As one of the most ancient symbols of our planet, the lotus flower has several deep and profound connotations that connect our physical world with that of the spiritual. So what makes this unassuming little flower that grows in muddy water so unique? What is it that can be found in the lotus flower that inspires us to strive for noble goals and lofty ideals?
First, let’s take a look back in history and see what role the lotus flower plays in the creation of our world.
How the World Began
The lotus flower featured prominently in ancient Egyptian legends, particularly in religion.
Sesen, a lotus flower, is the symbol of the sun, of creation and rebirth. Because the lotus flower grows from the mud at the bottom of ponds and streams to later on rise above the water with its exquisite white or pink oval, spreading petals, it inspired one creation myth about a giant lotus that rose out of the watery chaos at the beginning of time. The kingdom of Upper Egypt used this myth of the lotus flower to symbolize its reign.
Another story where the lotus flower played a prominent role is the version that originated from Heliopolis. It is said that before the universe came into being, there was an infinite ocean of inert water that was the primeval being, Nun. From Nun was born a lotus flower and a single mound of dry land. When the lotus blossomed open, out stepped the self-created sun god, Atum, who is depicted as a child.
In a slightly different version, Atum was called Ra, Egypt’s sun god. Following the lotus flower’s unique behavior of sinking back to the muddy bottom as the day closes and rising up again when the sun shines, the ancient Egyptians believed that Ra used the lotus flower’s petals as shelter to rest for the night.
The Lotus Flower and Religion
Although the lotus flower is not unknown to the Western World, but it is in the East, where it is viewed as a symbol of spiritual unfoldment, that it is almost revered. The Tibetan mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, is actually an ode to the lotus flower, meaning “Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus.”
In Hinduism, the flower symbolizes divinity, fertility, wealth, knowledge and enlightenment. The Indians associated the flower with the goddess of wealth, Maha Lakshmi, known as a giver of prosperity and a patron of purity and generosity.
In Buddhism, the typical sitting position where the legs folded and palms open, resting on the knees is called the lotus position. It is said that this is the best position to achieve enlightenment.
The Christian counterpart of the lotus flower is the white lily. Frequently associated with Mary as queen of heaven, the flower is said to signify both fertility and purity. When the Archangel Gabriel made the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, he carried with him a white lily, symbolizing purity, beauty, and everything that is good.