1. name of certain non-human beings, as spirits, ogres, dryads, ghosts spooks. Their usual epithet and category of being is amanussa, i.e. not a human being (but not a sublime god either); a being half deified and of great power as regards influencing people (partly helping, partly hurting). They range in appearance immediately above the Petas; many “successful” or happy Petas are in fact Yakkhas (see also below). They correspond to our “genii” or fairies of the fairy-tales and show all their qualities. In many respects they correspond to the Vedic Piśācas, though different in many others and of diff. origin. Historically they are remnants of an ancient demonology and of considerable folkloristic interest, as in them old animistic beliefs are incorporated and as they represent creatures of the wilds and forests, some of them based on ethnological features See on term e.g. Dial. iii.188; on their history and identity Stede, Gespenstergeschichten des Peta Vatthu chap. v.; pp. 39–⁠44
    ■ They are sometimes called devatā: SN.i.205; or devaputtā: Pv-a.113, Pv-a.139. A female Yakkha is called yakkhinī (q.v.).

  2. Their usual capacity is one of kindness to men (cp. Ger. Rūbezahl). They are also interested in the spiritual welfare of those humans with whom they come into contact, and are something like “tutelary genii” or even “angels” (i.e. messengers from another world) who will save prospective sinners from doing evil (cp. Pv.iv.1). They also act as guides in the “inferno”: Pv.iv.11, cp. Pv.iv.3. A somewhat dangerous “Mentor” is represented at DN.i.95, where the y Vajirapāṇī threatens to slay Ambaṭṭha with an iron hammer, if he does not answer the Bhagavā. He is represented as hovering in the air; Bdhgh. (DN-a.i.264 says on this: na yo vā so vā yakkho, Sakko devarājā ti veditabbo: it is to be understood not as this or that y. but as Sakka the king of devas
    ■ Whole cities stand under the protection of, or are inhabited by yakkhas DN.ii.147 (ākiṇṇa-yakkha full of y.; thus Āḷakamandā may here mean all kinds of supra-mundane beings), cp Lankā (Ceylon) as inhabited by y.: Mhvs.7, Mhvs.33
    ■ Often however, they are cruel and dangerous. The female yakkhas seem on the whole more fearful and evil-natured than the male (see under yakkhinī). They eat flesh and blood: Ja.iv.549; devour even men: DN.ii.346; Ja.ii.15–Ja.ii.17, or corpses: Ja.i.265; mentioned under the 5 ādīnavā (dangers) at AN.iii.256. A yakkha wants to kill Sāriputta: Ud.4.

  3. Var. classes of y. are enumerated at DN.ii.256, DN.ii.257; in a progressive order they rank between manussa and gandhabba at AN.ii.38; they are mentioned with devas rakkhasas, dānavas, gandhabbas, kinnaras and mah’oragas at Ja.v.420. According to Vv-a.333 Sakka, the 4 great kings (lokapālā), the followers of Vessavaṇa (alias Yama, the yakkhas proper) and men (see below 7) go by the name of yakkha
    ■ Sakka, the king of the devas, is often named yakkha: Ja.iv.4; DN-a.i.264 Some are spirits of trees (rukkha-devatā): Ja.iii.309 Ja.iii.345; Pv.i.9; Pv.ii.9; Pv-a.5; are also called bhumma-devā (earthly deities) Pv-a.45, Pv-a.55. Their cult seems to originate primarily from the woods (thus in trees Pv.ii.9; Pv.iv.3), and secondarily from the legends of sea-faring merchants (cp. the story of the flying Dutchman). To the latter origin point the original descriptions of a Vimāna or fairy-palace, which is due to a sort of mirage. These are usually found in or at the sea, or in the neighbourhood of silent lakes, where the sense of hauntedness has given rise to the fear of demons or supernatural witchcraft. Cp. the entrances to a Vimāna by means of a dried-up river bed (Pv.i.9 Pv.ii.12) and the many descriptions of the Vimānas in the Lake-districts of the Himavant in Vv. (See Stede Peta Vatthu translation p. 104 sq.)

  4. Their names too give us a clue as to their origin and function. These are taken from

    1. their bodily appearance, which possesses many of the attributes of Petas, e.g. Khara “Rough-skin” or “Shaggy” Snp.p.48 (= khara-samphassaṃ cammaṃ Snp-a.302), also as Khara-loma “Rough-hair” Vism.208; Khara- dāṭhika “Rough-tooth” Ja.i.31. Citta “Speckled” Mhvs.9 Mhvs.22; Mhvs.10, Mhvs.4; also as Citta-rājā Ja.ii.372; Mhvs.10, Mhvs.84 Silesa-loma “Sticky-hair” Ja.i.273. Sūci-loma “Needlehair” Snp.p.47, Snp.p.48; SN.i.207; Vism.208; Snp-a.302
    2. places of inhabitance, attributes of their realm, animals and plants, e.g. Ajakalāpaka “Goat-bundle” Ud.1 Āḷavaka “Forest-dweller” Ja.iv.180; Ja.vi.329; Mhvs.30, Mhvs.84: Vism.208. Uppala “Lotus” Dhp-a.iv.209 Kakudha “K
      ■ tree” (Terminalia arjuna) SN.i.54 Kumbhīra “Crocodile” Ja.vi.272. Gumbiya either “One of a troop” (soldier of Yama) or “Thicket-er (fr. gumba thicket) Ja.iii.200, Ja.iii.201. Disāmukha “Sky-facer” Dhp-a.iv.209. Yamamoli “Yamachignon Dhp-a.iv.208. Vajira “Thunderbolt” Dhp-a.iv.209 alias Vajira-pāṇī DN.i.95, or Vajira-bāhu Dhp-a.iv.209 Sātāgira “Pleasant-mount” DN.ii.256; Snp.153; Ja.iv.314 Ja.vi.440. Serīsaka “Acacia-dweller” Vv-a.341 (the messenger of Vessavaṇa)
    3. qualities of character, e.g. Adhamma “Unrighteous” Mil.202 (formerly Devadatta). Katattha “Well-wisher” Dhp-a.iv.209 Dhamma “Righteous” Mil.202 (= Bodhisatta) Puṇṇaka “Full(-moon?)” Ja.vi.255 sq. (a leader of soldiers, nephew of Vessavaṇa). Māra the “Tempter Snp.449; SN.i.122; MN.i.338. Sakata “Waggon-load (of riches) Dhp-a.iv.209-
    4. embodiments of former persons, e.g. Janavasabha “Lord of men” DN.ii.205 Dīgha MN.i.210. Naradeva Ja.vi.383, Ja.vi.387. Paṇḍaka “Eunuch” Mhvs.12, Mhvs.21. Sīvaka SN.i.241 = Vin.ii.156 Serī “Self-willed” SN.i.57
      ■ Cp. the similar names of yakkhinīs.
  5. They stand in a close relationship to and under the authority of Vessavaṇa (Kuvera), one of the 4 lokapālas They are often the direct servants (messengers of Yama himself, the Lord of the Underworld (and the Peta-realm especially). Cp. DN.ii.257; DN.iii.194 sq. Ja.iv.492 (yakkhinī fetches water for Vessavaṇa), Ja.vi.255 sq. (Puṇṇaka, the nephew of V.); Vv-a.341 (Serīsaka, his messenger). In relation to Yama: dve yakkhā Yamassa dūtā Vv.52#2; cp. Np. Yamamolī Dhp-a.iv.208
    ■ In harmony with tradition they share the rôle of their master Kuvera as lord of riches (cp Pv.ii.9#22) and are the keepers (and liberal spenders) of underground riches, hidden treasures etc., with which they delight men: see e.g. the frame story to Pv.ii.11 (Pv-a.145), and to iv.12 (Pv-a.274). They enjoy every kind of splendour & enjoyment, hence their attribute; kāma-kāmin Pv.i.3#3. Hence they possess supernatural powers, can transfer themselves to any place with their palaces and work miracles; a frequent attribute of theirs is mah’ iddhika (Pv.ii.9#10; Ja.vi.118) Their appearance is splendid, as a result of former merit: cp. Pv.i.2; Pv.i.9; Pv.ii.11; Pv.iv.3#17. At the same time they are possessed of odd qualities (as result of former demerit); they are shy, and afraid of palmyra leaf & iron: Ja.iv.492; their eyes are red & do not wink Ja.v.34; Ja.vi.336, Ja.vi.337
    ■ Their abode is their self-created palace (Vimāna), which is anywhere in the air, or in trees etc. (see under vimāna). Sometimes we find a communion of yakkhas grouped in a town, e.g. Āḷakamandā DN.ii.147; Sirīsa-vatthu (in Ceylon) Mhvs.7 Mhvs.32.

  6. Their essential human character is evident also from their attitude towards the “Dhamma.” In this respect many of them are “fallen angels” and take up the word of the Buddha, thus being converted and able to rise to a higher sphere of existence in saṃsāra Cp. DN.iii.194, DN.iii.195; Ja.ii.17; Vv-a.333; Pv.ii.8#10 (where “yakkha” is explained by Dhpāla as “pet-attabhāvato cuto (so read for mato!) yakkho ataṃ jāto dev-attabhāvaṃ patto” Pv-a.110); Snp-a.301 (both Sūciloma Khara converted)
    ■ See in general also the foll passages: Snp.153, Snp.179, Snp.273, Snp.449; SN.i.206–SN.i.215; AN.i.160 Vism.366 (in simile); Mil.23.

  7. Exceptionally the term “yakkha” is used as a philosophical term denoting the “individual soul [cp. similar Vedic meaning “das lebendige Ding (B.R.) at several AV. passages]; hence probably the old phrase: ettāvatā yakkhassa suddhi (purification of heart) Snp.478, quoted Vv-a.333 (ettāvat’ aggaṃ no vadanti h’ eke yakkhassa sudhiṃ idha paṇḍitāse) Snp.875 (cp. Mnd.282: yakkha = satta, nara, puggala manussa).

-ānubhāva the potency of a yakkha Ja.i.240. -āviṭṭha possessed by a y. Ja.vi.586. -iddhi (yakkh˚) magic power of a y. Pv-a.117, Pv-a.241. -gaṇa the multitude of ys. Ja.vi.287. -gaha = following Dhp-a.iii.362. -gāha “yakkha-grip,” being seized by a y. SN.i.208; Pv-a.144 -ṭṭhāna the dwelling-place of a y. -dāsī “a female temple slave,” or perhaps “possessed by a demon (?) Ja.vi.501 (variant reading BB devatā-paviṭṭhā cp. p. Ja.vi.586 yakkh’ āviṭṭhā.) -nagara city of ys. Ja.ii.127 (= Sirīsavatthu); cp. pisāca-nagara. -pura id. Mhvs.7.32 -bhavana the realm or abode of the y. Mnd.448. -bhūta a yakkha-being, a ghost Pv.iii.5#2 (= pisāca-bhūta vā yakkha-bh. vā Pv-a.198); Pv.iv.1#35. -mahiddhi = ˚iddhi Pv.iv.1#54. -yoni the y
■ world, realm of the y. Snp-a.301 -samāgama meeting of the y. Pv-a.55 (where also devaputtā join). -sūkara a y. in the form of a pig Vb-a.494. -senā army of ys. DN.iii.194; Snp-a.209 -senāpati chief-commander of the yakkha-army Ja.iv.478; Snp-a.197.

Vedic yakṣa, quick ray of light, but also “ghost”; fr. yaks to move quickly; perhaps: swift creatures changing their abode quickly and at will
■ The customary (popular) etym. of Pali Commentators is y. as quâsi grd. of yaj, to sacrifice, thus: a being to whom a sacrifice (of expiation or propitiation) is given. See e.g. Vv-a.224: yajanti tattha baliṃ upaharantī ti yakkhā; or Vv-a.333: pūjanīya-bhavato yakkho ti vuccati
■ The term yakṣa as attendants of Kubera occurs already in the Upanishads.