Tamas, Tamāṣ, Tāmāṣ: 27 definitions


Tamas means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, Hindi, biology, Tamil. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

The Sanskrit terms Tamāṣ and Tāmāṣ can be transliterated into English as Tamas or Tamash, using the IAST transliteration scheme (?).

In Hinduism

Dharmashastra (religious law)

Source: Wisdom Library: Dharma-śāstra

Tamas (तमस्).—One of the three guṇas, representing the quality of ignorance. These three qualities are to be seen as all-pervading and interpenetrating all beings. The Sanskrit word tamas is a technical term used throughout Dharmaśāstra literature such as the Manusmṛti.

According to the Manusmṛti XII.29: “What is mixed with stupefaction, undiscernible, of the nature of sensual objects, incapable of being reasoned about and uncognisable,—one should recognise as ‘tamas’”.

According to the Manusmṛti XII.33: “Avarice, drowsiness, irresolution, cruelty, disbelief, bad character, habit of begging, and inattentiveness are the characteristics of the quality of ‘tamas’”.

According to the Manusmṛti XII.35: “When, having done, or doing, or going to do a certain act, a man happen to feel ashamed,—every such act should be understood by the learned to be characterised by the quality of ‘tamas’”.

Dharmashastra book cover
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Dharmashastra (धर्मशास्त्र, dharmaśāstra) contains the instructions (shastra) regarding religious conduct of livelihood (dharma), ceremonies, jurisprudence (study of law) and more. It is categorized as smriti, an important and authoritative selection of books dealing with the Hindu lifestyle.

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Samkhya (school of philosophy)

Source: Wisdom Library: Sāṃkhya philosophy

1) Tamas (तमस्, “indifference”).—In the Sāṃkhya school of philosophy, tamas (darkness) is one of the three guṇas (or qualities), the other two being rajas (passion and activity) and sattva (purity, goodness). Tamas is the template for inertia or resistance to action. It has also been translated from Sanskrit as “indifference”.

2) Tamas (तमस्, “dullness”) is the first type of viparyaya (ignorance), according to the Sāṃkhya theory of evolution. Viparyaya refers to a category of pratyayasarga (intellectual products), which represents the first of two types of sarga (products) that come into being during tattvapariṇāma (elemental manifestations), which in turn, evolve out of the two types of pariṇāma (change, modification).

Samkhya book cover
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Samkhya (सांख्य, Sāṃkhya) is a dualistic school of Hindu philosophy (astika) and is closeley related to the Yoga school. Samkhya philosophy accepts three pramanas (‘proofs’) only as valid means of gaining knowledge. Another important concept is their theory of evolution, revolving around prakriti (matter) and purusha (consciousness).

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Vyakarana (Sanskrit grammar)

Source: Shodhganga: Vaiyākaraṇabhūṣaṇasāra: a critical study

Tamas (तमस्).—One of the three elements constituting all objects. The other two are sattva and rajas and the state of evenness of the three elements is neuterness.

Vyakarana book cover
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Vyakarana (व्याकरण, vyākaraṇa) refers to Sanskrit grammar and represents one of the six additional sciences (vedanga) to be studied along with the Vedas. Vyakarana concerns itself with the rules of Sanskrit grammar and linguistic analysis in order to establish the correct context of words and sentences.

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Jyotisha (astronomy and astrology)

Source: Wisdom Library: Brihat Samhita by Varahamihira

Tamas (तमस्) refers to “primordial darkness (chaos)”, according to the Bṛhatsaṃhitā (chapter 1), an encyclopedic Sanskrit work written by Varāhamihira mainly focusing on the science of ancient Indian astronomy astronomy (Jyotiṣa).—Accordingly, “[...] There was darkness (chaos) [i.e., tamas] in the beginning. Then came water (into existence). On it (floated) a golden-coloured egg, the (divine) seed consisting of the Earth and the Firmament from which there arose Brahmā, the creative agent with the sun and moon for his eyes. Kapila says that the universe had its origin in pradhāna; Kaṇātha in dravya and the like; a few in kāla (time); others in Svabhāva (nature); and some in karma. [...]”.

Source: Wikibooks (hi): Sanskrit Technical Terms

Tamas (तमस्).—Section of Earth's shadow cone at the Moon's distance. Note: Tamas is a Sanskrit technical term used in ancient Indian sciences such as Astronomy, Mathematics and Geometry.

Jyotisha book cover
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Jyotisha (ज्योतिष, jyotiṣa or jyotish) refers to ‘astronomy’ or “Vedic astrology” and represents the fifth of the six Vedangas (additional sciences to be studied along with the Vedas). Jyotisha concerns itself with the study and prediction of the movements of celestial bodies, in order to calculate the auspicious time for rituals and ceremonies.

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Purana and Itihasa (epic history)

Source: archive.org: Puranic Encyclopedia

1) Tamas (तमस्).—A hell.

2) Tamas (तमस्).—One of the three qualities of the soul. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are the three qualities. It is through the union of these three qualities that the inner soul enters the life of all animate and inanimate objects. The attributes of Tamas are greed, sleep, bravery, cruelty disbelief in god, bad habits, begging and indifference. It is because of the action of tamoguṇa that one becomes a prey to lust. It is the worst result of tāmasic activities that people are born as inanimate objects, worms, insects, fishes, serpents, tortoises, cows and deer. As a better result of Tāmasic activities people are born as elephants, horses, Śūdras, barbarous people, lions, tigers and hogs. It is the good result of tāmasic deeds that produce pilgrims, good castes, egoistic people, demons and devils. (Chapter 2, Manusmṛti).

Source: archive.org: Shiva Purana - English Translation

Tamas (तमस्) refers to “darkness”, according to the Śivapurāṇa 2.1.15:—“[...] even as I [viz., Brahmā] stood desirous of creation, the Evil creation, viz. the set of five Illusions (avidyā) appeared before me. It was of the nature of darkness (tamas) endowed with knowledge. Then I created the chief creation (mukhyasarga) consisting of immobile beings with a delightful mind. At the bidding of Śiva, I continued my meditation in a detached spirit”.

Source: Shodhganga: The saurapurana - a critical study

Tamas (तमस्) refers to one of the five Avidyās, according to the 10th century Saurapurāṇa: one of the various Upapurāṇas depicting Śaivism.—When Brahmā meditates there is creation of five types of avidyā known as creation predominated by tamas (prādurbhūtaḥ tamomoyaḥ). This avidyā is spoken of as fivefold—tamas, moha, mahāmoha, tāmisra and andhatāmisra. After the creation of this five fold avidyā Brahmā again meditates as, a result of which the world of vegetation is produced. This is termed as mukhyasarga. It is the fourth in order (“mukhyā nagā iti proktā mukhya sargastu sa smṛtaḥ”).

Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Mīmāṃsā (school of philosophy)

Source: Shodhganga: A study of Nyāya-vaiśeṣika categories (mimamsa)

Tamas (तमस्, “darkness”).—According to Bhāṭṭa school of Mīmāṃsakas, tamas (darkness) is a dravya (substance). They opine that darkness has blue colour and movement. According to the definition of dravya, that which has quality and action is to be regarded as a dravya. Hence darkness is also a dravya, since it has the quality of blue colour and action. Moreover, tamas is not like any one of the five i.e., ākāśa, kāla, dik, ātmā and manas because of the absence of rūpa in them. It cannot be included in air as darkness does not possess touch and constant motion. Darkness cannot also be included in tejas because of the absence of bright colour and hot touch. It cannot come under water because of the absence of cold-touch. Similarly darkness is different from earth also, for earth has smell as its special quality and possesses the quality of touch. Both these are absent in darkness. Therefore, darkness (tamas) is to be accepted as the tenth substance (dravya).

Mimamsa book cover
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Mimamsa (मीमांसा, mīmāṃsā) refers to one of the six orthodox Hindu schools of philosophy, emphasizing the nature of dharma and the philosophy of language. The literature in this school is also known for its in-depth study of ritual actions and social duties.

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Nyaya (school of philosophy)

Source: Shodhganga: A study of Nyāya-vaiśeṣika categories

Tamas (तमस्, “darkness”).—Annaṃbhaṭṭa points out that darkness (tamas) cannot be the tenth substance. Darkness is only the negation of light. Annaṃbhaṭṭa argues that darkness cannot be regarded as a substance having colour. Though it is perceived by the eyes, it is perceived only when there is no light. But it is the general rule that in the visual perception of any substance having colour, light is a cause, while darkness is perceived only in the absence of light. There is no coexistence between darkness and light. Annaṃbhaṭṭa maintains that the experience as ‘Blue darkness moves’ is illusory. In his view, darkness is the absence of vivid and luminous light. Thus, tamas cannot be considered as a tenth substance and substance is only nine.

Nyaya book cover
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Nyaya (न्याय, nyaya) refers to a school of Hindu philosophy (astika), drawing its subject-matter from the Upanishads. The Nyaya philosophy is known for its theories on logic, methodology and epistemology, however, it is closely related with Vaisheshika in terms of metaphysics.

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Ayurveda (science of life)

Source: gurumukhi.ru: Ayurveda glossary of terms

Tamas (तमस्):—Delusion, ignorance : the property of mind, one of the three ‘qualities’ of primordial matter conceived as the fundamental substratum of the universe.

Ayurveda book cover
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Āyurveda (आयुर्वेद, ayurveda) is a branch of Indian science dealing with medicine, herbalism, taxology, anatomy, surgery, alchemy and related topics. Traditional practice of Āyurveda in ancient India dates back to at least the first millenium BC. Literature is commonly written in Sanskrit using various poetic metres.

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Shaktism (Shakta philosophy)

Source: Google Books: Manthanabhairavatantram

Tamas (तमस्) refers to the “fearsome ocean of darkness”, according to the Manthānabhairavatantra, a vast sprawling work that belongs to a corpus of Tantric texts concerned with the worship of the goddess Kubjikā.—Accordingly, as the Goddess says to the God:—“O god, when the moving and immobile (universe) was a void, there were (none of) the endless number of gods, heavenly musicians (gandharva), Yakṣas, Snake (divinities) or Rākṣasas, nor the moon, sun, planets, constellations, hermitages or the Ṛṣis. O god, I did not exist; neither did you. The host did not exist and there were no mountains and forests. In the (one) nondual, formless, and fearsome ocean of darkness (tamas), the Divine Command was impelled out of the Abode of the Supreme Goddess (parāsthāna), the Bliss of Stillness (nirānanda). [...]”.

Shaktism book cover
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Shakta (शाक्त, śākta) or Shaktism (śāktism) represents a tradition of Hinduism where the Goddess (Devi) is revered and worshipped. Shakta literature includes a range of scriptures, including various Agamas and Tantras, although its roots may be traced back to the Vedas.

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General definition (in Hinduism)

Source: WikiPedia: Hinduism

Tamas is commonly associated with inertia, darkness, insensitivity. Souls who are more tamasic are considered imbued in darkness and take the longest to reach liberation.

In Buddhism

Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

Source: academia.edu: A Study and Translation of the Gaganagañjaparipṛcchā

Tamas (तमस्) refers to “darkness”, according to the Gaganagañjaparipṛcchā: the eighth chapter of the Mahāsaṃnipāta (a collection of Mahāyāna Buddhist Sūtras).—Accordingly, after the exposition of the dharma, ‘A Chapter of the Collection of Dharma’ (dharmasaṃgraha), was taught: “[...] The following verses issued from the sound of musical instruments: ‘[...] (186) He, who is filled with sublime confidence, who is free from impurities (rajas) and darkness (tamas), purifying a hundred [previous] existences, leading gods and humans to the sphere without destruction, being endowed with ten powers and the sky-like mind, becomes free from existence. [...]’”.

Mahayana book cover
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Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

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In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Source: Encyclopedia of Jainism: Tattvartha Sutra 5: The category of the non-living

Tamas (तमस्, “darkness”) according to the 2nd-century Tattvārthasūtra 5.24.—“Sound (śabda), union (bandha), fineness (saukṣmya), grossness (sthaulya), shape (saṃsthāna), division (bheda), darkness (tamas or andhakāra), image (chāya or chāyā), warm light (sunshine) (ātapa) and cool light (moonlight) (udyota) also (are forms of matter)”.

What is the meaning of darkness (tamas or andhakāra)? It is the opposite of light or absence of light.

Source: The University of Sydney: A study of the Twelve Reflections

Tamas (तमस्) refers to “ignorance” or “mental darkness”, according to the 11th century Jñānārṇava, a treatise on Jain Yoga in roughly 2200 Sanskrit verses composed by Śubhacandra.—Accordingly, “[com.—Next he speaks about the removal of ignorance (tamonirākaraṇam) of yogis (yogināṃ)]—Those who know the self certainly destroy mental darkness (tamas), which is produced by the great quantity of ignorance [and] is a barrier to reality, with the sunbeams of knowledge. One who is restrained who is intent on stopping the influx of karma fearlessly drives away the discharge of the poison of non-restraint with the nectar waters of true restraint”.

Synonyms: Avidyā, Ajñāna, Vibhrama.

General definition book cover
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Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

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Biology (plants and animals)

Source: Google Books: CRC World Dictionary (Regional names)

Tamas in India is the name of a plant defined with Borassus flabellifer in various botanical sources. This page contains potential references in Ayurveda, modern medicine, and other folk traditions or local practices It has the synonym Lontarus domestica Gaertn., nom. superfl. (among others).

Example references for further research on medicinal uses or toxicity (see latin names for full list):

· Systema Vegetabilium. (1774)
· Taxon (1979)
· Webbia (1914)
· Palmiers (1878)
· Fl. Cochinch. (1790)
· Species Plantarum

If you are looking for specific details regarding Tamas, for example diet and recipes, extract dosage, health benefits, chemical composition, side effects, pregnancy safety, have a look at these references.

Biology book cover
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This sections includes definitions from the five kingdoms of living things: Animals, Plants, Fungi, Protists and Monera. It will include both the official binomial nomenclature (scientific names usually in Latin) as well as regional spellings and variants.

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Languages of India and abroad

Sanskrit dictionary

Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary

Tamas (तमस्).—n. [tam-asun]

1) Darkness; किं वाऽभविष्यदरुणस्तमसां विभेत्ता तं चेत्सहस्रकिरणो धुरि नाकरिष्यत् (kiṃ vā'bhaviṣyadaruṇastamasāṃ vibhettā taṃ cetsahasrakiraṇo dhuri nākariṣyat) Ś.7.4.; V.1.7; Meghadūta 39.

2) The gloom or darkness of hell; धर्मेण हि सहायेन तमस्तरति दुस्तरम् (dharmeṇa hi sahāyena tamastarati dustaram) Manusmṛti 4.242.

3) Mental darkness, ignorance, illusion, error, मुनिसुताप्रणयस्मृतिरोधिना मम च मुक्त- मिदं तमसा मनः (munisutāpraṇayasmṛtirodhinā mama ca mukta- midaṃ tamasā manaḥ) Ś.6.8.

4) (In Sāṅ. phil.) Darkness or ignorance, as one of the three qualities or constitutents of every thing in nature (the other two being sattva and rajas); अन्तर्गतमपास्तं मे रजसोऽपि परं तमः (antargatamapāstaṃ me rajaso'pi paraṃ tamaḥ) Kumārasambhava 6.6; Ms. 12.24.

5) Grief, sorrow; Bhāgavata 5.14.33.

6) Sin; Bhāgavata 1.15.5.

7) Stupefaction, swoon; तथा भिन्नतनु- त्राणः प्राविशद्विपुलं तमः (tathā bhinnatanu- trāṇaḥ prāviśadvipulaṃ tamaḥ) Rām.7.8.14.

8) Anger; Bhāg. 1.59.42. -m., -n. An epithet of Rāhu; तमश्चन्द्रमसीवेद- मुपरज्यावभासते (tamaścandramasīveda- muparajyāvabhāsate) Bhāgavata 4.29.7.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Shabda-Sagara Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Tamas (तमस्).—n.

(-maḥ) 1. Third of the qualities incident to the state of humanity, the Tama guna, or property of darkness, whence proceed folly, ignorance, mental blindness, worldly delusion, &c. 2. Darkness, gloom. 3. Sin. 4. Sorrow, grief. mn.

(-māḥ-maḥ) Rahu or the personified ascending node: see rāhu. E. tam to be disturbed, and asun Unadi affix; that property by which the mind is troubled, the world perplexed, &c.; also tamasa and tama.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Benfey Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Tamas (तमस्).—[tam + as], n. 1. Darkness, [Hitopadeśa] pr. 16. 2. The gloom of hell, [Mānavadharmaśāstra] 4, 242. 3. The name of a hell, Mārk. P. 12, 10. 4. = Rāhu, or the personified ascending node, [Rāmāyaṇa] 2, 63, 2. 5. One of the three guṇas, or qualities incident to creation, the property of darkness, whence proceed folly, ignorance, stupidity, worldly delusion, etc., [Mānavadharmaśāstra] 12, 24. Comp. Dīrgha-, m. The name of a Ṛṣi, Mahābhārata 2, 293.

— Cf. [Old High German.] demar; A. S. dim thystre; [Latin] tenebrae.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Cappeller Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Tamas (तमस्).—[neuter] darkness, gloom; mental darkness, illusion; error, ignorance (ph.).

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary

1) Tamas (तमस्):—[from tam] a n. darkness, gloom (also [plural]), [Ṛg-veda] (maḥ praṇīta, ‘led into darkness’, deprived of the eye’s light or sight,[ i, 117, 17]) etc.

2) [v.s. ...] the darkness of hell, hell or a particular division of hell, [Manu-smṛti iv, viii f.; Viṣṇu-purāṇa ii, 6, 4; Mārkaṇḍeya-purāṇa xii, 10]

3) [v.s. ...] the obscuration of the sun or moon in eclipses, attributed to Rāhu (also m., [cf. Lexicographers, esp. such as amarasiṃha, halāyudha, hemacandra, etc.]), [Rāmāyaṇa; Varāha-mihira’s Bṛhat-saṃhitā v, 44; Varāha-mihira’s Bṛhajjātaka ii; Varāha-mihira’s Yogayātrā; Sūryasiddhānta]

4) [v.s. ...] mental darkness, ignorance, illusion, error (in Sāṃkhya [philosophy] one of the 5 forms of a-vidyā, [Mahābhārata xiv, 1019; Sāṃkhyakārikā] etc.; one of the 3 qualities or constituents of everything in creation [the cause of heaviness, ignorance, illusion, lust, anger, pride, sorrow, dulness, and stolidity; sin, [cf. Lexicographers, esp. such as amarasiṃha, halāyudha, hemacandra, etc.]; sorrow, [Kirātārjunīya iii]; See guṇa and cf. [Religious Thought and Life in India p. 45]] [Manu-smṛti xii, 24 f. and 38; Sāṃkhyakārikā] etc.), [Ṛg-veda v.31, 9; Rāmāyaṇa ii; Śakuntalā; Rājataraṅgiṇī v, 144]

5) [v.s. ...] Name of a son (of Śravas, [Mahābhārata xiii, 2002]; of Dakṣa, [i [Scholiast or Commentator]]; of Pṛthu-śravas, [Viṣṇu-purāṇa iv, 12, 2])

6) [v.s. ...] cf. timira; [Latin] temere etc.

7) b sa, etc. See [column]1.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Yates Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Tamas (तमस्):—(maḥ) 5. n. Darkness; ignorance, folly, delusion, sin, sorrow. m. Rāhu, the ascending node.

Source: DDSA: Paia-sadda-mahannavo; a comprehensive Prakrit Hindi dictionary (S)

Tamas (तमस्) in the Sanskrit language is related to the Prakrit words: Tama, Tamasa, Tamuya.

[Sanskrit to German]

Tamas in German

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Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family (even English!). Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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Hindi dictionary

Source: DDSA: A practical Hindi-English dictionary

1) Tamas (तमस्):—(nm) the third of the three qualities incidental to creation or the state of humanity, viz. the quality of darkness or ignorance; darkness; ignorance.

2) Tamas in Hindi refers in English to:—(nm) see [tamoguna]..—tamas (तामस) is alternatively transliterated as Tāmasa.

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