Mudras are a symbolic sign-based finger pattern. They are used to evoke in the mind, ideas symbolising divine powers or even the deities themselves. A Mudra is used to illustrate and emphasise the meaning of a ritual and give significance to a meditative pose, so that invisible forces may operate on the earthly sphere thereby intensifying the potency of the meditation.
The composition of a Mudra is based on the movement of the fingers. A Mudra also reveals the secret hidden within the five fingers. This is similar to the five elements of feng shui and their cycles.
Each of the fingers, starting with the thumb, is identified with one of the Five Elements. The contact between the fingers during the movement of the Mudra symbolises the fusion 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 fingers/elements creates favourable conditions during meditation, for the presence of the deity, especially when wanting to secure some desired object or benefit.
To be really effective when using Mudras there must be a deliberate, focused and intentional movement of the body or parts thereof. In this way the physical system comes into harmony with the cosmic 'chi'.
We perform, sometimes unknowingly, Mudras in each daily action. This symbolizes our underlying emotional and physical condition due to the various energy patterns within our being. These energy patterns determine our personality, character, mannerisms and expressions – our true inner nature. As we become more conscious of our movements – we become increasingly aware of our inner selves and can choose to make the most of each moment learning to integrate thoughts and actions.
There are a considerable number of Mudras. However, below you will find the description of five that are considered the most important. The high degree of relevance is because each of the five transcendental (Dhyani) Buddhas is allocated one of these mudras.
This Mudra represents fearlessness. This gesture is also one of reassurance, blessings, peace and protection. It is made with the right hand bent at the elbow, raised to shoulder height. The palm of the hand then faces outward and the fingers upright and joined. The left hand rests down the side of the body with the palm facing forward and open. It is mostly used in buddha statues showing the Buddha depicted standing upright.
It is suggested that this gesture was used in ancient times as a gesture of good will and good intentions when approaching strangers. In Thailand this Mudra is associated with the walking Buddha and during the Wei and Sui eras (4th and 7th centuries) it is shown during the act of teaching.
This Mudra is the gesture of balance, meditation, peace and concentration of the good law. This Mudra can be practiced with one or both hands. When using a single hand, the left is relaxed in the lap. This version of the Dhyana Mudra represents the female wisdom and can be seen with an alms bowl in the open palm of the hand.
When this gesture is created with both hands, they are placed at either stomach level or on the lap with right hand on left and fingers extended, palms facing upwards. In some version the thumbs of the two hands may touch at the tips forming a triangle.
This Mudra is used in representations of the Buddha Sakyamuni and the Buddha Amitabha. Sometimes this Mudra is used in representations (along with a medicine bowl) of Bhaisajyaguru also known as the Medicine Buddha.
This Mudra was adopted by yogis during their concentration and meditation routines. It indicates the balance of thought, relaxation of the senses and peace.
This Mudra signifies charity, fulfillment of all wishes, generosity, compassion and sincerity. It is nearly always used with the left hand, with the arm resting naturally by the side of the body, the palm of the open hand facing forward and the fingers gently extended.
The five extended fingers in this mudra symbolize the ‘five perfections’, namely generosity, morality, patience, meditative concentration and effort.
This Mudra is often used in conjunction with another made with the right hand.
This Mudra means the ‘Wheel of Dharma’ – the union of method and wisdom and represents the central moment in the life of Buddha when he preached for the first time after gaining enlightenment. This gesture denotes the setting into motion and the turning of the wheel of the Dharma.
In this Mudra and with both palms upwards (sometimes facing the chest) the thumb and index finger of both hands touch at their tips and form a circle. This circle represents the Wheel of Dharma. The three remaining fingers on both hands are extended. Significantly, the hands are held in front of the chest demonstrating that the teachings are sincere and straight from the Buddha's heart.
This Mudra is known as the ‘earth witness’. When sitting in the lotus position, it’s formed with all five fingers of the right hand extended as if to touch the ground, or with only the index finger pointing downwards. The right hand is placed upon the right knee with the palm facing upwards and the left hand is held flat in the lap.
This Mudra supports the realizations of the conventional and ultimate truth.