Moksha is a spiritual liberation, and any inquiry into the nature of Moksha necessarily means an inquiry into the nature of birth and death. A deeper inquiry yields the reality that birth and death reside in the mind. And though the mind is our cognitive capacity, it is all too often weakened by a profoundly conditioned sense of self. Thus, the mind is the beginning and the end of all suffering. This truth is central to all Vedic teachings.
The 4th House in the Vedic chart is the first of three Moksha houses(i.e., the 4th, 8th, and 12th). The 4th House is also the place where the soul discovers it is embodied and disembodied, just as Brahman(the cosmic force) is both "the formed and the formless, the mortal and the immortal, the stationary and the moving, the actual and the yon." (Upanishads II, iii).
It is well-known that among the Moksha houses the 8th and the 12th, and their karakas and house rulers, are capable of inflicting the greatest degree of earthly pain and loss. Through such pain and loss - the so-called "churning of the ocean" - Moksha comes. To varying degrees, this also depends on our willingness to see suffering as a friend and teacher, as well as the fruition or completion of the effects of past karma.
However, since the 4th house is the first Moksha house, it is both the beginning and ending of all suffering. The reason is that the 4th House also contains the seat of consciousness, of pure awareness, and of the workings of the mind - both the Absolute mind and the relative mind, also called Big mind and small mind in Buddhist thought. You may already know that from the 5th House we judge the level of intelligence and creative capacity.
Moon and Mercury
The 4th House has two karakas, or astrological significators, which are the Moon and Mercury. Along with the ruler of the 4th House we look to these planets as key indicators of the workings of the mind and heart. The mind should not be top-heavy with intellect (Mercury working overtime) nor awash in a sea of emotions (Moon working overtime in its role as conduit of the past). At the extreme, afflictions to the Mon and Mercury in the Vedic chart establish a potential for insanity.
In fact, when the Moon and Mercury aspect each other it impairs the ability to detach from over-influence of the conditioned mind. Mercury is debilitated in a water sign (Pisces), and it is generally thought to not do well in either Cancer or Scorpio (especially Cancer) or when in a mutual reception to the Moon. The pull of past conditioning and the conditioned mind (Moon) is too strong, and this weakens Mercury's ability to think and communicate clearly.
Mercury symbolizes the intellect and the nervous system, and is a planet of discrimination. The Moon is a planet of emotional connections , and it highlights the capacity for creating ease, peace, and harmony within ourselves and with others. Even with severe problems in life, a well-placed Moon, indicating an ability to return to the Absolute nature, can create the necessary peace and serenity to overcome all obstacles.
As karakas of the Seat-of-Consciousness House, the Moon and Mercury might seem, at first, too fickle to carry any weight in the chart. After all, they are the planets that move at the greatest speed, especially the Moon, and they have the greatest reputation for changeability. But in Vedic astrology, mutability and the muteable signs are given the capacity for the greatest openness to change, and this is a quality which can lead to spiritual evolution.
The Myth of Soma and Tara
The Moon and Mercury are both carriers of consciousness, something all too often bogged down by the vicissitudes of daily life. In the Puranas, the mythical teachings of the Vedas, there is an important myth which unites the Moon and Mercury as parent and child respectively.
In this myth, the wisdom goddess Tara is married to Jupiter, a high priest and leader of ceremonies. They are unsuccessful in producing a child together. Eventually Tara is seduced by Soma (the Moon) who is a male in this story. Soma and Tara go off on a tryst, and their union produces a child called Mercury. Mercury becomes such a charming child, witty and endearing, that Jupiter is persuaded to take him and raise him as his own.
The wisdom of this teaching myth is that Jupiter's knowledge, though vast and precise, is too concerned with the correctness of the ceremony; it is not fertile enough to ignite the heart. Only the Moon (Soma) can give this to Tara, an important Hindu goddess in her own right. She is the power of sound and its current, the Divine Word. Her creative vibration underlies the energy of time, the Word being the consciousness of time.
Together, the Moon (Soma) & Tara produce a child who is capable of communicating between the kingdoms of the heart and the mind, thus bringing them together. Soma's humanness and humane compassion are the keys in this matter. He can help Tara's wisdom down to the earth. Soma has the necessary nectar.
In the Shvetasavatara Upanishad (II, 6-7), there is another description of the dawning of the mind: "Where the fire (Agni) is enkindled, where the breath (Vayu) is controlled, were the nectar (Soma) overflows, there the Mind is born."
When two opposites unite, in this case Agni (fire) and Soma (water), an offspring is created: Vayu (wind or air), epitomized in the Puranic myth by Mercury. So we see how the cosmic male and female forces keep interchanging. Angi is fire, yet Shakti, a cosmic female force. Soma is water, yet Shiva, a cosmic male force. In maleness is contained femaleness, and vice versa.
In the Tantric teachings, which evolved from the Vedas, Mercury is an embodiment of Prana (breath or Vahu). Prana is Air, Life, and Being. Tara brings the fire of her wisdom to the union which creates Prana (Mercury). Her fire represents Light and Consciousness. In Tantric literature fire is Tejas. Soma, the Moon, brings his water (Ojas in the Tantras), and this is Love and Bliss.
The Tibetan Book of the Living and the Dead
Buddhism is a further outgrowth of the Vedic teachings. A major concept in the book is that of Grand Luminosity and Path Luminosity, also called respectively Mother and Child Luminosities. There is a tremendous parallel to the moksha 4th House in the Vedic astrological chart. Also, remember that, among other things, the 4th House identifies the mother, ground, and one's family foundation in life.
The Tibetan Book repeats the teaching that "life and death are in the mind itself." That Ground Luminosity consists of Clear Light: "this self-originated Clear Light, which from the very beginning was never born." It is "where consciousness itself dissolves into the all-encompassing space of truth." It is sound, color and light.
If Ground, or Mother Luminosity is the Absolute Nature of mind that pervades our whole experience, then Path, or Child Luminosity is the key which will open us up to the total knowledge so that our Absolute nature can become our everyday reality.
Linking back to Moksha, and its development through the houses, Ground Luminosity can be seen as the 4th House and its karakas, while Path Luminosity can be seen as the 8th and 12th Houses. True to form as water houses, their rivers all flow into the same ocean. Similarly, in The Tibetan Book, Ground and Path Luminosities (Mother & Child Luminosities) are seen as merging together, that their union is, in a sense, the final fruition.
From these the Bardo (transition) teachings of The Tibetan Book comes the awareness that the most important qualities in life are love and knowledge, compassion and wisdom.
Thus, from the Vedic chart, how we evolve from and into our Absolute nature is the key to our soul's highest nature. How to reach that state of pure awareness is the subject of another discussion, but the Vedic literature always points to meditation and spiritual practices as leading to a Sattvic, or balanced and harmonious, way of life.
The heart is said to be beyond the physical organ of the body - both inside and outside, yet neither inside nor outside. The Vedas speak of consciousness alone as the heart of all being, and that only a mind freed from all conditioning can flow into pure consciousness. Knowledge of the Self as pure consciousness, merged with the infinite consciousness, frees us.
In closing, the Chandogya-Upanishads have this instruction for passing from darkness into light: "When the senses are purified, the heart is purified; when the heart is purified, there is constant and unceasing remembrance of the Self, all bonds are loosed,and freedom is attained."