A mudra is a motion or gesture of the hands and body to express a feeling or thought. Buddhist meditation rituals are based on the use of mudras. One prominent mudra, is the Bhumisparsha mudra. Translated from Sanskrit it means ‘earth touching.’ The earth touching pose (or mudra) is most often seen in statues of Buddha and is also referred to as the earth witness mudra.
To perform this mudra, the hand is placed on the ground with all fingers touching and reaching toward the ground. The palm faces inward. It is symbolic of the moment when Buddha summoned the Earth goddess to witness his attainment of enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. For this reason, the pose is also known as ‘Summoning the Earth Goddess to Witness.’
Buddha statues in the earth touching mudra have the right arm resting on the right knee with the fingers of the hand extended downward. The statue shows the Buddha with his left hand resting in his lap with the palm skyward in the meditation mudra (dhyana mudra). The combination of mudras is intended to symbolize the union of wisdom and method, Nirvana and Samasra. Buddhist teachings tell the tale of how Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, assumed the earth touching pose to resist the temptations and distractions of the demon Mara who sought to lure the Buddha from his spiritual life.
Mara existed in many incarnations in Buddhist lore, from all powerful, evil creature to impish nuisance. This demon was a symbol of temptation who summoned beautiful temptresses to distract the Buddha from his spiritual journey much like the sirens of Greek Mythology.
The second of the Five Great Buddhas (Five Dhyani Buddhas), Akshobhya, is depicted in the earth touching pose. Akshobhya is a manifestation of strength, confidence, and determination and the use of the Bhumisparsha mudra is a reflection of that. The concept of the Five Great Buddhas was an evolution of the Buddhist theology. Initially, only two existed, wisdom and compassion.
Akshobhya sits in the Eastern position and is thought to possess the mirror wisdom that converts anger to wisdom. He is associated with the element water, mirror-like itself and symbolic of Akshobhya’s ability to help people see things as they truly are.
The simple beauty of this mudra is a welcome reminder that temptation can be confronted by strength. A popular Asian decor accent, the earth touching Buddha statue can be a constant symbol of strength and resolve in the home.