Have you ever heard the story of the lotus flower growing out of the mud in the lake? It is a myth about the seed of compassion which lies dormant buried in the mud at the bottom of the lake and inside each one of us. It might lay there for a whole lifespan, totally hidden and undisturbed until it sprouts and breaks out of the water totally untainted by the mud. The following article is about its meaning.
The seed, mud and the lake
The seed of compassion represents our innate capacity to transform not only our suffering but also the suffering of others.
The mud represents the darker side within you. All the troublesome, painful thought and emotions that afflict you on a day to day basis, like anger, desire, jealousy, and pride.
The lake symbolises the depths of your psyche, while the surface of the lake is the boundary between your unconscious and conscious thoughts and desires.
What germinates the seed?
According to the myth, what activates the seed below the mud, starting off its germination is a compassionate motive — particularly an innate longing to open our hearts to the suffering of ourselves and others. Without any fear to encounter this suffering and a motivation to do something to relieve it.
The myth, explains that it is the seed of compassion that makes the lotus flower shoot, start to sprout. And as you continue to practice mindfulness and compassion meditation, the shoot continues to grow until it eventually breaks the surface of the water.
Now, though it’s grown out of the mud, once it blooms and breaks the surface of the water, the lotus flower is entirely unmarked by the mud. Here the lotus flower being free of the mud symbolises that the mind that opens to compassion can transcend suffering.
“Whenever you doubt your self-worth, remember the Lotus Flower. Even though it emerges from the mud, once it blooms and breaks the surface of the water, the lotus flower is entirely unmarked by the dirt that surrounded it.”Clayton Micallef (2019) – The Lotus Flower and The Mud of Life
The most crucial part of this story is that the lotus flower cannot exist without the mud as the mud was the actual manure that fed the plant and made it.
Which, symbolises that the element of compassion permits us to see shame, desire and other troublesome aspects of ourselves as the manure of transformation.
So, it is not about getting rid of the troublesome elements within yourself, those which afflict us on a day to day basis, like anger, desire, jealousy, and pride (a near-impossible endeavour). Instead, it’s about acknowledging these feelings and seeing them as a potential source of powerful inner transformation.
The moral of the myth
The moral of this myth is that the story uses the lotus flower as an example to symbolise that the awakening of compassion and inner transformation can, at times depend on the dark and troublesome elements within yourself.
Such that in a world where the struggle with suffering seems to have become a way of life. The lotus flower is a symbol that brings hope. Likewise, as the flower rises above the mud, although it might seem impossible so too we can rise above the suffering.
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Gilbert, P., & Choden. (2014). Mindful compassion. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Hanh, T. N. (2015). No mud, no lotus. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.