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Mudras, which mean "seal," "mark," or "gesture" in Sanskrit, are claimed to heighten the results of our yoga or meditation practice and improve energy flow. But, how does it operate, and when should we utilize it?

Mudras have been around for thousands of years and can be found in a variety of religions and traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Egyptian hieroglyphics, Tantric rites, Roman art, Asian martial arts, Taoism, and Indian classical dance. Depending on the tradition, the goal of these hand motions can range from concentrating subtle energies to communicating teaching through symbols, acting as a tool for treating illness, and even assigning magical powers and psychic abilities to the practitioner! Mudras, on the other hand, are a type of nonverbal communication that can be described as an "external expression of inner resolve."

Mudras (In Symbols)

Bhumisparsa Mudra

When the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was meditating under the Bodhi tree, he was attacked by the demon Mara, who attempted to disrupt his concentration. Mara is a symbol of the passions that entrap and deceive us. "The earth shall be my testimony," Siddhartha said, refusing to be lured from the path to enlightenment. The historical Buddha is seated in meditation posture and touches the earth with the fingertips of his right hand, palm facing inwards, in the Earth Witness Mudra (also known as the Bhumisparsa Mudra or Gesture of Witness). The palm of the left hand is pointing upwards and is positioned in the lap.

Large Superfine Cosmic Flower Haloed Bhumisparsha Buddha

Dhyana Mudra

Place both hands on the lap, right hand on left, palms facing upwards, tips of thumbs touching, and fingers completely stretched to create the Mudra of Meditation (dhyana). This mudra is utilized for profound thinking and introspection, and it helps to settle the mind for meditation. The Buddha Shakyamuni's signature gesture is the mudra of meditation.

31" Superfine Buddha in Dhyana Mudra| Madhuchista Vidhana (Lost-Wax) | Panchaloha Bronze from Swamimalai

The Namaskara or Anjali Mudra

This mudra is often employed by nuns, monks, and laypeople to indicate devotion, prayer, and admiration. It is not found in images of the Buddha or other deities. The Namaskara Mudra, also known as the Anjali Mudra, is a typical greeting gesture in most Asian countries. Namaskar is Hindi for "good day," and Anjali is a Sanskrit word that means "salutation" or "to offer." This mudra is performed by bringing your palms together in front of your heart, fingers pointing upwards, and thumbs near to the chest, to represent honor, respect, and dedication.

28" Namaste Lady (Anjali Mudra) In Brass | Handmade | Made In India

Manidhara Mudra

The Namaskara Mudra or the Anjali Mudra seem very similar to the Mudra of Holding the Jewel. It's also known as the Manidhara Mudra, and it's done by clasping one's hands in front of one's face with the palms and fingers slightly arched, clutching a valuable, wish-fulfilling jewel. Tibetan prayer flags include this jewel or diamond, which is carried on the back of the Lung Ta or wind horse. This sacred hand motion of holding the jewel is called a mudra by Avalokiteshvara, a bodhisattva who represents all Buddhas' compassion. Chenrezig is the Tibetan term for Avalokiteshvara. The Dalai Lamas are thought to be Chenrezig's incarnations.

Superfine Garuda in Namaskaram Mudra

The Mandala Offering Mudra

The Mandala Offering Mudra is a complicated and sacred hand gesture that represents the entire universe being offered for the benefit of all sentient beings. The Mandala Offering Mudra is useful for reducing attachment and purifying the clinging mind. Non-Buddhists can also execute this mudra to obtain its spiritual benefits, however, it is normally done in conjunction with prayers and Buddhist chants.

Art and Science of Mudras (Healing at Your Finger Tips)

Sit in a meditation stance with your back straight to make this intricate mudra. Relax your breathing and imagine yourself surrendering the mandala - the entire cosmos – to the Buddha, bodhisattvas, and all holy beings, with tremendous delight and purity of heart. Intertwine your fingers and place your hand's palms up. Press down on the tips of the opposite little finger with the tips of your thumbs. Then press down on the tip of the opposing middle finger with the bent tips of your index fingers. Finally, unclasp your ring fingers and reassemble them, pressing the backs together and both fingers going straight up into the center. In Buddhist cosmology, the four continents plus Mt. Meru, the sacred mountain, are represented by the ring fingers.

Vitarka Mudra

The Vitarka Mudra (Teaching or Discussion Mudra) is a typical mudra that represents Buddhist teachings discussion and transmission. It's made by forming a circle with the tips of the thumb and index finger while keeping the other three fingers pointing straight up. The circle created by the fingers linked together represents perfection with no beginning or end. This mudra is normally performed with one hand, most commonly the right hand, with the palm facing outward and the handheld upward near to the chest. The mudra can also be done with both hands in front of the chest, linked in a circle by the index and middle fingers and thumb. When using two hands, the left palm should face inward and the right palm should face outward. The Buddha's first instruction after enlightenment is represented by the Teaching Mudra. It also represents the Dharmachakra, or "Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma." In Mahayana Buddhism, there are numerous versions of this mudra. It is the mystic gesture of Taras and bodhisattvas in Tibetan Buddhism.

Smoky Hued Tibetan Buddhist in Vitarka Mudra

Varada Mudra

The Varada Mudra is a generous, charitable, and compassionate act. It's frequently seen in depictions of the Green and White Tara. This sacred hand gesture denotes the bestowal of favors, wishes, and even forgiveness. It also represents the "gift of truth" — the priceless gift of Buddhist teachings or the dharma. The palm of the hand faces out and hangs down, frequently contacting the right leg in the Varada Mudra. This mudra is frequently used in tandem with another mudra. Generosity, morality, patience, diligence, and meditation are represented by the five fingers.

9" Tibetan Buddhist Goddess White Tara in Varada-Mudra (Boon-Granting Gesture) In Brass | Handmade | Made In India

Abhaya Mudra

In Sanskrit, the word Abhaya denotes fearlessness. The Abhaya Mudra, or Fearless Mudra, represents the removal of fear. To Westerners, it may appear to be the standard hand motion meaning "stop." Raising the right hand to shoulder height with the arm bent and the palm facing outward forms the mudra. Standing images of this mudra are more common than sitting representations. This traditional hand motion is also a symbol of friendliness and peace. Placing one's palm up and open in this manner signifies that one is not carrying any weapons and is arriving in peace. In Buddhism, the mudra represents the Buddha's or bodhisattva's fearlessness, and hence his or her spiritual might.

37" Large Seated Hanuman in Abhaya-mudra | Brass | Handmade | Made In India

This hallowed hand gesture is supposed to have been made by the historical Buddha shortly after attaining enlightenment. An angry elephant was about to strike the Buddha at a later period. The poor elephant had been abused and fed wine by someone who planned to use him as a weapon against the Buddha. Enraged and in anguish, the elephant charged at the Buddha and his companions. While others fled, the Buddha stood calmly, his hand raised in a courageous gesture. He felt a deep sense of love and compassion for the beleaguered elephant. As a result, the elephant came to a halt in its charge, calmed down, and approached the Buddha, bowing its head.

Uttarabodhi Mudra

This refers to achieving supreme enlightenment by uniting with divine global energy. It's done with both hands, which are put at the heart with the index fingers touching and pointed upwards, and the rest of the fingers entwined.

Anjali Mudra

It's also known as Namaskara Mudra or Hridayanjali Mudra, and it's a greeting, prayer, and adoration motion. It is done by pressing the palms of the hands together, with the thumbs resting lightly against the sternum, and the hands kept at the heart chakra.

Vajra Mudra

The fiery thunderbolt that represents the five elements—air, water, fire, earth, and metal—is represented by this gesture. It's done with a right fist and a left forefinger that's encased in the right fist with the tip of the right forefinger touching (or wrapped around) the tip of the left forefinger.

13" Tibetan Buddhist Deity- Vajradhara In Brass | Handmade | Made In India

Conclusion

The Buddha (Nyorai, Tathagata) is frequently represented with a distinctive hand gesture called a mudra in Buddhist sculpture and painting throughout Asia. Mudras are generally employed to convey the deity's essence and function. They are still used by modern Japanese monks in their spiritual practices and worship. Knowing these hand motions can be quite helpful in identifying Buddha pictures (but less so in identifying Bodhisattva / Bosatsu images). However, because there is a lot of overlap and variance among the mudra, and Japanese traditions differ from those in mainland Asia, one should not rely just on mudra for identification.

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