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Jyotish Star of the Month

A Conversation with Dr. K. S. Charak

by Juliana Swanson
Interview Date: July 7th 2013

Juliana Swanson: What started your interest in Jyotish or Vedic Astrology?

Dr. K. S. Charak: I developed an interest in astrology at a very early age. While I was a school child, I used to see illiterate village folk coming to our house and seeking guidance from my grandfather about muhurta for different undertakings. Their enquiries pertained to such varied things as sowing the seeds, thatching the roof, digging the foundation for a house, harvesting the crops, etc. Several queries pertained to knowing about the various Titihis which are important in day to day activities in India.

All the Hindu festivals depend upon the Tithis as do the days for observing fasts, especially for the ladies. Most of the Hindu ladies observe regular fasts on either special week-days or on special Tithis.

My grandfather used to refer to what is known as a ‘Jantari’ to answer the queries. A Jantari is an Urdu Panchanga or almanac. It has information about the location and movement of planets, the tithis, the nakshatras, the yogas, the Karanas, an exposition about the various muhurtas, the dates for various festivals, and a lot of other things. As a school child, I found this book rather interesting and somewhat intriguing. In my free time, of which there was no dearth during those days, I would frequently go through the pages of the Jantari which, besides the topics mentioned above, also carried features on various occult subjects which seemed very interesting to me. It did not take very long for me to understand what my grandfather was doing. And in his absence, I would easily manage the task.

I must have been some twelve years or so when a Pandit visited our house. He took out his Hindi Panchanga and showed me how to decide about the lagna from the tables already available in the Panchanga. For planetary positions at birth, he said, one would need the Panchanga for the year in question. This was some useful information. The Jantari too contained the tables for the ascendants which I had not given much attention to till then. After the Pandit left, I soon did the exercise on charts of my siblings. We did not have the detailed horoscopes yet. In north India at least, you do not make a detailed chart for a child unless he or she is some twelve years or older. But they do make a basic chart with position of planets and some basic information. The north Indian term for this chart is ‘Tewa’. My lagnas matched with the lagnas of the various Tewas. Later I looked up the Jantaries for our years of birth and found the position of planets myself. A lot of hit and trial was involved in this but the end result was great. I had learnt how to construct a basic chart (without degrees and other necessary essentials, of course). No good books on astrology were available to me at that time but the interest continued. I had to do a lot of self-study and put in a lot of labour to understand the basics of astrology at that age.

Juliana: Did you have a spiritual path or specific Guru that inspired or mentored you along the way?

Dr. Charak: I started on my own, sometime in the late nineteen fifties, and continued for several years. The first books that I got hold of were the two volumes on Varshaphala, in Urdu language, sometime in nineteen sixty-five. I read some of the books by Dr B V Raman. The first astrology classic that I procured and studied was Brihajjataka of Varahamihira, with English commentary in the year 1973. Later I got hold of a Hindi translation of Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra. I was a regular reader of the Astrological Magazine of Dr B V Raman. As years went by, I went through most of the available books on astrology.

God kept my interest in astrology alive. There came some occasions when I made some startling observations that I would hesitate to do now! It was in early 1974 when a colleague and friend of mine in the hospital happened to glance through my copy of Brihajjataka which I had recently procured. She happened to open up chapter 4 which deals with matters pertaining to conception. She asked me the meaning of the first shloka. I said, “This means that you had your menstrual cycle on such and such date last month, and it is due on such and such date this month” “How do you know?” was her query. I explained, “In your case, it would happen whenever the Moon would transit Gemini.” I predicted her marriage in October the same year and it happened as I had said; it is a different matter that today I do not understand the astrological reason for it. Many months later, she wrote from USA, “My Moon has stopped coming to Gemini.”

There is another interesting case that I might like to share with my astrologer friends. A surgeon colleague was very insistent that astrology had no basis and that he did not believe in it. One day, sometime in 1981, he brought to me his horoscope and that of a girl for my opinion as his marriage had been fixed with that girl. He did not believe in astrology, he insisted, but would still like my comments! Since fools verily rush in where angels fear to tread, I decided to look at the chart in a different manner. The next day I told him that he was not going to marry the girl in question. He made fun of me as well as of astrology because his marriage had been fixed a month later and nothing could stop it. A week later, however, he came to me and said that the marriage had been cancelled. Some weeks later, he brought to me the chart of another girl with whom his marriage had been fixed, this time just for a week later. It was not necessary to seek any astrological comments but he wanted it just for the fun of it, he said. Here too, I told him that the marriage was not going to take place. “This is total rubbish,” he said. “No way are you going to be right this time.” But the very next day he told me that this too did not materialize. One did not need to pretend to be an angel all the time, I thought, and once in a while one could rush into some awkward terrain! He met me some six months later, just a little after his marriage. This third time, he had not felt the courage to consult me, but by now had taken up the study of astrology himself. I may reveal that my basis of making such stupidly accurate remarks was that I did not find the time of his marriage coinciding with the time of marriage of the two ladies whose charts he had brought to me. I may also admit that today I do not often find such courage with my current understanding of astrology.

These were encouragements that enhanced my faith in astrology, not that I ever questioned it. There have been failures too. But those have been my failures, not those of the subject.

Since I was doing all my study alone, I felt the need to get acquainted with the astrologers’ community of Delhi. During an astrology seminar in Delhi, I tried to communicate with a couple of astrologers, without disclosing that I was a surgeon in a reputed hospital in the capital. They just brushed me aside as a lesser mortal of little consequence, without even bothering to listen about my interest. I did not lose hope, though. It was sometime around 1990 that I joined the astrology classes in the Bharatiya Vidya Bjhavan in Delhi, primarily to get into the astrological ambience of Delhi. These classes were conducted by the Indian Council of Vedic Astrology, an organization which was started by the late Dr B V Raman. I was permitted to join the senior level directly as a special case. Here I met teachers like J N Sharma (the master of Prashna or horary astrology), M N Kedar (author and teacher), K N Rao and others. I must admit that spending one year in the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan was
helpful in making my understanding and practice of astrology more organized. And, of course, it made me a part of the astrologers’ community.

While teaching Varshaphala to the students of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Delhi, I wrote my first book on astrology, viz., A Textbook of Varshaphala. In 1993, I attended the ACVA conference in USA for the first time and gained some international exposure too.

Juliana: As a surgical physician, I understand that you specialize in Nephrology or does your field of medicine include other specialties as well?

Dr. Charak: I am a general surgeon with special interest and training in Surgical Gastroenterology, Urology and Onco-Surgery.

Juliana: Were you initially interested in the full spectrum of Vedic astrology or did you focus on Medical Astrology from the beginning.

Dr. Charak: I have always had interest in all branches of astrology. In fact my first book was on Varshaphala or annual horoscopy. While teaching in the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, I was assigned the job of teaching medical astrology as I was the only
astrologer with a medical background. It was during this period that I wrote two books on medical astrology. An understanding of both medicine and astrology has helped me a lot in developing the subject of medical astrology. But I have written extensively on subjects other than medical astrology also.

Juliana: Please tell us a little bit about your humanitarian charity work through the Sri Onkar Singh Memorial Trust in India. photos of camp would be nice too and perhaps we could link to this video about it and encourage more people to make donations?

Dr. Charak: It was in the year 2000 that I started a charitable Trust called the ‘Shri Onkar Singh Memorial Trust’ with the help of a few dedicated friends of mine. This Trust is in the name of my late father though I was not a Trustee in the beginning. The intention was to provide surgical and medical care to the poor and the ailing, free of cost and preferably at their door step. Here is the link you were speaking of http://medicalrelief.in/index.php.

Several factors prompted us to do that. I was working as a surgeon with the ESI Corporation where we would cater to only those patients who were insured to get our services. I could not treat just anybody who needed me. As a trained mountaineer, I had occasions to frequent distant rural and hilly areas, not connected by road, where people did not even have access to simple painkillers. I wanted to be able to help them. I talked to a senior mountaineer friend of mine, Mr S K Mehta, and discussed about how we could help those in need. Since we were mountaineers, we thought we should not hold mere medical camps; we should do something of the stature of the mountains, God-willing! So we decided to constitute a Trust under which we would reach the far flung rural areas, establish
week long camps, and provide not just simple medical care but also carry out major operative procedures. We should do this for everyone who came to us, without distinguishing between the rich and the poor, their caste or creed. Mr Mehta agreed to be the Chairman of the Trust. We did our first free surgical cum medical camp in October 2000. With God's grace, we have, till March-April 2013, conducted thirty-six very successful camps, in the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, treating no less than fifty thousand patients, providing operative treatment to thousands of them, all free of cost. Our team members are doctors, nurses, para-medical personnel, cooks and volunteers. They all serve the patients with utmost devotion, selflessly, without seeking anything in return. I would welcome anyone interested in humanitarian work to join us during our camps and be a part of this benevolent work.

All this work needs finances which cannot be met by my meager salary. Obviously, donations have come to us from friends and well-wishers. Once someone wanted to know about how I managed to finance the camps. I said, “I beg for six months and then hold one surgical camp.”

We have till now not accepted, or sought, any help from the government. Most of the donors are my friends from all over the world. I must emphasise that ninety percent of help has come to us from people who have known me, either directly or indirectly, through astrology. It is through astrology that I came in contact with a very dear friend called Susan Pfau (with her newly acquired spiritual name ‘Radhe’) from USA. She is the one who runs and maintains the website www.medicalrelief.in, which provides all the information about our benevolent activities.

Vinay Aditya, J N Sharma and I organized a few condensed courses in astrology, labelled as ‘Astrology in the Himalaya’, primarily to raise funds for my Surgical camps. These were week-long courses in the mountainous regions of northern India and we conducted these courses for a few years. Constraints of time and other difficulties came in our way. However, we are again thinking of reviving these sometime in near future.

Juliana: Are there any other members of your family involved with Jyotish or medical astrology?

Dr. Charak: My grandfather was not an astrologer but had a working knowledge of the Muhurta which is the most used branch of astrology in India. My father did have some elementary understanding of the subject but would dissuade me from studying astrology with any seriousness because of his apprehension that I might do this at the cost of studying medicine.

Juliana: We know that you have written several wonderful books on Vedic Astrology?

Dr. Charak: The first book I wrote was not on astrology but on medicine. It was called ‘Medical Guide for Climbers and Trekkers’, which I wrote in the year 1983. It was the first book on this subject in India at that time. It was in 1993 that I wrote my first book on astrology. Before that, I had written only a few articles on the subject. I wrote astrology books initially with the intention of providing good subject matter for our students. I felt that most of the available Indian books did not mention principles of astrology in a lucid manner. Some of these books contained sound astrological principles but were badly written, and most of these were shabbily printed. In my writings, I have tried to explain things in an understandable manner, elucidated the principles, and explained astrological principles by examples. Rajeev Jhanji and Vinay Aditya, both astrologers and writers, were instrumental in producing good quality books, good in language as well in production. I have tried to stick to ancient classics only, especially Parashara and Varahamihira. And I try to write only
what I myself can understand. It gives me some sense of satisfaction that we have ushered an era of good quality books in astrology. Over the years now, the quality of astrology books produced in India has markedly improved.

I have some ten books by now on Vedic astrology. The two books on medical astrology have been translated in Telugu, a south Indian language. ‘A Textbook of Varshaphala’ has been translated in Russian. The two volumes of ‘Elements of Vedic Astrology’ are being translated in Russian too. Hindi versions of some of my books are also now available.

Juliana: Any new books in the works? I am sure your reading public would be thrilled!

Dr. Charak: For the last few years, I have been rather busy professionally. A lot of my time is also consumed by the charitable work that I do with all my passion. I used to edit a bimonthly magazine called ‘Vedic Astrology’ in English language. I did this for eleven years, from 1997 to 2007. This was a magazine strictly adhering to the classical astrological principles, and with a lot of charts for illustration of the principles. I was assisted by Vinay Aditya and Rajeev Jhanji in this task. Serious students of astrology still seek the older issues of this journal. But I had to discontinue this publication
because of my professional obligations which left me with little time for such a demanding task. For that reason only, I have not written any serious book on astrology for the last few years. But lately, while going through some ancient classics, I developed some special interest in nakshatras. I am now inclined to write a book on nakshatras, highlighting certain aspects which have not yet been touched upon by general astrological fraternity. If God wants me to write on nakshatras, He would provide me with time and energy for the job.

Juliana: Do any of your daughters show an interest in Vedic astrology or medicine for that matter?

Dr. Charak: My eldest daughter, Ambika, has some interest in astrology, palmistry and graphology. She does this only as her hobby and does not seem too serious to take it up like me. She is a History teacher. Aditi, the middle one, is doing biotechnology at IIT, Roorkee; she did not want to see patients as did her father! Uma is the youngest and still undecided about what to do in the long run. Right now, she has taken up biochemistry in Delhi University.

Juliana: You tour and teach medical Jyotish. When will you next be speaking in the USA?

I have been visiting USA fairly regularly though I have on a few occasions lectured in UK and Germany as well. I don’t teach just Medical Jyotisha. Last May, I was in the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in Saylorsburg, PA, and there the subjects I spoke on were the Vargas (the divisional charts), and the Mystique of Nakshatras. I have lately joined a new job as a Senior Consultant and Head of Department, Surgery, in a renowned institute in Delhi (called ‘Indian Spinal Injuries Centre’) and am not sure about whether I would be able to find time to visit USA next year. But if I do, it would be around May or June 2014.

Juliana: Is there anything else that you would like to let our readers know?

Dr. Charak: Jyotisha is a Vaidic subject. All Vaidic subjects are divine in some or the other sense. One quality of the Vaidic subjects is that they are for general human welfare, provided you practise them honestly and sincerely. I have already mentioned above that ninety per cent of support to our humanitarian cause comes from people who know me through astrology. I could never have imagined in my early years that the subject of astrology would one day help me serve the suffering humankind. I have enough reason to satisfy me that this benevolent work of ours will not stop as long as I am honest with astrology on the one hand and
surgery on the other. I hope that the Almighty Lord keeps me always aware of this sacred fact. And I hope that all my astrologer friends join me in appreciating the grandeur and benevolence of this subject so that our sincere devotion to and practice of Jyotisha helps us all to abolish human suffering.

Dr. K.S. Charak's Biography

Dr. K. S. Charak came from a rural background, from a small village near the city of Jammu, in Jammu and Kashmir (J & K State). His family owned lands since the times of the kings. Most of Dr. Charak's paternal ancestors and family members have served in the Indian Army.

Dr. Charak's grandfather was a highly religious and spiritual man and perhaps the first educated person in his community. He made sure that Dr. Charak's father studied well. Both father and grandfather were well versed in Urdu and Persian. Knowledge of Urdu helped Dr. Charak, too, especially in
understanding the principles of Varshaphala. In fact, most of the horoscopes that he cast before the age of twenty-five were made in the Urdu language. It was later that he shifted to Hindi and English.

Dr. Charak is a full time surgeon in Delhi. He obtained his basic medical qualification (MBBS) from Delhi University in 1972. In 1977, he acquired a specialization (MS) in surgery, again from Delhi University. He taught Anatomy for some nine months (1977-78) in Maulana Azad Medical College in Delhi before proceeding to the UK in April 1978, where he qualified for the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS). In May 1980, he returned to Delhi from the UK, and has mostly remained in Delhi since then. Dr. Charak practices general surgery which, in India at least, still means general surgery, surgical gastroenterology, part of urology and pediatric surgery, emergency surgery, etc. In 2002, Dr. Charak completed an additional WHO Fellowship in Onco-surgery.

Dr. Charak joined the ESI Corporation in March 1988 as a specialist and head of the department of surgery in the ESI Hospital, Jhilmil. In July 2007, he was transferred to another ESI hospital in Delhi, a 600-bed facility, to head the surgery department. He retired from ESI Corporation on October 31, 2012. Presently, he is working as Senior Consultant and Head of the Department of Surgery in Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, a prestigious institute in South Delhi.

Astrology has remained a hobby for Dr. Charak since childhood. On the way, he wrote many books and got some official qualifications and titles; there were also a couple of Lifetime Achievement Awards in the year 2012. Dr. Charak says that he feels there is some more life left to achieve a little more, God-willing. Dr. Charak's additional hobbies have included photography, chess and mountaineering. Chess and mountaineering consumed a lot of his time and energy at one time, but these have been now taken over by a more benevolent humanitarian work dedicated to the service of the ailing and the needy.

Dr. Charak's book list; A Textbook of Varshaphala, Yogas in Astrology, Elements of Vedic Astrology (2-vol. set), Laghu Jatakam, Predictive Varshaphala, Essentials of Medical Astrology, Predictive Medical Astrology, Jatakalankara and Surya: The Sun God.

Juliana Swanson's Biography:

Juliana SwansonJuliana Swanson is a registered nurse (RN), healer, astrologer, mother, and wife. She runs her astrological consulting and holistic healing practices, which combine polarity therapy and rebirthing-breathwork, from her home office on Hawaii's Big Island. In addition, she tutors Vedic astrology students both individually and as an online instructor for the American College of Vedic Astrology and the International Academy of Astrology.

Juliana qualifies as an ACVA and CVA Level II certified Vedic Astrologer, receiving two titles of excellence: the Jyotish Visharada, CVA and the Jyotish Kovid, CVA.
Additionally, in 2012 she was awarded the Jyotish Kovid from the ICAS, Bangalore, India. Juliana may be reached by email at Juliana@AstralHarmony.com or through her website www.AstralHarmony.com.

You may reach Juliana at her Hawaii office at 808-430-5989.

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