Anybody who has ever observed a lotus flower emerging from a murky pond cannot fail to see the beauty of this exquisite plant. The flower always looks so clean and pure against the background of the dirty pond.Because of this the lotus flower has come to be associated with purity and beauty in the religions of Buddhism and Hinduism respectively; the ancient Egyptians scholars observed that in the night-time the lotus closed its flowers and sank into the water, and came up with a different association with the flower related to rebirth and the Sun; in actual fact the Lotus slowly emerges from a pond over a three day period and then blooms in the morning until mid-afternoon.
It can therefore be assumed that the lotus flower meaning is different between cultures, though in fact they share many similarities.
Meaning of the lotus flower to the ancient Egyptians
Like the Egyptian lotus flower symbolism mentioned on the last page, Hindus have a creation story with a lotus as well. The lotus flower takes central stage in one of the Hindu creation stories featuring Vishnu. In the story, Vishnu is asleep on the serpent of eternity in the cosmic ocean before there was heaven, earth or anything in between. The goddess Lakshmi tends to him as he sleeps. Then from the depths of the universe, the humming of om awakes him. As the long night of eternity come to an end, a lotus flower blossoms from Vishnu’s naval. On the lotus sits Brahma. Vishnu tells Brahma to create the world, which was to last 432,000 years.
Anybody who has taken a look at Egyptian culture cannot fail to have noticed the significance of the meaning of the Lotus flower in their culture.
In ancient Egypt there were two main types of lotus that grew the white, and the blue (scientifically a water lily, but symbolically a lotus). The pink lotus flower was introduced into Egypt sometime during the late period of their civilization. If one is to observe the many hieroglyphics, it is easy to see that the blue Lotus flower is the most commonly portrayed.
This Egyptian artwork shows the Priest Nebsini holding a blue lotus flower
As mentioned in the introduction, this plant is known to be associated with rebirth. This is a consequence of it supposedly retracting into the water at the night, and emerging a fresh in the Sun the next day. The Egyptians therefore associated the lotus flower with the sun which also disappeared in the night, only to re-emerge in the morning. Therefore the lotus came to symbolize the Sun and the creation. In many hieroglyphics works the lotus is depicted as emerging from Nun (the primordial water) bearing the Sun God.
As something that is associated with rebirth, it is no surprise that the lotus flower is also associated with death, and the famous Egyptian book of the dead is known to include spells that are able to transform a person into a lotus, thus allowing for resurrection.
Another interesting fact about the lotus flower meaning to the Egyptians was the way that it was used as a symbol for the unification of the two Egyptian kingdoms, that is to say the bonding of upper and Lower Egypt. For a long time the lotus had been used in the hieroglyphics and art of Upper Egypt, whereas in Lower Egypt the Papyrus plant was notably in abundance. Therefore pictures of lotus and Papyrus that had grown up together and become inter-wound with each other came to be a symbol of the bringing together of the two kingdoms.
Lotus flower meaning in Buddhism
In Buddhism the lotus is known to be 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. Therefore in common with Egyptian mythology the lotus is seen as a sign of rebirth, but additionally it is associated with purity. The breaking of the surface every morning is also suggestive of desire, this leads to it being associated with spiritual enlightenment.
As Buddhism stems from a different part of the world to Egyptology, there are many more colors of lotus to be seen. So it is not too surprising that the many different colors have come to be associated with different aspects of Buddhism. The main symbolism of the lotus flower and their meanings are given here.
Blue Lotus: Wisdom
The blue Lotus is associated with a victory of the spirit over that of wisdom, intelligence and knowledge. If you get to see a blue Lotus in Buddhist art you will notice that it is always depicted as being partially open and the center is never observed.
White Lotus: Peace & Serenity
This color lotus 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.
Purple Lotus: Mystic 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.
Pink lotus: Buddha
This is the supreme lotus and is considered to be the true lotus of Buddha.
Red lotus: Compassion & Love
This is related to the heart, and the Lotus flower meaning is associated with that of love and compassion.
Golden Lotus: Achievement of Enlightenment
The golden lotus symbolizes the worlds beyond this one on higher realms.
Quote from Sri Guru Granth Sahib:
“You Yourself are the water, You Yourself are the fish, and You Yourself are the net. You Yourself cast the net, and You Yourself are the bait. You Yourself are the lotus, unaffected and still brightly-colored.”
The lotus flower and its meaning in Hinduism
Perhaps one of the strongest associations of the lotus flower with religion is that that is observed in Hinduism. In this religion the lotus flower meaning is associated with beauty, fertility, prosperity, spirituality, and eternity. Another fact about the Hindu belief system, the pink coloration is the highest color, and is only awarded to the gods and goddesses that have achieved top standing.
References to the lotus flower symbol are also found in the tradition of hatha yoga, which features sitting in the “lotus position” during meditation as a central core of its practice.
The lotus is also a symbol of the centers of consciousness within the body (the chakra centers). The highest chakra, known as the crown chakra or sahasrara chakra, is referred to as a thousand petaled lotus flower.
The most common lotus form seen in Hinduism is the white lotus flower.
The beautiful white lotus flower has special significance in Hinduism, where its meaning is strongly associated with Laxmi and Brahma.
Many of the gods and goddesses of Hinduism are linked to the flower, for example the goddess of prosperity, Laxmi, is usually depicted as being seated atop a fully opened lotus flower. Likewise Brahma, the god of creation is depicted as emerging from a lotus that crawls from the Naval of the sustainer Lord Vishnu.
As a lotus is able to emerge from Muddy Waters un-spoilt and pure it is considered to represent a wise and spiritually enlightened quality in a person; it is representative of somebody who carries out their tasks with little concern for any reward and with a full liberation from attachment.
It is very interesting how the open flower and the unopened Lotus bud forms are associated with human traits. The unopened bud is representative of a folded soul that has the ability to unfold and open itself up to the divine truth.
It is hoped that you now have a better understanding of the lotus flower meaning across the three major cultures in which it is known to play (or have played) a major role. It is no wonder that these civilizations, have found wonderment in such a beautiful flower.
The most common lotus form seen in Hinduism is the white lotus flower.
Lotus Flower in Christianity
With the emergence of the sun, life is born. And with this emergence, the lotus flower acquires a special meaning and timeless significance. As the bearer of creation, the lotus flower holds a special place in mythology, in nature, in our lives. It symbolizes not only creation, but the timeless and continual process of birth and rebirth. At night, the lotus flower sleeps. At sunrise, with the waking of the sun, the lotus flower emerges to life. Just as in nature. Life is born, and reborn. Man dies, to be born again. Just as in Christianity, Jesus Christ died to the sins of the world to be resurrected to a new, profoundly spiritual realm. Just as in Buddhism, the Buddha rose above all earthly pleasures and desires to a new world of enlightenment.
The lotus flower has indeed acquired a special significance over the centuries. Be it in Greek mythology, ancient Hindu scriptures and pictography, or Buddhist lore—the lotus flower signifies a flawless and timeless divine beauty. The lotus flower’s opening petals symbolize the potential for the soul to expand and blossom into beauty and divinity. They symbolize the surrender of the mind to the powers above. They symbolize an openness and submissiveness even as the roots are mired in the muddy worldliness and sin.
Look at pictures of the Buddha. He is seen meditating on a lotus flower. He is also seen holding a lotus flower in each hand. Or, look at paintings of the Hindu gods. You see the Goddess Lakshmi, patron of wealth and good fortune, sitting on a fully-bloomed pink lotus flower, a lotus in her right hand.
Go to the annals of Greek mythology. And you read about Ra, the sun god, emerging from lotus petals from the very depths of Nun, or watery chaos.
The stories are many. The significance of the lotus flower is divinely profound. That so many ancient and even contemporary cultures respect and worship the lotus flower with such fervor is indeed a wonder to behold.
Lotus Flower in other Religions
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 fibers. 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.
Lotus Flower Symbols
Incorporating the lotus flower to your everyday life like the Hindu and the Buddhist, will bring new light into your life and bring happiness into your heart.