Buddhas and bodhisattvas often are depicted in Buddhist art with stylized hand gestures called mudras. The word “mudra” is Sanskrit for “seal” or “sign,” and each mudra has a specific meaning. Buddhists sometimes use these symbolic gestures during rituals and meditation.

In the vitarka mudra the right hand is held at chest level, fingers pointing up and palm outward. The thumb and index finger form a circle. Sometimes the left hand is held with fingers pointing downward, at hip level, also with palm outward and with the thumb and index finger forming a circle.

This mudra represents discussion and transmission of Buddha’s teachings.