Whenever I visit temples in Thailand, I often take pictures of the principal Buddha image. But, quite often, Buddha images housed in the cloisters can be just as interesting. Traditionally, the Buddha images recount episodes from the Buddha’s life. Though, quite often, the same images are used again and again. However, if you look closely then you might notice some subtle differences. Take a look at these two classic images of the Buddha meditating. He is sitting cross-legged on a lotus leaf. His palms are facing upwards with the right hand on top of the left hand. Identical images? No, look more closely at how the legs are crossed. The one on the left is called the “heroic posture” and the right leg is on top of the left with both soles facing up. The right image is called the “adamantine posture” and each foot rests on top of the other thigh with the soles facing up. There is in fact a third way of sitting which I will show you later at thai-blogs.com.
I took all of these pictures at Phra Pathom Chedi in Nakhon Pathom. Another good place to study different postures of the Buddha is at the Marble Temple in Bangkok. Background information can be found in an excellent book called “Gestures of the Buddha”, by K.I. Matics, published by Chulalongkorn University Press.