The mystic lotus

The meaning of lotus

The meaning of the lotus symbol

Lotus notes

Thoroughly entangled with Indian mythology and archaeological excavations, it has been proved without a doubt that “Lotus” was the most recognizable and distinguished symbol found with the deities. It played a crucial role in reflecting the elevated realm of those gods and goddesses.

The weapons and other props varied but Lotus was always present as an identifiable emblem. This flower was mainly used by visionary artists and sculptors for representing the seat of a particular deity. It was also shown in the hands of some esteemed mythological deities like “Brahma”, “Laksmi”, “Durga”, “Vishnu” etc.

In Buddhism and even in Jainism, Lotus played a noticeable symbolic role which was enticing and thought-provoking for the truth seekers.

The symbol

Buddha once held a lotus (along with its roots) in his hands and remained speechless in front of his followers. With a mysterious smile on his lips and a latent question in his eyes, he stared to the gathering. Everybody except “Maha Kashyapa” [1] was bewildered by Buddha’s stance.

Mahakashyapa smiled and bowed before Buddha for his wonderful way of teaching. Later answering the query raised by “Ananda”, one of the Buddha’s dearest disciples, He said “The roots of the lotus represent the crude mind which generally contaminates with the impure earthly desires and stays merged in the murky water or symbolically the subconscious mind.

A realized person, recognizing the true nature of this world, rises from it similar to the lotus and attains the “Bodhi” state or Nirvana. The lotus emerges from the dirty and muddy water and blooms fresh devoid of any stains. They have a sutra named after lotus and also the most chanted hymn “Om Mani Padme Hum” also contains the word “Padme” which is a Sanskrit/Prakrit synonym for Lotus.

In Hindu depictions about gods whether it is masculine or feminine; mostly seated on a lotus (especially pink and purple for feminine deities) or held it their hand.

The symbolism connected with Hindu concepts is not very different than Buddhists ideology. Buddhism evolved from the “Sanatana Dharma” which is actually the Indian religion. The term “Hindu” signifies a geographical location [2].

We can select any idol or pictorial representation of a deity; we shall definitely find a lotus in most of the cases.

The obvious questions

What does it mean?

Why the sculptors or the artists consistently added this motif almost in every idol?

Does it represent a state of being?

These are some common questions that arise in our minds. There are more to this. The author dealt with queries and this is his sincere effort to share his findings.

Generally, mythology is the repository of all the colors, forms and lore are encircling the deities. Though these mythological stories have a deeper symbolic meaning and ultimately unifies with the Vedantic philosophy still primarily it portrays itself as a fantasy.

Vedanta and many other epitomic ideas believe in the oneness of all and established the paradigm of a single supreme source from which all other things (duality) emerged.

The Trap

This visible universe is a matrix of illusion which eventually metamorphoses into a dissimilar form which can be an absolutely unknown environment for us. Nothing is consistent in this apparently existing creation. The momentary affections and attractions fade with time and a whole new feeling of attachment grows. These emotional connections change with time but the attachments to this wide array of temporary objects remain.

Religion or more specifically, spirituality tells us to abstain from these incoherent worldly objects. It tells us to focus on the timeless entity that resides within us.

Kalatraya api tishthati iti sat” – The absolute truth always remains unchanged in all three stages of time (viz. past, present, and future). Indian philosophy, mainly Vedanta tells us to meditate upon our own self which shall remain forever.

But, this is not so easy. The “Maya” or the illusory matrix will defend hard to keep us within the unreal world that we perceive with our limited senses.

We have to break this bondage and rise from our hazy and murky water of earthly life just like a lotus.

All those, who were successful in breaking the deluding matrix and elevated themselves to a higher level and felt or realized the truth, are seated on a lotus.

Resting on or holding a lotus symbolizes the higher level of consciousness. It certifies the success of winning over the “Maya” or “Maar” is Buddha’s cult.

The Beginning…

The implications given by the revered sages and seers (rishi) are coded into idols, pictures or pictographs. The figures inscribed on the temples or pagodas are mainly a code which is kept for us to break. It’s a riddle to solve.

We have our individual perceptions molded in our childhood by the books we read, people with whom we exchanged ideas, the culture of which we become a part, our heritage and prominently the belief system that we gradually develop with time. This belief becomes harder with passing time and creates a framework within which we become a prisoner most of the time.

Lotus gives us a call to open our eyes wide and realize the gloominess of our biased principles and imperfect concepts and apply the proven logical approach towards reality.

The absolute reality can be unthinkably different from what our wildest imaginations can dream about.

When anybody understands the true message of a lotus; the path opens for them.

That moment is the beginning of a journey. A journey which shall end within us.

Few more

The chakra system in our astral body also resembles a lotus. We have seven main chakras but in Sanskrit, they are described as “the Padma” or Lotus. They are as follows starting from the root (coccyx).

  • Muladhara Padma (Root Chakra) – 4 petals
  • Swadhisthana Padma (Sacral Chakra) – 6 petals
  • Manipura Padma (Solar Chakra) – 10 petals
  • Anahata Chakra (Heart Chakra) – 12 petals
  • Visuddha Padma (Throat Chakra) – 16 petals
  • Ajna Padma (Third Eye Chakra) – 2 petals
  • Sahasrara Padma (Crown Chakra) – 1000 petals (multi dimensions)

Apart from Indian philosophy, Egyptians also depicted lotus for symbolizing immortality.

They used the purple lotus to display the royal status. Various colors of lotuses are used to reflect an idea attached to it.

Whatever the color may be, lotus always symbolized heightened consciousness.

Let all of us realize the lotus inside us.

[1] Maha Kashyapa was an aged disciple of Buddha. He came from Magadha and was a sannyasi (monk) earlier. He had a long argument with Buddha and finally followed the Buddhism. [Author’s note]

[2] India was known as Bharat by the ancient Indians. Also known as Arya Varta based on the Aryan dominion. The Indus River (Sindhu) flowed from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea. The people who lived on the western bank of Indus or “Sindhu” called the eastern region as Hind because they pronounced “S” as “H”. The term “Hind” iterated to “Hindu”. This name was given by the foreigners. So “Hindu” is not a religion, it is a geographical location. Sanatana Dharma is India’s true religion. [Authors note]

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