Lord Buddha and His Mudras:
Siddhartha Gautama, born into the Shakya clan in Lumbini (modern day Nepal) was brought up secluded from the real world in a palace until he was twenty years old. This was so because when he was born, great things were prophesized for him that he shall either rule as a powerful king or become an influential spiritual leader.
Fate has strange ways of working out, and the very isolation of his early years led him to seek out the suffering of others when he did enter the real world.
One day, he ventured outside the boundaries of the palace and was quickly faced with the harsh realities of life. Every encounter caused him to ask more questions about the nature of life and suffering. Thus, he renounced his worldly duties and took the path of spiritualism for enlightenment.
After many attempts leading to disappointment, one fateful night, he sat under the Bodhi tree meditating. It is said that it is on this night that Guatama attained spiritual enlightenment and all the answers he was seeking came clear to him.
He was quick to take the path of spreading wisdom and thus came to be known as Gautama Buddha, the enlightened one and a spiritual guide around whose teachings the religion of Buddhism is based.
What are Mudras?
Mudras are essentially symbolic hand gestures which carry a message and deeper meaning. They are said to evoke ideologies or instincts in mind and body.
The Buddha frequently used Mudras in his teachings to send across a message or to evoke a certain feeling in his disciples. Even today, Mudras or hand gestures are common elements of meditative practice.
There are many prominent Mudras of which these four are commonly used in the practice of meditation and by yogis as well.
Abhaya Mudra gets its name from the Sanskrit word meaning “fearlessness”. This mudra, as depicted in the following metal sculpture, is done by raising the right hand to shoulder length with the arm bent and palm facing outward.
This symbolises being free of weapons and unarmed thus making a peace treaty and an offer of friendship. It is said that when Lord Buddha was attacked by an angry elephant charging towards him, he made this gesture, which quickly calmed the animal down.
Dhyana Mudra symbolises meditation and concentration. This sandstone sculpture depicts the Dhyana Mudra as being done by placing the right palm on the left with both palms wide open. The two thumbs are raised up touching each other, thus forming a triangle. This triangle is said to represent the Triranta (three jewels) of Buddhism, namely Lord Buddha, Sangha and Dharma. It also represents the circular flow of life.
Again, one very widely used Mudra is the one shown in this Marble sculpture of Lord Buddha. It is called the Bhumisparshi which literally means “touching the Earth”. This is done because Lord Buddha requests Mother Earth to stand witness to his enlightenment.
It is done by placing the left hand on the lap with the palm facing upwards and right on the knee with palm facing downwards and fingers touching the ground. It also shows the flow of energy from the ground to our body, as the tips of fingers are said to be very powerful receptors of vibrations and energies.
The Mudra represented in this wood sculpture is called the Jnana Mudra or the gesture of wisdom and knowledge. To perform this mudra, the palms need to be facing outward with the thumb and index finger touching each other.
The index finger forms a circle while the thumb points straight. The remaining three fingers are straight. The thumb represents supreme reality while the index finger represents the soul. Joining them conveys that our soul is attached or interlinked with the supreme universe. The three fingers stand symbolic to the three gunas, namely Rajas or passion, Sattva or purity and Tamas or confusion.
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