The Lotus Flower
Native to eastern Asia and Australia, the lotus is widely cultivated for its fragrant pink or white flowers. It is sometimes called the Indian lotus or the sacred lotus, and it is also known in Egypt and in Africa as the white lotus, the Egyptian water lily and the white lily. Throughout many cultures over time, the lotus has been a powerful image and a spiritual symbol. In Hindu, Buddhist and Egyptian religions, the lotus is considered a sacred flower. Among its many meanings and significance, the lotus is a symbol of “spontaneous” generation, and so it also represents divine birth, spiritual development and creation itself. The bud of the lotus symbolizes potential, specifically of a spiritual nature. Because the lotus rises from unclean water to blossom as a pure, uncontaminated flower, it is a symbol of purity and resurrection.
In the same way the lotus flower goes through much in its growth before emerging from dirty water to become a beautiful flower, the individual consciousness does the same on its path to enlightenment as the so-called impurities of unenlightened thinking gradually fade. The Mahayana sect of Buddhism maintains that all souls emerge from a lotus. According to ancient scriptural text which details the life of Gautama Buddha, “the spirit of the best of men is spotless, like the new lotus in the [murky] water which does not adhere to it.” As the lotus is pure in the water, so the soul is also pure. The lotus is one of the eight auspicious signs of Buddhism and Hinduism, and the eight-petaled lotus seen in Buddhist mandalas means cosmic harmony. (Mandalas are geometric patterns used as symbolic or metaphysical representations of the universe, the spiritual path, etc.; mandalas are often used as a object of focus to aid in meditation.) The eight petals of the white lotus correspond to the Noble Eightfold Path of the Good Law. This lotus is found at the heart of the Garbhadhatu Mandala, regarded as the womb or embryo of the world. The thousand-petaled lotus signifies spiritual illumination. In this case, each opening of the petal is the gradual unfolding of the consciousness on the path of enlightenment.
The specific yogic teaching that addresses energy centers within the human being, known as the chakra system, uses a lotus with varied numbers of petals to represent each particular chakra. The crown chakra is the thousand-petaled lotus, and so its blossoming indicates enlightenment. The Buddhist mantra “Om mani padme hum” refers to the “jewel in the lotus,” which represents enlightenment. It is claimed that this mantra has great mystical power, with transcendental truth in its words. In buddhist and hindu writings, it is explained that “Om mani padme hum” [O Jewel in the Lotus Flower] “signifies not only the jewel of man’s divinity living within the lotus (the cosmos), but also the jewel of cosmic divinity living within the lotus (man). In other words, the mantra is saying, “I am in You and You are in me,” thereby stating the unity and brotherhood of all beings, as well as their inner divine potential. This is one way of expressing the principle of “As above, so below.” In spiritual literature from many sources, the lotus is a symbol for the macrocosm and the microcosm, the universe and man.
The jewel in the lotus represents the divinity of the cosmos as well as the divinity of man. In ancient Egypt, spiritual teachings held that the lotus represented the sun, and therefore, creation and rebirth. This stemmed from the way the lotus flower closes its petals at night and sinks underwater, to rise and open the petals again at dawn. So it was said that the lotus gave birth to the sun. In certain Eastern teachings, the inner awareness — also called the inner heart or the inner mind — is symbolized by the lotus, and is found in the center of the heart. This is also called the lotus flower within. The heart-lotus or “lotus of heart” is the center of the infinite, omnipresent consciousness which connects with the consciousness of the universe.
Through the intuition, one of man’s divine gifts, the spiritual student can see the infinite, omnipresent consciousness as the lotus flower within himself. In esoteric Buddhism, the heart of beings is like an unopened lotus. When the Buddha nature (spiritual nature) develops on the inner, the lotus unfolds and blossoms. This is why the Buddha is depicted sitting on a blooming lotus. The lotus is seen extensively in Buddhist art, where Buddha images are typically positioned on a lotus — usually a double lotus — with petals facing both up and down. The protrusion sometimes found on the Buddha’s head is also portrayed as a lotus. As a holy symbol in Indian culture and a sacred symbol of Hinduism, the lotus is found throughout the Hindu scriptures. Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe in these scriptures, and Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the universe in these scriptures, are depicted sitting in a lotus. Lord Brahma is said to have been born from the lotus that was growing out of the navel of Lord Vishnu. Lord Brahma seated on divine Lotus Flower In Vedic scripture, the body of Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is described as being like a bluish new-grown lotus flower.
One of the eight auspicious symbols of Indian classical art, the Purankalsa Purnakalasa symbolizes abundance and creativity, and depicts overflowing foliage consisting of lotus buds, lotus flowers and lotus leaves. The motifs of Purankalsa are found inside the legendary Taj Mahal, which some believe to be an ancient hindu Temple rebuild by the Muslims, where the lotus is the prominent motif. In many spiritual traditions, lotus flowers are especially sacred as an offering to the divine. The lotus also represents purity and non-attachment, and is a symbol of Bhakti or love for God.
Most people let their love flow towards the mundan world. But a devotee redirects his love only towards God, who resides with in one’s heart. Though God is present everywhere, it is in the heart, our spiritual centre, that He manifests as Param-Atma or the Supersoul. The heart of the devotee is the ‘Lord’s temple room. Thus, the Lotus represents the heart. It is not the physical heart but the spiritual heart that the lotus represents. Mahanarayana Upanishad says, ‘In the citadel of the body, there is the small sinless and pure lotus of the heart which is the residence of the Supreme. It is stated by the Lord in the Vedas: “Oh, Human! This village [life] of yours is balanced on the lotus leaf and your lifespan is just alike a drop of water running down that leaf, which may fall any minute.” Throughout history, Eastern poets, sages, saints, masters and gurus have associated the lotus also as a metaphor for the divine feet of the gods and other exalted spiritual beings. This is where the phrase “lotus feet” found in many Eastern teachings, originates.
Pervading Eastern philosophy and religion for thousands of years, the lotus-feet is a metaphor for the divine feet of the gods, saints and other exalted spiritual beings. Figurative language, analogies and mystic descriptions are used in spiritual instruction throughout many teachings.