Atmakaraka, the Ruler of the Soul

I am a dedicated student of astrology since the end of the 1980s — that's a decent amount of time. I have learned and tried most of the approaches and techniques of the contemporary Western astrology, and there is hardly a feature in both modern and traditional Western astrology which I wouldn't be at least superficially familiar with. Still, all those years I couldn't find an answer to one simple question: why Mercury is so overwhelmingly prominent in my life? All major moves, changes and achievements in my life can be attributed to my Mercury. I could fill several pages with illustrations for this statement, here are only a few:

Yet, all Western astrology could say about my Mercury is that it is both in fall and in detriment, which means it isn't a good quality Mercury, and it isn't particularly strong in any sense. Which is strange, some important bit of knowledge seems to be missing. It was only when I decided to learn some of Jyotish (Vedic astrology), I've discovered that Mercury is my Atmakaraka, and that answered all my questions.

My first meeting with Jyotish took place in the beginning of the 1990s, but the sources of information were scarce then, and I didn't progress far. A few years ago I decided to learn more Jyotish, and so I subscribed for a correspondence course with the Dirah Academy. Don't be confused by the outdated look of their website, their courses are brilliant. I eventually took them all, and I can wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone interested in learning Jyotish. You will not learn all of Jyotish, that's for sure, as it is enormous, it has many very different astrologies as its parts. But you will become comfortable with a number of fascinating ideas, and you will have a chance to explore them well on the example of your own natal chart.

The Advanced Techniques module of the Dirah course taught me that Atmakaraka is the most important planet in the horoscope. In the consequent years, as a result of communication with different people teaching or practicing Jyotish, I came to understand that Atmakaraka is the best kept secret of Vedic Astrology. If you want to comprehend someone's abilities, desires and problems, find out his or her Atmakaraka, and you will learn a lot. But how do you exactly find it, and what precisely is this all-important factor?

How to Find Out Your Atmakaraka

The easiest way to discover your Atmakaraka is to use the Atmakaraka Calculator. However, if you know some astrology and want to learn how the calculation is performed, you can do it yourself in a few easy steps.

Technically, Atmakaraka is a planet that is in the highest degree, no matter what sign, in the sidereal zodiac. Only one of these eight can be the Atmakaraka: the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn or Rahu (aka the North, or Ascending, Moon's Node in Western astrology). With Rahu, however, the rule works slightly differently. But let me start from the basics.

First of all, we need to find out the planets' positions in the zodiac. This is easy to do using the tropical zodiac of Western astrology. There is a number of free natal chart calculators on the Internet, you can use any of them. Calculate your chart, then list the positions of the mentioned eight planets.

I will cheat here and use a chart that was already calculated, from a wonderful source of astrological information, Astro Databank. This is a natal chart of Emily Bronte. The tropical positions of her natal planets are:

Now we need to translate these positions to the sidereal zodiac used in Jyotish. For that, we need to subtract the difference between the sidereal and the tropical zodiacs, aka Ayanamsha (you can also see this word spelled as Ayanamsa, or ayanamsa). Here we have a little problem: Ayanamsha isn't a constant, it keeps slowly increasing over time (by 1 degree in 72 years). Here is, however, an online Ayanamsha calculator for you, just enter your date of birth and press the Calculate button. Which of the Ayanamshas to use, I hear you asking? Just take the first one, Lahiri, it is the one most widely used.

Emily's date of birth is the 30th of July 1818, and so her Ayanamsha is 21:19:25 or, rounded, 21:19. Now let's subtract this value from the positions of Emily's planets.

(There is a convenient online calculator for subtracting degrees and minutes, if you need it.)

Here is the result:

Now, with Rahu there is a nuance. Since its normal direction in the zodiac is opposite to that of planets, when calculating the Atmakaraka we need to subtract Rahu's position from 30, and use the result in the comparison. So here:

Rahu's calculated degree: 17.21

Finally, we find the planet whose degree is the highest. In Emily's example it's Mercury. So Mercury is her Atmakaraka.

But why Atmakaraka is so important? In the next section I will offer you a collection of opinions from different authoritative sources of information about Jyotish.

Why Atmakaraka is So Important?

Roeland de Looff, the author of the Dirah Academy Jyotish courses, wrote that Atmakaraka shows us how the soul will be able to develop during this life. He also recommended to pay attention to the house of the horoscope where Atmakaraka is located. "This is the main house in which karmic experiences work out, and are worked out. This house will certainly be a very important house for you, but it may not always give the easiest experiences". I do confirm that the house where my Mercury is located did bring, and keeps bringing, the most difficult challenges of my life.

Hart de Fouw and Robert Svoboda explained in their book Light on Life. An Introduction to the Astrology of India that the important factor is how far the planet has advanced in the sign it is in. So Atmakaraka is the most advanced of all planets, it shows where on our path through numerous incarnations we've accumulated the most experience.

Visti Larsen wrote in his book Jyotisa Fundamentals. My Master's Words that Atmakaraka "shows one's soul's purpose and that which is important in one's life". He also explained that the true goal of all souls is liberation from the repeated births.

However, before one can attain this goal, one has to undergo a series of events to unlearn some of the negative traits that cause repeated bondage in this world. The bondage of the soul is indicated by the planet becoming the Chara Atmakaraka. How one faces these lessons is indicated by the house placement of the Chara Atmakaraka.

Freedom Tobias Cole wrote in the first volume of his fundamental Science of Light. An Introduction to Vedic Astrology that, according to the sage Parasara, Atmakaraka is the king among the planets.

As a king has governance over a country, and the country affairs will be controlled by the king, in the same way the AK controls one's life. If the king of a country is good then all his ministers do good acts. If the king of a country is evil, his cabinet will be filled with scandals and negative acts. The planet which becomes AK will show the internal nature of the person, it is the seed of the ahamkara (the sense of self).

The Atmakaraka planet shows the personalized nature of the individual's soul. It shows the soul color or soul flavour of that particular person. It is the planet that we have the most karma to work with in this life. When we speak about the nature of a person's soul we utilize the Atmakaraka planet.

Both Visti Larsen and Freedom Cole gave recommendations to those who have a particular planet for the Atmakaraka. These recommendations will be listed in the next section, marked with the authors' initials.

Advice for Different Planets in the Role of Atmakaraka

The Sun Atmakaraka

{FC}: When the Sun becomes AK it indicates the individual will hold a deep value for power, position, and respect. This indicates the person has to learn humility to overcome their karma associated with ego.

{VL}: Ego, self-importance, ideals, name, reputation become the pivotal issues in the native's life, and he should learn to subdue his own ego.

The Moon Atmakaraka

{FC}: Indicates that the individual should be very caring and compassionate, and family and social life are important. The person needs to overcome small family attachment and realize the whole world is one's family.

{VL}: Emotions and compassion towards others becomes a big issue. Due to excessive emotional dependence, the native may always be looking for relationships, or relationships will be looking for them.

Mars Atmakaraka

{FC}: Indicates that the individual may be competitive or aggressive. They need to learn to have playful competition and refrain from all forms of violence following the path of non-violence (ahimsa).

{VL}: Short temper, or excessive anger/violence may be expressed or experienced by the native, and the native should make a conscious step to throw away any weapons and grudges and learn the path of non-violence or ahimsa.

Mercury Atmakaraka

{FC}: Indicates the individual is very interested in communication (such as mail) and information (such as books). The person needs to control their speech, debate less, and be truthful at all times.

{VL}: When to speak and when not to speak becomes a major issue either for the native or his/her social circle. Such people should be particularly careful of what they say, and to whom they say it.

Jupiter Atmakaraka

{FC}: Indicates that the individual has an affinity for expansiveness and wisdom. The person needs to be open to others' opinions, and should always respect the Guru, husband and care for children.

{VL}: The most important issue for such people is whom they consider as a teacher/guide and whom they do not consider. Such people should learn to respect their teachers and elders. There is a risk of the person neglecting their spouse, or suffering separation from their spouse. They should care well for their children.

Venus Atmakaraka

{FC}: Indicates that the individual is concerned about aesthetics, music and creativity. The person needs to control their sexual energy, and refrain from lust and illegitimate sex.

{VL}: Relationships and sex becomes a major issue for such people. The person should always try to maintain purity in relations, and not to overindulge.

Saturn Atmakaraka

{FC}: Indicates that the person will see sorrow in their life and understand the suffering of others. They need to practice not giving others sorrow but instead share the sorrow of others.

{VL}: Either the native sees a lot of sorrow in life, or gives a lot of sorrow to others. The native should learn to take away the sorrow of others, but not give sorrow to others.

Rahu Atmakaraka

{FC}: Indicates that the individual may be cheated often or not conscious of situations that they became entangled within. They need to practice good discernment and refraining from deception.

{VL}: The person trusts others too easily, and as a result often finds himself cheated or deceived, and a risk is there that the same person may cheat others in return in a never-ending cycle of cheating. The person should learn to accept deceit and move on. Foreign people/places also have a vital role to say with this graha.

This Is What Your Soul Desires

The brief advice of the previous section might be helpful as a starting point in your quest of discovering your Atmakaraka, but I would like to warn you against an attitude like you need to suppress the manifestations of the Atmakaraka planet, or to act against it. I remember speaking to Sarbani Rath, the wife of a well-known Jyotish Guru Sanjay Rath, and a Jyotishi herself. I mentioned that I am trying to do so many things at once, and I would have probably achieved more if I was able to concentrate on a single thing at the expense of everything else. She answered: but this is the desire of your soul, to do many different things! Those who have Mercury Atmakaraka do need to have many gods! Since then, it became so much easier for me to fully enjoy the limitless world of knowledge.

Please understand that the Atmakaraka is the focal point of your life's experience. This is where you fulfil you destiny, where you work out your karma most efficiently. This is a blessing and a curse at the same time, as your Atmakaraka brings you the most important lessons, and you can't avoid failing those lessons from time to time as that's an inseparable part of learning. Do not blame yourself for those failures, but do learn your lessons well.

What I would suggest you is to learn everything you can find about the planet which is your Atmakaraka. Each planet has a multitude of meanings and attributions in astrology. Next, think of the most important events in your life, both positive and negative. Can you see those events as lessons of your Atmakaraka? Can you understand what you were taught then? If you haven't learned the lesson the first time, maybe you can see its essence now?

Learn what are the most important powers given to you by your Atmakaraka, and from now on try to live in such a way that you rely on those powers and use them more and more. Again, you won't be guaranteed from mistakes, and since the lessons are important, the price you might have to pay for your mistakes can be substantial. But this is how you burn your karma most efficiently, and let the flame be bright! Try to raise the vibrations of everything related to your Atmakaraka, work on this consistently.

I would be delighted to hear about your experience, and your findings. I suggest the best way to keep in touch is for you to subscribe to the Lunarium Newsletter. This way you will always know what I am working on, and you'll be able to easily ask a question or provide a feedback by replying to one of the emails.

© 2022 Alexander Kolesnikov