The ushnisha, a protuberance on the top of Buddha’s head, often resembles a bun or a topknot. This is often thought to be a symbol of his enlightenment. The urna, which is a tuft of white hair, is thought to be the thirty-first physical characteristic of Buddha. This is supposed to symbolize wisdom and be a mark of Buddha as being a ‘great being’. There are also ideas which state its symbolism as the ‘third eye’ (often marked as a circular dot or mole on the forehead) which in turn, symbolizes vision into the divine world.
The mudra is considered to be an energetic seal of authenticity and also a spiritual gesture that uses mostly the hands and fingers. The type of mudra in this image of Buddha is called the Dharmachakra, which in Sanskrit means ‘Wheel of Dharma’ or ‘Wheel of the doctrine’. In this mudra, the thumb and index finger of both hands are touching at their tips to form a circle, in which this case represents the ‘Wheel of Dharma’. In metaphysical terms, this may also represent the union of method and wisdom, a gesture of teaching. The three remaining fingers of the two hands remain extended. These fingers are themselves rich in symbolic significance.
These three extended fingers on the right hand represent the three vehicles of the Buddha’s teachings which are: the middle finger representing the “hearers” of the teachings, the ring finger representing the “solitary realizers” and the little finger representing the “Mahayana” or “Great Vehicle”. On the left hand, the three extended fingers symbolize the ‘Three Jewels of Buddhism’ namely the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
This mudra is thought to symbolize one of the most important moments in the life of Buddha: the occasion when he preached to his companions the first sermon after his Enlightenment in the Deer Park at Sarnath. This event is often referred to as the setting into motion of the Wheel of the teaching of the Dharma. The placement of the hands is also significant – in front of the heart - as this symbolizes that the teachings are straight from the Buddha’s heart.
This mudra is displayed by the first Dhyani Buddha Vairochana. Each of the Five Dhyani Buddhas is associated with a specific human delusion, and it is believed that they help mortal beings in overcoming them. Thus, Vairochana is believed to transform the delusion of ignorance into the wisdom of reality. By displaying the Dharmachakra mudra, he thus helps adepts in bringing about this transition.
Beneath his low throne, appears a seated princely figure flanked by kneeling