Invariably in the iconography of Buddhism, especially so as found in classical Buddhism, the Buddha is depicted with a characteristic hand gesture. Such gestures correspond to natural gestures such as teaching, protecting, and so on --- inturn corresponding to either certain Buddhist teachings and/or the particular Buddha depicted and/or both. Mudras often accompany the recitation of mantras. They also help to actualize certain inner states in that they anticipate their physical expression, bringing about a connection between the practitioner and the Buddha visualized in a given practice. The ten primary or most important Mudras are:
- Dhyani Mudra
gesture of meditation
- Vitarka Mudra
- Dharmachakra Mudra
gesture of turning the wheel of the teaching
- Bhumisparsha Mudra
gesture of touching the earth
- Abhaya Mudra
gesture of fearlessness and granting protection
- Varada Mudra
gesture of granting wishes
- Uttarabodhi Mudra
gesture of supreme enlightenment
- Anjali Mudra
gesture of greeting and veneration
- Vajrapradama Mudra
gesture of unshakable confidence
- Mudra of Supreme Wisdom
1.) Dhyani Mudra
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.(see) 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.
2.) Vitarka Mudra
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.
3.) Dharmachakra Mudra
The left palm is tuned inward (toward the body), the right outward, and the circles formed by the thumbs and index fingers of each hand touch one another.
4.) Bhumisparsha Mudra
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.
5.) Abhaya 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.
6.) Varada Mudra
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.
7.) Uttarabodhi Mudra
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.) 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).
9.) Vajrapradama Mudra
The fingertips of the hands are crossed. This is gesture of unshakable confidence.
10.) Mudra of Supreme Wisdom
The right index finger is grasped by the five fingers of the left hand. This Mudra, characteristic of Vairochana, is the subject of many interpretations in esoteric Buddhism --- most which have to do with the relationship between the empirical world of manifoldness and the principle of the unified world principle, the realization of unity in the manifold as embodied in the Buddha. See Sunyata.
ENLIGHTENED INDIVIDUALS I'VE MET
BUDDHISM IN AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT IN A NUTSHELL
ON THE RAZOR'S
THE BUDDHA AND THE QUALITIES OF A DHARMA TEACHER
SPIRITUAL GUIDES: PASS OR FAIL
THE FALSE GURU TEST
Source: The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen
Additional research: Neurotopia; UrbanDharma.org; Kheper.net