The Meaning of the Lotus in Hinduism and Buddhism
Botanists and florists may consider the lotus just another beautiful flower, but it has deep layers of symbolism in Asian cultures. Since the flower is native to most of the countries in Asia, it’s no wonder that both ancient and modern residents appreciate its beauty on a deeper level.
To Buddhists of all traditions, the lotus is a symbol of rising out of the material world and into spiritual union with the entire universe, also known as enlightenment. This is because the Gautama Buddha used the flower to explain how the soul is never soiled by the dirt of living like the lotus is untouched by the mud it rises from as it grows. In the Mahayana branch of Buddhism, followers believe the souls themselves emerge from blooming blossoms before entering newly born infants.
In Hinduism, the meaning is similar but expressed a little differently. The lotus symbolizes the purity of the human soul and its ability to transcend physical limitations like birth and death. It’s most associated with deities representing creativity and wealth, such as Sarasvati, Lakshmi, and Brahma. Lotuses are also the symbols of the chakras, the energy centers thought to control both the physical health and spiritual condition of the individual.
Why Are Lotuses Included In Many Mandalas?
When you consider the various meanings of the lotus, it’s obvious why it shows up in so many mandalas. Its particularly common in meditation designs that adherents stare at for hours on end to work towards reaching enlightenment. While the most spiritual form of the lotus symbol features 1,000 petals, this is usually not physically shown due to the complexity of fitting in all those petals in an already complex geometric design. The artwork either features a limited number of petals with other meanings, like eight or nine to represent the sacredness of these numbers, or additional geometric symbols used to symbolize the true number.