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Saturday, October 1, 2022

The "Wisdom of Five Fingers"

Natives of the island of Vanuatu Islands in the Pacific Ocean base their concepts of teaching their traditions to the children on the idea of "Wisdom of Five Fingers". In this concept, the little finger represents infants who are innocent and do not know anything. The ring finger represents children who are asking questions and are learning to do things. The middle finger represents independent adults who are doing things on their own. The index finger represents adults teaching their children. The thumb represents the elders of the society. They are just there, solid as a stone. Younger ones come to learn their traditions. The younger ones use the elders like a stone - to sharpen their knives!

This reminded me of an essay I had read several decades back in one of the issues of the Bhavan's Journal. In this essay the author explains the meaning behind the Indian way of putting the palms together in prayer or in greeting elders and guests. The little finger, which is farthest from our chest represents human ego. The ring finger represents human desires. The middle finger represents spiritual ignorance (which blinds us to the fact that Atman and Brahman are one). The index finger represents the Universal Force, the Brahman, which is in everyone (as Atman). The thumb closest to our chest is that Universal Force, the Brahman which is within oneself.

This also explains the chinmudra of Dakshinamurthy with the index finger and thumb touching each other which symbolizes the oneness of Atman and Brahman.

Ref: Neil McGregor. Living with the Gods.

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