I was reading a blog of a friend of mine, Dave Stoker, over at Thoughts of a Seeker when I noticed a photograph of a statue he used in a post. This statue, that he identified as the Tian Tan Buddha, was intriguing to me because of its unique posture that I had not before recognized in Eastern art. Dave informs us that these arm and hand gestures are quite universal in historical depictions of Buddha, and are known as mudras. He further says that this particular statue is the largest outdoor seated Buddha in the world, completed in 1993 in Hong Kong.
Tian Tan, I have come to find out, is Mandarin for “Temple of Heaven,” or more literally “Altar of Heaven,” and is the same name given to a Taoist temple in Beijing. The term mudra is Sanskrit for “seal” or “seal of authenticity.” Wikipedia further defines the mudra:
A mudrā (Sanskrit: मुद्रा, lit. “seal”) is a symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism. While some mudrās involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers. Mudrā (Sanskrit) is a ‘spiritual gesture’ and energetic ‘seal of authenticity’ employed in the iconography and sadhana of Dharmic Traditions and Taoic Traditions; particularly those influenced by Tantra, Shinto and Shamanism. [Read more…]