The lotus has been a symbol of purity since before the time of the Buddha, and it blooms profusely in Buddhist art and literature. Its roots are in muddy water, but the lotus flower rises above the mud to bloom clean and fragrant.
In Buddhist art, a fully blooming lotus flower signifies enlightenment, while a closed bud represents a time before enlightenment. Sometimes a flower is partly open, with its center hidden, indicating that enlightenment is beyond ordinary sight.
The mud nourishing the roots represents our messy human lives. It is in the midst of our human experiences and our suffering that we seek to break free and bloom. But while the flower rises above the mud, the roots and stem remain in the mud, where we live our lives. A Zen verse says, "May we exist in muddy water with purity, like a lotus."
Rising above the mud to bloom requires great faith in oneself, in the practice, and in the Buddha's teaching. So, along with purity and enlightenment, a lotus also represents faith.
June 5th, 2021
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