If there is one image which has done the most to encourage the practice of Buddhist meditation in the modern world it is that of the Buddha himself, sitting in the meditation or samadhi posture, with legs in the lotus position and palms held upwards on the lap, the right hand held gently over the left. Easterners treat a Buddha figure with great respect: little street shrines can be seen in odd corners all over South East Asia, surrounded with flowers and incense. Although the figure of the Buddha is also often seen on market stalls, as backdrop to romantic films or giving atmosphere for travel brochures, its authority transcends and transforms its setting. The bodily form has become a distillation of the teaching. The shoulders are evenly balanced (sama), the back straight, the lower half of the body offers tranquil support to the upper, the ‘lion’ chest is confident and rounded without being puffed up. It is essentially a human figure, for within the Theravada Buddhist tradition the Buddha is not regarded as a god, but as a man, who has developed to the full the human possibilities for compassion, strength and wisdom and can teach these qualities to others. The word Buddha is derived from the Pali word for ‘awake’ (bujjhati); it is this quality of peaceful alertness which characterizes the seated figure, whose posture, bearing and expression bring together within the bodily form the qualities we have come to associate with the activity of bhavana, or meditation.