Buddha Amida – a handcarved Polyptych in Japanese Style (part 1) and about Mudras in Buddhist Art

December 18, 2008

I wished I could take chisel and mallet again and work on wood. Winter seems to be the right season for such an activity. I miss this kind of work terribly but currently I have not enough space in the studio. So this has to wait a little while longer. But I can show you what I have done so far and this is one of my favourites: Buddha Amida.

Inspired by Japanese Buddha statues for their simplicity and elegance I created this polyptych with 3 bas-relief sculptures and 2 ornamental panels. In order to give you an overall impression – here is a photo of the finished work:

“Buddha Amida”
69″ x 79″, pine

The decision to work with pine wood again was easy. The single planks were chosen carefully as I did not want to have too many knotholes in the wood, especially not in those parts where the faces would be. Also I looked for a consistent grain in order to achieve an even result after staining.

The middle panel shows the main figure: Buddha Amida


The Buddha was displayed with two different mudras (these are the positions of the hand): the Vitarka Mudra and the Varada Mudra. The position, where forefinger and thumb are forming a circle, while the palm is turned forward, stands for teaching and tuition. The other mudra, where the right arm is extended downwards and the palm is turned forward, stands for granting a wish. Varada Mudra symbolizes compassion, mercifulness and generosity.


The left Bodhisattwa figure (which means an enlightened human being and future  Buddha)has been displayed with an Abhaya Mudra (his right hand), which means to “dispel the fear”. The mudra symbolizes protection and fearlessness.

His left hand is on his left knee. Normally you will see this mudra with the right hand and knee. I allowed myself to artistic freedom. In any case the fingers are showing downwards: this mudra symbolizes the defeat of the demon Mara, calling to earth as a witness for his path. This mudra is called Bhumisparsa Mudra and can be translated literally into “touching the earth”. The mudra stands for the imperturbability of the Buddha.


The right Bodhisattwa figure (from the viewer’s point if view) has been displayed again with a Varada Mudra (s.above). In his left hand the Bodhisattwa carries a lotus flower, whose stern reaches from behind his back up to his right shoulder in order to rest upon it.

Both Bodhisattwa figures are wearing a sort of halo, displayed as a kind of stylized lotus bloom. The Buddha in the middle is wearing a halo as it was common in ancient Chinese and Japanese Buddhist art.




If you would like to know more about mudras and what it’s all about in Buddhism then check out these links:

Dharmapala Thangka Center
Historical Buddha

(will be continued…)




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