Hand symbol Buddhism

Photo of Buddha Statue making the Bhumisparsha Mudra with the right hand.Please Share: Every Click Helps!

Mudras are symbolic hand gestures, and they are seen in all statues of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas, and are often seeing in different representations of various Hindu gods and goddesses. In Buddhism, the mudras are associated with particular Buddha poses (also known as an asana or attitude), and how the hand is held can signify the difference from one pose to another (or from one Celestial Buddha to another in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions).

While Hindu deities are often depicted holding weapons, Buddhism believes in abstaining from violence and not causing harm to other beings, following the principle of “non-harm”(ahimsa).Photo of Buddha Statue displaying the Varada Mudra Because of this aversion to violence, it was considered offensive to depict Buddhist deities holding weapons. Hence, specific hand poses are used primarily in Buddhist art to convey the attributes that would have been demonstrated by weapons in Hindu art.

In a limited number of instances, Buddhist deities can be seen holding weapons. The Bodhisattva Manjusri, for instance, slices through ignorance with the Sword of Wisdom, held in the right hand.

Photo of Black Buddha Statue displaying the Dhyana MudraMost Common Mudras

Bhumisparsha Mudra : This is the Touching the Earth hand gesture, also known as Calling the Earth To Witness. Right hand hanging down, palm facing inward, while the right arm rests over the right knee. The Buddha’s fingers are extended but flexed slightly, with the tips of the fingers touching the ground (or nearly touching it). The left hand rests in the lap face up, and an alms bowl may or may not be present in the left hand.Photo of Buddha Statue displaying th eDharmachakra Mudra This mudra is common to Gautama Buddha (the Historical Buddha) and also to the Dhyani Buddha Akshobhya.

Varada Mudra : Similar to the Bhumisparsha Mudra mentioned above, the Varada Mudra differs in that the palm of the right hand is facing outward from the body and toward the viewer of the statue. This gesture means that the Buddha or other deity is either receiving an offering or granting a boon. This gesture is common to both Shakyamuni Buddha and to the Dhyani Buddha Ratnasambhava. Again, an alms bowl may be present in the left hand without changing the meaning of the gesture, however, if there is a bowl with herbs and a blooming flower in it, and the right hand holds the stalk of a myrobalan plant between the thumb and index finger, then the image specifically depicts the Medicine Buddha of the Mahayana School of Tibetan Buddhism.

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