The Buddha is represented in hundreds of types of statues, each with its own symbolism. The Buddha lived around 500 B.C. His philosophies became the foundation of Buddhism, which has several different branches. One group of statues shows Buddha unclothed and without jewellery, representing simplicity and detachment from material things. Statues of the Buddha with long ears and a bump on his head indicate his all-hearing and all-knowing aspects. The most common type of Buddha statue shows him with various hand gestures, called mudras. Each mudra has its own meaning.
One of the most common mudras is the Abhaya mudra. In this statue, the Buddha has his right hand raised and his palm faces outward. The left hand hangs down by the hips. This mudra represents peaceful intentions and protection.
Bhumisparsha mudra statues symbolise the Buddha's enlightenment beneath a bodhi tree. In this statue, the fingers on the right hand reach toward Earth, representing the solitary nature of the Buddha's meditation. The only being present at his awakening was the Earth. Bhumisparsha statues also may show the Buddha riding on an elephant, which represents steadfastness.
Dhyana mudra statues show the Buddha with one hand or both in his lap, which symbolises wisdom. Dhyana statues may also include ritual items such as an alms bowl.
Dharmachakra mudra statues shows the Buddha with the index finger and thumb of both hands touching at their tips. This forms a circle, representing the wheel of dharma, or fate. In this depiction Buddha is teaching the spiritual laws of the universe.
Varada mudra statues show the Buddha with both his hands hanging at waist level. The palms turn outward with the left hand pointing down and the right hand pointing up, symbolising balance.
The Laughing Buddha statue, also known as the Smiling Buddha or Happy Buddha, is actually a bodhisattva. A bodhisattva is an enlightened being or heroic, wise spirit who strives to obtain Buddhahood. Although it does not represent the Buddha, many on the eightfold path of Buddhism embrace this image because it represents good fortune, joy, abundance, and contentment.