Lotus Flower Religious Symbolism
The lotus flower, a type of water lily, is a powerful religious symbol in Asian, Egyptian, and Indian cultures. That the lotus flower can stand tall and undefiled in murky waters, lends itself to powerful religious interpretation. Purity, divine beauty, resurrection, and enlightenment are all contained in this symbol.
Enlightenment and faithfulness
Buddhism believes that man is rooted in the materialism, but with faith in the divine and adherence to a Buddha-like nature, he can emerge pure and enlightened. Just like the lotus flower.
Buddhists believe that the Lord Buddha himself was born on a lotus leaf. Legend says that when he was born, he walked seven steps in ten directions and with each step a lotus flower appeared. The lotus is thus one of the eight auspicious symbols associated with the eight-fold path to enlightenment, and symbolizes faithfulness.
|The blossoming of the lotus flower is also powerfully symbolic. Buddhists liken the unfolding of the petals to the unfolding of the divine within the human self. The closed bloom represents the heart with its infinite potential for enlightenment; the open blossom represents the enlightened self.
Wisdom, openness, wealth, and fertility
Taoists venerate the lotus flower. Among the Eight Immortals of Taoism is Ho Hsien Ku. Her symbol is the open lotus blossom, signifying openness and wisdom. Taoist artists have used the lotus flower to symbolize beauty, light, and life, and adherence to Taoist principles.
The association of wisdom with the lotus flower is also seen in Hindu mythology. The Goddess Laxmi, who symbolizes wisdom, wealth, and fertility, is depicted as standing on a lotus flower, and holding a lotus flower in two of her four hands.
Avalokitesvara is perhaps the best-known figure in Tibetan Buddhism associated with the lotus flower. He is the bodhisattva (one who helps others achieve complete Buddhahood) embodying the compassion of all Buddhas. He is also known as Padmapani or “holder of the lotus.” sTara, the female incarnation of the Buddha, is often depicted to be so eager to help in any situation, that she is not only seated on a lotus, but also with her right foot on a small lotus cushion, eager to be on the go.
Divinity, purity, and contemplation
The lotus flower’s association with divinity may have originated in early Egyptian culture. Osiris, the god of the underworld is depicted crowned with lotus buds.
Isis, the goddess of fertility and motherhood, is sometimes portrayed as emerging from a lotus as a sign of resurrection. Lotus buds are thus often associated with funerary rites, and held in the hands of mummified bodies.
Hinduism, since ancient times, has used the lotus flower to symbolize divine beauty. One of the Hindu deities, Sri Krishna, is often referred to as the “Lotus-Eyed One.”
In Chinese Buddhism, the lotus represents purity and being able to detach oneself from materialism. Drawing on Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, the international Bahai community adopted the symbol of purity and divinity of the lotus flower. The Lotus Temple in India stands testimony to the beauty of the lotus flower.
The significance of the lotus is seen in many holy texts and doctrines. In the Bhagavad Gita, one of the Hindu scriptures, it is stated that the individual who performs his duties without attachment is like the lotus leaf that is untouched by water.
In the Upanishads, another of the Hindu scriptures, the lotus represents contemplation and meditation. The Atman or the supreme Self is supposed to live in the lotus of the heart. The lotus signifies the method of interior meditation and the revelation of the Atman within oneself.
In sixth-century China, and later in Japan, the complete teachings of the Buddha were believed to be encapsulated in the Lotus Sutra or Lotus of the True Law. Here the lotus stands for the very essence of Buddhism.
The lotus flower is symbolic in its night and day patterns. At night, the flower closes; at day it blossoms to the glory of the sun. Ancient Egyptian and Indian cultures consider this to be analogous to sun worship, thus creating varied creation myths. The sun god Ra is believed to have risen from the blue lotus at a time when only chaos (Nun) existed. So the Egyptians believe.
The lotus is also identified with Nefertem, a sun god of Heliopolis who was believed to spring up each morning from a lotus flower.
In Hinduism, the creation myth begins with the occurrence of the word Om, when the chaotic expanse of water brought forth a beautiful golden lotus. From Om originated the three forces of Brahma (creator), Vishnu (preserver), and Siva (destroyer). The Trinity, quite significantly, was seated on golden lotuses.