There’s a Reason the Lotus Flower Blooms in Muddy Water

(Photo above by Lovyrina / Pexels)

For many, the image of Buddhism can assume a kind of stoic practice, far removed from reality. However, one of the most influential and respected sutras, or scriptures, in Buddhism is the Lotus Sutra. Its teachings are revolutionary in that they explain the fundamental equality of all people, without exception. In addition, it teaches that ordinary people possess the Buddha nature, described as limitless courage, wisdom and compassion.

In the 15th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, it reads: “[They are] unsoiled by worldly things / like the lotus flower in the water. / Emerging from the earth… ” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 263).

“They” in the above passage refers to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. This may sound like supernatural beings, but it represents the people who chant the Mystic Law [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] and promise to share it with others after Shakyamuni Buddha’s passing.

Daisaku Ikeda, the Buddhist philosopher, explains in more detail how the Lotus Sutra is meant to be practiced amid life’s harsh realities:

In general, Buddhism is regarded as a teaching of transcending the secular realm. This is because it espoused freeing oneself from the real world, which is shrouded by the darkness of ignorance and earthly desires, and is filled with suffering. But far from removing himself from the world, Bodhisattva Superior Practices—the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth entrusted in the Lotus Sutra with propagating Buddhism after Shakyamuni’s death—“advances through” it. That is, he carries out his Buddhist practice amid the realities of this world.

Daisaku Ikeda

It’s safe to assume that the reason this particular sutra uses the term “Lotus” in its title, is to reflect this spirit of perseverance in the face of life’s incredible challenges. Why then this particular flower? Because the lotus flower blooms in muddy water, representing the incredible potential of our life. Buddhism teaches that life is like the “lotus flower” and the “muddy water,” the harsh realities of daily life.

Ikeda further explains how we can understand this concept in our daily lives:

Nothing, no matter what happens, can change your inherent worth. Please have courage. Please tell yourself that you are not going to let this ordeal defeat you. Those who have suffered the most, those who have experienced the greatest sadness, have a right to become the happiest of all. What would the purpose of our Buddhist practice be if the most miserable could not become happy?

Discussions on Youth, p. 410

Even though we may be facing unimaginable situations each day, it doesn’t define our value and worth. Just like the lotus flower emerges from muddy waters, our lives too can shine amid difficult circumstances. By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the happiness of ourselves and others, our lives can blossom brilliantly, unsoiled by any karma or suffering.

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