As mentioned in previous articles, Mudras are one of the important features that represents various importance of Buddha statues as well as the life event that may have occurred in the lifetime of Lord Buddha. Among these various Buddha hand gestures, Earth Witness Buddha gestures represent one of the most common images of Lord Buddha in Buddhism. The Bhumisparsha Mudra is also translated as earth touching mudra as well as earth witness mudra.
Through different research some important details have been revealed with a help of local Buddha statues maker and seller. A Buddha gestures cannot be called Bhumisparsha unless five Buddha mudra statues are in a set i.e. if there is set of five different buddha statues with five different Buddha mudra like varada mudra, dhyana mudra, dharmachakra mudra, vitarka mudra, and Bhumisparsha mudra then and then only Buddha statues can be said to represent Bhumisparsha mudra and other various Mudras.
History of Bhumisparsha Mudra
It happened during the time when Lord Buddha was about to realized Enlightenment. There was a demon named Mara who became jealous of Lord Buddha and claimed that he attained Enlightenment in front of Lord Buddha. Even his army of demon claimed to be the witness of Mara demon enlightenment. It is believed that Demon Mara asked Lord Buddha about his witness for achieving Nirvana. Lord Buddha was calm even in such crucial moment and remain in his meditation from but his right hand touch the earth. There seems to different variation on how earth became the witness of Lord Buddha’s enlightenment. One story said that when Lord Buddha touched the earth with his hand, the earth itself spoke and claimed to be the witness of Lord Buddha. Another story said that when Lord Buddha touch the earth with his right hand, Earth God came from the earth and claimed to be the witness of Lord Buddha enlightenment. After the appearance of Earth god, Mara demon and his demon army fled off from Lord Buddha. This is how Bhumisparsha Mudra came to exist in the history of Buddhism.
Characteristics of Bhumisparsha Mudra
Most of Buddha statues with Bhumisparsha mudra, is depicted with the right hand of Buddha images as the pendant over the right knee toward the earth with palm of left hand upright in his lap. The legs are depicted in crossed seated position. Along with normal Buddha statues, one of Buddha among Five Dhyani Buddha, Buddha Akshobhaya also used Bhumisparsha Mudra and it is said that it was used by Buddha Akshobhaya in order to transform his anger and delusion into wisdom. That’s the sole reason that Bhumisparsha Mudra is also known for the transformation of anger to wisdom.
One of the key features that can be found in most of the Burmese Buddha statues is Ushnisha. In general, Ushnisha is a three dimensional oval shaped that can be found on the top of the Buddha and Buddha statues. One of the misunderstandings between Ushnisha and topknot of young prince is that Ushnisha symbolizes Lord buddha attainment of reliance in spiritual level whereas topknot symbolizes the royal family culture. The topknot was cut off by Prince Siddhartha before leaving the royal palace to become ascetic.
During early Buddhist culture, Ushnisha was used in order to represent the crown on the top of the head of Lord Buddha. Ushnisha can be considered as an important features in most of the Buddha statues, Buddha images, and Buddha sculptures. But the exact proof has yet to be proved about the existence of Ushnisha during the lifetime of Lord Buddha as well as whether Lord Buddha had actually Ushnisha on the top of his head or not. There are many theories about the hair of Buddha saying that Lord Buddha had shaved heads whereas some other theories said that Lord Buddha had curly hairs.
Use of Ushnisha in Buddha Statues
The Ushnisha was first depicted in Buddha statues around 1st century CE in the Greco Buddhist Art that had huge influence in Gandhara art. That’s was the first when ushnisha became the iconography of Gandhara Buddhist Art and portrayed Ushnisha as the crown of Gautama Buddha. During those Gandhara Buddhist periods, Ushnisha in Lord Head was depicted as the gathering of wavy and huge hair and changing in to chignon.
The appearance of Ushnisha in the Buddha statues can be differed according to different Buddhist tradition. In late time, South Asian countries introduce a new type of depiction on Buddha Ushnisha. The ushnisha depicted in Buddha images in South Asian countries were given more schematic appearance and instead of chignon, these countries also introduce flame or lotus flower. That’s why Ushnisha have been around for many years and had a evolving presence in the Buddhist art of Buddha statues, Buddha images, and other Buddhist sculptures.
Lord Buddha, Enlightened One for forty five years helped all the sentient beings through his vast amount of knowledge and wisdom. The present situation of Buddhism can be considered as the result of Lord Buddha’s greatest teachings as well as the principles Lord Buddha left behind in this mortal world. There are many uncountable number of Buddhist followers and disciples of Lord Buddha but among them some of these Buddhist disciples are said to be important disciples who have made their name in the history of Buddhism.
Important Disciples of Lord Buddha
Let’s see some of these important Buddhist disciples:
Sariputra is one of the important Buddhist disciples of Lord Buddha and was the chief disciples of Lord Buddha. Ven. Sariputra was known as the foremost in Wisdom. Before becoming the Buddhist monks, Sariputra was born in the family of Brahmin and his name was Upatissa. Lord Buddha had two chief disciples, one being Sariputra and other being Ven. Moggallana. It is believed that Both Ven. Sariputra and Ven. Moggallana were born on the same day and they became the best of friends. Ven. Sariputra was renowned for his beautiful teachings of Buddhist principles. Ven. Sariputra was known for his various extraordinary works like the events with Devadatta.
Moggallana, also one of the chief disciples of Lord Buddha was known as foremost in supernatural powers. Before he became Buddhist monks, his name was Maudyagalyana. He was considered as the senior teachers by most of the Buddhist monks and his possession of supernatural powers helps all the other sentient beings whether they are junior Buddhist monks or human.
Mahakasyapa, one of the senior Buddhist monks is also the important disciples of Lord Buddha. Ven. Mahakasyapa was known as foremost in ascetic practices. Mahakasyapa, was the one of the senior Monks who started the tradition of Sangha after the death of Lord Buddha. Ven. Mahakasyapa was the first Buddhist monks along with Ven. Ananda who preached on the Buddhist sutra to 500 buddhist monks in the Sangha.
Ven. Subhuti, other important disciples of Lord Buddha was known as foremost in understanding the emptiness. It is believed that he was very good at explaining the doctrines of Emptiness or Sunyata to junior Buddhist monks. Since he was foremost in Emptiness, he is mentioned in the Prajnaparamita of Mahayana Buddhism.
- Purna Maitrayani Putra
Ven. Purna was a rich family Brahmin born in the family of religious advisor of the King. Purna was foremost in the debating the Dharma and it is said that Purna preferred to give public sermons. It is also said that Ven. Purna was mentioned in many stories and it mentioned him in debate with many great monks of other religions about Dharma.
Ven. Katyayana was foremost in spreading Dharma unlike any other Buddhist disciples. He quickly attained Buddhahood after following Lord Buddha and was extremely enthusiast when it comes to spreading Dharma to whole world. He always believed 10 qualities of Dharma one must possess. They are Knowing the Dharma, explaining Dharma, publicly speaking of Dharma, finding skillful means to spread Dharma, following what is preached, pleasant personality, possessing true energy, command respects and tired less.
Aniruddha was one of the seven Shakya prince who became the followers of Lord Buddha and was the cousin of Lord buddha. According to history of Buddhism, Aniruddha and Ananda became the followers of Lord Buddha at the same time. Aniruddha, being the foremost in the attentiveness, also possess the heavenly eye and became the master of clairvoyance. It is said that after Lord Buddha, he was most capable of using clairvoyance powers.
Upali, was one of the most popular Buddhist disciples who became the Buddhist monks even being the barber and low caste. It is said that Ven. Upali was ordained before seven Shakya Princes was foremost in upkeeping the precepts. Ven. Upali took part in the First Buddhist council and helped in the compilation of Buddhist principles i.e. Vinaya.
Rahula, the youngest disciples to attained the Enlightenment at the age of 18, was foremost in having the desire for the instruction of the Dharma. Ven. Rahula was the biological son of Lord Buddha and was ordained when he was still a child.
It is rare to see if any Buddhist monks don’t know the name of Ven. Ananda. Ananda was the closest Buddhist disciples of Lord Buddha and Ven. Ananda sit beside the Lord Buddha. It is said that Ven. Ananda attined enlightenment after the death of Lord Buddha and two chief disciples. He also was involved in the first Buddhist council. Ven. Ananda took great care of Lord Buddha during his 25 years of services to Lord Buddha.
Among the various features of the Lord Buddha statues, hair of Lord Buddha has quite important meanings. Hair of Buddha is mostly depicted as the curly hair like an African. It is even brought upto the debate whether the Lord Buddha is an African depending upon his hair. But as the history have shown that Lord Buddha was born in the royal family of Shakya Clan who lived in the plain of Kapilvastu that lies in the Landlocked Country Nepal, in the present time.
But according to Buddhist tradition, we can find many different kinds of amazing facts on Buddha hairs. Hair of Buddha engraved in the Buddha images and Buddha statues are also said to be have hidden meanings. It is believed that when Lord Buddha left the life of royalty to become an ascetic, he had long curly hairs and after leaving the royal kingdom, he cut his hair with a knife looking like a monk and left the palace.
It is said that hair is the representation of one’s illusion and ignorance and the hair is also popularly known as the weed of ignorance and the action of Lord Buddha cutting his hair represents that he got rid of the weeds of ignorance. In Buddhism, the process of cutting and shaving the hair is said to provide the “determination to keep the body as well as the mind clean in order to fully grasp the full and true understanding” thus attaining Enlightenment.
Historical Evidence of Lord Buddha’s hair
Even though many styles and different variation of Buddha statues as well as Buddha images are made, it doesn’t possible represent the real figure of Buddha since these various styles made the some various unique characteristics in the Buddha statues. But one small historical evidence briefly said that a hunter happened to stumbled upon the Lord buddha while he was meditating in the forest and it is also said that Lord Buddha was bald. But in the same evidence, a hunter saw Lord buddha with hair wearing monk’s robe.
Lord Buddha also know as the Light of Asia and the founder of Buddhism and represents the religion of peace, compassion, harmony and wisdom. Lord buddha attained Enlightenment after years of hardship and intense meditation and started teaching the principles of his knowledge and got recognized for his exceptional knowledge, insight and wisdom. Even though Lord Buddha said not to worship or make any kind of sculptures out of respect to Lord Buddha, later many Buddha statues, Buddha images, monasteries, stupa were made in various Buddhist countries which were due to the high influence of Greek and Pala styles of statues.
Eyes of Buddha in Buddhist Tradition
According to Buddhist tradition, Buddhism contains a large number of Buddhist symbols and each of these Buddhist symbols and important events. One of the reclining Buddha statues i.e. Ratanakoshin Buddha Statues have got around 108 Buddhist symbols in its legs and each of these symbols is crafted with precise technique and that means these symbols hold important meanings and these symbols must be visible to fully show its importance. Among all these Buddhist Symbols, Eyes of Buddha is also one of them and holds an important role in Buddhism. Every Buddhist shrine all over the world is made with three eyes that depict the eyes of Buddha himself.
Eyes of Buddha
These three eyes holds quite important meanings in the Buddhism. According to legend, every Buddhist Stupa contains giant pairs of eyes and the third eyes above the pair of eyes in all four directions and it is also believed that these eyes look after every sentient being in all direction. These eyes are known as Buddha Eyes i.e. (Wisdom Eyes) and these eyes also represents the symbols of all seeing or omniscience of Buddha. According to legend, Lord Buddha was able to see through all with his omniscience eyes.
During the lifetime of Lord Buddha, when two chief disciples i.e. Sariputra and Mahamoggallana first came into the contact of Ven. Buddhist monk Assaji, they heard about the one who knew the existence of one who after death and went to Lord Buddha. And then when they arrive near Lord Buddha then Lord said that two monks are coming who will become great disciples of Lord Buddha. And as he said they became one of the most important Buddha disciples and provides important works in the field of Buddhism. Sariputra became the General of Dharma and Mahamoggallana became the Venerable of Super Powers.
Eyes of Buddha in Buddhist Stupa
The eyes in the Buddhist stupa represent the all-seeing ability of Buddha and these pairs of Buddha is believed to watch all the sentient beings in all four directions and the third eye of the Buddhist stupa are believed to protect and help all sentient beings that these pairs of eyes watched. According to Buddhist tradition, these wisdom eyes helps all the sentient beings in all four directions to conquer over the darkness of ignorance through the light of wisdom and compassion.
Buddha Statues are the representation of Buddha himself and is also the symbol of peace, happiness and compassion and is worshiped million of Buddhist followers as well devout in the whole world. Buddha statues in the world can be categorized in number of ways as there are many tradition that have their own styles and tradition of making Buddha statues, such as Buddha statues from various period of Myanmar, or Buddha statues from Thailand etc.
One of the most attractive features that can be found in the Buddha statues are mudra or basically hand gestures and postures. These mudras are the hand positions that Lord Buddha used during his lifetime and are thousand of years old. These Buddha mudras are considered to hold much significance since they are features that explained a lot about the event in the life of the Living Buddha, i.e. Shakyamuni Buddha. There are number of Buddha mudras that occurred during the lifetime of Lord Buddha, and each of them holds different symbolic meanings.
Buddha Statues with Bhumisparsha Mudra
Type of Mudras
There are numbers of Buddha hand postures or mudras and each of them holds their own history and symbolic meanings. They are as follows:
- Abhaya Mudra
Abhaya Mudra is referred as Mudra of No-fear and is believed to represents protection, benevolence, peace and elimination of fears. This mudra was used by Lord Buddha when he subdue a rampaged elephant sent by Ven. Devadatta. After using this mudra, the rampaged Elephant is said to kneel before Lord Buddha due to his benevolence. It is said that worshipping Buddha statue with Abhaya Mudra helps to dispel fear from oneselves.
- Bhumisparsha Mudra
Bhumisparsha Mudra is one of the mostly used mudra in the Buddha statues in most of the Buddhist countries. Bhumisparsha Mudra is hand gestures where one hand is rested in the crossed leg and and right hand is depicted touching the earth. It is also knonw as earth witness Buddha.
- Dharmachakra Mudra
Dharmachakra Mudra is the mudra representing the Wheel of Dharma while attaining Enlightenment. It depicts one of the important events in the life of Buddha. It was the hand gestures made by Lord Buddha while teaching first sermon in Sarnath.
- Dhyana Mudra
Another important Buddha mudras used by Lord Buddha during his meditation. Dhyana Mudra is also the representation of gestures of meditation and concentration of Good Law. In Dhyana Mudra, two hands are placed in the lap while right hand is placed above the left hand.
- Varada Mudra
The varada mudra also known as the favorable Mudra is the symbol of offering, charity of giving, sincerity, compassion and welcome. The varada Mudra is mostly used in the Buddha statues made in the Southeast Asia.
Significance of Mudra
Buddha mudras or hand gestures are quite important in the Buddhism. Most of the Buddha statues are made with these various Mudras. Many Buddhist monks and followers of Mahayana Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism follow Buddha statues with Dhyana Mudra for their source of inspiration while meditating. Other Mudras also have their own symbolic meanings for the ordained monks and nuns.
Buddha Statues, also known as the symbols of peace and compassion as Lord Buddha is referred as the Awakened One or Enlightened One and brought peace in all the lands that Lord Buddha visited and taught about Dharma and other principles of Buddhism. There are various reasons that Buddha statues are significant in the world Buddhism.
According to the history of Buddhism, after the death of Buddha, no representations of Buddhist sculptures were made for about four of five centuries because Lord Buddha said not to make any sculptures or worship any kind of Buddhist sculptures. But whatever the reason later the trend of making Buddha statues started around 1st or 2nd Centuries. And the first Statues was believed to be made in Bactria (modern Afghanistan and Pakistan) and it is believed to be the influence of Greek tradition as well as the tradition in Mathura of India. During those era, Mathura as well as Greek tradition had been in existence far long than the tradition of Buddhism existed.
Significance of Buddha Statues
Buddha statues hold quite number of significance in relation to cultural as well religious purposes.
- Buddha statues as symbol of peace
Many Buddhist monks and followers and many Buddhist devout see Buddha statues as the symbol of peace and compassion. Buddhism has always been symbol of peace in the world and Buddhist principles and Buddha statues are the core of Buddhism since Buddha statues represents the Buddha himself.
- Buddha Statues as the medium of meditation
Many Buddhist temples as well as the monasteries provides the Buddha statues as the medium to practice intense meditation. Meditation is also one of the main techniques used in Buddhism and thus leads to achieving final goal of Buddhism i.e. Nirvana or Enlightenment.
- Buddha statues in Home and Garden
Many Buddha statues are believed to provides various spiritual energy and if kept in Home and garden helps to regulate the chi energy and brings happiness and prosperity in the home as well garden.
These are measly some of the significance of Buddha Statues. Buddha statues can be found in various postures and gestures and also differentiate according to the hand postures too. There are various tradition that provides different styles of Buddha statues in the world.