The past few days in class I’ve been talking about jnana and cin mudra, two mudras that we use a lot in our practice. Jnana mudra and cin mudra are very similar, both consisting of bringing the index finger and thumb together. These mudras are most commonly used during meditation practices.
Jnana means knowledge. When the index finger and thumb are placed together and the hands are placed facing down on the knees this is called Jnana mudra. Cin means consciousness. When the index finger and thumb are placed together and the hands are placed facing up on the knees (or thighs) this is called cin mudra.
One of the ways to remember these two mudras is to think of knowledge as coming from below, from the world around you and from other people in the world -- and to think of wisdom coming from above, from inside of you, from the pure consciousness part of yourself.
My teacher Dharma Mittra always says, “you have to contemplate the knowledge you are learning.”
It is in contemplation that we receive wisdom and our understanding of things we are learning deepens. If you never contemplate the knowledge you are learning then you never gain a deeper understanding. Things just go in one ear and out the other. Where does the deeper understanding come from? You didn't gain any more knowledge during your contemplation. Nobody told you anything new. When you go inside you tap into Universal intelligence. Wisdom and greater understanding of things comes from within and flows through you.
One of my teachers used to say, "You don't have thoughts, thoughts have you!".
The little finger, ring finger and middle finger in jnana and cin mudra represent the 3 constituents of Nature. In yoga we call these the 3 Gunas. They are: tamas (stillness), rajas (movement) and sattva (illumination). The index finger represents the individual self and the thumb represents the Universe.
These 2 mudras symbolically represent our journey beyond the 3 gunas and the uniting of our individual self with the Universe. This is what we are trying to achieve in yoga and in meditation. In my practice I want to let go of the world and the distractions of my mind and bring my individual self into alignment with the Universe.
Jnana and cin mudra are primarily used in seated mediation practices but you can also find them in other asanas throughout your practice.