For those who do not know the symbolism of the lotus and the muddy pond, you are not alone. I would not know for myself until a year ago. The most I understood was that the lotus was a symbol of spiritual purity. I did not know why. That is, until a friend shared with me a vision she received involving lotus flowers. This would inspire me to look up the symbolism of a lotus to ascertain what her vision was communicating.
What I came across was a quote from the Lalitavistara, a sacred text of the life of Buddha by Dhrarmaraksha (308 AD). It states:
“The spirit of the best of men is spotless, like the new lotus in the muddy water which does not adhere to it.”
What I would learn is that this beautiful flower gains its symbolism from the fact that it begins its life deeply rooted in the muddy pond. It then sprouts out of the muddy water and flowers above it, in a manner which its petals do not touch the pond’s mud or slime. Therefore, as a symbol, the lotus can represent growing up in a world that is full of various conflicts and impurity, while having the ability to rise above it and remain untouched. This state of remaining ‘untouched’ allows for “enlightenment;” define as:
“A blessed state in which the individual transcends desire and suffering and attains Nirvana.” -TheFree Dictionary.com
To further understand the symbolism of the lotus, it helps to also understand the symbolism of the muddy pond.
What does the muddy pond symbolize?
If we can see the water of the pond as representing our thoughts, emotions and desires, the mud and slime in the pond then represents how these can become clouded; blocking us from having a clear perception of our most pure and natural Self.
Relating this to our human experience, the muddy pond can represent being conditioned from birth to adhere to various socially accepted mind-sets; perceiving that they represent the truth of who we are and how we should live. For instance, we learn from a young age that approval is given if we obey certain rules, laws and customs; or if we share certain beliefs. These beliefs and mind-sets form our desires. In Buddhism, many of our desires and attachments to the world and its thought patterns are seen as the source of our suffering.
When it comes to my book I Am the Lotus, Not the Muddy Pond, the “muddy pond” represents the “polluted part” of what I call “the collective consciousness.”
What is this “collective consciousness?”
In effect, it is the bigger pond of consciousness that connects most of us together–concerning the way we think and behave.
We all have our own individual consciousness and can make individual decisions, but the collective forms its own body of consciousness and makes its own decisions–which are subject to the same laws of manifestation that our individual consciousness is. In fact, many of our thoughts may not solely be our own. They may result from our being “tapped into” a bigger pond of consciousness. Ultimately, we both affect the collective consciousness with our individual thoughts and are affected by it, as well.
These ponds of collective thinking form the various social mind-sets that we base our lives and identity upon. These “ponds” or mind-sets can also become “polluted” in the same way our individual thought patterns can: via unhealthy thinking patters, fear, unworthiness, self-sabotaging habits, etc. The collective consciousness merely reflects the thoughts and feelings of the individuals, and groups of individuals, that influence it.
For example, many of us find security in following the same lifestyles, rules, behaviours, desires, ethics and ideas of money and ownership as others. We are therefore conforming to a collective consciousness. We are also affected by the media, various books, gurus and religious leaders which tells us what to strive for, what to own, what styles are popular, what to eat, drink, watch, and more. We then take on these thought forms as our own and mistake them for who we are. That is, unless we can learn to rise above these mind-sets and see them for what they truly represent: that they are not our true Self–as represented by the lotus that rises above the mud.
Does this make the lotus a symbol of hope?
Yes. Through denoting our ability to rise out of this pond of mud, the lotus, in a way, becomes a symbol of hope. Each stage of the lotus represents a stage in awakening. Awakening, then, becomes the ability to fully see the pond, while recognizing that it is not the truth of who we are. When we begin to awaken this way, we begin to rise above the pond.
The stages of enlightenment can be symbolized by whether a lotus is fully open, partly open, or closed. A closed lotus represents the Buddhist before he finds enlightenment; while the open lotus represents the attainment of enlightenment. This is why Buddha is often depicted as seated inside of an open lotus flower.
The different colors of the lotus also have symbolic meaning:
- The white lotus symbolizes purity of body, mind and spirit.
- The blue lotus symbolizes wisdom and knowledge.
- The red lotus is a symbol of love, passion and a giving heart.
- The purple lotus symbolizes the mystic and mysticism.
As for the pink lotus, I found two interpretations. One states that the pink lotus is supreme and symbolizes the Buddha himself. The other interpretation is that it symbolizes the history of Buddha. In the latter definition, the gold lotus symbolizes the attainment of Buddhahood/enlightenment.
Becoming a more open lotus can help heal the world!
In no way do I claim to be on the path of enlightenment. I am merely a student. What I write about is largely my own journey as I learn to see the pond’s mud for what it is: MUD.
In the end, I believe our ability to find our lotus Self is dependent upon being able to let go of the need to conform to various ways of the world or lifestyles. When more of us are able to do this, we will begin to purify the pond of collective consciousness. Then, we will have the capability to bring real love, inspired unity and peace into our world.