A THIRTY-YEAR RECOLLECTION AND TRIBUTE TO THE COUNCIL OF VEDIC ASTROLOGY
by Dennis Flaherty
The Council was founded in November of 1993, and as a founding member of the newly formed Council, I was entrusted with the task of writing “The Purpose and Goals of the American Council of Vedic Astrology” which was published in the very first edition of the Council’s Journal. Quoting from that article:
"The American Council of Vedic Astrology was founded after the Second International Symposium
on Vedic Astrology, held in the Bay Area of California in the fall of 1993.
ACVA, as the Council is known, is the first organization in the Western world
dedicated to the dissemination and teaching of Vedic astrology.”
The purpose and goals of the Council were professional and inclusive of all Vedic astrologers in content. Among the stated goals:
To establish and maintain an educational program designed to teach the profession of Vedic astrology.
To establish and maintain a professional association for Vedic astrologers.
To suggest standards and a code of ethics for the practitioners of Vedic astrology.
To provide support for national symposiums to enable members and the public to hear from leading teachers of Vedic astrology…
To encourage empirical research studies into astrological principles of all types.
The original seven founding members of the Council were as follows: Chakrapani Ulla was selected as the Honorary Chair of the Council, Dr. David Frawley was selected as President, Dr. Dennis Harness was selected as Executive VP, Christina Collins, James Kelleher and yours truly as board members, and Deborah Ress as international liaison. We were established in collaboration with the Indian Council of Astrological Sciences (ICAS), at the time led by the esteemed B.V. Raman. We received our approval from the IRS as a 501(c) (6) non-profit educational/membership organization in the summer of 1995.
As with any fledgling organization we were high on vision, but low on finances. Among our mission goals was providing support for national symposiums on Vedic astrology. Therefore, my colleagues Dr. Dennis Harness, Dr. David Frawley, James Kelleher, and myself agreed to collaborate and shoulder the financial burden of sponsoring the continuing national symposiums on Vedic astrology—until the Council was financially able to do so.
Among our mission goals was establishing recognized standards of practice in Vedic astrology. In collaboration with the ICAS, and with the guidance of Chakrapani, Dr. David Frawley, and with full input from all members of the CVA board; the Council developed and implemented the first Vedic astrology certificate program in the West. The model for the certificate program was the time- honored Guru/Chela—the classic teacher/student Indian model.
The Council’s certificate program was egalitarian and inclusive in development, recognizing the diversity of our Vedic astrological community. This was no easy feat to accomplish, as astrologers in general are a highly opinionated group, and Vedic astrologers were no exception to the rule! We at the Council spent many hours debating and discussing what was relevant and foundational to the practice of Vedic astrology and what should be included in the Council’s certificate program. In my opinion the on-going dialogue and debate, with input from colleagues and peers, strengthened our growing community and fostered collaboration among Council members. In the end the Council agreed upon two levels of certificates which were to be offered through examination at the national symposiums on Vedic astrology. The Council’s recognized tutors would sponsor students who completed the Council’s curriculum to sit for the exams at the national symposiums on Vedic astrology and receive their certificate from the Council.
At the time of the founding of the Council, I was President of the Washington State Astrological Association (WSAA) and proprietor of a book- store and astrological learning center in Seattle, Washington. During the Council’s first decade, I sponsored noted Vedic astrologers within the Council’s community to teach through my bookstore, as well as through the Washington State Astrological Association (WSAA), as the popularity of Vedic astrology was growing in both eastern and western astrological circles.
Dr. Dennis Harness and I were featured speakers at the 10th International Federation of Australian Astrologers (FAA) conference in January of 1994, the year after the Council’s founding. This conference was largely western in its approach, but the FAA President Keven Barrett was both a colleague, and practicing Vedic astrologer. He not only joined the Council, but shortly thereafter Keven was inspired to become the founder of The Australian Council of Vedic Astrologers (ACVA).
Vedic astrology was rapidly growing in popularity and recognition during these early years. The premier astrological magazine—The Mountain Astrologer—featured an “East Meets West; Vedic Astrology De-mystified” edition in June of 1995. This edition featured articles by prominent members of our Vedic astrological community. Following the growing success of Vedic astrology in western circles, Dr. Dennis and I co-sponsored an East/West conference called: “Sacred Astrology: Rebuilding the Ancient Temple” in Seattle in October of 1995. It was the first large scale East/West conference to feature both prominent Vedic and Western astrologers. As Dennis and I were practicing both Western and Vedic astrology, we moved in both astrological circles, and were frequent lecturers at western astrological conferences. We were able to promote Vedic astrology in those circles and at those conferences, further increasing exposure to western audiences.
With the formation of another ACVA, the American College of Vedic Astrology (ACVA) in the fall of 1999, I was lobbied to assume the Presidency of the American Council of Vedic Astrology (ACVA). We all agreed that the Council would l hold its first open elections among its membership. Two officers, President and Vice President, as well as five board members comprised the election slate, representing a total of seven Council board members, continuing the format of our original founding board. I was sponsored and elected President of the Council in 2004, with Gary Gomes elected as Vice President, and with five elected board members. Chakrapani Ullal continued as the Council’s Honorary Chairman. With the founding of the College the certificate program now moved to the American College of Vedic Astrology (ACVA) with the American Council of Vedic Astrology (ACVA) focusing more on membership.
As the Australian Council of Vedic Astrologers (ACVA) and the American College of Vedic Astrology (ACVA) had been founded after the American Council of Vedic Astrology (ACVA), the Council decided—in the spirit of clarity—to drop the A from the American Council of Vedic Astrology, in order to avoid the growing confusion with the short-sighted naming of so many ACVAs! Although incorporated as “The American Council of Vedic Astrology”, we would be doing business moving forward as the Council of Vedic Astrology (CVA), representing in name our growing international membership.
I was only able to complete my first term as the elected President of the Council and declined a second term after a familial discussion—due to the emerging care of aging parents and the familial responsibilities that came with four young daughters. I sponsored the Council’s VP, Gary Gomes, as my successor for the Council’s second elections. Gary Gomes was elected President of the Council, with Sat Siri Khalsa as VP, and five Council board members. Chakrapani Ullal continued as Chairman of the Council.
During the “Great Recession” of 2008-2009 many non-profit organizations fell upon hard financial times. Many organizations lost membership, but most importantly lost volunteers. The Council was no exception, as during those years the Council continued with fewer board members. I received a call from Chakrapani Ullal who wished to sponsor me to run for the Presidency of the Council in the 2010 CVA elections. Like so many non-profits the CVA was in the red financially and its very existence threatened during the “Great Recession”. CVA’s Chairman, Chakrapani Ullal, and CVA President, Gary Gomes, sponsored my return to the Presidency of the CVA. As elected President I took office in 2010 with Sat Siri Khalsa returning as elected VP, and with five full Council board members. Chakrapani continued as Chairman of the Council.
In June of 2010 I was already sponsoring a Vedic astrology conference in the greater Seattle area called the NW Vedic Sciences Conference. I promptly organized a fund-raiser at that conference to benefit the Council. Through the generous donations of those who spoke and those who attended the NW Vedic Sciences Conference, we raised several thousand dollars to benefit the CVA, getting the Council out the red and into the black on a firmer financial footing.
Since the founding of the Council in 1993, and with the increased popularity of Vedic astrology, came a growing number of Vedic astrology certificate programs, by various individuals, and by various schools. Some of these were called colleges and universities, but they were really certificate programs—just like that of the Council’s certificate program. Considering those developments, the CVA board unanimously voted to resume our certificate program—as historically we were the first in the West to offer a certificate program in Vedic astrology with the founding of the Council in 1993.
We established a certification committee co-chaired by Council Chairman Chakrapani Ullal, and the Council’s first President Dr. David Frawley—along with founding Council member James Kelleher, Council VP Sat Siri Khalsa and me, all drawing on our historical knowledge. In the diverse and egalitarian spirit in which the Council was founded in 1993 we collectively revised the original Council certificate program, with input from all on the committee and CVA board, until we all arrived at exams that we unanimously agreed upon.
In 2010 the world was still recovering from the financial devastation of the “Great Recession”. Like many organizations, the CVA journal went online, as did the CVA’s certificate program. The first challenge the new CVA board faced in continuing our certificate program was honoring and grandfathering members of the CVA who already had received certificates earlier from the American Council of Vedic Astrology (ACVA) and later, The American College of Vedic astrology (ACVA)—-once again the unfortunate confusion of the various ACVA’s.
For clarification moving forward, Dr David Frawley and Chakrapani suggested we name the two certificate titles: “Jyotish Visharada, CVA” and Jyotish Kovid, CVA”, and a later a third, honorary title, “Jyotish Brihaspati, CVA”. In honoring and grandfathering members of our community who held prior certificates, we offered the new CVA titles. The response was an overwhelming mandate for the resumption of CVA certification. All the 1993 founding members of the Council and almost all Council members grandfathered to the new titles in January of 2011. Credit for the extraordinary original art displayed on Council’s certificates goes to artist Penny Lea Mackie of Sacred Images.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Council the CVA sponsored a conference for June of 2014: “The Return of Light”. A newly elected CVA board took office in that year, I as President and Sat Siri Khalsa as VP, with five elected CVA board members. During the planning of the conference it came to our attention that there was an international trademark/registration pending regarding the word “Jyotish”. The trademark/Registration had not yet been granted and was still open for public comment. We brought this matter to the attention of AB Shukla, the President of the Indian Council of Astrological Sciences (ICAS). Together, the CVA and the ICAS organized an international response. CVA board members Chakrpani Ullal, Dr. David Frawley and I, along with ICAS members Gayatri Devi Vasudev and A.B. Shukla, weighed in with inspiring commentary and rebuttal that the word “Jyotish” had been and should remain in the public domain for all. We received the inspiring and uplifting news that the rebuttal was successful right before the “Return of the Light” conference. The trademark/registration was denied. At that the “Return of the Light” conference we announced that the word “Jyotish” would forever remain in the public domain for all thanks to this collaboration of the CVA and ICAS.
The 20th anniversary CVA “Return of the Light” conference followed, featuring prominent national and international members of our growing community. Speakers included those members of the CVA and ICAS who collaborated on the “Jyotish” trademark response: Chakrapani, Dr David Frawley, and A.B. Shukla, as well as Gayatri Devi Vasudev, daughter of the late B.V. Raman. All members of the CVA certification committee, as well as Sanjay Rath, Nalini Kanta Das, Dr. Dennis Harness, Shambhavi Chopra, Komilla Sutton and long standing CVA members Edith Hathaway, Robert Koch, Brendan Feeley and many others celebrated in collaboration the founding of the Council twenty years earlier.
The next elected CVA board took office in 2019. I, as President and Nalini Kanta Das as VP, with the full complementary five elected board members. We all sadly recall that the Covid Pandemic struck in the spring of 2020, resulting in challenges for all peoples and non-profit organizations. On behalf of myself and the CVA I extend my gratitude to those who continued their service to the Council during those most unprecedented times. My deepest condolences to those of you who lost loved ones. During this time, CVA’s web master Elizabeth Taylor retired after almost two decades of service, and Michael Alberts stepped up and assumed the web master role. Michael also became CVA’s proctor of the online CVA exams. Sat Siri, who had served as CVA’s Exam Provost for the past decade was succeeded by CVA founding member, James Kelleher as CVA Exam Provost. Nalini Kanta Das joined the CVA certification committee, bringing his historical knowledge to the committee.
As I write this a newly elected CVA board has just taken office in 2023 celebrating our 30th anniversary. I am returning as President, with returning CVA board member Marianne Jacuzzi from Ireland serving as CVA’s first international VP and managing editor of the CVA journal. The current board is grounded by returning CVA board members Prema Lee Gurreri, Susie Patterson and Karen Wennerlind. We are also fortunate to have new energy and new members on the CVA board with Dr. Bruce Davis and Michael Alberts filling out the five CVA board members. Nalini Kanta Das continues to serve on the CVA certification committee, along with CVA’s VP, Marianne Jacuzzi.
In addition to the officers of the CVA, I thank all those CVA board members who have served one or more terms these last three decades. I will list them all alphabetically. THANK YOU- Christina Collins, Prema Lee Gurreri, Edith Hathaway, Linda Johnsen, Mickey McKay, Kenneth Miller, Paddi Moore, Joni Patry, Susie Patterson, Alfred Rordame, Patricia Sanders, Chris Ulhein, Sherry Valentine, and Karen Wennerlind. I wish to also thank Debra Infante who served as the Council’s secretary and receptionist in the early years of the Council. Please forgive me if I have inadvertently omitted any of you.
I thank all the Council’s lifetime, professional and annual members for your continuing support and faith in the CVA elected board. Further, I thank all the CVA recognized teachers and tutors who are the foundation of CVA’s certificate program, and Sat Siri Khalsa and James Kelleher for their roles as CVA Exam Provost.
I especially want to thank the honorable Michael McCormack who has vetted and certified the CVA elections all these years, and my friend and fellow CVA board member, Karen Wennerlind, who has responsibly guided the finances of the CVA since our first elections in 2004. Last, but never least, with all my heart I especially want to thank my family—-for what is community if we do not have the foundation of family first? In deep appreciation I thank my wife, Patricia, and my four daughters, Jennifer, Stephanie, Sara and Natalie—who all agreed to share me with the Council these last three decades. Thanks to all of you these last thirty years who have participated and supported the Council, as without your support our community would not have withstood Saturn’s test of time. We all know the time-honored adage: “It Takes a Village”.
CVA President: Dennis Flaherty