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Daily Theosophy Glossary – Y

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Daily Theosophy Glossary





In Vedic literature, worship, devotion, prayer, praise; in post-Vedic literature, an act of worship or devotion, an oblation, sacrifice, also sacrifice personified or fire.

‘The Yajñā,’ say the Brahmans, ‘exists from eternity, for it proceeded from the Supreme, in whom it lay dormant from no beginning.’ It is the key to the Trai-Vidyā, the thrice sacred science contained in the Ṛg-Veda verses, which teaches the Yajñā or sacrificial mysteries. As Haug states in his Introduction to the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa — the Yajñā exists as an invisible presence at all times, extending from the Ahavaniya or sacrificial fire to the heavens, forming a bridge or ladder by means of which the sacrificer can communicate with the world of devas, ‘and even ascend when alive to their abodes.’ It is one of the forms of Ākāsa, within which the mystic Word (or its underlying ‘Sound’) calls it into existence. Pronounced by the Priest-Initiate or Yogi, this Word receives creative powers, and is communicated as an impulse on the terrestrial plane through a trained Will-power” (TG 375).


(Sanskrit) [from the verbal root yakṣ to devour] A class of ethereal, astral, or semi-astral beings, regarded as attendants of Kubera or Kuvera, the deity of riches; occasionally they are associated with Viṣṇu. The yakṣas are variously described as the sons of Pulastya, Pulaha, Kaśyapa, Khasa, or Krodha. One legend represents them as springing from the feet of Brahmā, while one Purāic account shows them as springing from the body of Brahmā with the rākṣasas and immediately attempting to devour his body. However, frequently the yakṣas are regarded as beings beneficent to humans. In Kālidāsa’s Meghadūta, the hero is a yakṣa, represented as a banished lover who employs a cloud to bear a message to his beloved.

In later popular folklore the yakṣas are associated with and classed with the piśācas, and therefore regarded with dread and made responsible for many demoniacal obsessions. “In esoteric science they are simply evil (elemental) influences, who in the sight of seers and clairvoyants descend on men, when open to the reception of such influences, like a fiery comet or a shooting star” (TG 375).


(Sanskrit) [from the verbal root yam to subdue, control] A curb, rein, bridle; hence the act of curbing, suppression, self-control. Especially prominent in yoga as self-restraint: it is the first of the eight agas or means of attaining mental concentration.

As a proper name, the deity who rules over the shades of the dead in the Ṛg-Veda, corresponding to the Greek Hades or Roman Pluto. Hence Yama is the personification of the third root-race, because these were the first to taste death — the first self-consciously intellectual humans who died and departed after death to devachan. Hence also the ascription in Hindu mythology to Yama as the ruler of the pitṛs. In the Mahābhārata, he is described as dressed in blood-red garments, with a glittering form, a crown on his head, glowing eyes and, like Varua, he holds a noose with which he binds the spirit after drawing it from the body after death.

“Yama is represented as the son of Vivaswat (the Sun). He had a twin-sister named Yami, who was ever urging him, according to another hymn, to take her for his wife, in order to perpetuate the species” (TG 375-6). Yama and his twin sister is a distinct reference to the androgynous character of the human race from the middle of the third root-race forward. The Ṛg-Veda

“nowhere shows Yama ‘as having anything to do with the punishment of the wicked.’ As king and judge of the dead, a Pluto in short, Yama is a far later creation. One has to study the true character of Yama-Yami throughout more than one hymn and epic poem, and collect the various accounts scattered in dozens of ancient works, and then he will obtain a consensus of allegorical statements which will be found to corroborate and justify the Esoteric teaching, that Yama-Yami is the symbol of the dual Manas, in one of its mystical meanings. For instance, Yama-Yami is always represented of a green colour and clothed with red, and as dwelling in a palace of copper and iron. Students of Occultism know to which of the human ‘principles’ the green and the red colours, and by correspondence the iron and copper, are to be applied. The ‘twofold-ruler’ — the epithet of Yama-Yami — is regarded in the exoteric teachings of the Chino-Buddhists as both judge and criminal, the restrainer of his own evil doings and the evil-doer himself. In the Hindu epic poems Yama-Yami is the twin-child of the Sun (the deity) by Sañjñā (spiritual consciousness); but while Yama is the Āryan ‘lord of the day,’ appearing as the symbol of spirit in the East, Yami is the queen of the night (darkness, ignorance) ‘who opens to mortals the path to the West’ — the emblem of evil and matter. In the Purāas Yama has many wives (many Yamis) who force him to dwell in the lower world (Pātala, Myalba, etc., etc.); and an allegory represents him with his foot lifted, to kick Chhaya, the handmaiden of his father (the astral body of his mother, Sañjñā, a metaphysical aspect of Buddhi or Alaya). As stated in the Hindu Scriptures, a soul when it quits its mortal frame, repairs to its abode in the lower regions (Kāmaloka or Hades). Once there, the Recorder, the Karmic messenger called Chitragupta (hidden or concealed brightness), reads out his account from the Great Register, wherein during the life of the human being, every deed and thought are indelibly impressed — and, according to the sentence pronounced, the ‘soul’ either ascends to the abode of the Pitṛs (Devachan), descends to a ‘hell’ (Kāmaloka), or is reborn on earth in another human form” (TG 376).


Yggdrasil (Scandinavian, Icelandic) [from ygr fierce, awesome, brooding + drasill steed, gallows] The Norse Tree of Life, on which Odin, Allfather of the universe, is mounted or hanged during a period of manifestation. From the tree drops the honeydew which feeds all creatures. The squirrel Ratatosk (intelligence) runs up and down its trunk, while on its topmost bough perches an eagle with a hawk seated between its eyes.

The tree has three roots watered by three wells. One is in Asgard, home of the gods, where it is watered by the three norns: the past (Urd, origin), the present (Verdandi, becoming), and the future which is created by them — owing (Skuld, debt). A second root penetrates the world of matter, where it is watered from the well of the giant Mimer whose waters are experience of life. Odin gave one eye as forfeit in order to receive a draft of that well, while Mimer has the use of Odin’s eye which is sunk in the bottom of the well. The third root is watered by Hvergelmir, source of all the rivers of lives (kingdoms of nature) which rises in Niflheim, the world of mists (nebulae) where worlds are born.

Yggdrasil is not immortal. Its lifetime is coeval with the hierarchy the tree is used to represent. Its leaves are constantly being eaten by four stags, its bark is nibbled by two goats, and its roots are gnawed by the serpent Nidhogg which, in due course, will topple the “noble ash tree.” During the first half of its life, the tree is named Mjotvidr (measure increasing); during the latter half Mjotudr (measure diminishing). When in due course the tree dies, its indwelling consciousnesses (Life and Lifthrasir), the human race, will be secreted in the “memory hoard of the sun” until their next emergence into a new existence.



(Sanskrit) Union; one of the six Darsanas or schools of philosophy of India, founded by Patāñjāli, but said to have existed as a distinct teaching and system of life before that sage. Yajñāvalkya, a famous and very ancient sage of pre-Mahābhāratan times, to whom the White Yajur-Veda, the Satapatha-Brāhmaṇa, and the Brihadārayaka are attributed, is credited with inculcating the positive duty of religious meditation and retirement into the forests, and therefore is believed to have originated the yoga doctrine. Patāñjāli’s yoga, however, is more definite and precise as a philosophy, and imbodies more of the occult sciences than any of the extant works attributed to Yajñāvalkya.

The objective of the Yoga school is attaining union or at-one-ness with the divine-spiritual essence within which is virtually identical with the spiritual essence or Logos of the universe. True yoga is genuine psychology based on a complete philosophical understanding of the entire inner human constitution.

There are several states leading to spiritual powers and perception. The eight stages of yoga usually enumerated are: 1) yama (restraint, forbearance); 2) niyama, religious observances such as fastings, prayer, penances; 3) āsana, postures of various kinds; 4) prāṇayama, methods of regulating the breath; 5) pratyāhāra (withdrawal), withdrawal of the consciousness from external objects; 6) dhāraṇā (firmness, steadiness, resolution) mental concentration, holding the mind on an object of thought; 7) dhyāna, abstract contemplation or meditation freed from exterior distractions; and 8) samādhi, complete collection of the consciousness and its faculties into union with the monadic essence.

There are several types of yoga such as karma yoga, hahā yoga, bhakti yoga, rājā yoga, and jñāna yoga. “Similar religious aspirations or practices likewise exist in Occidental countries, as, for instance, what is called ‘Salvation by Works,’ somewhat equivalent to the Hindu Karma-Yoga, or, again, ‘Salvation by Faith — or Love,’ somewhat similar to the Hindu Bhakti-Yoga; while both Orient and Occident have, each one, its various forms of ascetic practices which may be grouped under the term Haṭhā-Yoga.

“No system of Yoga should ever be practiced unless under the direct teaching of one who knows the dangers of meddling with the psycho-mental apparatus of the human constitution, for dangers lurk at every step, and the meddler in these things is likely to bring disaster upon himself, both in matters of health and as regards sane mental equilibrium. The higher branches of Yoga, however, such as the Rājā-Yoga and Jñāna-Yoga, implying strict spiritual and intellectual discipline combined with a fervid love for all beings, are perfectly safe. It is, however, the ascetic practices, etc., and the teachings that go with them, wherein lies the danger to the unwary, and they should be carefully avoided” (Occult Glossary 183).

The various forms of yoga from the standpoint of theosophy when properly understood are not distinct, separable means of attaining union with the god within; and it is a divergence of the attention into one or several of these forms to the exclusion of others that has brought about so much mental confusion and lack of success even in those who are more or less skilled. Every one of these forms of yoga, with the probable exception of the lower forms of hatha yoga, should be practiced concurrently by the one who has set his heart and mind upon spiritual success. Thus one should carefully watch and control his acts, acting and working unselfishly; he should live so that his daily customs distract attention as little as possible away from the spiritual purpose; his heart coincidentally should be filled with devotion and love for all things; and he should cultivate, all at the same time, his will, his capacity for self-sacrifice and self-devotion to a noble cause, and his ability to stand firm and undaunted in the face of difficulties whatever they may be; and, finally, in addition and perhaps most importantly, he should do everything in his power to cultivate his intuition and intellectual faculties, exercising not merely his ratiocinative mind, but the higher intuitive and nobly intellectual parts. Combining all these he is following the chela path and is using all the forms of yoga in the proper way. Yet the chela will never obtain his objective if his practice of yoga is followed for his own individual advancement. He will never reach higher than the superior planes of the astral world even in consciousness; but when his whole being follows this yoga as thus outlined with a desire to lay his life and all he is on the altar of service to the world, he is then indeed on the path. (From: ETG)


(Sanskrit) [from yoga union + ācārya teacher] A teacher of yoga; a mystic and highly esoteric school founded by the original Āryasagha. Āryasagha was an arhat and founded the original Yogācārya school, a thoroughly esoteric institution; the latter’s school is a branch of the Mahāyāna, and is of a truly spiritual type, its teachings being identical in essence with those of theosophy.

(This Āryasagha lived at a date long preceding the pseudo-Āryasagha of the 5th or 6th century who taught the doctrines of the tantra besides some of the elements of the Yogācārya system. The true Yogācārya school must not be confused with the Mahātantra school which was founded by Samantabhadra, whose teachings were later collected and glossed around the 6th century by the pseudo-Āryasagha in connection with litanies, formularies, spells, etc. This school is wholly exoteric, popular, and its works are largely composite of Tantric worship and ritualism that can lead the student only to black magic and sorcery.)


(Yogin, Sanskrit) A yogī is a devotee, one who practices the Yoga system or one or more of its various subordinate branches.

In some cases, yogīs are those who strive in various ways to conquer the body and physical temptations, for instance by torture of the body. They also study more or less some of the magnificent philosophical teachings of India coming down from far distant ages of the past; but mere mental study will not make a man a mahatma, nor will any torture of the body bring about the spiritual vision — the vision sublime. (See also Yoga)



[Sanskrit] Age; an age of the world, of which there are four — satya yuga, tretā yuga, dvāpara yuga, and kali yuga — which proceed in succession during the manvantaric cycle. Each yuga is preceded by a period called in the Purānas, saṃdhyā (twilight, transition period, dawn) and followed by another period of like duration often called Saṃdhyāṃśa (a portion of twilight). Each of these transition periods is one-tenth of its yuga. The group of four yugas is first computed by the divine years or years of the gods — each such year being equal to 360 years of mortal men. Thus we have, in divine years:

1. Kṛta or Satya Yuga.. 4,000
saṃdhyā. . . .. . . . 400
Saṃdhyāṃśa. . .  . . . 400
4,800 or 1,728,000 mortal years

2. Tretā Yuga. . .  . . .. 3,000
saṃdhyā. . . .. . . . 300
Saṃdhyāṃśa. . .  . . .. 300
3,600 or 1,296,000 mortal years

3. Dvāpara Yuga. . .  . . . 2,000
saṃdhyā. . . .. . . . 200
Saṃdhyāṃśa. . .  . . .. 200
2,400 or 864,000 mortal years

4. Kali yuga. . .  . . .. 1,000
saṃdhyā. . . .. . . . 100
Saṃdhyāṃśa. . .  . . . 100
1,200 or 432,000 mortal years

Total: 12,000 a Mahāyuga or 4,320,000 mortal years

Of these four yugas, our present racial period is the kali yuga (black age), often called the Iron Age, said to have commenced at the moment of Kṛṣṇa’s death, usually given as 3102 BC. These yugas do not affect all mankind at the same time, as some races, because of their own special cycles in running, are in one or in another of the yugas, while other races are in a different cycle. This series of 4, 3, 2, 1, with ciphers added or not according to circumstances, are among the sacred computations of archaic esotericism, which shows that all the various kinds of yugas, the small being included within the great, are each governed by the same periodic and regular series — all of which makes calculation no easy thing.

“All races have their own cycles, which fact causes a great difference. For instance, the Fourth Sub-Race of the Atlanteans was in its Kali-Yuga, when destroyed, whereas the Fifth was in its Satya or Kṛta Yuga. The Aryan Race is now in its Kali Yuga, and will continue to be in it for 427,000 years longer, while various ‘family Races,’ called the Semitic, Hamitic, etc., are in their own special cycles. The forthcoming 6th Sub Race — which may begin very soon — will be in its Satya (golden) age while we reap the fruit of iniquity in our Kali Yuga” (SD 2:147n).

The four yugas refer to any root-race, although indeed a root-race from its individual beginning to its individual ending is about double the length of the great yuga as set forth in the above chart. The racial yugas, however, overlap because each new great race is born at about the middle period of the parent race, although the individual length of any one race is as above stated. Thus it is that by the overlapping of the races, a race and its succeeding race may for a long time be contemporaneous on the face of the globe.

As the four yugas are a reflection in human history of what takes place in the evolution of the earth itself, and also of the planetary chain, the same scheme of yugas applies on larger scales: there exist the four yugas in the time periods of the evolution of a planetary chain, as well as in the general time period of a globe manvantara. These cosmic yugas are very much longer than the racial yugas, but the same general scheme of 4, 3, 2 applies throughout.

“The sacredness of the cycle of 4320, with additional cyphers, lies in the fact that the figures which compose it, taken separately or joined in various combinations, are each and all symbolical of the greatest mysteries in Nature. Indeed, whether one takes the 4 separately, or the 3 by itself, or the two together making 7, or again the three added together and yielding 9, all these numbers have their application in the most sacred and occult things, and record the workings of Nature in her eternally periodical phenomena. They are never erring, perpetually recurring numbers, unveiling, to him who studies the secrets of Nature, a truly divine System, an intelligent plan in Cosmogony, which results in natural cosmic divisions of times, seasons, invisible influences, astronomical phenomena, with their action and reaction on terrestrial and even moral nature; on birth, death, and growth, on health and disease. All these natural events are based and depend upon cyclical processes in the Kosmos itself, producing periodic agencies which, acting from without, affect the Earth and all that lives and breathes on it, from one end to the other of any Manvantara. Causes and effects are esoteric, exoteric, and endexoteric, so to say” (SD 2:73-4). (From: ETG)