Wisdom through Adversity: Houses 6, 8 and 12

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more".  ~Alexandre Dumas

Jupiter the benevolent and wise mentor presides over our highest potential and highest purpose. It is said that wherever there is Jupiter there is a crowd. As such, across cultures the most prized quality that a human being can attain is wisdom.

So where does wisdom come from and what does it look like?

Think of someone in your life whom you respect for their wisdom - a teacher, parent, counselor, cleaner, friend or even an historical figure or author - chances are there is a one thing they will all have in common. Their wisdom did not arise out of living an easy unobstructed life. It was most likely attained through some thorny, messy, painful experiences.

In other words, adversity is the seedbed of wisdom. There is no better teacher than one’s own experience to deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Some of the universal qualities of wisdom include humility, depth, simplicity, and a broad understanding of life. Humility is often only learnt when our pride and individuality gets hurt and things don’t go according to our plans. Profound understanding of the deeper meaning and purpose of life is discovered when we come face to face with challenges that force us to re-arrange our priorities. Simplicity results when our elaborate and complicated plans fail to yield happiness and satisfaction. Finally, broad understanding of life comes when unexpected events throw us off course. These events teach us that life is filled with uncertainties and we need to remain open to all possibilities.

In their Wisdom Through Adversity project at the University of Virginia researchers refer to post traumatic growth rather that post traumatic stress disorder. They studied how people changed in positive ways when facing adversity; specifically they followed chronically ill patients and doctors who had made a major medical error. Common themes that they found were; letting go of perfectionism and blame, acknowledgement of limitations and ambiguity, accepting responsibility, support of friends and family and finally moving on to help others facing similar circumstances. Most importantly, at some point they made a conscious and deliberate choice to pursue the hard course, they did something they really did not want to do. Like most wise people they chose to set things straight and face their circumstances head on – be it an addiction, a health or financial crises or loss.

In Vedic Astrology the difficulties we face in life are seen from houses 6th, 8th and 12th called Dushthanas or enemy houses – planets placed here, or their house lords, create physical and psychological disequilibrium. You could also say that they serve the purpose of showing us our weaknesses, so that we can become wiser.

Sixth House - (Parallels the sign of Virgo - Sanskrit name Ripu bhava or house of adversity). This house teaches humility and simplicity, as it pertains to the mundane un-sexy areas of life like routine, day to day affairs, attending to the humdrum details of life, cleaning up everyone else’s mess, organizing and generally taking care of our basic needs so life can go on. As such, this house causes us grief because there is nothing glamorous about it. Dashas (planetary periods) relating to the sixth house can take away our “specialness” and be devoid of thrill and adventure. They can also create low level health problems that force us to have to pay day to day attention to the fine tuning of the body rather than our grand plans.

Eighth house – (Parallels the sign of Scorpio – Sanskrit name both Mrityu bhava - house of death - or Ayu Bhava - house of longevity). This infamous house pertains to all the secrets of life and death. Anything that is unknown, taboo, intangible and uncomfortable lingers in this house; secrets, sex, clandestine activities, other people’s money and values (sudden windfall or sudden downfall), drugs, catastrophic illness, betrayal, affairs, occult, and yes even Vedic Astrology. In this mysterious and taboo eighth house is where we come face to face with our extreme vulnerabilities. Planets here bring unexpected events that dramatically change our life in the blink of an eye. The emotional or physical crises generated by this house contains the possibility of a psychological transformation or the “death” of the old self and a rebirth of the new leading to a profound and deep understanding of the ambiguous, unpredictable and mysterious nature of our existence.

Twelfth house: (Parallels the sign of Pisces - Sanskrit name Vyaya bhava, or house of loss and waste). This is the house where our personal identity dissolves into the collective. One way or the other planets relating to this house force us into situations where we cannot engage in life like the average person. It predicts retreats, seclusion, ashrams, and places of mystical and spiritual renewal (or even prisons and asylums) or any form or withdrawal from the “real world”. Intoxicants that allow us to escape, as well as deep meditation, or general escapist tendencies are also read here, as is philanthropic and charitable work where there is expenditure but no personal gain. Extreme luxury and extreme poverty are seen here because both can prevent us from engaging fully in life. This house grants the gift of “time out from the world” which offers the possibility for introspection and the ultimate wisdom that comes from not being trapped in the distractions of everyday life (opposite of the sixth house).

Of course, painful experiences do not guarantee wisdom – many people become bitter, angry, cynical and even more deeply entrenched in ignorance. However, moving through difficult circumstances in a positive way does guarantee wisdom.

The delicate balance of Jupeterian and Saturnian energies within our consciousness help us to shape our interpretation of events and grow in wisdom. As such usually it is not the actual event or roadblock that we face but the version of the event that we experience that matters.

Jupiter is the wise advisor, pointing each of us towards our highest potential. Aligned with our higher divine Self rather than the lower ego self, his gifts keep encouraging us to stay inspired and hopeful and keep on the path of destiny. Saturn’s job is to step in to help shape the inspiration, hope and faith of Jupiter within the bounds of reality. If Jupiter’s vision is overblown and unrealistic, Saturn reminds us that we have to work within the constraints of history, society, community, culture etc. In turn, when Saturn gets too bogged down with realism, pessimism and practicality he misses out on providence, chance and luck and it is Jupiter’s job to step in redirect our consciousness towards a higher purpose in life.

It is no wonder that the expansion of Jupiter’s dasha is consolidated under the Saturn dasha that follows. After spending close to four decades with these planets (Jupiter dasha 16 years is followed by Saturn dasha of 19 years) we should become wise enough to face down adversity with the faith of Jupiter with the appropriate effort of Saturn.