Jyotiṣa and Āyurveda

Was/is Jyotiṣa part of Āyurveda? Is there Jyotiṣa in Āyurveda? That question has different answers from different perspectives.

If we approach it from a Western philological exclusivist perspective, then no. In the Bṛhat Trayi, there is not mention of the signs of the zodiac, planets or aspects and so by a philological definition there isn’t ‘astrology’ in the classical Āyurvedic texts.

From a traditional Indian perspective, Jyotiṣa is a much larger concept than planets and aspects. The classical Āyurvedic texts are focused on internal medicine (kaya-chikitsā, also known as yukti-vyapāśyraya). Jyotiṣa is kārmik medicine (daivya-chikitsā/ daiva-vyapāśraya). Commentary on Charaka Saṁhitā (nidānasthāna I.4) states that focus is on doṣa based treatment not on the mental treatment (satvāvajaya). We infer from this, that there is an intent of the text to be focused on the specific area of internal medicine not mental or kārmik treatment.

Daivya chikitsā works with the causal body and karma (or fate caused by past actions). Charaka Saṁhitā mentions the impact of karma on health and diagnostics (3.3.20, 4.2.36, 4.3.17). He states that even if you do everything right you’ll be healthy, unless it’s your karma otherwise (1.28.43-44, 4.2.43). There are multiple statements where Charaka mentions “kārmik disease” (karma-ja roga). Charaka does not discuss how to do diagnostics for kārmik disease but he does mention methodologies for treating kārmik disease when discussing daivavyapāśraya. Not more is given because that is not the intention of the text – nor does Charaka discuss how to treat bhūta disorders which is often discussed in the Jyotiṣa texts.  

Charaka Saṁhitā mentions picking herbs on certain stellar asterisms (nakṣatras). This indicates the text is aware of the nakṣatras and an understanding that they impact medicine and healing. Why would Charaka say it’s best to take a bath on puṣya naksatra? That requires believing that the energy of the day is impacted by the star position of the Moon, and that this energy impacts the healing process. Puṣya nakṣatra is considered to be nourishing and healing and starting therapies on the day when the Moon is in that star cluster is believed to make medicine have a more healing and nourishing capacities. This understanding is inherent in Charaka’s prescription to utilize this astrological time. Aṣṭāṇga Saṇgraha similarly discusses astronomical times not to study or see clients.[1]  

In śārīrasthāna 8.19, Charaka advises having the Vedic priest perform the puṁsavana ritual when the Moon is in puṣya nakṣatra. 8.20 says herbs worn as a talisman should also be bathed with on puṣya nakṣatra. 8.35 advises entering the maternity home on beneficial day (puṇya-ahas), an auspicious lunar sign (nakṣatra) and lunar phase (tithi and karāna) and a friendly astrological time of day (muhūrta).[2] A similar prescription for choosing an auspicious astrological time is stated more generally in sūtrasthāna 15.9, where therapeutic vomiting is said to be done in the proper Moon constellation, Moon phase, and time of day (nakṣatra-tithi-karaṇa-muhūrta).[3]

Śārīrasthāna 8.50, discusses the naming of the child. It advises the first name to be related to the deity of the nakṣatra that the child is born under. It is mentioned that this name should be either two or four syllable long.[4] In the Jyotiṣa texts, it is explained that this difference of syllable is based on the guṇa of the sign the child is born under.  

In later texts, there are larger descriptions of the different naksatras – when to take certain medicines, when to do certain therapies, and when to do certain surgeries. We have those prescriptions both in later Āyurvedic texts as well as a group of texts describing auspicious times (muhūrta) to perform activities. The Jyotiṣa muhūrta texts list astral calculations for choosing the correct time for rituals (yagya) and different important life moments (saṁksāras): the first solid food for a baby, starting school for first time, the sacred thread ceremony, doing operations, getting married, planting your field, or taking medicines. How to determine these auspicious times are in the muhūrta texts which indicate which days are astronomically beneficial (puṇya-ahas), which lunar signs are auspicious (praśasta-nakṣatra), which lunar phases are agreeable (kalyāṇa-tithi and karāna) and which times of day are friendly (maitra-muhūrta). This determination is not the dominion of internal medicine, so they are not calculated in Charaka Saṁhitā. Yearly calendars (pañcāṅga) were made by qualified astrologers and doctors could consult these for beneficial timing.

Conversely, when we look at the Jyotiṣa texts, we see references where each of the planets is described by its guṇa and vāta, pitta, or kapha constitution, and each dhatu is related to a planet. The signs of the zodiac are listed by their guṇa and vāta, pitta, and kapha components. Occasionally, there are certain combinations that mention that ‘this’ causes pitta imbalance or ‘that’ causes a vāta imbalance. These specific combinations are a minor portion of the Jyotiṣa texts, but the intermixture of Āyurveda and Jyotiṣa is inferred by the indications of the planets and signs involved. We understand from the Jyotiṣa texts that there was a concept of dhātus and doṣas present and they are used according to the science of Āyurveda. A philologist may argue that the Jyotiṣa texts don’t use Āyurveda. But we see these references as inferences similar to Charaka’s understanding of nakṣatra and muhūrta.   

The Jyotiṣa texts don’t define digestion (agni) or strengthening that digestion, or bio-purifications (pañcakarma) or anything of this nature because that is the topic of the Āyurvedic texts. We see reference to each other within each of the pertinent texts similar to a modern text on anatomy, which does not teach you how to do surgery. We may know it is aware of surgery, but it is not containing how to do surgery. The texts in surgery reference anatomical terms. They’re not teaching anatomical terms and expect one to know them separately. Similarly, these two texts infer the knowledge of each other, but don’t teach knowledge of each other. We see this in the Jyotiṣa texts and the Āyurvedic texts.  

Just as medicine and technology have evolved in the modern era and there are time periods in history where different sciences have more growth than others. Certain renaissances happened over the last 3000 years in India. If we compare Charaka Saṁhitā to Aṣṭāṅga Hṛdaya we see there are certain changes that happened over this particular period of time and certain knowledge of herbs changed. Similarly, we see a certain style of Jyotiṣa being done and in Mahābhārata and such early texts, and then we see Jyotiṣa evolving as well as being influenced by the Middle Eastern and Greek interactions. On this point, be careful falling in to the Eurocentric paradigm the says Indians got their astrology from the Greeks (to prove that Europe is the center of civilization). When we look at the archaeological, geological, and geographic evidence we know that there was a constant interaction between Indian, Mesopotamian, Babylonian, Persian, Egyptian, and the later Greek civilizations. All these civilizations were interacting and sharing knowledge. What we have in present day India has a long evolution to its present state. And astrology is continuing to evolve with the power of technology and modern research capacities.

In some modern spheres, astrology is looked down upon as a pseudo-science because it doesn’t fit with the modern concept of science and more particularly scientism. In the ancient world, astronomy and astrology was one of the most respected sciences, sponsored by kings. If we look at some of the ancient observatories, they utilized some of the highest levels of science in the ancient world. The scientists who created the modern revolutions in science, like Copernicus, Galileo, Keppler, were astrologers. Even after their great discoveries, they remained astrologers. Western scientism tries to downplay astrology, but in the ancient world and in the tradition of Vedic culture, astrologers were often revered. So revered that we see references that sometimes poke fun of them or put them down because they have such big egos due their position and needs in society. Is Jyotish part of Ayurveda? It’s not really the correct question. Āyurveda is specifically focused on kāya-chikitsā treating the physical body (sthūla śārīra). Jyotiṣa is daivya chikitsā treating the causal body (kāraṇa śārīra). Jyotiṣa is a branch of Vedic practice treating disease that is caused by karma, and ensuring our present actions are done with beneficial karma. Jyotiṣa and Āyurveda are complementary sciences that acknowledge and support each other.

 

Medical Muhūrta

Education: Choosing a positive muhūrta to start studies supports the results similar to a proper diet supports medicine. In larger institutions that begin on a set day without control, a beneficial (subha) time can be chosen to start reading study material.  

Best Nakṣatras for Education: Mṛgaśira, Ārdrā, Punarvasu, Puṣya, Hasta, Citrā, Svātī, Śravaṇa, Dhaniṣṭhā, and Śatabhiṣa

Neutral Nakṣatra: Aśvinī, Rohiṇī, Uttaraphalgunī, Uttarāṣāḍhā, Uttarabhādra, and Revatī

Dhaniṣṭhā is special for the study of Āyurveda

Best Tithi: K1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 11  Avoid: 4, 9, 14, Pūrṇimā and Amāvāsya

Avoid: Tuesday and Saturday (or the aṁśa of Mars and Saturn)
Sunday gives longevity, Monday creates a mundane focus, Wednesday supports prajña, Thursday gives good reasoning, Friday gives success, Tuesday will end study soon, Saturday gives incapacity.
Wednesday morning is the best to start, Monday evening is the best to conclude.

The first half of the day is best.

Rising sign: Dual signs risings are best, movable signs average, and fixed signs not supported
No planets in the eighth house, preferably nothing in the fourth house, malefics in 3, 6, 11.

Mercury and Jupiter in the rising sign or well-placed

[Other Sarasvatī combinations are listed in Kālaprakāśika chapter 8.]  

 

Disease treatment

There are two aspects of the calendar for disease, the time of onset and the time of treatment. Most texts refer to the day a fever started and the prognosis based on this nakṣatra and tithi. Most diseases an Āyurvedic practitioner treats will have a longer starting period where the exact date is not clear. These dates though can be seen relative to the date the client contacted the practitioner or the timing of past operations and the results from them.

 

Medical Treatment

Nakṣatra to begin treatment/taking medicine: Aśvinī, Rohiṇī, Mṛgaśira, Punarvasu, Puṣya, Uttaraphalgunī, Hasta, Citrā, Svātī, Anurādhā, Uttarāṣāḍhā, Śravaṇa, Dhaniṣṭhā, Śatabhiṣa, Uttarabhādra and Revatī

Days of benefic planets

There are special combinations: Monday and Hasta, Wednesday and Aśvinī, Thursday and Citrā, Friday and Punarvasu.

Practices that remove negative doṣa or other such operations are best done on Ugra combinations: 3 or 8 or 10 on Rohiṇī, 4 or 8 or 13 on Uttaraphalgunī, 5 with Śravaṇa, 6 with Mṛgaśira, 7 with Revatī, 9 with Kṛttikā, 10 with Puṣya, 3 or 12 with Anurādhā, 11 with Kṛttika or Maghā,

Arthritis: start treatment on a Thursday Śravaṇa, 3, 8, or 13 on Aśvinī or Āśleṣā.
Pitta disorders: Choose a moveable rising sign.
1, 6, 11, on a Thursday ruled by Puṣya, Svātī, or Mūla.

2, 6, 12 on a Friday ruled by Punarvasu, Revatī or Svātī
Venereal disease: Amāvāsya is good for the treatment with ugra, laghu, and cara nakṣatra.

Vāta Treatment: Choose a moveable rising sign.

Tuesday ruled by Bharaṇī, Kṛttikā or Ārdrā

Water retention: Tuesday governed by Bharaṇī, Kṛttikā, Ārdrā, Āśleṣā, Viśākhā, Maghā, and Jyeṣṭhā.

Basti (cleansing): Tuesday or Saturday and avoid malefics in the 7th and 8th houses.
Operations: waxing Moon. Avoid the Moon being in the sign related to the body part being operated on. Not on the birth star.  

Planting

The first time for the farmer to step foot onto the farming land is chosen, as well as a beneficial time for ploughing (or the making of a garden bed for herbs).

Entering farmland/building a garden space:
Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays

Nakṣatra: Bharaṇī, Ārdrā, Puṣya, Maghā, Uttaraphalgunī, Citrā, Svātī, Anurādhā, Uttarāṣāḍhā, and Uttarabhādra
Tithi: K1, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 (odd tithis except the 9th), even tithis are avoided (except for 2 and 10).
Rising sign: Taurus, Virgo, Scorpio are good, Leo or the Sign of the Sun is good

 

Plowing the soil

Days of Benefic planets- Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

Nakṣatra: Aśvinī, Rohiṇī, Mṛgaśira, Punarvasu, Maghā, Citrā, Svātī, Puṣya, Uttaraphalgunī, Hasta, Viśākhā, Anurādhā, Mūla, Uttarāṣāḍhā, Śravaṇa, Dhaniṣṭhā, Śatabhiṣa, and Uttarabhādra
Within this list, the nakṣatra from the Sun at the moment are numbered and 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26th nakṣatra from the Sun are the best.

Tithi: All are good accept 4 (insect problems), 6, 8, 9 (crop damage), 12, 14 (accidents), Pūrṇimā and Amāvāsya. For plants growing upwards prefer the waxing Moon (śukla-pakṣa).
Rising sign: Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Capricorn, and Pisces give abundant harvest. Avoid Aries (livestock problems), Leo (crop damage), Scorpio (pitta problems), and Aquarius (theft). No malefics in the rising sign.
The Moon, Jupiter and Venus should be well-placed.

 

Planting

Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and their amśas are beneficial.

Tithis: all tithi except 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 14 and Amāvāsya. Avoid Viṣṭi karaṇa

Fruitful nakṣatra for seeds: Rohiṇī, Puṣya, Maghā, Uttaraphalgunī, Hasta, Svātī, Viśākhā, Anurādhā, Mūla, Uttarāṣāḍhā, Śravaṇa, Śatabhiṣa, Uttarabhādra, and Revatī

Average nakṣatra for seeds: Aśvinī, Mṛgaśira, Punarvasu, Dhaniṣṭhā

Good nakṣatra for planting roots: Bharaṇī, Kṛttika, Maghā, Pūrvaphalgunī, Viśākhā, Mūla, Pūrvāṣāḍhā, and Pūrvābhādra
Good nakṣatra for planting fruits and flowers: Mṛgaśira, Punarvasu, Hasta, Citrā, Svātī, Anurādhā, Jyeṣṭhā, and Revatī

[certain crops like coconuts, pumpkins, sesame, etc have special nakṣatra that are best for them.]

The condition of the Moon and Venus are important for planting, and the Moon’s location from Venus.

Rising signs: Taurus, Cancer, Leo, Capricorn, Pisces are best. Libra, Gemini, and Aquarius are ok.
Malefics in 3rd, 6th, and 11th are best, No planets in the 8th house, and Moon in 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10 and 11 is ideal.

 

Harvesting

Nakṣatra: Bharaṇī, Rohiṇī, Mṛgaśira, Ārdrā, Puṣya, Maghā, Uttaraphalgunī, Hasta, Viśākhā, Anurādhā, Uttarāṣāḍhā, Śravaṇa, Uttarabhādra, and Revatī

Tithi: avoid 4, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14 and Amāvāsya. Avoid Viṣṭi karaṇa.

Days of benefics and signs of benefics.

The owner of the planets should avoid the 1st, 10th, and 19th nakṣatra from the Moon. Other special combinations for harvested are listed in traditional texts.

Make offerings at the field/garden to the Deity related to the plant before harvesting. Make an offering the first of the harvest to a pregnant woman.

 

Other events where a beneficial starting time chosen: Children rituals and initiations, mantra initiation, engagement and marriage, conception of a child, business endeavors, first time wearing new clothing or ornament, starting to build a new home, moving into a new home, coronation of King, installation of a deity, a long journey, disease treatment, taking loans and paying debts. The more important the event the more the timing needs attention. For starting a small journey, a beneficial day or lunar phase is good. For a move to another country to start a new life, the timing is more important. Moving into a small apartment that you rent needs a nice time, but building a house and moving into the new home requires the services of an astrologer trained in choosing muhūrta.   

 


[1] Aṣṭāṇga Saṇgraha (2.5) says one should not study on eclipses (rāhudarśana), full moons and new moons. When discussing a good prognosis (2.29) of disease it mentions beneficial planetary constellations. In the chapter on medicines (12.5) it mentions the three levels of treatment. It defines daivavyapāśraya as chanting hymns (mantra), wearing herbs (auṣadhi) and gems (māṇi), auspicious acts (maṅgala), gifts/sacrifices (bali), fire ceremony (homa), practices of restraint (niyama), atonements (prāyaśchitta), fasting (upavāsa), getting blessings (svastyayana), offering oneself to divine protection (prāṇipāt), pilgrimage (gamana), etc. (adi).   

[2] tataḥ pravr̥tte navame māse puṇye’hani praśastanakṣatrayogamupagate praśaste bhagavati śaśini kalyāṇekalyāṇe ca karaṇe maitre muhūrte śāntiṁ…

[3] tatastaṁ puruṣaṁ snehasvedopapannamanupahatamanasamabhisamīkṣya sukhoṣitaṁ suprajīrṇa bhaktaṁśiraḥsnātamanuliptagātraṁ sragviṇamanupahatavastrasaṁvītaṁ dēvatāgnidvija guruvṛddhavaidyānarcitavantamiṣṭe nakṣatratithikaraṇamuhūrte kārayitvā brāhmaṇānsvastivācanaṁ prayuktābhirāśīrbhirabhimantritāṁ madhumadhukasaindhavaphāṇitopahitāṁ madanaphalakaṣāyamātrāṁ pāyayet||9||

[4] … ca vāsasāṁ sañcayēprākśirasamudakśirasaṁ vā saṁvēśya dēvatāpūrvaṁ dvijātibhyaḥ praṇamatītyuktvā kumārasya pitā dvēnāmanī kārayēnnākṣatrikaṁ nāmābhiprāyikaṁ ca| tatrābhiprāyikaṁ ghōṣavadādyantasthāntamūṣmāntaṁ vā’vr̥ddhaṁ [4] tripuruṣānūkamanavapratiṣṭhitaṁ,nākṣātrikaṁ tu nakṣatradēvatāsamānākhyaṁ [5] dvyakṣaraṁ caturakṣaraṁ vā||50||