The Correct Hand Position for Buddhist Meditation?

We share an explanation of different hand positions used in Buddhist meditation.

Lion’s Roar
27 June 2018
Illustration by Nolan Pelletier.

When I see pictures in the media of people meditating, they usually have their palms up with their index fingers and thumbs making a circle. Is this the right hand position for Buddhist meditation?

Hand positions are called mudras, and they are meant to encourage certain states of mind. The hand position you see depicted is widely taught in yoga to promote deep diaphragm breathing and concentration. In Hinduism, it symbolizes union with the divine. We are not aware of it being used in Buddhist meditation.

There are two mudras commonly used in Buddhist meditation. In the first, called “resting the mind,” you place your hands face down on your knees or thighs, with the upper arms parallel to the torso. This allows your hands to relax and promotes a straight but not stiff back.

The other common hand position is the “cosmic mudra,” which is widely used in Zen. In this mudra, your right hand rests in your lap facing up and your left hand sits lightly on top of it. The thumbs gently touch each other as if holding a piece of paper, forming an oval just below the navel. Since this is considered the spiritual and energetic center of the body, the mudra is called cosmic because we gently hold the universe in our hands. More practically, the circle often starts to collapse as our attention wanders or we get drowsy, which is a helpful reminder to wake up.

Lion's Roar

Lion’s Roar

Lion’s Roar is the website of Lion’s Roar magazine (formerly the Shambhala Sun) and Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, with exclusive Buddhist news, teachings, art, and commentary. Sign up for the Lion’s Roar weekly newsletter and follow Lion’s Roar on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.