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"Lotus in the Burmese Buddhist Culture "

Sao Htun Hmat Win, MA., AM.
(Adviser to the Ministry of Religious Affairs),Yangon, Myanmar.
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     The ecclesiastical insignia of the State Sangha Mahanayaka Office bears an emblem of lotus flowers symbolizing purity, longevity and prosperity of the Buddhist religion. The significance of Lotus flower in Buddhist Culture is quite remarkable and it needs a thorough intensive study to reveal the hidden meaning of this symbolism. The natural characteristics of Lotus flower reflect upon the interpretation of the similes and metaphorical statements in the Buddhist teachings. The flower is beautiful in colour and fragrant in smell. It is always clean and pure and usually grows in the cool and clean water. Although it comes out mud and water it is not spoiled by the soil nor it is soaked with water. It blooms above the surface of the water so elegantly that it beautifies the entire pool. The blossom floats above the water dancing up and down, in accordance with the changing current.

     The Buddhist cosmology reveals Lotus to be the first flower bloomed in the beginning of this cosmic world. Five holy lotus flowers appear for the first time in this "Bhadda Kappa" aeon prophesying the Enlightenment of five Buddhas in this very human world. And this is the most unique event for Buddhism.

      The Maha Brahma, 'Ghatika' by name, created five suits of robes from these five lotus flowers which he had to offer to each of the five Buddhas. According to the Buddhology four Buddhas were already enlightened, namely, Kakusandha, Konagamana, Kassapa and Gotama Buddhas. One more Buddha remains to be enlightened in the near future by the name of Metteyya Buddha. Therefore in Buddhist Iconography and Buddhist Art these four enlightened Buddhas are symbolized by four full bloom Lotus flowers whereas the future Buddha is symbolised by a Lotus bud. This is exactly what the office seal of the State Sangha Mahanayaka indicates the Enlightenment and Teachings of the Five Buddhas in this Bhadda Kappa.

      In Buddhist Iconography the Brahma holds Lotus in hands and is known as Padumapani deity, to symbolise eternity, purity and prosperity of his divine powers. The seats or thrones are decorated with Lotus flowers and are called Padumasana. Visva-Padumasana are seats decorated with upturned lotus and converted lotus flowers to emphasize more the original meaning of the symbol.

      Lotus flowers with upturned petals and converted petals are also used to embellish the architectural crafts in the construction of the Buddhist pagodas. So this portion of the edifice, just above the "Converted Bowl" or the 'Bell' and below the 'Umbrella' of the pagoda, is decorated with Kya hmauk=converted Lotus flower; Kya hlan=upturned lotus flower; Kya nu=Lotus sprouls, and Kya hpoo=Lotus bud. These Lotus patterns are designed to symbolize the Wisdom or Omniscience of the Lord Buddhas.

      Even the Abhidhamma doctrine in Buddhism is indicated by the symbol of lotus flowers. For example; eight petals represent the Eightfold Noble Path; twelve petals are depicted for twelve links 'Akara' in the Paticcasamuppada doctrine; twenty-four petals stand for twenty-four 'paccayas' of the Patthana doctrine; thirty-seven petals are meant for thirty-seven aspects of Bodhipakkhiya dhamma; one hundred and eight petals are displayed for the enumeration of 108 attributes of the Lord Buddha.

      The holy discourses in Buddhist scriptures are expounded with parables, similes and metaphors derived from his sacred flower the Lotus.

      "Na palippati lokena toyena Padumam yatha..."

      "Muninca vadan - ambhoja gabbha sambhava sundari"

      "Padumam tattha jayetha sucigandham manoramam..."

      "Kamalam Kamalam kattum... sahitam sahitam karam"

      Lotus is mentioned in Pali scriptures as Paduma, Uppala, Pankaja, Pundarika, Ambhoja, Varija, Satapatta, Kamala, Kumuda, etc., according to the variant colour and size of the flower. Lotus flowers in Red, White, Blue, Purple and Golden hue are elegantly blooming in the Buddhist Land Burma symbolizng the Purification, Perpetuation and Propagation of the Buddha Sasana.


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