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JOURNAL

Interview of James Braha

with Bruce Davis

Bruce Davis: James, your latest book, The Braha Sutras, was reviewed in the CVA Journal about a year ago. Many readers valued the review for the wisdom and challenges you raised. We are delighted to continue this conversation now. The hope is to get to the core of your life and work, in a way that might further challenge and inspire students and practitioners on their own journeys. 

James Braha:  Glad to be here with you. And thanks for that review in the Journal. It blew my mind. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could review a text that was essentially an astrologer’s lifetime of accumulated experience. You did exactly that, and I was stunned to be honest.

BD: In 1986 you wrote Ancient Hindu Astrology for the Modern Western Astrologer, receiving wide critical acclaim. Astrologer/author Robert Hand wrote: “This book is not only the best introduction to Hindu astrology that there is, it is a superbly written astrology book in its own right.” Teresa Hamilton (Institute for East West studies for the astrology journal The Mercury Hour  wrote, “This is the clearest exposition of Hindu astrology I have ever seen.” What was like to have that positive reception for your work?  

JB: Thrilling. I got letters from all over the world for at least 10 years. I have a scrapbook with compliments from famous Indian authors, Western astrologers, and people who had desperately wanted to understand Jyotish. I went overnight from being a nobody to being a somebody. Even my own family treated me differently.

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BD—What was the process like to write this first book?

JB—I worked on Ancient Hindu Astrology for the Modern Western Astrologer seven days a week, because I was sure someone else would be writing the same book. I couldn’t believe no one had written an understandable Jyotish text. I found Vedic astrology simple to learn, because I had studied Western astrology for about five years.

BD—Any difficulty getting it published? 

JB—I always intended to self-publish because I wanted a large hardcover book, which I knew publishers would balk at. But, when I was done I thought I’d send the manuscript to three publishers to see their offers. There offers were this: Nothing. They said they loved the text but had never been successful when publishing such books by Indian authors.

BD—When had you become intrigued with astrology in the first place? How did it develop into such a passion for you?

JB—During my twenties, I was seeking enlightenment through Transcendental Meditation. I went to many long courses where we meditated many hours a day and learned Vedanta teachings from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He mentioned that Jyotish was one of the chapters of the Vedas. But, while I knew absolutely nothing about the subject, it definitely intrigued me.

        Around 1978 or so, at age 27, my first wife, who was an actress, was cast in a play where she met a dancer who was also a professional Western astrologer. I immediately wanted a reading, and was startled at the $60 cost, which was a lot at that time. I went for a session and was amazed at the experience. One of her first statements was about my complicated reaction to groups. Jupiter is in my 11th house - friends and groups – but is aspected by both Saturn and Mars to the exact degree. Saturn opposes Jupiter, while Mars throws its 8th house aspect onto Jupiter, which is called a quincunx in the Western system.

BD—Trouble with groups? What kinds of groups?

JB—Well, when my mom brought me to kindergarten, I flipped out. Cried for hours. And when it came to joining any organizations, including astrology, for the most part I’ve always been missing in action. Attending conferences has been rare for me.

        Anyway, with my first reading, I was gobsmacked. Totally hooked. It was all I could think about for months. I’d say that’s when I became really passionate about it.

BD—What a profound reading! You’re fortunate to have had such a gifted practitioner right at the beginning of your career.

JB—She was great. She hit on so many areas. She also said that in the next few months, when Uranus would hit my 7th house cusp (which in Jyotish would be the 2nd degree of Scorpio, opposing my 2-degree Taurus ascendant) there would be, quote, “a re-testing of my marriage!” Hmmm. Re-testing. Wasn’t sure I liked the sound of that!

BD—Testing? Sounds more like trouble to me.

JB—Yeah, my marriage blew up exactly when the so called “retesting,” occurred. My then wife was in a play and fell in love with her director. My first thought was to go to see an astrologer. I couldn’t go back to Pam Raff, though, because she was my wife’s friend. But, I had heard of a very famous local astrologer, Isabel Hickey, who had written what is in my view the best Western astrology introductory text.

BD—What was its title?

JB—It’s called, Astrology: a Cosmic Science. It’s still a great introduction to the Western tropical system. I called her and asked for a reading. She was in her 70s at the time and said she was not seeing clients. I protested, “My wife is in love with another man” and she said “Ok, I was just testing you to see if you were serious. Come see me with your wife and bring both of your charts.
        So, we get there and she reviews the charts for maybe ten minutes, and begins to tell us what we need to hear. She then sends my wife out of the room and says that with Uranus on my 7th cusp there’s nothing I can do. I will have zero control, because that’s how Uranus works. It often brings sudden change. She also says my wife’s relationship will fail because Saturn is transiting her Sun. And she advises me to get her out of my house: “Let her be miserable with him” she says, “And when the Saturn transit ends and the relationship fails, she’ll come back to you.” “But,” she says, “Don’t make any promises now, because you’re going to be a very different person by the time she returns. Pluto is transiting your Sun, and this will have enormously transformative effects.”

BD—These are very specific predictions. Did they prove to be accurate?

JB—Both very specific and very accurate. I wouldn’t be telling you all this if what she said had been even slightly wrong. I spent many years wondering where she got such confidence in her predictions. Well, ultimately, I figured out that it comes with tons of experience.

        I have to tell you that in the last several years, I’ve had to correct a big oversight. For decades, I taught that Eastern astrology is way better in the predictive side, while Western excels in behavior and psychology. This is only partly true. With natal charts, Jyotish is way better. Indeed, I studied the Western system for about five years, but I wouldn’t consider going professional. I just couldn’t read a person’s life with enough accuracy. However, Western astrology does quite well in making predictions for the future, using transits and several different kinds of progressions: Solar, secondary, lunar, and so forth.

BD—So, there’s another extraordinary reading early in your career. After only ten minutes of studying your chart and your wife’s chart, Isabel Hickey was able to tell you all this all this about your life?

JB—Yes, and this is something really important to understand—and something that should inspire the students and practitioners who are reading this interview. If you practice astrology long enough, and you do it properly, you’ll be amazed at how much better you get decade after decade. And how much more information you’ll get from every chart. 

BD—Chakrapani Ullal, one of the long-time mentors in the Council on Vedic Astrology, said that the more readings you do over the decades, the more you develop siddhis, quickly intuiting the client’s life as a whole picture, instead of just focusing on intermittent, isolated bits of information. 

JB—Yeah, like that. The other day, I was in the middle of a reading, a fairly complicated horoscope, and I became silent for a minute as I was deciding whether to address some feature - because I had already talked for a good 40 minutes or so without interruption. She was looking at my quizzically, patiently waiting for me to go on, and I broke out laughing saying, “There’ so much to say…. years ago, I never had this issue. I wouldn’t have seen half of what I see in the chart right now.” And I meant this literally. 

BD—What’s it like for you when you are suddenly flooded by all this information, all at once?

JB—It comes in very fast. I like to spend an hour or two looking at the chart in the morning so I can really get a good understanding of the person. But, even if I’m just looking at a chart briefly, a lot of information comes. I see things that would have taken so much longer and with so much struggle in my early years. It surprises me because I have Saturn in my 5th house, and my mind works very slowly. However, after 30 years or so, my brain started feeling like a computer. It’s because I’ve probably done over ten thousand charts professionally. Which is funny, because my second mentor in India in 1984 actually said to me, “You must have a computer mind to do astrology.”

BD—You said that anyone who practices astrology  “long enough and properly,” they would have great results. What does it mean to do astrology “properly?”

JB—That’s the main issue that I’ve been focused on for years, and which I decided to address when asked to do this interview. And, by the way, let me say it’s a real honor to be interviewed for CVA, especially at this time. Had Dennis asked me to do this 10 or 20 years ago, it would have been an ego boost, I would have felt special, and it would have been a career opportunity. My comments, or my approach, at that time would have been more personal or superficial. At age 72, that’s all gone. Now it’s just not my interest anymore.

BD—I get that you have a deeper interest after several decades of this work and study. How would you describe this deeper interest at this point of your career?

JB—Making the journey for future astrologers easier, more accurate, and more profound. That’s what matters now. And that’s what my books and YouTube videos are about. I want astrologers to benefit from my work, which has been intense, and go beyond my work. I tried to go further than my teachers, and that’s what future astrologers must do: go beyond their teachers.

        My greatest hope is that students read my books diligently, learn the fundamentals, memorize the near infinite amount of details, study and test what I’ve written, and then make improvements.

        There’s a fabulous quote, by Lao Tzu, “If you do not change your direction, you may end up where you are headed.” This statement has been on my mind for years, as I watch where my long-time friends have wound up. Some of their lives look similar to how they were decades ago. But others have ended up in very extreme places, not where I expected. You see this with politicians. They may have seemed normal and balanced when elected, yet somehow ended up in strange places. If you look closely at their younger or middle years, you can see how they were sort of tilted in a particular direction that guided them, usually unconsciously, to where they are now. Imagine a ship in the ocean headed just one or two degrees off, it may wind up far from where it was supposed to be.

BD—This brings up an important point. In the third Sutra of your recent book, The Braha Sutras, you say that a good reading "'describes a context for one’s life and purpose, and reveals how one’s positive and negative periods might fit some overall design.”  You say there that you have never had a reading that satisfied in this way, and that you would trade all the other readings you’ve had for such a one. What does it take for an astrologer to accomplish a reading like this?

JB—Yeah, that’s all true. And this relates to the idea of younger astrologers setting themselves on the most perfect path. The problem with every reading I ever got, and I’m sorry to say it also happened with both my mentors, is that no one truly approached the chart as a whole. No one actually probed the chart to see a context for my life. They gave me isolated pieces of information, without seeing the horoscope as a whole. As just a small example, they never tried to decipher how the negatives and drawbacks of the chart might be handled such that I could succeed with my overall intention in life. All the readings fell seriously short.

MJ—You’re suggesting that seeing snapshots of information, as true as each of them may be, doesn’t reach the full potential of an astrology reading? Am I understanding you?

JB—Yes that’s it, exactly. Now, for some reason, probably because my horoscope indicates that I would almost certainly become an astrologer, I focused from day one on analyzing the person’s life as a whole: their purpose; their internal workings, what would bring them happiness and fulfillment, and the like.

        For example, whenever I see a chart of a possible lawyer, I immediately look to see if it will bring them happiness. In many cases, the person gets a law degree and then loathes the practice. I see so many charts clearly indicating an artist, but the person’s confidence level won’t support it. These kinds of issues are crucial. This is just one small example of what I mean by seeing the whole picture.

BD—Are you sometimes able to provide holistic readings, where you zero in on the person’s life, purpose and wellbeing?

JB—I try to achieve that with every chart. And in cases where the horoscopes are massively confusing, I tell them right away, “I’m going to explain what each and every astrological feature in the chart means, as thoroughly as possible, and it’s your job to listen to the recording several times and draw conclusions as best as you can. And, the fact that the chart is so confusing clearly means your life is confusing.” And even when the chart is immensely complex, I do my best to make some meaning of it and figure out the best way the person might navigate it.

BD—Do these very complex charts show up a lot in your practice?

JB—Statistically, no. But it happens often enough, and I do my best to help them get to some level of self-understanding. Also, by the way, while I spend about an hour or two analyzing charts, looking for the essence and purpose of the life, it doesn’t mean that I tell the person, “This is your purpose, this is your context.” That’s sometimes necessary, but not always. Generally, the client comes to the realization of this deeper understanding on their own in the course of the reading.  

        Actually, for me to have that more holistic perception of the client is crucial because I want to know who the person is as fully as possible, and I want a sense of confidence. I hate being wrong with astrology, and I hate the fact that we astrologers can tell clients anything and they will not only believe us, but often take our words as gospel. As hard as I try for accurate readings with my clients, I abhor giving them mis-information.

BD—How often would you say that your astrology readings miss the mark for your clients?

JB—Rarely, because if the reading is far off, I begin questioning the birth time. I’m not perfect, but I almost always understand the basics of the person’s life.
        Also, astrology isn’t perfect. So, I won’t use any technique that doesn’t give me about 75% accuracy. This strategy, by the way, forms the very first sutra in Braha Sutras. It’s of immense importance. That aside, we all get a lot right, but we’ll also have plenty of misses.
        The horoscope often reveals features about a person that he or she hasn’t realized or owned up to. It’s our job to provide those insights. Mainly, I want to know who the person is and what is their greatest purpose. I want to help the person get the most out of life, so they can squeeze every drop of potential out of their talents.
        I once wrote on Facebook about this issue of seeing chart from the broadest view, rather than a bunch of unrelated pieces, and heard from a client, an old college friend actually, who replied, “Did you tell me my context, my purpose?”  This startled me. And I then realized that although this is how I’ve approached every chart from the start, I don’t necessarily express it in the way he was expecting. In my friend’s case it was unnecessary because he had embraced his purpose and context when he entered the theatre as an actor and director very early on. His life was already a full expression of who he is. Nothing for me to add on this particular subject. In a situation like that what I could have done was simply remind him that he appeared to be living his life purpose beautifully.

BD—So, some people you work with already have a sense of their Dharma before you meet with them?

JB—Well, it depends on what you mean by Dharma, which many take to be a person’s career path. There’s a sutra in Braha Sutras, number 96, titled, “Note the difference between who a person is and what they do.” In my friend’s case, what he is doing, as a dramatist, is both who he is and what he does. There are plenty of cases where a person is not on their proper path because they haven’t embraced who they are. This causes untold problems. It’s actually who you are that gives rise to your purpose and context.

BD—Do you see this often, where a person isn’t able to embrace who they are? How does this happen, do you think?

JB—They’ve been hijacked by childhood traumas, fears, complexes, parental expectations, confidence issues, and so on.
        The bottom line is to make sure you’ve set yourself on the right path from the beginning. Of course, we look for things like career, love, health, and money. Those all must be addressed. Indeed, when clients ask me if they should tell me their interests before the session, I say, “Well, you know, I’m pretty psychic. I’m thinking, love, money, health, career, and maybe spiritual.” And, they laugh. But, seriously, if you don’t look at the chart as a whole, you’re missing the point the same way every astrologer I ever saw.

BD—So how do you go about finding this wholeness in the chart?

JB—It’s just about adopting the right strategy. When we begin studying astrology, we are looking for isolated pieces because analyzing the whole chart seems daunting. How can you consider the whole when you’re struggling to find the money, the career, health, and the marriage?
        Makes sense, right? Well, it’s like driving a car. Yes, you have to control the brakes, the steering wheel, the mirror, you’re front and back vision, and all of that. But, your purpose is to drive the car successfully. You have to focus on how all the parts function together. If you get everything right, except the brakes, you die. If you get everything but the mirror, you’re in trouble. This is why all the readings I ever got were relatively useless. The astrologers missed my essence, which is the point of a natal reading.

BD—This sense of a holistic reading plays a large role in your latest book, Braha Sutras. This point came across in the review we did last year.

JB—Right. Honestly, I had no thought of writing, but had worked so hard on a 2019 workshop titled, What I Wish I Knew 40 Years Ago, that when I was finished I realized it was a book in the making. Note the subtitle, Insights from a Lifetime of Vedic Astrology. When I finished it, I realized that one of the problems in astrology is that we authors write our books in our 30s and 40s, rather than our 60s and 70s, when we really know something. 

BD—From a lifetime of experience?

JB—Yes. Not just the words of teachers, books, and authorities. Everything has to be tested. Techniques need to work a good seven out ten times, for my money. Even the scriptures that so many people trust implicitly have been altered and doctored over time. If you delve deeply, it’s obvious that the old texts haven’t been passed down perfectly. Look at Parashara’s Hora Shastra, basically the bible for most Vedic astrologers. It actually includes Western planetary aspects.
        Many don’t know this, but the lesser Jyotish aspects, the ones that are considered 75%, 50%, and 25% effective, and which almost no one uses, are actually from Western astrology. Do they work? Absolutely. But, do I seriously think Parashara used and taught those aspects? I don’t. I suspect some translator along the way added them. And, since this was a risky thing to do, he or she may have felt safer assigning those aspects less power. 

BD—Your view regarding Parashara differs from many Vedic astrologers. How have you come to this understanding? Is it your own experience itself that substantiates your claim?

JB—Not sure what you mean that my view differs. I am more skeptical and discriminating than many others, no doubt on that. But, it’s both my opinion and my experience. Bear in mind that neither of my Indian mentors used those aspects, and most astrologers ignore them. I use them with full power in a person’s Western chart, because I always look at both systems. I get more information and greater accuracy.
        I say follow a direction in your work that leads to a profound place. Focus on the being of astrology, more than the doing, the techniques.

BD—This reminds me of the first two chapter titles in Braha Sutras. The first chapter is “The Being,” and the second is “The Doing.” 

JB—If you get the ground of being right, then you’re on the best course for the doing.

BD—What do you mean by “ground of being,” in the work of Vedic astrology?

JB—I mean approaching the work with deep integrity. I mean searching intensely for truth, rather than worrying about what will make your clients feel good or having them like you. I mean being honest with yourself and clients when the chart doesn’t reveal something you’re trying to decipher. I mean being constantly curious, using your own thought process rather than blindly accepting what teachers and book say. In every book I’ve written I’ve made it clear that my teachings, even while based as much on possible on my experience, are only meant as a guide. Just because techniques produce great accuracy for me doesn’t necessarily mean they will work for you. Most will, of course, but not all.

BD—I understand your point here. As useful as teachers may be, we can’t rely on them as absolutes. I’m reminded of a quote from Bepin Behari’s book, Myths and Symbols of Vedic Astrology: “The effective exploration has to be undertaken by students themselves within their own minds.”

JB—Yes, and this can only be done by being responsible for your own thought process. YOU have to do the deep questioning. YOU have to be curious. YOU have to search for truth. Otherwise, you’ll never to get to where you want to go. This is about training your mind to think, not simply amassing techniques and information.

BD—Didn’t Albert Einstein say that education should be about teaching you how to think?

JB—Yes, it’s too easy to be gullible with astrology. If any field demands critical thinking and skepticism, it’s this one. In the late 1980s, after my first book had come out, I met my astrological hero, Robert Hand, at a workshop in Florida. He knew me from my first book, which he ordered personally from me. Do you know where the conversation landed, after a very few short minutes? We discussed the legitimacy of astrology, how well it works, where does gullibility come in?
        I’ll never forget what he said. He told me his father used astrology to predict financial markets. And that when he was wrong, he lost money. This is about as solid a marker as a person can use. I dare say there’s a dearth of critical thinking going on in our field. I see this when people ask me my views and blindly accept them without doubt or testing. I hear so much nonsense from clients who tell me what astrologers have told them. I can’t describe how many clients with horribly afflicted Jupiters or Venuses tell me that other astrologers predicted wonderful results because they’re benefics. I can’t tell you how many clients are scared silly just because a Rahu dasa or bhukti is coming. Astrologers practicing like this should quit the practice before incurring more bad karma.

BD—So, what you are describing as “gullibility” leads to a lot of bad astrology readings? Why do you think this is?

JB—Critical thinking is hard, and you need to be a serious person from the get go. Do you ever wonder why so many peoples’ political views are patently ridiculous? Why citizens choose one side, liberal or conservative, and simply swallow what their leaders say? You know what the answer is? Because critical thinking is tedious.
        When you hear any astrological teaching, even - or perhaps especially - from someone you respect, someone who has no reason to lie, someone who’s proven to be brilliant, you must question it.

BD—Something like the ancient Buddhist saying, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” To me that means coming to your own fresh beginning. Even starting over if need be.

JB—Yes. Whether it’s a student, an aspiring astrologer or even a seasoned pro, the message is the same. You have to stop, think about it, pick it apart, play devil’s advocate. See if it holds up, not just once but with consistency. Be a perfectionest. This is the only way to get to natal and predictive accuracy. No one can do it for you.
        I have many clients who get a reading with me and then ask if I will teach them. As if it’s even doable. All I can do is present my findings, which I do in my books. I can’t teach you, but you can learn from me. Examine and test my findings. See if they work. Everyone has to find their own way and practice in the way that fits them. Even when I beg you to look at the chart from the broadest view, it might not be right for you. It’s your choice.
        I’ve written six astrology books, given over 85 YouTube videos interviews, and done at least 10,000 readings. Everyone thinks my destiny and life purpose is astrology. But, actually it’s just my career, my calling.
        My ultimate purpose has been a search for truth and enlightenment. It’s who I am. I’ve always been driven that way.

BD—Is it possible to see something like your orientation to truth and enlightenment in your own Vedic chart?

JB—If you analyze the chart as a whole, rather than just the isolated parts, yes. My astrology career is plain as day, as the 10th ruler Saturn is aspected by the spiritual planet Jupiter, to the exact degree. And, Jupiter rules the 8th house – astrology – and the 9th house – foreign countries and foreign knowledge.
        However, the search for truth and, most importantly, moksha, enlightenment, is who I am. The foundation of every chart is the ascendant and its ruler, the Moon, and the Sun. Well, my Moon is the 12th house and my ascendant ruler is two degrees away from both the 12th house ruler, Mars, and Ketu. My Sun is aspected by Jupiter and Saturn, both spiritual planets. So, who I am is about truth and enlightenment, while my career is astrology and knowledge from foreign countries.

BD—You wrote a book on your spiritual path of non-duality, called, Living Reality: My Extraordinary Summer with Sailor Bob Adamson. It’s about your guru Sailor Bob Adamson coming from Australia to stay in your house for five weeks. Can you tell us about that time?

JB—Yes. And after 30 plus years of seeking enlightenment, he helped remove the monkey on my back of feeling separate from Source, which ended my suffering.

BD—How did that experience affected your work as an astrologer?

JB—Intensely. My mind comprehends the horoscope faster and more clearly. I’m no longer cluttered with so many complexes, worries, and psychological baggage. It’s impossible to overstate.
        I had learned the concept that the world is maya, a dream, at the age of 20, but it had no meaning. It was just a concept. When non-duality took hold, I saw that the world can’t be real because it appears and then disappears. It looks real, but isn’t. More than half the world believes in the concept of maya, but few actually live that way. Well, when you live that way, life changes. All the annoying worries and fears and complexes begin to fade and your brain has room to think, so to speak.
        Second, in my life before non-duality, life was all concepts and beliefs. Even enlightenment was a concept, something I understood from the context of the mind. Well, consciousness is not of the mind, it’s outside it.
        What I finally grasped is that the only thing I can know for sure is that I AM. I’m definitely not the body, the thoughts, and feelings, but I can never negate the awareness or consciousness that’s all-pervading.
        Now, this will sound odd, but because I cannot know anything, outside of pure being, with 100% certainty, I’m less prone to getting caught up in beliefs and concepts. What’s left is experience or perception. This leaves me less gullible, which is far and away the biggest pitfall in this field.

BD—Sometimes when you think you know more, you actually know less. And when you know less, you may actually know more. Something like that.

JB—Yes. It’s paradoxical. There’s no comparison between my astrological work before and after non-dual understanding. But, I need to clarify that when I talk about non-duality, it’s not the enlightenment your mother taught you. It’s not pure bliss, mystical powers, and all that rubbish. It’s just the end of intense attachments, deep suffering, and feeling separate. I’m the exact same as I was before non-duality, yet also completely different. I still have bills to pay and problems to deal with, and I have likes and dislikes, as we all do. But, in the most important ways, especially in dropping the deep attachments, life has not been remotely the same since 2004. There’s a prevalent freedom and “acceptance of what is” that eluded me for 53 years. It never wavers.

BD—I’m hearing a correlation between your non-dual experience of life and that lofty but attainable ideal of a whole or holistic reading of a client’s life. Of who a client is not only how they manifest their work, their families, and their relationships.

JB—Exactly. It’s the Being and the Doing again. That, with the earnestness of commitment to oneself and one’s clients is the essential message I want to express—to be known for.

BD—Does your worldview, especially non-duality, ever tempt you to guide clients toward their own spiritual deepening?

JB—Non-duality aside, I spent I spent age 20 to 53 seeking liberation, and did so many spiritual and self-development techniques, I can hardly remember all of them. All of these practices became part of my astrological work when advising clients with their paths and dilemmas. I’m talking not just about spiritual help, but psychological, emotional, physical, love-relationship, and on and on. So, I have sent hundreds, if not thousands of clients to workshops and therapies that benefitted me and helped others.
        Regarding non-duality specifically, it comes up in all kinds of ways. Probably the most important is when spiritual seekers ask if enlightenment is promised in their horoscope. This brings up the most important issue of all, when I ask them, “What’s your definition of enlightenment?” If they answer with the immature, but extremely common, statement “Perfection, 24/7 bliss, miracles, no suffering whatsoever, and so on,” I say, “No, because no one has that. And even if you count those who claim to have it, you’re talking about maybe 20 or 30 people out of 8 billion. It’s absurd.” And that starts me on an explanation of liberation through non-duality, which is simply – not easily, but simply – awakening exists when you know with absolute, unequivocal conviction that who you are is consciousness or awareness, while who you are not is the body, thoughts, and feelings. Period. Full stop.

BD—Tell me what you mean by “absolute, unequivocal conviction,” because each person may have a different concept or a different experience of what that is.

JB—Rather than entering into a long semantic discussion, just understand that a person who fully knows that their true nature is awareness - rather than the body, thoughts, and feelings - finds that all of their prior deep-rooted attachments slowly or instantly disappear. And when that happens, deep-rooted suffering disappears, along with the pervasive sense of separation from Source that existed since early childhood.

BD—I see. Now, back to astrology practice, what would you say is the greatest pitfall for the aspiring astrologer?

JB—It’s that gullibility I mentioned—relying on astrological concepts and beliefs that very often fall short, and then offering it to clients as an accurate reading of the chart. We have to be serious, dead serious, about finding truth. Aside from deeply understanding all astrological fundamentals, gullibility is the biggest problem. It’s what stops us from finding astrological truth.
        I suggest contemplating Occam’s Razor, which, paraphrasing, means “All things being equal, the simplest and most obvious explanation for any occurrence is most likely the correct one.”  I’m not saying to apply this to astrological techniques or interpretation. I’m suggesting to think about this in your approach to life, which will then have a profound effect on your work. 
        Astrology is the very opposite of Occam’s Razor. Our job is looking for unseen causes, completely unconnected to obvious reasons and common sense. So, the more we understand and contemplate Occam’s Razor (which, make no mistake, is entirely anathema to us metaphysicians) the less likely we are to be gullible with astrology. 

BD—And yet, you wrote in The Braha Sutras that astrology is a job where gullibility is inescapable. It’s built in. How can that be?

JB—Exactly. We face the temptation daily to settle with convenience instead of diligently searching for the truth. We’re searching for hidden, unseen forces. It’s very easy to be misled. It’s very easy to make faulty assumptions. That’s why I love that Rob Hand’s father had to be accurate or lose money. He couldn’t get away with fuzzy work.

BD—What would be a good example of what you mean by gullibility in astrological work? 

JB—People think that if they get fired during Mars bhukti or when Saturn transited some particular house it means that caused the loss of job. Okay fine. The question is, will those astrological influences work in 7 out of 10 cases? Many times, and I mean extremely often, the answer is no. The person’s just rationalizing why something occurred, because a genuine astrological indication hasn’t shown up. 
        Not every occurrence, even highly significant ones, show up in every horoscope, every time. Sometimes the indications we’re searching for occur in a different system. My second marriage, one of the most important events in my life, was nowhere to be found in Parasara or Western astrology, but was crystal clear in Jaimini.
        When we think everything that happens must show up in the chart, we often make up some illogical reason that will never produce the same effect twice. Like astrologers who think death will show up in the horoscopes of 50 million people who died in World War II. Total nonsense. It’s just belief, belief, and more belief.
        People are terribly uncomfortable with uncertainty and confusion. Einstein said he was able to get answers to tough questions, or solve issues, because he was comfortable in confusion. He didn’t freak out or run to teachers and ask their views when he was stumped. He did his thinking, his delving, and his questioning in the midst of confusion until answers might arise. If we’re uncomfortable within uncertainty and confusion, astrology is the wrong field to be in. They’re not going away. Something that has surprised me is that the longer I practice, the more complex and confusing charts I’m seeing. I’ve wondered if it has something to do with the planets in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, versus the charts I was analyzing during those decades, for people born in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. I’m definitely seeing more complex charts in the last several years. What I have to do is sit with that uncertainty and focus diligently until understanding arises; if it arises.

BD—Does intuition play a role in the reading of a complex Jyotish chart? Can intuition support that apprehension of a person’s whole life in the chart? Or is that a further example of gullibility, of self-deception.

JB—Well, this is a question that actually deserves a small book. Let me just briefly say that I prefer to draw astrological conclusions based on reliable techniques, knowledge, and experience. I hate going by intuition with horoscopes. However, intuition comes into play, beyond a doubt. Many times, I will be analyzing a horoscope and an unprompted thought comes to mind: “This person is a doctor.” Or “This person is a lawyer.” So, my next step is to try and see where those features appear in the chart. Sometimes, they do show up and sometimes they don’t, yet either way those bouts of intuition are accurate more times than I like. Why do I specify “more times than I like?” Because I approach astrology as a science as much possible.
        There are other things to say about astrological intuition, but, as I said, I’d need to write a small book for that topic.

BD—So, gullibility is the number one pitfall for the astrologer. Do you have a number two pitfall?

JB—Yes, it’s when we avoid the hard work that astrology requires. Diligence and extreme seriousness are critical. Something I’ve noticed is that people who are at the top of their fields are the ones who take their work ultra-seriously. I love George Harrison’s statement, “We were the best band because we worked the hardest.” That’s the case with almost everyone who is the best in their field. Sure, they have talent, but they work incredibly hard.
        I’ll tell you a story. In 1984, I had been practicing professionally for about a year, with relatively good results. Not perfect, but clients were satisfied. Well, I ran into an old high school friend I hadn’t seen in years and took him to my house to read his chart. All was going well, until I spoke about some previous dasa bhukti that looked quite okay and he replied, “Really? That’s when I tried to commit suicide!” The next day, I called a travel agent to get me a ticket back to India. The very next day.

BD—Yes, that’s taking your work as an astrology seriously, for sure. What did you miss in your friend’s chart?

JB—In my case, returning to India – extreme as it may seem - is the kind of seriousness that’s required. As for my friend’s chart, it was the Great Years Of The Planets, which I learned from my second mentor on my second journey, that was missing. I quite remember, the case of my friend’s suicide attempt was one of the first questions I put to him. The Great Years is not a traditional Vedic technique. It comes from Lal Kitab, a Persian text. Padia, my teacher, used anything that worked, he’s very open minded. He noticed that when the Great Year of Mercury occurred for my friend it would be terrible. Mercury was in the 8th house, sandwiched between two malefics, Mars and Sun, within only 1 or 2 degrees.

BD—What’s another example of what you mean by the importance of hard work in practicing astrology?

JB—You absolutely must keep analyzing horoscopes, more and more and more, with a big commitment to accuracy. You have to fight the urge to take the easy way out, to draw conclusions quickly. You have to not just be skeptical and play devil’s advocate with books and teachers, but most of all with your own mind! Let me repeat this: you have to constantly question, doubt, and test your own thoughts and conclusions. 

BD—But how can you tell if the readings you are doing actually hit the mark?

JB—Especially when you are doing as many charts as possible, you have to look for feedback from clients on the accuracy of your readings. This is a huge problem because friends, relatives, and clients are often terrible at helping out. They often have no objectivity, or perhaps better to say they have no actual understanding of what you’re asking. Crazy, I know. It is mind boggling how inaccurate clients can be about answering personal questions. They say their mom is fine and the relationship with her is great, and 20 minutes later blithely announce that the mom is a raging alcoholic. I could give you ten different examples of this, but it’s unnecessary. Take my word for it, assuming you haven’t noticed it yourself.

BD—Thank you for your time and your candor, James! I’ve enjoyed our time together.

JB—As I said before, I really appreciate the opportunity to do this interview with the CVA Journal to expound on my study and my experience of astrology over so many years. My hope is that critical inquiry, hard work and questioning common habits and assumptions becomes more the norm in the years ahead.

Books by James Braha
(All books published by Hermetician Press - Available on Amazon)

 

Ancient Hindu Astrology for the Modern Western Astrologer

 C  1986, Revised and Expanded 2020

 

Astro-Logos: Revelations of a Hindu Astrologer

C  1989

 

How to be a Great Astrologer: The Planetary Aspects Explained

C 1992

 

How to Predict Your Future: Secrets of Eastern and Western Astrology         

C 1995

 

The Art and Practice of Ancient Hindu Astrology: Nine Intimate Sessions Between Teacher and Student

 C 2001, Revised 2020

 

Living Reality: My Extraordinary Summer With Sailor Bob Adamson

C 2006

 

The Braha Sutras: Insights from Life of Vedic Astrology

C 2022

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