Siddhartha Gautama the Indian prince who became the Buddha after he found enlightenment meditating under the Bodhi tree was not represented by images or statues until several hundred years after his death in respect to his teachings. (He specifically asked that images not be made of him as it was his message that was taught as a mortal human not a god that was the most important point of his teachings).
He was often symbolised by a wheel representing the ‘Dhamma’ or the wheel of life that keeps on turning or by his foot to symbolise his travels where he spread the message of non-attachment and enlightenment.
Ultimately though as his message spread and his influence travelled throughout the ancient eastern world he became a subject for artists and craftsmen to attempt to represent his image. The most common representation found today is that of a seated Buddha where he is in a lotus position seen quietly meditating. Of course most of us have seen other renditions of the Buddha image which sees him in a variety of other positions, for example: the standing posture, reclining posture, or perhaps even a walking posture often carrying an alm’s bowl.
Furthermore the significance of the seated meditating Buddha image is that there are numerous particulars, gestures, mudras and positions that the Buddha can have and that number can reach many hundreds or even thousands. Each gesture means something particular and they are carved or sculpted according to long held traditions which vary from country to country.
A few of these variations may be: earth touching mudra, yoga posture, golden robes, “urna”-or a hair topknot (popular in Thailand and SE Asia), holding an alms bowl, sitting on the pillow, etc.
The sitting Buddha in my experience signifies probably the most peaceful and tranquil positions of all of the Buddha positions. Personally I think by doing this he looks so relaxed, calm but erect in his seated posture. If after meditation we find ourselves sitting in a similar position and feel our spine straight and upright while our shoulders, hands, arms, torso, face are relaxed then we mimic the common seated Buddha posture. It’s been my experience that I first required to lean against a settee or wall until my body system got sufficiently strong and accustomed to the sitting/meditative posture. Then the next phase was finding out how to still my mind which is of course the most difficult task of all and one where to look at the serene image of a large seated Buddha in the meditation can certainly help.