Buddha Hand Gestures or Mudras and Meanings
Buddha hand gestures or mudras and their meaning
Buddhas are often depicted in paintings, sculptures and Indian dances with certain postures associated with hand gestures called mudras. A mudra is a symbolic hand or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism which represent a period in the life of the historical Buddha.
There are hundreds of mudras, and in time, only a few are represented in Buddhist art. What do these hand gestures mean?
Here are some buddha sculptures that I own which were placed in certain locations of the house based on the meaning of the hand gestures and the positive energy each one gave me.
All Photos were taken by yours truly (Bakerwoman). All rights reserved.
Vitarka Mudra - Mudra of discussion and intellectual argument
In the Vitarka Mudra, the thumb and the index finger touch to form a circle which symbolizes the constant flow of energy and information. The circle, having neither a beginning or end, is the symbol of perfection, resembling the Law of Buddha which is eternal and perfect.
The Vitarka Mudra is formed when the right hand is raised to shoulder level and the left hand sits upon the lap with the palm facing upwards.
This is my favorite hardcarved teak buddha which sits on a teak foyer sideboard in the entryway. The serene countenance, the gentle folds of the robe, and the beautiful overall carving of the hands in Vitarka Mudra pose give this buddha a commanding presence. Although the best feng shui placement for this is in a home office or library, I like the positive feeling this buddha brings as one enters the house.
A Vitarka Mudra buddha carved out of sandalwood sitting on a lotus flower
Dhyana Mudra or Yoga Mudra
Gesture of meditation or concentration
The Dhyana Mudra hand gesture is common to seated buddhas found in Asian décor, paintings, statues and garden fountains. In this mudra, the back of the right hand rests on top of the left palm with the thumbs lightly touching each other. The right hand, being on top, represents enlightenment and the other, the world of appearance. Thus, this gesture symbolizes overcoming the world of appearance through an enlightened state of mind. This was the state the spiritual leader, Gautama Buddha was found under the bodhi tree, when the armies of Mara attacked him and he called the Earth to witness his enlightenment and defeated the demons.
Meditating or Yoga room - A place to decompress and be enlightened with the calming energy of the meditating Buddha
The meditating buddha in the Dhyana Mudra gesture sits on top a wooden ice chest which could easily pass for an outdoor altar. To create a sense of serenity and a place to get away from it all, roll-up bamboo blinds were lowered in this covered porch. This is where I can read a favorite book at my leisure, sip a glass of Chardonnay or a cup of tea to relax, or just lay back in the lounge chairs and listen to the birds chirping and the gurgling of the fountain.
The Great Buddha of Kamakura - Amitabha Buddha - In the Dhyani Mudra meditative pose
This is a very small version of the Great Buddha of Kamakura (Daibatsu in Japanese) in Japan which I brought home as a souvenir. The Daibatsu was cast inside a temple in 1252 A.D. in Nara but a huge tsunami washed away the wooden structure in the 15th century and the Great Buddha has sat outdoors on the grounds of Kotukuin every since. I was fortunate enough to have been inside the cavernous bronze Great Buddha which is the most impressive Buddha monument in Japan today.
The Amitabha Buddha's mudra is two circles formed by his two hands: the index, middle and ring fingers touch while the thumbs and little fingers do not. This is mudra called "Jobon-josho-in (uppermost grade of the highest rank)" is considered the highest.
Gesture of compassion and wish-granting
In the Varada Mudra, the open right hand is held palm outward, fingers pointing down. It represents open-handed generosity and granting of wishes.
The Varada Mudra could be switched to the left hand when combined with the Abhaya Mudra (right hand) commonly depicted in standing buddhas. The Varada Mudra is associated with the dhyani buddha Ratnasambhava and used extensively in the statues of East Asia.
Gesture of fearlessness and granting protection
This is a standing Thai buddha with the Abhaya hand pose aptly located in the entryway of my home. The right hand is raised (as if to say "Stop thief"), with the palm facing outwards, joined fingers extended upwards.
This was the gesture that Buddha Shakyamuni used to appease a drunken elephant immediately after his enlightenment. The Abhaya Mudra hand gesture asserts power and confers the absence of fear on others. The dhyani buddha Amoghasiddhi is often depicted with the abhaya mudra.
The Abhaya mudra is oftened accompanied with the Varada mudra (gesture of dispensing favors, charity, sincerity, welcome) as shown with the left hand. Standing buddhas are often depicted with this posture.
Gesture of taking the Earth as witness
Bhumisparsa mudra means "gesture of touching the earth". This was the gesture of Gautama Buddha when he summoned the Earth to witness his enlightenment and his worthiness as a Buddha at Bodh Gaya as he thwarted the temptations of the demon Mara.
The left hand (in a Dhyana Mudra pose) rests with the palm upwards on the lap and the right hand hangs over the knee, all fingers extended, with the palm inward pointing to the earth and fingertips touching the ground.
The Bhumisparsa mudra is associated with the dhyani buddha Akshobhya as well as with the historical buddha, sitting in a lotus position, sometimes with a begging bowl on the left hand.
Dharmachakra mudra symbolizes the Wheel of Dharma - continuous energy of the cosmic order - Associated with Buddha's first sermon or teaching
This Buddha poses in the gesture of teaching (Dharmachakra mudra) with both hands in front of the breast and the heart with the tips of the index fingers and the thumbs touching forming circles. It symbolizes the teaching about the continuous energy of the cosmic order as coming from/through the heart.
Karana Mudra - Gesture of warding off evil
Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy and compassion sits on the moon in an attitude of deep serenity. Her left hand is in the Karana Mudra gesture (warding off negative energy, sickness and banishing evil), while the right hand cradles a fruit with the nectar of compassion.
In the Karana Mudra, the thumb holds down the middle two fingers, while the index and little finger extend upwards like the ears of a rabbit or the horns of an yak against an enemy.
The best Feng Shui placement for the Kwan Yin with the Karana Mudra is in our solarium with large windows facing two streets. The solarium is the problematic area of the house which need strong clearing of negative energy according the the Feng Shui Bagua. There are a lot of teenagers parking their cars outside and hanging out till late at night.
Kwan Yin, Quan Yin or Guanyin is the Bodhisattva of Compassion, hearing the cries of the world, blessing all with spiritual peace, healing and compassion. In Buddhism, a Bodhisattva is an enlightened being.
Anjali mudra or Namaskara mudra - Gesture of greeting, adoration and respect
The palms of the hands are placed against each other at chest level with the right thumb placed over the left in a gesture of universal prayer and homage. The sacred hand position is often used in Yoga as it is an excellent way to induce a meditative state of awareness. The Anjali Mudra are also often seen in the armed Kannon in Japan. Kannon is the Japanese name for Kuan Yin, the goddess fo mercy.
Buddhas no longer are depicted with the praying hands because they do not have to show devotion to anything.
Understanding left and hand mudra gestures
- Explanation of Buddhist Mudras
M u d r â s Buddhas and Bodisattvas and frequently other deities are shown with their hands forming a number of different ritualized and stylized poses (Mudrâs). They may be holding different objects as well within these poses. Each by itself and in
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Yoga for the hands - for health, spiritual, and mental benefits - Excellent tool for a beginner - a practical book that works
You don't have to go to the gym or be a contortionist to do these Yoga hand gestures. Mudras or hand gestures can be done anywhere, while standing, sitting, lying in bed, in the office, kitchen, or in a bus or car. Make the index finger and your thumb touch and this clears the mind. Switch the thumb and the little pinkie finger and this restores the body's fluid balance. How much easier can this get?
Each of the fingers, starting with the thumb, is identified with one of the five elements, namely the sky, wind, fire, water, and the earth. Their contact with each other symbolizes the synthesis of these elements.