Lotus flowers are everywhere in the yoga world, adorning yoga mats, props and even tattoos. Their beauty alone makes it easy to see why they’re so popular. But there's more to this flower than just it's physical beauty.
The key to understanding lotus flower symbolism is to consider the way that lotus flowers grow. Lotus flowers are renowned for their ability to blossom with such unblemished perfection from the murky waters of even the muddiest pond. Thus, they have become a poignant symbol for mankind's ability to break free and bloom from the murkiness of our daily lives.
The resilience and power of lotus flowers is important for yogis today. The world we live in doesn’t tend to be pure, clean and sanitized. On the contrary, it can be corrupt, dirty and, at times, full of suffering. But the lotus flower gives us faith that we can flourish in spite of, or maybe even because of, this darkness and muck. This very special quality of lotus flowers means they were taken as objects of rich symbolism in the scriptural texts of both Buddhism and Hinduism.
The lotus flower is one of the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism. It is a sign of purity and spiritual awakening. The lotus flower is often depicted with eight petals, symbolizing the Buddhist eightfold path. The lotus flower blossoming from mud can be taken to represent the spiritual path to enlightenment. Different colors of lotus flowers in Buddhism have different meanings. For example, white lotus flowers represent spiritual perfection, while red lotus flowers symbolize heartfelt compassion and love. (Learn more about Integrating Feelings of the Heart.)
In Hinduism, the lotus flower is associated with fertility, prosperity and eternity. Many of the Hindu gods and goddesses are depicted with the lotus flower. Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth, is often shown seated on a lotus flower. (Read more in The Auspicious Goddess Lakshmi.) The lotus flower in Hinduism generally represents the ability of a wise person to be liberated from attachment and go about their daily lives, doing what is right, without concern for the outcome.
Lotus flowers have been objects of contemplation and meditation for thousands of years. Aspects of the flower can resonate with and inspire different things for different people. As with all symbols, it is worth considering what the lotus flower means for you.