The Powerful and Beautiful Meaning of the Lotus Flower
Long before the beautiful lotus flower became an iconic symbol of significant meaning in Buddhism, it was cherished for its ability to create a beautiful flower from mud soaked roots.
This juxtaposition between mud and the lotus flower is a symbol of purity both in Buddhism and in other beliefs. For Buddhists, the lotus flower is sacred, and it’s meanings integrated into teachings of Buddhism.
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In artistic Buddhism, representations of the lotus flower exhibit two meanings: the bud symbolizes a time prior to enlightenment and the blooming flower represents enlightenment. An opening lotus flower whose center is not visible represents enlightenment that cannot be seen with physical eyes.
Buddha is often portrayed sitting on a lotus flower, showing that enlightenment is achieved when the flower opens its petals and blooms. Other Buddhist deities are pictured holding a lotus in their hands or standing with each foot on a lotus flower. Paintings of lotus flowers help to remind followers of beauty, life, and light, and help to understand enlightenment through their portrayal of beauty growing out of mud.
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Many ancient Buddhist texts speak of purity and the lotus flower. Even though the bloom closes and sinks into the muddy water every night, in the morning it rises again untouched by the impurities that surrounded it. It also rises higher above the water than any other flower; this trait gives further meaning in Buddhism to the ability of man’s spirit to rise above suffering. The mud does not cling to the pure flower.
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The lotus flower has been used by poets to inspire strength in adversity, seeking beauty in all things, and continuous progression towards enlightenment.
Buddhism also recognizes the meaning of the mud the lotus flower grows in. The mud is a symbol of the unpleasant state of our human lives. It shows the suffering that we want to escape from so we can bloom. Just like the lotus flower needs to keep its roots and stem in the mud to survive, we cannot completely break free from our suffering. But we can show beauty and purity in the flowering above the water.
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The color of the lotus flower also has different meanings in Buddhism, and these meanings are similar to traditional associations for colors of flowers. A white lotus is a symbol of spiritual perfection, mental purity, and an individual’s peaceful nature. A blue lotus symbolizes enlightenment, wisdom, and knowledge.
The blue lotus is only ever shown as partially open, with its center always hidden. A red lotus symbolizes love, passion, and compassion.
The pink lotus is the most highly esteemed, reserved for high deity. And the rare purple lotus is the most mystic, being used only by a few sects of Buddhism with complex symbolism. When the meaning of these colors is combined with the meaning of the flowers in different stages of development, you begin to see the depth of representation that can be found in an artist’s rendering of a single colored lotus flower.
The lotus flower holds numerous sacred meanings in Buddhism. There are many variations that represent specific aspects of Buddhism, but all lotus flowers are in some way representative of the path to enlightenment.