|By Charlotte Benson|
Interview on April 3, 2009
|Charlotte: Good evening, Ronnie. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me about Jyotish. Just for the record, we are beginning this conversation while Shani is rising, and Mangal is setting!|
Ronnie: Yes, this is kind of a nasty aspect, especially if it combines with something else. The Nodes of the Moon are also on the eclipse points of 1/26/09. So when you gather those sort of malefic forces, plus the Venus retrograde and "neecha" or in "debility" in the navamsa things are not that great in the world right now.
CB: Well, weíre just going to have to rise above these conditions, because I have a long list of questions for you. The first of which is about your origins in Astrology. Whatís a nice girl like you doing in a Dharma like this? (laughter).
RGD: If you read the Introduction in my book, Vedic Astrology, youíll get a good idea of how I met my gurus and my teachers.
CB: Thatís an amazing tale of traveling overland from Greece to India, and your ďchanceĒ meetings with a professor of Jyotish, and then a Jyotish pundit, who became your teachers. You write in your wonderful book, Vedic Astrology, that you intended it for the Western astrologer who wanted to apply Hindu astrology to his/her own study of Occidental astrology.
RGD: Right. I started out as a Western astrologer- as many of us did. When I was a child I really loved astronomy, and the stars. My father worked with McGraw-Hill publishers. In 1972 he brought home the big beautiful book ďThe Complete AstrologerĒ by Derek and Julia Parker. He thought that I would like the book, because I liked learning about the planets - Dad used to take me to the planetarium in New York. I read that book cover-to-cover, and just got totally hooked. That was my original introduction to Astrology. From that point on I was just totally obsessed with it.
Then I went to Europe, and traveled, and did a lot of Astrology. When I went to India, I decided to study Astrology seriously.
When I came back to the West, there were no Jyotish teachers in Amsterdam, where I was living. So I did Western Astrology. But I would do everybodyís Jyotish charts on the side. I basically learned on the job - I mean, I learned in India, but then I had to apply it.
I started doing Astrology professionally, and I had to do everything by hand.
CB: Yep - thatís right, the good old daysÖ
RGD: It took me almost a day to calculate charts for each client, between the Western system, and the Indian system. I didnít make any sort of cross-over between the systems - I just did both. I think itís important to know that I donít call myself an ďEast/WestĒ astrologer. The reason is because I feel more like a linguist. A linguist knows many languages, they go back and forth between French and Spanish but they donít mix and match them.
Of course, sometimes you can get them mixed up, especially when it come to the rasis (signs). I know that some people take issue with this, but I do think the rasis did start in Babylonia, and the Indians inherited it, and took it from there. There was so much cross-communication between the Babylonians who went to India, and then the Greeks. I think that a lot of the information was shared. We donít know exactly which went which way first. And I donít think it really matters, because each culture then took whatever they had and made it their own.
Thatís why some of the sign meanings are not totally the same. For example, the word ďMakaraĒ means crocodile. So, in fact, in Jyotish the symbol for Capricorn, is the crocodile, not the goat. Other things are not necessarily there, in the Jyotish texts, but weíve put them in; so sometimes the lines are muted. But in terms of the way we use the sidereal zodiac, the tropical zodiac, the different kinds of aspects - I use Western techniques in Western astrology, and Jyotish in Jyotish. I donít mix them up. I look at both.
CB: Isnít it amazing that you can actually do that? I do the same thingÖ
RGD: I know. I think that you can, because I always say: what you gain in one system, you kind of lose in the other. For example, if in one system you have Aries rising, and in the other system you have Taurus rising, you might find that you have tropical Taurus rising, but your Mars is very strong. So youíll still have the same Martian influences as in Aries rising. Youíre not going to be looking at two totally different personalities.
CB: Of course.
RGD: I think that Western progressions work very well. I look at them, but I just donít focus on the signs that much. I donít focus on the signs that much in either system - I focus more on the planets. The signs are important in that you need the rulership of the signs to get the lords of the houses, and you still need the descriptions of the signs for the Lagna, and certain things. But in the end, I think itís really about the planets.
CB: Your clients donít really care how what systems youíre using, as long as you give them accurate information, right?
RGD: Over the last 20 - 30 years, so much information has come from the East to the West, that people get much more fanatical here, than they do over there. I mean, when I was in India, or when I meet Indians over here, theyíre dying to learn about tropical Astrology.
CB: Is that right?!
RGD: Yes! Because when youíre an astrologer, you want to know as much as you can. When I was in India people asked me about progressions, and Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.
And most modern Indian astrologers use Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. B.V. Raman always had Uranus, Neptune and Pluto in his magazines. Everyone is interested in them because theyíre always interested in whatís on the other side of the fence, you know? People here who get interested in Indian things become more fanatic than the Indians themselves. And everybody wants to learn about each othersí cultures. If we, here, want to learn about Jyotish, why shouldnít they want to learn about the Western system?
CB: Why indeed! Itís such a unique calling, to be an astrologer. What is it in your own chart, Ronnie, that ďmakesĒ you an astrologer?
RGD: When I was in India in the 1970ís, the Brihat Hora Shastra hadnít yet really been translated into English. But Phaladeepika was, because itís much more compact, and it was written later. My teacher had a very old copy of it, and he loaned it to me to copy. Thatís what I did in India. I was there for 6 months, and I basically hand wrote the book.
I still have my notebooks.
And they have one chapter in Phaladeepika which talks about professions, Chapter 5 - ďSource of Livelihood.Ē It states to take the lord of your tenth house of your birth chart, and look at that planetís sign in the navamsa chart. So - itís the planet ruling the navamsa sign of the 10th house lord.
One of the things that I get a kick out of doing is to update the writings, to be able to apply it to modern times. So, it says here in Chapter 5, stanza 5: In a nativity where the lord of the 10th house, is posited in a navamsa owned by Mercury, earning will be through, (among many other things) the knowledge of Astrology. Mercury is the sign of the astrologer. Of course, I also think that Jupiter is, as well, because Jupiter has a lot to do with what youíre learning with the Shastras. Mercury is very, very important in Astrology, because knowing something is not enough - you have to be able to be a conduit and communicate it. So - I do have a strong Mercury, and a strong Jupiter; and I also have a strong 9th house. Jupiter in in the 10th house in both my birth chart and in the navamsa. And lord of my ascendant is in the 9th house in both charts. Thatís why I tend towards teaching and writing and publishing - Iím not just a consultant.
CB: Thatís beautiful - that makes perfect sense. You were destined, Dear, to become an astrologer, apparently! Do you prescribe remedies, in your practice?
RGD: Sure. I kind of give people a whole range of things they can use. There are so many types of remediesÖI donít really feel that everybody should wear gemstones. Not everybody wants to do mantras. I feel that there are a lot of remedies that people can do to strengthen things in their charts that donít cost thousands of dollars. And I also believe that one of the best remedies is simply doing service. And making another person, or thing, more important than yourself. That is very important in getting your mind off of all your own problems- to be able to do service for other people.
I stress that in different ways in the chart. But, not everybody is open to that. Most people who come to me for Jyotish, are open to this. I try to give them things that they can do to give themselves more confidence, and strengthen themselves. And I ask people what it is that they would be open to doing. Not everyone is open to everythingÖ
CB: Thatís true - some of those remedies are pretty wild - like donating a black cow in charity may be a bit of a stretch for most Westerners!
RGD: But you could translate that a little bitÖI do tell people to wear an iron ring during Sade Sati - I always do that. Itís affordable for everybody. And since Sade Sati is a 7 year period - I really feel that people understand that. Even people who normally shy away from things like that. The idea of deflecting Saturn makes sense to them. Iron rings, made from a horse shoe, are one thing I always recommend when youíre going into Sade Sati.
CB: Well, thank you for the good advice. Iím about to enter my Sade SatiÖ
RGD: Also, feeding birds, or going to a temple, or making a donation to a charity of your choice. The point is to do something for somebody else. I really feel strongly about this: the idea of the remedies is not that theyíre going to magically do something to you. What it really is working on is your state of mind, and your positive attitude. If you can strengthen yourself, then all of these curves that life throws at you - youíll be able to deal with them. And again, do something for someone who is suffering more than you. If you can alleviate someone elseís suffering, then youíll alleviate your own, in return. To me - thatís the key to remedies.
CB: And everyone benefits - that makes sense. So Ronnie, aside from what youíve already shared, do you have any subtle techniques to reveal?
RGD: Something that I find to almost always work, is in Phaladeepika , and in my book, which regards planetary periods. When you are looking at the planetary periods, draw up what I call the ďDasa-as-LagnaĒ chart. Always put the planet for your dasa period, the dasa lord, as the ascendant for the chart. Itís like Chandra lagna, Surya lagna. This gives you another way of approaching that particular period in your life. Even though your Lagna is always going to be the same, the emphasis changes.
Then you work with it two ways. You would first of all look at the general nature of that chart. For instance, with the dasa lord chart, youíve got a lot of planets in the 6th, 8th, and 12th houses. This would mean that it is going to be a little bit more of a difficult cycle for you. It changes the mood of that period. Just look at that chart as a whole.
The next thing you would do, every time you have a different Bhukti cycle, you look at the house relationship. Letís say the dasa lord is Moon. And letís say Mercury is 10th from your Moon. So when youíre in a Moon/Mercury period, the focus is going to be on the 10th house - it might be a good career time for you. Then letís say that the relationship between the Bhukti lord and the dasa lord is a 6th house relationship, or 8th house relationship, then it may be a more challenging time for you. But - you would always look at the relationship between the Dasa lord and the Bhukti lord. A Kendra or Trinal relationship might be a good period.
Then, you take the next level - the 3rd level dasa - and you would put that as it relates to the 2nd level lord. That planet is like a servant to the level above it.
This works out great even for transits. Letís say youíre in a Mercury dasa, and your Mercury is in Aries. That means, right now, Saturn is in Leo, going through the 5th house of that dasa lord. So when I do gochara, I always look for these transits - to the Moon, to the Lagna and to the dasa lord. I always consider the dasa lord as very important. This technique really works. Iíve been using this since I was in India. Itís in Phaladeepika.
CB: Yes, youíve often made the comment that we should be studying all the different Jyotish source materials. Speaking of which, I hear that youíve been studying Sanskrit?
RGD: Studying Sanskrit has opened up a whole new world for me. Now I can actually read the Devanagari. Words are taking on a whole new meaning for me - now I can really understand. Itís really fabulous. Once a week, Iíve been actually going to my professorís office, and reading Brihat Samhita in the original Sanskrit. Itís so great - I think it is something all of us should know.
CB: Well, Iím not sure that all of us have that capability! You must be in the right dasa for this. (Sheís in Mercury Mahadasa, now.) What about your plans for the future?
RGD: This is another one of the reasons that I also decided to study Sanskrit - Iíve been working on a book about yogas for a long time. Yogas is my particular love. There are so many of them, and I think that they are the subtle key to really knowing about the chart. So much of what we read is second-hand. I really wanted to read what the scriptures said about them; and I wanted to read them first-hand, rather than through a translation.
CB: Bless your heart, Ronnie - youíre so sincere. Youíre also teaching the online course for ACVA - how do you like doing that?
RGD: Let me say this: Having learned astrology one-on-one from my gurus, I kind of, at the beginning, scoffed at the idea that an online teaching mode of learning would work. I was very skeptical. Then I taught my first class, in 2004 - going on five years already - and I was blown away by how much people were really able to learn in that format. It totally turned me around. I always say that I learn as much from my students as they learn from me. Learning and teaching are the same.. Itís been really rewarding.
CB: Iím sure our readers will appreciate the time youíve donated to our conversation about life with the stars. I learned a lot - thank you and best wishes, Ronnie-ji.
Ronnie Gale Dreyer Biography:
Ronnie Gale Dreyer is an internationally-known consultant, teacher, and author of numerous astrology books. She is considered a pioneer in making Vedic astrology (which she studied in Benares, India) accessible to western audiences, and her book Vedic Astrology is a classic. A teacher for ACVA Online, Ronnie is editor of NCGRís Memberletter, and is a certified NCGR astrologer. She served as AFANís Secretary and Presiding Officer, and received the 2002 Regulus Award for Community Service.
Ronnie Gale Dreyer
New York NY
Charlotte Benson (Jyoti Devi)
Diplomate: AFA, NCGR, ISAR
Executive Director, American College of Vedic Astrology, Inc.
President, Arizona Society of Astrologers, Inc.
Phoenix, AZ USA.