No War - Mudra of Laos - Legacy of War

Posted by Cora Wen Friday, December 4, 2009

The Abhaya mudrā ("mudrā of no-fear")

In Sanskrit Abhaya means fearlessness, and the abhaya mudra symbolises protection, peace, and the dispelling of fear.

The gesture is ancient, demonstrating that the hand is empty of weapons, indicating friendship and peace. The gesture implies fearlessness before a potential enemy.

In Buddhism, it is a symbol of the fearlessness and spiritual power of the one who makes it. According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha made this gesture after enlightenment. When the Buddha was attacked by an angry elephant, he held up his hand in the Abhaya mudrā and immediately calmed it.

It is usually made with the right hand raised to shoulder height, the arm bent and the palm facing outward with the fingers upright and joined and the left hand hanging down while standing. When the right hand is in the abhaya mudra, the left hand usually makes the varada mudra (gift-giving gesture). In Japan, Abhaya mudrā is with the middle finger slightly forward, a symbol of Shingon sect. (Japanese: Semui-in; Chinese: Shiwuwei Yin)

In Laos, the mudrā is shown with both hands making a double Abhaya mudrā that is translated as "No War". The abhaya mudra on a (standing) walking Buddha is called 'the Buddha placing his footprint' and is unique to this region.

In a region that has suffered colonialism, civil war and the largest bombing mission throughout the American-Vietnam war, this is a particularly poignant symbol.

The US dropped two million tons and 580,000 bombing missions - the equivalent of a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years in a secret bombing campaign from 1964-1973.

The bombing was an effort to destroy North Vietnamese supply lines and fend off the North Vietnamese Army. The Ravens, U.S. pilots in Laos, flew 1.5 times the number of air sorties flown in all of Vietnam.

Each cluster bomb scattered several hundred tennis-ball-sized bomblets (known as bombies in Laos) over 5000-sq-meter areas. About 260 million cluster bomblets fell over Laos with close to 53 million bomblets dropped within one kilometer of villages.

Up to 30% of the bomblets did not detonate on impact, leaving an estimated 86 million unexploded cluster bomblets buried in fields, roads, forests, rivers and villages. Laos continues to have the largest unexploded landmines and bombs of any nation.

Perhaps we can remember this reminder of how important it is to promote Peace on the planet.

...No War, Protection, Fearlessness, Benevolence to all beings...

Upajjhatthana Sutta - Five Daily Remberances

Kammassakomhi kammadāyādo kammayoni kammabandhū kammapaṭisaraṇo yaṃ kammaṃ karissāmi kalyāṇaṃ vā pāpakaṃ vā tassa dāyādo bhavissāmī...

I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related to my actions, abide supported by my actions. For whatever actions I do, for good or for ill, of these I shall be the heir.


  1. Beautiful article. I'm learning so much from your writing and photos.


    Bob Weisenberg

  2. Anonymous Says:
  3. This is soo interesting..thank you for sharing all this...!!


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