|You will be what you do, so do good.|
And he has spread far more widely. He is known in every country where Buddhism is established, including Tibet, Nepal, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, and Alta California (the greatest republic ever known, although stolen by the U.S. and incorporated into its northern states system, but still said by many to be a shangri la).
|Rrrr! So long as you cycle in samsara...|
But he is also revered as a "guardian of spiritual practice." In the popular "Wheel of Life," or Bhavachakra, where six to 31 planes of rebirth are depicted between his monstrous jaws or in his arms.
Yama is sometimes shown with a consort, Yami, whose name is associated with "night" in Sanskrit.
|Small part of Angkor Wat panel depicts a heaven and hell, Angkor, Cambodia (Sam)|
- Heaven and Hell: The upper part of this panel describes life in the heavens, the lower part life in the hells. It is 60 meters long and shows Yama, the "God of the Dead," sitting on a buffalo, assisted by his two assessors, Dharma and Sitragupta. There are 36 short inscriptions that describe 37 of the countless heavenly worlds and 32 of the hells, all contained within the general 31 Planes of Existence. Life in celestial worlds is depicted by the rich mansions and palaces, a flying apsara (celestial nymph), and the lavish draperies. Life in the lower hells is all about torture, which can be gruesome with the breaking of bones, use of hot irons, and the piercing of heads with nails. More
These worlds are generally referred to collectively as "the downfall," distinct from the Christian conception in that they are not literally permanent. They are figuratively permanent, lasting an "eternity" (kalpa) or more, but still technically impermanent and therefore closer to the popular Catholic conception of purgatories.
Yama's exact role is vague in canonical texts. It is made clearer through elaborate tales, extra-canonical texts, and popular myths which, inherited from other traditions, are sometimes inconsistent with Buddhist philosophy.
|The Five Remembrances (Angelarenai/flickr)|
In the Pali language canon, the Buddha states that a person who has ill-treated his or her parents, recluses (shramanas, wandering ascetics, generally Buddhist monastics), noble (enlightened) persons (referred to as Brahmins but not caste Brahmins who are simply born into privileged status), and elders (theras and theris, good people in general, long time monastics in specific) is taken at death to Yama.
Yama then asks, "Did you never consider your conduct in light of birth, aging, sickness, worldly retribution, and death?"
|Woe is samsara, plagued by dukkha!|
One act of generosity, if it matures at the right moment, which is very hard to depend on, can lead to another human life of great wealth. Simply abstaining from breaking the Five Precepts can lead to a lower heavenly rebirth. Conversely, a single reprehensible act can lead one to be reborn in a woeful destination with essentially no way to escape for what seems like mute eternities.
Performing one of the Ten Courses of Unwholesome Action, types of karma that lead like corridors to unfortunate rebirths, can dog one over many lives until it is finally exhausted. By itself one deed can take one to a painful rebirth. And if it becomes a habit or character trait, it can snowball until one is doomed the lowest hells. Chance of escape? A snowball's chance in hell. Who can believe? It makes no sense! But it does: One action is not one citta, which serves as the seed for the result (vipaka), the future fruit (phala). There are millions of cittas (individual "moments" within the process of consciousness) in an action, whether good or bad, each able to give rise to a result. Do lots of good, as it will help in all endeavors.]
|Bodies on display (bodyworlds.com)|
It is a person's own doing by one's choice of actions. We are always free to choose, even when we insist we have no choice. Having no choice is tantamount to having no imagination, no ability to see things in another way, like realizing that we always have the alternative of simply stopping. (See the original "Bedazzled").
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|Yamantaka Vajra Bhairav|