View Full Version : Hand placement in zazen

24th September 2006, 14:14
What is the reasoning behind placing your hands the way you do while meditating. I am talking about the right hand under the left hand and in a circle with the thumbs lightly touching. Thanks for any help on this!

Brian Owens
24th September 2006, 20:51
I'm not going to give the oh-so-common reply to questions like this -- "Ask your sensei." That wouldn't really help.

Instead I'll say...

Ask your roshi.

Just kidding!

There are probably many reasons, but among them are:

3) It's an ergonomically "correct" position that keeps nerve and blood pathways open.

2) It is symbolic of a continuous "flow" of energy.

1) It's the way I was taught to do it.

I think #1 is the most important.

24th September 2006, 21:47
Sounds good to mee! Thank you

25th September 2006, 08:37
The one "practical" thing I was told was that you have to actively keep your hands in the correct position. If your posture slumps and/or your thumbs separate, or your finger collapse, etc. you need to straighten out your spine and get back into the right position.
Zazen is a very active practice -- you have to work at keeping your body and parts correct.


r e n

Joseph Svinth
26th September 2006, 03:15
In the old days, one improved one's invocation of appropriate deities using hand signs, which in Sanskrit were called mudra. You still see similar hand movements in older kata (and traditional dance).

Today, calling down appropriate deities is rarely taught as an explanation. To secular humanists and agnostics, it is medieval superstition, and to Christians, Jews, godless Communists, and so on, it is just plain offensive...

And no, I don't have answers for precisely what the meaning may be in your particular system.

Personal research is required.

27th September 2006, 12:17
In addition to the above, on a visit to Daitokuji I was told that the right hand is believed in Zen Buddhism to be connected to the heart, so it is placed on the bottom in order to "ground" the consciousness during meditation. I've forgotten if the left hand has a similar meaning.

28th September 2006, 07:55
Here is some info on the subject.

First let us take the definition of a mudra from this source.

A Dictionary of Japanese Buddhist Terms by Hisao Inagaki
Publisher Nagata Bunshodo Kyoto ISBN4-8162-0201-3

In 印 'A manual sign' ; Sanskrit. Mudra; a ritual sign with the fingers in esoteric Buddhism.

My opinion here: The definition is right by mudras are seen in Zen as well usually Gassho plams joined and the one mentioned in the previous post the Hokai Jo in.

The Jo In 定印 is actually very well defined in the following book Mudra A Study of Symbolic Gestures in Japanese Buddhist Sculpture ISBN 0-691-01866-9

Theres is actually 8 pages on this class of Mudras so here is the basic definition.

The symbolism of the Jo-in is closely associated with the indian concept of samadhi: the complete absorbtion of thought by intense contemplation of a single object of mediation, in such a way that the bonds relating the mental faculties to so called ''real phenomena'' are broken, and the worshipper is thus enabled to identify himself with the supreme unity trough a sort of super-intellectual raptus. Two categories of thought processes fall under the heading of samadhi: the Sanjo or '' Scattered meditation'' exercised under the influence of the world of desire, characterizes the ordinary fashion of thinking; and the Zenjo or ''Ecstatic meditation'' exercised in the world beyond forms. and it goes on and on like this for 8 pages explaining all the variations different meaning in Shingon Tendai etc....

Hope this info will be helpfull to you and others.

11th January 2007, 12:56
The position is indeed called hokkai jo-in. In Sanskrit it is the dharmadhatu-mudra, which means 'gesture of reality or 'gesture of things-as-they-are'.

It is unique among the various mudra in that it represents 'jiriki' (self-power), rather than 'tariki' (other power). Whereas all other mudra are invocations seeking assistance, the hokkaijoin is really a method of measuring your own quality of mind, without seeking intercession. If you're going to sit still for a long time, you need to do something productive with your hands. This mudra is difficult to hld properly without correct mindfulness. If you are anxious, tense or thinking hard, your thumbs will tend to press together and form a point. If you are drifting off to sleep, your thumbs will lose contact. So it is a kind of barometer of where you're at.

In kendo it represents the connection both between the Sword and Zen, and the fact that the way of the kendo is mastery of self, not annihilation of others.

You already know what it looks like but here is a picture of it just to make sure we're all on the same page.


BTW once we had an old Japanese sensei visit the dojo who used this mudra when he sat for "mokuso":


It's the 'mida no join' and is a symbol of Amida Buddha, the Buddha most frequently worshipped in Pure Land Buddhism in Japan. I have only seen it that once in the dojo. Since many more people in Japan are followers of Pure Land rather than Zen, I find it curious that I haven't seen it more often.



11th January 2007, 16:06
The position is indeed called hokkai jo-in. In Sanskrit it is the dharmadhatu-mudra, which means 'gesture of reality or 'gesture of things-as-they-are'.

dharmadhatu-mudra is literally dharma space gesture.
/wonk :)

Be well,