The Abhaya Mudra is referred to as the “pose of dispelling fear.” It is the Sanskrit word ‘fearlessness’ and this mudra or pose is commonly seen in Buddha statues. It symbolizes peace and protection and is believed to create energy that removes fear and doubt. This pose can be recognized by the position of the right arm. In the dispelling fear mudra, the palm of the hand faces out at shoulder height and the arm is slightly bent.
This Buddhist symbol of courage emphasizes the spiritual power of the Buddha or bodhisattva who makes it. A bodhisattva is being who has achieved an enlightened state and embraced the Buddhahood. The mudra can also be thought of as a symbol of friendship as the hands are empty and weaponless. The position is often misinterpreted by Westerners as an indication to “stop, but” it really courage in the face of danger.
Buddhist historians believe that the dispelling fear mudra was the gesture made by the Buddha Shakyamuni just after he achieved enlightenment. Stories from Buddhist mythology often tell of the Buddha’s speak of is use of the this mudra to pacify the enemies who threatened him.
Only a Buddha statue or bodhisattva sculpture would be seen in the dispelling fear pose, as it is only useful to those who have achieved enlightenment. In Thailand and Laos, the pose is most commonly seen in images of Buddha in a standing position.
This mudra is most identified with the fifth Dyhani Buddha, Amoghasiddhi. The five Dyhani Buddhas are the 5 wisdom Buddhas or great Buddhas who represent the core qualities of the Buddhist philosophy. They are often represented as the cardinal directions – North, South, East, West and then Center.
It is common to meditate on Amoghasiddhi to combat feelings of jealousy and emphasize one’s own accomplishments. Since jealousy can be considered a form of the fear, the use of the pose makes sense. In most statues of Buddha in the pose of dispelling fear, the right hand assumes the Abhaya Mudra while the left hand hangs at the Buddha side.
Occasionally the left-hand takes the varada mudra, a gift-giving gesture. Another symbolic meaning of the dispelling fear pose is an interpretation of the action of preaching. Chinese and Gandhara Buddha interpretations are the ones that most often used the dispelling fear pose to represent the Buddha preaching.
Those decorating their home with Asian decor can bring a richer symbolism home with the display of a Buddha statue in the dispelling fear pose. It’s most obvious use is as a symbol of protection and safety. It also reminds us of the value of of inner strength and the need to emphasize our spiritual journey to eliminate doubt and fear.