Monthly Archives: October 2013

Understanding Hamsa

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The name “Hamsa” (“Hansa” in Sanskrit, or “Al Khamsa” in Arabic) is from the Semitic root word for five, and is a very ancient symbol in the Middle East. Although it is an ancient symbol, the Hamsa is still popular today and is believed to possess magical powers of protection, happiness and prosperity.

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Hamsa and Budism

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Hamsa and Budism has emerged from India and then spread to South, South East and East Asian Countries (Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Tibet, China, Thailand, Nepal etc.).

Buddhism is a belief system with many rich symbols of which Mudras is of great importance as in Hinduism.  It draws attention to two Mudras in terms of It’s similarity with Hamsa.

Varada Mudra;

Hand faces down in varada mudra. To feel that blessing and fertility will come, and that prayers will be accepted and requests will be given.

Abhaya Mudra;

Hand faces up. Do not be afraid, the protective hand and goodness are with you.
There is an interesting link between the number five and Buddhist mudras as it represents the by five-directionsand the five colours of white, yellow, red, blue and green.Image

East signifies confidence and fearlessness. The hands are in a mudra of casting out fear. With the daily occurrence of violence and natural disaster around our world, many people find it difficult to pursue their way forward into the future. The tranquility gained from following the Buddha’s way better enables one to remain calm; like a mountain unmoved by ravaging elements, one can approach each day without fear.
West whose hands are in a mudra of meditative concentration. It signifies infinite light and boundless life. Amitabha Buddha presides over the Western Pure Land. North. Signifies calmness and purity. The hands are in the mudra of casting out fear. This gesture derives from an incident in which Devadata, Sakyamuni Buddha’s jealous cousin, set a charging elephant loose upon him.

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Without fear, the Buddha calmly sat down and the beast stopped before him. Like a charging elephant, life’s problems can overtake the mind, causing fear and forcing one to seek escape. The teachings of the Buddha can purify and calm the mind so that fear-creating problems can be faced, and brought under control.

Chanting the dharma of Amitabha Buddha improves one’s constitution and increases longevity.
The central direction represents wealth.  The hands are in the mudra of the ceremony of unction. Humans craving for material-wants find themselves in a futile exercise. At best, the joy derived from materialism is short-lived.

True wealth and fulfillment, however, can be attained by developing wisdom through following the Buddha’s teachings.
South. The hands are in a mudra of touching the ground, which symbolizes Sakyamuni Buddha’s resolve to overcome the temptations of Mara and thereby gain supreme enlightenment. He represents beauty and dignity. The practice of Buddhism cultivates inner beauty and sincerity. This in turn results in a more relaxed and pleasing external beauty.

The Hamsa: Up or Down?

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The hamsa hand is a popular apotropaic talisman for magical protection against the evil eye. The word ‘Hamsa’ means “5” and refers to the five fingers. The number “5” is a powerful number and represents defense, power and fortune.

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The hamsa hand conveys a message to the devil, so upwardly hamsa is good against the ‘evil eye’. A downward hamsa is an auspicious sign of prosperity and success.

The Hamsa hand is a prominent Jewish motif that can be found almost everywhere: charms, door entrances, Jewish jewelry, blessings for home and much more. According to the tradition, the Hamsa hand protects the ones who display it in their homes or wear it around their necks. Many believers place the Hamsa hand in their homes and at their work place to ward off the “evil eye”. Hamsa hand is also believed to bless the ones who own it with good fortune and success. Shaped as a hand with five fingers, the Hamsa hand is also known as the hand of Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron.