I have enjoyed the many discussions on this forum, and I hope that people find the time to continue contributing their thoughts and experiences.
Continuing with the topic of the Big Question: Sidereal or Tropical?, I would like to share my own anecdotal experience.
Here is my birth data for your own consideration: David Ray, July 4th, 1972 @5:46am, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
When I first got into Vedic astrology, I really identified with my sidereal chart. The Gemini Rising seemed to speak about my intelligence, my writing and performance skills, and also my tendency to over-think things and get caught up in my thoughts. Sometimes I'd have trouble letting go of my thoughts. Often I'd feel trapped by the need to prove my intelligence and over-communicate what I meant. However, while my sidereal chart has a Gemini Lagna, my sidereal Mercury is not in very good shape. It is in Cancer, a great enemy's sign, and aspected or conjunct Mars, Saturn, and Ketu - three malefics! This seemed to indicate somebody with speech problems, but I have always been a very good speaker and writer. The Lagna Lord in the 2nd shows a concern with money and material responsibilities, as well as family and community. I do have a strong attraction to creating conscious community, and I draw a lot of inspiration from my friends, but I am not a particularly responsible person and have struggled with issues of procrastination in my life. My sidereal Moon goes to Pisces in the 10th house. I have related to Pisces on some level. I identify with the watery quality and the bhramin nature of Pisces. I consider myself philosophical and emotionally deep. However, Pisces people are drifters and their actions are not always self-determined. I consider myself very self-focused, almost to a fault, and in my sidereal chart I always blamed that on having Sun and Moon both in kendras, but the dual sign placements did not particularly support that idea.
When I first looked at my tropical chart from a Vedic perspective, I had a big block. How could I be Aries Moon? Simply because I had trained myself to see my chart in a certain way, I had a difficult time adjusting to the new view. But the more I considered it, the more it made perfect sense. One thing to consider is my tropical atmakaraka, Venus. In the tropical system, Venus is in Gemini in the rasi and Pisces in the navamsa. Right there I had the two main signs I was identifying with in my sidereal chart, but now it was speaking about my AK, which some astrologers consider to be an even more significant sign placement, especially the swamsa (sign of the AK in the navamsa). Exalted Venus in the 6th with Ketu perfectly showed my frustrations and delays in finding fulfillment in relationships, but also the fact that I eventually fell in love, right at the end of my Venus dasa (Venus/Ketu).
Now let's look at my Mercury. While no longer Gemini Rising, in my tropical chart Mercury becomes the strongest planet in shadbala by far. This makes me a Mercury-type person that will display Mercury qualities, regardless of my Lagna. It makes the earth element strongest in my physical make-up, which explains my thick, dense hair and fingernails that grow very quickly. Mercury is also not as badly disposed in the tropical version. Now it is in Leo, a great friend's sign. It is still conjunct Mars, but Mars is no longer debilitated and so its influence is not as harmful. The problems with over-thinking and needing to prove my intelligence is now explained by Saturn in Gemini. Saturn always creates a psychological wound in the sign it is in, so in my case it makes me self-conscious about my ability to communicate and display intelligence.
Cancer Lagna and Moon in Aries makes a lot of sense to me now as well. I have always been a sensitive person. Everything I identified about Pisces could also be explained through Cancer, another watery bhramin sign. I am a self-directed person, often impatient with the process. I am a good starter but have a hard time finishing. In the past, I have displayed a brash, insensitive (though good-meaning) personality, and I have had to learn to temper that fiery nature and learn to listen and be receptive. Lagna Lord Moon in Aries (ruled by enemy) and with zero dig bala shows some of my main challenges in life. That Moon wants to create the experience I want to have in an active way, but the Moon is meant to be receptive, to complete that important feedback loop between our senses and our actions. I am very ambitious and I want to succeed. When I was young I wanted to be a famous actor. I have always thought I would do big things. Now I would be satisfied with publishing books and teaching and having my own humble audience (rather than the whole world). All of this describes an extroverted lagna lord in the 10th.
Lastly, in my sidereal chart I have a hamsa yoga, with Jupiter in Sagittarius in the 7th. While I would love to have this astrological blessing, I must confess this has not been my experience. The tropical chart explains my journey with sex and relationships to a much better degree, with a debilitated Jupiter in the 7th with Rahu. I am a homosexual whose sexuality does not fit with the social majority's idea of human sexuality. I struggled for many years, fighting against my sexuality. Rahu there represents the need to develop my sexuality, but also the fear of the unknown that makes that difficult. When I came out in my mid-20's I went from being celibate to being highly promiscuous. So this combination creates some intense sexual karma and the need to find balance with my sexuality. Fortunately, in the tropical chart, Jupiter is also vargottama, which gives Jupiter some strength to bring great teachers into my life, and I have always been blessed with amazing teachers. But it looks like children are out of the question.
I know there are so many factors in the chart and so many different ways to tell the same story. The sense of what works best comes gradually through years of experience, and is not always something that is easily explainable. But I can say for me personally in the past two and a half years my tropical chart has "gelled" for me in ways that the sidereal never did. And this includes my understanding of all the vargas. Of course, I am using techniques now that I did not use back with the sidereal, so my comparison is not entirely scientific. I hope that astrologers who are motivated to do scientific testing continue to do so, as it is such an important piece of developing our understanding.
I welcome comments and questions regarding this anecdotal and personal account of switching zodiacs. Or perhaps share your own story of how one works better for you with regards to your own chart. There is so much to learn (and un-learn) in the realm of astrology, it feels like a deep well and I want to take the plunge!