The lotus is one of Buddhism’s most significant symbols. It is a symbol of enlightenment and purity of the mind. The lotus symbolizes many aspects of the path to enlightenment. As the lotus grows out of the still water and mud of the pond (samsara – the cycle of rebirth), it leaves the mud (worldly existence) behind to emerge straight toward the sky, appear clean on the surface (purity), and blossoms into a beautiful flower (enlightenment). The flower opens its petals to catch the warm sun rays, reveals its beauty and purity, and shares its fragrance with the world.
The lotus leaves are water-resistant, and just like the flowers; the leaves exist as a part of, but separate from their environment at the same time. The Vietnamese saying “Growing in the mud, yet not smelling of the mire” refers to this idea. As the flowers and leaves emerge from the water, they will in turn provide shading for the mud beneath. The image signifies the Great Buddha, whose virtues, love, and teachings have become the best and eternal refuge for all beings.
A closed blossom signifies the potential for enlightenment. An open blossom signifies full enlightenment. The Buddha is often depicted sitting on a fully opened lotus. The eight petals correspond to the Noble Eightfold Path. The colors of the lotus also have significant meanings. The white lotus symbolizes Bodhi, the state of total mental purity, spiritual perfection, and the pacification of human nature. Love and compassion is associated with the red lotus. The blue lotus is the flower that symbolizes wisdom. The Buddha is associated with the pink lotus, the supreme flower.
In Asian countries, lotus is usually grown in home ponds. Besides its use as medicine and food, the lotus creates the sense of inner peace, mental purity, and close connection to Buddha. The stems remind us of the transcendence of our mind above worldly matters through the practice of Buddha teachings. The lotus flower is the symbol of the perfect state of the mind.
The lotus flower holds a special place in us because it symbolizes humans’ strive in this world. Similar to the lotus, which has its roots in and is nurtured by the mud to elevate into a higher state -- an individual can learn from the impurity of the world, and practice Buddha’s teachings to become an upstanding, fragranced-flower person worthy of admiration.