First and foremost, Vedic astrology, Jyotish, is a Vedic science, inexorably connected to Vedic philosophy. As such, a spiritual orientation to the subject is woven into the fabric of all the systems and methods of the science. Vedic Astrology has many categories, and throughout its vast expanse of subject matter, there is a palpable underlying spiritual orientation to the material. Vedic Astrology is intended to help aid mankind in his journey towards ever greater understanding and wisdom. It is not intended as a fanciful or lighthearted undertaking.
Vedic Astrology, as a field of study, encompasses far more than what one person could hope to master in a lifetime of dedicated work. Some of the areas of focus include, cycles of weather and crops, earthquakes and natural phenomenon, health or medical astrology, economics and world trade markets, astrology as relating to politics and world events, and so on. In fact, virtually all realms of human life are addressed by Vedic Astrology. However, for a practioner to become proficient in any given subject requires focused attention on that area, and attunement to the methodologies and energies of the planets as they pertain to that particular study.
Vedic Astrology is frequently called predictive astrology because of its ability to predict events in life. This ability is due to the refinement in the various systems of the science, and requires significant subtlety of understanding and perception on the part of the practitioner.
When one refers to “predictions” in astrology, one is not suggesting that it has to be so, but rather that the energies are aligned in such a way as to suggest a probable outcome. This is why astrology is referred to as the "Science of Indications". Without an effort to overcome the momentum of any given force or thrust of action, the indications suggest what will probably be, and in any event, astrology reveals the timing of trends and certain influences.
In Vedic Astrology, the Rising Sign or Ascendant is considered to be the most important factor in making accurate predictions. The Ascendant is represented by the sign which is on the eastern horizon at the time of birth, and is the aspect of the chart that changes most frequently (approximately every two hours). It is the pivotal point from which the astrologer considers the horoscope, the context from which all of the planets are evaluated. The Rising Sign determines the ordinal procession of the houses; when the Ascendant is determined, the rulership of the twelve houses is then established.
The Dasa System (the planetary cycles) is a unique feature of the Vedic system which indicates a period during which a planet´s influence becomes fully operative. This enables one to give precise predictions during a particular period.
Vedic Astrology is also sometimes called Constellation Astrology because it takes into account fixed stars called constellations. As a result, the astrologer considers not only the influence of the planets in a sign but also the subtle influences exercised by the constellations. This means that when a planet passes through a sign, it expresses the influence of the sign and is also tempered by the influence of the constellations of the sign. To practice predictive astrology, one must be able to go deep into the subtle influences of the constellations.
Vedic Astrology is based on the Sidereal Zodiac as opposed to the Vernal Zodiac of Western Astrology. Vedic/Sidereal Astrology uses the fixed observable stars in the sky whereas Western Astrology is more time based, determining the beginning of the zodiac as corresponding to the start of the Vernal Equinox. In the year 2006, the difference between the two systems is considered to be between 22 and 24 degrees and indicates the difference between the point of the Vernal Equinox and the first point of the constellation Aries.
One consequence of the different zodiacs is that the Vedic system does not give the Sun the same prominence that is has in the Western system. While acknowledging the Sun as a significator of the essence, or soul, Vedic Astrology, by following the Sidereal Zodiac gives more relative importance to the influence of the other planets. In the Western system, the Sun becomes more of a focal point.
In Vedic Astrology, more emphasis is placed on the Moon than on the Sun. The Moon represents the mind which is seen as the agency of perception and, consequently, is a major determining factor in how one interacts with the world.
The popular expression, “What is your sign?” reveals the importance of the Sun sign in Western astrology, as well as a certain mindset associated with astrology. If that question were posed by a Vedic practioner, he/she would be more likely referring to the individual´s Moon sign. In Vedic astrology, the mind (not to be confused with the “intellect”) is considered of greater single consequence to the chart than that of the Sun.