"Governing sense, mind and intellect, intent on liberation, free from desire, fear and anger, the sage is forever free”. ~ Bhagavat Gita.
The Sanskrit word for houses in the birth chart is “Bhava”, which literally means “expression”. Each physical and non-physical entity in the universe has its own unique Bhava, which it feels compelled to express. It begins its existence at a point in time and through the duration of its existence expresses itself, just as a bud opens slowly to become a whole flower. Everything in nature expresses its unique Bhava, for example, a stone feels hard, light illuminates, the fragrance of a rose pleases, the sun warms and burns, water feels wet, etc. In the same way, the Bhava of an individual can be read in the birth chart, which shows us the expression of the soul and the role it wants to play in this life. Our Bhava reflects the intricate combined workings of the soul, body, mind and emotions in relation to the environment. Just as each soul is unique and is always true to its essence, so is each of the twelve Bhavas in the astrological chart.
Human being express their respective Bhavas and experience what comes as a result. Our actions (or karma) are the prime manifestations of our Bhavas. Hindu Dharma teaches that the goal of our physical existence is to perform karma over many lifetimes, through the different Bhavas, until we reach our ultimate goal of liberation.
The twelve Bhavas (or houses) in the astrological chart represent the successive steps in the evolution of a soul from acquisition of a physical state (birth) to eventual renunciation of the physical state (death/liberation). With each successive Bhava/sign, the complexity of the experience of the soul deepens and the soul becomes a little closer to self- realization or liberation. It is important to note, however, that the process of human spiritual evolution is non-linear and cyclical. The journey is not from Bhava one to twelve in sequential order. Rather, it is a complex process seeped in great mystery and cannot be grasped or explained easily by the human mind. One thing we do know is that the experience of each Bhava/sign and event in our lives is necessary and serves our spiritual growth.
The first Bhava, or Aries, belongs to the fire element and is the first of the three in the Dharma (Purpose) Trikona (triangle). Here the journey of the soul begins as a human being.
The first house conveys the innate purpose, drive and wish of the soul in the material world. It shows that which is born, what it seeks and how it will go about attaining its goals. As the foundation of the chart, all other Bhavas have to be seen from the context of the first Bhava, as it represents the self, the one who has embarked on this remarkable journey of a human birth. If the first house is weak, the other Bhavas will find it difficult to manifest themselves, even when well disposed. On the other hand, a strong and well fortified first house will make up for otherwise weak Bhavas in the horoscope. The Sun, the Karaka (significator) for the first house, and our higher Self (soul) is exalted in the first house in Aries because it unites the conscious personality with the soul and fortifies the first house, allowing the native to attain his goals for this life.
In the second Bhava, or Taurus, that which is born must now sustain itself in the tangible, material world. This is the first house in the earth element in the Artha (wealth) Trikona (triangle). Here the “one” becomes “two”, as the soul identifies with the spirit and body. It perceives itself as a separate entity and identifies with the concrete mind and the ego. Traditionally, the second house is seen as the house of resources, security, acquisitions and the native’s ability to sustain himself. However, on a deeper level this house is the process through which the soul begins to apply higher consciousness to the discovery of the body and the physical world. In the first house the soul is a self-contained entity but in the second it must possess something outside itself. It does not always have to be money or valuables, it can be anything tangible that we value on earth, even an idea that needs to be manifested. Just as the Sun (soul) is exalted in Aries, Moon (separate identity/mind) is exalted in Taurus. Liberation can only come when we have assimilated the earth element into the ether element, so don’t be too quick to right off this Bhava as unspiritual.
The third Bhava, or Gemini, is the first in the Air element in the Kama (Desire) trikona. We have seen birth in the first house and the “one” splitting into “two”, in the second house. In the third house “the one” becomes “three”, as the soul now identifies, not just with the soul (first house) body (second house) but also the intellect (third house). As the house of intelligence, education and communication, in the third house the soul seek to comprehend the dueling realities of our life – Shiva and Shakti, spirit and matter, body and soul etc. The soul becomes self-conscious and exchanges information to understand its environment. The quality of the third house in a chart tells us the kind of intellect the native possesses and how much curiosity he has to gather information and communicate. However, here the information is sought for its own sake and only in the ninth house the soul can begin to apply it to a deeper understanding of life. As the first Kama, or desire houses, it is here that the seeds of desire are sown. Desire is a necessary part of our spiritual evolution because without desire there can be no physical birth. Finally, the third house is also the house of Prakrama (valor); a weak third house means a person does not have the impulse to pursue the fulfillment of their desires and that is why Mars, the planet of action, does well here.
In the first three Bhavas the basic building blocks of life, birth, sustenance and communication have been established. In the fourth Bhava, or Cancer, the first water house in the moksha (liberation) Trikona, the soul now turns inwards, as it seeks to discover the intricate and sensitive world of feelings. It seeks to secure a permanent inner emotional core, one that it can depend on for security and contentment, laying the foundation for liberation in the twelfth house. This is the house of childhood, mother, roots and family, as it is these dynamics that are responsible for our conditioned instincts and emotional stability in adulthood. Most importantly the mother’s influence is seen in this house because it is the mother’s nurturing and unconditional love that allows the child to build a solid inner psychic structure, which gives faith and trust. It is very difficult to find contentment in the world without a healthy fourth house.
The first stage of evolution is complete in the fourth Bhava, as the soul has discovered each of the four elements – Fire, Earth, Air and Water. In the next four houses the soul will deepen its relationship with these four elements. The fifth Bhava, or Leo, is the second fire house in the Dharma (purpose) Trikona. Here the soul seeks to be recognized for its greatness and uniqueness. Traditionally, this house is known as the house of pleasure, amusement, romance, creativity, children, and self-expression. On a deeper level we can see why this house is so important in our spiritual evolution because until we have the opportunity to express our creativity and truly discover ourselves as a unique and distinguished entity we cannot discover our true identity. A well-disposed fifth house gives an innate sense of ones own majesty and allows the native to pursue desires, dreams and ideas unimpeded. However, if the fifth house is lacking or afflicted it can make the native suffer from lack of self-confidence and create an identity crises, which in turn often leads to an exaggerated sense of self importance, or self deprecation.
In the first five Bhavas the soul is totally focused on self-development, in the sixth Bhava the soul begins to shifts its focus outwards. This Bhava is the second in the earth element and Artha (wealth) Trikona. In the second house the soul learnt to support and sustain itself, in the sixth it learns the importance of labor, structure, discipline and order required to function on the material plane. As the house most associated with health and disease, here the soul learns to serve, purify and take care of the physical body, which is essential to the human experience. As the house of enemies and debts, here the soul struggles with its weaknesses, fears and attachments, in the physical world and tries to perfect the earthly experience by controlling its environment. When the sixth house is well disposed we can overcome our adversaries and difficulties, however, when afflicted it can create a compulsion to put everything in order, and an inability to relax and surrender, which usually leads to disease associated with this house.
In the seventh Bhava the soul is ready to know itself in relation to another. The seventh Bhava is the second Air element house in the kama (desire) Trikona. In the third house the seeds of desire are sown, in the seventh house the soul begins to take action to fulfill those desires. This house is traditionally known as the house of marriage/partners because here the soul seeks union with the “other” to complete itself. Just as the first house was the sunrise of the ego and individual identity in the east, the seventh house in the west is the sunset of the ego, required for a partnership to flourish. A well-disposed seventh house naturally allows for compromise and the ability to see the world from our partner’s vantage point. Here we can read our ability to partner in any one-on-one relationship and what attributes the native is seeking outside himself to become whole. Therefore, the seventh house indicates that which we may not possess within and subconsciously seek in the partner. Isn’t it strange that Saturn of all the planets is exalted in Libra, the seventh house in the natural zodiac? Saturn here prevents successful partnering and therefore encourages the ultimate goal of our spiritual evolution to become more integrated within ourselves, without relying on another.
The eighth Bhava, or Scorpio, is the second water house in the moksha (liberation) trikona. In the fourth house the soul is learning the nature of its own feelings, in the eighth our feelings are directed into emotional relationships with others, especially the partner we met in the seventh house. This is often called the house of “other people’s money” because money in our culture is very symbolic of emotional support from others. The eighth house is a point of crises at the emotional level, and often brings some deep emotional betrayal, or death like transformation. From the soul’s evolutionary perspective this house thus becomes the house of self-understanding and exploration through constant crises, or symbolic deaths. The death associated with this house is usually the beginning of the demise of the personality built in the last seven houses, as well as its attachments to its material ambitions. When not well disposed, the need for transformation and awareness of the deepest, most intangible mysteries of life associated with this house can become channeled into seeking the experience through drugs, psychic disorders and even religious ecstasy and trance.
In the ninth Bhava, or Sagittarius, the soul has finally arrived at the last of the three fire houses in the Dharma (purpose) trikona. In this house the soul searches for higher meaning in all its actions, as it takes what it has learnt in the last eight houses and tries to understand it from the deeper cosmic perspective. All three fire signs have unbounded vitality, self-confidence, enthusiasm that stems from an intuitive confidence in the self. In the first house or Aries, the soul used its inner fire and intuition to express itself into its outer environment, in Leo or fifth house he used the same fire to expresses his unique identity/creativity and finally in the ninth house the idea of the self has become absolute. The soul now seeks to broaden its life perspective and seek higher consciousness. Long journeys, pilgrimage, higher learning are traditionally associated with this house because a native with a strong ninth house will explore the world and seek higher knowledge, either physically or metaphorically. The ninth house is considered the most fortunate Bhava in the chart, as it gives an innate understanding of universal/laws and truths, spirituality and gives meaning and purpose to our lives. However, afflictions to the ninth house, especially Saturn, can produce religious over compensation, disillusionment and gullibility, as the native seeks but never finds meaning and purpose in life. Even Jupiter in the ninth house can create problems if not well supported, as it can make one too content and wrapped up in tradition, rituals and religion. The ninth house and Sagittarius needs an ideal to live by, which can create visionaries, ruled by a strong sense of purpose and dharma, as well as misguided fanatics and ideologues.
The tenth Bhava, the final house in the earth element and Artha (wealth) Trikona, is the culmination of our material ambitions. In the second house the soul-sought support and sustenance, in the sixth work and ordering and in the tenth he has mastered the earth element. Therefore, this Bhava gives achievement, status, and recognition for our worldly skills and abilities. A strong tenth house will give honor, ambition, and some form of important role in society, associated with career in our times. This house is the last of the personal houses, as the following two houses relate to the collective consciousness.
The eleventh Bhava is the conclusion of the air element and Kama (desire) Trikona, as the soul sets out to fulfill its hopes, wishes and dreams before the complete surrender and renunciation that awaits him in the twelfth house. The eleventh house is also the house of monetary gains because in our culture fulfillment of desires is often equated to monetary gains. In the eleventh house the soul sees itself as part of the collective and works for the greater good, as personal integration has been completed in the previous houses. As such, this is the house of group consciousness and associated with the “Age of Aquarius” in Western Astrology. In Hindu Dharma the eleventh house, despite its transpersonal nature and the gains it can give, is considered a kama (desire) house and the lord of the eleventh remains a malefic lord. While this house can produce great humanitarians and those who serve their community, desire to save the world is still a desire. All desires have to be vanquished before liberation can be attained.
In the twelfth Bhava, the last water house in the Moksha (liberation) Trikona, the soul comes full circle, as all that has been so carefully built up in the last eleven houses has to be torn down. As the house that lies behind the ascendant, it represents the end of the journey. Just as the first house represents the conscious personality, the twelfth house relates to the subconscious and hidden part of our personality. In the fourth house the soul developed a personal relationship with his feeling nature, in the eighth it channeled the emotions into a relationship with the partner, in the twelfth he will need to surrender his feeling nature and ego to the collective consciousness. While this is considered the most spiritual of the Bhavas, make no mistake about it, the twelfth house can be a very painful house, as even spiritual masters struggle with the death of the conscious personality. The ego will put up every resistance to the isolation, failure, loss of power associated with this house. This house requires self-sacrifice and forfeiting our material ambitions. Just as halfway in our journey, in the sixth Bhava, we put brought order to our environment, in the twelfth house we surrender to the chaos it brings. When well disposed, the twelfth house can give great spiritual gains and even liberation, if the soul is ready. However, it can also give a desire to escape the “real world”, as there is a fine line between escape and surrender.
The twelve Bhavas/signs encompass all possible human experiences on the material plane. Final transcendence, or Self-Realization comes through thousands of cyclical journeys around the Bhavas until liberation comes to end the cycle of birth and death. Each of the twelve Bhavas are necessary rest stops on the journey of our progression from birth to liberation.