(This article is based upon a classroom lecture by Dr. U.K. Mishra at the Institute of Astrology, Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan, New Delhi)
There existed animosity between Devarishi Vashishtha and Rajarishi Vishwamitra. Vashishtha used to live happily in the forest with his wife and their hundred sons. Then there was this king who wanted to go to heaven in physical form (of all things), so he came to Vashishtha in the forest with this most mundane of requests. Vashishtha realized the zero-value of this request and said that he could not grant it. So this Mr. King went to Vishwamitra, who took it as a personal challenge to send the king up to heaven in physical form, just because Vashishtha had denied the request. Owing to the power of Vishwamitra’s Tapasya (penance), the king started rising. He rose and rose, only to be denied entry into heaven by Indra, who felt this wasn’t proper. Indra’s will caused the king to descend. Like this, the king kept going up and down between heaven and earth, till he became a star in the sky. Vishwamitra, feeling that his failure was Vashishtha’s doing, couldn’t control his anger. His henchmen and he raided Vashishtha’s premises and killed all of Vashishtha’s hundred sons. Vashishtha didn’t feel the desire for revenge, such was his stature. He felt like forsaking everything, including his wife, to go and do Tapasya in a remote corner, cut off from everything and everyone. His wife pleaded with him not to go. She said that she was carrying his child in her womb. She believed it was a male child. For the sake of the child, she begged him to stay. Vashishtha stayed on, so that the child would grow up under his father’s love and discipline. This child grew to be Parashara.
Once Parashara, now fully grown and into Astrology, was crossing a stream in a boat. According to Parashara, this was the exact time for the divine conception of a soul who would go on to become a great scholar and would help mankind’s quest for knowledge bombastically. He confided in the boatman, who agreed to give his daughter Matsyagandha for this purpose (after obtaining her consent). Matsyagandha felt, though, that she couldn’t go through with proceedings, for they were being observed by the Sun. Upon this, Parashara created a fog, which blocked out the Sun. And so, Ved Vyasa was conceived, of Parashara and Matsyagandha. Ved Vyasa’s birth was divine, without pregnancy. He went on to expound and expand the Vedas. The same Matsyagandha became Satyavati, whose lineage gave birth to the Pandavas and the Kauravas.
One morning, after Ved Vyasa had fully grown and mastered the scriptures, he observed an insect crossing the road. This insect was full of fear, for the insect could hear a chariot approaching and didn’t want to be crushed. This amused Ved Vyasa, and he asked the insect as to why it was afraid. The insect’s answer was a great lesson for me. It replied that upon dying, it was afraid of being born into the millions of Yonis below itself! Ved Vyasa promised the insect that he would guide its soul-evolution spanning many incarnations.
Eventually, after many evolving incarnations, the same soul (of the insect) reincarnated as a Brahmin boy. When the boy was seven years old, a visiting merchant sprang a multitude of questions upon this scholar of a boy. One of the questions was about people performing cruel, sinful deeds. Why did such people still survive and flourish? To this the seven year old replied that there were three categories of people in the world. In the first category were those who had accumulated good Karma in the past and continued to go good deeds in the present. Such souls would continue evolving, till they would be freed from the need for rebirth. Then came the second category, in which came souls who had accumulated bad Karma in the past, but were presently atoning for the bad deeds and were busying themselves by doing good deeds. Although such people were possibly suffering currently owing to their past bad deeds, their future lives looked bright. Lastly came the category of those, who had done good in the past, enjoying equated power in the present, which they were misusing to commit cruel and sinful deeds. Such souls would sink to lower Yonis in future incarnations.
In his next birth, this Brahmin boy incarnated as Maitreya. In the dialogue between Parashara and Maitreya, the latter shot pinpointed questions at the former, and Parashara’s answers became a guiding force for mankind. Remember, that Maitreya had evolved under the guidance of Ved Vyasa (from insect times) to shoot such pinpointed questions at Parashara. [Without the potency of such questions, Rishis do not feel stimulated enough to give discourses. It is necessary to get them to give discourses, because when they speak, out comes nectar in the form of knowledge.]
During their dialogue, it became apparent to Parashara, that Maitreya had a problem. Maitreya felt that in Jyotish, there were so many interpretations to planetary, house and zodiac sign permutations and combinations, that for the Mandabuddhi (slow on the uptake) individuals of Kalyuga, Jyotish would be very difficult to decipher. Maitreya requested of Parashara a methodology of astrological analysis for people of lesser intellect and intuition. This request stimulated Parashara to such an extent, that he started of on a highly important discourse on Jyotish, during which he outlined the methodology of Ashtakavarga.