January 26th, 2013| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


Visiting the National Museum in New Delhi recently, I came across this sculpture dating back to the 10th century.

This is Yama (यम   in Sanskrit), the lord of death in Hinduism. (Actually one finds this god also in Sikhism, Buddhism, in Chinese, Tibetan, Korean, and Japanese mythology, as well as in Iranian/Zoroastrian tradition.)

And no wonder. Humankind has always worried about death. What happens afterwards? Speculations have abounded fueling most of the after-life beliefs of the religions of the world.

The Bible teaches a single death and a judgment.

… it is appointed for men to die once
and after this comes judgment.
Hebrews 9:27

Part of Yama’s assigned duties include the maintenance of the records of the deeds of humans on the earth, and, upon their death, to make the decision as to what is going to happen to them. The scepter Yama is holding in his right hand, with a skull stuck on top explains it all.

Again, this speaks to a human angst and worry. There is an inherent sense of a perfect deity in heaven to whom we are answerable.

So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.
Romans 14:12

But therein lies the problem. If this divine being is perfect, and we certainly are not, would this deity sully the portals of his perfect abode with imperfect beings like us?

For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.
Isaiah 64:6

Frequently (though not in the sculpture shown), Yaman iconography represents him as both ugly and fierce, with tusks, wearing red or black clothes, riding on a buffalo, and carrying a rope by which he drags the dead behind him.

Pretty scary! He’s gonna find out if you’ve been naughty or nice. So watch out.

But I doubt if the watching out will do you any good. Even if you manage to live a sinless, absolutely pure life from now on, what about those sins from yesterday, last month, yesteryear, and the decades past? Once tainted, always tainted.

Jesus said:

“Therefore you are to be perfect,
as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 5:48

Not a whole lot of choice here. It’s perfection or nothing.

And death is coming. One day.

As god of the dead, and in charge of death, Yama is often seen as “Kala” or time, because death is simply a matter of time for the human condition. Inexorable. Unstoppable.

And Yama’s decision regarding one’s future will depend on one’s earthly deeds (“karma”); one might be reincarnated as a superior being or an inferior one.

But the Bible reminds us that there are no deeds we can do to outweigh our sin.

There is none righteous, not even one. …
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 3:10, 23

And the result is disastrous—eternal death, away from the presence of a perfect God.

For the wages of sin is death …
Romans 6:23a

But things are not hopeless! For Jesus Christ, God incarnate, dying on the cross and rising from the dead, paid the price for sin. And to those who believe, forgiveness is granted.

For God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish,
but have eternal life.
John 3:16

The price of sin may be eternal death, but …

… the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23b

Death has been vanquished! Praise God!






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