Understanding Buddhist Mudra

Inspirational Living Arts Mark Schumacher

By Mark Schumacher

In Buddhist sculpture and painting throughout Asia, the Buddha (Nyorai, Tathagata) are generally depicted with a characteristic hand gesture known as a mudra. Mudras are used primarily to indicate the nature and function of the deity. They are also used routinely by current-day Japanese monks in their spiritual exercises and worship.

One of the easiest and understandable ways to talk about mudras is to focus on AMIDA BUDDHA, who is the savior of the Pure Land School (Jodo and Jodo Shinshu), which happens to be one of Japan’s largest denominations.

Nine Levels of Rebirth in Amida’s Pure Land
Amida’s Pure Land is composed of nine different levels or grades, and devotees are reborn into one of the nine after death. In Japan, the nine levels are sometimes represented in Amida paintings and sculpture by nine different mudras. 

Upper Grade
Jōshō 上生
Upper Grade, Upper Birth
Upper, Upper Birth
Jōbon Jōshō 上品上生
Upper Grade, Middle Birth
Upper, Middle Birth
Chūbon Jōshō 中品上生
Upper Grade, Lower Birth
Upper, Lower Birth
Gebon Jōshō 下品上生
Middle Grade
Chūshō 中生
Middle Grade, Upper Birth
Middle, Upper Birth
Jōbon Chūshō 上品中生
Middle Grade, Middle Birth
Middle, Middle Birth
Chūbon Chūshō 中品中生
Middle Grade, Lower Birth
Middle, Lower Birth
Gebon Chūshō 下品中生
Lower Grade
Geshō 下生
Lower Grade, Upper Birth
Lower, Upper Birth
Jōbon Geshō 上品下生
Lower Grade, Middle Birth
Lower, Middle Birth
Chūbon Geshō 中品下生
Lower Grade, Lower Birth
Lower, Lower Birth
Gebon Geshō 下品下生

Please visit Mark Schumacher’s site for in-depth discussions about mudras, Buddhism and related subjects at http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/buddhism.shtml


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