Karma & Free Will - A Contemporary  View

Glossary - of basic karmic influences

Links - to related sites



Karma & Free Will
A Contemporary View


     Vedic Astrology is as new in America as it is ancient in its homeland of India. Its predictive basis of influences from past lives, what we commonly call "karma," is likely the only familiar term and aspect of this Eastern metaphysical discipline.

     Yet, even karma is confusing or unclear to many.  Karma is generally and inaccurately understood as an application of the Christian "what comes around, goes around" concept that discourages negative or harmful behavior and rewards good deeds.  This view, in focusing only on the karmas that can be changed during the life, neatly dodges the broader concept of past life karmas.  Notably, Eastern karma’s expression of fate flies in the face of our Western culture’s free will - our democracy’s promise of unrestricted choice and opportunities.  We value our free will and don’t like to think that we are blocked in any way from self expression.

     On the other hand, if you want a fast race horse, breed two winners.  Basketball players almost always come from tall families.  Artistic talent in the family background is a near certainty for musicians and painters.  While we treasure our absolute freedom, we also take great pride in recognizing our traits and abilities in our children.


     How can we not find this contradictory?  Dr. Spock’s 1950’s theory of environment overweighing genetics was accepted, with little scientific evidence, because it fit our cultural model.  This decade, science is slowly convincing itself and the public that heredity dominates, with free will and environment only articulating DNA given potentials. The logic of science fiction’s Mr. Spock is taking the upper hand in the old nature versus nurture debate.

     Does this mean that karma describes science’s DNA, what we call heredity?  Does this also mean that Vedic Astrology can somehow read the person’s karmic DNA using only celestial observation when the person is born?  Deductive reasoning indicates yes. How can this be?  How does it work?

     Vedic scholars talk about enlightened beings, called seers, who 5,000 years ago divined India’s sacred knowledge, which evolved into the many branches of Hindu metaphysics that seek to explain the universe - from medicine to mathematics, yoga to mythology, astronomy to astrology.  Astrology, they explain, unravels and translates the celestial map indicating the past life karmas playing out in this life.  Thus, Vedic Astrology thereby rests on a spiritual authority. If you ask them point blank, "Explain in terms of objective reality, verifiable scientific truth," they discuss large scale empirical testing of charts comparing planetary placements with displayed traits.  But if you really press them for a scientific theory, Vedic Astrologers retreat into an "I don’t know."  That is the way with all metaphysics, and especially the occult sciences, for these are the hidden studies that seek to explain that which cannot be otherwise known.

     Before we get into a box on this point and dismiss Vedic Astrology as just another spiritual fad, ask someone who has had a Vedic Astrology reading about its eerie accuracy and surprising depth of information.  Like other spiritual disciplines, Vedic Astrology depends upon awareness and acceptance, belief, both by the practitioner and the client.  Vedic Astrologers explain that only some souls are sufficiently liberated from karmic worldly attachments to embrace that which is not within the world.

     So what is the value of knowing one’s karma, and how can fate coexist with free will?  If the life’s various karmic influences with their cycles of ebbs and flows are understood, then the individual becomes empowered with free will in the same way that a flashlight illuminates rocks in the path ahead.  Free will is the ability to make informed choices. Ignorance is not bliss, especially when climbing down from Bell Rock after dark without a flashlight!  Yes, "in the dark" free will still brings you to the parking lot, but only after some bumps, bruises and being thorn-gored on the way down.

Is the issue really this simple?  No.  Karma, as the very basis of Eastern philosophy, is highly complex and variable and thereby also so alien to Western concepts that objective grasp is like hugging a cloud, or holding an ice cube as it melts under examination.  Free will is similarly multifaceted, for we create our own reality, manifest, invent self-fulfilling proficiencies and apply the powers of faith, prayer and meditation plus many other well founded psychological and spiritual concepts.  The waters of the simple Bell Rock example are thereby muddied beyond the scope of this essay to clarify.  In fact, learned people in both the East and West have long wrestled with the unresolved cultural gap between fate and free will.

     Perhaps an agreeable view is found in astrology author Dr. Gouri Kappor’s statement that, "Fate and free will are two blades of a scissor, and we still do not know which blade operates in cutting the paper."  The individual always retains the freedom to observe or not fate’s lighted path.  Yet, scissors cut best with both blades

Glossary - Basic Karmic Influences


      1.  The Ascendant
      2.  The Moon
      3.  Moon's Nakshatras
      4.  Rahu & Ketu, the Moon's Nodes
      5.  Dasa predictive system

      6.  Transits
      7.  Astrocartography

    1. The Ascendant
In Vedic Astrology, the sign (constellation) rising above the horizon at the moment of birth defines the person’s fundamentals and is an indicator of profession. Such basic traits as appearance, personality, character, fame, health and vitality are determined here. How the person is received in the world is the outcome of these influences. This position is called the Ascendant, and it locates the first house, also called the rising sign.

     The Ascendant sign, being fundamental in Vedic Astrology, is roughly equivalent in importance to Western Astrology’s Sun Sign.

2. The Moon
     As noted in the brochure, the Moon is the primary planet in the Vedic system.  The Moon brings all life into the world and nurtures it. The Moon is consciousness.  It indicates how one perceives and interacts with the world.  The Moon symbolizes emotions,  discernment, memory, common sense, and also peace of mind.  Other distinct Lunar influences are for: healing, females, pregnancy, mother, dealings with the public, happiness and contentment and romance.

     In India, where the hot Sun scorches crops, the Moon is seen as a cool and moist influence, promoting growth and giving comfort.  Wherever the Moon is placed indicates a special or fundamental life area.

Looking at the Moon’s overall disposition in the birthchart, including its Nakshatra position (defined next), can reveal the deepest Vedic insights about the life, penetrating to the soul-level.

  3. Moon’s Nakshatras
     The most important Lunar signification, and a feature unique in nature and power in Vedic Astrology, are the Lunar Nakshatras. The Nakshatras are called Lunar Mansions, and they describe the Moon’s celestial positions during its monthly orbit around the earth.
 The Moon was the Hindu’s first calendar and is still in use today. The twenty seven Nakshatras are star clusters within the twelve astrological signs, or constellations. As Rasi (sign) literally means heap of things, the Nakshatras reflect more specific and deeper meanings behind planetary locations in signs.

     Because Vedic symbolic astrology is essentially understanding the meanings behind the terms, the Nakshatras, as the meanings behind the signs, unveil underlying influences that are otherwise hidden. A rich mythology guides interpretation of these symbols.  In fact, each planet's placement in a Nakshatra activates amazingly deep and meaningful karmic influences not otherwise available in Vedic Astrology, nor in any other astrological system.

     While the Nakshatras of the other planets are often analyzed, the Moon’s is as fundamental to the birth chart as its primary role in Vedic Astrology. In India, a priest will ask about a person’s Lunar Nakshatra, not their Sun sign, or even their Ascendant sign.

   4. Rahu & Ketu, the Moon’s Nodes
      Rahu, and its companion Ketu are unique planets to Vedic Astrology. These hard to understand Eastern symbols are basically intensifying influences. Malefics Rahu and Ketu, are the Moon’s Nodes, the astronomical points calculated to pinpoint eclipses, and as they block the light, Rahu and Ketu are called the shadowy planets. That they normally move backward, called retrograde motion, is indicative of the Nodes’ unique natures.

     The Vedic mythology is that Lord Vishnu, in giving out the potion for eternal life, Amrita, to the planets, left the room just long enough for a serpent to steal the vial, drinking some of the liquid. Alerted by the Sun and the Moon, the only planets that could see the shadow serpent, Lord Vishnu quickly returned to cut the demon in two with a sword, but too late to deny the halves’ immortality. In this way, the Nodes entered into the planetary system and became great enemies of the Luminaries. They attempt to swallow up the Sun and Moon in eclipses, but the light always returns.

     This story illustrates the malefic powers of the Nodes. Rahu, the upper part with a brain, signifies our manifestation into the world and thereby gives insatiable conscious cravings and intensified earthly desires, which can never be fully satisfied. Rahu, then, is also an intoxifying influence. Ketu, the mystical brainless bottom half, intensifies by dissolving materiality into spirit, creating insight and perception. Ketu is unconscious desires, and while it is a superlative mystical influence, its otherworldly energies can also bring the most devious and weird effects into the real world. Wherever the Nodes are placed in the chart is an area of intensification, and this can be useful, harmful or both.

   5. Dasa Predictive System
     This is the predictive technique for which Vedic Astrology is famous.  Dasas, routinely called planetary periods, are intervals during which the person’s life corresponds to the energies of individual planets in rotation. The rotation is determined by the Moon’s position at birth. The primary Dasa planet periods range from six to twenty years. These total one hundred and twenty years, which Hindus believe to be the natural life span. Obviously, some early Dasas are critical, and others occur too late in life to be meaningful.  Dasas are like the river's current, giving the underlying thrust to the life.

     Dasas, then, are like a second birth chart. Their rotation dictates planetary influence activations - when the planetary karmas will play out.  For example, during a Moon Dasa, the person’s perceptions and emotions are heightened, great life benefits may be realized and dealings with the public can be fruitful. The birth chart, then, can be compared to a house with a dozen rooms, and the Dasas indicate when the lights in each are turned on. Think of driving down a street with identical homes at night; the various lighted rooms individualize the houses.

     Subperiod Dasa planets are shorter intervals within each Dasa that flavor, or color the primary planet. Up to five Dasa planets can be considered, but interpretation is highly complex and is only used to predict the exact interval an event is influenced to begin or end.

     While Dasas are the primary influences used for accurate predictions, Transits (defined below) and other Vedic techniques add influence to Dasa planet effects.  

   6. Transits

     Transits describe ordinary occurrences such as marriage, illness, home purchase and childbirth, as compared with deep soul-level influences.  As Dasas are like the river's current, transits are the weather acting on the surface.

     Slow-moving benefic Jupiter’s and malefic Saturn’s passages in today’s sky across the birth chart houses and planets add practical information to the Dasa predictions.  The transits of other planets are used for highly time-specific predictions.

     Transits are a secondary predictive technique to the Dasa system and are typically catalysts. They aid in confirming karmic activation and can often be highly time specific.

     Thus, when transiting planets influence concurrently with Dasa planets, event likelihood is greatly increased.  Some karmic actions, such as accidents, can be predicted with near absolute certainty, often to within a day or two, sometimes even to the hour.

     7.  Astrocartography
Astrocartography was developed in the U S 1970s by Western (
Tropical) Astrologers.  The concept extends the principle that planets are strongest in the four angles of the chart: the Ascendant (self), the Descendant (others), the Midheaven (public) and the Nadir (foundation).  Astrocartography is a secondary interpretation which follows the Life Reading interpretation of birthchart planets and Vedic cycles.

     Plotting the planets’ angular geographical positions (lines) at the time of birth thereby shows where the planets are most powerful.  As Astrocartography is an astronomical measurement, it works regardless of the astrological zodiac applied, whether the Western Tropical Zodiac (based upon the spring equinox) or the Vedic Sidereal Zodiac (calculating actual celestial positions).  In fact, astrocartography seems particularly potent in the Vedic mode, for by adding astrocartography’s space to Vedic Astrology’s time, the person’s karmas are illuminated multidimensionally.

     Two kinds of astrocartography lines are considered.  The first is the birth lines, described above.  Although these lines are sometimes straight north to south, indicating longitude, they also curve, which relates to the earth being round.  Birth lines influence up to 700 miles on either side of the lines (called orb) in a diminishing manner.  The second line type is crossings, where birth lines cross each other, generating influence east to west in a latitudinal direction around the entire world.  These crossings influence around the world, have a smaller orb of about 50 miles and are about one half as powerful as birth lines.  Obviously locations where birth lines cross are the most influential places of any on the globe.  The map to the right displays Doug Riemer's Astrocartography lines near his Sedona, Arizona home.

      As the planets’ birth lines and latitude crossings indicate where the planetary karmas are most potent, they spotlight karmic intensity areas in the Vedic chart and its attendant planetary cycles (Dasas and transits).  This means that when a person lives or visits an area spotlighted by an astrocartography line, the person's planetary influences are maximized.  Similarly, other people who were born on or who reside on a person's astrocartography lines bring those planetary influences to the person.  Please note, since the earth is two thirds oceans, most lines do not cross land areas.

     For example, if the person has a good Sun (power) in the 10th house of career, living on a Sun birth line would promote career.  If the Sun is also active in the person’s planetary cycles, career development becomes a primary life focus in that location.  If there is also a Sun birth line crossing a Moon (public influence) line anywhere on that same latitude, career gains and influence upon the public would increase.  The location where these two lines intersect each other would, of course, be the most impactive.  These career influences would also come forward when the person is in contact with individuals born on or residing on those lines.


Sedona Links

Electra Jung's Western Astrology insights are enhanced by her superlative sensitivity with Tarot Cards.  Contact Electra at [email protected].  

www.Haizen.com  Haizen Paige is Sedona's dean of Western Astrologers and an emerging expert in Vedic Astrology.  There's no one better at relationship issues than Haizen.

www.jananda.net  Jananda, Sedona's foremost clairvoyant and healer, connects with your soul level issues, often via contact with loved ones who have passed on.  E-mail Jananda at [email protected] or call him (928)203-0810

www.mayanhealinghands.com Patricia Flores offers authentic Mayan Healing Massage in Sedona. This is a spiritually guided massage releasing blocks and bringing God's grace into your heart.  E-mail beautiful Patricia at [email protected]  or call her at (928) 282-2524.

Tony Sills offers the finest video services  in Sedona.  Whether you're planning a red rock wedding or other family event, or even wish to preserve your own personal Sedona memory, visit Tony's Sedona Video website at www.sedonavideo.com


Other Metaphysical Links 

Astrology and Horoscope Portal www.astral.ws  An informative resource for a wide variety of astrological information.

www.Healingems.com  is the website for the recommended Vedic gemstone dealer.  Jack Hauck, proprietor, is located in Phoenix, Arizona and serves clients nationwide.

Jeffrey Armstrong, a seasoned scholar of Eastern thought, has recently published a must-read text on Vedic philosophy as it relates to Vedic Astrology in God/Goddess The Astrologer.  Learn more about this fascinating book by visiting www.JeffreyArmstrong.com 

Ronnie Tice has created the most wonderful and striking 3-D crystal products.  Images are placed inside optically pure crystal.  Visit Ronnie's website at  www.crystalsensations.net/spiritual.htm  



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