Symbolic Gestures

Mudras are a non-verbal mode of communication and self-expression, consisting of hand gestures and finger-postures. They are symbolic sign-based finger patterns taking the place of, but retaining the meaning of the spoken word.

Mudras have some kind of influence on the energies of the body or on one’s mood. They are also used to evoke in the mind ideas symbolizing divine powers or the deities themselves.

The most well known mudras are probably the ones performed while meditating. One sits in the lotus position or with crossed legs, and demonstrates one of these mudras: either puts one’s hands on the knees; joins the tips of the thumb and index finger; or places the hands in the lap, the fingers of the right hand resting on the left palm. The Christian practice of making the sign of the cross with the fingers is also a mudra, as is the Indian greeting gesture (that is also used while praying) where the hands are held in front of the chest, the palms touching.

Mudras have been in use in the East for thousands of years, particularly in Buddhism. Various traditions represent the Buddha in diverse poses that give rise to unique names for the Buddha based upon the hand gestures employed. While there are a large number of esoteric mudras, over time, Buddhist art has retained only five of them as iconic representations of the Buddha.

The first mudra symbolizes one of the most important moments in the life of Buddha, the occasion when Buddha preached to his companions the first sermon after his Enlightenment. This mudra represents the “Teaching Buddha.” In this mudra, the thumb and index finger of both hands touch at their tips to form a circle . This circle represents the Wheel of Dharma (teaching). The three remaining fingers of the two hands remain extended.

The mudra formed with all five fingers of the right hand extended to touch the ground and the left hand held flat in the lap symbolizes the union of method and wisdom, and also the realizations of the conventional and ultimate truths. In Buddhism, this is the “Buddha of Consciousness.”

The “Buddha of Blessing” is represented by the mudra made with the left hand with the arm hanging naturally at the side of the body, the palm of the open hand facing forward and the fingers together and extended. With the inclusion of another mudra – the right hand raised to shoulder height, the arm crooked, the palm of the hand facing outward and the fingers upright and joined – the “Blessing Buddha” becomes the “Buddha of Protection.”

The “Buddha of Blessing” is represented by the mudra made with the left hand with the arm hanging naturally at the side of the body, the palm of the open hand facing forward and the fingers together and extended. With the inclusion of another mudra – the right hand raised to shoulder height, the arm crooked, the palm of the hand facing outward and the fingers upright and joined – the “Blessing Buddha” becomes the “Buddha of Protection.”

Another interesting meaning is given to the idea of the mudra. It reveals the secret imbibed in the five fingers. In such an interpretation, each of the fingers, starting with the thumb, is identified with one of the five elements, namely the sky, wind, fire, water and the earth. Their contact with each other symbolizes the synthesis of these elements, significant because every form in this universe is said to be composed of a unique combination of these elements. This contact between the various elements creates conditions favorable at rites performed for securing some desired object or benefit.

Perhaps the following mudras may be of assistance to you in your daily life. Hold the finger positions with both hands, for at least a couple of minutes.

Back Pain Mudra. Back pain, and particularly of the lower back, can be a sore feeling. When muscles start cramping, it can become very painful. This mudra helps against this escalation.

Right hand: the thumb, middle and pinky fingers touch. Ring and index finger are extended.

Left hand: Put the thumb’s upper section over the nail of the index finger. Extend the other three fingers.

Acceptance Mudra. To overcome sadness or an unnecessary resistance to situations, this mudra can help you to get into a mood of acceptance. Both hands should assume the same position.

The index finger is folded into the space between thumb and this finger so that the nail touches the fold. The outer lower corner of the thumb’s nail touches the inner lower corner of the pinky finger’s nail.


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341 State Route 179
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