Gilberto Picinich’s Sun sign sits in Aquarius. Based on Western theory, we might assume he is airy and aloof. But Picinich is a Vedic astrologer. And according to him, this Aquarian sun is just one aspect of his astrological chart.
Born in Yugoslavia, Picinich came to the States at the dawning of the “Age of Aquarius” – the 60s. He studied math and science at Rochester Institute of Technology and Stony Brook University, and after the legendary Frederick von Mierers mapped his chart, he fell down the zodiacal rabbit hole. He found Eastern philosophy and began practicing Raja yoga – all the while deepening his knowledge of Jyotish (aka Eastern Vedic astrology).
A back injury led Picinich to a Huichol shaman, who treated him and then asked to have his chart read. After being impressed with the reading, the shaman encouraged Picnich to pursue astrology professionally – something he never thought he could do. Picinich was then flooded with clients.
These days, Picinich is a Reiki practitioner and shaman energy healer himself. He continues to cultivate a private astrology and spiritual healing practice, which is thriving. His clients are recommended via word-of-mouth. His average client visits him once a year, and he also offers astrological counseling to help people through difficult times.
In true spiritual tradition, Picinich has enjoyed his anonymity. It wasn’t until last year that he even created a website.
He talked with YogaCity NYC’s Michael Laskaris about Jyotish, the rest of his chart, and handling the current Mercury in Retrograde situation.
Michael Laskaris: What is Jyotish, exactly?
Gilberto Picinich: Jyotish, which can be translated as “the science of light,” is the traditional Eastern system for studying planetary alignment. You might also hear it called Vedic astrology and I use the terms interchangeably.
Vedic astrology says that your soul goes through many incarnations, and through each one, you are to become more and more aware…your karma leads to experiences, your experiences lead to knowledge, knowledge leads to self-knowledge, etc.
ML: How does it differ from Western astrology?
GP: Western astrology primarily focuses on the Sun sign of your astrological chart (for instance, I am an Aquarius sun…), but Vedic astrology considers the Moon and Rising signs (…I have a Sagittarius moon and a Virgo rising…), as well as the other planetary configurations.
Western astrology can be grounded in the stereotypes of personality traits (…a common Aquarian stereotype is that they are airy and distant), but in Vedic astrology, the traits are much more specific because planetary configurations (called yogas) plumb a deeper level of characteristics. Many other aspects are taken into account…it’s all about different combinations.
The “usual” twelve signs are used (Aries-Pisces), but there are twenty-seven others within those twelve called the Nakshatras or “mansions.” They are more specific and can reveal certain things about the planets, qualities, and deities that coincide with your personality.
Western astrology is static. But Jyotish can evolve and change. At different points during your life, a certain planet becomes a prominent factor, and events unfold in relation to that planet. And your experiences reflect the planetary cycle that you’re in. With Vedic astrology, it’s easier to predict forthcoming changes and events in your life.
ML: Is Jyotish related to yoga?
GP: Jyotish is based on four universal life goals. They consist of artha (acquisition of resources), kama(pleasure), dharma (doing the right thing)…and these all support the fourth and final goal, moksha (liberation).
Just like Buddhism has the Eightfold Path and Patanjali’s yoga has the Eight Limbs, Jyotish’s first three life goals can lead to liberation from the conditioning of past experiences. It involves an active practice and you must expend effort to find moksha.
Everyone’s astrological chart is different, and different configurations require different practices for each personality. Some people need meditation or a change in diet or maybe even asana. At the end of the day, Jyotish is a method of balancing the specific qualities of everyone’s karma, attained at birth.
ML: Can Jyotish help develop someone’s spiritual practice?
GP: It gives you self-awareness and can shed light on aspects of yourself that you didn’t know you had.
And there are remedial measures you can take to correct misalignments in your life. Let’s say people have issues with Mercury, there are certain things you can do…you can chant, you can meditate, have a priest conduct a ritual, etc. You can prepare for the things that will unfold for you.
ML: Tell us about the current Mercury Retrograde situation?
GP: Astronomically, if you were to look at the planet Mercury during a Retrograde, it would appear to be moving backwards. Mercury and Earth both rotate around the sun, and because of their relative motions, at some point it appears as if Mercury is no longer going in its normal direction.
But it’s an illusion. It’s like, if you were to sit on a bus and another bus next to you were to go forward, it would appear as if you were moving backwards, but you’re not. It’s an optical miscommunication and it happens three times a year.
ML: What are the side effects?
GP: Mercury rules communication, messages, and journeys and everything pertaining to those things can be affected. For instance, someone might leave you a message and the message won’t come through, or the phone and other technological gadgets may break, or travel may be delayed, etc.
ML: Tips to handle a Retrograde?
GP: Be extra sure that you say what you mean and avoid attempting new things pertaining to Mercury. It’s the perfect time for internal contemplation, to go within, to journal.
Retrogrades have negative connotations because we’re so used to going outside and being external in our daily lives. But retrogrades are the opposite. It’s not that they’re bad, we’re just not used to them. They hold up a mirror to us, which can be uncomfortable.
Think of it as one long meditation. Use it to sift through your thoughts and deal with the things in your life that need attention. And remember: don’t get frazzled. Sit back and go with the inner flow.