Padma (Nelumbo nucifera), the sacred lotus, is an aquatic plant that plays a central role in Indian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The lotus flower has many different names such as the "Indian Lotus", the "Sacred Lotus", and the "Bean of India".
The lotus is an ancient polyvalent symbol in Asian culture. Hindus revere it with the gods Vishnu, Brahma and to a lesser degree Kubera, and the goddesses Lakshmi and Sarasvati . Often used as an example of divine beauty and purity, Vishnu is often described as the 'Lotus-Eyed One'. The lotus springs from the navel of Vishnu whilst he is in Yoga Nidra. The lotus blooms uncovering the creator god Brahma in padmasana. Its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul. The growth of its pure beauty from the mud of its origin holds a benign spiritual promise. Particularly Brahma and Lakshmi, the divinities of potency and wealth, have the lotus symbol associated with them.
The lotus flower is one of the Vajrayana Ashtamangala, representative of creation and cosmic renewal and 'primordial purity' (Wylie: ka dag) and shares in the chakra and mandala symbolism of the Dharmachakra, is also cited extensively within Puranic and Vedic literature, for example:
One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus is untouched by water.—Bhagavad Gita 5.10:
The padma is held to be a flower with a thousand petals and is therefore associated with the Sahasrara and indeed all the chakra. The padma appears as an endemic dais upon which deities rest and indeed upon which Hindu iconography is founded.
In Buddhist symbolism the lotus is symbolic of purity of the body, speech, and mind as while rooted in the mud, its flowers blossom on long stalks as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. It is also symbolic of detachment as drops of water easily slide off its petals.
It is also to be noted that most Buddhist, Chinese, Hindu, Japanese, amongst other Asian deities are often are depicted as seated on a lotus flower. According to legend, Gautama Buddha was born with the ability to walk and everywhere he stepped, lotus flowers bloomed.
The lotus in both Egypt and India symbolizes the union of the four elements; earth, air, fire, and water. The roots are in the earth, it grows in and by means of water, its leaves are nourished by air, and it blooms through the power of the sun's fire. The lotus is therefore the perfection of the fourfold order of the natural world. The growth of a new flower directly from the earth-bound original (inflorescent proliferation) may be interpreted as a symbol of transcendence as found in Indian philosophy: a spiritual emergence of a higher world directly from our physical manifestation. It may also be interpreted, as in Egypt, as the exaltation of the essence quality of the lotus.
- Refer Brahma Samhita.
- Dallapiccola, Anna L. (2002). Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend. New York: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-51088-1.
- Lawlor, Robert (1991). Voices Of The First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreamtime. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, Ltd. ISBN 0-89281-355-5