The Numerous Mudras of Buddha – Where to Place Them and the Purpose Behind

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The Numerous Mudras of Buddha – Where to Place Them and the Purpose Behind

 

For many centuries, Lord Buddha paintings and artefacts have brought in bliss, prosperity, and wealth.  Both Hindus and Buddhists believe in this. Feng Shui and Vastu say that paintings of Lord Buddha have the power to increase the flow of Chi and this in turn brings prosperity and good fortune.  Chi is the energy of life itself. One does not necessarily have to be a Buddhist to own a Buddhist painting. However, it’s good to follow these rules to ensure that you enjoy the flow of luck and prosperity. Peace, tranquillity, harmony and balance. Those are words often associated with the Buddhism, and thus the Buddha's likeness has become a popular presence in many homes as a centrepiece or accessory, even amongst non-believers. Buddhism has a range of different cultures and traditions on both a local and national level. But even though the style of Buddha statues might vary regionally, they can be recognised by their hand gestures, or mudras, which each convey a spiritual meaning.

The Key Do’s and Don’ts for Placing Buddha at your home

While sometimes controversial, in that Buddha’s likeness has been used in several items of merchandising which can be seen as disrespectful, most buyers seek to honour the founder of Buddhism and his teachings and beliefs by placing these statues in strategic locations around their home in order to spread positive energy and peace and tranquility. Now, before purchasing and placing a Buddha statue in the home, here are a couple of things to keep in mind. Some of these are general principles that involve good taste and avoiding disrespect. A few have to do with using Buddha statues to enhance the balance of chi, or energy, in the home using the science of Feng Shui.

Placing a Buddha statue in a part of the home that enjoys good energy already is the most auspicious choice. A beautiful vista or restful, uncluttered room has better chi than one confronted by jutting angles or noxious outdoor lights at night or loud street noise through a window. Views of electrical wires, large bridges, or looming high rise buildings could also be associated with disruptive chi and can undermine the effect of placing a Buddha in the room.

Never place a Buddha statue on the floor or near the soles of your shoes; this is not appropriate and may be disrespectful. Instead, use a table or altar to display the statue. It is a good idea to place a piece of red paper under the Buddha to add a symbol of luck to an altar placement. As an alternative, you can get a Buddha as a canvas art painting and hang it on the wall.

The Glowing Face Of The Buddha

It is also disrespectful to store a decorative Buddha figure in a safe or vault. It is acceptable to keep a Buddha on the shelf with closing doors, however. Also keep it away from messy or unkempt parts of the home, especially the bathroom.

Great locations for a Buddha figurine include the study or office reception desk, in your meditation garden, or where yoga is practiced. If a decorative Buddha figure is placed in a car, it should face forward. In the garden, the statue should face the home to bring abundance and prosperity. Indoors, keep the statue facing into the room unless it is facing the main entrance from another angle, to block negative energy and greet visitors. The material of the statue also matters in its placement. The compass directions east and west are associated with wood and metal, respectively. A wood statue in the metal area of the home or vice versa can cause a sense of discord.

The position of the Buddha’s hands is also significant. If the Buddha is seated with hands forming an oval, this symbolizes inward attention or meditation and can be placed in a Zen Garden facing east. If the Buddha holds one hand upward and one hand downward, this depicts a blessing of compassion and fearlessness. The blessing Buddha should be placed in an area that has weak chi or depleted energy. If the Buddha holds both hands in front of his heart with the index fingers touching the thumb, this represents the sharing of knowledge and would be well placed in a study or den. By touching his thumb with the ring finger, he attracts wealth and good fortune and thus should be placed in the southeast area of the home.

Outlined below are some preferred spaces for incorporating Buddha in your home –

1Buddha Statue at the Main Entrance

Buddha facing the front door at the entrance is considered to keep the negative energies out of home, Buddha is believed to have the power to nullify the negative impacts at the house. Therefore, the placement of the Buddha Statue at the entrance will make your home look beautiful and enhance positivity.


A Fine Namaste Buddha From Nepal - Tibetan Buddhist

2. Buddha Wall Painting in The Living Room

An energizing and vibrant Buddha wall canvas can bring excellent energy for your main entry or living room, as well as for the South (Fame) area of your home. According to Fengh Shui and Vastu, keeping paintings of Lord Buddha increase the flow of Chi and bring prosperity and great fortune.

Dhyani Buddha Ratnasambhava - Tibetan Buddhist (Brocadeless Thangka)

3. Placing Buddha Tea Light Holders

The Buddha statue with candles is excellent for all fire or earth element bagua areas of your home. So, feel free to place it in the South (Fame), Center (Heart) or Northeast (Personal Growth and Spiritual Cultivation) areas of your home. Light the candles at night and enjoy the peace and tranquillity, you can place some light scented candles for a good night's sleep. Buddha help.


4.Garden Buddha - Create Calming Energy Outside Your Home

A Buddha sculpture is a beautiful and peaceful addition to any area of your garden, except for the North area. Can be absolutely stunning close to your front door (if it works with the overall look and energy of your house). You can light some tealight candles around it to give it an exclusive feel. You can choose any stone, preferably marble as its easy to clean and maintain.

Large Size Buddha in Abhaya and Vitark-Mudra

5. Buddha Lanterns: Reassuring and Calming Presence

The basic reason people buy the Buddha structure is to help yourself achieve your inner peace. The presence of Buddha helps remember, understand and practice Buddha's teachings and the best way is to decorate your home with Buddha Lanterns, they are easy to hang around and can be placed both indoors and outdoors.

6. Buddha Diffusers: Calming Energy for Your Home - Diffusers in the shape of Buddha is also an affordable way of incorporating Buddha into your space.

Black Marble Lord Buddha Head | Handmade in Jaipur

The Sacred Mudras – Gestures Signifying Non-verbal Mode of Communication and Self-expression

In 624 BC, Siddhartha Gautama was born into a royal family in today’s Nepal. He was smart and intelligent despite which his parents decided to keep him away from worldly sufferings and ordained him to a life of boundless luxuries and happiness and got him married at the age of 16. But destiny had different plans for him.

When he was 29, he stepped out of the palace walls and was immediately hit by the harsh realities of life and the sufferings of the common man. Disturbed and shaken with this discovery, he decided to renounce his royal life and left behind his kingdom and wife to live the rest of his life seeking answers to existential questions.

Large Superfine Tibetan Buddhist Robed in Polka Dots

Despite several teachings and interactions, he was not satisfied and it was then, after 6 years of renouncement that he sat under a Bodhi tree near the Neeranjana river to practice penance. In this state of calmness, he received the answers he was looking for and realized that life is a continuous cycle of ups and downs and that one who is born is bound to die and one who dies takes birth again. After his enlightenment, he set out to spread his wisdom far and wide. He opted several methods to preach of which Mudras played a very prominent role. Mudras are essentially hand gestures that convey a message or indicate a purpose. To date, these Mudras are used by Yogis and Buddhist monks in their meditation practices. The list here is not exhaustive.

The Earth Witness Mudra

When Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, was meditating under the Bodhi tree, he was assailed by the demon Mara, who tried to disturb his mind. Mara represents the passions that trap and delude us. Siddhartha refused to be tempted from the path to enlightenment and he called on the earth to witness his worthiness to become enlightened, saying, “The earth shall be my witness, I will not let myself be seduced.” In the Earth Witness Mudra, (also known as the Bhumisparsa Mudra or Gesture of Witness), the historical Buddha is seated in the meditation posture and touches the earth with the fingertips of his right hand, palm facing inwards. The left hand is placed in the lap with the palm facing upwards.

Large Superfine Cosmic Flower Haloed Bhumisparsha Buddha

The Mudra of Meditation

The Mudra of Meditation (dhyana) is made by placing both hands on the lap, right hand on the left, with the palms facing upwards, the tips of the thumbs touching, and the fingers fully stretched. This mudra helps to calm the mind for meditation and is used for deep contemplation and reflection. The mudra of meditation is a characteristic gesture of the Buddha Shakyamuni.

Large Tibetan Buddha Teaching of Dharma

The Namaskara or Anjali Mudra

This mudra, while not found in representations of the Buddha or other deities, is commonly used by nuns, monks, and lay people to symbolize devotion, prayer, and admiration. Called the Namaskara Mudra or the Anjali Mudra, it is used as a common form of greeting in most Asian countries. Anjali is a Sanskrit word which means “salutation” or “to offer” and Namaskar is Hindi for “good day”. To make this mudra, you bring your palms together in front of your heart space, fingers pointing upwards, and thumbs close to the chest, to symbolize honor, respect, and devotion.

Lord Buddha in Namaskara Mudra - Thousand Buddha Wall

Mudra of Holding the Jewel or Manidhara Mudra

The Mudra of Holding the Jewel looks very similar to the Namaskara Mudra or the Anjali Mudra shown above. Also called the Manidhara Mudra, it is made by holding one’s hands together in front but with the palms and fingers slightly arched, holding the precious, wish-fulfilling jewel. This jewel or gem is also depicted in Tibetan prayer flags, carried upon the back of the Lung Ta or wind horse. This sacred hand gesture of holding the jewel is a mudra of Avalokiteshvara, a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. The Tibetan word for Avalokiteshvara is Chenrezig. The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Chenrezig,

Lord Buddha in Dhyana Mudra (Robes Decorated with Lotus Flowers)

The Mandala Offering Mudra

The Mandala Offering Mudra is a complex and sacred hand gesture that acts as a symbolic offering of the entire universe for the benefit of all sentient beings. Performing the Mandala Offering Mudra helps to reduce one’s attachment and to purify the clinging mind. Although this mudra is usually made together with prayers and Buddhist chants, non-Buddhists can also perform it to receive its spiritual benefits.

To make this complex mudra, sit in meditation pose with your back straight. Calm your breathing and visualize offering the mandala – the universe – to the Buddha, bodhisattvas, and all holy beings, giving with great joy and with purity of heart. Place your hands palms up and intertwine your fingers. With the tips of your thumbs, press down on the tips of the opposite little finger. Then, with the bent tips of your index fingers, press down on the tip of the opposite middle finger. Finally, take your ring fingers, unclasp them, and put them back-to-back, pressing the backs together and with both fingers going straight up through the centre. Together the ring fingers symbolize Mt. Meru, the sacred mountain, and the four continents described in Buddhist cosmology.

Vitarka Mudra or Teaching Mudra

The Vitarka Mudra (the Mudra of Teaching or Discussion) is a common mudra representing the discussion and transmission of Buddhist teachings. It is formed by joining the tips of the thumb and index finger together to form a circle, keeping the other three fingers pointing straight up. The circle formed by the joined fingers symbolizes perfection with no beginning or end.

Tibetan Buddhist Deity Buddha in Vitark Mudra

This mudra is usually made with one hand, most often the right one, with the hand held upward close to the chest and the palm facing outward. However, the mudra may also be made with both hands held in front of the chest, with each index finger and thumb joined in a circle. When two hands are used, the left palm faces inward and the right palm is turned outward. The Teaching Mudra represents the Buddha’s first teaching after becoming enlightened. It also symbolizes the “Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma” or Dharmachakra. There are a great number of variations of this mudra in Mahayana Buddhism. In Tibetan Buddhism, it is the mystic gesture of Taras and bodhisattvas. In a detailed form of a thangka print, White Tara is depicted as holding an utpala flower in her raised left hand. The tips of her thumb and fourth or ring finger are touching. This is a gesture of good fortune and shows that, by relying upon her, one may accomplish complete purity of mind and body.

Karana Mudra

The Karana gesture has its index finger and little finger pointing straight upwards, while the other fingers fold into the palm. The Karana Buddha can be depicted both seated and standing. The meaning of this gesture is to ward off evil and to get rid of demons and negative energy. A mudra is a symbolic hand gesture and finger posture that acts as a non-verbal mode of communication and self-expression. The mudra helps to evoke symbolic meanings of the specific mudra used to the mind. We can observe these mudras used in various forms of traditional and folk,dances, yoga and meditation, sculptures, etc.

Besides, Buddhist arts also depict the mudra as they are regarded as the general guidelines of the spiritual gestures portrayed and taught by the Buddha. Additionally, when Buddhist followers practice meditation while confronting Buddha Statue, the mudra maintained as that of Buddha statue helps to evoke symbolic representations of that mudra to the mind. This will help to achieve what they are seeking for.

Tibetan Buddhist Deity Standing Buddha

Among various mudra, Karana mudra is the sacred Buddhist mudra that focuses on removal of obstacles and fear. It refers to a symbolic protection gesture to keep away from evil and other negative influences. It helps to eradicate all negative emotions like anxiety, fear, depression, etc. and foster positive emotions like happiness and contentment. Hence, Karana mudra is also known as the "gesture for warding off evil." Buddha statue portraying Karana mudra often depicted in seated posture. While the right hand portrays karana mudra, the left hand gently rests on the lap with the palm facing upward. In some statues, the left hand is raised slightly up towards the belly region.

Generosity Mudra or Varada Mudra

The Varada Mudra is the gesture of generosity, charity, and compassion. It is commonly found in representations of the Green and White Tara. This sacred hand gesture represents the granting of blessings, wishes, or even pardon. It also symbolizes the “gift of truth” – the precious gift of the dharma or Buddhist teachings. In the Varada Mudra, the palm faces out and hangs down, usually touching the right leg.

Tibetan Buddhist Goddess White Tara in Varada-Mudra (Boon-Granting Gesture)

This mudra is often used in conjunction with another mudra. The five fingers represent the five perfections: generosity, morality, patience, diligence, and meditation. In a Detail of a thangka print, White Tara is showing the outward facing palm and downward hand of the Varada Mudra or Mudra of Generosity.

Mudra of Fearlessness or Abhaya Mudra

Abhaya in Sanskrit means fearlessness. The Mudra of Fearlessness or the Abhaya Mudra symbolizes the dispelling of fear. It can look to Westerners like the common hand gesture for “stop”. The mudra is made by raising the right hand to shoulder height, with the arm bent and the palm facing outward. This mudra is more commonly depicted in standing images.

Large Size Buddha in the Abhaya Mudra

This very ancient hand gesture is also a sign of peace and friendship. Placing one’s hand up and open in this way indicates that one is free of weapons and comes in peace. In Buddhism, the mudra shows the fearlessness and therefore the spiritual power of the Buddha or bodhisattva who makes it.

Uttarabodhi Mudra

It is said that the historical Buddha made this sacred hand gesture immediately after gaining enlightenment. At a later time, the Buddha was about to be attacked by a mad elephant. The poor animal had been fed alcohol and tortured by one who hoped to use the elephant as a weapon against the Buddha. The elephant, enraged and in pain, charged at the Buddha and his followers. While others ran away, the Buddha stood calmly, raising his hand in the gesture of fearlessness. He felt great love and compassion for the stricken elephant. In response, the elephant stopped in its charge, became calm, and then approached the Buddha and bowed its head.  “Uttarabodhi” is a composite Sanskrit term, where, “Uttara” refers to “upwards” and “Bodhi” refers to the “closer to awakening”. Hence, Uttarabodhi Mudra means a gesture of moving energy upward to reach a higher state of awakened intellect i.e., enlightenment.

Symbolic and Mythological Characteristics

Uttarabodhi mudra is practiced as a spiritual practice to develop a sense of unity within oneself. It helps to form a connection with divine supreme power with ultimate enlightenment, hence the name. Besides all these, this mudra shares its roots with Buddhism. It is often seen in the images of Vairochana, one of the five Transcendent Buddhas of Vajrayana Buddhism.

Tibetan Buddhism: with its Mystic Cults, Symbolism and Mythology

The specialty of Uttarabodhi mudra is the Buddhist belief behind this practice. It states that “there is nothing wrong or frightening in the world and you need not fear anything other than God, who will take care of everything in the long run.” Hence, Uttarabodhi mudra has a great significance in Buddhism. Due to the involvement of all the fingers, it stimulates all the five elements and majorly targets achieving happiness and energy. Uttarabodhi mudra is also sometimes referred to as “best-perfection” mudra. Sit comfortably in padmasana. Close your eyes and hold your hands near the navel. Interlock the fingers of both the hands together keeping the thumbs and forefingers extended. Point the tips of extended forefingers upward while the thumbs downward. You can also keep the left thumbs crossed over the right. Now once hands are positioned into Uttarabodhi Mudra, start moving hands from the diaphragm and rise upward through the central channel to reach the heart. This upward ascent of this mudra creates an energy circuit that brings forth depth and richness.

Uttarabodhi Mudra with yoga poses

Practice Uttarabodhi mudra while performing Warrior poses I, II, and III. This combination represents strength, empowerment, and directs energy forward to other beings respectively. Meditating holding this mudra helps to promote spirituality by enriching a deeper relationship with the divine. You can also hold this mudra while performing Anjaneyasana. It is best to combine Uttarabodhi mudra with standing backbends to feel energized, rejuvenated, and recharged. It is important to understand how does this hand gesture uplifts the energy levels. This is so because Uttarabodhi mudra strengthens the Metal element. According to Chinese philosophy 3, the Metal element is associated with the lungs and large intestine. Also, it affects the nervous system and is related to energetic impulses. The metal element allows the Universal force chi or prana to enter from outside to the inside of the body. It replenishes the internal energy reserves of the body.

Chakras and Panchatattva

·    All five fingers are involved in holding Uttarabodhi mudra. These correspond to the following elements and energy chakras to benefits accordingly:

·    Thumb – The tips of both thumbs are joined at the tips or they are overlapped together. It stimulates the fire element which corresponds to solar plexus chakra (Manipura).

·    Index finger – The index fingers are extended upwards are joined at the tips stimulating the air. It governs the heart (Anahata) chakra.

·    Middle finger – It represents the sky (ether) and stimulates the throat chakra (Vishudda).

·    Ring finger – It is for the Earth element that stimulates root chakra (Muladhara).

·    Little finger – This represents water influencing the sacral chakra (Svadhisthana).

In this way, all the energy chakras are balanced and synchronized holding Uttarabodhi mudra. Hence, it promotes the energy levels within the practitioner.

There are various Benefits of Uttarabodhi Mudra. Some are outlined below:

1. Calms the mind – This mudra is known to provide soothing effects on excited nerves. It enables the practitioner to face overwhelming situations with calmness.

2. Boosts confidence – Holding hands in Uttarabodhi mudra stimulates the Manipura chakra. Its activation evokes self-confidence, enables decision-making skills. It also helps in getting rid of insecurities.

3. Inculcates fearlessness – This hand gestures also activates the root (Muladhara) chakra. This helps in overcoming fears and facing challenges. The issues like stage fright or fear of public speaking can be easily resolved.

4. Enhances energy levels – The breathing pattern while holding Uttarabodhi mudra fortifies the inhalation. It gets revived within the lungs and heart region, thus making the respiratory and circulatory systems efficient.

Therefore, by enhancing the flow of prana within the body, Uttarbodhi mudra also enhances energy levels.

5. Promotes optimism – This mudra also protects the body and mind from negativity. Any physical or psychological stress can be easily drained when uttarbodhi mudra practiced consistently. Thus, it brings clarity of mind and improves concentration power.

When dealing with a difficult task or feeling nervous, practicing Uttarabodhi mudra calms the nervous system and promotes positivity in mind.

6. Spiritual benefits – Meditating with Uttara bodhi mudra develops an ultimate sense of completeness within oneself. Therefore, it serves as a gateway to attain supreme enlightenment and connection with the divine.

Conclusion

The physical attributes and posture of each Buddha statue define its meaning and purpose. These statues teach, enlighten, share wisdom, and transport you to a meditative state through their hand gestures or mudras. Common positions include standing, sitting, reclining, and some walking representations of the Buddha too.

Most of the statues of Buddha depict him in a sitting position while he teaches and meditates. A standing idol indicates he is rising to teach on attaining nirvana, while the walking Buddha depicts his journey towards enlightenment. The reclining pose marks the final stage of Buddha's earthly existence.

References and Further Readings

‘How to Read Buddhist Art’ by Kurt A. Behrendt.

‘Paths to Perfection: Buddhist Art’ at the Freer by Debra Diamond.

‘The Art of Awakening: A User's Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Art and Practice’ by Konchog Lhadrepa.

‘The Face of the Buddha’ by William Empson.

‘Tibetan Studies: Impressions of Bhutan and Tibetan art’ by Hildegard Diemberger, Katia Buffetrille, and Toni Huber.

 

 

 

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