The Lotus – Symbol of Spiritual Unfoldment

Francois Bothma  is an independent bishop of the Home Temple Group and a distinguished member of several religious and spiritual societies. He focuses on spiritual, religious and Kabbalah studies and is a high initiate in the Servants of the Winged Light as well as the Order Fratres Lucis. Francois is currently writing his thesis as final requirement for his PhD in Metaphysics.

Dr Bothma reminds us that for many generations the Lotus has been the symbol of spiritual unfoldment, of the holy and the pure.

The Buddha legend reports that when the newly born infant Siddharta, who later became the Buddha, touched the ground and made his first seven steps, seven lotus blossoms grew up from the earth leading the way for each step of the Bodhisattva to be an act of spiritual unfoldment. Thangkas represent meditating Buddhas as sitting on lotus-flowers, and the unfoldment of spiritual vision in meditation is symbolized by fully opened lotus-blossoms, whose centres and petals carry the images, attributes or mantras of various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas according to their relative position and mutual relationships.

The original meaning of this symbolism may be found in the following analogy: Just as the lotus grows up from the darkness of the mud to the surface of the water, opening its blossom only after it has raised itself beyond the surface, and remaining unblemished from both earth and water, by which it was nourished – in the same way the mind, born in the human body, unfolds its true qualities (petals) after it has raised itself beyond the obscure floods of passions and ignorance, and transforms the dark powers of the depths into the radiantly pure nectar of Enlightenment-consciousness (bodi-citta), represented by the incomparable jewel (mani) in the lotus-blossom (padma). Thus the saint grows beyond this world and surpasses it. Though the initiate’s roots are still anchored in the world of Assiah, he grows beyond it and surpasses it with his head raised into the fullness of Light. He becomes the living synthesis of the deepest and the highest, of darkness and light, the material and immaterial, the limitations of individuality and the boundlessness of universality, the formed and the formless. In the words of Nagarjuna: “Neither being nor not-being can be attributed to the Enlightened One, the Holy One is beyond all opposites.”

If the urge towards light were not dormant in the germ that is hidden deep down in the darkness of earth, the lotus would not turn towards the light. In a similar way, if the urge towards a higher consciousness and knowledge were not dormant even in a state of deepest ignorance or complete unconsciousness, Enlightened Ones could never arise from the entrapments of the material world. The germ of Enlightenment is ever present in the world, and just as Buddhas and other Enlightened Masters like Jesus arose in past world cycles, so Enlightened Ones arise in our present world cycle and will arise in future world cycles, whenever there are adequate conditions for organic and conscious life.


The historical Buddha is therefore looked upon as a link in the infinite chain of Enlightened Ones and not as a solitary and exceptional phenomenon . The historical features of Gautama Buddha (Sakyamuni) therefore recede behind the general characteristics of Buddhahood, in which manifested the eternal or ever-present reality of the potential Enlightenment consciousness of the human mind, in fact of all conscious life – which includes in its deepest aspect every single individual. He becomes the embodiment of the divine qualities, which are latent in every human being.

By practicing spiritual qualities like love, compassion and sympathetic joy, the initiate becomes a “Dwelling of God” and live in a ‘divine state.’ It is therefore not the individual who is raised to the status of a god, but the divine which is recognized as a possibility of human realization. Thereby the divine does not become less in value, but more, because rather than a mere abstraction it becomes a living reality, from something that was once believed, it becomes something that can be experienced. Therefore it is not a descending to a lower level, but an ascending, a rising from a plane of lesser to a plane of greater reality.

Irrespective of whether these Buddhas are conceived as successfully appearing in time – as historically concrete beings – or as timeless images or archetypes of the human mind, which are visualised in meditation, they are not allegories of transcendental perfections or of unattainable ideals, but visible symbols and experiences of spiritual completeness in human form. For wisdom can only become reality for us, once it is realized in life and if we make it part of our daily human existence.

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