Buddhist Mudras

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Buddhas and Bodisattvas and frequently other deities are shown with their hands forming a number of different ritualized and stylized poses (Mudrs). They may be holding different objects as well within these poses. Each by itself and in combination with others have specific meanings. Some of the more common ones are depicted

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<ul><li> MUDRA Amudraisabodilypostureorsymbolicgesture.In HinduandBuddhisticonographyeveryBuddhais depictedwithacharacteristicgestureofthehands.Such gesturescorrespondtonaturalgestures(ofteaching, protecting,andsoon)andalsotocertainaspectsofthe BuddhistteachingoroftheparticularBuddhadepicted. Theoriginsofthewordmudraareuncertainasisthe preciseevolutionofitsmeaning.Ataveryearlyperiod inthepost-VedicliteratureofIndiathetermmudra designatedtheideaofasealortheimprintleftbya seal.Somewhatlaterusagetakesonthemeaningof wayofholdingthefingers,designatingveryprecisely aritualgesture.ThePaliwordformudra,muddika, derivesfrommudda,meaningauthority.Thereisthusa developinginter-relationshipinthesemeaningsofa gestureenhancingandauthenticatingthespokenword withmysticandmagicalvalues.Thegestureisasign,a ritualseal;sealimpliesauthenticity.AsBuddhism spreadtoChinaafurtherusageofthetermcameto identifymudrasasmarksofidentifyofthedeitybeing personified. WORLDRELIGIONSCOMPARED Thesymbolichandgesturescalledmudrasareoftwo WORLDRELIGIONSCLIPART generaltypes.First,themostancientformofmudras, datingfrompre-Buddhisttimes,arethosepresented withthepurposeassignssymbolicofthemetaphysical WORLDRELIGIONSHOME aspectofEsotericceremonies.Mudrasusedinthissense areofsignificantimportanceintheritesofTibetan BUDDHISTSYMBOLS Tantrism,ChineseChen-yenandJapaneseShingon Buddhism.This,ofcourse,iswithinthelargercontextof HINDUSYMBOLS TantricmeditationwheretheThreeMysteries,orthe forcesofthespirit,speech,andthebodyaredirectedat theoneandonlygoal:enlightenment. Mudras,alongwithasanas(reflectingthebody),mandalas(reflectingthespirit)andmantras (reflectingspeech)allprovideexpedientmeansinachievingenlightenment.Apartfrom acknowledgingthisimportantaspectoftheritualisticuseofmudrasincertainschoolsof BuddhismandtheimportanceofTantrismincontributingtotheexpandeduseofmudras,our attentionisinsteaddirectedtotheothergeneraltypeofmudra,thepurelyiconographic,as representedinBuddhist/Hindusculptureandpainting. TheuseofthemudrasisquitecommonintheHinduPoojas,Tantricworships,Yogaandalsoin ClassicalIndiandances.InHinduiconography,thedeitiesareoftendepictedwiththeirhands makingvariousmudras- likethetwingesturesofdispellingfearsandgrantingboons.Various deitieshaveseveralspecificmudraswhichareassociatedwiththem.Theyareusedbythe practitionerforvariouspurposes- likeactivatingthevariousnervecenters,toconveyafeelingor toappeaseadeityetc. Somethingtokeepinmind,inNatyaSastra(classicaldance)andinYogaalsothereareseveral similarlynamedmudraswhichareattimesquitedifferentfromthePoojamudras.Forexample theYonimudrausedinYogaistotallydifferentfromtheYonimudrausedinPooja. Eachfingerrepresentsoneofthefiveelementsthethumbisagni(fire),theforefingerisvayu (air),themiddlefingerisakash(ether),theringfingerisprithvi(earth)andthelittlefingerisjal (water). Therearetwotypesofmudras,single-handanddouble-hand.Thesingle-handedmudrasnumber 28andarecalledAasanyukta.Thereare23double-handedmudrascalledSawyakta. ABHAYA(ABHAYAPRADA):Gestureoffearlessnessandgranting protection. TheAbhaya,orfearlessnessgestureisoneofthemostcommonly depictedmudras,representingbenevolenceandtheabsenceoffear.The </li> <li> gestureconfersontoothersthesamefreedomfromfear,sothismudra canalsobeinterpretedtomeanfearnot.Thegestureismadewiththe righthandraisedtoshoulderheight,withthearmbentandthepalm facingoutward.ABuddhistlegendtellsofwhenthehistoricalBuddhawas beingattackedbyanangryelephant,hesimplyhelduphishandinthe fearlessnessgestureandcalmedtheraginganimal. ADHARA:Perinealmudra. AHAMKARA:Self-confidence. Self-confidenceandself-assertion.Forcounteractingfearandtimidity. Bendindexfingersslightlyandputtheupperphalanxofthethumbtothe sideofthemiddlephalanxoftheindexfinger,attheupperpart.Other fingersarestraight. AHAYAVARADA:Beckoningtobestowafavor. AKASH(AAKASH/AKASHI):Skyposture. Theskyhasanattribute- recessorspace.Anotherattributeissound. Soundisregardedastheeternalspirit.Soundtravelsinwaves,whichare scatteredinthesky.Bycatchingthesoundwaves,weareabletohear theseonradio.Astheskyprovidesspaceoutside,soistheskyspreads inside.Thelackorexcessofelementsintheskyoutsideleadsto imbalance.Thethirdattributeoftheskyisvacuumornothingness.Thisis theattributethatfillsthesky.Theskycanbefilledonlywhenithas nothing.Howcanalreadyfilledskybefilled?Theyogahelpspractice meditationintheinnerspace.Emotionsgetpurifiedwhenone concentratesintheheart.Themiddlefingerandtheheartare interrelated. Thumbandmiddlefingerarejoined.Index,ring,andpinkyfingersare extended.Mana(head)mudra.Manamudrasformanintegralpartof kundaliniyogabecausetheyutilizeeyes,ears,nose,tongueandlips. ALAPADMA(ALAPADMA):OpenedLotus. AasanyuktaSingle Hand AMALAKA:AmalakaTree. TheSamyamaNayakahand,i.e.,theforefingerandthesecondfinger togetherinthemiddleofthepalm,therestofthehandextended. ANGARAKHA:Mars. LefthandShuchi,righthandMushthi. ANJALI(GASSHO/HRIDAYA/NAMASKARA):Gestureofgreeting andadoration,veneration,honororcelebration,thediamondhandclasp. Thegestureoftwopalmspressedtogetherandheldneartheheart, meansto"honororcelebrate".ItisourHindugreeting,twojoinedas one,thebringingtogetherofmatterandspirit,theselfmeetingtheselfin </li> <li> all.Thismudraisreservedforprayingfigures,whichoftenaccompanya statueoftheBuddhaintheartofIndiaorSouthEastAsia.TheAnjaliis madewithtwohandsjoinedverticallyinfrontofthechest,asinthe attitudeofprayer.Thismudraevokesanofferingofgoodfeelingsofone towardsanother.Thismudracanalsoindicatevenerationifitismadeat theleveloftheface.Hasta(hand),meditativemudra.Redirectsthe pranaemittedbyhandsbackintobody.SawyaktaDouble Hand UniversallyusedbypeopleinIndiaandSouth-EastAsiaforsalutation,it evokesanofferingofgoodfeelings,ofonesperson,etc.andalso indicatesvenerationifitismadeattheleveloftheface. ANJALYMUDRA: Bothhandsareheldabovethehead,theheelsofthepalmsaretouching, thefingersandthumbsspreadoutwardandupward.Frequentlyanobject isheld,e.g.animageofAmitabhaisheldbyatantricformof Avalokiteshvarawiththismudra. ANKUSHA(ANKUSA): TheAnkushamudraisthemudraofthegoadorcurvedsword,which symbolizesproddingseekersontowardstheirultimategoal,orcutting downtheiniquitiesoftheego. ANUSHASAN:Disciplineposture. Disciplineisthevitalelementofmeditation.Withoutdiscipline,meditation isnotsuccessful.Thepractitionercanmaintaindisciplinethroughhisown discretion.HemustremainunderthedisciplineoftheGuru(teacher),so longashiswisdomdoesnotbecomeawakenedandheisnotenlightened. Keeptheindexfingerstraight.Jointheremainingthreefingerswiththe thumb. APANA(APAN): Givesenergyandmakesonemoreself-confident.Thetipofthesecond andthethirdfingersshouldbeslightlypressedagainsttheinnerpartof thetipofthethumbasshown.Theothertwofingersshouldbekept straight.Improvestheexcretorysystembycleaningthewastefromthe body,curesconstipationandstomachachescausedduetowhich. APANMUDRA(APAAN):Flatusposture. Relaxation,heart,physicalandmental.Helpsinclearingthebodyby eliminationofwastematterfromthemouth,eyes,ears,noseetc.Helps whenurineisobstructed,reducesconstipation.Thetipofthethumbis touchedtothemiddleandringfinger. APANVAYU(MRITSANJEEVINI): Firstaidforheartattacks.Thetipoftheindexfingershouldbepressed slightlyagainsttherootofthethumbandsecondandthethirdfinger shouldtouchtheinnertipofthethumb.Curespalpitationoftheheart, strengthenstheheartandisgoodforheartpatients. APAVIDHDHA:Osprey. THeSuchihandrelaxed. ARAALAM(ARALA/ARELE):Bentorcrookedhand. DevaVayurighthand.AasanyuktaSingle Hand </li> <li> DevaHand ARALA-KATAKAMUKHA:Givingpiecesofbetelleaf. ARDHACHANDRA(ARDHACANDRA):Halfmoon. DevaSaraswatislefthand.BothhandsofDevaParvati,leftup,right down(abhayaandvarada,fearnotandcharity). AasanyuktaSingle Hand DevaHand ARDHAPATAKA:Halfflag. DevaVayulefthand. AasanyuktaSingle Hand DevaHand ARDHARECHITA:Invitation. ARDHASUCHI:half-needle. ARJUNA:ArjunaTree. Simhamukhahand. ASHOKA:AshTree. Patakahandscrossed,i.e.,touchingatthewristsandmovingfreelyto andfro. ASHWINI(ASHWANI/ASHWATER):Mule. Nagabandhahandsdirectedupwardindicatingcow-ear.Contractionof analsphincter. ASVATHTHA:PipalTree. Alapadmahandswavingthefingers. AVAHANA(AVAHANI): TheAvahanimudraisthemudraofinvitation.Itisusedtoinvokethe deityintothepresenceoftheworshiper. AVAHITTA(AVAHITHA):Dissimulation.DoubleHandGesture </li> <li> AVAKASHA:Gestureofleisure,thisisalefthandgesture. Thesittingpersonisholdingtheirlefthandontheirlapwithpalmupward. BALARAMA: TenAvatars LefthandMushthi,righthandPataka. BANAHASTA:Arrow. BARA: BANDHANANA(BANDHA/BAKU):Innerbinding,heartand compassionofBuddha. Handgestureformedbyclaspingbothhandstogetherwiththefingers interlocking.Whenthefingersareinterlockedontheoutside,itiscalled gebaku(lit."outerbind"),whilewhentheyareinterlockedontheinside, itiscallednaibaku(lit."innerbind").Naibakuconstitutesinnerbinding andrepresentsthevowofthemanyBuddhatohelpallsentientbeings. Gebakurepresentsonesvowtobecomeenlightened.Italsosymbolizes theheart,andcompassion,oftheBuddha. BHAILUKA:Bear. LefthandPadmakoshafacedownward,righthandPatakaplacedonthe backofthelefthand. BHAIRAVI: Hasta(hand),meditativemudra.Redirectsthepranaemittedbyhands backintobody. BHARTRI:Husband. BHARTUR-BHRATRI:Brother-in-law. BRAHMANA: DenotesCaste Shikharawithbothhandsasifholdingthesacredthread,therighthand movingtoandfro. BHERUNDAHASTA:Apairofbirds.SawyaktaDouble Hand BHOOCHARI: Practiceoftheexternalstageofdharana;gazingintospaceafterfocusing onthefingernailofthehandheldinfrontoftheface.Mana(head) mudra.Manamudrasformanintegralpartofkundaliniyogabecausethey utilizeeyes,ears,nose,tongueandlips. BHRAMARA(BRAHMARA):Bee. Goodforallergies.Placetheindexfingerinthefoldofthethumbandthe tipofthethumbonthesideofthemiddelfingernail.Theringandlittle </li> <li> fingerarerelaxedandextended.Dothiswitheachhand.AasanyuktaSingle Hand BHUDI(BHUDDI/BHUDY/BHUDDY/BUDDHI): Improvesfeelingandintuitionandhelpsmaintainthefluidbalanceinthe body.Tipoflittlefinger(Mercury)touchestipofthumbforclearand intuitivecommunication.Harmonizing. BHUJANGINI: Mana(head)mudra.Manamudrasformanintegralpartofkundaliniyoga becausetheyutilizeeyes,ears,nose,tongueandlips. BHUMISPARSHA(BUMISPARA):Gestureoftouchingtheearth,calling theearthtowitness. LiterallyBhumisparshatranslatesintotouchingtheearth.Thegestureof "touchingtheearth"orasitisalsoreferredto,theearthwitness"mudra commemoratesthepostureinwhichShakyamuniovercamethe obstructionsofthedemonMarawhilemeditatingonTruth.Thismudra, formedwithallfivefingersoftherighth...</li></ul>