The lotus is a mystical, ancient flower. It is native to Asia and Australia, and it is no ordinary plant. It seems to have super powers most other plants do not.
For example, the lotus is able to regulate the temperature of its flowers much like warm blooded animals regulate their body temperature. The lotus plant can live for a thousand years. The seeds are also remarkable. A lotus seed that was approximately 1300 years old was successfully germinated in 1994.
It is small wonder that it is a significant spiritual symbol in multiple cultures. Hindusim, buddhism and the ancient Egyptian civilisation all associate the lotus with purity, beauty and enlightenment. While each draws a slightly varied meaning from the lotus there is much similarity in the fundamentals of the underlying association as Dean Ravenscroft explains in this article.
One of the fascinations of the lotus flower is that no matter how murky the pond in which it grows, it always emerges clean and beautiful. Some ancient scholars believed the lotus closed its petals and sank beneath the water at night to rise from the water in the morning. Accordingly, it is sometimes associated with rebirth. In reality, the bloom rises from beneath the surface over a period of three days and then blooms in the sunlight.
The roots of the plant are in the pond bed, the leaves float on the surface, and large strong stems raise the blooms several centimetres above the surface of the water. The plant can grow very large - from 1.5 to 5 metres tall and 3 metres wide. Some lotus flowers can be 20cm in diameter.
The lotus also has more practical uses beyond its symbolic, spiritual value. All of the plant is edible, leaves, flowers, stems, seeds. In traditional Chinese medicine, eight separate parts of the lotus flower are used for a variety of ailments, especially those relating to fevers, irritability and bleeding.
The lotus appears in different colours. In Buddhism, each colour carries a different symbolic meaning:
- White - represents spiritual perfection, total mental purity and symbolises awakening
- Pink - the supreme lotus, generally reserved for the highest deity. It is considered to be the true lotus of Buddha
- Red - relates to love, compassion, passion and true purity of heart.
- Blue - associated with victory of the spirit over the senses, and signifies the wisdom of knowledge
- Purple - the mystic lotus associated with esoteric sects. The eight petals of the lotus represent the noble eightfold path (a principal teaching of the Buddha). Following this path is thought to lead to self awakening.
By now, you might be wanting to grow and care for a lotus flower of your own. If so, you will probably want to head over here for some helpful tips. But if that sounds like too much hard work.... you probably just want to look at some photos of beautiful lotus flowers... try this instead.