There are six major hand gestures of the Buddha (in Sanskrit : mudra)
Meditation (Dhyana Mudra) : The Buddha is usually shown in the Indian manner with straight body. The right leg is positioned above the left leg. Both hands lie flat in the lap, palms facing upward, with the right hand on top of the left hand.
Charity (Varada Mudra) : Gifts or favours are being granted or recieved. Usually on standing figures. The right arm is pendent with the open palm facing out and the finders pointing downwards in a straight line.
Absence of fear (Abhaya Mudra) : The right forearm is bent at a right angle with the palm of the hand facing out and the finders pointing upward. Often in standing position. Sometimes the gesture may be made with the left hand or with both hands.
Reasoning, Giving Instruction (Vitarka Mudra) : The right forearm is bent, often somewhat closer to the chest than in Abhaya Mudra. Three fingers of the hand are bent upwards, the thumb and the forefinger touching. Sometimes the left arm, or both arms are used for the same gesture.
Setting the Wheel of the Law in Motion (Dharmacakra Mudra) : This symbolizes the first sermon preached at the deer park in Sarnath. Both hands are together in front of the chest, each hand held in the same position as in the Vitarka Mudra, but with the ends of the fingers of the left hand against the palm of the right hand.
Subduing Mara (calling the Earth to witness ; Bhumisparsha Mudra) : Only in sitting position. The position is similar to the meditation position. The left hand remains in the lap. The right hand is resting on the thigh near the knee, palm inward, and fingers touching the ground slightly. This posture of the Buddha is the most common to be seen in Thailand.
The Laughing Buddha is a representation of contentment and abundance. He is almost always shown smiling or laughing, hence his nickname in Chinese, the Laughing Buddha.
He is almost always represented as carrying a cloth or linen sack, which never empties, and is filled with many precious items, including rice plants (indicating wealth), sweets for children, food, small mammals, and the woes of the world. Sometimes it can be filled with children, as they are seen as some of those precious items of this world. His duty is patron of the weak, the poor and children. In some representations, the Laughing Buddha may be found wielding a fan called an ōgi (said to be a “wish giving” fan – in the distant past, this type of fan was used by the aristocracy to indicate to vassals that their requests would be granted).
Another item that is usually seen with the Laughing Buddha is a begging bowl; to represent his Buddhist nature. These images display him as a wandering monk who goes around and takes the sadness from people of this world.
The primary story that concerns the Laughing Buddha in Zen is a short kōan. In it, he is said to travel giving candy to poor children, only asking a penny from Zen monks or lay practitioners he meets. One day a monk walks up to him and asks, “What is the meaning of Zen?” The Laughing Buddha drops his bag. “How does one realize Zen?” he continued. The Laughing Buddha then took up his bag and continued on his way.