Study of astrology has been branded by the neo-scientists as a belief in superstition. Greater criticism has been heaped on astrology by those who have never bothered to study the subject. Many critics have questioned the basis of astrology, ignoring the fact that an understanding of a basis has to succeed and not precede an observation. The basis of gravitational pull was determined after the existence of the force of gravitation was recognised. Anyone who studies astrology with an open mind cannot but appreciate the fact that astrology is a highly developed science.
By definition, science means a knowledge ascertained by observation and experiment, critically tested, systematised and brought under general principles. Astrology strictly fulfils all these criteria. Two aspects of astrology deserve a special mention:
(a) The cause and effect phenomenon: Critics of astrology boast that physical sciences depend upon a cause and effect relationship, which astrology apparently lacks. They, however, fail to appreciate that astrology is a cosmic science and not bound by the limitations of a laboratory. In physical sciences, there may be a gross cause or a subtle cause, producing a physically visible or gross effect. Gravitation, which is a subtle cause, produces a gross effect of attracting a physical body towards the earth. In the case of astrology, the cause is always subtle while the effect is appreciable and predictable according to rules, which have been developed and refined over the centuries. The subtle cause in case of astrology is the cosmic force represented by the disposition of the various heavenly bodies or 'planets'. Physical scientists can only trace the cause from the apparent effect.

It may be noted, however, that astrology deals with a multitude of phenomena on the earth. This being so, there are numerous parameters and a methodology more elaborate than any known physical science can boast of. Making correct predictions, therefore, is difficult and demands hard labour on the part of an astrologer. Unfortunately, the failure of an astrologer has been often misinterpreted as a failure of the science
(b) The phenomenon of replication: Astrology is also criticised on the ground that its principles do not yield results, which can be invariably replicated or reproduced. Physical sciences can, on the other hand, boast of a reproducibility of their various principles. It may be pointed out here that every correct astrological prediction, in fact, underscores the principle of replication in astrology. Since astrology is a complex science, its every known principle has to be applied carefully, considering the numerous parameters and weighing the various pros and cons. In the ancient Indian scriptures, for example, numerous astrological dicta lie hidden. Unfolded and carefully applied today, they prove their eternal applicability and give dazzling results, which the open minded scientists of today can only marvel at. It is no coincidence that a planetary combination present at the time of the Mahabharata war, and described by Karna to lord Krishna, also obtained, in a modified form, in 1914 when the World War I started; in 1942 when World War II was in progress, and again in 1971 at the time of the Indo-Pak conflict. During all these occasions, India got involved in the mess quite intimately. In 1965 too, when India and Pakistan clashed, a similar but modified planetary disposition arose. Before heaping any criticism on astrology, it will be interesting to which when such a combination is likely to obtain in future, and in what form.
Astrology and Karma
Karma is the sum total of one's physical, mental and spiritual functions. The world goes on because there is a role of free will assigned to human beings. Where does then astrology fit in, deal as it does with predestination? Is there a conflict between belief in astrology and in free will? How can scriptures lay emphasis on both if they are mutually conflicting?

Astrology is based on the relationship of cause and effect. If there is an effect, there must be a cause preceding it. Thus, if an event good or bad happens today, there must be a cause for it, whether or not that cause is appreciable. Certain functions or Karmas produce an immediate result. Still others obtain fruition after a longer time period. Still others may take several years or decades (or even longer) to materialise. If one believes in the law of cause and effect, then the ambience of one's birth and the subsequent opportunities or their lack cannot be a matter of mere chance. This takes us to a belief in birth and rebirth. Karmas done in one birth must manifest sometime in a later birth.

The past karmas produce limitations for us because they yield certain results, which influence our future karmas. We do have a free will, but within the limitations prescribed by the results of our past actions. Karmas in fact manufacture destiny.

An astrologer can point out which of the results from the past karmas can be overcome, and which cannot be overcome and, therefore, have to be suffered. A karma done is like a missile fired; it may or may not be neutralised by a counter-missile, depending upon the relative strength of the two.
Astrology and Genetic Link
A fascinating aspect of astrological study is the link that exists between members of the same family. This is an area of research also. Just as certain blood groups cannot exist amongst the children of particular parents, so also certain planetary combinations cannot obtain in certain families. Study of horoscopes belonging to a family indicate similarities which can be easily appreciated. This aspect of astrology has a vast possible usage.
Interlinked Destinies
Different individuals who are linked to each other in one way or the other show distinct similarities in their horoscopic charts. An event which is visible in the horoscope of a child can also be seen in the horoscopes of his parents as well as siblings. People who come in closer contact in mutual relationships or business partnerships show striking similarities in their charts at appropriate periods. Just as particles of similar densities sink to a similar extent on centrifugation, so also people who have similar pursuits tend to get grouped together.
Composite Approach for Astrological Predictions
In the ancient times, astrology was studied and practised in a highly scientific manner. Just as in medical sciences of today where multiple investigative tools are employed to diagnose a disease, in astrology too several different methods used to be employed. As the ancient tradition disappeared, astrology shrank into a family tradition, getting confined to a few families only. Its approach became more and more rigid. Until recently, many astrologers have been using only limited methods to make only a limited range of predictions.

Lately, however, highly educated people have started studying astrology giving it a modern and scientific look. This sacred subject is now taught in institutions like any other modern science. No longer is astrological study subject to limitations of method and approach. A highly effective composite approach for astrological predictions has been thus revived. Any given event is confirmed in a horoscopic chart by using a host of available techniques, like the use of both the Parashari and the Jaimini systems, the application of various dashas and the use of several divisional charts and of Ashtakavarga. Besides, the same event is often studied in the charts of those closely related to or associated with the native. This increases the success of predictions and proves the superiority of astrology as a scientific discipline.

In the chapters  that follow, an earnest attempt will be made to explain some of the elements of this sacred science.