• TRADITION: Buddhism
  • NEED: Health, Stress Relief and Relaxation, Relationships, Positive Attitude, Spiritual Development, Performance
  • LEVEL: Beginner

Smiling Buddha is one of easiest and most popular meditations in Kundalini Yoga. It opens the heart center, leading to feelings of bliss and unconditional love. It also connects us with our higher selves through a mantra that means, “I am Truth.”

What’s behind the name of this meditation practice?
Smiling is inevitable during this confidence-boosting meditation practice, which traces its roots to a technique taught to the Buddha to raise his consciousness after a forty-day fast.
What’s the concept?
Smiling Buddha meditation is a kriya, a physical practice designed to achieve a specific outcome, and it’s one of easiest and most popular meditations in Kundalini Yoga. The practice opens the heart center, leading to feelings of bliss and unconditional love. “Perfecting heart-opening technologies like the Smiling Buddha meditation will empower you to take full responsibility for your own happiness, and feelings of love and being loved,” writes Sewa Singh, a Kundalini Yoga teacher. “This frees us to open the door to spiritual love.” Spiritual love is taught by all the great masters, and it is no coincidence that both the Buddha and Jesus practiced this kriya. As Yogi Bhajan, the teacher who introduced the practice to the West, points out, “If you love a man as great as [the Buddha] it is important to practice what he practiced in order to earn his state of consciousness.” Smiling Buddha meditation gives us the spiritual capacity to elevate our state of being.
How did this meditation practice originate?
According to legend, an old brahman, a member of the highest priestly caste in India, found the Buddha weak and near starvation after his forty-day fast under the fig tree. The brahman nursed the Buddha back to health, feeding him and massaging his feet until at last he was able to walk again. Once the Buddha began to smile, the brahman taught him this kriya to bring him back to a state of awakening. Centuries later, Jesus learned it and many other kriyas in his travels. In 1968, Yogi Bhajan broke with the strict tradition of his lineage to bring Kundalini Yoga to the West, arguing that it is everyone’s birthright to be happy, healthy, and holy.
What’s unique about this meditation?
Smiling Buddha meditation requires a specific posture, mantra, and mudra—a symbolic hand gesture—to achieve its outcome. The mudra, with its two outstretched fingers and two bound fingers, is a familiar one, as it has been depicted in many paintings and sculptures. It is a gesture of happiness that directs energy to the heart center.
What are its chief benefits?
Smiling Buddha meditation allows us to experience total happiness in a state of grace. It connects us with our higher self and creates an awareness of our divinity within; this inner calmness leads to a natural flow in our day-to-day lives.
Is there evidence of its effectiveness?
The Kundalini Research Project, an Indian nonprofit organization that scientifically investigates the physical, psychological, and biochemical effects of kundalini awakening, recorded a multitude of benefits from the practices of Kundalini Yoga. “Sharp memory, clarity of vision, slowing of aging, strength and creativity, [and] communications with animals and birds transpires. There is a sense of calmness and increased inner wisdom,” writes Beena Sharma on behalf of the project.
Are there any side effects or risks?
If done correctly, with maximum pressure between the shoulder blades, the arms will feel fatigued after eleven minutes. Move through pain sensations to experience bliss on the other side, or adjust the time accordingly.
Are there any controversies?
Despite criticism of his demystification of Kundalini Yoga from hardline Sikhs in India, Yogi Bhajan earned international admiration for his promotion of peace. After his death, Congress passed a joint resolution honoring his contributions.
How can it be learned?
Yogi Bhajan’s Smiling Buddha meditation instructions and a variety of videos can be found on the 3HO Foundation’s website. Contact a Kundalini Yoga community for a schedule of classes.
Are there any charges for learning?
How is this meditation practiced?
Smiling Buddha meditation requires a specific posture, mantra, and mudra. Sit with crossed legs and a straight spine, using a wall for support if it’s difficult to maintain. Curl your third and fourth fingers into your palms and place your thumbs over them. Extend your first and second fingers together, straight out. Keep your arms close to your body and raise your forearms to a thirty degree angle so your hands are about shoulder height and your fingers point up. Pull in the shoulders so there is pressure between the shoulder blades. Shift your awareness to your third eye and begin to silently chant the mantra sa ta na ma. the repetition of these five primal sounds represents the cycle of creation:

“Sa” means infinity, cosmos, beginning;
“Ta” means life, existence;
“Na” means death, change, transformation;
“Ma” means rebirth.

Together, Sa Ta Na Ma means, “I am Truth.”
Can anyone practice this meditation?
Kundalini Yoga is non-religious, and thanks to its connections in multiple faiths, Smiling Buddha meditation is a widely appealing technique.
Who are the well-known practitioners?
The best-known teachers and authors in this field include:

Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D.
Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa
Snatum Kaur Khalsa
Shakta Kaur Khalsa
Guru Rattana Kaur Khalsa
Is any equipment or material required for practice?
Smiling Buddha Meditation
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