Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra

Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, "Parashara's Monumental Astrological Scientific Text," is quite a mysterious text. It is written as a recorded dialogue between the Rishi Parashara and his disciple Maitreya. Parashara was the father of Vyasa, Vyasa being the esteemed composer of the Mahabharata, Srimad Bhagavatam and the Bhagavad Gita, in addition to which he is credited with having compiled and scribed the Vedas. And Parashara was his father. Maitreya was himself an exalted Rishi and is referred to throughout the text as Twice Born, Wise and other such names exemplifying his spiritual status. Being a dialogue between two such great souls, the brilliance of Parashara"s astrological text comes as no surprise. The question and the mystery, however, is whether Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra is actually a work of Parashara. The origins of Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra are controversial. Many Sanskrit scholars are of the opinion that it is a relatively modern text, post 600 AD, which is actually a compilation of texts that had come before it and that it is written in the colorful style of the dialogue between Parashara and Maitreya, though no such dialogue actually took place. Scholars hold this view on account of the fact that the Sanskrit style in which it is written is not that of age of the Mahabharata. Additionally, there is certainly evidence of compilation in the version available to us at this time, which will be discussed shortly. Most Astrologers, however, are inclined to believe, with religious fervor, that Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra is from the time of the Mahabharata, for in the text Parashara makes mention of a planetary combination that the current emperor, Yudhishthira, the emperor at the time of the Mahabharata, supposedly possessed. In my opinion, the truth in this matter most likely lies somewhere in the middle. In order to explain this I must first explain what techniques Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra consists of and the nature of the currently available version of Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra.

The greatest astrological scholar and writer in the 10th century was Bhattotpala. Bhattotpala made extensive commentaries of the important astrological texts of his time, wrote his own texts and was certainly the most learned astrologer of his day. In his commentaries he wrote that though he had heard of Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, he had never seen it. Thus we know it was lost for at least nine hundred years. My opinion is that it has been lost for at least 1,700 years as none of the texts written in the previous centuries fully contain the mathematical and systematic principles found in Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra.

The available version of Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra was compiled and rewritten in the 19th century by a scholar who visited many Pundits in an attempt to scrape the text together, after having been lost for so many centuries. It is because it has been rewritten that the Sanskrit does not have the flavor of the Sanskrit from the era during which it was most likely originally composed. On account of it having been recompiled and rewritten, we have to approach the text with a careful eye for it is quite likely that mistakes have crept in and that parts may have been added which do not actually belong.

The available version of Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra consists of ten distinct major parts:

  1. Descriptions of Grahas, Rasis, Bhavas and Vargas (the basics).

  2. Mathematically precise techniques such as Shad Bala, Vimshopaka, Subha and Asubha Phala, and Ishta and Kashta.

  3. Five groups of Avasthas - Planetary Conditions necessary for making predictions.

  4. Rasi-based techniques and Dasas that are similar to those which are found in Jaimini"s Upadesa Sutras.

  5. Yogas.

  6. Nakshatra Dasas and their interpretation.

  7. Ashtakavarga.

  8. Sudarshana Chakra.

  9. Propitiations and remedies for inauspicious births.

  10. Determining a person's nature and character from their body parts.

Of the first mentioned portion, that of the descriptions of Grahas, Rasis, Bhavas and Vargas, the descriptions found in Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra are more complete as well as more accurate than those found in any other available astrological text. This is especially true in the context of Vargas. This inclines me to believe that these parts are attributable to Parashara.

The mathematically precise techniques of Shad Bala, Ishta and Kashta, Vimshopaka, and Subha and Asubha Phala, are unique to Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra. Without these no precise predictions are possible. With these, the astrologer can make hairline predictions and even state the degree of ups and downs, gains and loss, or growth and decay that is experienced.

The five groups of Avasthas (planetary conditions) are found nowhere else. Some texts do, however, provide a few of the groups, but only Parashara covers all five. Only Parashara is complete.  These combined with the mathematical techniques and the directions given throughout the text provide a perfect system of predictive astrology. This system, in my opinion, can only be from Parashara, as it dwarfs all other techniques found in any of the other classical texts such as Brihat Jataka, Jataka Parijata, Phaladeepika, etc, which at best only hint at the techniques without providing any methodological or scientifically replicable techniques. After working with the techniques provided in Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, as well as the techniques provided in other texts and by other astrologers, it is my tested opinion that these techniques are the backbone of true Parashara style astrology.

The Rasi-based techniques such as Upapada, Pada, Chara Karakas, etc. and the Rasi Dasas, which are similar to those found in Jaimini"s Upadesa Sutras, cannot be part of the original Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, or else they are so corrupt as to be useless. My reason for stating this is that they are all too often at variance with what is given in Upadesa Sutras or miss an important point that is provided in Upadesa Sutras with the result that the techniques as given in Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra simply do not work effectively whereas the precise methods in Upadesa Sutras do. These parts in Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra are better ignored. If one wishes to learn the Rasi based techniques they must turn their attention to Jaimini's Upadesa Sutras, a proper and useful translation of which is as of yet unavailable.

Many of the Yogas found in Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra are commonly found in other astrological texts, except for the unique Bhava Lords Effects Chapter " the effects of each Bhava lord in each Bhava, which are not a common mark of other texts. It is quite likely that these 144 Bhava Yogas are attributed to Parashara as his system deals extensively with this aspect of astrology. With regards to the other Yogas it is difficult to ascertain. Were they taken from an older version of Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra by the authors of other ancient texts or were they accidentally included in the available version of Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra? The Nabhasa Yogas and the important named Yogas such as Gajakesari Yoga are clear and work in practice, so we can apply them with confidence even without knowing to whom they are attributable. The Raja Yogas given in Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra are, to a large degree, corruptions of that which is given in Upadesa Sutras, so it is better to turn to Upadesa Sutras for those. In conclusion, while some of the Yogas (outside the 144 Bhava Yogas giving the Effects of the Bhava Lords) may be original to Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, they are not unique to it and are found in many other texts as well. The 144 Bhava Yogas, however, are unique to Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra and thus a very important contribution.

More must be said in the context of the 144 Bhava Yogas given by Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra as they are very unique in the astrological literature. Other texts give the effects of planets in signs and planets in houses " these effects are hit and miss since they do not evaluate the planet in question. Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra does not attempt such a foolish thing; rather it gives perfect mathematical techniques and Avasthas which allow the astrologer to determine with exactness the effects of a planet in a sign or in a house. Additionally it gives the effects of each house lord in each house. These effects are important in the context of the larger predictive method presented by Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra and thus must be unique and original to the work.

Nakshatra based Dasas, such as Vimshottari Dasa, plus many others, are more extensively dealt with in Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra than in any other text and it is quite likely that Parashara was the original disseminator of Nakshatra Dasas. The Most anciently dated texts that I have seen, which date from 100-700 AD do not contain Vimshottari Dasas or other Nakshatra based Dasas, which supports Parashara as being the founder of Nakshatra Dasas. Less antiquated texts, such as Phaladeepika and Jataka Parijita do instruct in Vimshottari Dasa and are modeled after Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, though they do not come close to its completeness and perfection.

Ashtakavarga, an involved system of transit effects, is found in many, many other texts over the past two millennia and as such we can no more be sure if these are unique to Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra or not.

Sudarshana Chakra, reading the horoscope simultaneously from the Lagna, Sun and Moon, is dealt with more extensively in Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra than in other texts. Parashara even states that he learned the technique directly from Brahma. Sudarshana Chakra is a simple method of determining the general welfare of a person. The extensively of the technique appears to be quite unique to Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra.

The propitiations of the Grahas and remedies from inauspicious births are not a normal feature of astrological texts and may be attributable to Parashara, or they may only be appendages of what is common knowledge to the Indian priest. They are, however, of use and certainly unique to astrological texts.

Chapters on determining characteristics from an individual"s body are not unique to astrological texts with many texts devoting time to this very useful subject. Whether it is original to Parashara or not there is no way of ascertaining. However, much of what is given in Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra in this context has been found more useful and more accurate than that found in other astrological texts.

In conclusion, what does appear unique to Parashara and what is certainly the most important part if not the gist of Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra are:

  1. Its descriptions of the Grahas, Rasis, Bhavas and Vargas.

  2. The 144 Bhava Yogas detailing the effects of each Bhava lord in each Bhava.

  3. The mathematically precise predictive techniques of Shad Bala, Vimshopaka, Ishta and Kashta, and Subha and Asubha Phala.

  4. The five groups of Avasthas: Baladi Avasthas, Jagradadi Avasthas, Lajjitadi Avasthas and Shayanadi Avasthas.

These together with the Nakshatra Dasas given in Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra are a perfect system for predicting events.

Sounds wonderful, does it not? Then why do we not find astrologers engaged in practicing these techniques? Why do you not come across astrologers using Parashara's Avasthas? Or Parashara's Ishta and Kashta, Subha and Asubha Phala, Vimshopaka? Because there is a catch. Parashara gives all the calculations, he gives all the conditions, he gives all the effects of a Bhava lord in a Bhava, he even gives the directions. However, he does not tell us which direction to use with what mathematical calculation. He does not tell us which Avastha to use with which direction or with which mathematical calculation. Basically, he does not tell us how to put it all together. Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra has left us with the remains of the astrology of the higher ages, the astrology practiced at the time of Krishna and Arjuna, the astrology which has not been practiced in its full glory for 2,000 years or more, but he does not give it freely. He gives the perfect ingredients, but we are left to figure out how to combine the ingredients - and that is no easy task. It is a time consuming task that requires every bit of the astrologer's devotion, his mind must dwell upon it always, he must practically try and test every moment that he is not contemplating the subject, and he must do that for years.  Myself, it took twelve years of study, contemplation, trial and error, and more of the same to understand these principles set forth in Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra before being able to work them into the precise system of prediction that Parashara intended. The task was further made difficult on account of controversies and ambiguities in the calculations of Nakshatras, Rasis, Ayanamsa, Planetary War and certain Vargas, many of which are being calculated with some or even great error, which all had to be worked out as well. In practicing a truly scientific astrology, such as laid forth by Parashara, accurate calculations are essential. Much more essential then they are for the astrologer who simply counsels with common sense and uses his perceptive ability with a few loose techniques to make his predictions. Most astrologers, in fact, rely on their perceptive ability. The great astrologer of the 20th century, BV Raman, himself had nothing unique to teach, not even to his own children. His instruction, "If you want to be a good astrologer, meditate." Certainly a sure method, nothing beats the joy of intuitively working through the horoscope. But when it comes to astrology as a measured and mathematical science, then we must turn to Parashara.

A great deal of the information available here at revolves around these techniques from Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra. I am currently occupied in writing a series of books detailing and instructing in all these principles of Parashara. These books all contain original and literal translations of the Sanskrit Sutras from Brihat Parashara Hora Shasta. The first book, Graha Sutras, is available already.