A Conversation with Robert Koch
|By Juliana Swanson|
Interview Date: April 2013
Juliana Swanson: Hello Robert! We are so fortunate to have a Vedic Astrologer of your stature granting us an interview for the Jyotish Star!
Tell us, when did you first find yourself interested in Jyotish (Vedic Astrology)
to matters of a spiritual and metaphysical nature came after I left my parent's home in 1967 and which is when I began to walk my own path in life.
|Robert Koch: Astrology or allied metaphysical science were never part of my family background and thus in my early years of life I had little exposure to it at all. My parents were professional people, my father a medical doctor and my mother a nurse, and so I grew up in an academic household which was fairly conservative and mainstream in all regards. Still, I grew up in San Francisco which in the late 1960’s became the vortex of consciousness expansion and “free love” in America, and so by the time I graduated from high school and attended college in 1965, I had become exposed to all kinds of metaphysical sciences such as I-Ching and Numerology at first, and then astrology came later just prior to the time that I joined the Vedic monastery in 1970. So my exposure |
Juliana: Did you have another career before you came to astrology?
Robert: So far as careers are concerned, Jyotish was the first and only full time profession for me. I had a long and dedicated monastic career, but I would not consider that as a profession per se. Since my spiritual and monastic career started at the age of 22, and after I had completed just two years of college, it became my only work up until the time that I embarked full time on my career with Jyotish and which is my full time work up to this day.
Juliana: Please fill us in on your “monastic career.” What led up to this?
Robert: I had reached a point in my life in 1968 wherein my spiritual quest became all-encompassing and I virtually disengaged myself from college, friends and girlfriends, or pursuit of a professional career, and focused exclusively on finding my guru. I found Prabhupada – or more appropriately, he found me - at the end of an intensive search.
Juliana: Prabhupada, the head of the Krsna Consciousness movement?
country, in fact he had established over 100 temples worldwide for the worship of Radha-Krsna between 1965 and 1977 when he left this world.
|Robert: Yes, my spiritual master was Sri Srimad A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who was a lineage holder in the prestigious Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya in India, which dated back over 500 years to the time of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.|
Vaishnavism, or Krsna Consciousness, is essentially the underpinnings of Bhakti-yoga, or devotional spiritualism, and Prabhupada’s movement served to promote the Vedic Vaishnava teachings as well as attendant lifestyle all over the world. Prabhupada came to the USA and established his first ashram in New York City, after which the movement spread very rapidly all over the
Juliana: So after he found you, what prompted your decision to become a monk?
Robert: Initially I had no idea of what a monk's life was, or even the desirability of adopting that kind of lifestyle. I was, however, strongly driven by a desire to find God and to find my unique place within the universe. This became such a compelling impulse that in order to launch a spiritual search or quest, I dropped out of college and relinquished all sorts of attachments for this purpose. So the spiritual search became the single-most desire of my life at that time, although eventually it became evident to me that I needed a community of spiritual seekers to adopt, rather than trying to find God on my own.
On my own, I had traveled extensively and read all kinds of books on various spiritual persuasions, but in the end became confused as to which one was correct for me. So I sought out the association of what appeared to me to be a very dedicated and serious spiritual community, although I still had no idea that I too would move in the ashram and become a monk. It was only after moving into the ashram of my guru and adopting the lifestyle of the monk that I fully understood what this kind of life was like and the importance of it for spiritual advancement. In my book I wrote about my chart and what combinations of planets pointed toward this sort of lifestyle as a matter of destiny and also the appropriate time periods as to when the life of the monk would begin.
The Spiritual Dimensions of Vedic Astrology, Paravidya Publications, 2005 (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=The+Spiritual+Dimensions+of+Vedic+Astrology)
Juliana: When did you move into the ashram and how long were you there as a monk?
Robert: I moved into my guru’s ashram in San Francisco on January 10, 1970. I lived under the auspices of his ashram as a celibate, Brahmacharya monk up until 1989, when I left the ashram life to pursue the secular lifestyle of an astrologer.
Juliana: I imagine your yogic path led the way to Jyotish.
Robert: Yes, within the framework of the monastic lifestyle, I traveled to India seven times during this period and that is where my exposure to Jyotish began in 1987.
Juliana: How did you actually get started?
Robert: I began my initial studies in Jyotish on my own after a friend, just having recently returned from India, handed me a book on Jyotish and said, “I think you would be good at this.” The book was Predictive Astrology of the Hindus, by the late Gopesh Kumar Ojha of New Delhi. Once having that book in my hands I was captivated, and didn’t put it down until I had literally devoured every word of the entire manuscript. That book alone was enough to gather an understanding of the basic principles of Jyotish, but still I needed more. I then gravitated to the teachings of the late, great B.V. Raman and it was basically from his books that I learned enough Jyotish, in theory, technique as well as application, to start doing readings myself. So after starting my studies in 1987 (I was still in the ashram at that time), I began doing readings fulltime professionally in 1989 and that work became the bridge from ashram life toward living independently in the secular world.
Juliana: Did you have any other mentors?
Robert: My first real mentor in Jyotish was Sri K.N. Rao of New Delhi, whom I met in San Rafael, CA in 1994 where he was conducting a workshop on Jaimini under the auspices of the American Council of Vedic Astrology. Sri Rao lit a fire in my mind and consciousness like no other Jyotishi I had met, and especially through his clear and profound expositions on Jaimini, principles that I quickly incorporated in my own work with Jyotish. Later, in 1999, I met Sanjay Rath on the Internet and his teachings grew on me too to the extent that I joined the Sri Jagannath Center (SJC) which he started after visiting the US for the first time in 2002. Sanjay instilled within me the means and the awareness of how to combine the esoteric Sanskrit teachings of the Vedas, which I had studied intensely in my monastic career, with the spiritual foundation of Jyotish. He became the inspiration for writing my book on this subject and which was released in 2005. So these three mentors had the most compelling influence on my early studies and their teachings are deeply incorporated within the fabric of my practice up to the present time.
Juliana: When did you actually begin your full-fledged career as an astrologer?
Robert: I started doing readings while still living as a monk in my guru’s ashram in 1987. Because the ashram life was strict in terms of philosophy, ideology, and lifestyle, my practice of Jyotish living within that framework wasn’t looked upon favorably at first by the local temple authorities, at least until the temple leaders and managers started to come to me to get readings for themselves and their families! My practice of Jyotish never really did become integrated within the temple life and routine, and because of that a political divide started to grow between temple authorities one the one hand, and myself on the other hand as within just a year I had developed something of a following among those who lived there as well as those who visited the temple.
Juliana: I am perplexed as to why there was a divide over your doing Jyotish in the temple. I mean, it is a holy science, so what’s the problem with that?
Robert: Jyotish is a Vedanga, or a subsidiary limb of the Vedas, but its study was not central to the spiritual tenets of Bhakti-yoga or Vaishnava scriptures that were taught in the temple. Thus the temple authorities, although seeing Jyotish as a valuable addition even to their own lives, did not advocate it as a regular study, considering the temple curriculum. There were also some political issues reverberating within the temple walls that had nothing to do with Jyotish per se, but some persons made it into an issue to support their political purposes. Details regarding how all of this unfolded constitute a murky subject at best, and thus are best left alone.
Juliana: How did you find your way beyond it all?
Robert: I could see that a change in my own life was coming, and after I received a reading from Asutosh Ojha, the son of Gopesh Kumar Ojha, I quickly understood that my ashram life was going to end and that I too was going to be a fulltime Jyotishi. This revelation came out of that reading, and was the first major prediction that foresaw my future life as an astrologer, yet one living independently from the ashram organization.
Juliana: You mentioned Gopesh Kumar Ojha earlier as the author of the first book you read on Vedic Astrology which was such an inspiration (Predictive Astrology of the Hindus). Can you say anything more about Asutosh Ojha and Gopesh Kumar Ojha or the reading that marked such a turning point for you?
Robert: When I read the elder Ojha's book and then subsequently received a reading from his son Asutosh, I didn't know much about them, nor did I know much about what Jyotish was. What became evident to me, however, was that the reading of my chart was a transparent window through which my life and karma were revealed and this was exciting to me as at that time, the life of the monk was changing and I was going into a different direction. The chart indicated the likely direction, and I've been a full time astrologer ever since.
Juliana: Now you have intrigued us! Would you mind sharing some of the combinations in your horoscope about which this astrologer was predicting?
Robert: Certainly, as my birth data and chart have long been in the public domain. My data is as follows:
September 18, 1947
08:25:50 AM PST
San Francisco, CA. The lagna should be 1:51 Libra, using Lahiri Ayanamsa. [editor’s note – PL software calculates the lagna at 1:53]
There are a number of combinations indicating a departure from the life of a monk, and into the secular life of an astrologer, all this evolving from 1987 to 1989 when I left the ashram. The key point to bear in mind here is that 12th lord Mercury is in the nakshatra of Hasta, an important nakshatra for those “reading the signs or palms,” while the Moon ruling that nakshatra is the 10th lord and placed in the 1st house. Sade-sati had just finished at that time while the event of leaving the temple occurred during the Vimshottari Mahadasha of Mercury/Moon/Venus. When the 10th lord is in a cardinal sign in the first house and after Saturn has just completed his transit over the lagna, then a shift in the direction of career is indicated. Since Venus rules the 1st house and is in the 12th house in a weak sign, the prediction became evident in the sub-sub-period (Pratyantaradasha) of Venus. Readers may read the section of my book under “Vaishnava Monk” in which these timing sequences are referenced with respect to Drig dasha.
Juliana: Speaking of Drig dasha, this comes up in the first sentence of the Introduction to your book, where you state, “My original desire at the outset of this undertaking was to teach and research the brilliant Drig dasha, which times key events in the lives of spiritual aspirants and great masters.” Of course your book unfolded to include so much more, but even so, what more about the Drig dasha did you learn in your writing process?
Robert: Drig dasha, as well as all predictive methods of Jyotish, are understood fully when applied to a number of charts, say, as part of a research project. So the first step is to learn the purpose of the dasha; then how it is calculated; and finally to observe its application to a number of horoscopes. The “magic” of a dasha system becomes illuminating when an astrologer sees how it works in actual practice using charts of well-known persons whose life-events are known.
Juliana: How many dashas do you work with on average in a consultation and how do you blend them together?
Robert: I usually work with three different dasha systems when they concern general areas, and then a specific one as it concerns challenging or difficult events in a person's life such as accidents, injuries, death, losses, etc. So the three universal dasha systems that I use with consultations are the Vimshottari dasha, then the Kalachakra dasha, and finally the Narayana dasha. The dasha I use which shows challenges, loss or tragedy rather well is the Yogini dasha. As regards Yogini dasha, for example, it was predicted that former presidential aspirant Mitt Romney would lose the 2012 election as he entered the Yogini dasha of the Moon the day after the election on Nov. 7, 2012. Briefly, in Romney's chart, the Moon is debilitated in the 7th house and with Rahu, and the election occurred when the transit Rahu moved over his Moon! It was the clearest indication that he would not win the election, among various methods of prediction, but rather would wake up very surprised or shocked the day after the election.
Juliana: That is a brilliant revelation about Yogini dasha. And since we are discussing technique, I wonder, can you tell us how you use longevity calculations in your consultations?
Robert: There are a variety of ways to predict longevity given in the Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, the Laghu Parasari Siddhant, and the Jataka Parijata as well. Readers should go through those texts carefully in order to get a grasp on how this elusive subject in Jyotish can be mastered. These methods are fairly reliable, but a note of caution is to not predict death for those who are still living. Keep this knowledge to yourself and then advise the client in appropriate ways.
Juliana: Would you please share with our readers your easy method for these longevity calculations which you recently taught me?
Robert: Apart from the more detailed methods, the “thumb-rule” method for determining the Ayus khanda, or section of longevity (short life, medium life, or long life), is rather simple: Find the rulers of the 1st, the 10th and the 8th houses, and then see their placements. If all three are in the cardinal signs or cardinal houses from the ascendant, then long life (72 years to 108) may be expected. If two out of three are in such positions, then medium life is expected; and finally, if one out of three of them are in such positions, then short life is probable. If all three are in fixed signs or houses, then short life may be expected; and if all three are in dual signs, then medium life may be expected.
The strengths of these planets according to Shad-bala will need to be considered as well. If short or medium life is determined by these methods, then a strong Jupiter in the lagna or the 7th house causes Kaksa vriddhi, or increase in the term of longevity from medium to long, or from short to medium. If instead Saturn is in the 1st or 7th, then Kaksa Hrasa occurs, or decrease in the term of longevity as was originally determined. Also afflictions to the Chara Atmakaraka planet, or to the 7th from it, will give decrease in the term, while benefic reinforcement of the AK and its 7th will give increase in the term.
There are other more intricate methods too that would be beyond the scope of this interview to teach, but suffice to say that the above thumb-rule will give the broad term of longevity, i.e. the 36-year term. Then, Shoola dashas may be examined to determined the nine year segment of the term (there are four Shoola dashas operating within each 36-year term, and the one having the most afflictions by malefics, or which is in trine to the Rudra planet, will bring death); and finally the lifespan can be worked down to a one-year period making use of the Sudarshana Chakra which basically progresses the ascendant, Sun and Moon one sign per year of life. For longevity determinations, progressing only the ascendant forward one sign per year is sufficient, however.
Juliana: You are well versed in a variety of Vedic astrology systems and methods, including Parashari, Tajika, and Jaimini and Nadi astrology. Some astrologers say that some of these systems should not be used together. Please clarify this and tell us your opinion.
Robert: In general practice, any particular system or branch of Jyotish should be learned and practiced in its own right, rather than being blended with others. Still, one begins to realize that many of the aforementioned systems are part of Parashari astrology and thus if you practiced everything in the Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra the way it is taught, then you would be essentially doing Jaimini astrology as well. I don’t honestly see too much difference between Parashari and Jaimini astrology, for example, although they are frequently thought of as separate disciplines. However, Tajika is different, as it emerged later on and essentially originated with Persian other western systems, and so really isn’t part of Parashari astrology. So Tajika may be studied separately and may also be part of one’s practice, that is, the study and analysis of yearly charts. Nadi astrology is different too and more appropriate to different regions of India throughout history, yet the Nadi techniques, such as progressions for example, are simple and can easily be incorporated with typical Parashari astrology. So in the beginning, try to study each branch of astrology as a discipline in its own right, and then later you will find ways of merging them into a consistent and a regular practice that is uniquely your own.
Juliana: How do you divide your work schedule between consulting, teaching, research and writing?
Robert: I’ve always had a very active practice as a consulting astrologer, and this was so even when I became fully engaged in this work back in 1989. Consulting work and readings occupy just about all of my time, and consequently whenever I embark on writing projects such as my books and articles, that will happen on Sunday’s, as these days are the only free days during the week. When people used to ask, “When did you write your book,” I would jokingly say, “I wrote my book on Sunday.”
When I lived in Seattle as an astrologer between 1989 and 1998, I used to conduct classes in my home once a week and these were attended by about 20 or so very ambitious and enthusiastic local astrologers. Around that time I met my friend Dennis Flaherty in Seattle, and for a period of time we taught classes together at his Greenlake Metaphysics Center, which was the only formally organized teaching center of Jyotish and astrology in Seattle at that time. Later, after moving from Seattle, my teaching venues were mainly the conferences held by ACVA (American College of Vedic Astrology) , and then later SJC, while my local classes stopped altogether for the most part. I’ve maintained private tutoring up until now with a small group of very serious astrologers, and that is the extent of my teaching work at present.
Juliana: What books and articles have you written?
Bhagavad-gita. I wanted readers to understand the non-denominational nature of the Vedas and its teachings on the soul and consciousness, and how these same teachings emerge from the texts and underpinnings of Jyotish as well. So the book took some time to complete, about three years from start to finish, yet had become far more popular than I had originally expected and now continues to sell all over the world since its release in 2005.
|Robert: In the early days of my career I wrote many articles for the ACVA Journal, which at that time was the only regular publication on Jyotish in America and which was distributed worldwide as well. I sought to present research projects through these articles, and liked to present analyses of famous persons or persons in the world news at the time. This way the technique of analyzing horoscopes became interesting and organic in light of individuals who were seen and known on the world stage. My book, The Spiritual Dimensions of Vedic Astrology, was an intensive research project which illustrated with much detail how the spiritual aspects of Jyotish seamlessly linked with the teachings of the Vedas, Upanishads, Vedanta, and especially |
Juliana: This book is a treasure trove and among my favorite books on astrology, and I want to congratulate you and also say that I am not surprised it remains so popular worldwide.
Juliana: I understand you have many students. Do you tutor students toward CVA certification?
Robert: Most of my students have come to me as a result of either reading my book or articles, or after meeting me at one of the conferences. But yes, I do tutor students toward CVA certification as well.
Juliana: Can you offer any advice to budding astrologers?
Robert: My advice to new astrologers is this: Take your time and learn the art and science of Jyotish well. Think of Jyotish as a sadhana, or spiritual practice, and develop deep reverence and respect for the great gurus and mentors who have handed this science down over the ages, as well as for the body of knowledge from which it comes. Don’t try to rush into a career as a Jyotishi too quickly until you’ve mastered it in theory as well as practice. If you come to the point in life of doing Jyotish professionally, even then do it with reverence and respect and as a type of sadhana. It is best to also adopt a spiritual practice, especially chanting mantra or meditation, as part of a regular routine as this keeps the mind pure and able to understand and incorporate the subtleties and nuance of the science better. Think of the practice of Jyotish consulting as a great humanitarian service first, rather than thinking of it as a business or a means of earning a livelihood. If done properly, the regular and correct practice of Jyotish will bring wealth of many kinds to your doorstep anyway.
Juliana: In terms of Jyotish being a sadhana, can you explain further why it is so?
Robert: Sadhana not only refers to specific internal guidelines for spiritual practice such as mantra, yoga or meditation, but also implies the actions or practice that expands consciousness externally. The sages who taught the tenets of Jyotish were not interested in a strictly mathematical model that had no relevance to the spiritual lives of those who studied Jyotish. Thus Jyotish ideally should be practiced alongside a regular spiritual practice in order that the intuitive levels of it could be realized. For example, once reciting mantras to the nine grahas or the Gayatri mantra, the intrinsic spiritual value of Jyotish unfolds naturally. For these reasons it should be understood as not only an intellectual model, but a spiritual practice as well.
Juliana: What are some of the pitfalls that an astrologer needs to avoid?
Robert: The most serious pitfall of an astrologer revolves around thinking oneself as great or famous, or in other words, an inflated ego. Jyotish is a type of siddhi, or empowerment that comes by way of Divine gift, and thus if any greatness is to be attributed, it should be to the Vedas, the gurus, or the great teachers themselves, not to oneself. The spiritual way of life is founded upon humility, and thus one should practice keeping the mind under control and not following the path or arrogance or self-importance.
Juliana: What is your next project? Can we look forward to another book?
Robert: My next project is a book on dashas. I want to research the ones that have been the most consistently accurate and useful in my practice over the years, and then to provide some methods of interpretations that might not be found in most books on Jyotish. So that will be quite an intense project taking some time, but it is definitely in the making at this juncture.
Juliana: Thank you, Robert. It has been a real pleasure!
Robert: Thank you, Juliana, the pleasure is all mine!
Robert Koch - A Biographical Sketch
vehicle through which the Vedic teachings could be more easily understood and implemented by the western mind.
|Robert Koch is a professional Vedic astrologer with 24 years of experience in the field, and has earned an international reputation as a lecturer, author, and teacher of Jyotish (Vedic Astrology). In his work, he draws upon the experience gained from serving 20 years as a Hindu-Vaishnava monk in the USA, Canada and India. His spiritual teacher and guru, the late Sri Srimad A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, is revered as one of the most prolific teachers of Vedic thought in the modern age.|
In the late 1970's Robert traveled to India numerous times, where he learned Vedic scriptures and astrology, gaining first-hand experience of the culture founded upon their principles. In 1989 he left the monastic life and began his full-time professional practice of Vedic astrology. Robert wanted to bridge the gap between the ancient Sanskrit Vedas and Vedic culture, and the scientific intellectual culture of the west. His mission therefore developed into a practical
In 1992, Robert became a faculty member of ACVA (American Council of Vedic Astrology) and soon became a popular author and lecturer at its annual symposiums. In 1994, he met the world famous and distinguished Jyotishi and researcher Sri K.N Rao, and began studying under him. Robert also studied under Pandit Sanjay Rath from Puri, Orissa, India, and became a faculty member of his worldwide teaching institution, Sri Jagannath Center. In 1999 the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Indian Council of Astrological Sciences, awarded Robert a formal letter and Certificate of Commendation for distinguished service in promoting Hindu-Vedic astrology in western countries. He is also a faculty member and certified teacher/tutor with CVA (College of Vedic Astrology) with whom he has been awarded the Jyotish Kovid and Jyotish Visharad titles. With this background, Robert Koch's lectures, research and writings on Vedic astrology have earned him worldwide appreciation and reputation among Jyotish colleagues and students alike. He has also earned a worldwide reputation as an adept in the subtleties of Vedic astrology readings.
Robert Koch is the author of The Spiritual Dimensions of Vedic Astrology, released in early October, 2005. This book involves intensive research into the spiritual components of the Vedic horoscope, with specific reference to the esoteric timing method called "Drig Dasa."
Currently Robert resides in Bend, Oregon, USA, where he actively teaches and maintains an international clientele from all age groups and walks of life.
Juliana Swanson Biography:
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.
|Juliana 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.
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