Photo by the author.
The Lotus flower is a beautiful plant. It lives in the water. It often comes out of water that’s muddy and unclean. But with great beauty, it blooms.
This is a common symbol in Buddhism. You can see it all over the place in Buddhist art. It’s really common for images of Bodhisattvas to be seen sitting on giant lotus flowers, and maybe holding small ones too.
One of the most well known mantras “OM MANI PADME HUM” means “the jewel in the lotus.” Chanting this mantra is declaring our own intent to attain Enlightenment.
Different colored lotus flowers are said to have different meanings in Buddhist symbolism. The blue lotus represents Prajnaparamita, the perfection of wisdom. The gold lotus represents the spiritual Enlightenment of all awakened beings. The pink lotus represents the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. The red lotus represents Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion and it’s said to represent our pure true nature. The white lotus represent purity, a state in which we aren’t afflicted by the three poisons: greed, hatred, and delusion. The purple lotus represents the mystical path.
There’s an additional layer of meaning. A lotus that is fully open represents full and complete Enlightenment. A lotus that’s closed represents the earliest stages on the path.
The lotus is significant because it’s beautiful and pure. But it came out of muddy water. Out of impurity comes purity.
We are the same. We come out of our messy human lives. We exist in a great deal of suffering, like the muddy water. Many of us have had horrendous circumstances in our lives. People we care about die. We struggle in daily life. And most of us have made decisions that are absolutely awful. (I know I have). We are mired in delusion and this is like the muddy water.
But, like the lotus, we can rise above it.
When we rise above the suffering of our lives, when we let go of the attachments that don’t serve us well, when we overcome the preconceptions that are harmful to our well being, we are rising out of the water. When we purify our minds, we are rising from the muddy water, beautiful and pure. And as we travel on the spiritual journey, our lotus blooms.
This is our spiritual journey. To come out of this delusion and bloom as pure and Enlightened beings is the essence of the Bodhisattva’s journey. We exist in the muddy water of suffering, but we are rising above the suffering in transforming ourselves. The lotus reminds us that even in the worst, most stained and deluded circumstances we can rise above things. We can transform ourselves.
But the truth is the lotus was pure the whole time, even before it bloomed, even before it rose above the water. It’s nature didn’t change. It’s purity simply emerged. We are the same way. Our Buddha nature is our true nature. Our Enlightenment is right here right now. We just have to emerge and bloom.