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abhaya (अभय)

Sanskrit. ‘Fearless’. A mudra symbolizing ‘calm’, ‘reassurance’ and ‘no fear’, and which in India is often performed by sadhu (fig.), whereas in Buddhism it refers to a scene in which the Buddha prevented bloodshed in a quarrel over water and is commonly seen associated with standing or walking Buddha images. The position with the right hand raised and palm forward is called pahng hahm yaat (fig.) and symbolizes the Buddha's offer, to his followers, of protection or freedom from fear. In iconography, the pahng hahm yaat position is sometimes referred to as the attitude of forgiveness. The same position with the left hand raised is called pahng hahm prakaen jan. Thailand has a variation of this position in which the Buddha raises two hands (fig.) and which is known as the mudra of ‘restraining the waters’. It refers to an episode when the Buddha calmed the floodwaters of the Nairanjana River, a tributary of the Ganges in Northern India. In Thai, this pose is called pahng hahm samut. Sometimes these positions are displayed next to each other (fig.). See also Abhaya.