The Lotus Symbol in Buddhism

Published: 18th May 2010
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There are 8 Auspicious Symbols in Buddhist art and the Lotus Flower is one of the most prominent. In fact, you could credibly claim that the Lotus Flower is the most well known of all the symbols. It is commonly featured in artwork because of its deep rooted connection to the notion of enlightenment which is the prime goal of practicing Buddhism.



The Lotus Flower and its derivative Lotus position in the practice of Buddhism have a greater level of complexity than most realize. This is because the flower has a deep symbolic meaning far beyond the look of the flower or the assumption that all religions need an icon. The Lotus flower was not selected to merely perform some iconic role. However, the presence of the Lotus is a vital one since the Lotus position - a critical component in the worship of Buddhism - plays such an integral role in the practice of Buddhism.



The Lotus position in the practice of Buddhism is something that is frequently misunderstood by those that do not understand what the position is designed to promote. For some, the Lotus position looks 'cool' and this is good enough for them to employ it in their meditative practice. However, there is more to the position than merely appearances. When we are of the mindset that the position is valuable based upon a cursory or surface value opinion, we run the risk of being able to dismiss it just as well. And honestly, it is best not to dismiss any components to Buddhist practice much less one as important as the Lotus position and its symbolism.



The key to understanding the lotus involves having a more in depth understanding of what it involves and entails. In Buddhism, there are additional complexities to examining the symbolism in any image. This is because Buddhism promotes notions of dualities and open-ended interpretations. Since Buddhism is rooted in what already exists within the self, it is common that interpretations of symbols are not clearly defined.



That is not to say there is no order to the symbolism found in Buddhism. Such an approach would be chaotic and sloppy - certainly those are two components far removed from what Buddhism represents. So, there are general characteristics the Lotus Flower represents.



The selection of the Lotus Flower in Buddhism derives from the fact it is a flower that is able to bloom while also simultaneously shedding its seeds. This ties very heavily to components of Buddhist karma since karma revolves around cause and effect. In some cases, there may be similarities between cause and effect and other scenarios can lead to the exact opposite reaction than what we initially intended. The key here is that one must understand karma will prove to be a salvation or an undoing depending upon your approach to life.



Lotus flowers are also known to float on water. In some instances, the water may be pristine and clear. In other instances, the water may be polluted or otherwise filthy. The symbolism of this should be considered fairly self-evident. The fact that the meditative position is based on the Lotus Flower is clearly not selected without a clear deliberation.



The filth of the water can represent the evil, dangers, and darker side of life. The Lotus Flower rises above and floats over such ugliness. The concept of meditating in the Lotus position presents the notion that a person can rise above such complexities and difficulties and maintain their composure and proper mindset. Of course, you can also maintain such composure under all environments whether which is the central theme of Buddhist practice - a calm mind that co-exists in all environments.



The Lotus Flower does not just float over dirty and murky water. It is born of vile and dirty mud but you would not know this based upon looking at such a beautiful flower. Regardless of the filth it comes from, the true nature of the Lotus Flower emerges from its dark origins and rises above it. You could consider this the ultimate form of enlightenment which is probably why the Lotus is so commonly reflected in Buddhist symbolism and artwork.



You could say the true heart and essence of a human being is found in the symbolism of the Lotus. Considering the brilliance of the flower and what it represents, it is understandable how the imagery of the Lotus has proven so memorable throughout the ages.



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