10 Buddha Mudras and What They Symbolise in Buddhism

Buddha mudras and their symbolism
Source: canva

There are hundreds of Buddha statues and any of them can be differentiated by simply observing the hand gestures of Buddha. These hand gestures are known as Buddha Mudras.

Every single buddha mudra symbolizes a major moment in the Buddha’s life and hence has a great significance in Buddhism.

These Buddha Mudras can be used in meditation to evoke that particular state of mind in which Buddha became enlightened and preached the knowledge to his disciples.

1. Vitarka Mudra – Hand Gesture of Teaching

vitaraka mudra
Source: canva

This mudra symbolises the transmission of Buddha’s teachings, wisdom, and principles that he acquired after reaching the self-realization state.

Vitarka mudra usually performed by lifting the right hand at chest level and making a circle with the tip of thumb and index. This circle made is called “wheel of teaching” represents Unity which has neither a beginning nor an end. It’s the infinite source of knowledge.

Transmission of Buddha’s teaching through this hand gesture shows; Words are not always a single means to interaction or discussion.

Transformed teaching propagates invisibly to the disciple, enlightening a bulb of brainpower. This creates a ripple of energy waves that activate the consciousness at a subtle level. As this mudra depicts the relation of teacher and student, it’s also known as Vyakhyana Mudra which means “Gesture of instruction or command”.

2. Bhumisparsha Mudra – Gesture of Earth Witnessing

bhumisparsha mudra
Source: canva

Bhumisparsha is a Sanskrit term that means ‘touching earth’. Usually, the earth is touched as a witness of a pledge. Buddha made this gesture to witness enlightenment. There’s a story that goes behind this;

When Buddha was sitting in meditation under the bodhi tree, he was deluded by a demon named mara. Therefore, to continue his practice, Buddha performed Bhumisparsha Mudra and request mother earth (Sthavara) to witness his celibacy toward enlightenment.

In Buddha statue, Bhumisparsha Mudra is depicted in such a way that left hand placed on the lap and right-hand fingers touching the earth while palm facing inwards.

This mudra leads to the realization of non-self (Buddhism) 1 by the unification of nirvana and samsara. Realization or attainment of the higher state is called Nirvana (Mukti or Moksha in Hinduism) and liberating one from the cycle of birth and death called Samsara.

3. Dharmachakra Mudra – Gesture of Dharma

Dharmachakra Mudra
Source: Shutterstock

Dharmachakra means ”wheel of Dharma”. This hand gesture is performed by the buddha while delivering his first religious teaching after attaining enlightenment.

This mudra illustrates the cosmic arrangement of Buddha’s teaching, which has a history of setting a wheel of Dharma into motion at Sarnath 2.

Dharmachakra mudra is easy to perform. Every placement and position of fingers and hand reflects a certain meaning. Likewise, the left and right hand signifies the insight or awareness of the outer and inner world.

The three stretched finger represents Buddha, Dharma, Sanga called three jewels in Buddhism 3. The wheel formed by index and thumb finger shows the association of method and wisdom in the metaphysical context.

4. Varada Mudra – Gesture of Blessing

varada mudra
Buddha hands in Varada mudra. Source: burmese-art

Verada hand mudra is a symbolism of Buddha’s compassion and his blessing. It is also called a wish-granting mudra among the disciples seeking spiritual blessing from the enlightened guru.

This mudra is performed with left arm facing down the palm presented with the fingers upright or slightly bent. The five fingers facing down represents generosity, morality, patience, effort, meditative concentration. These five qualities plant a seed of forgiveness and groundedness in the practitioner’s heart.

Buddha statue is usually seen holding Verada mudra with another mudra called Abhaya mudra (gesture of fearlessness). it brings holy vibes in mind when performed during meditation.

5. Abhaya Mudra – Gesture of Fearlessness

abhaya mudra
Source: canva

Abhaya Mudra is a hand gesture that represents protection, benevolence, and fearlessness. It’s a variation of Gyan mudra right hand is lifted to the chest level and slightly raised outward, palm facing forward. Left-arm is hanging downward while facing the sky beside the body.

Why Buddha adopted this mudra, there’s story goes this;

Due to jealousy, Devdatta, Buddha’s cousin once wanted to kill him. He left a rampaging element over the Buddha while he was wandering. Towards which Buddha performed Abhaya Mudra, seeing Buddha in the Mudra elephant came stopped and calmed down before the Buddha.

It is believed that Abhaya mudra dispels fear before it approaches near acquiring one.

Abhaya mudra spread peace, love, and friendship. It is said that ancient people used to perform this mudra while meeting or greeting strangers. This shows the unarmed being approaching each other for the welfare of each other or humankind.

6. Dhyana Mudra – Gesture of Meditation

dhyan mudra
Source: canva

Seated meditating Buddha in Dhyan Mudra is the most common picture of Buddha. It is said that Buddha used to practice this mudra before the enlightenment.

Holding hands in this mudra in a meditation session dwells a practitioner into the deep state of supremacy and harmony.

In Dhyan mudra, the right hand is placed over the left hand and both hands in this position rest upon the lap. In some other forms, the tips of both thumbs joined together to form a triangle like structure. It’s called a mystic triangle. The esoteric groups keep various interpretations regarding this triangle. One of the obvious is the identification of mystic fire, burning all the impurities.

Shakyamuni and Amitabha Buddha are the representation of Dhyana Mudra. This mudra is used to heal physical illness. It also purifies negative karma while mantra recitation of Medicine or Bhaisajyaguru Buddha 4.

7. Anjali Mudra – Gesture of Salutation

anjali mudra buddha
Source: canva

Anjali mudra is a gesture of greeting people with immense respect and welcoming approach.

This mudra is often practiced as a homage to the buddha by the bodhisattva on the path followed by buddha. However, enlightened Buddhas no longer practice this mudra. According to them, being with the divine energy there’s no urge to show affection toward others as all become unified or single entities.

This can be done by folding hand near the chest or Anahata chakra, where both hands signify the two aspects of the universe, “The material world” and “The spiritual world”.

8. Karana Mudra – Gesture of Banishing

karana mudra
Source: canva

Karana Mudra represents the deflection of the negative energy or ward off the evil that comes in your path to truth.

This mudra can be done by bringing hands at the chest level. Folding the ring and middle finger inward and touch them on the tip of the thumb while palm facing outward.

By just a glance of this mudra made us feel protected. This mudra eradicates the evil before it reaches near you. Fingers placement concerned withe this mudra stimulates the energy at a subtle level that invigors the body aura with a divine wrapping that overcomes the obstacles with the potential to harm our liberation.

9. Uttarbodhi Mudra – Gesture of Self-Realization

Uttarbodhi Mudra
Source: flickr/Hanse Coloursmay

Uttarbodhi mudra lifts a practitioner to the state where the union of self to the supreme happens. To perform it, Join hand at the level of the heart region. Intertwined fingers except for the index and stretch the thumb downward.

Practicing this mudra leads to enlightenment as Buddha.

The finding of self is the continuous process of clearing and filtering the illusion of worldly or materialistic mindset.

Practitioner realises the self through meditating in this mudra on this thought.

Uttarbodhi Mudra provides an insight with which a practitioner take him/her out of the various mental level due to which they are suffering since a long time. It also helps in confidence and evoking the inner spirit, respectively.

10. Vajra Mudra – Gesture of Fiery Thunderbolt

vajra mudra
Source: canva

Vajra Mudra is a gesture that expresses the unification of all belief in Buddhism, as per Tantrism. Vajra represents a Thunderbolt (the destroyer of negative and ignorance). Encircling the right-hand fingers around the left index finger forms the Vajra Mudra.

There are various interpretations attached to this gesture in this way. The five fingers represent the five elements air, water, space, fire, and earth encircling the man or body (left index finger). Another one is the left index finger represents the knowledge and the fingers wrapping, here signify worldly illusion.

This mudra is concerned with the Vairochana Buddha or the celestial buddha that illuminates one’s insight towards the world. This also leads to a spiritual journey.

If you like these Buddha Mudras feel free to comment here.

References

  1. Anatta https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatta
  2. Sarnath – Where the Wheel of Dharma Was Set in Motion https://theurgetowander.com/2014/04/18/sarnath-travel/
  3. Three jewels https://thebuddhistcentre.com/text/three-jewels
  4. Bhaisajyaguru (Medicine Buddha) Mantra https://www.wildmind.org/mantras/figures/bhaishajyaguru-medicine-buddha-mantra

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