You will see the lotus flower in many Buddhism images because it is highly symbolic of Buddhism in general. The lotus flower grows in muddy waters and breaks through the surface revealing a large beautiful flower. It starts off unseen, in the muddy waters, but bursts through the surface and blossoms into the beautiful Lotus Flower. This is much like Buddhism. You may not think you are making any progress, but you are…you are almost ready to break the surface of the water and blossom into enlightenment.
In Buddhism the lotus flower symbolizes:
- Enlightenment: Overall, the lotus flower symbolizes the stages of ones life and practice from ignorance, to enlightenment.
- Rising Above Suffering: How we rise above the mire of life (suffering or ignorance) to become pure through practice
- Your Roots Are Still in the World: Although we rise out of the mire of life, we should not remove ourselves from it as it is part of the world
- Experiences Helps You Grow: When the lotus blossoms in the heat of summer, we must also take the troubles, obstacles, and suffering in our lives as opportunities to further our practice and cultivation
The growth of the lotus flower relates to our growth through practice in Buddhism:
- The Pond (The World): Our world is also a ‘muddy water’ where we cannot see above the surface of the water (to see the true nature of things)
- Growing (Practice): Through constant practice, and faith in the teachings (Dharma / Dhamma), we ‘grow’
- Persistence (Faith): Just because you can’t see above the surface of the water doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop practicing
- Blooming (Enlightenment): Eventually we can grow and become enlightened seeing the world as it truly is (just as the lotus flower breaks the surface of the water. When you have grown and broke free and understand the true nature of the world, and yourself, you will bloom into a Buddha
You will see many images of the Buddha sitting on a ‘throne’ of a blooming lotus flower. This symbolizes that he is fully enlightened (awaken) and sees the true nature of things. All of us can reach this as we all have Buddha nature within us all.