Meditation symbols have long been used by practitioners of this calming exercise to help them recharge and focus their energy. Through the use of these meditation symbols, the body’s energy is then directed towards specific goals in their lives that they wish to shed a positive light on or accomplish.
In this article we are going to take a look at meditation symbols and their meanings, popular meditation hand symbols that you can incorporate in your day to day, as well as Buddhist meditation symbols that have been used through the ages.
Meditation Hand Symbols For Everyday Use
Have you ever participated in a group meditation and noticed that some practitioners were making meditation symbols with their hands? Has this left you wondering what do certain symbols in meditation mean and how to use symbols for meditation?
It is done by touching your index fingertip to the tip of your thumb, while keeping your other three fingers straight. This is one of the most known meditation symbols and it improves your concentration, gains knowledge, enhances consciousness, and sharpens your memory.
Bring your hands together in a prayer position. Slowly unfurl your hands like a lotus flower blossoming open. Keep the base of the hands together, along with the thumbs and little fingers. Allow the index, middle, and ring fingers to gently open. This hand symbol is said to help help calm the mind, while reminding you of the natural beauty of your soul (3).
You do this symbol by touching your thumb to your pinky, while holding your other three fingers straight. This is used to enhance mental clarity, understand your intuition better and improve communication.
Curl your index fingers toward the base of your thumbs to create a circle and keep the rest of the fingers straight. In this case, your palms can be facing either upward or downwards. This hand symbol is said to enhance knowledge. You are advised to use this mediation symbol whenever you are experiencing a creative block or before an exam if you have to memorize your notes.
Do this meditation hand symbol by touching the tip of the middle finger to the thumb tip, while keeping the other three fingers straight and relaxed. It is used to enhance intuition, alertness, and sensory powers, while also purifying your emotions and thoughts.
To do this, you are required to sit with your hands facing upward, right hand resting on top of your left palm. While in this position, the right hand, which represents enlightenment and higher spiritual faculties rests on the left palm, which represents illusion.
During meditation, the Dhyana meditation hand symbol helps push you into a deeper, more profound concentration while bringing you a sense of tranquility and inner peace.
Another one is the most widely known meditation symbol, it is named after the elephant-headed Hindu god of beginnings. To do it you should place your left hand in front of your chest with your palm facing outward and left thumb down. Next, place your right hand in front of your left with your right palm facing toward you and your left palm. Lock your fingers together, holding them in a half-bent position like a claw.
As you meditate, inhale deep, holding your hands in this gesture, then pull outwardly on your hands as you exhale without unlocking your fingers. Repeat this motion up to six times, then reverse the gesture.
Bring your palms together in front of your chest. Press the hands firmly but evenly against each other. Make sure that one hand doesn’t dominate the other. Bow your head slightly, drawing the crease of the neck toward the center of your head. Lift your sternum into your thumbs and lengthen down along the back of the armpits, making the back elbows heavy.
Abhaya Hridaya Mudra
Bring your palms together in front of your chest as though you are praying. Cross your right wrist over your left wrist in front of your sternum, with the palms facing away from each other. Bring the backs of your hands together.
From here, wrap your right index finger around the left index finger, then your right middle finger over your left, skip over the ring finger and wrap your right little finger over your left. This mudra is said to benefit you by connecting you to your heart’s truth, giving you the courage to follow your heart, reducing fragmented thoughts and scattered energy, as well as imparting you with a powerful sense of vitality and calm.
This is performed by bending your ring finger to the base of your thumb so that your thumb touches the ring finger’s knuckle. Keep your other fingers straight without stressing the hand. This mudra helps with improving your metabolism and digestion.
To do this, touch the tip of your thumb to the tips of your middle and ring fingers while leaving your other two fingers extended. This hand symbol is said to help eliminate toxins from the body.
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Not exactly. However, practitioners of this religion have several special spiritual symbols and art pieces that are considered sacred and can be found drawn on meditation mats, furniture pieces, ceramics, and carpets, etc. in temples, homes or even as sacred art pieces.
According to Study.com, these figures started appearing in India in around the 3rd century BCE and they helped spread Buddhism to China, Japan, Korea, and the rest of East Asia. The reason why these signs were made in the first place is because the followers of Buddha wanted something to help them remember and share Buddha’s teachings (2).
While these symbols are not exactly meant to be used as Buddhist meditation symbols, understanding them better could help you meditation and understand the religion and its teachings in a better way. The most common ones are as follows.
1. The Dharmachakra
It is also known as the eight-spoked wheel, Dharma Wheel, the Wheel of Truth/Law, or the Wheel of Transformation, it is the most common of all Buddhist symbols. All eight spokes of this wheel are used to represent the eight parts of the path to wisdom and the end of suffering. The 8 paths are:
- Right View/Understanding. Understanding accurately the nature of all things, but most especially the Four Noble Truths.
- Right Intention. It involves avoiding thoughts of attachment, hatred, and harmful intent.
- Right Speech. You are required to refrain from verbal misdeeds such as lying, divisive, harsh, and/or senseless speech.
- Right Action. You must refrain from physical misdeeds such as killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct.
- Right Livelihood. You are advised to avoid trades that directly or indirectly harm others. Trades/businesses such as selling slaves, weapons, animals for slaughter, intoxicants, or poisons.
- Right Effort. Abandon all negative states of mind that have already arisen, prevent negative states that have yet to arise, and sustain positive states that have already arisen.
- Right Mindfulness. Always strive to be aware of your body, feelings, thought, and the exciting world around us.
- Right Concentration aka single-mindedness.
At the middle where all the spokes connect there is a middle ring that symbolizes the six realms of existence i.e. humans, gods, demi-gods, animals, hell-beings, and hungry ghosts.
2. The White Parasol
This symbol has its roots serving as an Indian symbol of royalty and protection. In Buddhism it is said to represent not only the safety and refuge offered by the Buddha and his teachings, but also dignity, wisdom, and compassion.
Also known as the Sankha, it was historically used as a sign of victory in battle, and to represent heroic gods. As a Buddhist symbol, it represents the teachings and the fearlessness of Buddha’s followers in sharing these ideas to others. When blown, the loud sound reaches far and wide making us see our ignorance and awaken from the deep slumber of ignorance.
4. The Treasure Vase
Also known as Bumpa or the Urn of Wisdom it symbolizes certain wealth deities. This urn may also represent health, wealth, prosperity, long life, spiritual growth, and all the good things that come with enlightenment.
Practitioners of this religion also believe that the vase is filled with sacred gifts such as mindfulness, compassion, and loving-kindness, which they can receive for as long as they continue following the teachings of Buddha.
5. The Victory Banner
The origins of this can be traced to the military where those participating in battle would adorn it with signs of the deity who was leading and transporting them into battle. As a Buddhist symbol, it symbolizes the victory of the Buddha over the demons of anger, greed, pride, lust, hatred, disharmony, material desires, fear of death, etc.
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In the Western world, the fish could almost be likened to the two fish of the zodiac sign, Pisces. In Indian history, however, these golden fish are said to have begun as a sign of the Ganges and the Yamuna, two powerful rivers in India. As a symbol in Buddhism, they represent freedom, happiness, luck, fortune, fertility, and fearlessness.
7. The Endless Knot
It serves as a sign of Buddha’s endless wisdom and compassion. Practitioners also see it the intertwining knot of wisdom, compassion, peace and love, as well as the perfection of knowledge.
8. The Lotus Flower
Like the Wheel of Dharma, it is also one of the most common signs in Buddhism. It symbolizes peace, humanity, enlightenment and life. In relation to life, the flower is said to show us that even in the worst conditions, we can live, survive, and even blossom into beautiful creations.
The lotus flower grows in muddy and murky waters but blossoms into one of the most beautiful and sweetest-smelling flowers in India. It should also be noted that different coloured flowers represent different things.
- White represents purity of the mind, body, and spirit.
- Red stands for the heart, love, and compassion.
- Blue represents wisdom, intelligence, knowledge, and a willingness to learn.
- Pink represents Buddha who is the highest of all deities.
- Purple stands for mysticism and the spiritual journey towards enlightenment and self-awareness.
- Gold is said to represent either Buddha or total enlightenment.
Since Chinese Buddhism – a combination of Taoism and Mahayana Buddhism – is China’s oldest foreign religion, these same signs can also be considered as Chinese meditation symbols.
Apart from hand meditation symbols and meanings as well as Buddhist meditation symbols and their significance, there exist spiritual signs that are usually involved in this practice. If you have seen them before but cannot quite figure out what they mean, here are some examples and their meanings
1. Om. This sound is often used in many meditation practices, guided or otherwise. The sound refers to the breath of the universe and it represents the waking consciousness, dreaming, and deep sleep.
2. The Hamsa. Also known as the Hand of Fatima, it is used to ward off evil and negativity, especially the evil eye.
3. The Evil Eye. This is based on the idea that someone is placing too much attention or emphasis on you. Those who wear the evil eye and the Hamsa, use both mediation symbols to ward off any ill will from people.
4. Yin & Yang. It almost looks like the pair of golden fish in Buddhist meditation symbols. Yin & yang represent masculine and feminine energy, light and dark energy, and the law of polarity.
The Bottom Line
For beginners meditation symbols may seem confusing at first. However, the more you familiarize yourself with them, the more you get to learn and appreciate their importance in both Buddhism and meditation as a whole.
Whenever you feel like you cannot concentrate or that any of your chakras are closed or blocked, try adding meditation symbols to your routine. They may give you the boost you need to recharge and focus their energy towards your goals.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Meditation: Process and effects (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Meditation Research: A Comprehensive Review (2013, researchgate.net)
- The Source, Meanings And Use Of “Mudra” Across Religions (2016, researchgate.net)