Excellent Blog on the Hand Gestures and Postures of the Buddha

Although it reflects poorly on the speaker, it is not uncommon to hear the comment, “all of these temples look the same to me.” The best way to remedy this easy boredom with historical and religious monuments is knowledge. Knowing what to look for and how to differentiate between different structures will make for a much more interesting experience.

Buddha images were not made during the first few centuries after the life of Lord Buddha. They first appeared during the 1st and 2nd century A.D. in India. Almost immediately, a set of rules developed on how the Buddha should be depicted. It is worth remembering that a Buddha image is considered to be a hypostatis, endowed with supernatural powers and therefore has to be properly rendered. The Buddha is believed to have 32 major characteristics (and more minor ones).

Some examples that can be seen on Buddha sculptures are:

  • The Buddha is flat footed
  • Long and slender fingers and toes (often with the four fingers of both hands and the five toes of each foot of the same length)
  • A tuft of hair between the eyebrows
  • Head like a royal turban (or with a protuberance on top of the skull)
  • No furrow between the shoulders
  • Although not strictly listed as a major characteristic, Buddha images also have distended ear-lobes (from wearing heavy rings in early life)

The Buddha is always in one of four postures deemed suitable : Sitting, Standing, Walking or Reclining Postures. The dress of the Buddha is the monastic robe, draped over both shoulders, or with the right shoulder bare.

There are six major hand gestures of the Buddha (called mudra in Sanskrit).

[original article at baanjochim.wordpress.com]