Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Yama
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Yama

Yama is the Hindu god of death whose first recorded appearance is in the Vedas. He is one of the most ancient mythological beings in the world and in parallel forms or another has also been found all over Eurasia. He is known as Yima by Zoroastrians, Jimmu in Japanese legend, and might be in origin cognate with Ymir of Norse legend.

In Hinduism, Yama is the god of death. He is a Lokapala and an Aditya. In art, he is depicted with with green skin, red clothes and riding a buffalo. He holds a loop of rope in his left hand with which he pulls the soul from the corpse.

In Vedic belief, Yama (twin) refers to the first mortal to die, and having discovered a way to the other world, he is the guide of the dead. He is the son of Surya (Sun) and twin brother of Yami, traditionally the first human pair in Hindu mythology. Later, he was deified and worshiped as a son of Vivasvat and Saranya. He is one of the Ashta-Dikpalas, representing the south. He reports to Lord Shiva the Destroyer, an aspect of Trimurti (Hinduism's triune Godhead). Three hymns in the Rig Veda Book 10 are addressed to him (hymn 10, 14, 135).

The Yamas are codified as "the restraints" in numerous scriptures including the Shandilya and Varuha Upanishads, Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Gorakshanatha, the Tirumantiram of Tirumular and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. All the above texts list ten yamas, with the exception of Patanjali's work, which lists only five. They comprise the "shall-nots" in our dealings with the external world.

The ten traditional yamas are:

  1. Ahimsa: abstinence from injury, harmlessness, the not causing of pain to any living creature in thought, word, or deed at any time. This is the "main" Yama. The other nine are there in support of its accomplishment.
  2. Satya: truthfulness, word and thought in conformity with the facts.
  3. Asteya: non-stealing, non-coveting, non-entering into debt.
  4. Brahmacharya: divine conduct, continence, celibate when single, faithful when married.
  5. Kshama: patience, releasing time, functioning in the now.
  6. Dhriti: steadfastness, overcoming non-perseverance, fear, and indecision; seeing each task through to completion.
  7. Daya: compassion; conquering callous, cruel and insensitive feelings toward all beings.
  8. Arjava: honesty, straightforwardness, renouncing deception and wrongdoing.
  9. Mitahara: moderate appetite, neither eating too much nor to little; nor consuming meat, fish, shellfish, fowl or eggs.
  10. Shaucha: purity, avoidance of impurity in body, mind and speech. (Note: Patanjali's Yoga Sutras list Shaucha as the first of the Niyamas.)

In Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Yamas are the first limb of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga.
They are found in the Sadhana Pada Verse 30 as:
  1. Ahimsa
  2. Satya
  3. Asteya
  4. Brahmacharya
  5. Aparigraha: absence of avariciousness, non-appropriation of things not one's own.


Early Hinduism | Hinduism | Hindu Philosophy
Primary Scriptures: Vedas | Upanishads | Bhagavad Gita | Itihasa | Tantras | Sutras
Concepts: Brahman | Dharma | Karma | Moksha | Maya | Punarjanma | Samsara
Schools & Systems: Vedanta | Yoga | Tantra | Bhakti
Rituals: Aarti | Darshan | Puja | Satsang | Thaal | Yagnya
Hindu Teachers/Gurus and Saints: Sankara | Ramakrishna | Vivekananda | Aurobindo | Ramana Maharshi | Sivananda
Denominations: Vaishnavism | Shaivism | Shaktism | Neo- and quasi-Hindu movements