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The Flower of Consciousness and the Lore of the Lotus: An Exploration of Lotus Symbolism in Sacred Art, Yoga and Ethnobotany by Frederick R. Dannaway

The Flower of Consciousness and the Lore of the Lotus: An Exploration of Lotus Symbolism in Sacred Art, Yoga and Ethnobotany by Frederick R. Dannaway

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Published by gourdgardener
This paper speculates on the origins of the lotus position (padmasana) in the context of the lotus flower's role in creation myths, art, ritual and medicine. This novel paper seeks to find the root of the lotus symbolism internally in the chakras as well as in the herbal preparations that were ingested by rishis, munis and yogis. Taking the creation myths of India where the lotus is the stabilizing force, the author concludes that it is this stabilizing pose that roots the yogi in consciousness so that the 1000 petaled lotus blooms in his head. The paper then discusses the variations and theories behind which foot goes first and concluding remarks on benefits of the position. Finally, there is a botanical section on Ayurvedic, Siddha and entheogenic use of lotus from the author's forthcoming book. http://sites.google.com/site/delawareteasociety/Home/lotus-treatise
This paper speculates on the origins of the lotus position (padmasana) in the context of the lotus flower's role in creation myths, art, ritual and medicine. This novel paper seeks to find the root of the lotus symbolism internally in the chakras as well as in the herbal preparations that were ingested by rishis, munis and yogis. Taking the creation myths of India where the lotus is the stabilizing force, the author concludes that it is this stabilizing pose that roots the yogi in consciousness so that the 1000 petaled lotus blooms in his head. The paper then discusses the variations and theories behind which foot goes first and concluding remarks on benefits of the position. Finally, there is a botanical section on Ayurvedic, Siddha and entheogenic use of lotus from the author's forthcoming book. http://sites.google.com/site/delawareteasociety/Home/lotus-treatise

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Published by: gourdgardener on Mar 09, 2010
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 The Flower of Consciousness and The Lore of the Lotus: An Explorationof Lotus Symbolism in Sacred Art, Yoga and Ethnobotany
by Frederick R. Dannaway
This world was water that was moving. He, Prajapati, alone appeared on the lotus leaf. Within his mindoriginated a desire ‘may I create the world”
Taittriya Aranyaka
Jewel of the LotusThe lotus has a cherished place in the sacred art of the East since antiquity. Noother flower or symbol is as ever-present in the depictions of gods and sages, in theerotic and mystical verses of seer poets, and in the subtle biology of the yogi andshamans. The lotus was a omen of auspicious splendor, of divine self-generating birthsuch as the many lotus-born gods, gurus and saints from the Buddha to the Tantricmaster of Tibet Padmasambhava (literally the lotus born). The earliest mention of thelotus in India may be in the Rig Veda where it is called
 puskara
and the Atharva-Vedaaddress a hymn to Mother Earth praising its sweet smell (Basu 2002). The god of fire,Agni, links with creation myths of the world springing from the lotus “O, Agni, in thebeginning
atharvan
churned thee out of the lotus, the bearer of all” (RV 6.16.13).As Basu (2002) notes of the “Vedic cosmogonical conception, there were
 
onlychaotic waters
 
before the creation. “All this was heaving waters” (RV 10.129.3) and theaquatic lotus with its “latent energy” has the “power of giving stability latent in thesurging waters, which would function as the support of Prajapati, the Creator (Basu2002).” This will prove a crucial point in understanding the lotus position and the lotus
 
dais that support gods, kings and mystics in sacred art. But the eloquence of the wateryabyss of chaos that is stilled by the lotus bearing the fire god strikes at some centralthemes of creation and matter that coalesce into Indian science, cosmology and alchemy.The yogi beholds emergent flower of supreme consciousness that blossoms in themicrocosmic churning oceans of the mind when one is rooted into the yoga of the lotusposture.As noted below in the botanical portion, the lotus has a unique reproductivefeature that makes it seem “self-born” and thus Gods, by nature self-generating or electof themselves, are self-born (
svayambhu
) like Bhrama who is also called lotus-born(
kamalayoni
) (Basu 2002). Thus it makes sense that gods are seated upon the lotus andindeed many myths describe the earth itself floating on a lotus leaf. The TaittriyaAranyaka states “Prajapati saw in the midst of the heaving sea the wide one (
urvi
=Earth), the stability of the moving one (
 jagat 
=world), That was indeed born of thesupport of the lotus.” Basu makes a thorough study of the “stabilizing” force of the lotusin Vedic cosmology, and I would speculate that it is this association that is behind thename of the lotus position, as in terms of stabilizing the body for long term meditation,that the entire symbolism evolved. This creation era association culminated into lotusborn gods seated in the lotus position on top of a lotus dais. One is rooted in meditation,exerting the
mulabhanda
(root lock) that incites the blooming of a chakra lotus in themind of the yogi. Divine consciousness is thus by effort (
tapas
) self-created and bloomsup the stem of the spine over the murky mundane traps of 
samsara
.The lotus is self-generating and a symbol of creation and fertility and fecundityand Basu (2002) traces the Agni-lotus association into the World-Wheel where Agni “isthe nave of the movable and immovable worlds and also the nave of immortality.” Hequotes the numerous instances in the Rig Veda and from the Atharva Veda “Where godsand human beings are fixed like spikes around a nave, oh Flower of waters, I ask thee,where they are set into motion by supernatural power” with mythical associations of 
ajara
non-aging and
amrita
immortal. The
Satapata Brahmana
states “And theimmortal element, which is the flame that is glowing, is the lotus leaf. Having laid downthat which is lotus leaf he (one, who offers) piles up fire (constructs a fire alter). On thathe prepares an immortal existence for himself…” and the Atharva-Veda recordsimmortal invocations to be born on a lotus leaf. Additionally, Basu follows the womb asimagined as a lotus and traces the lotus-born narratives into various Buddhist and Jainasources. A sexually attractive woman is referred to as a lotus maiden
 padmini
(whomenstruates either on the full moon or the new moon) (White 1996). 
Shiva in lotus position, with consort Parvati, on a lotus in a primordial expanse of water.
 
 
Microcosmic Flowers
'Assuming padmasana and having placed the palms one upon each other, fix the chin firmly upon the breast andcontemplating upon Brahman, frequently engage the Mula Bandha (root lock) and raise the apana up; by similar contractionof the Jhalandara Bandha ( the throat lock) force the prana down. By this, the yogi(ni) obtains unequalled knowledgethrough the favor of the roused Kundalini.' (Hatha Yoga Pradipika, verse 48)
Primordial creations myths speak of the blossoming of creation in the form of alotus. The Indian ideas of the supreme creative power of the lotus permeate all of Asiabeing used in art, to name sutras, as code words in Tantra and for the shape of theuniverse itself. In Tibet as in India, “Above, Heaven is a wheel with eight spokes. In themiddle, the intermediate space is decorated with the eight “lucky signs.” Below, theEarth is a lotus with eight petals (Stein 1990).” The blooming of a lotus marks thecreation of a world or a god or a Buddha. The birth of Buddha, as depicted in theLalitavistara, has a night where the lotus blooms from the ocean to the heavens. Brahmacollects its all-containing essence and presents it to Buddha in a scene that recalls
soma
and later Tantric elixir/ 
amrita
potions and empowering nectars. The visualization of deities are generated from seed-syllables in the form of a sun and moon disc that risefrom the heart center, which is an eight-petalled lotus (Beer 2004). Beer also discussesthe Tibetan rendering of the I Ching into a Tibetan system that used an eight-petalledlotus as well as precise information on the microcosmic and botanical symbolismexpressed in Tibetan art.Though the precise visualizations or designations of lotuses and chakras maybevery late, even contemporary in some cases, there are parallel practices in similar cults.“In Chinese tantrism the closed lotus is also the human heart, (the open lotus or fullmoon) the heart of the Buddha. The closed lotus for the heart of an ordinary person isalso known in Taoism and among the Khmers (...it opens up in the wise man)” (Stein1990). Stein notes the regressive macrocosmic-- mesocosmic --microcosmic interplaybetween cosmology expressed internally and in art and architecture of which the lotusholds a distinct position. The associations with with full-moons reflect the deepassociations between internal nadis and alchemy with lunar elixirs and magic plants asdiscussed in a separate article
 Lunar Alchemy: Moon Lore in Chinese and Vedic

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