Mudras Practices In Tibetan Culture Essay

3993 words - 16 pages

Buddhist art is a form of art which is entirely or partially based on Lord Buddha and his teachings. It has a high practice of rich symbolic tradition. As Buddhism spread into different nations, Buddhist symbolism was enriched by the cultures it came in contact with. For example, Tibet has borrowed Buddhist art and culture from India since 7th century. The most popular symbolic art in Tibet is comprised of the Eight Auspicious Symbols and the mudras: the hand gestures used by Buddha. These symbolic arts are not simply for decorative purpose, but contain a depth of meaning within them. Tibet also uses sound for Medicine Buddha practices, and although it may seem to be an ordinary chanting, ...view middle of the document...

However, it was only in the late 10th century that the religion saw a revival, inaugurating what is known as the “later diffusion of the Buddhist faith.”
However, not all Tibetans consider India as the source of Buddhism. Since the tenth and eleventh centuries and till today there have been two organized religious traditions in Tibet: Buddhism and a faith that is referred to by its Tibetan name, Bon. It is generally referred to as the ancient pre-Buddhist and later non-Buddhist religious belief and practices in Tibet which is composed of shamanistic beliefs, and secretive rituals. Bon has numerous and obvious points of similarity with Buddhism with regard to doctrine and practice that its status as a distinct religion has been doubted. To quote his holiness the 14th Dalai Lama:
Bon is Tibet’s oldest spiritual tradition and, as the indigenous source of Tibetan culture, played a significant role in shaping Tibet’s unique identity. Consequently, I have often stressed the importance of preserving this tradition.
Tibetan Buddhism was based on notion of supernatural power with deities, which are believed to be achieved by performing mantras, mudras and meditation using different types of art forms. As Buddhism started to flourish within Tibet, numerous monks became artists who traveled to different monasteries. In time, many sculpture and paintings were made as aids to Buddhist meditation. The physical appearance became a base to support and encourage the existence of the divinity depicted in the mind of the worshipper. Images were also specially made for various reasons indicating good fortune, good health, celebrating victory or celebrating a birth. In Tibet, the Eight Auspicious Symbols are the most popular and the oldest symbol grouping in the canonical texts leading us back to the Sanskrit or Pali texts of Indian Buddhism. In the present, these lucky symbols may be found printed on Tibetan prayer flags, incorporated into mandalas and thangkas and used in other forms of ritual art. The other main type of symbolism in Tibet is the symbolic hand gestures called mudras. These are the different types of hand and finger placement which are usually displayed in Buddha images or sculpture. Each mudra suggests a significant meaning which is used as form of meditation, dance or non-verbal communication. Along with the expansion of symbolic art, Emperor Songtsang Gampo also adopted Indian Buddhism as a cure that could heal the inner wound caused by anger and aggressive mind.
In Tibet, the Eight Auspicious Symbols are called bkra-shis rtags-brgyad which is also commonly known as Ashtamangala. This is derived from Sanskrit as ashta, meaning eight, and mangala, meaning auspicious. The Eight Auspicious symbols are traditionally listed in the order of: a Parasol, a pair of Golden Fish, a Treasure Vase, a Lotus, a Conch Shell, an Endless Knot, a Victory Banner and a Wheel of Dharma (Figure 1). Each of these symbols is also individually related to the...

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