Isn’t it odd that the lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), a sacred flower throughout the Asian continent, rarely makes its way into any floral arrangements in these parts, whether in a wedding bouquet or at a dinner table?

In fact, my sources indicate that lotus flowers were available for purchase in the flower markets no more than three times in the past three years. Yet, they make an appealing addition to a domestic landscape, especially when the petals are artfully tamed in the Khmer style.

Just why is the Lotus so venerated in Asian cultures? In one of the early Buddhist texts, The Questions of Milinda, we read that:

Just, O King, as the lotus, though it is born in the water and grows up in the water, yet remains undefiled by the water (for no water adheres to it); just so, O King, should the strenuous Bhikshu [monks], earnest in effort, remain undefiled by the support that he receives, or by the following of disciples that he obtains, or by fame, or by honour, or by veneration, or by the abundance of the requisites that he enjoys…

And again, O King, as the lotus remains lifted up far above the water; just so, O King, should the strenuous Bhikshu, earnest in effort, remain far above all worldly things. [Ed. note: OK, this might be a bit much to ask while one is enjoying a pork chop. Maybe this is the answer to my question.]

And again, O King, as the lotus trembles when blown upon the slightest breeze; just so, O King, should the strenuous Bhikshu, earnest in effort, exercise self-control in respect of the least of the evil dispositions, perceiving the danger (in the least offence)…For it was said, O King, by the Blessed One, the god over all gods: “Seeing danger in the least offence, he takes upon himself, trains himself in, the precepts.”

As the lotus, O King, is untarnished by the water, so in Nirvāna untarnished by any evil dispositions.

A floral arrangement and a philosophy lesson.