There are so many different types of people living in this world, with different temperaments and constitutions. It seems fitting that there would also be so many different types of spiritual paths, philosophies, or religions that are pursued. The horoscope of an individual can reveal many of the innate tendencies one may have towards spirituality.
In astrology, there are five elements, Ether (space), Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. When it comes to the mechanics of the zodiac signs however, there are only four elements, with Ether being left out. I feel this is because in the context of earthly existence, space is always there, containing and holding all other elements. It therefore may not be as relevant as the other four when it comes to environments and places we go to, which is what the zodiac signs symbolize. Ether is the most spiritual element, being closest to the source, and the zodiac is the unconscious manifestation of Vishnu, keyword being “unconscious”. The signs therefore are not the conscious aspects of God, this is given to the planets. That is why the planets are deified and described as conscious beings. The signs are given the opposite distinctions, as animal signs, symbolizing the unconscious aspect of Maha Vishnu (God). It logically follows that the most conscious element (ether or akash) would be left out in the field of the “unconscious limbs of Vishnu” (the zodiac).
With that understood, it is important to see that each of the four elements of the zodiac signs has a certain nature, and is best able to approach truth in a certain particular way, which is most fitting to its own element. The different spiritual paths all tend to overlap the more they are practiced, but initially one will make the most progress by focusing on the mastery of the one that is most natural to them.
The air and earth signs are both more connected to the senses, and with actual manifested things. Because of this, they are inclined towards spiritual paths that help one see and realize God in the world, and not as some ideal or principle in life. The air signs often do well with a bhakti yoga (devotion) or karma yoga (selfless service) approach. The Earth signs do well with karma yoga, because they naturally want to be of service. If Mercury is strong and other intelligence yogas are present, then a jnana, or knowledge based path may work out also. The fire and water signs have more to do with ideas (fire) and feelings (water), which are more invisible things. These therefore, have more of an affinity for finding God as God really is, as a transcending-worldly-life experience, and not so much as a thing in the world. The fire element does well with paths that emphasize self control, such as raja yoga or kriya yoga, and also jnana yoga potentially. The water element does well with a jnana yoga path also as well as a bhakti path. The water signs are said to be the most spiritually developed, being Satya yuga rasis, and often they will be utilizing all or more than one of these paths, from what I have noticed.
As an example, a Leo has a fiery nature, and because of this, they are meant to act. The fire signs are the warrior caste, or the kshatriyas (pronounced “shaw-tree-ya”), and are the people on earth who are naturally inclined to lead, to protect, and to preserve and uphold the universal order or “dharma”. They do well with a raja yoga path, or a path that emphasizes purifying actions, discipline, and self control. Some may (with the best of intentions) emphasize to a strong leo personality the need to surrender themselves to God, and to see everything as god and renounce worldly life and actions in favor of serving a guru; in other words to set them on an initial path of bhakti. This can sometimes work out but many times it will initially go against the nature of a Leo and cause unnecessary confusion or aversion to the spiritual path… This is because for the Leo/Solar person, it is not the right time and place for that practice, and they don’t feel natural doing this. After doing a decade of raja yoga the Leo person may then be able to practice bhakti w great results, but initially this doesn’t appeal to a fiery nature, and it is better to get them on the right path quickly, to prevent any unneeded suffering.
It is important to follow the path of ones natural inspirations and inclinations. When we do things out of inspiration (sattva) those are the things that we will do for the rest of our lives, and so that is the best way to approach a spiritual path as well. If you want to make actual progress and not just have new ideas and terms in your mind to talk about, you need to find the path that is best for you and really anchors you to your destiny. People who change spiritual paths or religions frequently usually do not make noticeable spiritual progress in that incarnation. Paramahansa Yogananda said that it is better to dig one deep well when in search of water, than to dig several shallow wells. It is the same way with self realization.
One thing that astrology has been used for since who knows how long, is helping one understand their path in life, their dharma. Not everyone’s path will be like the typical “spiritual path” we may think of, but we all are on a path and in the greater context it all leads to the same goal, as all rivers flow towards the sea. This is what Jyotish can be so helpful towards. It can show us the path that is laid out for us, and help us see if we are being true to it or not.
Here is a simple technique to see begin to see how this works, but it does not show the full picture, and as such it should not be used as a stand alone technique, but in the context of the whole chart. The first house represents the person, and the ninth house represents the outcome of walking there path, and therefore represents the gurus or teachers that help guide one along their path in life. The first and ninth houses will always be the same element, and this shows us that each element has to approach their path and be guided along their path via a sign of the same element, their own nature, and not by another element. So if you have an Aries lagna, they are a fire sign, and are naturally oriented towards action, discipline, and protecting or defending what is right. The 9th sign from Aries is always Sagittarius, another fire sign. This shows that for Aries, its purpose is to act with that fiery inspiration that comes innately to it. Its gurus (the 9th house), Sagittarius, being fire signs themselves, will naturally encourage a spiritual path based on right actions, (such as a Raja yoga or Kriya yoga path) because that is what worked for them. This will generally work well for Aries, and to go and encourage a bhakti yoga path, or a path of detachment, is often “going against the grain” of an Aries personality. What is the point of being a warrior and defending what is good in life if even their Guru is telling them to surrender? Well….there isn’t much point to it, because a ram is meant to ram things, and when the Aries uses these thoughts as fuel and inspiration, he burns out quickly. That is not the path of an Aries. Aries is a warrior and is meant to fight the spiritual battle, which is why it is a fire sign and its 9th sign (its gurus and philosophy) is a fire sign as well. It is true that everything is God and that there is no real good or bad, from one perspective (and there will be other areas of this persons life that require that understanding). But from the Aries perspective it is really better to have healthy concepts of what is right and what is wrong, and to act with a belief in the purpose of life, and in acting righteously. When Aries follows its fiery dharma that is innate to it, it finds more fulfillment from walking its path in life.
Now lets take the opposite sign Libra, an air sign. Air signs are based on intellect, which is using one’s own sense perceptions to gather intelligence. This is different from Aries, which is a fire sign and based off of intuition. Aries just “sees” how it is. It just knows instantly, without the use of senses, which is the definition of intuition. Libra is not like this, Libra, and all air signs, use intellect, or the senses, to understand life. So each Libra will see an idea differently because of their own individual perspective in life, what their own senses have come to. The 9th sign from Libra is Gemini, another air sign, showing that the outcome of the Libras path is based on one’s own personal sense based intellectual understanding. This is why Libra does great with a path of detachment, or a path of bhakti (devotional surrender to God), because both of these approaches focus on purifying the intellectual perceptions until one begins to perceive God as manifested in everything. So for Libra, it is great for it to see everything as God, to simply surrender to God, and to have a sense of even-mindedness and detachment around what happens in life, and how one understands life. Libra is the 7th sign, the midway point of the zodiac, and as such, is the sign of karmic balancing. This is symbolized by the scales. The Libra is meant to weigh their experiences with detachment and understand that what is happening is what is being handed to them by life, to best balance out their karma. They shouldn’t fight it (but Aries should, remember). So the Libra does not have to “do” anything as much as an Aries does. The Libra has already been “doing” in its previous lives (when it was an Aries for example) , and is now coming to the stage of “accepting” one might say. Thus Parashara states that the best planets for Libra are Mercury and Saturn. These are the planets that are the most helpful for us to have a sense of detachment, and accept life how it is, so that we may best serve life the way we are meant to. And now we can see why a path of devotional surrender to the will of God (bhakti) or a path of detachment (jnana) are great avenues for the Libra to walk its spiritual path. If the Libra was to only follow a Raja yoga path, and renounced the world to go live in a forest and meditate unceasingly, this would only serve to enlarge the Libra ego by giving it too much focus on itself, rather than focusing on purifying the heart through love and service to others, which is the natural path of the airy Libra.
Hopefully these examples will give some insight into the value of using Astrology to help one understand the path in life they are walking. Each sign has its own particular path that is most suited to it in the rasi chart, the first varga, or divisional chart. That’s just the beginning though. In Vedic Astrology, there are 15 other charts that are used, and so there are many other ascendant signs, for many other areas of life, all with different elements and different outcomes. So different mental approaches will be better for different areas of life and for different people. The example given above is simple, but in actuality it can get quite complex when we start using all the other vargas, as well as the Atmakaraka.