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Talking with Vedic Astrologer James Braha

Episode 196 features an interview with Vedic astrologer James Braha, where we talk about his life and work in astrology.

James is the author of 6 books on astrology, including Ancient Hindu Astrology for the Modern Western Astrologer, and The Art and Practice of Ancient Hindu Astrology.

For more information about his work visit:


Our original discussion topic for this episode was supposed to be dasha techniques, but we ended up drifting towards talking about a bunch of other topics instead, since James has had such an interesting and varied life with astrology.

During the course of the episode we talk about how James got into astrology, what it was like studying with different teachers in India, and different observations he has picked up over the years through doing consultations.

One of the themes of the episode is the idea of lineage, and the difference between book learning versus having certain astrological doctrines transmitted directly from student to teacher.

This episode is available in both audio and video versions, and links to both are below.

Watch the Video Version of This Episode

Here is the video version of this episode of the podcast:


A full transcript of this episode is available: Episode 196 transcript

Listen to the Audio Version of Our March Forecast

You can either play this episode of the podcast directly from the website or download it as an MP3 to your computer by using the buttons below:

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  • For years I have wondered about Hindu astrology but it seemed so complicated, too over-layed with a spiritual tradition I could not relate to, and too many different systems etc. I also could not relate to having a different Sun and Ascendant. I think I am finally ready to try this now that I have studied Western for so long. The fatalism is astonishing, but then so is the Zodiacal Releasing. The problem I have with all of astrology is that it is not helpful to only think of this fatalistic stamp that has been put on us from birth and through the dashas/buktis, the ZR chapters, the long transits etc. other than to say -“You are not imagining this, this is where you are in life now and this is circumstance that has been written for you”. I think the fatalistic component is why modern astrology makes the attempt to find the alchemical gold within the chart – to offer some way of dealing with that which is fated and to mitigate through conscious awareness. And also, to provide a backdrop of philosophical overview. This to me is much like the function of religion. Much like religion astrology says – “this is life, know that there is a higher purpose, all is in divine order etc.” Mr. Braha is a fine example of how experience and testing of methods over time is critical. I think this is invaluable. What I do not find helpful is the karmic implication that we are to experience suffering as punishment for what has been done by our Souls to another which is so prevalent in interpretations Hindu and Western alike. Or, alternately, we are presented with the idea that we experience suffering as some sort of growth experience. No one knows why life is such as it is, the why of suffering and our fatalistic setup. What we do know is that there are ways to help the suffering as experienced in personal and collective philosophy/wisdom and action. This must be folded into to a reading if it is of any use it seems to me. Knowing I will be running a long Saturn (Cap through AQ is 52 years) can be utterly depressing without perspective. (Most especially with a poor condition in the natal. Why practice astrology if it is not helpful, if it can only show what one already knows but simply living.

  • Very interesting podcast as per usual. thank you. I subsequently listened to some youtube vidoes of James, he really clarifies Indian astrology and yet keeps the connection to Western. My book list is growing.
    Jen, re the fatalism, maybe as one gets older and there’s more to look back on (I’m 62), that many things were fated doesn’t seem like such a weird idea after all. I think the energy and natural optimism of youth makes one rail against such an idea, but after two Saturn returns….When I try to think could I have changed any of the major things I have done/not done, given my character and how much or little I knew myself at various times, I don’t think there were any real options. With Spirit in Cap and Fortune in Aq I spent the first 57 years under Saturns watchful eye, he let me away with nothing! So I hear you on that one!
    Have you noticed that except for the Sun and Moon periods, all the other periods combine with their neighbours to give a 27/28 year Saturn period, except of course Cap and Aq which ARE Saturn periods in themselves. Like Taurus 8 and Gemini 20 or Scorpio 17 and Sag 12 etc etc. The inventors of this amazing programme were basing everything on Saturn to get a handle on lifes limitations and how to deal with them. Very Stoic. Only the Sun and Moon are free of this cycle, that should give us a hint about where our freedom lies, shouldn’t it? And the Sun and Moon are the bases for the Lots.

  • After I wrote the above about the inventors of this system deliberately dealing with Saturn periods by making 8 contingent signs into pairs that add up to 27 or 28 like Virgo/Libra or Scorpio/Sag or Pisces/Aries or Taurus/Gemini it occurred to me this was a misleading statement and faulty thinking. That a total of 27 or 28, a Saturn number, is reached repeatedly by adding the periods of the above pairs is possibly even weirder than I thought. Those periods are based on astronomical calculations, the minor years of the planets, so although it was humans who ascribed various planets to various areas of the sky and gave them names and qualities etc. the lengths of the minor years, the various rhythms of the dance between Sun and planets, are not within our control. (Aargh, tryng to expand my little brain before first cup of coffee has hit the system here). So, my very academic question is: wtf???, not just what tf? but also who tf? and how tf? Did this system come into being at the same time as the ascribing of the planets to signs? Were the planets ascribed to signs so their minor years would make up 27s and 28s when added?

    • Hello Aine ! Nice to see you commenting as we are same age and guess what? My lot of Eros and Spirit are also Cap so I hear you! My marriage started on the day Aq Level one started and oh boy – it was a grind for both of us. Fortune in Aries. Very interesting observation you make. I could write chapters on that one. Suffice to say that it has often been said that we are here to experience limitation and emotion and the first at least fits into your Saturn theory. I agree – there is nothing that I would have done differently based on my understanding, knowledge, circumstance at the time. The Free will part is how conscious I was going through it, or perhaps I should say, what I did with what I was conscious of was my decision, and it was experienced – it was with each step a new experience. Transits pushing us into new experience etc. All in this material plane with the challenge of tap into the power of the Spiritual in the non rational and non material plane. Only way to be truly free. Lots to chew on. Love how the best Indian astrologers are psychic – what a great combo – the symbols with the psychic ability to use them.

  • What a fantastic episode, thanks so much! I bought James Braha’s first book in the late 80s, as I was studying Western astrology intensively for the first time. I was fascinated with the subject, but knew I couldn’t take it on at that time, as I was just gaining facility with Western and couldn’t introduce another system at that time. Very glad to see/hear the author at last (thank you, interwebs and Chris!), and excited to check out his updated book editions. I love Braha’s “I use what works” motto; theory is great, but for me, “what works” is most important.

  • Excellent discussion, very intriguing. The only thing I just cannot get my mind around is the issue of zodiac: hindu astrology using the sidereal zodiac? How could the signs possibly mean the same things in both systems? The houses where planets fall seem to be quite similar (at least in my own chart), but if they are one sign off, the interpretation changes completely. Sorry if this is a forbidden topic here, but seems really important.