Mudras As Triggers, Not Sources

Several weeks back I was demonstrating some work for someone. Part way through I quickly generated the eight offerings. It’s a Buddhist thing, and while not strictly necessary it’s such a part of so many workings that it pretty much slips out of me at appropriate spots. Through different mudras, coupled with visualizations, mantras, and some energy work you create eight classes of offerings, the same set I described when explaining water bowls, but a different methodology.

Anyways, after the person asked about the hand gestures I made because, according to them, when I did them I was just radiating energy out, that for those few seconds it just exploded out of me, so they asked to learn the gestures. I taught them, but they quickly complained that the gestures did nothing.

This is something I see all the time and it really boggles me. Not to get into a magick model discussion, but so often people expect that knowing the words, or actions, or visualizations, or having the materia will make every work. All you need to call this spirit is their mantra, or a quick prayer. All you need to get this spell to function is knowing the words, or the gestures. At times like this I want to grab some people and shake them (especially those who should know better).

Do not mistake me; words, and gestures, and materia can be extremely important in a lot of these matters, but I’d argue often they’re the secondary vehicle of the work. That’s why when I teach someone the offering mudras they don’t start suddenly pouring forth energy in the appropriate forms, because there is more to it than just the gestures.

I do find though that mudras (hand gestures) are an important part of a lot of Buddhist ritual, but I would say they are triggers, not important in and of themselves, with a few exceptions. I say the latter point because if they were important and powerful on their own they’d probably be the same across the board, but they aren’t. Different sects of Buddhism have slightly different mudras, some change from time to time, some are done way one in person and another way in art (because fingers and bodies don’t always bend right), and even within the same sect offerings are different between different “levels.” When I do a lower tantra I’m to do one mudra to represent candles/fire, but in higher tantra it’s another. The non-standard meaning/application says they’re not inherently powered. Much like many stones and herbs mean different things in different systems, but that’s another topic.

Mudras are triggers though. When I did the ritual above and I tossed in the offerings I did it without thinking and fairly fast. When I’m not focusing on them and just quickly generating I can go through all eight mudras in under three seconds, but that hasn’t always been the case. It used to take me a fair bit longer than three seconds for any individual mudra offering, let alone the set. It’s only after doing them literally hundreds of times that I can toss them so quickly without thought, because it’s become a trigger. I used to carefully put my hands in the right position, draw the energy into them, say the appropriate mantra for the offering, visualize the energy taking the shape of the offering, say another mantra to multiple the offering, and then sending out the offering. After dozens, and hundreds of times though all of these actions became a fast continuous stream, so that with little to no thought as soon as my hands started the motion my body pumps out the energy, my mind says the mantras and shapes things, and then sends it out. Eventually it becomes an unconscious process, I put my hands into motion, the trigger, and my mind/body does the rest, even when I’m not focusing on it.

Though I repeat, it’s not the gestures that have power, it’s the fact that I’ve made that gesture so many times with the accompanying energy/mantras/visualization, that it has its power and meaning. It’s magickal Pavlovian conditioning. Anyone who has done any ritual daily for months probably has an experience of something similar. How many people can just touch their crown saying “Ateh” and have the full cross form before they finish the first word? Because we’ve trained ourselves through these gestures and words and visualizations and whatnot that our mind links them all and follows through we don’t need to run through it all. (Now admittedly this nonconscious process is rarely as powerful as a slower conscious one, but both have their place.)

It seems like such a beginner statement to have to talk about, but I’m boggled by how many occultists I meet and when we talk and I’ll show them something, they expect that just following my movements and mantras will make everything work. Just because a gesture is used magickally doesn’t make the gesture magick.

On the plus side though we can train ourselves with lots of these things, outside of classical mudras. Over a decade ago my mental boundaries weren’t as clear as they are now, if my energy started running high I would switch into a highly empathic/projective mode and all the sudden I’m feeling/hearing so much around me, and often sending some of it back out. In the worst cases my perceptions would bleed into other people’s and I’d lose spatial awareness of my body cause I was running through three other heads at the time. If you’ve ever had something like that (or more mundanely an anxiety attack, or a panic episode, or something like that) you know that even if you could normally handle the situation you’re in, once you’ve gotten that far it’s beyond your ability. Usually you’re great at grounding/shielding, or focusing your thoughts, but in the midst of the episode you can’t find that place in yourself. This is where triggers are amazing. So way back then I conditioned myself to shield with a gesture, again it isn’t as powerful/effective as one that I consciously build and set up, but since I couldn’t focus in that too-empathic state it was good enough to block out the majority of what was coming in. It was simple to program, it was just repetition. I’d put my fingers by my ear and make the movement, then I’d shield myself. Then later in the day I’d do it again, and I did this for a few weeks. Finally it reached the point that if my hands made the movement my mind made the shield. This let me function better in crowds until I learned to deal with them and myself in a manner that prevented my early overloads.

This condition triggering is what mudras are, at least the majority. Learn the traditional ones if that’s your path, because they’re connected to the current, but more than anything it’s through your work with the mudras that the gestures become magickal.

4 Responses to Mudras As Triggers, Not Sources

  1. Andrew says:

    Elegant and accurate. You have to train the mind to understand the gesture. You have to use the gesture with purpose. And you have to build that as a conscious mental circuit. Only then does it carry energy.

    Of course this is exactly how the grips, signs, salutes and gestures work in western-style lodge magic. It’s the same tech, as it were, applied in a slightly different form in a different cultural context.

    • Kalagni says:

      *nods* What surprised me though (and it wasn’t the first time) was that some intelligent and competent magickal folks didn’t realize this, and expected that it was the form. If that was the case, every culture would have the same mudras. I didn’t even think of the grips and signs, but yeah, same thing.

      • Andrew says:

        John Michael Greer writes a column at This month he wrote “a plea for occult philosophy”, which delves into the idea that a lot of competent occultists don’t have a lot of working sensibilities about why their stuff works — and many, consequently, don’t make it work reliably. It was interesting; but more than that it made sense of a good deal of silliness to me.

        • Kalagni says:

          I believe at the beginning occultists should focus on making things work, not why, but too many never get past that stage and question it.

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