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Buddha Statues and their Mudras
Most of the Buddha statues at the Watt Munisotaram are made in Cambodia, although (based on the labels) some seem to have also been made in Faribault, MN. Artisans and construction workers come to the Watt to work on projects every day.
The 4 large Buddha statues in the lower level represent Buddhas who manifest on earth to teach human beings, and guide them, in four different eons (not just the Shakyamuni/Gautama Buddha). These Buddhas are each depicted with a different mudra (hand gesture), evoking different states of being and foci for meditation. For instance, a Buddha with its hand touching its leg signifies the attainment of Nirvana.
The mudras depiected in these four buddhas are as follows;
1) Dhyana: Meditation Mudra or Contemplation Mudra, symbolizes the triumph of enlightenment over the world of illusions.
2) Dharmachakra, Teaching or Turning the Wheel of Law Mudra. This gesture was used by Shaka Nyorai (the Historical Buddha) when preaching his first sermon after reaching enlightenment. It refers especially to the teaching of the Dharma (law) and the preaching of the Buddha.
3) Abhaya, No fear mudra. Abhaya is translated from Sanskrit as fearlessness. Mudra of protection, peace and deep inner security.
4) Bhumisparsha: Earth Touching or Calling the Earth to Witness mudra which symbolizes the Buddha’s enlightenment under the bodhi tree.
This statue depicts a figure with its hands crossed in lap in the dhyana or meditation mudra and legs in the single lotus position. Having the statue under a tree in the midst of meditation represents the Prince Gautama meditating under the Bodhi tree (among other places) in the midst of his asceticism before realizing the "Middle Way" and attaining enlightenment or "awakening", according to tradition.1
Interview with Yanat Chhith 7/9/2017 and 9/17/17 ↩
This statue scene, complete with grass, flowers, and trees depicts the moments after the Buddha was born. The Buddha was born as a royal prince in Lumbini, in what is now Nepal. Eight white female figures with purple flower sashes surround the newly born Buddha. With one index finger pointing towards the sky and the other index finger pointing towards the earth, he states, “I am chief of the world, greatest am I in the world, righteous am I in the world."1
Outdoor Shrine and Upper Sanctuary Buddhas
There are two very important figures in the outdoor shrine of the Watt. One Buddha statue has the Bhumisparsha mudra, or the earth touching or earth witness mudra. This mudra, formed with all five fingers of the right hand extended to touch the ground, symbolizes the Buddha's enlightenment under the bodhi tree. The right hand, placed upon the right knee and complemented by the left hand-which is held flat in the lap as in the dhyana mudra of meditation, symbolizes the union of method and wisdom, samasara and nirvana, and the realizations of the conventional and ultimate truths.1
A reclining Buddha is represents the historical Buddha during his last illness, about to enter the Nirvana. He is lying on the right flank, his head resting on a cushion or relying on his right elbow, supporting his head with his hand.
This brown Buddha is a Buddha has yet to come to earth. Known as Maitreya in Sanskrit and Metteyya in Pali, this Buddha is regarded as a bodhisattva (teacher) who will appear on Earth in the future, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma.1 According to scriptures, Metteyya will be a successor to the present Buddha, Gautama Buddha. This Buddha is performing the Bhumisparsha (Earth Touching or Calling the Earth to Witness) mudra which symbolizes the Buddha’s enlightenment under the bodhi tree. Together, the hand positions represent represent "the union of method and wisdom, samasara and nirvana, and also the realizations of the conventional and ultimate truths".2