Monday, November 03, 2014

Jyotish astrology looks at Brittany Maynard’s assisted death: was it suicide?

Brittany Maynard caught my astrological attention because she was 29—the year of Saturn’s Return, when Saturn’s influence is very powerful because he returns to where he was at birth—and because she died on the day (November 2nd) Saturn transited from Libra, his position of exaltation, to Scorpio. For astrologers, these are powerful indicators that something larger than an individual’s life was at work.  

Scorpio is the ruler of the natural Eighth House, or Mrityu Bhava, the house of death. Scorpio also rules transformation, especially going deep down to bring up issues of death and dying.

Saturn is the karaka of suffering, old age, death. Saturn, in Brittany Maynard’s chart, is also in her Second House, a maraka or killer house. Her Saturn is also combust, and exalted. For Brittany, Saturn becomes a very strong killer planet. She was also going through something astrologers called “sade sati”, which is the seven-and-a-half years when Saturn grinds through a person’s life to deliver life lessons. In her case, November 1st was the very last day when this period ended.  Interestingly, Brittany apparently postponed her death by one day-she was going to die on November 1st, then decided to die on November 2nd instead. 
You can read about this here:

Critics opposed to her death felt that she had committed suicide, and that the media was giving this event unnecessary attention.  Interestingly, by the definitions of jyotish astrology, her death is not strictly a “suicide.” In general, astrologers look for the cause of death in the Eighth House. Her self, or lagna, is ruled by Virgo, whose dispositor is Mercury. If Mercury was in Eighth House, astrologers would consider this a “suicide”—death by self. Her Mercury, however, is in the Third House of initiative, drive (and also friends.) In other words, the cause of her death is not “The Self.” 

So what is the cause of death? 

Saturn is a maraka/killer planet, and in her chart, it is placed in the Second (incidentally, also a maraka) House. The Second House is also the house of childhood—meaning that her upbringing, and childhood suffering, could have made her decide not to go through with suffering till the end.

Venus lies in her Fourth House of home, happiness, mother, mind and education. Venus is together with Jupiter, the sign of wisdom and also the sign of husband, in Jupiter’s own house. Jupiter is also in Virgo in her Fourth House in the navamsa or destiny chart. The husband, in other words, was close to her heart and home. 

Her  Eighth House is ruled by Aries, whose lord is Mars. Mars is exalted in Capricorn in the Fifth House—of love, creativity and dharma (right action). Her Eighth House is also at present getting an aspect from transiting Exalted Jupiter in the Eleventh House of Gains. Could this have been an act of dharmic love—a creative act to allow people the option to choose their own death?

In Buddhist philosophical tradition, assisted death is not encouraged. Life brings many forms of sufferings, we have to live through those fully until the last breath because each of these sufferings teach us valuable karmic lessons. It is also thought that unfulfilled karma is going to return in some form or another in another life anyways, so terminating a life early  doesn’t end the suffering, because the reincarnated soul will have to live through the life lessons in another life.  This doesn’t mean however that Buddhists don’t use external aids to decrease the pain and suffering-medicine, herbs, incense, meditation, blessings from gurus, rites and rituals may all come into play to help a person at the end of their life, especially when great pain and suffering is indicated. 

Great spiritual souls in Hindu  and Buddhist traditions, however, have often chosen their time of death.  There are many documented stories of greatly enlightened practitioners who decide on their day of death—or more accurately, the day they allow their atmas, or souls, to leave their bodies. News reports report that Brittany chose her day to die, and she felt the time wasn’t quite right, and she was waiting for the right day.  Interestingly,  she chose a day when Saturn, the natural karaka of death (and a karaka of death for her in her individual chart) chose to move to Scorpio, a house which rules not just death, but also transformations.

October 29, 2016 addendum: I've made a few slight edits for clarity, and I've also added a navamsa reading.