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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Lotus

The popular name of a number of varieties of plant, but when encountered in theosophical literature the white water lily, Nelumbium nelumbo, is referred to. The lotus as a symbol is widespread throughout the greater part of Asia, particularly countries where Hinduism or Buddhism is practiced.

The earliest reference to the lotus is in Ancient Egypt where the dead that had become divine were supposed to be reborn from the flower. For the Ancient Egyptians the lotus symbolized the sun and also Horus, ruler of the sky. Lakmi, the consort (akti) of the god Vishnu (Viśnu), is closely associated with the lotus; she is sometimes shown growing out of the navel of Visnu. In Buddhism the lotus throne represents purity and divine birth; the lotus germinates under water in the mud of the bottom and rises through the water to bloom in the air and this symbolizes the birth of the Buddha in the gross world and his rise to spiritual enlightenment.

Helena P. Blavatsky, in her The Secret Doctrine, makes frequent reference to the lotus, a typical statement being, “The Lotus, or Padma, is, moreover, a very ancient and favourite simile for the Kosmos itself, and also for man. The popular reasons given are, firstly, the fact just mentioned, that the Lotus-seed contains within itself a perfect miniature of the future plant, which typifies the fact that the spiritual prototypes of all things exist in the immaterial world before those things become materialized on Earth. Secondly, the fact that the Lotus plant grows up through the water, having its root in the ilus, or mud, and spreading its flower in the air above. The Lotus thus typifies the life of man and also that of the Kosmos; for the Secret Doctrine teaches that the elements of both are the same, and that both are developing in the same direction. The root of the Lotus sunk in the mud represents material life, the stalk passing up through the water typifies existence in the astral world, and the flower floating on the water and opening to the sky is emblematical of spiritual being” (Vol. I, p. 57-8).

In Tantra and Haµha-Yoga, the lotus is found in a number of contexts; it is depicted in pictures of the CHakras which show a lotus with the number of petals (in disregard of botanical fact) varying from four to one thousand. The basic position for meditation is known as “The Lotus Position,” where the legs are crossed with the feet resting on opposite thighs.

In Western countries the rose is the equivalent of the lotus in symbology, but has been treated with less reverence as witness the Wars of the Roses and its frequent appearance on inn signs such as the Rose and Crown.

P.S.H.

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