East Meets West: The Difference Between Western and Vedic Astrology

Learn about the difference between Vedic and Western astrology, and how both can be used to help you live your best life.

Jeff V. Poole
Jyotisha Vedic Astrology

Vedic astrology is called Jyotisha. The word Jyotisha is the expanded version of its root, or seed sound, known as “Jyoti,” which means “inner light.” And inner light is the “illumined mind.”

Jyotisha is known as the “Science of Light.” Since our form is spirit, our experience is felt through the emotional reflection of the moon, which represents our mind. 

Whereas western astrology uses the tropical zodiac which is entirely sun based. And the signs are aligned with solar events, and solstices, and follow the sun’s path.

Vedic astrology uses a sidereal zodiac which is calculated to exactly the pinpoint location of the planets within their signs. 

Though both Vedic and Western astrology systems have twelve zodiac signs, they differ in their understanding of the positions of constellations in the sky.

Vedic astrology is based on the sidereal zodiac, a system in which the positions of planets are calculated based on where they are “actually observed in the sky in respect of constellations.” Western astrology, on the other hand, uses the tropical (fixed) zodiac. This system relies on four seasons that represent the sun’s movement, equinoxes, solstices, as well as the tilt of the earth on its axis.

While both Vedic and Western astrology have their merits, and to a large extent they do overlap, many people who read astrology charts choose to move between them to further cement their findings.

An astrological time shift

About 2,000 years ago, tropical and sidereal signs were in the same position. However, due to a phenomenon called the precession of the equinoxes, tropical signs are drifting westward at a rate of one degree every 72 years. At present, western astrology’s sign of Aries is about 24 degrees away from Vedic astrology’s sign of Aries. As a result, these two systems have slightly different zodiac dates.

The Vedic system is considered more accurate because it uses modern astronomy with regard to an astronomical phenomenon occurring within the system, and has remained intact for thousands of years.

Vedic astrology is literally the map of our karma. It allows us to understand, more precisely, our own nature and destiny in order to navigate our lives. It helps us in fulfilling our spiritual goals, and in observing our lessons of past karma (actions we did in the past which produce their results in this life).

It’s all about the moon
moon cycles

Jyotisha is all about the moon, and the moon represents all aspects of the mind. The moon is connected to your intuition, intelligence, consciousness, and how it feels to be alive within the world. The moon also connects to your nature for nurturing others through selfless love.

The moon deals with the experience and lessons of karma, the sequences of time, the timing of our ripening, and activating karmas. These are all about the mental sphere of life within the mind.

What are the Nakshatras and how do they relate to Vedic astrology?

Vedic astrology has various components including Nakshatras (fixed lunar constellations), Dasha (various timed periods of planetary influences in one’s life), and divisional charts, etc. These provide deep analysis and insight into one’s life. This also makes it the most accurate among all astrological principles.

The Sanskrit term “Nakshatra,” is comprised of “Naks” meaning “sky” and “Shetra” meaning “region,” which can be termed as a “sky map.” Another translation is arrived at using a different dissection: “Naksha” is “map” and “tara” is star and so Nakshatra is a “star map.” All Nakshatras are directly connected to the moon and its myriad expressions.

The movement of the moon is connected to the 27 Nakshatras, whereas the movement of the sun is linked to the twelve signs of the zodiac. Nakshatras are even more fundamental than the signs they inhabit since they are the original division of marking both time and space.

The planets, signs, and Nakshatras are equally important in the understanding of the soul’s nature and qualities. Those qualities become manifest and apparent when they are activated within Dasha (periodic) cycles.

Unique to Vedic astrology, the Nakshatras or lunar constellations (aka lunar mansions) are the:

  1. Planets (Grahas) - They grasp and pull you into your karmas.
  2. Signs (Rashis) - Portions of the sky that have three Nakshatras in each sign and create your psychology.
  3. Houses - The experience of the experiencer.

The Nakshatras have three deities, representing three sections of the sky. Myths and deities are a way for the human mind to connect to the cosmic forces in the universe. The ancient seers (Rishis) knew it would be easier for us to feel and understand the divine forces within us if they were made human or superhuman.

Nakshastras and the 3 Gunas


The Nakshatras are broken into three sections of the sky connected to the zodiac signs which are characterized by their Guna (quality) that bind them to one of three energies- Rajas, Tamas, or Sattva

The classic understanding of these energies is as follows:

  • Rajas is associated with activity but can have a restless nature. 
  • Tamas is associated with solidity but also lethargy. 
  • Sattva is associated with clarity and wisdom.

Through the lens of the science of Vedic astrology, these energies are manifested in various signs as follows:

  • The signs Aries, Taurus, Gemini, and Cancer are rajasic (they deal with initiating creation and birthing things)
  • Leo, Virgo, Libra, and Scorpio are tamasic (dealing with maintaining and protecting creation)
  • Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces are sattvic (dealing with transformation and spiritual goodness). These signs have many supernatural, unusual deities combining transformative forces, elements, and energies.

Sun vs Moon
sun and moon

As you can see, Vedic astrology is all about the spirit and how it takes form within the world, and within a body. It identifies the spiritual momentum, the “Prana Shakti,“ that affects the mind and soul from day to day. Prana means subtle life force and shakti means divine energy.

This is not at all characteristic of Western astrology which is more about the hero’s journey. A hero’s journey refers to the story of a hero that goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis, and comes home changed or transformed. 

Western astrology is about the SUN, the identity, soul, ego, actor, and power. It’s about practical concerns like your job, work, health, your journey, and others’ psychology and beliefs about the universe.

Vedic astrology is totally about the MOON, the mind, emotions, awareness, and the spirit within the form, that moves through their spiritual lessons, to ultimate enlightenment or liberation. The moon is the silent witness, the innocent and emotionally reflective observer, the mind.

No other method is as deep, or detailed, as Vedic astrology- they can’t even come close. I also cannot begin to reveal all the intricacies and the full spectrum of what a Jyotisha reading can offer. But now you know the basic differences between Vedic and Western astrology, as well as a little of what to expect when receiving a reading from either method. Who knows, you might choose to do both!?


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