The Lotus Flower: Its Meaning & Symbolism
General Meaning of the Lotus Flower
The Lotus is a delicate flower with many layered petals arrayed around a central core. A few different plants from separate families all make up this category, but they all have similar meanings when it comes to symbolism. The plants also look alike and share other characteristics like medicinal and edible value. In general, all the Lotus flowers exude beauty and grace. Most varieties grow in the water of ponds and creeks, lending them an otherworldly quality that makes them mystical enough for religious ceremonies. In the Victorian flower language, the Lotus represented eloquence.
Types of Lotus Blossoms
Flowers commonly called Lotus around the world include:
- The Egyptian lotus flower: With the scientific name of Nymphaea caerula, the Egyptian blue lotus is actually more accurately described as a water lily. These blooms sport light blue or purple petals and played an important role in spiritual events.
- The Japanese lotus flower: Also known as the sacred Lotus in China, Bali, and other tropical countries in Asia, this plant’s scientific name is Nelumbo nucifera. It is the flower you see being used as the seat of Buddha and many Hindu deities too.
- The American lotus flower: A bright yellow Lotus, the Nelumbo lutea, is native to North America and was used as a food crop by many Native American tribes. It is not as well known symbolically as the other varieties, but it is still a beautiful addition to a water feature.
- Other Lotuses: Most white and red Lotus flower varieties also fall into the Nymphaea water lily family. This means they held the most power in Egyptian and other ancient Asian cultures.
Lotus Flower Color Meaning
The color of the Lotus certainly affects its general meaning as well. The white lotus flower and pink lotus flower from the Nelumbo family are seen as meaning purity and devotion. More passionately colored red, purple, and blue Lotus flower blooms can take on a spiritual meaning of ascension, enlightenment, or rebirth. A green Lotus flower is a beautiful gift for anyone trying to improve their life and start good habits.
Spiritual and Religious Lotus Flower Symbolism
Aside from the Victorian and contemporary meanings for the Lotus, there is a wealth of symbolism tying these flowers to Hinduism, Buddhism, and the ancient Egyptian’s religious practices. The ancient Egyptians used the plant extensively as a symbol in the paintings and carvings left on the walls of temples and tombs. Scholars believe the Egyptians viewed the Lotus as a symbol of rebirth because it appeared to sink at night and rise again in the morning. It is now known the plant simply loses old blooms and adds new ones on a daily cycle, but it is still a potent reminder of reincarnation and the mysteries of the afterlife. The priests and other religious leaders also brewed the flowers to make a tea with sedative and mild psychotropic effects, which heightened their sense for ritual work.
The Lotus meaning in Hinduism is a little different. As ideas were exchanged with Buddhists for thousands of years, Hindu religious leaders began to use the flower as a symbol of peace and eternity. White lotus flowers are usually seen under the feet of deities like Lakshmi, Ganesha, and Saraswati. Brahma, the ultimate creator, emerges from a Lotus as well. This sense of purity arises from the flower’s growing habit of rooting in mud and pushing up through the water to bloom.
The flower’s meaning in Buddhism is similar, but still unique again from the other meanings. The Buddhist Lotus represents:
- Direct Spiritual Contact
- Emptiness from Desire
- Victory over Attachments
- Enlightenment and the Bodhi State
- Love and Compassion for All Things
- Faithfulness During Spiritual Development
- Rising Out of Suffering
These deep spiritual meanings gave rise to a way of sitting known as the Lotus position. The legs are crossed and tucked in a way that makes the bent knees look like the petals of a lotus. It is an important position in both Buddhist meditation and Hindu yoga practices. The soles of the feet are tucked away, which makes it a respectful position to sit in when visiting a temple where exposing the bottom of your feet is considered rude. Another example is the use of the lotus in mandalas, which are spiritual and artistic representations of divine energies and meditation aids in Buddhist traditions.
Edible and Medicinal Uses of the Lotus Flower
Aside from decorating thrones and acting as seats for enlightened beings, both main types of Lotus are surprisingly useful for edible and medicinal purposes. The blue lotus family, or Nymphaea, is useful for making a sedative tea that helps you beat insomnia without feeling drowsy the next day. The sacred lotus, or Nelumbo family, is also grown for edible seeds and roots. The American version of the flower also primarily found use as a source of food.
Growing Lotus Flowers
If you have a deep fountain, barely flowing creek, or healthy pond, you can try growing your own Lotuses. Pick from the various colors and bloom types of both true Lotus and the similarly named water lilies at a reputable water plant nursery, then root them in pots or at the bottom of a muddy pond. Make sure there is at least four inches of water over the top of the pot or mud and not much more than ten inches. You can plant them in the spring or fall, and there is no need for fertilizer or pruning. The plant will start growing vigorously when temperatures warm up to about 60 degrees F, then go dormant as winter arrives again.
Lotus Flower Tattoo Meaning
Getting a Lotus flower tattoo is a beautiful way to show your dedication to a Hindu or Buddhist faith. It is also a reminder to stay humble and focus on developing inner peace. You can also develop more balance in your life with a tattoo of this flower because the eight petals represent all eight parts of a spiritual path. A colorful or pure white lotus sends a message of gracefulness and love to everyone that sees it.