Mudras and Meaning

Posted by Cora Wen Friday, December 4, 2009

A mudrā Sanskrit: मुद्रा, lit. "seal", is a symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism. A mudrā is a spiritual and energetic seal in the spiritual practice of East Asian religions. Some mudrās involve the entire body, but most are shown with hands and fingers.

Some important mudras are:

Dhyani Mudra Gesture of Meditation

Vitarka Mudra Gesture of Teaching

Dharmachakra Mudra Turning the Wheel of Dhamma

Bhumisparsha Mudra Gesture of Touching Earth - Enlightenment

Abhaya Mudra Gesture of Fearlessness/Protection

Varada Mudra Gesture of Granting Wishes

Uttarabodhi Mudra Gesture of Supreme Enlightenment

Anjali Mudra Gesture of Greeting and Veneration

Vajrapradama Mudra Gesture of Unshakable Confidence

Maha Mudra Gesture of Supreme Wisdom

Dhyani Mudra

In this mudra, back of right hand rests in palm of other with tips of thumbs lightly touching. The hands rest in lap. The right hand, resting on top, symbolizes state of enlightenment; the other below, the world of appearance. This gesture expresses overcoming the world of appearance through enlightenment, as well as the enlightened mind where samsara and nirvana are one.

In a special form of this mudra, middle, ring, and little fingers of both hand

s lie on top of one another ande the thumbs and index fingers of each hand, touching each other, form a circle, which symbolizes the world of appearance and true nature of reality.

Vitarka Mudra

Right hand up, left down; both palms turned out. The thumb and index finger of each hand form a circle. Right hand is shoulder level, left hand is hip level. A variant is left hand rests palm up in lap, and right hand raised to shoulder level with thumb and index finger forming circle. Another form is with index finger and little fingers of both hands fully extended, middle and ring fingers curved in. The left hand points up, right points down.

Dharmachakra Mudra

The left palm is turned in (toward the body), right out, and circles formed by thumbs and index fingers of each hand touch.

Bhumisparsha Mudra

Left hand rests palm up in lap; right hand, hanging over knee, palm in, points down to earth. Sometimes left hand holds a begging bowl. This is the gesture Buddha summoned Earth as witness to realization of buddhahood. It is a gesture of unshakability; Akshobhya (the Unshakable) is depicted with this mudra.

Abhaya Mudra

Right hand is raised to shoulder height with fingers extended and palm turned out. This is gesture of Buddha Shakyamuni immediately after attaining enlightenment.

Varada Mudra

Right hand, palm facing out, is down. When Shakyamuni is depicted with this mudra, it symbolizes summoning Heaven as witness to buddhahood. In a variant, thumb and index finger of down extended hand touch. Frequently abhaya and varada mudras are combined: right hand makes gesture of fearlessness, left of wish granting.

Uttarabodhi Mudra

Both hands are held at level of chest, two raised index fingers touch, remaining fingers are crossed and folded down;thumbs touch at tips or crossed and folded.

Mudra of Supreme Wisdom

Right index finger is grasped by five fingers of left hand. This mudra represents the realization of unity in the manifold as embodied in Buddha.

Anjali Mudra

Palms held together at level of chest. This is customary gesture of greeting in many Asian countries. Used as a mudra, it expresses "suchness" (tahata).

Vajrapradama Mudra

Fingertips of hands are crossed. This is gesture of unshakable confidence.


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