From an Interview with K.N. Rao
Question: Having practiced astrology for so many years and now teaching this subject successfully, in your opinion, how much of mathematical skills does one require to learn/practice astrology? In this context, what has been the impact of computers on the practice of astrology?
K.N. Rao: Fundamentally, the calculations required to do most of the basic astrological predictions are of simple arithmetic nature. Most people in India are very good at simple arithmetic regardless of their level of education. This is generally enough to learn some of the basic calculations for casting a horoscope etc. In fact most students of astrology here in India can do these calculations mentally. A little bit of knowledge of basic astronomy is also helpful in practicing astrology, and more so if one wants to pursue advanced research in the subject.
At Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (the largest astrology school in the world), we insist that every student should have hands-on experience of doing astrological calculations. I am a strong believer in the fact that manual/mental calculations help you better visualize and develop instincts for practicing astrology. I am generally wary of depending exclusively on Jyotish software programs in the market. A faulty component for an intricate calculation in a software program can have disastrous consequences on the correctness and quality of the prediction. These faults in the software are a common occurrence even to this date. The bottom line is that the responsibility for the prediction lies squarely on the shoulders of the astrologer and I feel every astrologer should take that duty very seriously. Further, a total dependency on computers is never advisable. Unfortunately, astrology software programs have helped mushroom a new breed of “half-baked” astrologers.
Despite my reservations regarding use of astrology software programs, the availability of computers is very helpful and a great time-saver for a serious astrologer. If I have access to a Jyotish program that I have verified as dependable, I use it right away. If not, I do some manual calculations to check its accuracy repeatedly and on an ongoing basis. Mostly the basic horoscopes generated by these software programs are accurate, but the supplementary features, such as less-used Dasha systems or Ashtakavargas etc., are often faulty or simply wrong. So we should keep these limitations always at the back of our mind when using Jyotish software programs. That is one of the reasons, as I said earlier, complete dependence on computers is very dangerous!