9 Buddhist Mudras Everyone Needs To Know

Buddhist mudras
Follow us

In this guide, we will look at the best Buddhist mudras, including:

  • Abhaya mudra
  • Bhumisparsha mudra
  • Vitarka mudra
  • Dharmachakra mudra
  • Dhayana mudra
  • Vajra mudra
  • Varada mudra
  • Karana mudra
  • Cosmic mudra (the position used in Zazen meditation)

Buddhist mudras

In my ultimate list of mudras, I revealed everything Buddhists need to know about the history, science, and background of these hand gestures.

Buddhist mudras are a way of training the mind and healing the body.  In particular, they train the mind to follow the ways of Dharma, the “path”. You might like to combine these with these mudras for the mind. 

private meditation teacher (1)

Buddhist Mudras That All Buddhists Should know

There are 7 essential Buddhist mudras that you need to know.

1. Abhaya Mudrā

abhaya mudra

According to Robert Jr. Buswell, author of the Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, the Abhaya mudra (Fearless gesture) is a way of removing fear from your mind. 

Abhaya mudra has an especially important meaning. The word Abhaya is Sanskrit for “Fearless.”  This isn’t fear in the modern sense though. It’s fear that includes stress, anxieties, worries and so on.

The gesture is ancient and has a clear body language meaning too.  By showing that the hand is empty the individual shows friendship and peace.

In the west, the gesture could easily be confused with a Stop sign. And this is important. The gesture stops the pressures of the outside world from entering the mind.

It is said that this is the gesture made by Buddha after finding enlightenment. The Buddha used the gesture again when he was about to be attacked by an elephant. When Buddha saw the animal attacking, he held his hands in this gesture and the animal stopped.   

Position

  1. To make the gesture, hold your hand at shoulder height with the palm facing outwards.
  2. It is usual for the opposite hand to be positioned in the gift-giving position Varada (see below). 

Benefits 

The Abhaya mudra creates a feeling of fearlessness and protection. It is very empowering. You can use it for mental stability, calmness, and security. 

2. Bhūmisparsśa Buddhist Mudrā

buddha earth touching mudra statue

The Buddhist hand gesture for enlightenment is Bhumisparsha mudra. We can combine this with the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, because both represent the path leading to enlightenment. 

Buddha found enlightenment while he was using Budhimsparsha mudra (Earth-Touching gesture).

 One day, the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was sitting meditating by the Bodhi tree when he was attacked by the demon called Mara and Mara’s monsters. The attackers hoped to frighten Siddhartha Guatama (Buddha) from his place under the Bodhi tree. But Buddha remained unmoved. Mara claimed his spiritual successes to be greater than Buddha’s and took his place under the tree.

“I am his witness” cried Mara’s monsters.

“Who will speak for you?” said Mara to Siddhartha.

Siddhartha reached his right hand down to touch the earth.

The earth roared, “I bear you witness.”

Mara disappeared.

It was then Siddhartha Gautama realised enlightenment. This is as stated in the book Buddhist Goddesses of India by Miranda Eberle Shaw for Princeton University Press. 

Meaning of this Buddhist mudra

All Buddhist mudras have a specific meaning. The Bhumisparsha mudra (“Bhumi-sparsha”) literally means “Touch the Earth Gesture”. There is symbolism involved in the name too. It represents steadfastness, the Earth representing the grounding the Buddha needed to dispel Mara.

Each hand also represents something in its own right:

  • The right hand reaching down to touch earth represents upaya (skilful means) [1]
  • The left hand on the lap represents prajna (wisdom).

Position

  1. Sit comfortably with good posture
  2. Close your eyes and meditate for a few moments.
  3. Now hold your left hand open on your lap, palm facing upwards.
  4. Place your right hand over your leg so that your fingertips touch the earth.
  5. Meditate in this position for 30 minutes.

Benefits  

  • Helps to calm the mind
  • Promotes meditation and makes it easier to focus when meditating.
  • The left palm facing upwards is a very calming position.  If you place both your hands upwards on your lap (try it now) you will notice that you feel more accepting and more relaxed.
  • The fingers reaching down and touching the earth also help you to feel more grounded.
  • For Buddhists, it is symbolic of such an important time in the life of Buddha and makes us feel more connected to Buddha.

3. Dharmachakra Buddhist Mudrā

dharmachakra mudra buddha with cat

Dharmachakra Mudra can be translated from Sanskrit to mean “Wheel of Dharma”. This is one of the most important of all Buddhist mudras.

The Dharmachakra Mudra represents the moment when Buddha preached his first sermon in Deer Park after attaining enlightenment. The event is often considered the moment that “Set the wheel in motion.” Hence why this is called the Dharmachakra Mudra or “Wheel of Dharma” gesture. 

You have probably seen Buddha statues in which Buddha is holding his hands in this position. So what does it mean and how do you do it?

Instructions

Follow these instructions for the Dharmachakra Mudra, then meditate on the breath for 10 minutes while holding the gesture.

  1. Place the tip of the index finger of both hands on the tip of the thumb.
  2. Hold your hands up at heart level with the left hand in front of the right.
  3. Turn the right palm to face outwards
  4. Turn the left palm to face inwards
  5. Meditate in this position for ten minutes. Try it now.

Benefits

  • Promotes spirituality
  • Balances and stabilises energy and emotion
  • Calming

4. Dhyāna Mudrā

The Dhyana Mudra can be a single hand or double hand gesture. When used in the single hand style the left hand is placed on the lap in Dhyana Mudra, and the right hand may be placed elsewhere. In this fashion it represents wisdom. Objects such as a singing bowl or text may be placed in the left hand.

Position

The double-handed Dhyana Mudra has both hands placed on the thighs or held at stomach height.

The left hand is placed below the right, palms up, fingers extended. The thumbs may optionally be moved to touch each other lightly at the tips in order to form a mystic triangle.

The mystic triangle represents the Three Jewels of Buddhism. 

Benefits:

There are three key reasons for using the Dhyana Mudra: focus on the Good Law, aid in meditation, and heightening spirituality.

 

5. Varada Mudrā

varada mudra

Meaning

In Buddhist training, it is important to remove anger from the mind. This hand gesture helps. Varada is Sanskrit for Favourable. Varada Mudra means “Favourable Gesture.” 

This hand gesture is shown in welcoming. It evokes feelings of compassion, charity and honesty. It is often seen on spiritual figures who are dedicated to freeing themselves from greed and anger and helping others.

  1. Instructions
  2. Sit in lotus position
  3. The right hand may adopt a different gesture if you like, or simply rest it on your thigh. 
  4. Place your left hand in your lap, the palm curved slightly and facing upwards.  

Benefits 

Varada Mudra opens the mind to compassion and love. It is excellent for freeing oneself from greed, anger and possessiveness.

 

6. Vajra Mudra

vajra mudra

Vajra mudra is the Buddhist gesture for self-confidence. It is made by wrapping the fist of the right hand around the forefinger of the left hand. The tip of the right forefinger should touch the tip of the left forefinger.

Vajra mudra is called the gesture of the six elements and the fist of wisdom.

Meaning 

Vajroli Mudra symbolises the five worldly elements (earth, water, fire, air, and metal) in harmony with the consciousness. This gesture belongs to an Esoteric Buddhist (Shingon) called Dainichi Nyorai (Vairochana). [3]

An alternative is Bodhiyanga, which is made by enclosing the raised thumb of the left fist in the four clenched fingers of the right fist

 

7. Vitarka Mudra

vitarka-mudra-buddhist-meditation-mudra-statue

Vitarka Mudra is a great psychospiritual hand gesture. The Vitarka mudra is one of the most important Buddhist mudras. It has fantastic psychological benefits for the practitioner.  Vitarka literally means “Discussion”. This hand gesture helps the mind to enter a more agreeable, friendly state.

Steps

The Vitarka mudra is remarkably similar to the Abhaya mudra, which is the gesture for fearlessness.

Here’s how to do it.

  1. Sit somewhere quiet and relax. Cross your legs (or just sit comfortably)
  2. Take 20 mindful breaths to relax
  3. Place the index finger and thumb together at the tips
  4. Hold the other fingers straight.
  5.  Place your other hand in your lap
  6. Meditate for 108 breaths.

 Meaning of this Buddhist Mudra

This hand gesture has a massively important meaning. Its meaning is expressed through both the name and the hand position.

The name:

  • Vitarka means “Discussion” in Sanskirt
  • Mudra means “Gesture”.
  • “Vitarka mudra” literally means ‘Gesture for discussion”.

The hand position means a lot too:

Put your hands in the position using the steps above. Do you feel the energy between your thumb and forefinger? That energy stimulates the mind to increase our ability to learn.

The palm is facing outwards as though welcoming the energy of the outside world. The other three fingers are held straight up, which stimulates energy in the fingers. If you hold this hand position you will feel positive, calming energy and you will feel more connected to the outside world.

Benefits of Vitarka mudras. 

  • Promotes the energy of teaching and of discussion
  • Helps to prevent us from entering argumentative states of mind.
  • Helps to absorb the teachings of Buddha
  • Cultivates calming energy that is useful for reducing internal conflict.
  • Opens the mind to intellectual conversation
  • Evokes a feeling of silent wisdom.

8. Karana Mudrā

Karana mudra is one of the best hand gestures for depression. Karana mudra (otherwise called the “Gesture For Warding Off Evil”) is an easy way to stop anxiety, stress and depression.   

The Karana Mudra works by removing what Buddhists call “obstacles.” In other words, it helps us to overcome negativity. Obstacles include things like negative thoughts and feelings of unhappiness or anxiety. But Karana mudra is not only for depression.

We all suffer from inner conflict: 

  • fears
  • anxieties
  • troubles with self-image
  • moments of low self-esteem
  • anger
  • resentment

Even the most enlightened people experience negative states of mind. Thankfully, we can turn negatives into positives with the Karana mudra.   

Instructions

In order to make the Karana Mudra, touch the tip of the third finger to the tip of the thumb. Hold your remaining fingers upwards. You will notice that this is also the “Peace” gesture. Turned backwards it becomes the “Rock on!” gesture.

 Meaning

The Karana Mudra is also called the “Gesture Warding Off Evil.” But this does not refer to “Evil” in the usual sense. It’s more about removing impurities and negatives from the mind. When we remove these obstacles, we get one step close to enlightenment.

 

9. Cosmic Mudra (Zen Buddhist Mudra)

cosmic mudra hand position
cosmic mudra hand position

If you have ever tried Zen meditation technique you have probably used Cosmic mudra, the Zen gesture. You might have seen monks sitting crossed-legged with their hands cupped together. What’s that all about?

Cosmic mudras (Zen gesture) is a hand position that is used to create calm and focus when meditating.

Let’s take a look at how to do Cosmic mudra and what it’s used for. You might be surprised by some of the health benefits of Cosmic mudra!

 

Instructions             

It is very easy to perform cosmic mudra. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Put your left hand on top of your right hand
  2. Turn your palms upwards towards the sky
  3. Touch your thumbs together in a straight line
  4. Let your wrists relax so that they come to rest on your thighs
  5. Let the edge of your hands rest against your belly

Benefits of the Zen Buddhist mudra

There are two main benefits of cosmic mudra. The first benefit is that the Cosmic Mudra brings balance and harmony to your mind. The gesture actually means “to move beyond duality”. Cosmic mudra helps you to focus. If your focus drifts your hand position will change and you will notice it. So, this serves as a notice saying, “You’re losing focus. Concentrate’.

The Conscious Life tells us, “The cosmic mudra helps to bring your attention inward and is useful when you are trying to increase self-awareness.”

Use these Buddhist mudras to cultivate beneficial states of mind and to boost your overall wellbeing.  

 

SOURCES:

Mudra – Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mudra

Mudras of the Great Buddha – Stanford University https://web.stanford.edu/class/history11sc/pdfs/mudras.pdf 

Follow us

Share This:

By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.

7 comments

  1. i have spent time with a large white marble Buddha who sits using the cosmic mudra, but his thumbs do not touch . . . . can you explain this please?

  2. This is very educational. I am a beginner student of Buddhism! I was exploring on line the meaning of “mudra.” Evidently, i found this mine of knowledge.
    Thank you very much!

    Sal

  3. Thank you so much this. This was a wonderful explanation of Mudras and their uses and benefits

  4. thanks! this was a helpful post 🙂 I enjoyed trying out the different mudras and feeling their instant benefits!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *