What is Vedic Astrology?
Q. Does he tell you about your past life?
I know of one astrologer who always tells his clients that they were exalted personalities or beings from celestial planets in their previous lives. The fact is that one's past life is practically impossible to verify. Although it is possible to learn about past and future lives through astrology, it is well known in astrological circles that to do this with certainty is generally only possible for the greatest of the great astrologers--Risis (great sages) like Bhrgu, Vasista, and Parasara. General texts of this age give some clues for determining past and future lives, but the science is not well developed. And even if an astrologer were to tell something about a past life, how could the seeker verify it? The subject can test the veracity of everything concerning this life as told by the astrologer; but regarding past lives of which one remembers nothing, it is impossible to know whether the reading is real or concocted. Astrologers who routinely discuss past and future births are generally sensationalists. I know of very few responsible astrologers who do this, other than in special cases that warrant such investigation. Only astrologers with access to nadi-granthas such as Bhrgu-samhita, Vasista-nadi, etc., can make accurate predictions about other lives, via the help of those great sages.
Q. Does he recommend the worship of demigods such as Siva, Durga, Ganesha, Skanda, or planets like Saturn, Mars, etc.?
(See previous answer in reference to wearing jewels.) Any person serious about advancement in spiritual life will spurn such practices. The planets and demigods are order carriers of the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna. One need only take shelter of Him. Click on the following link for a detailed explanation of why we do not worship demigods.
Q. Does he use the planets Neptune, Uranus, or Pluto in his calculations? Does he mix Western astrology with Vedic?
If he uses Neptune, Uranus or Pluto in his calculations, he is not practicing Vedic astrology but hodgepodge astrology. One should not debase Vedic astrology by mixing it with Western astrology and still call it Vedic astrology. Anyone who does so is falsely claiming to be a Vedic astrologer and is, at best, dishonest. For more information see The Fallacy of the trans-Saturnian Planets.
Q. Does the astrologer have references?
To be sure that the astrologer is reputable, you should ask him for a list of references, including competent professionals and educated persons whom you would expect to have sufficient integrity and powers of discrimination to be able to determine the astrologer's level of expertise. Call several of them to make sure that they are not just friends planted as decoys. Ask them if the astrologer is professional in his dealings. Does he give good advice? Do his predictions come true? Is he honest? Is he a scholar? Is he versatile? Does he become too familiar with the opposite sex beyond professional necessity? See if their answers tally with what the astrologer told you.
Q. Does he follow spiritual practices and observe the godly life style of a Vedic Brahmana?
Just as you should be leery of a self-taught astrologer, you should beware of an uninitiated astrologer with no spiritual master. Spiritual discipline as prescribed in the scriptures purifies the consciousness and gives the astrologer heightened astrological powers and increased wisdom through which to guide the seeker. Shun the astrologer with no authentic guru, or one having a guru but not following the discipline of the guru. Reject those who are non-vegetarian; who drink, smoke, or take intoxicants; or who have affairs with their clients, or are generally immoral and dissolute. It should be understood that the Vedic scriptures do not support the modern caste system found in India where a person is considered a Brahmana (or other caste) by birth. One is not a Brahmana by birth but rather as explained by Lord Krsna in the Gita, one's varna (caste) is ascertained by one's qualities and actions. For more details about why it is important for the Vedic astrologer to lead a Godly life read The Philosophy of Jyotish.
Q. Does he do consultations by telephone, by mail, or only in person?
This won't indicate how good an astrologer is, but it will tell what options are available, especially if you don't live in the same area as the astrologer. Obviously it would be more convenient if you could meet the astrologer in person and have personal interaction, but that is not always possible. I have clients that I've never met, in several foreign countries. I do all my astrological work for them on MP3 recordings, either through the mail or over the telephone (I record the phone conversation and mail it to them). Over the years I have done many consultations in person and also many via recordings which I mail to the client. They both have their advantages. If you are in person you can correct the astrologer if he makes a mistake, as well as ask questions. But I also find that when I do recorded readings I do more than I would if the client were there. I will stop and do some research on a point. Or, I will do more intricate calculations to see how long the person will live etc. Things I would feel uncomfortable doing with someone looking over my shoulder. I also give the client the option that after listening to the tape if they have any questions that need to be clarified they can ask. This seems to equalize the fact that they were not there with me in person for the reading.
Q. Does he provide a printed copy of his reading?
Again, this gives no indication about his quality or training, but rather the extent of the service he provides. Most persons are satisfied with recordings and even prefer them to typed documents; they just don't have the time to read, so they listen to the recordings while driving or doing other things. But there are some who do prefer a printed report which they can study (and perhaps mark with highlighters) and refer to on a continuing basis. For these persons, the astrologer should provide an option, so that for an additional typing fee the seeker can have a printed report. The fee should just cover typing charges and not include profit. In this way the astrologer provides an extra service to those who desire it. But if a good astrologer does not provide typed reports, one can give the recordings to a secretarial service and have them transcribed. (A note of caution: Give duplicate recordings, not the originals, and only to persons who will protect your confidentiality.)
This says a lot about the skill and confidence of the astrologer. He should offer to make sure that you are satisfied with the quality of the reading. He can't guarantee that you will be happy with the reading, but you should at least be satisfied with the professional way in which the reading was conducted and the level of accuracy and expertise. I always tell my clients "If you are satisfied with reading then please tell everyone. But if you are not satisfied with the reading, for whatever reason---you are the judge and only your criteria matter, then do not tell anyone else but be sure to tell me and I will do whatever it takes to satisfy you."
Q. Does he wear a big beard or wear his hair long?
This may seem like a strange question but I have noticed a growing trend in recent years, especially in the West, of astrologers trying to "imitate" the way certain yogis behave without having the attainments of the yogis. One "luminary" in the Western Astrological world directly told me that he wore his hair long and grew a beard just to impress people. I was not impressed. It takes more than a lot of hair to be a good astrologer. You may deem it wise to avoid hirsute astrologers.
Q. Is he able to support himself as an astrologer?
This can be a good indicator of the competence and expertise of the astrologer. An astrologer who gets many return clients or clients recommended by others is obviously good and will be able to support himself and family adequately. Be distrustful of part time astrologers or those who have other jobs to supplement their income. This suggests that they are not committed to their science or are not good at it. There is one proviso to this: if the astrologer derives a sizable amount of his income from dealing in gems then stay away because it indicates that he will probably convince you to buy a gem you don't need.