Meaning of the Lotus Flower

lotus flower symbolism, meaning of lotus flower, 100 day project, Lotus Flower Photo by Marina Logvin on Unsplash

The Lotus flower has held powerfully positive meanings throughout history. Read more to understand its deep significance and how you can connect to that meaning more fully.

  • beauty
  • absolute purity
  • honest
  • rebirth
  • self-regeneration
  • spiritual awakening and enlightenment

Lotus and its Symbolism

What is so mysterious and magical about the lotus flower? 

Is it the beauty of the flower itself and how it grows in mud and water?

Is it the story and symbolism attributed to the lotus?

I don’t have answers to these questions. 

"Lotuses" by Minette Riordan, acrylic on canvas 3' x 3'
“Lotuses” by Minette Riordan, Acrylic on Canvas 3′ x 3′

I do have a love of creating drawings, painting and images of this historical blossom. It often appears in my artwork. Here it is as the base of a totem animal painting I am working on. It’s been at this stage for a while. I haven’t made enough time for painting lately. It’s in the messy middle stage, the lotus is definitely hiding in the mud at the moment.

"Totem" (incomplete), by Minette Riordan, acrylic and Posca paint markers on canvas, 3'x5'
“Totem” (incomplete), by Minette Riordan

I consider the lotus flower to be a powerful symbol for what is happening today with Covid-19. I trust that there will be sunlight, renewal and open doors again. But right now, our lives are in waiting, we are in hiding as we shelter in place, hopeful, prayerful and believing that times will change.

I found this brief description from Binghamton University to be a good snapshot:

The Symbolic Meaning of the Lotus Flower

The Lotus Flower grows in the deep mud, far away from the sun. But, sooner or later, the Lotus reaches the light becoming the most beautiful flower ever. The Lotus flower is regarded in many different cultures, especially in eastern religions, as a symbol of purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth. Its characteristics are a perfect analogy for the human condition: even when its roots are in the dirtiest waters, the Lotus produces the most beautiful flower.

The Meaning the Lotus Flower in Buddhism

According to Buddhism, every person has the potential to become perfect and enlightened, and it is just a matter of time until each human reaches the light. Buddhists believe that it’s necessary to be reborn thousands of times, polishing one’s being through many incarnations, until one reaches nirvana – the highest state of consciousness that humans can access. So, the Buddha is sometimes depicted sitting on a Lotus flower, symbolizing the one who overcame the pain of that prevails in the material world and became enlightened, just like the Lotus flower which starts to grow in the dirty and muddy water but manages to surpass the water and produce a perfect flower.  Many Hindu gods are depicted sitting or standing on a Lotus flower for the same reason.

In my painting, three of my favorite animals stand tall and strong atop the Lotus flower. There is a deeper story to this painting and I am waiting for it to unfold.

Do you have a favorite flower or a favorite symbol that often shows up in your life or work?

Update for 2023

"Totem" by Minette Riordan, acrylic and Posca paint markers on canvas, 3'x5'
“Totem” by Minette Riordan, acrylic and Posca paint markers on canvas, 3’x5′

Wow, a lot has changed since I first wrote this post in April of 2020. At that moment in time the pandemic was still a surprise and a shock. No one knew how long it would last or the lasting impact it would have.

We were living in Santa Barbara, CA, a beautiful place to have to be in isolation with lots of access to outdoors and nature. I had extra time and space to paint and the totem painting featured above was my first really big painting. I learned that I love painting big and see another totem like this one in my near future. 

Fast forward three years, we have moved to Loveland, CO, another gorgeous place where we are surrounded by nature, enjoying being empty nesters and exploring new places.

The lotus flower has been with me through every step on this journey and this potent symbol often shows up in my art journaling and mixed media projects. 

I attended an in-person art retreat in fall of 2021 where we were asked to paint big and paint whatever showed up. I ended up painting the lotus over and over as it rose up from the muddy muck on my canvas. 

Most recently the lotus flower made an appearance on my YouTube live series “Painting in your PJs with Minette”. I shared a variety of symbols including the hamsa, the lotus and a Celtic Cross. Go ahead and subscribe there – I’m live every Monday-Thursday at 6am PT/9am ET making art and sharing my creative process.

I love working with symbols in my art. Sometimes they appear organically as messengers or teachers. Other time symbols like the lotus are added intentionally to create meaning in a piece I am working on.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s famous quote about the lotus rings true today as the world continues to shift, change and adapt:

No mud, no lotus.

Thich Nhat Hanh

The lotus flower needs mud to thrive. The last few years have brought a lot of mud to our family and to the world stage. Personally, I feel like my inner lotus is in full bloom right now in spite of all that has happened… or because of it. 

**Lotus Flower Photo by Marina Logvin on Unsplash

Resources for the Meaning of the Lotus

Wikipedia articles on

The Wikipedia has great resources about the meaning of the lotus flower. In a Cultural and Religious Significance section on the Lotus it shows how the flower has been sacred in Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Ancient Egypt. In an article on the Lotus flower’s Symbolism in Religious Art it talks about how the Lotus flower’s meaning has been “considered a symbol of beauty, absolute purity, honesty, rebirth, self-regeneration, enlightenment”.

Definition of Lotus Flowers and Lotus Art

From Oxford Languages:

noun: lotus; plural noun: lotuses
1. any of a number of large water lilies.
2. GREEK MYTHOLOGY (in Greek mythology) a legendary plant whose fruit induces a dreamy forgetfulness and an unwillingness to depart.
3. the flower of the sacred lotus as a symbol in Asian art and religion. "a myth of creation states that Buddha was born of a thousand-petaled gold lotus"
4. short for lotus position.

Lotus Art and Meaning on Social Media

Both Pinterest and Instagram have many beautiful lotus pictures of lotus flowers, art, tattoos, and more.

Social media images of lotus flowers
Social media images of lotus flowers

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  1. Doug on April 15, 2020 at 10:30 pm

    I think of the lotus flower as two hands cupped together with the fingers up as if holding a bowl up to the sky. To me, it is a symbol of being uplifted.

    • minette on April 16, 2020 at 1:22 pm

      That is a beautiful Doug, what a great way to look at it. Definitely a symbol of upliftment!

  2. Alice Gerard on April 15, 2020 at 11:00 pm

    The image of the lotus flower that grows even in the most polluted, inhospitable place is very encouraging during this time when we are all shut in for fear of the pandemic.

    • minette on April 16, 2020 at 1:21 pm

      Thank you Alice, it is isn’t it!

  3. Marths on April 16, 2020 at 4:28 am

    I never know that about the lotus flower! Imagine such a beautiful flower growing in mud. Your painting is as beautiful as the flower. I love all flowers but my favorite is a rose. My mom loved roses and everytime I go to our garden and see a beautiful bloom I know my mom is watching over and guiding me from above.

    • minette on April 16, 2020 at 1:21 pm

      I have the same fond memory of roses and my grandmother Martha!

  4. kathleen on April 16, 2020 at 11:57 am

    Images like this uplift no matter how many times we see them, and the various states in your creations let us see that we, too, are in “various states.” Thank you!

    • minette on April 16, 2020 at 1:20 pm

      Thank you for the Kathleen! I agree about seeing ourselves in various states, especially right now.

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