Symbolism of the Lotus

Water lotuses are a beautiful fragrant flower with exotic foliage that steals the spotlight of any pond.  They are exotic, majestic, and dramatic and have a deep history beyond its beauty. The meaning and symbolism of the lotus is rich and stems from three major groups: the ancient Egyptians, the Buddhists, and Hinduism.

The Lotus is a plant that belongs to the Nelumbo genus, and it has been connected with purity, rebirth and divinity. The lotus flower symbolizes rising from a dark place into beauty and rebirth, as this is precisely how a lotus flower grows. Lotus flowers bloom directly out of muddy and murky waters and produce beautiful colored blossoms. What is prominent about the lotus is that although it often grows in mud, and returns within it at night, it always blooms clean the following day, which makes it a great element to use for a metaphor.

Due to how it’s grown, the lotus flower has come to be associated with purity and beauty in the religions of Buddhism and Hinduism, respectively.  The ancient Egyptians saw that at night the lotus closed its flowers and sank into the water and opened up in the light hours.  They came to associate the flower with rebirth and the sun. Fun fact: the Lotus slowly emerges from a pond over a three day period and then blooms in the morning until mid-afternoon.

In Buddhism, the lotus is associated with purity, spiritual awakening, and faithfulness. The flower is considered pure as it is able to emerge from murky waters in the morning and be perfectly clean. It is also known to symbolize purity of speech, of the body, and of the mind. The breaking of the surface every morning is suggestive of desire, which leads to it being associated with spiritual enlightenment. A main line of thought in Buddhism is that a person’s path in life is similar to that of the lotus. Starting at the seed stage, early in the karmic cycle, through to the bud emerging from the dirty water, representing a person following the path of spirituality and leaving attachment behind, and finally blossoming, this is when a person has become fully awakened and has achieved nirvana.

There are a variety of colors of lotuses that are connected to different aspects of Buddhism:

  • The blue lotus flower is associated with a victory of the spirit over that of wisdom, intelligence and knowledge.
  • The white lotus flower is known to symbolize Bodhi (being awakened), and represents a state of mental purity, and that of spiritual perfection; it is also associated with the pacification of one’s nature. This lotus is considered to be the womb of the world.
  • The purple lotus is known to be mystic and is associated with esoteric sects. It can be shown depicted as either an open flower or as a bud. The eight petals of the purple lotus are representative of the noble eightfold path; one of the principal teachings of the Buddha. Following this path is thought to lead to self-awakening, and is considered one of the noble truths.
  • The pink lotus flower is the supreme lotus and is considered to be the true lotus of Buddha.
  • The red lotus is related to the heart and the meaning is associated with that of love and compassion.

Hinduism has similar symbolism but also carries different meaning associated with the lotus.  Hinduism equates the lotus with beauty, fertility, prosperity, spirituality, and eternity. The most common lotus seen in Hinduism is the white lotus flower. However, the pink lotus flower is considered to be the most divine and only awarded to those of the highest standing.  Many of the gods and goddesses of Hinduism are linked to the flower, like the goddess of prosperity, Laxmi, is usually portrayed as being seated on a fully opened lotus flower. Similarly Brahma, the god of creation, is shown as emerging from a lotus that crawls from the naval of the sustainer Lord Vishnu. The lotus is considered to represent a wise and spiritually enlightened quality in a person and is representative of a person who carries out their tasks with little concern for any reward and with a full freedom from attachment, similar to the Buddhist thought. It is fascinating how the open flower and the unopened lotus bud forms are associated with human traits. The unopened bud is symbolic of a folded soul that has the ability to unfold and open itself up to the divine truth or become awakened to the spiritual reality.

All symbolism associated with the lotus seems to be positive and in the vein of being a good person and finding spiritual meaning in life. Using the lotus in your pond can not only add an exotic aesthetic, but also can attract purity, prosperity, spirituality, and beauty to your water garden.  This might be a good addition to your pond come spring!