Dear Friends, as it is your great burden [humorous self effacement] to be my go to resource for most all things Buddhist, I would love your opinions…your input on a subject which I could not find from the search bar.
Do you employ a mudra…are mudras a valuable part of meditation? Would they help me focus on meditative technique?
I realize that Wikipedia may not be our first choice for a reference but I started there and this is what I found:
A mudra (Listeni/muˈdrɑː/; Sanskrit मुद्रा, “seal”, “mark”, or “gesture”; Tibetan: ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ THL chakgya) is a symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism. While some mudras involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers. A mudrā is a spiritual gesture and an energetic seal of authenticity employed in the iconography and spiritual practice of Indian religions.
One hundred and eight mudras are used in regular Tantric rituals.
In yoga, mudras are used in conjunction with pranayama (yogic breathing exercises), generally while seated in Padmasana, Sukhasana or Vajrasana pose, to stimulate different parts of the body involved with breathing and to affect the flow of prana in the body.
In places of warm to hot weather having my hands on my knees tend to work better. Note however this has often led me to ‘tactile nimittas’ which are a little bit of a cul-de-sac in terms of deepening further the mind and heart into samadhi.
Hi Gnlaera, and thank you for always being available to answer my questions. But there are so many mudras. Are they incidental in the sense that they are strictly volitional? I think I saw a picture of Buddha with his hand draped over his knee with four fingers facing down toward the ground. Is that a significant mudra?
Generally speaking, in Theravada the mudras are, of course, found throughout the iconography, but are rarely used in meditation. In the early suttas we don’t find anything on mudras.
In Tibetan Buddhism, however, the mudras are used frequently as a meditation or mindfulness practice.
This has some parallels with certain practices developed in Thailand that focus on mindful movements, although I’m not aware of any such practices that use the formal mudras as such. Having said which, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were such practices, as the meditative culture in Thailand is weird, wonderful, and highly diverse.
Sorry I can’t be of more help, but as I haven’t used such practices myself I can’t speak to their efficacy.
Whatchoo talkin’ about. Every sentence you write has value for me. Even your lack of info tells me something about it. Regarding traditions…i continue to not have one. Is this an issue? I mean it takes a village to raise a Buddhist…right? Am I drawn to Tibetan Buddhism because it is the most widely referenced in my culture? Do I need a framework or is it better to not be attached to a tradition? Namaste
That could be the ‘earth-witness’ mudra. The story/myth is that at the time of his awakending, the Buddha called on the earth goddess as his witness in his ‘battle’ with Mara and this is indicated in Buddhist art and iconography as the Buddha extening his right hand down to touch the earth.
I personally don’t use mudras while meditating, and as @sujato says, there’s nothing in the early suttas about them. I find what’s most important is to just find a way to sit comfortably enough that the body can rest and the mind become still. It’s not important what you do with your hands (unless that’s something that helps you focus). I keep my hands in my lap, facing upward one on top of the other, or palm down on my knees (or if lying down then face up by my sides or folded on top of my abdomen), but that’s just because it’s what I find to be a comfortable, balanced position.
But I find the mudras beautiful to look at and contemplate in Buddha statues. They remind me of the quality associated with them (such as the Abhayammudra/fearlessness mudra @Gabriel_L mentioned or any of the others) as well as the stories of the Buddha’s life & practice .
If, while he is giving attention to stilling the thought-formation of those thoughts, there still arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then, with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth, he should beat down, constrain, and crush mind with mind.
I think this qualifies as a mudrā. The tongue part might be related to a later haṭhayogic practice of khecari in which the tongue and soft palate are stretched to the point where the tongue can be inserted into nasopharynx (the space behind the soft palate and uvula) where it explores and roams about.
Obviously, this hard physical method is given only as a last resort by the Buddha (if we assume this to be EBT), nonetheless the historical connection to later (and perhaps contemporary) ascetic practice I find super interesting.
Also, maybe it should be mentioned that although the popular concept of mudrā is limited to hand gestures, in some yogic traditions mudrā (gestures/seals) can also be performed with other parts of the body. The full body, the head, eyes, and even more internal body parts. It’s rare, and I don’t think there’s any EBT justification, but I’m pretty sure there are some BuddhaRūpa with eyes gazing at the nose tip.
It’s interesting that you would pick out this specific practice, as it is one that is adopted from the Jains. It appears in lists of the various kinds of self-torment that the Jains practice—the most mild form—and it became the most aggressive form of practice advocated by the Buddha.
This is one a several textual examples Johannes Bronkhorst gives of places in the suttas that he thinks show the absorption of Jain practices into the Buddhist tradition, but that are inconsistent with other sutta texts:
“Therefore, bhikkhus, whatever is not yours, abandon it; when you have abandoned it, that will lead to your welfare and happiness for a long time. What is it that is not yours? Material form is not yours. Abandon it. When you have abandoned it, that will lead to your welfare and happiness for a long time. Feeling is not yours. Abandon it. When you have abandoned it, that will lead to your welfare and happiness for a long time. Perception is not yours. Abandon it. When you have abandoned it, that will lead to your welfare and happiness for a long time. Formations are not yours. Abandon them. When you have abandoned them, that will lead to your welfare and happiness for a long time. Consciousness is not yours. Abandon it. When you have abandoned it, that will lead to your welfare and happiness for a long time.
“Bhikkhus, what do you think? If people carried off the grass, sticks, branches, and leaves in this Jeta Grove, or burned them, or did what they liked with them, would you think: ‘People are carrying us off or burning us or doing what they like with us’?”—“No, venerable sir. Why not? Because that is neither our self nor what belongs to our self.”—“So too, bhikkhus, whatever is not yours, abandon it; when you have abandoned it, that will lead to your welfare and happiness for a long time. What is it that is not yours? Material form is not yours…Feeling is not yours…Perception is not yours…Formations are not yours…Consciousness is not yours. Abandon it. When you have abandoned it, that will lead to your welfare and happiness for a long time."
So this is a profound teaching, but I must confess that the expression ‘abandon’ confuses me a little. Is ‘abandon’ synonymous with detachmen? Sounds a little like we should abandon the ecology as in
" If people carried off the grass, sticks, branches, and leaves in this Jeta Grove, or burned them, or did what they liked with them, would you think: ‘People are carrying us off or burning us or doing what they like with us’?”—“No, venerable sir. "
I could appreciate some discussion of the meaning. Namaste
I don’t think the Buddha is saying we should abandon the ecology, or burn down the forests! The sticks and branches mentioned are for the purpose of making a simile, people generally do not consider random objects in the physical environment as part of themselves. In the same way, the Buddha is saying that is how we should regard what is known as the 5 “khandas”. Translating that word is a bit tricky: bundle, aggregate, heap, etc…
The 5 are as follows:
In the mainstream of Buddhism, mudras were not used in practice, but later became used in iconography. They were likely used in Buddhist iconography because they were part of a common visual language and had become part of the general culture of India.
In early Mahayana Buddhism, for the first few hundred years, mudras were also not used, but were used in iconography. Mahayana sutras do occasionally include special mantras or dharanis for protection or purification, but generally do not include mudras or mandalas.
When tantra was imported into Buddhism in some regions, then mudras were added as an important part of the methodology, as in: mantra, mudra, and mandala. This sort of tantra and its culture were originally imported from Hindu yogic practices.
Some Sarvastivada dhyana teachers, such as Dharmatrata of Kashmir, did teach visualizations that might be compared to mandalas, but if I remember correctly, they did not include mudras.
°(…) then, with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth, he should beat down, constrain, and crush mind with mind.’
Maybe this is not technically mudra but nevertheless it is worth asking whether anyone here has ever had to use it and, of course, if it worked?!
I tried it once and only got a sore tongue!
It seems that cultivation of anussatis and saññas, together with a robust cultivation of the right view and virtue factors of eightfold path, are much more helpful in the specific case the mudra is prescribed.
It is possible that mudra helps in meditation assuming that you’ve tweaked your legs, spine, neck to the most optimum position, now what’s left is only whether to use proper mudra or not.
But if you really think about it, does sitting cross-legged really necessary? Or is it just because it’s a convenient position that you can do anytime anywhere? I bet some people can meditate well standing up or sitting on chair.
It could be something like 98% for right view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, mindfulness and effort, 1.8% for straight back, 0.2% for mudra?
So does mudra help in meditation?
Yes if you want it to be
Doesn’t matter if you follow buddha’s teaching
I’m not a good meditator, so I can just throw a bunch of questions back to you rather than giving answer from experience