part of a lineage and steeped in this vidya. They need to guide you through the Sanskrit texts and the principles of Jyotish and explain the seeming paradoxes. The great sage Varahamira, the author of notable Jyotish shastras said: “Jyotish is a vast ocean of knowledge, which takes lifetimes to traverse.”
And please do not get into it for the sake of interpreting your own chart, as you will soon learn that you can never be 100% objective in that interpretation nor will you be able to predict accurately for yourself all the time.
Be clear on what your objective is in your study. Have a strong spiritual practice and be disciplined there. You need to regularly connect with a greater force when practicing Jyotish, as we are interpreting the influence of the heavens.
Additionally, enter the chart through the viewpoint of the client, not your own. An Aries ascendant will approach a situation very differently from a Gemini ascendant. As my Jyotish teacher asks, “Are you reading 100 different charts or are you reading the same chart 100 different times?”
He also reminds us that the birth chart is a starting point, not an ending point. Be willing to be wrong and learn from your mistakes. Maintain your humility.
Remember to step off the paper and visualize what the ancient skygazers must have seen in the heavens with the astronomical placements. Have a 3 dimensional perspective of a chart, not just a computer printout. That will vastly expand your interpretation.
LM: I have read that the goal of Jyotish is moksha, or transcendence of the negative that stands between us and enlightenment, do you agree with that theory?
MR: In Hinduism, the ultimate goal is moksha. The means by which we arrive at moksha is through sadhana (spiritual practice). Jyotish in itself is a sadhana. It can lead us self-knowledge, so in that way we are not bound by our limited thinking about ourselves and our circumstances. The chart is a road map of our karma, and if we utilize it as a guide, we can avoid some potholes and construction when we are navigating our road to enlightenment; it makes for a smoother journey.
LM: If you could name one principle of Jyotish that is often underestimated, what would that be? (ie, Jupiter’s position in a Kendra or quadrant (1st, 4th, 7th and 10th houses) as capable of providing relief no matter how strong an affliction was, whether it was a natal or horary or Muhurta chart)
MR: What I hear most, especially from my Indian clients, is that Saturn is a graha (planet) to be dreaded and feared. The minute they know that they are in Saturn dasha or bhukti (planetary cycle), then they remember what they heard from ages ago. This was most likely from another family member or jyotishi who told them that Saturn is bad. They instinctively think that something terrible is going to happen to them. This is not necessarily so. We have to see the condition of Saturn in any chart, what sign is it in, what house it’s placed in (1st – 12th), and what other planets are influencing it. For some, Saturn can be a planet connected to prosperity. It can be involved in the formation of dhana yogas – planetary combinations linked to wealth. It can bring great success for certain individuals.
Yet, Saturn is also as our greatest teacher. Saturn is known as Shani in Sanskrit. It can represent that which we shun. As the slow walker (it has manda gati), Saturn stays in a zodiacal sign for approximately 2.5 years. It takes up residence and shakes up the matters related to that house, whether it be health, career, finances, relationships, etc. If we can participate in the process of change, and strategize properly, then we can see the benefits of Saturn’s lessons. This propels us in the journey of our personal evolution.
LM: What role does free-will play in changing a negative astrological chart?
MR: That is a great question, and one that each jyotishi encounters. In Jyotish, we say there are three types of karma: the drdh (fixed) karma, the adhrdh (unfixed), and the drdh/ adrdh karma (a mixture of both). There are aspects of our life which are fated: our birthplace, our birth circumstances, our parents. The unfixed karma can be in our daily choices. This can be our friends, how we spend our time, what we wear, what we read, how we decorate our homes, our type of exercise, etc. Then, there’s the grey area. We have free will but we are stuck in our fixed karmas. The word karma means action. Do you notice how some people keep repeating the same patterns over and over again, even if they have the free will to choose otherwise? This can be in our food choices, our friendships, relationships, spending patterns, what we ingest, etc. We have free will, but out patterns lead us to the same outcomes.
I hesitate to use the words negative and chart in the same sentence. In most cases, there are positive aspects to a chart, along with challenges. It’s never 100% either way. We have to look at planetary cycles to see what may be manifesting at any given time for an individual.
If a person is in a difficult cycle, then they can choose to engage in activities which could potentially change their circumstances. For example, if the person has ill health, then they could choose to be proactive about it, or do nothing. They can choose to make dietary changes and adopt healthier patterns, or not. The chart is also likely to indicate these tendencies. If they seek out a doctor to help them, they are exercising their free will. Yet, it’s a matter of karma as to whether they will find the right doctor or not, and when. It’s a dance. The more drdh the karma, the longer it may take to get proper treatment. That does not mean the person should stop looking.
There has to be the desire to change and then this has to be met by the correct astrological timing. If the time is right, but there is no effort, then the problematic situation may not be neutralized.
LM: Any Jyotish predictions you want to share with us for the new year and mankind, at large?
MR: On a macro level, I think 2014 is going to be a year of transformation, both on an individual as well as a global basis.
We are always influenced by Saturn, the slowest moving planet in the zodiac. The slowest moving planets create the longest lasting results, as they set up shop and stay awhile.
Saturn continues its strong placement, as it did last year. It is also with the North node Rahu, for the first half of the year. Saturn’s current position can be likened to a virulent storm. You never know what it’s going to do, but it’s going to wreak havoc in its path. With Rahu, there is the element of suddenness. Fiery, aggressive Mars joins this duo in February and March. Mars and Saturn are like fire and ice; they don’t get along and create friction. Mars returns to do battle with Saturn again in July and August. It’s a time to be wary of interpersonal conflicts.
Saturn also provides us with the opportunity to create new strategies and become more disciplined. It teaches us patience and perseverance. It makes us confront that which we shun.
Political unrest may heighten if no one is willing to make compromises and change their modes of operation. There can be this unwavering focus on winning at all costs. This can have a negative impact on the economy and the markets.
There may be this dynamic tension between their will and others, as well as a need for perfection. A “my way or the highway” phenomenon will crop up. This is particularly true in February, March, July, and August.
This is a year in which many people will be re-evaluating their entire life circumstances and making drastic changes. People will make major moves, career changes, and alter partnerships in a way that will pave the road for the next 20 or so years.
On a more positive note, the benevolent Jupiter is going to be strong for the latter half of this year and half of 2015. Jupiter is the great teacher, as well an indicator for spirituality. It can grant us proper discernment, generosity, and spiritual progress. In Sanskrit, Jupiter is known as the Guru, or the spiritual teacher who leads us from the darkness of ignorance to the light of awareness.
The second half of the year can be characterized by a return to a more generous spirit, a greater interest in following dharma (proper rules of conduct), heightened awareness of others’ needs, a deepening interest in rituals, the desire to contribute to society in a greater way, and much more. We can see the emergence of great spiritual teachers. There can be a return to philosophical traditions and higher learning.
We already have Marianne Williamson running for Congress. It’s been very newsworthy.
So, it’s a time when we have to embrace the change and choose wisely. Then we can progress. It won’t be possible to stay in a holding pattern, as change is imminent.
On a micro level, we’d have to look at an individual’s chart to see how the planetary dynamics and cycles may impact their own lives and how they can best make use of this very powerful year.
As Emerson said, “This time, like all times, is a very good time, if we but know what to do with it.”
About Madhavi Rathod
Madhavi Rathod is a graduate and former employee of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, NM, the premier educational facility for Ayurvedic Medicine in the U.S. She has worked closely with world renowned physician Dr. Vasant Lad, the President of the Ayurvedic Institute. Madhavi has also studied Vedic rituals with Maya Tiwari at the Wise Earth School in North Carolina. Additionally, Madhavi has been continually studying Vedic Astrology and Palmistry since 1995 with renowned astrologer Hart deFouw, the co-author of ‘Light on Life: An Introduction to Vedic Astrology’ and ‘Light on Relationships’. Madhavi holds a Master’s degree in Finance and Marketing from Loyola University in Chicago. It is Madhavi’s goal to support people in achieving their optimal well-being through a holistic plan specifically designed for their circumstances. She may be contacted at 510-214-6108 or home(AT)vedichealing.com