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What were Swami Vivekananda's views on astrology?

Did he believe in it?

What were his reasons for believing in it or not believing in it?

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It looks like Swami Vivekanda didn't give much importance to Jyotishya or blindly followed it, though he might have slightly believed in it. Rather he gave emphasis on realization of God. This is evident from his quotes.

Swami Vievekanda quotes, (Man the maker of History, Volume 8, Complete works.)

  • All these ideas such as astrology, although there may be a grain of truth in them, should be avoided.
  • We may be under planetary influence, but it should not matter much to us. Buddha says, "Those that get a living by calculation of the stars by such art and other lying tricks are to be avoided"; and he ought to know, because he was the greatest Hindu ever born. Let stars come, what harm is there? If a star disturbs my life, it would not be worth a cent. You will find that astrology and all these mystical things are generally signs of a weak mind; therefore as soon as they are becoming prominent in our minds, we should see a physician, take good food and rest.

  • Excessive attention to the minutiae of astrology is one of the superstitions which has hurt the Hindus very much.

  • I have seen some astrologers who predicted wonderful things; but I have no reason to believe they predicted them only from the stars, or anything of the sort. In many cases it is simply mind-reading. Sometimes wonderful predictions are made, but in many cases it is arrant trash.

He quotes following example, to say willpower is greater than influence of stars.

I was once travelling in the Himalayas, and the long road stretched before us. We poor monks cannot get any one to carry us, so we had to make all the way on foot. There was an old man with us. The way goes up and down for hundreds of miles, and when that old monk saw what was before him, he said, "Oh sir, how to cross it; I cannot walk any more; my chest will break." I said to him, "Look down at your feet." He did so, and I said, "The road that is under your feet is the road that you have passed over and is the same road that you see before you; it will soon be under your feet." The highest things are under your feet, because you are Divine Stars; all these things are under your feet. You can swallow the stars by the handful if you want; such is your real nature. Be strong, get beyond all superstitions, and be free.

Furthermore, Swami Vivekandanda quotes an old story

There is an old story of an astrologer who came to a king and said, "You are going to die in six months." The king was frightened out of his wits and was almost about to die then and there from fear. But his minister was a clever man, and this man told the king that these astrologers were fools. The king would not believe him. So the minister saw no other way to make the king see that they were fools but to invite the astrologer to the palace again. There he asked him if his calculations were correct.

The astrologer said that there could not be a mistake, but to satisfy him he went through the whole of the calculations again and then said that they were perfectly correct. The king's face became livid. The minister said to the astrologer, "And when do you think that you will die?" "In twelve years", was the reply. The minister quickly drew his sword and separated the astrologer's head from the body and said to the king, "Do you see this liar? He is dead this moment."

This is what he thought on origin of Astrology.

There was a very powerful dynasty in Southern India. They made it a rule to take the horoscope of all the prominent men living from time to time, calculated from the time of their birth. In this way they got a record of leading facts predicted, and compared them afterwards with events as they happened. This was done for a thousand years, until they found certain agreements; these were generalised and recorded and made into a huge book. The dynasty died out, but the family of astrologers lived and had the book in their possession. It seems possible that this is how astrology came into existence.

I think the Greeks first took astrology to India and took from the Hindus the science of astronomy and carried it back with them from Europe. Because in India you will find old altars made according to a certain geometrical plan, and certain things had to be done when the stars were in certain positions, therefore I think the Greeks gave the Hindus astrology, and the Hindus gave them astronomy.

But In History of Aryan Race, Volume 9, he quotes Astrology was taken (separated) from Vedas.

These Vedas are a vast mass of literature by themselves. That is to say, in those ancient times, in every country, religion was the first ideal to spring out of the heart of man, and all the secular knowledge that men got was made over to religion.

Secondly, people who deal with religion and in later times came to be called priests — being the first thinkers of every nation — not only thought about religious subjects, but secular matters also; and, as such, all knowledge was confined to them. These masses of knowledge — both secular and religious — will always be gathered together and made into a vast mass of literature.

In much later times, this is the case. For instance, in studying the Bible of the Jews, we find the same thing. The Talmud contained a vast mass of information on all subjects and so did the Pentateuch. In the same way, the Vedas give information on various subjects. They have come together and form one book. And in later times, when other subjects were separated from religion — when astronomy and astrology were taken out of religion — these subjects, being connected with the Vedas and being ancient, were considered very holy.

Following are some of his quotes on destiny,

  • One's destiny is' in one's own hands.
  • Take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny.
  • The knowledge of Brahman is the ultimate goal -- the highest destiny of man.
  • The present is determined by our past actions, and the future by the present.
  • We make our own destiny.

We can deduce from above quotes and examples, he gave more emphasis to realization of God and willpower than believing in Astrology.

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The below quote of Vivekananda is very clear that Swami Vivekananda knew that there is truth in astrology but he did not believe that the so called practitioners had truth in them. Vivekananda has not rubbished the science behind astrology but he made a wise choice and a wise advice to stay away from astrologers who have no clue even today of the science behind Jyotish.

His quote from The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda by Swami Vivekananda Volume 8,

It is always a manifestation of strength, and all these ideas such as astrology, although there may be a grain of truth in them, should be avoided.

There is an old story of an astrologer who came to a king and said, "You are going to die in six months." The king was frightened out of his wits and was almost about to die then and there from fear. But his minister was a clever man, and this man told the king that these astrologers were fools. The king would not believe him. So the minister saw no other way to make the king see that they were fools but to invite the astrologer to the palace again. There he asked him if his calculations were correct. The astrologer said that there could not be a mistake, but to satisfy him he went through the whole of the calculations again and then said that they were perfectly correct. The king's face became livid. The minister said to the astrologer, "And when do you think that you will die?" "In twelve years", was the reply. The minister quickly drew his sword and separated the astrologer's head from the body and said to the king, "Do you see this liar? He is dead this moment."

You will not find a more humbler person than Swami Vivekananda. Here is another quote from vol 6 of the complete works.

Veda means the sum total of eternal truths; the Vedic Rishis experienced those truths; they can be experienced only by seers of the supersensuous and not by common men like us. That is why in the Vedas the term Rishi means "the seer of the truth of the Mantras"

  • Your own blockquote says: "all these ideas such as astrology...should be avoided" - clearly he's talking about astrology itself and not its current day practitioners. "astrologers who have no clue even today of the science behind Jyotish" - by 'science behind jyotisha' you mean astronomy? Astronomy is proper science (consistent, parsimonious, based upon evidence, falsifiable, based on controlled/repeatable experiments, correctable, etc.) whereas predictive astrology/jyotisha & the part that says planets influence life on earth fits none of those criteria so it's safe to call it pseudoscience. – sv. Nov 13 '17 at 16:33
  • @sv. If one thinks Jyotish is a pseudo science, then they are questioning the wisdom of the MahaRishis. Swami Vivekananda has kept one leg in either boat. If he was sure he could have said there is no grain of truth in astrology. He only asks you to avoid it due to reason cited in the same text . Also if astronomy as used in the vedas was understood, by now someone would have pulled out the planetary chart of the Mahabharata war with a date. – Rama27 Nov 14 '17 at 2:45

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