Astrology in EBT

What evidence of the practice of astrology at the time of the Buddha do we find in the EBTs?

What does the Buddha say about astrology in the EBTs?

Thank you for answers :relieved::pray:t2:

Mostly that monks shouldn’t do it :joy: It’s a low art, etc.

But here’s a fun paper on Astrological Determinism in Indian Buddhism after the Buddha :slight_smile:


I happened to read this recently in SN28.10

Those ascetics and brahmins who earn a living by astrology—an unworthy branch of knowledge, a wrong livelihood—are said to eat facing upwards.

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There are two aspects to astrology, 1) the predictive and 2) personality analysis. Although both are condemned in the suttas, it is mainly the idea that there are auspicious times to do things, and how that can divert the mind from the present moment that is criticized. IMO the knowledge of what element (earth, air, fire, water) a practitioner’s personality is according to astrology can raise awareness of what foundation of mindfulness they innately experience, using the key body=earth, feeling= water, mind= air, dhamma = fire.

The results from this search ma help

‘There are some ascetics and brahmins who, while enjoying food given in faith, still earn a living by unworthy branches of knowledge, by wrong livelihood. This includes making predictions that there will be an eclipse of the moon, or sun, or stars; that the sun, moon, and stars will be in conjunction or in opposition; that there will be a meteor shower, a fiery sky, an earthquake, thunder; that there will be a rising, a setting, a darkening, a brightening of the moon, sun, and stars. And it also includes making predictions about the results of all such phenomena. The ascetic Gotama refrains from such unworthy branches of knowledge, such wrong livelihood.’ Such is an ordinary person’s praise of the Realized One.

Brahmajālasutta - DN 1 - The Prime Net


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Thank you for your replies :pray:t2:

Good thing this doesn’t apply to laypeople. Because if it did then astronomers, meteorologists, seismologists, or anyone that makes a living predicting natural phenomena would be engaging in wrong livelihood.


So astrology has always been a fundamental part of most traditional/pre-modern medicines, including Ayurveda and proto-Ayurvedic medicine. Jivaka, the Buddha and the Sangha’s own personal doctor was highly praised as lay practitioner in the texts—and it is highly unlikely he didn’t use astrology as part of his craft. I can’t prove this, but it is a very educated guess based on what medicine has looked like in the region for a very long time. I suspect, for lay practitioners who were engaged in their craft for the benefit of others, including astrological medicine, it was probably fine. Monastics weren’t supposed to practice medicine, either.

I think the Sutta is referring to Astrology and not Astronomy.

It talks about Divination and not about Science.


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No, the prediction of natural phenomena is done by scientists and then used by astrologers for their predictions. The sutta clearly says after describing these phenomena “And it also includes making predictions about the results of all such phenomena.”

Perhaps in the Buddha’s time astronomers and astrologers were one and the same, but that’s not always the case today.

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Thankfully today these two fields are not interchangeable in any way. Since the 18th century or so, astronomy and astrology have been considered separate fields. Astronomy is a science that has physics, chemistry and mathematics at its core.

Astronomical, meteorological and geological predictions pertain to natural phenomena based on observations, measurements, and predictive models based large volumes of concrete, pre-existing data. All following the scientific method. Such occupations may be wrong livelihood for a monastic , but definitely not for others.
Those using these scientific data to make predictions about people’s lives and the like, are not scientists by any stretch of the imagination.

Three millennia ago, astrologers (who observed the skies/ geological events etc solely for divination purposes) merely used these natural occurrences for

“making predictions about the results of all such phenomena”.

“Results” from an astrologer pertains to who you marry, your children, what the future holds etc. Such predictions are dubious and with unintended (or not) consequences.

Fortunately today, astronomers, meteorologists and seismologists are vital for a safe, functioning scientific society. If there were proper, scientific astronomers (who didn’t use their knowledge to predict on people’s lives) during the Buddha’s time, I doubt they would have gotten a bad rap.

I always remember Ajahn Brahm’s joke about never trusting a poor astrologer :laughing:


Astrology is purely a study of cycles within samsara and is not connected with nibbana, but can be used skillfully to obtain knowledge about temperament. The planets are said to exercise influence over human affairs. I think these planets can be equated to the gods in Theravada such as Sakka, which are often referred to in the suttas.

Millennial developments:

"India’s University Grants Commission and Ministry of Human Resource Development decided to introduce “Jyotir Vigyan” (i.e. jyotir vijñāna) or “Vedic astrology” as a discipline of study in Indian universities, stating that “vedic astrology is not only one of the main subjects of our traditional and classical knowledge but this is the discipline, which lets us know the events happening in human life and in universe on time scale”[26] in spite of the complete lack of evidence that astrology actually does allow for such accurate predictions.[27] The decision was backed by a 2001 judgement of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, and some Indian universities offer advanced degrees in astrology.[28][29] This was met with widespread protests from the scientific community in India and Indian scientists working abroad.[30] A petition sent to the Supreme Court of India stated that the introduction of astrology to university curricula is “a giant leap backwards, undermining whatever scientific credibility the country has achieved so far”.[26]

In 2004, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition,[31][32] concluding that the teaching of astrology did not qualify as the promotion of religion.[33][34] In February 2011, the Bombay High Court referred to the 2004 Supreme Court ruling when it dismissed a case which had challenged astrology’s status as a science.[35] As of 2014, despite continuing complaints by scientists,[36][37] astrology continues to be taught at various universities in India,[34][38] and there is a movement in progress to establish a national Vedic University to teach astrology together with the study of tantra, mantra, and yoga.[39]—Wikipedia

I think it’s good to have a platform for astrology, so that at least data can be gathered to verify or not once and for all if astrology is accurate in any way. Another way to see it is cultural heritage preservation in humanities, rather than putting it in the science department.

Just for context, this passage and the term for eclipse (sūriyaggāha) appear only in DN 1 and DN 2

The term for astrology (nakkhattavijja, i.e. ‘star-knowledge’) appears only in SN 28.10. As already pointed out, the term doesn’t distinguish between astrology and astronomy. To project the difference to the past would be anachronistic.

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Is it condemned in contexts other than right livelihood? Could the issue be the use of Brahmanical knowledge for profit rather than the study itself?

I see people wondering if astrology is categorically wrong livelihood or if it’s only for monks.

There is way in the here & now, to know if it is wrong livelihood or not.

… wrong is not the correct word. Wrong means that it is evil, leading downwards.

What we want to know is if an astrology practitioner can obtain samadhi.

Is this a livelihood that is in tune with & conducive to samadhi? This is the question.

DN 1 only talks about wrong livelihood in regard to the monk level, that is Brahmins who live off alms. So ultimately it refers to the attainment of nibbana and obstacles to that, including monks practising astrology, astronomy, agriculture and medicine. Therefore it would not apply to mundane right view as practiced by laypeople where samma samadhi is possible.