Astrology yesterday and today
Dr. Sudhir Kakar (Psycho-analyst); Prof. Rajesh Kochhar (Director, Nistads) and
Prof. Ramachandra Pandey (Adviser Vishva Panchang and Head, Jyotisha Dept.,
Banaras Hindu University)
Chair: Prof. Jayant Narlikar; Director, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy &
Astrophysics, Pune.
On 28 January 2003 at India International Centre

Professor Rajesh Kochhar: In today’s dimension of science on behalf of all of you I
wish to thank and welcome our experts. You are all familiar with Dr Sudhir Kakar. I wish
to add an extra bit of welcome on behalf of our city to Professor Ramachandra Pandey,
from Benaras Hindu University and Professor Jayant Narlikar from Inter University
Centre, Pune. They deserve extra thanks because they have come to our city specially for
this evening. I am sure we will have a fruitful and exciting discussion. I also have a
feeling that 100 years from now the topic will still be there, there will still be experts and
audience in discussing this in a similarly fruitful and exciting manner. I have great
pleasure in passing the mike to Professor Jayant Narlikar, who is the chairman for this

Professor Jayant Narlikar: Thank you, Rajesh although you have put me in the hot seat.
Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome all of you to this discussion meeting on a topic of
current interest. Astrology has always interested and attracted the Indian psyche, so much
so, that last year it was incorporated in the university syllabi. Apart from that we see daily
newspapers and some television channels giving exposure to the subject as a matter of
routine. Important decisions such as when to launch a new State, when to induct ministers
into the Cabinet, when to have house-warming, etc., are decided after consulting the
astrologer as to when the planets are well disposed. Even the personal decisions like
choice of a mate in marriage are left to the heavenly bodies.

There are several issues that one may debate on today, hopefully in a dispassionate
manner – like; is astrology a science? Like, science, normally does, has astrology evolved
and enriched itself with the new information that is pouring in about planets and their
satellites? For example, this slide that I have brought today specially belongs to the Royal
Astronomical Society and it has a telescope that was built by Herschel and he was the
discoverer of Uranus --planet Uranus. New planets are getting discovered, Uranus,
Neptune and Pluto. Have they been assimiliated in astrology as a matter of routine? Do
they also play a role in the calculations of astrologers? How does it look upon celestial
phenomena like comets, eclipses, conjunctions, etc.? Now that the science behind them
has considerably advanced since the times when they were regarded with awe and fear.
Have astrologers today used the techniques of controlled experiments and statistics to see
how far their predictions come true? In short, does astrology of today differ in any way
from that of yester-eras when science was in its cradle and information about the cosmos
was very rudimentary?

I hope our distinguished panelists – Professor Ramachandra Pandey, Head Jyotish
Vibhag, of Benaras Hindu University will enlighten us about these things.

The second aspect is about belief in astrology. Why is it that so many human beings find
astrology so attractive? It is not proper to dismiss this question by saying that those who
believe in it are illiterate or uneducated. That they come from villages which have not
seen the march of technology, close at hand. No, as you will find believers in astrology
include the well-educated urban elite also. They even include professional scientists. This
despite the well-known denunciation of astrology by a large group of distinguished
scientists, including several Nobel laureates. Even going beyond science, great figures
like Gautam Budha and Swami Vivekananda had spoken against astrology treating it as a
superstition. So, it is a non-trivial question as to why people like to believe in astrology. I
am happy that Dr Sudhir Kakar is here on the panel today to say about this aspect in
today’s discussion.

The third member of the panel is a professional astronomer Dr Rajesh Kochhar from
Nistads, formerly from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore. He may enlighten
us on the difference between astronomy and astrology and why he thinks the former is a
science and the latter is not. Having been a student of the history of science in India he
may also tell us about the origins of astrology. Is the subject as practised today of vedic
origin or did it come to India from outside like the west? Although I have identified a few
crucial issues to be addressed today, the panelists are not bound to restrict themselves to
those issues only. I may have missed out important aspects which they may wish to talk
on. However, as the organizers wish to have audience participation to the maximum, I
hope the panelists may limit themselves to the time allotted for their initial statement.
After the panelists have spoken, I will invite questions from the audience.

….Hopefully the typical question will be well focused and addressed to a specific
panelist…. In the end, I will invite the panelist to make brief concluding remarks while I,
as the Chairman, will have the last statement to make in order to wind up the discussion.
So this is the way we have planned this session. Finally, I wish to thank the India
International Centre for providing the opportunity to make such an opportunity. I will
now invite Professor Pandey to make his initial statement.

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Dr Sudhir Kakar : Mr Chairman, esteemed fellow panelists, ladies and gentlemen. I am
glad that I have not been asked to speak on the truth-value or the validity of astrology
because frankly I do not have any position on that. I am a believer at night but a skeptic
during the day. And what I have been asked to do is – the belief in it. Now, about 25
years ago, I was doing a field research on a project on the healing of emotional disorders
– the Indian traditions, the various kinds -- of how they dealt with emotional disorders.
And I remember that I wanted to have astrology as one of the chapters so you already
know why I have that belief in astrology. So I did some kind of research -- I could tell
you the results if somebody wants to know but I couldn’t include it. It was very clear that
human beings are often in a state of doubt, state of pain, suffering, we all are. And, I
know for myself that my readiness to believe in astrology increases in those times but
when I am feeling well, astrology stays far away. Astrology then, is also a therapy. And
as a therapy it has two elements. Psychotherapies have many elements but astrology
contributes two of them– one is centrality and two is hope. And I would like to say a few
words on those.

When in states of doubt, suffering pain, there is also a feeling of insignificance which
attacks most of us. Of course, there is a universal feeling of insignificance which modern
science has contributed to. The Copernicus revelation that the earth is no longer the
centre of the Universe, the planets no longer revolve around it. Then the Darwin
revelation that human beings are not something unique in creation, but are linked to the
animal kingdom. Then, the Freudian revelation that consciousness is not everything we
are even moved by unconscious forces. We are not even lords in our own bodies. So, of
course, this has been, so to say, an external feeling of insignificance -- astrology then
connects you, gives you a feeling of significance. You are connected to the heavenly
bodies, you are connected to the cosmic forces. Life is not meaningless, it has an order.
So this, of course, has a great attraction in states of ill-being or illness. So, even if most of
the time, I do believe that life is generally spoken in context of the whole universe, yes, it
is perhaps meaningless and perhaps insignificant, but it is in those states where you don’t
need this message at all and that is what astrology provides – a centrality in time and
space -- which is very therapeutic.

The second, I think even more important, aspect of therapy is hope. To consider hope,
consider a woman who lives in a Delhi slum who has come from a village in Bihar. She
works 14 hours on a construction site, lives in a small ill-smelling room which she shares
with ten people, eats if at all, from a tin plate. Yet she rejects the idea of life being better
in her village. Why? She might say it is the material conditions. And that might be true.
But I think the real answer is that for the first time she can feel the future in her hands.
She has a better life -- hope of a better life for her children. Hope is then almost the
somatic, the bodily conviction, that there is a hidden even if unknown order to our visible
world. That there is a design to life which can be trusted in spite of life’s sorrows,
cruelties and injustices. Now the cynic might see in the hope in this poverty-stricken
woman as completely unrealistic. He might look upon her as someone who clutches at
the thinnest of straws, who has never learnt that there is something as hoping too much or
hoping in vain.

But what keeps this woman and so many millions of them cheerful and expectant, even
under the most adverse economical, political and social circumstances, is precisely this
hope, which is a sense of possession of the future – however distant that future may be.
Therapy engenders hope and astrology most certainly engenders hope. When this maha
dasha has passed everything would be okay. Also it makes you active – the upayas --
and we know the word patient comes from the Latin word pacient – when you are
passive. So once the person starts being active on his own or her own behalf and becomes
an agent of himself and upayas do that, then the way to well being , the therapeutic good
result is already there. So these are, I would say, the two important therapeutic agents or
threapeutic activate medicines – the feeling of giving centrality and hope.

I will conclude here. About the investigations or experiments, I will talk about later.

Professor Rajesh Kochhar: Let me begin by reciting a couplet from Bihari. Very nice
couplet, very wise. Bihari says:
·i:i ·iºi; ·ii:i ·i·i ·ii ti ·i·i :i--ii·i
( :i--ii·i ¬:ii ·i·i ti·ii t i`·i:i·i· ·i·i -i ·iºi; t ,
Note the word tan, it means reactions)

And he illustrates it.
·i·i·i·i ·i·t ·ii`÷·i ªii· ·it ·i-i·i·i
( i`·i· ·ii ·it ªii· i`·i·i ·ii·i t ¬·i·i·i ·i-i·i·i ti·ii t. ·ii`·i ·i·i, -i·i·i ·i·i ·ii ·it ·i·ii ti·ii t, nothing is

It is also a very interesting correlation. Buddha, as Professor Narlikar mentioned, was a
very rational man. There is an inverse correlation between astronomy and Buddhism.
Because when Buddhism was strong in India, astronomy went down. And when
astronomy was revived, Buddhism declined. In people’s mind astronomy and astrology
were so closely related, there was no point in having astronomy without astrology. And
when Buddhism was exported from India, it had already been sufficiently diluted, so that
astrology went with it to China, Korea and Japan. I mention this to say that throughout
history, exploring modern times after navigation astronomy came into picture, astronomy
and astrology were very closely related in people’s mind. Today, when we discuss
whether astrology is science or not – the answer to that question is no --but we should not
backdate the distinction that we make today. This is an important point.

I wish to make a basic point which goes beyond today’s discussion also. Science, which
is an abbreviation for natural science, is a very powerful knowledge system – we all
know that. But it has its limitations. Some of these limitations are time-bound. But there
are also inherent limitations in science as a knowledge system. All knowledge systems
are limited. And science also is a limited knowledge system. Even hundred years from
now when science would be much more advanced than it is today, it will still have
limitations because there are limitations which are basic to knowledge systems. I mention
this because if we make the distinction between only two categories – scientific and
unscientific – then you have a problem. But if you also consider a category extra
scientific – that there are knowledge systems which are outside the jurisdiction of science
then some of the problems disappear. Now Professor Narlikar mentioned very briefly that
astronomy being a scientific subject has evolved and astrology has also evolved with it.
He gave an example of addition of telescopic planets into the horoscope. A horoscope
constructed a hundred years ago would not have had Uranus or Neptune.

Let me illustrate this point and take you backwards and mention some benchmarks, some
milestones, in the development of astronomy. If you go to the vedang jyotish for instance,
which is part of the vedic corpus, only the sun and moon are discussed. And, if you come
to Ashokan vedics, which is about 300 BC, which is a very important benchmark in
Indian history. The calendric references in Ashoka’s time are consistent with the
astronomy of vedang jyotish, which is an important benchmark. Then you come to the
Mahabharata – not the battle, but the Mahabharata text -- which is a very big text, like
vedang jyotish, it mentions the orbits of the sun and moon. But it has gone beyond
vedang jyotish. It mentions planetary orbits also. But it does not mention zodiacal signs
and it does not mention rashis, although Mahabaharat mentions yavanas. The first
refrence to week days and rashis appears about 100 AD and by the time you come to
Aryabhatta, for example, or Varahamihir, Professor Pandey referred to implicitly, then
zodiacal signs and rashis are very integral parts of all astrological calculations. So it is an
evolutionary step.

Now comes the crucial question: is astrology a science? The answer to that question is
no, it is not science. When I use the word science – let me make a precise and careful
statement: according to modern definitions of science, astrology is not science because
normally we associate science with predictions – it is true – but there is something more
basic than the prediction. That is, a mathematical scientific theory has an inbuilt criterion
of falsifiability. It is not so much as the prediction as the criterion of falsifiability which
is inbuilt in the theory.

For example, the Newtonian theory of gravitation, which we all know from our
schoolbooks, predicts eclipses -- it predicts so many other things also -- it predicts rise of
day. It also predicts orbit of moon, which is wrong. So Newtonian theory of gravitation is
wrong when it comes to calculating the orbit of Mercury, but it is right while calculating
the orbit of Pluto or calculating eclipses. So, for a theory to be called scientific, according
to the modern definitions of science must have an inbuilt criterion of falsifiability. You
should be able to say -- my theory predicts this. If this prediction does not come true, the
theory will be proven false. So it is a two-way thing. I have already alluded to the
transition from vedang jyotish to Mahabharata to Aryabhata.

Let me conclude by making this remark – that if Varahamihir were to come today, he
will mostly understand astrology as it is practiced. But Lagadha would not. Lagadha is
the one who is partly responsible for the vedang jyotish.

I think I will stop here. Thank you.

Thank you Professor Kochhar.

Professor Jayant Narlikar: Now that the panelists have made their initial statements, I
would now request the audience to send in questions on written slips. We will then pass
the question to the appropriate panelist. Sometimes more than one panelist may wish to
reply to the same question.

(Gap, jokes, waiting for questions…)

Dr Sudhir Kakar: The question I have is from Madhu Tandon. Please tell us about your
research findings on astrology.

“What I did was that I asked 2-3 astrologers and about 15-20 people with their
horoscopes and all to make a whole chart and do their predictions. And then, after 2
years, asked the people again, and these were people who really believed in astrology,
and they mentioned all the predictions that had come true, which were completely right.
But what happened was that if there were 15 predictions, they had forgotten all the 10
that were wrong. So the capacity of our mind to make the reality conform to our wishes is
a very very great one. Since these predictions were on paper and when you showed it to
them, they said a-ha, did he say that also? Okay that I had forgotten.

Then there was also the bending of predictions. A vague one made more and more
concrete in the memory. This is what was said. So this was one thing that part of it. To
me it was that this wish to believe was so great that even the predictions are bent.

Then there was a funny incident. I think it was Mr Srimali Narayan. There was a
conference taking place of tantriks and astrologers in Delhi. I am not sure if he was the
same man. But he was the president of the conference of astrology and I wanted to go and
meet him. But he had just left back for Jodhpur. And then I read in the papers that there
was an income tax raid on him and they discovered Rs 40 lakh. So, of course, he could
not predict that. But that happens often enough.

Professor Jayant Narlikar: I want to add something to what he said. By telling you
about what is known in the west as the Barnum effect. There is a circus called Barnum
and Bailey Circus. It has been very successful. So, people asked the owner of the circus
what is the secret of your success. So he said, in the circus we have various items,. The
audience may not like all the items but so long as it sees some of the items which it likes,
then the audience goes back happy that it was a good circus. So somebody may like
trapeze but not lions and tigers, so he will say it was a good circus because it had trapeze
and so on.

This was used to show that some of the statements which the astrologers give fall in this
category. One of the experiments that was conducted was the following: they gave the
horoscopes of some 50 people to astrologers and asked them to make their character
sketch based on that horoscope -- what they are like. So they made these 50 character
sketches. Then they were randomized. Each person was given his own real character
sketch and somebody else’s character sketch. And, then they were given a third character
sketch which was designed in the following way.

“You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not used to your advantage.
While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for
them. Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure
inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision
or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety. And become
dissatisfied when hemmed by restrictions and limitations. You pride yourself on being an
independent thinker and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof. You
have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are
extroverted, affable and sociable while at other times you are introverted, wary and
reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. Security is one of your
major goals in life.” So, this is the kind of thing.

Dr Sudhir Kakar: Let me add an extra one which also everyone feels: “You feel you are
not understood by many people.”

Professor Jayant Narlikar: So, this third character sketch was also given to all the 50
people and they were asked to say, which you liked the best as applying to yourself. Self
study. So what happened was that they ranked all the three character sketches. The first
one came out what I read --this is the Barnum character sketch. Then the second and third
were completely indistinguishable. The one that was really belonging to the person and
the one that was belonging to somebody else – that occupied a similar position but it was
always second or third. So this is one example of how people like to identify themselves
and say that whatever has been said about them is correct.

Professor Rajesh Kochhar: I just wish to make a totally irreverent point. Recently there
was a news item that MF Hussein was unable to distinguish between his own paintings
and fake paintings made in his name. So the difference between ….(laughter….)

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i`·iºi·i i`·i··ii

Professor Rajesh Kochhar: It’s not nice to be called an expert and then be given a
question which the person has to admit one’s ignorance. There’s a question from B.P.
Aggarwal that what are the references in the Ramayana? I think the reference is to my
mentioning the Mahabharata. The answer to that question is “I don’t know.” I haven’t
looked at the Ramayana for many many years. So I don’t know. I will look it up when the
next opportunity comes.

There is a very interesting question from Ratna Lahiri. You say that Buddha was a very
rational man, but according to modern science his theory of reincarnation was not very
rational. What in your opinion is the theory of reincarnation – is it rational? Or was
Buddha only rational as far as astrology was considered?

Reincarnation is a hypothesis. And if you take a strict definition, I don’t think Buddha
was rational first of all, I don’t think the theory of reincarnation is scientific. I think
Buddha was responding to the distinction between astronomy and astrology in his time
and if any one had claimed in his time that reincarnation was scientific, he might have
responded to that. I think the interpretation that I draw from Buddha’s comments on
astrology is that he made a clear distinction between astronomy and astrology. I have
gone through some of the texts to see what he said. He is commenting on the practices of
astrology– and he distinguishes between, for example, the prediction of an eclipse and
these fear inducing astrological predictions.

There is another question from Dr S.S. Sharma – if astrology is not science then perhaps
theory of everything including the super string theory is not yet science?

I think this is an important point in the sense that you can distinguish between the solid
ground of science and the slippery ground on the periphery of science. There are many
things at the moment on the periphery of science, the basis of which is probably hard core
science, but as you get to the edge, the ground becomes slippery. So there are many
things in today’s cosmology, for instance, which will not measure according to the strict
definitions of science. And there is another problem, which is far more serious – if you
look at science up to the 19
century– it was related in a way to human experience.

Today, science which are dealing with quantum mechanics and relativity are not related
to human experience because the times and scales you are considering are either very
small or very large while upto 19
century, science was much more definitive. So, the
comments which I made were more in relation to definitive science than to the cutting
edge of science.

This is a question that I should take up: if astrology is not science then what will it be
called, when the prediction comes 100% true?

Before I answer this question, I must draw your attention to the term jyotishi. As
Professor Pandey mentioned the term jyotish originally meant astronomy. The most
important aspect of jyotish, which concerned people was its predictions. That is why the
term jyotishi has gone from a strict astronomical sense to fortune-teller sense and jyotishi
now means that even a palmist is called a jyotishi.

I would concede that there are people who are capable of making predictions that come
100% true. Very many years ago I read a book by Cheiro and if what he is saying is…
and it is remarkable. I remember one incident where he saw the prints of a person and
said this person will live up to 80 years, even though the person was on a death sentence.
He saw his fingerprint even one hour before he was to be hanged and at the last moment
the sentence was commuted. I believe there are some things, which at the moment I
would call extra scientific. That is why I believe there are distinctions between scientific
and unscientific that does not cover whole of the knowledge systems.

Dr Sudhir Kakar: These two questions seem to be related. One is from Roma Ray – it is
actually addressed to all. The element of fatalism that astrology tends to create – in that
sense it can create despair, if the prediction is negative, your Comment.

And there is a similar one from Mr Ramesh Shukla addressed to Professor Pandey and
myself: does astrology by supporting pre-determinism weaken human will and the will of
the society, where it is practiced?

The element of fatalism -– there is actually nothing as bad for human beings as not to
know. It is much better to know what is bad that it is worse not to know. Because human
fantasy has such great power that if we do not know we imagine so many worse things
that any kind of knowledge, even if it is negative, comes as a relief. In that sense it does
not harm. But, of course, astrology has more. It also says there are upayas. The jyotishis
says do this.. there are stones. Stones influence, etc. part of it. So, there are upayas etc.
which make you active. So as I said, it is the not knowing part but the not knowing that is
much much worse. There is a second element, which I think I do want to answer. Which
is: what is the relation between astrology and psycho-analysis? This, I want to take up
because my kind of psycho analysis looks at is completely as fantasy – what I have talked
about. But we have the example of C.G. Jung, who was very interested in astrology. He
wanted to conduct experiments and what he did was – which are very interesting ones –
he took the horoscopes of lots of men and women. Since this is western astrology – there
are three kinds – sun and moon, and two others where marriages take place. So he asked
three astologers to look at these horoscopes and predict which ones are married to each
other. And the interesting thing is that these people themselves who are looking were
treated by him in their psyche and he found that the astrologers psyche – the person who
had the strong opposites contradictions within himself predicted the marriage of sun and
moon much much more than the others.

His conclusion was that the psyche of the astrologer affects what the material he is
looking on. So the material is not separate. It is not that as there are planets there and
astrology is separate... So, the astrologers’ psyche is influencing the readings he is doing.

This was a very interesting kind of finding. It was, of course, in the service of Jung’s
project of getting the human psyche into the modern science. His was: that there are
besides the three fundamentals of time, space and causality. And this is what he called
synchronicity – something in the psyche has also a counterpart. Not a cause and effect –
but a counterpart -- in the outside world. That synchronicity is also part of the whole
scientific project. This has never been really taken up by modern science except of course
for Jung’s patient, Wolfgang Pouli, who also wanted to try to make this kind of unified
theory – but that is still very far away. Nobody has really taken it up. So this is just to set
the stage that astrology is not completely seen by all kind of analysts. Jung was
interested. And this was his conclusion: the psyche of the astrologer and what he reads
are very much interconnected.

Professor Jayant Narlikar: I will deal with one class of questions. This is from Vinay
Aditya. Which books in classical astrology have you studied which gives you the
legitimacy to speak for or argue against astrology? There are similar questions…I had
mentioned that several 100 scientists – including several Nobel laureates had denounced
astrology – so how many of them had studied it – that is the question.

Let me first clarify how scientists look upon a subject – whether it is legitimate to be
called a science. Kochhar mentioned falsifiability. That is certainly one criterion.

First of all what books on astrology I have studied – I have read some books where
people have interpreted or given the meaning to layman like me – what astrology is, what
they have said, how to make the horoscopes. One excellent book was by Balchandra Rao,
in which he has described the astrological techniques and different astrologers, what they
use and so on. This is just one example. I have also talked to astrologers face to face and
how they look upon predictions and what is their understanding. So this is personal
interaction. Then I have read lot of literature where scientists have tested astrology about
this question of falsifiability, do they make predictions that can be tested. So all these
form a sufficient database for me to form an opinion. Now you can ask what makes me
believe in the inverse square law of Newton, have I gone and watched Cavendish’s
experiment which was done to test inverse square law and determine gravitiational
constant…no I have not done it. But I have read scientific account of this experiment and
I am satisfied with the description given there. So it is not necessary to always probe into
the very basic source. You can see the interpretation of the source and draw your
conclusions. But believe me, I’ve gone through enough material to convince myself that
what we scientists look upon as science, astrology does not fulfill those criteria.

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Professor Rajesh Kochhar: Two related questions…one is from Dr R.K. Varshney.
Astrology may or may not be science according to modern definition of science but it is
definitely shastra or knowledge of ancient times…this, of course is true. Then there is
another point which is more controversial. He says that in sciences also theories are
propounded today and discarded later and hypotheses changed altogether and held to be
wrong. This is not strictly correct. The reason for such a misconception arises because
we tend to use the word theory in a very vague sense or a very general sense, like we use
the word steady-state theory or the Big-Bang theory. It’s not a theory, it’s a model. I
don’t think it will ever happen that electromagnetic theory is proven wrong, for example.
You have Newtonian gravitation, which serves and Einstein theory of gravitation has to
reduce to Newtonian gravitation because Newtonian gravitation serves the purpose.
Tomorrow a better theory of gravitation may come but Einstein’s theory of gravitation
must arise as a special case out of that theory. So, what is discarded are models because
models are too intricate. A mathematical theory is a rigorous thing. A model is an
attempt to apply that theory to conform to reality. Science does not answer reality.
Science is an attempt to understand parts of that reality and reality is far too complex to
be comprehended. The only way to comprehend that reality is to simplify it and a model
is a simplified version of the natural word. Theory sums up all the underlying laws of
nature which are understood. So, a theory cannot go wrong; this is not correct.
Hypothesis, yes. Models -- all the time. What are discarded are the models. Or, very often
what goes wrong is speculation in science.

For example there was the time, when the question being discussed on the origin of the
universe. Then the data available were insufficient. So you had competing theories. I can
give an analogy which is an apt analogy – very simple analogy. Suppose you watch a
television serial and today the installment is closing and you see a man walking away
from a camera – for a full one week there is speculation will he turn left, right or will he
go straight. But when the next installment of the serial comes, the problem is resolved
because you see the man is turning right. But then again, at the end of the episode, you
will have more questions – open questions. At any given point of time, because of the
limitations of science or the scientific technologies available, there remain questions
which are unanswered. So, at the time there is speculation. So, to say that scientific
theories are proven wrong the other day is not correct. I will bet my life that the
electromagnetic theory will not be proved wrong. And I think I will bet Professor
Narlikar’s life also on it.

Dr Sudhir Kakar: I think it is the scientific temper or the way science proceeds…. One
should have scientific model for breakfast every morning, old model. Because science is
the questioning part, it is the changing part. Anything that is eternal and unchanging is to
me is the most unscientific one. That is not science. So the scientific temper is the
questioning -- how to sort of criticize your old models all the time. So if you don’t find it
in any system then that is not a scientific system for me.

Professor Jayant Narlikar: Here is a question addressed to me from M.M. Kedar. What
are the results of your – Basically this is asking have there been any practical experiments
that have been done for testing astrological predictions in a scientific manner?

I want to describe one experiment which has been done again in the United States. This
study picked up some 2,978 couples. This was carried out by Bernie Silverman on 2,978
couples who were happily married and 478 who were divorced. So you can easily say
that these were successful marriages and these were unsuccessful. Their horoscopes were
given to two established astrologers who were not informed as to whom these horoscopes
belonged. So they were not told the outcome of those marriages. Then, they were asked
to agree between themselves as to which of these horoscopes were compatible and which
were not because here in India we set great score by fixing the marriages by seeing if the
horoscopes are compatible or not. So that whatever criterion it is, they were asked to use
it to say these pairs are compatible and these are not compatible. So, they made two
different groups saying this group of pairs is compatible and these are not. Then a
statistical comparison was made whether the real group of happily married cases and the
divorced cases corresponded to the ones which were so singled out by the astrologers.
And there was no correlation at all, judged by any statistical analysis. So this is one way
of objectively testing whether certain predictions are right. Now, I have been in touch
with some NGOs in India to do a similar test in India. Because when I mentioned this to
some astrologers here, they said that the western astrologers don’t know anything about
prediction, so they can be wrong. But in the East they may not be wrong.

Professor Rajesh Kochhar: But may I add a point. Marriages in the West are mainly
made without consulting a horoscope. In India marriages are mostly based on horoscopes.
And in India the divorce rate is much lower than in the west.

Professor Jayant Narlikar: Whatever it is, we would like to do this comparison and see.

Dr Sudhir Kakar: And divorce in India is not an index of happiness or unhappiness in

Professor Ramachandra Pandey: Are you talking about ordinary men or those that are
an avatar. For the avatars, their work was predestined….. …
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Professor Rajesh Kochhar: There is another question related to this which is: if
predictions depend more on the ability and in-depth knowledge of the person making the
prediction, then why blame the science or the knowledge system?
I think this is the crux of the matter. If predictions depend on the person and not on the
knowledge system then it is person specific. And if you consider it to be person specific
then I don’t think there is any quarrel.

There is another point, which is a very interesting observation. Dr B.N. Purandare, a
renowned Bombay surgeon performed every operation only after consulting the
horoscopes of the patient. I don’t see any contradictions in any of these. Elaborating on a
point that Dr Kakar made, people – at least most of the people who are educated -- use
astrology as a rocket booster for hope. In the sense, that if you have the option of when to
buy a car, when to buy new house, when to move into a new house, when to join on your
promotion, they will avoid Tuesday, for example. But I have never come across a student
or a candidate for a job who has refused to appear before an interview because it was
being conducted on a Tuesday. And my own advice to people is that one part of your
mind might discuss whether astrology is a science or not. That is a separate matter. But I
will prefer people going to the astrologer or temple than to a doctor and taking a
tranquiliser. The choice is quite obvious. I don’t see any contradiction. But, Prof Narlikar,
I would like to add a point as a practicing scientist. You see scientists also have a
problem. The problem is, if I may use a phrase, the cultural baggage of science. You see
it is very easy for chemistry to consider. Alchemy is the mother of chemistry. It is very
easy for chemistry to disown alchemy. It is very difficult to take a clear-cut cultural or
sociological stand between astronomy and astrology. Much of the reaction that comes
from people is to the attitude of scientists towards astrology. So the relationship between
astrology and astronomy is different between alchemy and chemistry which is something
that sociologists of science have to get into.

Professor Jayant Narlikar: I would request Professor Pandey to answer one last
question….What is the relation between jyotish and other subjects like palmistry etc?
Professor Ramachandra Pandey: rte ~ii ·iº·iiº -ii·ii`:it ·i·i .i··i t i`·i· ··iii`·i·i ·iªii ·¸:iºi i`·i·ii¸
·i:i t:·iºªii,-i:·i·i·ºªii ~iii`· ¬·i-i ·i·i; :i·i·i t ·ii ·iti
¤-tº: ¸:ii -ii·ii ·ii·ii t i`·i· ·i :i·i ··iii`·i·i ·ii:-i ·i· ti ~i·i t -i·i ;:i:i -it·i :ii`t·ii -i ·i·ii·ii ªii ·i :i·i
;:ii ·i· ~i·i·i·i ~ii·i t ·ii`·i··i t:·iºªii ·i··i·i -i·ii-·i ·iti t ·iiºii`º·i· ·i·iºi ·it ~i·i i`·i·ii t ;:i·i·i ~iªi
ªi·ii·i ·ii:-i :i ··i·i·i ti·ii t i`:i¡i··i ~iiº :ii`t·ii ·i·i :i·i·i ªi·ii·i ·ii:-i :i t ·ii`·i··i :ii`t·ii ·i· i`·i¸ ~i·ii
·i·i· ·i·i; ·i·· ·iti t ;:ii`·i¸ ·ii ·ii ··iii`·i·i ·ii:-i ~iiº ·ii ti ªi·ii·i ·ii:-i ·i·ii ·i·i :i-i·i ÷-i -i .i:·i·i ·i·º·i
t -i ;:ii ·i· :iiªi ~i-i·i ~i··i·i ·i· ~ii··i ·i· ~i·i:iiº ·iti i`·iºi-i ·i·ii t¸, ·i··i·ii·

Professor Jayant Narlikar: I would like the panelists to make very brief closing
statements. As Dr Kochhar said in the beginning, 100 years from now, we will still be
discussing this subject. So, it is by no means the last word, but you may want to say
something to wind up what you have been hearing.

Dr Sudhir Kakar: Well, at the end, we all repeat what we said in the beginning but don’t
want to do that. To me the question of science is still very important. And I am not still
quite clear about it. I am open to it really --- astrology. It would mean to me because
science is also not just predictions. But how does it operate? How do these planets – your
samay and sthan – space and time – determine the mechanisms and that together
somehow kind of influences it. Now this would be the theoretical part of: is it true --
does time have such a quality? Every moment has a different quality. Does space have a
different quality. It could be. I do not know. But to me, jyotish does not answer this
connection and till it answers, it is not science.

Professor Jayant Narlikar: I notice that Professor Hari Gautam, former chairman of
UGC is here and maybe we can make an exception and invite him to say something.

Professor Hari Gautam: Thank you professor Narlikar for acceding to my request. The
subject has been excellent. It has many meanings and many fall outs. It is a belief that we
are talking about. We are mixing this science with belief and belief with science. What is
belief today will become a science. And what is science today will become science

Whether astrology is a science, whether astrology has a meaning or not, or whether
astrology is a philosophy or whether astrology is just a gimmick --it is a question to be
considered seriously. Astrology is a science to my mind. It is only the scientists who do
not understand this science.

There are many things which science did not believe, which now they agreed with, that
yes, it exists. So there is a process of evolution, there is a process of growing into this
system and I hope the time will come when you realize that the astrology is science. Now
coming to the deliberations which are going on in the minds of the panelists and the
people, I would like to comment.

Predictions occur in science also. Science has wrong predictions also. Take, for example,
the medical science – I am a medical man – we have all the gadgets in the world at our
command to help to arrive at a correct diagnosis, whether it is a laboratory investigation,
Ultrasound, CT-scan, etc., yet the diagnoses are wrong. The predictions are wrong. You
mean the medical science is not a science.

Now, coming to the horoscopes the types of horoscopes made by different people all over
the country are not correct. What is the correct horoscope? What is the correct time of
birth of a particular child? Not the time when it comes out of the womb into the open
world and starts breathing. The person is born when he starts inhaling --the first breath in
is the time of the birth.

Now, when the child leaves the cervix opening into the vagina, which is full of air, he
starts breathing. What time he leaves the cervix into the vagina – his nostrils and mouth --
is the time of birth. Which we cannot find – by no means can we find that. Therefore, the
predictions can be wrong. And then, as I say, let us not blame a science, which has not
been scientifically analysed, investigated and projected so far. What we need is the study
of this science, more thoroughly, scientifically, to prove that it is more of a science than
many sciences.

And allow me to say one word -- a couplet in Urdu. It is a question of feeling, a question
of believing, a question of ehsaas…

-i·i ·iº:i ~ii·ii t ¬·i -iº, -i·i ·iº:i ~ii·ii t ¬·i -iº,
i`·i·t :i·ii·i·i ·iti t ~it:ii:i ·i·º·i ·i·i,
·i·t·i t ªi·i t ·ii :ii-i·i ·i·ii ·iti ~ii·ii

Professor Ramachandra Pandey: ··iii`·i·i ·i:ii -i·i -it·i ·i·ti i`·i· ·i i`·i·ii· ·i·i i`·i·i·i ti ·iti t ·i
·ii .i·ii·i ·i·º·i ·i·i i`·i·i·i t ··iii`·i·i ªi·i -ii:·i··i· :i .i·ii·i ·i·º·i ·i· i`·i¸ ~ii-ii`-i·i ·i·º·ii t ·i:ii i`·i· .iic
·i··i·i·· ·i ~i·ii ·i·ti i`·i· ··iii`·i·i :i-i·i, ··i ~iiº ·i·i·i ·i·i i`·i·i·i·i ·i·º·ii t -i ;:i-i ªii·i ~iiº ·ii· ··ii t¸ i`·i·
·it ··i, i`··ii ~iiº ·i·i·i ·ii·ii ·i·i i`·i·i·i·i ·i·º·ii t ¬:i i`····i, ·i·i·i ;:i·i·i i`·i·i··i i`·i·i·i t ·i··i·i :ªii·i -i·ii
·i·i ·ii¸ ~iiº ¬:i·i·i i`··ii ·ii -i·ii ·i·i -ii¸ ·ii t-i ·i·· ·iti ·i·º :i·i··i t ;:ii`·i¸ i`····i, ·i·i·i ·ii·ii ·i·i
i`·i·i·i·i ··iii`·i·i ·ii:-i ·i·º·i· ·i·i·ii t
~ii·i ·i·ii ·i·º·i ·i·i ~ii·i··i·i··ii ;:i ·ii·i ·i·i t i`·i· ··iii`·i·i i`·i·ii·i t ·ii ·iti ;:i·i·i i`·i·ii·i -i
:ii--ii`·i·i ·i·º·i· ;:i·i· ¬-iº .i·ii·i i`·i··ii ·ii¸ ~i·iº .i·ii·i ·i·º·i :i ·i·· i`·i·i··i·ii t ·ii ·it ··i ·i·i · ·i·iii`·i·
·it ~ii·i ·i·i ·iti ·ii`··i· ·i·i·i :i :ªiii`-i·i i`·i·ii·i t ;:i·i·i ¸·i··i ¬·itººii ·i· ~ii·iiº -iº ªii`÷·i ·iti i`·i··ii ·ii
:i·i··ii t
-i ~ii-i·i·i ¸·i· ¬·itººi ~iiº ··ii ·iit¸·ii ~i·ii ti·i ti -i ·i·i·ii i`t··i i`·i··ii`·i·ii·i·i ··iii`·i·i i`·i·ii·i ~iiº
·i·i`·i i`·i·ii·i ·i· -iic¸·ic÷ic ·i-i ·i·ii ·i :i·i·i·i ÷-i :i i`-i·i·i·º -ii:i-i i`·i·ii·i -iº ~i·i:i·ii·i i`·i··ii ¬·ti·i i`-i··i
-ii·i :ii·i ·i· -i·ii·ii ·i·i ·ii`·i··i·iiºii ~iiº -ii:i-i i`·i·ii·i ·i·i ·ii`·i··i·iiºii ·i·i :i·i··i·i ·i·º·i· ;:i·i·i ·i·i·ii·-i·i·
~i··i·i·i i`·i··ii ·i·ii ·i·i ·ii`·i··i·iiºii i`·i·:ii ·i· i`·i·:ii -iti·i -i zcsc .ii`·i·i·i ~iiº i`·i·:ii ·i· i`·i·:ii -i zssc
.ii`·i·i·i ~ii-i:i -i i`-i·i·ii ªii ·i··i i`-i·ii·i·º ·i·ii ·i·i i`·i··i··i zszs .ii`·i·i·i ·ii`·i··i·iiºii :iti ªii ·i·ii`·i· ··iii`·i·i
-i ¬·i·ii :i·i·i· ·ii`·i··i·iiºii -ii:i-i ·i·i ·iti ·i·i ·ii·ii t i`·i·i·ii -ii:i-i i`·i·ii·i ·i·º·ii t ~iiº i`·i·i·i :ii·i·i ¬:i·i·
-ii:i t
-iºi ~ii·i ·i·iii`·i·i· ·i·i·i :i ~i·iºi·i t i`·i· ··iii`·i·i ·i·i .i·ii·i ·i ~i-i·ii .i·ii·i·ii·ii~ii -i ·i÷ ·i·º ~i·iº
;:i-i ·i·· ·iª·i i`-i·i·i t ·i:iii`·i· ~i·ii ~ii ·ii·i-i ·ii ·i ·i·ti ~i·iº ·i·i; ¬-i·ii··i i`-i·i ·ii ·it ~ii·i ·i·i·ii ·i·
-ii:i ·i÷º -it·i·ii ·iii`t¸ ··iii`·i·i -tt·t· ·t· ¤·t·t·tº ·t· t`-t¢ r ;:i·i· i`·i·ii· ·i·i ·i·i; ~iii`·i··i ·iti t ;:ii`·i¸
~i·iº ~ii·i ·i· ·i·iii`·i·i· i`·i·i·i· -ii:i ·ii·i ·i·i ·i·ii i`··ii t, ·i·i :ii·i·i t ·i t-iiº .ii·ii·i -i¡i`·i ·i·i ~i··i·i·i ·i·º·i
·ii·ii ·i·i ~i-i·ii ~ii`·i·i· i`·i··i··i i`·i·i·i·i :i·i··i t
-iºi .iic ·iiº·ii·i·º ·ii ·iªii .iic ·i··i·i·· ·ii :i i`·i·i-i ~i·iºi·i t i`·i· ;:i -iº .i·ii·i ·i·º ~i·iº :i·i·i ti
·ii ;:i -iº ¸·i· .i·ii·i·ii·ii ·ii ·i·ti ·i·ii·i ·iªii :i-i·i:i-i·i -iº ;:i -iº ·ii·ii ·i·i ~ii·ii·i·i i`·i··ii ·ii¸ ·ii·ii -i
·i·· ·ii·i .i:·i·i i`·i··i ·ii¸ ~iiº ¬·i -iº i`-i·º ·i·ii ·i·i ·ii¸ -i :i-i·i·ii t¸ i`·i· ~i·iº ¸·i·¸·i· :ii`-i·iiº -iº, ¸·i·
¸·i· i`·i·i·i -iº ·i·ii ti ·ii ;:i·i·i ~ii`·i·i· ¬-i·ii··i tii`:i·i ti :i·i··ii t ·i·iii`·i· ·it ;·i·ii i`·i:·i·i ·i-i t ¸·i·¸·i·
i`·i·i·i -iº, ¸·i·¸·i· :ii`-i·iiº i`·ii`·i·i·i i`·i··ii ·ii :i·i··ii t
;:ii`·i¸ ~i·i -i :i-i·i ·i·i ·ªi·i t¸ ~ii`·i·i· ·i·· ·iti ·i·t¸·ii ·i··i·i ;·i·ii ·i·t¸·ii i`·i· ··iii`·i·i ·ii:-i ¸·i·
~i··i·i ··ii·itii`º·i· ·ii:-i t ;:i·i·i ·i·i; ·ii ·iiªii ·iit ·it ·ii`ºi·i ·i·i ti, i`:i¡i··i ·i·i ti, -i·i`·i·i ·i·i ti ¸:ii
¬-i·iºii·i ·iti t ·i·iii`·i· .i·ii·i -i ·ªi·i -iº ti ;:i·i·i ¬-i·iii`·i·ii i`:i¡ ti·ii ·i··i·i ¸·i··i ¬·itººi ;:i·i· i`·i¸
-i·ii-·i ·iti t ·i··i·ii·

Professor Rajesh Kochhar: You would notice that the caption for today’s discussion
was astrology: yesterday and today. It is a neutral sort of thing. The idea was to examine
astrology in its cultural context. (Tomorrow, yesterday – ·i·i; ~i:iº ·iti -i··ii.)

But I wish to draw your attention to a very important aspect of discussion. It is not so
much as belief in astrology that is important, belief in astrology as science. So it is more a
comment on science than on belief. And I think there are two reasons for this. In the
Hindi movies of the 1960s and 1970s, there was great glorification of poverty on the
screen and in the process the heroes and the heroines themselves became very rich
depicting the poor people. Similarly, the scientists have become extremely powerful by
telling rest of humanity how insignificant they are. So it is good for the scientists because
in their social group, they have become important. But what has happened to the rest of
humanity. And more so, today technology is becoming more and more dominant so there
is a tremendous moronification of human beings as a whole. Like lesser and lesser
number of people are using more and more of their intellect and more and more people
are becoming more and more moronic. At least being in the bad books of God is a great
source of strength. That if I have been chosen by planets to suffer, at least I count in
God’s life. But scientists tell you that nobody gives a damn. Which in fact is quite true. I
think why people want astrology to be treated as science is because we are overwhelmed
with science. So this comes.

There’s a small point I wish to make. And this was a point that Dr Kakar mentioned when
he was talking about scientific methodology. This is not a new phrase – this is more than
150 years old from English. Distinction has been made between sterile truth and fruitful
errors. I think it is very important thing to keep in mind – truth can be sterile and
therefore useless and errors can be fruitful and therefore important.

I began with a Bihari’s doha , let me conclude with Iqbal’s
i`·i·i··i ·ii ~i·i··i :i ~ii·i ·i·i ·i¸º i`·iºi·i¸ºit t, -ii`·i·i ·iti t
Go beyond intellect. Because intellect is a lamppost, it is not the destination.

Professor Jayant Narlikar: I will now wind up the discussion by making a few
comments. First of all it was worth having such a discussion in which we can air different
points of views and different perceptions. And, as you saw, certainly there is no
commonality in the views of the panel. If there were, then it would be a dull discussion.
We do hold different views and it is important to take into account. I entirely agree with
Professor Pandey when he says that this subject should be further tested in scientific
manner by scientists and I certainly hope that projects could be undertaken in controlled
experiments – which is what is important for science -- controlled experiments are
undertaken – now in medical science, since medical science was mentioned, controlled
experiments are done to test the efficacy of a drug before it is released on the market. So
there are always these…why medical science is a science from an outsiders view –you
have been inside so your perception will be different. But it does go in for lot of
controlled experiments and that culture needs to be brought into the study of astrology.
And then subject to the outcome of whatever those experiments, we can form our more
informed judgements. Since people have been quoting Hindi and Urdu poems, Sanskrit
also.. . So I will stick to Gita. Towards the end of Bhagvad Gita, after telling everything
to Arjun, Sri Krishna says:

“i`·i-i··i·i ··i·iºi ·iªi··i`:i ·iªii ·i·÷ ”

You have heard everything that I have told you. You have heard different points of view.
Now you form your judgement. After Dr Kakar said that scientific temperament, the
scientific outlook is very important in judging all the aspects. So I invite you to be
scientific in your assessment of whatever evidence comes before you, not just here today,
but in your life, relating to the issues we have discussed. I thank all of you for
participating, and asking you a whole lot of questions….


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