Synastry A Light on Relationships

Life demands that we relate perpetually to our world. Our very existence depends on the regular intake of food, water, light, sound, love, and other "nutrients" that flow into us from sources outside ourselves. Each of us, in turn, influences our environment as we communicate, fabricate, move, excrete, create, and perform all the other activities that constitute our lives. When we disturb the balance of these exchanges, we disturb the foundations of our being.

Each of us also interacts continually with our social environment. We so crave to relate that we begin to encumber a child with relationship classifiers (sister, son, niece) from the moment it is born. New descriptors (friend, mother, employee, manager, grandma) continue to pile on as the child ages. Even renunciates define themselves in terms of the society they renounce. Indeed, spiritual development itself involves establishing a healthy relationship between the individual and a divine reality. None of us ever completely escapes becoming enmeshed in the web of human relationships.

Few of us marry with the intention of eventually divorcing, but today's high rate of divorce suggests that many of us marry without accurately appraising a proposed relationship's potential. Many are the vantages from which we may examine our relating selves, but few are as clear-sighted as the Indian system of divination called Jyotisha. Jyotisha ("the study of light"), often referred to in English as "Indian" or "Vedic" astrology, has condensed the best of classical Indian philosophy and culture into clues for understanding the process of how we relate. By reflecting back to us insightful images of our manifold and convoluted relationships, astrology assists us in getting our bearings as we explore this difficult-to-chart territory.

Life is relationship, and how well or poorly we relate to our environment and to the people we encounter determines how happy or unhappy our lives become. The wise among us become mindful of how they relate, for every encounter with the "other" influences our pursuit of health and happiness according to its degree of success. Some people enjoy extremely strong attachments to their mothers, while others never even discover who bore them. Some individuals battle their bosses daily; others become the teacher's pet. To review dispassionately our interactions with the others in our world is to gain perspective that may illuminate our steps as we move forward in relating. Act before pondering and we are likely to find ourselves repeating and reinforcing unproductive patterns of relationship behavior.

The horoscope often provides indications of which relationships, whether those of business partners or romantic associates, will prove easy or difficult for an individual. Sometimes -- even without the help of a horoscope -- it is obvious to us as soon as we meet someone new how well we will get along. At other times, first impressions prove less reliable. Some combinations that seem hell-bound at first mature into enjoyable, supportive, long-term alliances. Others that start with great expectations under ideal circumstances end, finally, in disarray, disappointment or tragedy. Jyotisha is an excellent barometer for measuring relationship climate. It can often foresee which associations will generally enjoy clear skies and calm seas, and which are likely to be in for rough weather. Jyotisha also forecasts changes in the atmosphere of existing relationships, and can suggest whether these shifts are likely to be for the better or the worse.

While horoscopes reflect the full gamut of human experience, relationship questions are among the most frequent that astrologers hear from a client. A good astrologer can generally provide percipient answers to a wide range of relating queries, including: "Will I marry? Will I divorce? Will my secret affair be discovered? How will I get along with my children, my business partner, my new neighbor?" Jyotisha is still frequently employed in modern India to evaluate the likely success of all manner of business, marriage, progeny, and friendship relationships, including such exceptional liaisons as the question of which surgeon to select for an operation. Most frequently, however, classical Jyotisha applies relationship analysis to a potential couple's marriage prospects.

As natural and necessary as it may be for humans to relate, few of the fundamental social rules of relating seem to be inborn. Most must be learned, a fact that has had our species agonizing since the dawn of human socializing. Rules that permit certain interpersonal relationships and prohibit others help societies preserve, protect, and defend their integrity. A society that loses the ability or the will to enforce its rules usually unravels quickly as a result. We have seen this frequently, both in traditional cultures traumatized by invasion or colonization, and in dominant cultures that descend into decadence. We see this very scenario acting itself out today in our own postindustrial, virtual-reality society.

As a society's rules of relating deteriorate, those members who seek relationship guidance are thrown back to their own inner resources. Today, most Westerners choose with whom and how to relate on the distressing basis of fleeting attraction or repulsion. "Follow your heart" and "trust your intuition" may be sage advice for the seasoned heart and the skilled intuition. If you try to choose a life partner in haste, however, on the basis of idiosyncratic desire, you may live to repent, for stable, lasting family ties cannot be built on fascination alone. Fortunately, mature astrological assessment of relationship potentials and pitfalls, using the time-tested techniques of Jyotisha, can often enlighten blind emotions and enliven feeble perceptions. Astrology appeared among humans while civilization still lay in its cradle, and has endured the growth and decline of all manner of human organization. The observations of many generations of astrologers have accumulated a rich mass of implications for every sort of affinity permutation.

Jyotisha emanated from one of the world's oldest known societies, and its practitioners have had ample opportunity to refine both the techniques and the spirit of their relationship analysis. A good jyotishi (practitioner of Jyotisha) respects the sanctity of both the human spirit and the traditions of Jyotisha, and aims to provide even-handed, humanistic assessments of relationship possibilities rather than to exploit tradition to fetter individuals, or to justify self-indulgent behavior with pop psychology. Because good relationships cannot be legislated by substituting one set of false ideals for another, there is little value in attempting to make our relationships work by returning to modes of organizing society that existed when our ancient religions and astrology arose. It is equally unwise to conform to modern mores that are cobbled together by committee into "politically correct" norms.

What astrology can do, when properly practiced and used, is to break down false ideals about relationships, thereby establishing a fuller context within which our relationships can spread their wings. When we act after carefully observing a relationship's unique dynamic, we facilitate that relationship's development in the direction it most wishes to develop. We do well to work to permit change, not to manufacture it, and to act always with discerning commitment in our relationships. Everyone urges commitment nowadays, and there is little doubt that irresponsibility is now a national pastime. Foolish commitment to a destructive relationship that can ruin us, however, is mere excess in the opposite direction. We don't regard commitment to alcohol or drugs as noble or praiseworthy, so why should we see commitment to a relationship situation that is bitter as somehow better? Responsible divorce should continue to find a place in a compassionate society, and awareness of why such divorce became necessary should be encouraged in the detaching partners. Intelligent astrological assessment of relationship can often help to clarify the difference between a relationship that is compulsive, but negative, and another that, with effort, can become positively rewarding over a reasonable period of time.

Commitment becomes essential once we find a fertile relationship situation in which we know we can grow, for patience is as necessary for a relationship as it is for an oak tree. Driven by two mutually exclusive drives -- for union and for freedom -- each human must find that space where this paradox eases into equipoise. Superb flavors arise when richly textured opposites juxtapose. Transmutation, whether of personal chemistry into relationship alchemy or grapes into wine, requires the passage of time. A matured mellow wine refreshes the palate as surely as an immature or chemically "aged" wine leaves an acrid aftertaste. Today's "experts" may emphasize how pain-free and trouble-free the "optimum relationship" must be, but relationships often grow best in soil that has been enriched with the manure of healthy tribulation, for the sweetness of the lilac is born from the rankness of the compost. To expect perfection in any human relationship is as futile as to expect perfection from human life. All of us are imperfect, and we all create imperfect relationships. We are best advised to erase from our minds any idea of "perfect balance," and dedicate ourselves instead to discovering how to usher a dynamic, working, living balance into our interactions.

The sum of all our actions is our karma. Here, we strip all the glib modern connotations from the word karma, and use it in its traditional Indian sense of action and, by extension, the effect of that action. The individual karmas that two partners bring to the dance floor work with the shared karmas that the couple generates by working together through the relationship's dance steps. A "good" partnership is one in which the two (or more) people involved act predominantly to facilitate each other's positive, beneficial karmas. In a "poor" relationship, the partners tend, instead, to activate one another's unhealthy, destructive karmas.

The sages of ancient India developed Jyotisha as a karma-measuring apparatus, a "karmascope" that can inform us where and when our karmas will permit ideals to be shared (and so things to be smooth) between us and those with whom we relate. Jyotisha can also disclose where these ideals will be at odds, in what areas substantial work will need to even out the bumps, and when a relationship may be in danger of breaking up. A relationship's depth is often a function of its length and its nature, and Jyotisha can help us structure our relationship dynamics by providing us with perspectives on when and in what way our relationships and their difficulties are likely to arise and dissipate.

Relationship Analysis

In the context of relationship analysis, janma (natal astrology) examines the karmas that a couple bring forward into this lifetime, and prashna (horary astrology; literally, "question") evaluates the present karmic prospects of their relationship dance. Janma assesses the ways in which a couple will relate, and prashna evaluates whether or not the couple will actually pursue a relationship. Good jyotishis use janma to evaluate how well the habitual relationship propensities of two people may intermesh to support or undermine a relationship. They use prashna to inquire into the actual viability of a couple's current relationship prospects, as of the moment they appear for a compatibility assessment.

The distinction between janma and prashna comes into sharp focus when we consider how frequently we contemplate our potential compatibility with people who are never likely to enter into relationship with us. Just because your birth chart perfectly matches that of a famous and desirable person does not mean that you will end up in a relationship with them!

A rule of relationship analysis -- perhaps the most important of all -- is never to use Jyotisha as a careless excuse to break a relationship. Jyotisha was designed to enhance your sense of responsibility, not to promote the kind of irresponsibility that a certain man -- let us call him jack -- displayed with a certain woman, whom we can call Jill. Jack and Jill had enjoyed themselves on their first date together. On parting for the evening, they were mutually interested in enjoying another rendezvous, until the day they met by chance in a supermarket. Jack happened, on that day, to have in his pocket a mass-produced copy of one of Jyotisha's compatibility tables. When he used this table on the spot to gauge their mutual compatibility, he found that their stars did not properly align. He promptly announced to his astounded companion that their date was off, for Jyotisha clearly foretold that they must be incompatible. Jill told us later that she had never felt so insulted in her life.

By bringing their karmic interaction to an ungraceful close, Jack created new karma for himself, whose painful results he will eventually experience. If Jack continues to misuse Jyotisha in this shallow way, he will dig himself into an ever deeper relationship hole, creating future misery without realizing why or how. If, like the arrogantly cavalier Jack, you extract one thread from an item of attire and proclaim it to be the whole garment, you can expect that thread to be woven into the shroud of your relationship life.

Too many people seek truth only until they locate a convenient theory that seems to explain everything about everything. Astrology often seems to serve this purpose -- "If I am a Scorpio and my chosen mate is a Gemini, it is no wonder that we don't get along." This sort of "astrology" lets us use prefabricated horoscope interpretation to save us from having to make meaningful changes in our lives. We recommend that you resist this temptation, just as, in this work, we have resisted the temptation to try to create one grand "unified affinity theory."

In the ancient parable of the blind men and the elephant, each man drew a mistaken conclusion about the elephant's totality after perceiving a different part of the pachyderm. Jyotisha, a faithful celestial mirror of life, is no more symmetrical than the life it mirrors. Take pleasure in each vista, and let your soul supply the inspiration that will revive that elephant. Atop it, you may then tour your relationships enjoyably and effectively, probing for the happiness that lies within them.

This article was excerpted from the book:

Light on Relationships
by Hart de Fouw and Robert E. Svoboda. ©2000.

This article was reprinted with permission of the publisher, Samuel Weiser Inc.

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About the Authors

Hart de Fouw has been practicing Vedic astrology since 1968, and has traveled worldwide, giving lectures, seminars, and consultations. He is co-author of Light on Life: An Introduction to the Astrology of India, and the founder and principal teacher of a successful Jyotisha curriculum at Dr. Vasant Lad's Ayurvedic Institute in the U.S.A. He lives in Toronto, Canada.

Robert SvobodaIn 1980, Robert Edwin Svoboda was the first Westerner to graduate from Poona University with a Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (Ayurvedacharya) and to be licensed to practice Ayurveda in India. He serves on the faculty of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is the author of several books, including Ayurveda: Life, Health, and Longevity; Tao and Dharma; Ayurveda for Women; and Agbora, Agbora 11, and Agbora III. He is also co-author with Hart de Fouw of Light on Life: An Introduction to the Astrology of India. He lives in Texas. He can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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