The lotus holds an enormous symbolic weight as a prominent figure in Buddhist and Egyptian culture, and native flower for both India and Vietnam. It spans various thousand-year-old Eastern cultures and yet, is still considered one of the most sacred flowers today. So what is it about this mysterious blossom that people find so enrapturing? Its colorful bloom is an obvious suspect, but the lotus also has a life cycle unlike any other. With its roots based in mud, it submerges every night into murky river water, and—undeterred by its dirty environment—it miraculously re-blooms the next morning without residue on its petals.
The meaning of the lotus flower symbol comes from an analogy derived from the flower’s life cycle, where all humans are born into a world of suffering where they must learn to overcome difficult times so that they can become a better person and reach spiritual enlightenment. The muddy waters represent the struggles of life, the bud of the flower represents a person that has not yet reached their full potential, and the blossoming lotus flower above the water represents someone who has achieved nirvana and let go of worldly suffering.
The lotus flower emerges from murky waters perfectly clean and beautiful, so it is also a symbol of purity. The meaning of the lotus flower holds such power because it can offer hope and strength to people struggling in their daily lives. It is a symbol that shows that no matter where you start off in life and no matter what you’re going through, you have the ability to rise above, overcome all negativity and find bliss as you emerge from your struggles.
The physical aspects of the lotus flower have also contributed to its meaning. The lotus flower has many petals that surround the center in multiple concentric layers. As the petals open, more petals are revealed until the lotus is in full bloom and all the layers are revealed. This process is seen as a metaphor for the progress made in gradual stages to ultimately reach spiritual enlightenment and self-realization.
Although cultures have their own interpretations of this daily process, there is a general consensus among ancient texts that it symbolizes spiritual enlightenment and rebirth. The lotus stunned people with its ability to dip into the grime and revive itself unscathed—an incredible daily cycle of life, death, and a sudden immaculate rebirth that can only be described as spiritual. It is no wonder the lotus is associated with such celestial symbolism—the flower simply defies logic.
The lotus represented something unearthly and enlightening for Eastern cultures, which is why the flower is often seen alongside divine figures. In Buddhist and Egyptian culture, the flower represented the universe. In Hindu culture, it is said that gods and goddesses sat on lotus thrones. And according to Buddhist myth, the Buddha appeared atop a floating lotus, and his first footsteps on Earth left lotus blossoms.
As divine as the Gods, the flower of rebirth was thought to contain magical properties as well. The ancient Egyptians believed lotuses had the ability to resurrect the deceased.
Each flower color also has its own symbolism. For Buddhist practitioners, a white lotus symbolizes purity, whereas a yellow lotus is associated with spiritual ascension. However, the real question remains: how has the flower acquired such all-encompassing spiritual significance?
The lotus flower’s daily resurrection is certainly interesting, and surely symbolic of revival. (This makes it the perfect gift for anyone recovering from injury or a traumatic experience.) But the flower also has a fascinating will to live. A lotus seed can withstand thousands of years without water, able to germinate over two centuries later.
The flower also blooms in the most unlikely of places such as the mud of murky river water in Australia or Southern Asia. Not only does it find sanctuary in the muck, but due to the waxy protection layer on its petals, its beauty is blithely unaffected when it re-blooms each morning. It continues to resurrect itself, coming back just as beautiful as it was last seen. With such refusal to accept defeat, it’s almost impossible not to associate this flower with unwavering faith.
Although cultures have largely dubbed the lotus as a spiritual figurehead, it is most emblematic of the faith within ourselves. It is particularly what the Buddhist proverb, aims to edify; living life with unwavering faith, as the lotus does, ensures the most beautiful revivals.
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