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According to tantric texts, it is traditionally believed that Lord Shiva was the first exponent of mudras and he revealed this knowledge to his consort, Parvati. Addressing the goddess Parvati, Lord Shiva says (Gheranda Samhita, 3:4-5):
O Goddess! I have imparted the knowledge of mudras. Mere knowledge of these provides siddhis, mastery. Their knowledge provides bliss to yogis. Their knowledge is not easily accessible even to gods. Keep this knowledge always secret.
Across the ages, different religions throughout the world have used mudras during rituals of prayer and worship. Thousands of paintings and statues all over the world reflect the influence of the science of mudra.
Another source of development of mudras Ayurveda. The rishis of ancient India studied the science of the body in depth and their studies evolved into the Indian ayurvedic system of medicine. Ayurveda is based mainly on the understanding of five primary elements: ether (space), air, fire, water and earth. According to yogic philosophy and physiology, the microcosm of the human body is composed from the same five elements that constitute the universe, the macrocosm. The five elements come into existence through the interaction of purusha, consciousness, and Prakriti, energy. The balance of the elements within the body is of crucial importance for the maintenance and health of both body and mind, which is seen as a prerequisite for spiritual development. Conversely, physical and mental ailments are the result of some sort of disturbance in the equilibrium of the five elemental forces in the body. In older to keep the elements in proper proportion, to restore proper balance and to bring them back to normalcy, various methods are used, including mudras.
Word mudra is generally translated as 'gesture', attitude' and can be described as psychic, emotional devotional and aesthetic gesture or attitude. Mudras are psychophysiological expressions that connect the psyche and body. They are the keys which that link.
In his dialogues with Parvati, Lord Shiva says that mudra is that which pleases the gods and melts the mind. According to Kularnava thantra, the word 'mudra' comes from the root mudh, which means ‘delight' or ‘pleasure', and dravay, the causal form of dru, which means 'to draw forth'. Thus, in this context mudra is 'that which brings happiness'. In its ultimate form, mudra is a way of being and living that reflects the divine and the divine qualities.
Mudras concern the mind. They represent a seal; sealing the mind with the soul or atman. They do not allow the mind to wander outside towards objects. They direct the externalizing mind towards atman in the chambers of the heart and fix it them. It is said that the practice of mudras and bandhas will bestow all that one wants.
Mudras can be experienced as attitudes of energy flow intended to link the individual pranic force with the universal or cosmic force.
In yoga and tantra, mudras are used to affect the energy flow within the body. Although mudras appear to be merely physical gestures or positions made with the hands, eyes or the whole body, yogis have experienced mudras as attitudes of energy flow intended to link the individual pranic force with the universal or cosmic force. Therefore, in spiritual terms, mudras are a means to unite oneself with the inner being. They attitudes of psychic power that attract the divine forces. They are very potent and can eliminate the negative influences the sadhaka may encounter during sadhana (proces of learning).
Mudra can also be interpreted to mean insignia or symbol. Just as crying is the symbol of unhappiness, and dancing, singing and laughing are symbols of happiness, the inner consciousness also has symbols, which are mudras. The purpose of mudras is to express the inner experience. By practicing mudras, the individual dwells on and tries to experience the indescribable meaning contained within each mudra. In this way, it is possible to evoke the inner forces which otherwise lie hidden and dormant. This is why mudras are so powerful.
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