Mother of Pearl Lotus Necklace
by Thea Cowsky
The lotus is one of the most common and best-loved symbols used in the Eastern traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism and yoga. It is rich in symbolism of the entire spiritual path.
The roots of the lotus grow, unseen, in the mud below the surface of the water. The stem with its tightly closed bud risesfrom the mud, grows up through the murky water, seeking the light and warmth of the sun above the water’s surface.
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Breaking the surface of the water, the lotus blossom opens, clean pure and fresh, untouched and far above the mud and murkiness below. A seedpod forms as the blossom matures, and the seeds are dispersed in all directions.
We begin our spiritual journey in the darkness of the mud of our daily life and the ordinary mind, which is clouded and muddy due to our ignorance of True Reality. But it is this mud that provides the anchoring and nourishing of our spiritual roots.
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The stem of spiritual training begins to sprout and grow when we enter the spiritual path and begin to train our mind and actions toward deeper awareness and greater virtue. One of my teachers always emphasized that the strength and stability of the stem is the most important part of the lotus because without a strong stem, the blossom cannot grow and open fully. Just as the stem of the lotus starts in the darkness of the mud and grows up through the water toward the light, spiritual training can move us from the darkness of ignorance into the light of a deeper and deeper awareness of Reality. And, just as the stem of the lotus is long, a true spiritual path is long, with slow but steady growth if one perseveres on the path of training.
When the stem and bud have reached above the water it can receive the warmth and light of the sun. The blossom grows and eventually opens. It is unstained, above the water and mud, symbolizing the gradual clearing of ignorance through spiritual training. The lotus blossom is able to open because the causes and conditions for it to open (represented by the warmth and light,) were created through practicing the spiritual path. The blossom of the lotus is above and untouched by the water and mud, yet its roots remain in the mud and nourish both the stem and the blossom. Similarly, our daily practice is always rooted in the mud of day-to-day life and our human body, which are vehicles and nourishment for our path to awakening.
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After the lotus has blossomed, the seedpod forms and the seeds are cast afar. This symbolizes the sharing and spreading of the Dharma by the masters who teach and help others along the path.
Roots, mud, stem, blossom, the casting of seeds: the beauty of the lotus;
Daily life, spiritual practice, awakening, sharing: the beauty of the spiritual path.
Contributing author Kate Cowsky