For centuries the lotus flower has represented ideals of beauty, enlightenment, and purity. The wetlands flower begins life as a seed in muddy riverbeds, and must rise through muck before blossoming in the sunlight – a journey said to embody man’s path to enlightenment.
Present in art, literature, and mythology in a wide range of cultures, the lotus can be seen as a global symbol of all that humanity aspires to be:
* The lotus flower featured prominently in Egyptian lore (seen in hieroglyphics) as a symbol of rebirth; supposedly the flower retreated into the water at night, emerging whole again with each new sunrise.
* In Roman and Greek religious iconography, the archangel Gabriel was often depicted surrounded by lotus flowers – symbolizing divine grace and wisdom.
*The lotus in Buddhism symbolizes purity and non-attachment – a serene flower floating peacefully above the waters of desire.
*In Hinduism, the lotus is considered a sacred feminine element of beauty, fertility, and prosperity of the soul. The unopened and opened petals represent various stages of one’s spiritual “unfolding” in life. Additionally, a lotus flower with eight petals represents cosmic harmony (used often in mandala art) and a thousand-petaled lotus represents spiritual illumination.
*In Chinese literature the lotus is symbolic of rising above worldly chaos. The Confucian scholar Zhou Dunyi wrote: “I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained.”
*In other Asian countries the strong fibers of the lotus stalk represent the unbreakable bonds of family and loved ones that help the individual remain above water.
*Native Americans also encountered the lotus flower in certain climates, eating its “sacred beans” and using the flower to symbolize the sun’s power to turn plants into food.