Buddhas of Five Mudras

A Brief Meditation in the Bodhisattva Hall

On the sides of the Bodhisattva Hall, just above the re-duplicated images of Kuan Yin, there is a row of Buddha figures. This is the Shakyamuni Buddha, portrayed with five mudras, or hand gestures. You can start at the left end of the Hall; count out to the tenth figure from the front, showing the Buddha in a brown robe. (This will put you in a place with little foot traffic.)

There are five mudras.

  • The first is the Buddha in meditation, or dhyana; one hand lies on the other, resting in the lap. This is the pose the Buddha held until he achieved Enlightenment. (brown robe)
  • The next mudra (to the left) shows the Buddha touching the Earth (bhumisparsha) with his right hand (palm in). At the end of his meditation, he was attacked by Mara the Evil One, and tempted to sin. By touching the Earth the Buddha literally "grounded" himself, and the evil dissipated like static electricity when you touch a doorknob. (blue robe)
  • The next figure is similar, but here the palm is turned outward. This is the Boon-bestowing (varada) mudra, where the Buddha offers us his gift of Wisdom. (orange robe)
  • Next, the hand is raised (palm outward) in the gesture Allaying Fear (abhaya). (green robe)
  • Finally, there is a mudra in which the fingers seem intricately entwined. It is like two circles touching, and is called "The Turning of the Wheel of Dharma," (dharmachakra) or the beginning of the Buddha's teaching. (One Buddhist scholar says the Buddha is simply counting off his points on his fingers, like any good teacher!) (white robe)

[2023: These can be five images of Shakyamuni at different points in his life, as described here; but they are also identified with five different "Dhyani" or "Wisdom" Buddhas, thus:

  • dhyana mudra: Amitabha
  • bhumisparsha mudra: Akshobhya
  • varada mudra: Ratnasambhava
  • abhaya mudra: Amoghasiddhi
  • dharmacakra mudra: Vairocana

See the Wikipedia article for much more.]


Brown Robe, the Meditation Mudra:

O Buddha, help me to concentrate on achieving Enlightenment.

Blue Robe, the Earth-touching Mudra:

O Buddha, help me to avoid evil.

Orange Robe, the Boon-bestowing Mudra:

O Buddha, help me to accept the gifts you offer.

Green Robe, the Fear-allaying Mudra:

O Buddha, help me to conquer all fear.

White Robe, the Teaching Mudra:

O Buddha, help me to understand your teachings.

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