Scroll of Mudras

Heian period (794–1185)
Japan, 11th–12th century
Handscroll; ink on paper

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This handscroll depicts hand gestures known as mudras in Sanskrit, the Indian language in which many early Esoteric Buddhist texts were written. In Japan, the gestures are called insō, the Japanese term for a Chinese word that combines the characters for ‘seal’ and ‘form.’ In Esoteric Buddhism, mudras are physical enactments of ultimate truths revealed through the Buddha and other deities.

Scroll of Mudras DP234943

Scroll of Mudras, Japan, Heian period (794–1185). The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Practitioners of Esoteric Buddhism in Japan form mudras during meditation and rituals and use them to interpret the meaning of painted and sculpted Buddhist images. This scroll was passed down in the Kyoto temple Shōren-in, a Tendai School temple traditionally administrated by imperial princes who had taken religious vows.

Click on any image to view.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Categories: Art, Buddhism, Encyclopedia, History, Mahayana

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4 replies

  1. Is there any way to find out? One in particular I’m interested in.

    I’m interested in DP234314, (3rd down on the right) 4th Mudra from the left. Backs of the hands together.



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