What is Yama, the red Yama? Commonly speaking, we known him as the ‘Lord of Death.’ But, it is not really a correct kind of translation. In Buddhism, its real meaning is that enlightenment can happen only when ignorance ends.
It signals the end of ignorance and the beginning of light. For example, tomorrow can happen when today ends. One can’t have today and tomorrow together on the same day! Today happened because yesterday has ended.
Similary, this life has happened because the past life has ended. And the next life will happen as soon as this life comes to an end. One can’t have this life as well as the past life, together. And that defines the very meaning and essence of Yama.
The death of ignorance is the manifestation of primordial wisdom itself, but it is not a true event. The end of yesterday and the beginning of today too is not a true event. Where do you draw the fine line? Is that the Greenwich meantime, 12 O'clock, that you know? Which one is the end of yesterday and the beginning of today? It depends where you are, of course. If you are in the Greenwich meantime area, then yes, that is the end of yesterday and the beginning of tomorrow. But you can’t really pinpoint because it would be a split moment, and that split moment nobody can comprehend; we can only talk about it.
That is the way transformation takes place: Yesterday has transformed into today, the past life has transformed into this life. It is exactly like that that ignorance transforms into wisdom.
So, one has to understand the real and the deeper definition of Yama, in that sense. The literary meaning of Yama is quite scary, though. But actually, there is nothing like that. Our ignorance is our Lord of Death!
(Edited extracts from the author's book 'Nectar of Dharma: The Sacred Advice- Volume –II)