How does the image of the Buddha help Buddhists when meditating?

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  1. Gautama’s own words on meditation:
    Cultivate the meditation on loving-kindness (mettâ), Râhula; for by cultivating loving-kindness, ill will is banished. Cultivate the meditation on compassion (karunâ), Râhula, for by cultivating compassion, cruelty is banished. Cultivate the meditation on appreciative joy (muditâ), Râhula, for by cultivating appreciative joy, aversion is banished. Cultivate the meditation on equanimity (upekkhâ), Râhula, for by cultivating equanimity, hatred is banished. Cultivate the meditation on impurity (asubha), Râhula, for by meditating on impurity, lust is banished. Cultivate the meditation on the concept of impermanence (anicca-sañña), Râhula, for by meditating on the concept of impermanence, pride of self (asmi-mâna) is banished. Cultivate the meditation on mindfulness of in-and-out-breathing (ânÃ¥pâna sati), Râhula, for mindfulness of breathing, cultivated and frequently practised, bears much fruit and is of great advantage.”

  2. The image of the Buddha, meaning an enlightened being, helps the practitioner to remember the Prince Sakiyumani, the Guatama Buddha, was only a human being like themselves and not divine, an avatar of the God, an incarnation of the God, etc.
    The Buddha attained enlightenment in his lifetime so that we understand that by the innate Buddha nature that is within all that exist, each might also rise to that awakening.
    One of the interesting aspects of the image of the Buddha is how many persons, including many Asians, are unable to distinguish or do not know the difference between the Buddha and the Taoist immortal Hotei (the bald, fat, jolly being carrying wine jugs and the supposed bringer of good fortune and happiness).
    namaste

  3. The Visuddhimagga (which is rarely referred to by Western Buddhists) specifies forty suitable methods of meditation. Among them are four recollections: the recollection of the Buddha, the recollection of the Dhamma, the recollection of the Sangha, and the recollection of Death. The recollection of Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha are used to cheer the mind. They are meant to inspire. The recollection of death is meant to overcome sloth and torpor.
    The Buddha himself gave discourses on the value of recollection of the Triple Gem in different Suttas and verses (e.g., Dhammapada XXI and Theragatha 6.2). In Anguttara Nikaya 3:70, it is said that the recollection of the Triple Gem calms the mind. In Thanissaro Bhikku’s translation of Anguttara Nikaya 11.12, recollection of the Triple Gem (along with recollections of generosity, virtue, and the Deva virtues) ensure that a person’s mind “is not overcome with passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, … gains joy connected with the Dhamma…, rapture arises…, the body grows calm … experiences ease…, the mind becomes concentrated.”
    There is a long history of using the Buddha as a subject of meditation and reflection. It is largely a devotional practice that calms the mind, cheers the mind, and clears of the clutter that prevents it from getting on with the work of liberation from the round of Samsara.

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