A mudra is a bodily posture or symbolic gesture. In Buddhist iconography every buddha is depicted with a characteristic gesture of the hands. Such gestures correspond to natural gestures (of teaching, protecting, and so on) and also to certain aspects of the Buddhist teaching or of the particular buddha depicted.
Here mudras accompany the performance of liturgies and the recitation of mantras. They also help to actualize certain inner states in that they anticipate their physical expression; thus they assist in bringing about a connection between the practitioner and the buddha visualized in a given practice.
The most important mudras are:
1.) Dhyani Mudra……………..(gesture of meditation)
2.) Vitarka Mudra…………….(teaching gesture)
3.) Dharmachakra Mudra…..(gesture of turning the wheel of the teaching)
4.) Bhumisparsha Mudra……(gesture of touching the earth)
5.) Abhaya Mudra……………(gesture of fearlessness and granting protection)
6.) Varada Mudra…………….(gesture of granting wishes)
7.) Uttarabodhi Mudra………(gesture of supreme enlightenment)
8.) Mudra of Supreme Wisdom
9.) Anjali Mudra……………….(gesture of greeting and veneration)
10.) Vajrapradama Mudra….(gesture of unshakable confidence)
||In this mudra, the back of the right hand rests on the palm of the other in such a way that the tips of the thumbs lightly touch one another. The hands rest in the lap. The right hand, resting on top, symbolizes the state of enlightenment; the other hand, resting below, the world of appearance. This gesture expresses overcoming the world of appearance through enlightenment, as well as the enlightened state of mind for which samsara and nirvana are one. In a special form of this mudra, the middle, ring, and little fingers of both hands lie on top one another and the thumbs and index finger of each hand, touching each other, form a circle, which here also symbolizes the world of appearance and the true nature of reality.
||The right hand points upward, the left downward; both palms are tuned outward. The thumb and index finger of each hand form a circle. The right hand is at shoulder level, the left at the level of the hips. In a variant of this teaching gesture, the left hand rests palm upward in the lap, and the right hand is raised to shoulder level with its thumb and index finger forming a circle. In a further form of this mudra, the index finger and little fingers of both hands are fully extended, the middle and ring fingers somewhat curved inward. The left hand points upward, the right downward.
||The left palm is turned inward (toward the body), the right outward, and the circles formed by the thumbs and index fingers of each hand touch one another.
||The left hand rests palm upward in the lap; the right hand, hanging over the knee, palm inward, points to the earth. Sometimes the left hand holds a begging bowl. This is the gesture with which the Buddha summoned the Earth as witness to his realization of buddhahood. It is considered a gesture of unshakability; thus Akshobhya (the Unshakable) is usually depicted with this mudra.
||Here the right hand is raised to shoulder height with fingers extended and palm turned outward. This is the gesture of the Buddha Shakyamuni immediately after attaining enlightenment.
||The right hand, palm facing out, is directed downward. When Shakyamuni is depicted with this mudra, it symbolizes summoning Heaven as witness to his buddhahood. This mudra is also seen in representations of Ratnasambhava. In a variant, the thumb and index finger of the downward extended hand touch one another. Frequently the abhaya and varada mudras are combined: the right hand makes the gesture of fearlessness, the left that of wish granting.
||Both hands are held at the level of the chest, the two raised index fingers touch one another, the remaining fingers are crossed and folded down.; the thumbs touch each other at the tips or are also crossed and folded. This mudra is frequently seen in images of Vairochana.
|8.)Mudra of Supreme
||The right index finger is grasped by the five fingers of the left hand. This mudra, characteristic of Vairochana, is the subject of many interretations in esoteric Buddhism, most which have to do with the relationship between the empirical world of manifoldness and the principle that is its basis-the unified world principle, the realization of unity in the manifold as embodied in Buddha.
|9.) Anjali Mudra
||The palms are held together at the level of the chest. This is the customary gesture of greeting in India. Used as a mudra, it expresses “suchness” (tahata).
||The fingertips of the hands are crossed. This is gesture of unshakable confidence.
||Gesture of Turning the Wheel of Dharma
The thumb and index finger of the right hand stand for wisdom and method combined. The other three raised fingers symbolize the teaching of the Buddhist doctrine, which leads sentient beings to the paths of the beings of three capacities. The position of the left hand symbolizes the beings of the three capacities, who follow the combined path of method and wisdom.
||Gesture of Meditation
The nerve channel associated with the mind of enlightenment (Bodhichitta) passes through the thumbs. Thus, joining of the two thumbs in this gesture is of auspicious significance for the future development of the mind of enlightenment.
||Gesture of Bestowal of Supreme Accomplishment
The gesture of the right hand symbolizes bestowal of supreme accomplishment. That of the left hand symbolizes meditation. Together, they stand for the Buddha’s power to bestow supreme and general accomplishments on his disciples, while he meditates.
||Gesture of Pressing the Earth
The right hand gestures pressing the earth to bear witness. The position of the left hand symbolizes meditation. Together, they stand for the Buddha’s overcoming of hindrances while meditating.
This gesture ‘of touching the earth’ or ‘calling the earth to witness’, commemorates Gautama Buddha’s victory over temptation by the demon Mara.
||Gesture of Turning the Wheel of Dharma while in Meditation
The gesture of the right hand stands for turning the wheel of Dharma, while that of the left hand symbolizes meditation. The two conjoined symbolize teaching the Dharma while in meditation.
After observing theses hand-mudras which I have seen in India and elsewhere, I have wondered about the position also of the fingers we see in Christian icons. I wondered firstly what do they mean and what also baffles me is where do they come from.? Jesus was, we all know , a Jew and so also were the apostles. Raised and brought up in Judaism, at what period in the Christian Church do the first paintings of icons appear?
When Christians make the sign of the cross and say “Amen,” the hands are brought together, thumbs touching the heart, fingers pointing upwards. This certainly did not come from Judaism, so where did it come from? I am yet to know.
Now, look at this http://iconreader.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/what-does-this-hand-gesture-mean-in-ico
Symbolism of the Blessing
The fingers spell out “IC XC”, a widely used four letter abbreviation of the Greek for Jesus (IHCOYC) Christ (XPICTOC).
The three fingers of Christ – as well as spelling out “I” and “X” – confess the Tri-unity of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The touching finger and thumb of Jesus not only spell out “C”, but attest to the Incarnation: to the joining of divine and human natures found in the body of Jesus Christ.
Then, see what this man wrote: (http://theyogaphile.blogspot.ca/2007/03/mudras-in-christian-imagery.html)
Christian Imagery and Mudras
I’ve spent my entire life as a practicing Greek Orthodox Christian. Greek churches are breathtakingly beautiful houses of worship that are decorated with ornate carvings and Byzantine-style paintings. I’ve been looking at Byzantine imagery of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and various other angels and saints for as long as I can remember—but it wasn’t until I began practicing yoga and learning about mudras that it my eyes registered what I’ve been seeing all these years.
Mudras have been depicted not only in Buddhist/Hindu imagery for centuries, but in Christian as well. Christ is often painted with His right hand in prithvi mudra, in which the tips of the thumb and ring finger are joined.Prithvi mudra is said to provide stability and cure weaknesses of the body and mind.
Icons of Christ and Saint Nicholas with hands in prithvi mudra.
Another interesting realization I had is that occurrences of prithvi mudra aren’t limited to Byzantine religious icons alone. To this very day, Greek Orthodox priests often hold the fingers of their right hand in prithvi mudra while making the sign of the cross during a spoken blessing, say over a meal. Prithvi mudra is also known as the Sign of Benediction or Blessing.
There are also depictions of Christ with His right hand in pran mudra (little finger and ring finger connect with the thumb), which is said to increase vitality and protect the body against disease. Of course, one can hardly avoid the most obvious mudra in Chrsitian imagery—anjali mudra—Christ with prayer hands at heart center. I don’t know about what others think of all this, but I am completely and utterly fascinated by it. Because this is yet another common thread linking Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism—three belief systems that I am increasingly intrigued by as I learn more about them.
Some final thoughts: I’ve written this before, but I have to write it again. I’m completely blown away by the fact that the more I study yoga, Buddhism, and Hinduism, the more apparent it becomes that in life, everything is connected in the most divine and mysterious way. Think me a kook if you’d like, but I tell you that the more I seek knowledge, the more it comes to me—even when the questions haven’t yet formed in my head, the answers are appearing everywhere—in my own research, through the exchange of information with others, through happenstance and circumstance. Maybe it’s the Law of Attraction, or maybe I’m finally waking up. Whatever it is, in the words of Oprah, what I know for sure is there more to this world than meets the eye. There is some wisdom well beyond us, and all our religions and beliefs and numbers are just bits and pieces of the puzzle.
If your interest in mudras and the commonalities in Christianity and other religions is piqued, there’s some very interesting writing out there on mudras, the similarities between Christianity and Buddhism, the ancient Indian/Greek relationship, symbolism, and more. I encourage you to do your own reading and exploration—but definitely check out these sources out: