Article: The Spiritual Meaning
of the Lotus
by Rev. Sue Annabrooke Jones
The lotus flower, a type of water lily, is held sacred among many of the world's religions and cultures.
With its roots in the mud, the lotus rises through the murky water to blossom clean and bright, symbolizing to the Buddhist purity, resurrection and the enlightened being who emerges undefiled from the chaos and illusion of the world.
The eight-petalled lotus that is used in Buddhist mandalas symbolizes cosmic harmony, and the thousand-petalled lotus represents spiritual illumination.
In the iconography of the Greek and Roman Christian Churches, the Archangel Gabriel is portrayed holding a spray of water lilies in every picture of the Annunciation when he appears to the mother of Jesus.
The Hindus of India noted that the ungerminated seeds of the lotus contain perfectly formed leaves, a blueprint for the future plant. Thus to the Hindu, the lotus represents divine ideation passing from abstract into concrete form.
The lotus is featured prominently in Egyptian art and architecture, especially in connection with Egypt's temples. In Egyptian mythology, the lotus was associated with the sun, because it blooms by day and closes by night. The lotus also symbolized rebirth, since one Egyptian creation myth tells of the newborn sun god rising out of a floating lotus. The blue lotus was sacred to the ancient Egyptians, who valued it not only for its rich perfume but also for its narcotic ability to produce heightened awareness and tranquillity.
To Native Americans, who found all parts of the American lotus edible, the flower symbolized the sun's power to transform energy into food. The seeds were once an especially important part of the Native American diet; in fact, the genus name Nelumbo means "sacred bean."
The lotus is also highly esteemed by Taoists. Among the Eight Immortals of Taoism is Ho Hsien Ku, her symbol the open lotus blossom, signifying openness and wisdom.
A feature of the lotus plant that has found its way into Chinese poetry is its stalk, which is easy to bend but difficult to break because of its many strong fibres. Poets liken this quality to the bonds between lovers or family members.
The lotus flower is a favorite of Taoist artists, who paint it to remind us of the miracle of beauty, light and life, and to communicate an understanding of the Tao and of our place in the world.
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