Buddha Mudras, Gestures and Postures

A mudra is a gesture made by the hand and fingers to symbolize the teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism. Buddha mudras are gestures of their spirits that call the deities during worship or during moments when they meditate.

Buddha Mudras demonstrate that the non-verbal form of communication is often more effective than the spoken one. The hand and fingers of Buddha images or even meditating monks are posed to symbolize a lot of things including divine powers and manifestation.

These hand positions or Buddha mudras are mostly seen in sculptures and paintings of the Buddha in countries like China, Korea, Japan, India, and Tibet. These finger postures are believed to invoke the deities.

Buddha Mudras give meanings to the five fingers as well. Each finger, starting from the thumb, represents elements that surround us: sky, wind, fire, water, and earth. Humans can appeal to the deities by using any combination of finger poses.

These days, mudras are also illustrated in dance movements. The art of symbolical gestures has made Indian Classical dances more potent and enduring.

1. Vitarka Mudra – Intellectual Arguments

This gesture signifies appeasement during debates or arguments. The Buddha’s tips of the thumb and index finger are touching so that it forms a circle. The rest of the fingers point up. A variation of this gesture is having the middle finger and thumb touch to symbolize compassion. In addition, good fortune could be called by letting the tip of the thumb touch the ring finger.

2. Dharmachakra Mudra – Preach and Teach

Dharmachakra Mudra Dharmachakra Mudra Vairochana Buddha Statue This Buddha Mudra refers to the moment after Buddha was enlightened and started preaching his first sermon. It depicts the motion of the Dharmachakra, which is Sanskrit for the Wheel of Dharma. Dharma refers to a virtuous path.

Both hands have the thumb touching the index fingers to form a circle. This represents the Wheel of Dharma and refers to the union of wisdom with method or system.

On the right hand, the three other fingers that point upwards represent the three vehicles of the teachings of Buddha: the hearers (middle finger), the solitary realizers (ring finger), and the Mahayana or great vehicle (little finger).

The left-hand fingers that upward signify the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Both hands are placed in front of the heart to show that the teachings came straight from the Buddha’s heart.

3. Bhumisparsha Mudra – Witness the Enlightenment

Bhumisparsha Mudra Bhumisparsha Mudra Buddha Statue Bhumisparsha Mudra Bhumisparsha Mudra Shakyamuni Buddha Statue This is the Buddha Mudra known as the “earth witness.” All five fingers of the right hand are extended to touch the ground and are rested on the knee. This symbolizes the enlightenment of Buddha under the Bodhi tree when he called upon the earth goddess, Sthavara.

4. Varada Mudra – Compassion for others

Varada Mudra Varada Mudra Standing Buddha Statue Bhumisparsha Mudra Bhumisparsha Mudra Standing Buddha Statue Made with the left hand with the arm hanging at the side. The palm is open and faces forward with the fingers extended. These fingers are symbols of generosity, morality, patience, effort, and meditative concentration.

5. Dhyana Mudra – Meditation and Concentration

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Dhyana Mudra Dhyana Mudra Buddha Meditation Statue Dhyana Mudra Dhyana Mudra Meditation Buddha Statue This Buddha Mudra can be made with either one or both hands. Using a single hand, the left hand is placed on the lap and right could be elsewhere. Ritual objects can be placed on the open left palm. If using both hands, the hands are placed at the stomach level resting on the thighs. The right hand should be on the left hand, palms face up and fingers extended. This is used during meditation.

6. Abhaya Mudra – Protection and Security

Abhaya Mudra Abhaya Mudra Buddha Blessing Statue Abhaya Mudra Abhaya Mudra Blessing Buddha Statue Abhaya is Sanskrit for fearless. This Buddha Mudra symbolizes peace, protection, and security. The right hand is raised to shoulder level with elbow bent. Palm faces forward and fingers are closed together pointing upward. The left-hand lies on the side.

7. Uttarabodhi Mudra – Best and Perfection

Uttarabodhi Mudra Uttarabodhi Mudra Buddha Blessing Statue In Uttarabodhi Mudra both hands are held at the level of the chest, the two raised index fingers touch one another, the remaining fingers are crossed and folded down.; the thumbs touch each other at the tips or are also crossed and folded. This mudra is frequently seen in images of Vairochana.

8. Vajra Mudra – Mudra of Supreme Wisdom

Vajra Mudra Vajra Mudra Buddha Vairochana Statue Vajra Mudra Vajra Mudra Vairochana Buddha Statue The right index finger is grasped by the five fingers of the left hand. This mudra, characteristic of Vairochana, is the subject of many interpretations in esoteric Buddhism, most which have to do with the relationship between the empirical world of manifoldness and the principle that is its basis-the unified world principle, the realization of unity in the manifold as embodied in Buddha.

9. Anjali Mudra

Anjali Mudra Anjali Mudra Kharchheri Tara Statuetue Anjali Mudra Anjali Mudra Buddha Statuette In Anjali Mudra, the palms are held together at the level of the chest. This is the customary gesture of greeting in India. Used as a mudra, it expresses “suchness” (tahata).

10. Vajrapradama Mudra

Vajrapradama Mudra Vajrapradama Mudra Buddha Maitreya Statue Vajrapradama Mudra Vajrapradama Mudra Maitreya Buddha Statue The fingertips of the hands are crossed. This is the gesture of unshakable confidence.

About sadiksha

Namaste! I am a Nepali Art Dealer specialized in Mandala and Thangka paintings. I love to write articles about the monastic culture of the Himalayas. If you like this post or have any question please leave me a comment or use the contact page to reach me.

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