This post is copied from our older, original blog. Original post date 4/12/2011.
By Marcie Bower, Lic.Ac.
The lotus plant is frequently used in Asian traditions – as a symbol, as a work of art, as a food, and a herbal supplement. It’s image holds immense power and beauty in many Asian cultures and systems of healing, and the symbol of the lotus has transcended time and space to appeal to those in the Western world seeking calm, peace, serenity, and healing.
In Buddhism, the lotus flower represents purity of the body and mind, able to float above the waters of worldly attachment. The Buddha was said to be able to walk as a very young child, and that everywhere his foot touched, lotus flowers sprang into being. Because the roots of the lotus are in the mud, but the flower blooms serenely on the surface, the lotus is often used in Buddhist teachings and iconography to depict the progress of the soul towards enlightenment, as it works its way up through the muddy waters of the world around us. In many Buddhist traditions, the color of the lotus also carries meaning – the white lotus represents spiritual purity; the pink lotus represents the divine; the red lotus represents purity of the heart, encompassing love, compassion, and humility; and the blue lotus signifies wisdom.
In other Asian religious and cultural traditions, the lotus is seen to represent beauty, grace, perfection, elegance, long life, health, healing, and good fortune. It is delicate and yet sturdy, reaching high above the murky waters it grows in.
In India, Hindu deities are often depicted sitting or standing on a lotus flower, a common symbol of the divine. The Baha’i temple in Delhi is built in the shape of the lotus.
In China, the Chinese Confucian scholar Zhou Dunyi (1017–1073) wrote “I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained.”
Something about the lotus flower resonates with us, with humanity, throughout time and space. It inspires us to be our better selves, to seek peace and sunlight amidst the darkness, mud, and turmoil. It conjures up feelings of peace, tranquility, and serenity. It reminds us that there is good and beauty in the world, in us.
Just as the image of the lotus has nourished our souls and minds through the centuries, its physical self nourishes our bodies. Lotus roots are used in most Asian cuisines, and are themselves and herb in Chinese medicine. Lotus seeds, too, are prescribed as a medicine. Lotus root (ou) is used to detoxify the Lungs and aid with chronic cough. Lotus seeds (Lian Zi) are used to nourish the spirit, aid the digestion, bind important fluids in the body, and nourish our core energies. In short, the parts of the lotus plant help to purify, rectify, and heal our bodies, holding close to us those parts of ourselves that should never be lost.