One of the most valuable sections in all the Sanskrit books on astrology is in Phala-dīpikā’s Sixth Chapter, where Mantreśwara says:
“Any house can produce good or bad effects. It will produce good effects if the house and lord are in good condition. It will produce bad effects if the house and lord are in bad condition.”
How do you know if the house is in a good or bad condition? He says to consider the conjunctions and aspects to [it’s cusp, the ascendant degree transposed into it]. Aspects/conjunctions from malefics are bad, benefics and the house lord are good. And how do we asses if the house lord is in a good or bad condition? He says to consider the lord’s sign and house. It’s good for the lord to be in its own sign or in an exaltation sign and also in an angular or trine house (1,4,5,7,9,10). Its bad to be in any other sign or house.
This is great.
But there’s another principle that seems to throw a monkey wrench into it, the principle of upacāya-bhava – houses in which malefics are more desirable than benefics. I recently wrote a short post explaining this principle. To make it even shorter here, houses dealing with areas of life that require strength and toughness are better suited for malefic planets than benefics, because malefic planets have toughness and strength, while benefics are lenient and generous. These houses are 3 (for courage), 6 (for dealing with enemies), 10 (for dealing with the world at large), and 11 (for not being self-indulgent).
In Phala-dīpikā, Mantreśvara doesn’t seem to make any note of this. On the other hand, in the example interpretations he gives, for some of the difficult houses, the “bad” outcome has good interpretations and visa versa. Perhaps this is his way of accounting what we noted above, that some houses do better with malefic influence.
But its not a consistent and clean compensation, so perhaps he overlooked it, or left it out for brevity allowing the wise teachers of the book to fill in the details for the students.
What I want to do is adjust his rules of evaluation to account for the principle of upacāya houses without making some of the suggested interpretations counter-intuitive. I would update the definition to be like this:
1: Any house can produce good or bad effects. It will produce good effects if the house and lord are in good condition. It will produce bad effects if the house and lord are in bad condition.
2: Assess the condition of the house by conjunctions and aspects to it’s “cusp.” Assess the condition of the lord by its sign and house.
3: Regarding assessment of the lord: (A) To be in its own sign or exalted is good. To be otherwise is bad. (B) To be in an angle or trine is good. To be otherwise is bad. If the lord has both A and B in its favor, assess the condition as good. If both A and B are against it, assess the condition as bad.
These three principles are unchanged. I don’t feel the need to change 3 to consider if the lord is a natural malefic, then it does well in 11, 6, and 3, which are not angles or trines. I’m not changing this because this is a consideration of the planets strength, not mood. It is out of the scope to fully explain my thoughts on this right now.
Here is where my changes happen:
4: Regarding assessment of the house: Conjunctions/aspects from natural benefics [Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus] are good. Conjunctions/aspects from natural malefics [Sun, Saturn, and Mars] are bad. However, if the house is 3, 6, 10, or 11, the reverse is true [c/a from benefics is bad, c/a from malefics is good]. In all cases, however, the lord of the house is a good influence and cannot be a bad one.
Probably these rules could be still further evolved. Maybe at some point in the future I will do that, or some learned person will do it.