Lotus Flower (Padma)


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Buddha did not want himself portrayed in any images because he did not want a human form being venerated. Thus symbols were frequently used to represent Buddha, such as the Bodhi Tree and Buddhist principles, such as the lotus flower. The Bodhi Tree refers to the tree under which the Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment, so the tree and the leaf are sacred symbols [11,12].

A Buddhist can achieve Enlightenment by following the correct actions of the Noble Eightfold Path. In Buddhism, it is import to break the cycle of rebirth and to achieve Enlightenment so that one may attain a state of Nirvana [13]. Nirvana is a state in which an individual is not aware of his own desires, thus his suffering comes to an end. Buddhists seek to achieve Nirvana through the practice generosity which is shown with offerings of flowers [14]. The lotus (padma) represents the liberation that can be achieved by opening one’s heart and experiencing complete purification of body, speech and mind [15]. “The lotus refers to many aspects of the path, as it grows from the mud (samsara), up through muddy water it appears clean on the surface (purification), and finally produces a beautiful flower (enlightenment) [16].” Furthermore, the different colors of the lotus have an influence on its associated meaning [17].

[11] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Padma_%28attribute%29
[12] http://www.buddhastatues.org/symbol_of_buddhist.htm
From the website:
"After wandering the countryside for about six years the Buddha finally came to rest in a forest beside the Naranjara River, not far from modern day Bodhgaya. Sitting under a Bodhi tree, ardently practicing meditation, he finally realised his true nature. The next seven days were spent under the tree experiencing the bliss of freedom and contemplating the extent of his new understanding. The story then goes on to relate four other periods of seven days, each spent under a different tree - the Banyan, the Mucalinda and the Rajayatana tree and then once more back to the Banyan. Each of these 'tree scenes' has its own well known story which space here does not allow. The tree of enlightenment is called, in Latin, ficus religiosa, or sacred tree. It is also known as the pipal tree. For Buddhists it is generally called the Bodhi, or Bo tree. Bodhi is the Pali and Sanskrit word for enlightenment. There is a descendant of the original tree still growing at Bodhgaya and Bodhi trees are commonly found in Buddhist centres all over the world."
[13] http://www.world-faiths.com/Buddhism/BUDDHISM.HTM
Description of Nirvana:
‘There is disciples, a condition, where there is neither earth
nor water, neither air nor light, neither limitless space,
nor limitless time, neither any kind of being, neither
this world nor that world. There is neither arising nor
passing-away, nor dying, neither cause nor effect,
neither change nor standstill.’
[14] http://www.exoticindiaart.com/article/symbols/
[15] http://buddhism.kalachakranet.org/general_symbols_buddhism.html
[16] IBID.
[17] IBID.

[18] Gyatso, "In the Sacred Realm," in Reynolds 1999. From the Sacred Realm, 171-179, "Symbols," 254-261. (9 pp text)
Symbols as substitutes for Aspects of Buddahood: Description of The Lotus
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