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Exploring the Tropical and Sidereal Zodiac Debate

Is Tropical Vedic Astrology the astrology of the ancients or is it only an attempt by half-baked astrologers to put their personal stamp on a sacred tradition? Could the use of the tropical zodiac combined with Eastern Astrological principles and techniques make horoscope interpretation more accurate? Is Tropical Vedic Astrology a breakthrough to a new astrological scientific paradigm or is it the result of poorly educated Westerners who know nothing of shastric lore, and clearly misunderstand the masters of old?

There are many difficulties in answering these questions. Some of the difficulties lie in the flawlessness (or lack thereof) of the texts and historical information we have about astrology. Some difficulties lie in the psychological resistance to exploring new ideas and the belief that all that needs to be known about astrology is already known. The fact that astrology itself has a dubious reputation poses an issue. Some might say it’s belaboring the point to say one zodiac provides greater accuracy than another, when astrology itself is a profession of charlatans. Another obstacle arises when you note that even in the same astrological school, students and teachers often have their own pet ideas and systems which are not repeatable. (That means that no two astrologers in the same system will often come to the same conclusion.  Is that science?)

Astrology is also said to be an intuitive divine science. This indicates that unless one is of certain spiritual nature and psychic development one cannot practice well. This is dangerous in and of itself. It is one thing to say, you can’t be a physicist because you do not have the mental capacity to do calculus. It is quite another to say, you are not holy or sattvic enough to study physics. Can you see where that kind of thinking could lead?  Although, maybe if our scientists were all more holy and sattvic, we would not have atomic weapons?  But who is to make this judgement?

I wonder how we can move through the morass of obstacles to come to a


Please remember, that in this debate and exploration about zodiacs, we are not talking about two different sets of techniques. There is not a separate system for Vedic Astrologers using the tropical zodiac.  The techniques and principles come from the exact same place as the modern sidereal Vedic Astrologers. The difference lies in calculation of the zodiacs. Planetary meanings, mathematical qualifications, Avashtas, etc., are all from the same source for sidereal and tropical Vedic Astrologers.

provable realization. Is that even possible?  Do we even need to be talking about this? We probably do not need to talk about it if you are already certain which zodiac works best and is the most accurate.  This writing and exploration is not for those who already know the truth of the matter.  But if you are uncertain and want to explore the issue, then stay tuned.

It is not a bad thing to be uncertain and wonder why things are the way they are.  It will encourage you to research, use your reason, and develop your logic to come to a conclusion about what you know to be true. This is an excellent quality for anyone studying a science.

If you feel that even bringing up the issue of the zodiacs is only to confuse people, please reconsider.  If one is studying a vast science like astrology, the student needs to be able to think critically and come to a decision about the validity of an argument on their own.  Otherwise, what kind of an astrologer would they be?  If you’ve ever tried to interpret an astrological chart, with all its rules and reasons and mathematics it can take quite a lot of research, logic and scientific thinking.  Do you want an astrologer who hasn’t thought through the reasons for the system they use?  I wouldn’t.

Questioning and the respect for such questions will lead to one of two possibilities.  It will make the current paradigm of astrology more acute and accurate, by discouraging lazy thinking.  It could lead to a discovery that was previously unrecognized due to lack of examination.  Either way, either the current astrological paradigm will gain greater support through provable refutations of their intelligent research debaters, or they will be forced to acknowledge that there is greater accuracy and information available through a new understanding of an old system.  Everybody wins.

And remember, if you already know you are right and don’t feel like exploring, no problem.  You are one of the few.

What will come out of an exploration of zodiacs? We may discover that both zodiacs actually DO work with the SAME Eastern Techniques. We may discover that only one zodiac used with Eastern Techniques works more accurately. We may discover it’s not the one we think. We may also discover that both of them are equally as useless, and that astrology really is akin to the Tarot or other divinatory methods. This could mean that it is not a physical science (meaning the attribution of physical planets amongst the measurable field of certain space or stars is irrelevant) and it is a psychic science, dependent upon the un-provable subjective world generated between astrologer and client.

To research these possibilities, requires that one is able to accept the final conclusion whatever may be the case.  This is what makes the whole endeavor so hard.  Astrology is so tied up in belief systems and many individual’s sense of self, that to really dissect these beliefs and experiences can be as threatening as contemplating the question “who am I?”.   Anyone who has successfully followed that question to its realization, has realized the scariest thing possible for all individual egos!  And we are only talking about astrology here, not your fundamental existence-being-sense of self.

Back to the point-

In this work, I’d like to review the following:

  • Arguments against Tropical Vedic Astrology put forth to date
  • Arguments for the use of the tropical zodiac with Eastern Techniques
  • The subjective difficulties in coming to an irrefutable conclusion
  • What is “Vedic” Astrology?
  • Are there really different kinds of astrology, like there are different kinds of chemistry or physics?  What is the difference between physics taught in the Western vs. the Eastern culture?
  • What is the potential work involved in proving or disproving a theory?
  • How do the Yugas influence our understanding of Science?
  • Can the Yugas be proven?
  • How is a science defined? Do scientific understandings change over time?
  • How is it possible for adherents of both systems to claim real life validity? They both can’t be correct, right? Or can they?
  • What kind of research is needed to accurately explore zodiacal claims of greater accuracy?

(This is probably going to be a long series of blog posts. Don’t worry. As I get to each topic I’ll come back and add a link to the list above for easier reference.)

My personal mission in this exploration is to consider the magnitude of the work required in understanding a system as vast and megalithic as astrology.  Many of us tout astrology as a science.  If it is a science, then let us treat it like one.  Let us not get locked into a way of thinking because someone told us “This is how it has always been and shall always be!” Let us pay attention to our results. Let us not sweep our failures or misunderstandings under the rug like most astrologers do, or only pay attention to those random success we may get right due to luck.  Maybe the failures are there because there is something we do not understand or are missing in our equations!  Let us find this out.  And if astrology really is just another belief system to give humankind a sense of safety and security in an uncertain world, fine, let it be so.  At the end of the day, I do not expect many of these answers will come to pass in my lifetime.  But I would like to contribute my limited mental capacity to begin this most needed exploration.

I would love this to be a joint venture between those who hold different view points.  Isn’t it through the respectful debate between different view points that a matter can be singularly resolved?  So to those of you who disagree with any of the assertions made in this writing to come, please share with me your well thought out, logical and rational refutation.  Provide sources for your assertions.  Don’t just tell me the shastras say, “use the sidereal zodiac.” Share with me the exact text and verse so I can go and review your statements.  And please know my goal is not to confuse the masses, as I have been accused of.  I want to know beyond a doubt, the answer to the questions I posed.  I have a curious mind, and I am not interested in accepting the status quo for the sake of tradition. I’ll accept the status quo it if its unrefutably true.   I want to get to the bottom of the issue as best as possible, and personally I think that can only be done together.

For those of you who are interested, here are the list of sources I currently have for review on this matter:

Sidereal and Tropical Divorce from Freedom Vidya

Ayanamsa and Rashis from Ernst Wilhelm

Vedic Astrology Critically Examined from Dieter Koch

The Story of the Zodiac Vedic Astrology from Sam Geppi

12 Signs of the Zodiac from Vic Dicara

Be sure to read the articles, and listen to the mp3 recordings in those links for the full understanding promoted by all astrologers present. It is my goal to make a list of the point by point assertions each author makes before this blog series is over.

Before we dive into the evidence for or against a certain zodiac, I have a personal matter to clear up.

Let me give some background information about my personal path through astrology. This is necessary. Many from a more traditional circle who have never met me nor taken the time to speak with me tend to hold ideas that may be untrue. They seem to think that one day I just woke up, said I am an astrologer and for no reason at all decided that the tropical zodiac works better. This is not true as you will see.

During my final year of college I became interested in Kriya Yoga practice Yoganandaand Ayurveda. After reading the book Autobiography of a Yogi I became aware of astrology. While a teenager I did have a book on Sun Signs in my collection of New Age materials, but I never read it. I thought astrology was silly and a waste of time. Yet, it was mentioned in a book on Kriya Yoga, in which I was keenly interested. I considered the possibility of it.

After college I went to massage school and studied Ayurveda. I was introduced to David Frawley’s work and decided, so that I would be educated about the topic, to take his correspondence course on Vedic Astrology. I still didn’t believe in it, and thought it was superstitious practice.

Yet I must say…

The stars and heavens were always a source of awe and wonder for me. As a child I remember staring out my window on a winter night enraptured by the vision of the milky way and all the constellations. I remember being a Boy Scout, sitting around the fire on a chilly autumn night, and dreaming of the mythology of the billions of lights over head. Through high school and college, at parties when others were talking about the local gossip or a football game I was off to the side staring up at the sky. I wasn’t looking for meaning, it was simply beautiful. In my teenage years I worked at a mini-golf course on a hill. Working nights, I was often delighted to be able to watch the Sun set and the Moon rise. I can still remember getting lost in the light of the full Moon as I closed down the course just before midnight.

I can remember taking an astronomy class in college. We had a lab night saturn2where we got out the telescope to look at the sky. On that night, the first sight I saw was the planet Saturn surrounded by its rings. There was nothing but darkness around it. A sense of loneliness and isolations overcame me. At the time, I did not know these were qualities associated with Saturn. That experience has stuck with me since that time. I still remember the cold clarity of that image and the chill that went through my being. Only, later was I to learn the role of Saturn’s prominent imprint on my astrological signature.

During my study of astrology I had a session from a Vedic Astrologer who was highly recommended by another big name astrologer who didn’t have the time to see me. It was interesting and she got a few things correct, but nothing that wouldn’t be true of many people. She predicted I would become a naturopathic doctor. I do have an interest in health and well being, but am not a doctor of any sort. I had also been given information from another well known Vedic Astrologer who told me I’d never get married. At that time, I had already been married for a few years. To this date, my one and only wife have been together for at least 18 years! The final official astrology reading I had encouraged me to take up boxing as a professional sport. I do like physical sports and even aggressive sports. I don’t like boxing.

You can see why, although I liked the romantic idea of astrology, it wasn’t impressing me with its accuracy just yet. And I made sure to get sessions

David Frawley

David Frawley – Director of American Institute of Vedic Studies

from the most celebrated Vedic Astrologers of the time. Yet I continued the study for the sake of being educated on the topic. I read on my own, worked through David Frawley’s correspondence course, studied charts of friends and family, ordered other ACVA approved study material, and even worked with an ACVA approved tutor.

Fast forward two years. I am at a Kriya Yoga retreat in Lakemont, Georgia at Center for Spiritual Awareness. In 2000, I was initiated into Kriya by Roy Eugene Davis, and had been returning to the center to attend retreats for three years after that. During this particular retreat I meet a gentleman from the UK named Richard Fish. He was a Kriya Practitioner. He was an astrologer. He was also a sweet and wise soul who ended up giving both myself and my wife the best astrological advice we had ever experienced. Our families ended up becoming very close.  He was a relatively unknown astrologer herbalist who lived on a small farm with his wife, and many animals about seven miles south of Stone Henge.


Richard Fish

Richard Fish, Astrologer-Author

He introduced me to astrology in such a way as I had never experienced it before. He also introduced me to Vasistha’s Yoga, but that is a topic for another time. I happened to pass him in the library at CSA and he noticed I was carrying around a book on astrology. We began a conversation and he offered to look at my chart. He knew nothing about me at that time, other than I was interested in astrology, I looked like a long haired hippy with giant rudraksha beads around my neck(not the small malas, but the big detailed ones you probably get from www.rudraksha-ratna.com), and I had an interest in meditation.   I gave him my birth data, and the next day we sat down in the Spring Sunshine and he proceeded to tell me in great (and accurate) detail about my personality, my work, my relationships and my health. The things he said could not have been guessed. Now I am taking a serious interest in astrology.

Many years later I found out that he was not only a Vedic Astrologer but also a Western Astrologer. At the time I met him, he had been studying and practicing both systems for more than 35 years. I should probably also state at this point, that I NEVER studied Western Astrology. Ever. My only training is in “Vedic” Astrology. It is only in this last year (2015) that I have even considered doing research into Western techniques.

Back to the story…

We are now three years into my introduction to astrology as a practice. I now begin to study with Richard Fish intensively. He had a correspondence course which I explored with him. (This was later turned into the Art and Science of Vedic Astrology: Foundation Course book.) We would interact via phone and email, and when he would come to the US once a year to attend a Kriya Yoga retreat I would meet with him there and dive deeper. (Only once did I have the opportunity to travel to his home in the UK to study astrology with him and present a Kriya Yoga Seminar before his MahaSamadhi in Spring of 2014.)

Fast forward two more years. It is now 2005. I am a craniosacral therapist with an interest in Ayurveda and meditation. Clients now begin trying to give me money to due their charts. At this time I am like most other Vedic Astrologers. I use the sidereal zodiac. Here were some of my reasons:


  • India has the one and only true tradition of astrology.
  • Western astrologers are misinformed and that’s why they can only say goofy, vague generalities that would be true for everyone.
  • Can’t you see, that the stars in the constellations don’t match up with the tropical zodiac? This is a visual system after all isn’t it!?
  • Vedic Astrology comes from superhuman seers who know more than my small mortal mind can grasp, and so I need to accept that.
  • The ancient Indian texts tell us to use the sidereal zodiac for astrological purposes.
  • Swami Sri Yukteswar was a Vedic Astrologer, and he was an incarnation of Divine Wisdom, and so the sidereal is the one to use.


I would defend these reasons quite righteously and then I would smugly let tropical astrologers act like they really knew anything about astrology, when I knew better.

Funny how karma works, isn’t it? The same way I treated others in relationship to their differing views on astrology is the same way myself, and most other Tropical Vedic Astrologers are treated now. This is one reason I don’t mind too much the judgment of more traditional Eastern Astrologers or being written off as an intellectually deficient heretic. I treated others that way, and that’s how the cycle goes!

If you think about it, in the current Eastern Astrology paradigm, encouraging the use of the Tropical Zodiac in place of the sidereal is akin to telling a Christian Southern Baptist that Jesus was really an enlightened Hindu Yogi.  If we observe human nature for any length of time, we will see why statements such as this can ruffle some feathers.

Ok I need a break from typing today….

I will continue on with this blog later. Follow this blog for developments on this series. Our future blog posts will include the following topics:

  • Concluding my personal exploration through astrology
  • What are the Zodiacs?
  • What is the Tropical Zodiac?
  • What is Tropical Vedic Astrology?
  • Arguments against Tropical Vedic Astrology put forth to date
  • Arguments for the use of the tropical zodiac with Eastern Techniques
  • The subjective difficulties in coming to an irrefutable conclusion
  • What is “Vedic” Astrology?
  • Are there really different kinds of astrology, like there are different kinds of chemistry or physics?  Is there an Eastern and Western physics I don’t know about?
  • How do the Yugas influence our understanding of Science?
  • Can the Yugas be proven?
  • How is a science defined? Do scientific understandings change over time?  Is that good or bad?
  • How is it possible for adherents of both systems to claim real life validity? They both can’t be correct, right? Or can they?
  • What kind of research is needed to accurately explore zodiacal claims of greater accuracy?  Is it even possible?  Remember, due to the human tendency to find patterns when they are looking for them, both sidereal and tropical Vedic Astrologers have plenty of subjective evidence to support their assertions.



Ryan Kurczak

8 replies »

  1. I think there is a reason why we have movable, fixed and dual signs. This makes perfect sense using the Tropical Zodiac. Sidereal, not so much.

  2. Great article can’t wait to read more. What I think about a lot is seasons. I also think about how when our ancestors built temples they were in line with the solstices and equinoxes. I think about how important the Sun is for us for measuring time. I see the Zodiac as the measurement of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Being as the length of time of one rotation of the Earth on it’s axis, giving us one day’s time, isn’t in an exact easily calculable correlation to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, giving us one solar year, I can see why dividing the Zodiac up into a circle of 360 degrees and tracking the Sun makes sense. Also I can see 4 distinct divisions from this; the solstices and equinoxes. I can also see of these 4 divisions as there being 3 divisions of these; one where it has just started and is changing (movable signs), one where it is fully fixed in this division (fixed signs), and one where it is going from one to the next (dual signs). In other words to me it makes a lot of sense to use the Zodiac to follow the path of the Sun and the change of the seasons. I think we are very detached from nature in this day and age and have lost a certain appreciation for the Circadian Rhythms that still affect us.
    I also don’t see the logic in having the Rasis attached to the Nakshatras. There are 27 Nakshatras of the moon and to map these 27 Nakshatras into 12 signs doesn’t make any sense to me. Why not group them into 9 signs or 3 signs or, even more logical to me, 27 signs? I respect the significance of the number 108 and see how all these numbers are multiples of it and see the numerological significance. But I just don’t see the practical logic of having the Nakshatras and Rasis tied together. What I do see as logical is that one is for tracking the timing periods of the Sun and one is for the Moon. Again both of these heavenly bodies do not easily and exactly correlate in the periods of their rotations and such so I can see why it would be necessary to have separate systems to define their movements. Anyhow, sorry for making such a wordy comment and thank you if you have read this far!



  3. I haven’t gone through the whole article yet but its a very interesting debate and there is no sure shot answer to this question…. Hopefully one fine day everyone will agree on one system of zodiac… Thanks for great work