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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

The Flower of Consciousness and The Lore


of the Lotus: An Exploration of Lotus
Symbolism in Sacred Art, Yoga and
Ethnobotany

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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 1008 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. Tags: yoga, chakras, soma, nadis, padmasana, lotus position,
lotus flowers, full lotus position, origin of lotus position, kundalini and
lotus position, tantra and lotus position, lotus in art, lotus as
entheogen, lotus in Indian herbalism
by Frederick R. Dannaway

This world was water that was moving. He, Prajapati, alone
appeared on the lotus leaf. Within his mind originated a desire may
I create the world Taittriya Aranyaka
Jewel of the Lotus
The lotus has a cherished place in the sacred art of the East
since antiquity. No other flower or symbol is as ever-present in the
depictions of gods and sages, in the erotic and mystical verses of
seer poets, and in the subtle biology of the yogi and shamans. The
lotus was a omen of auspicious splendor, of divine self-generating
birth such as the many lotus-born gods, gurus and saints from the
Buddha to the Tantric master of Tibet Padmasambhava (literally the
lotus born). The earliest mention of the lotus in India may be in the
Rig Veda where it is called puskara and the Atharva-Veda address 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 the beginning 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 only chaotic waters before the creation. All this was
heaving waters (RV 10.129.3) and the aquatic lotus with its latent
energy has the power of giving stability latent in the surging
waters, which would function as the support of Prajapati, the Creator
(Basu 2002). 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 watery abyss of


chaos that is stilled by the lotus bearing the fire god strikes at some
central themes of creation and matter that coalesce into Indian
science, cosmology and alchemy. The yogi beholds emergent flower
of supreme consciousness that blossoms in the microcosmic
churning oceans of the mind when one is rooted into the yoga of the
lotus posture.
As noted below in the botanical portion, the lotus has a unique
reproductive feature that makes it seem self-born and thus Gods,
by nature self-generating or elect of 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 and indeed many myths describe the earth itself floating on a
lotus leaf. The Taittriya Aranyaka 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 the support of
the lotus. Basu makes a thorough study of the stabilizing force of
the lotus in Vedic cosmology, and I would speculate that it is this
association that is behind the name 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
lotus born 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 the mind of the yogi. Divine
consciousness is thus by effort (tapas) self-created and blooms up
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 fecundity and Basu (2002) traces the Agni-lotus association into
the World-Wheel where Agni is the nave of the movable and
immovable worlds and also the nave of immortality. He quotes the
numerous instances in the Rig Veda and from the Atharva Veda
Where gods and 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 the
immortal element, which is the flame that is glowing, is the lotus leaf.
Having laid down that which is lotus leaf he (one, who offers) piles
up fire (constructs a fire alter). On that he prepares an immortal
existence for himself and the Atharva-Veda records immortal
invocations to be born on a lotus leaf. Additionally, Basu follows the
womb as imagined as a lotus and traces the lotus-born narratives
into various Buddhist and Jaina sources. A sexually attractive
woman is referred to as a lotus maiden padmini (who menstruates
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 and contemplating upon
Brahman, frequently engage the Mula Bandha (root lock) and raise
the apana up; by similar contraction of the Jhalandara Bandha ( the
throat lock) force the prana down. By this, the yogi(ni) obtains
unequalled knowledge through the favor of the roused Kundalini.'
(Hatha Yoga Pradipika, verse 48)
Primordial creations myths speak of the blossoming of creation in
the form of a lotus. The Indian ideas of the supreme creative power
of the lotus permeate all of Asia being used in art, to name sutras,
as code words in Tantra and for the shape of the universe itself. In
Tibet as in India, Above, Heaven is a wheel with eight spokes. In
the middle, the intermediate space is decorated with the eight lucky
signs. Below, the Earth is a lotus with eight petals (Stein 1990).
The blooming of a lotus marks the creation of a world or a god or a
Buddha. The birth of Buddha, as depicted in the Lalitavistara, has a
night where the lotus blooms from the ocean to the heavens.
Brahma collects 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 rise
from the heart center, which is an eight-petalled lotus (Beer 2004).
Beer also discusses the Tibetan rendering of the I Ching into a
Tibetan system that used an eight-petalled lotus as well as precise
information on the microcosmic and botanical symbolism expressed
in Tibetan art.
Though the precise visualizations or designations of lotuses and
chakras maybe very 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 full moon) the heart
of the Buddha. The closed lotus for the heart of an ordinary person
is also known in Taoism and among the Khmers (...it opens up in
the wise man) (Stein 1990). Stein notes the regressive
macrocosmic-- mesocosmic --microcosmic interplay between
cosmology expressed internally and in art and architecture of which
the lotus holds a distinct position. The associations with with fullmoons reflect the deep associations between internal nadis and
alchemy with lunar elixirs and magic plants as discussed in a
separate article Lunar Alchemy: Moon Lore in Chinese and Vedic
Alchemical Sources.
Woodruffe translates some Tantric texts that mention that below
(towards the base of spine) there are Devas symbolized by a
whirlpool and Over it shines the sleeping Kundalini, fine as the
fibers of the lotus stalk. Siddha texts describe the process of
opening the kundalini as strand by strand up the spine
(Padmanabha associated with lower spine I am told by a siddha
doctor) like a lotus stalk as well. Sivavakkiyar describes the cakras
as flowers without buds and in the Siddha tradition the cakras or
lotuses, are upside down except when the kundalini over them,

when they are right side up (Ganapathy 2003).


The primordial yogi Shiva is said to have created the Sudarshana
Chakra, which is symbolized by a thousand-petaled lotus. To thwart
the demons that pestered the gods, Vishnu prayed and practiced
puja to Shiva's linga with 1008 flowers, though Shiva stole one for
amusement. Vishnu plucks a lotus out of his forehead and offers it
and because Vishnu's devotion, Shiva says I give you this round
disc. It will help you to conquer all your enemies. No matter how
many demons come to attack you and the other gods, you will be
able to defeat them all with this disc." Vishnu becomes
Tamaraikannan or lotus-eyed. A spiraling blue disc or blue pearl is
mentioned in various traditions and becomes an objective in Daoist
and various yogas.
The yogi (atman) seeks to recreate creation and unite with
Brahma in various poses that are associated or epithets of Lord
Brahma. In Tantra this often represented where the male assumes
himself as the god and visualizes the Mother on his lap. The white
vajra (phallus) of the Father unites with the red lotus (vagina) of the
Mother (O'Flattery 1982)as the sexual union recreates the world
and directing the energies until the chakras right themselves and
blossom. The Kulachudamani Tantra discusses the sexual union
with a young woman as blossoming into a thousand petalled lotus:
One should worship the young woman and she should worship you.
Conceal the design of the yantra in the secret place of the 1,000
petal lotus. Only impart this to a Kulina and never to atheists, fools,
pashus or brahmanas, otherwise one meets with death (Magee
2010).
Many Tantric empowerments in Tibetan context will employ the
dual symbolism of the sun and moon discs and lotus. Beer (2004)
explains the lotus as the symbol of renunciation and purity, while the
sun is ultimate bodhichitta and the moon conventional, and these
energies run up and down the spine in solar (pingala) and lunar (ida)
channels. The blossoming of the lotus in the cranium with the
celestial fluids that drip from the inner moon (soma as diety,
substance and Moon God internalized) all merge. If some lotus
preparation was the soma or substitute, or admixture as I suggest
to a guru plant such as Peganum harmala (contentious but see a
separate paper for much earlier use of plant in India than Muslim
invaders and Siddha lore). The outer and inner symbolisms
eloquently combinewith the lunar doctrines that were
microcosmically absorbed into the ascetic and alchemical herbal
traditions. The associations with Chinese drugs of immortality and
Vedic lunar elixirs internally and externally, are again, discussed in a
companion paper.

Formalities
This portion of the paper on the famous lotus position was
inspired by several encounters, conversations and readings of
diverse sources. One conversation was years ago in the context of
this authors intensives into Daoist meditations and qigong practices.
The discussion delved into Indian asanas for meditation and the

other person launched into praise of their masters system with the
fruit of the effort being the fully realized lotus position. This struck
me in that the difficulty (or lack thereof) of seating oneself as such
could be relegated largely to mundane considerations such as
culture as opposed to spiritual maturity. That flexibility be equated
with spirituality is, one supposes, reconciled in similar doctrines of
alchemical and macrobiotic health cults.
For instance a friend from India tells me that all children in his
family and extended family (and thus maybe implying a cultural
norm) sit in lotus from very early age and their flexibility remains.
Likewise many people in the west tell me they instinctively sat that
way as a child, or else their parents were into yoga, or that they are
just naturally flexible enough without any training. Again, one
casually hear it expressed as some validation of practice, something
of a yogic attainment or achievement. But the American Zen
proponent Robert Aitken (1982) writes that few people, even
children, even in Japan are flexible enough to sit in the lotus
position implying that he thinks or thinks his readers will think that
Japanese are more flexible or that they sit in the lotus position
casually.
Several incidents also prompted this article in which I attended
various yoga or meditation situations in which my own choice of legs
first was commented upon. These include a Cambodian saying I
had the wrong leg up on the wrong thigh to my friend told me of a
similar circumstance in which a Korean Buddhist master told him
that his posture was incorrect and that is how females do it. Yet
another person informed me of such an occurrence in a Tibetan
context, of which we will discuss in below. But these incidents
prompted a curiosity into the origins of this revered position and its
evolution and exportation from its likely origins in India. But much of
the history of yoga is based on assumptions that specific postures
and practices were anciently yogic and do not consider if these are
constructs of modern scholars and enthusiasts.

Sitting Lotus
The assumption voiced above was raised by the incisive and
cynical genius of these subjects, one David Gordon White. In his

masterpiece Sinister Yogis he takes the scant iconographic


evidence of early yoga postures to task. The oldest centerpiece to
this assumption is found in such depictions of the Mohenjo-Daro
horned figure that, White notes, was identified as Shiva in yogic
posture. White notes, that while quite a few have rejected the
designation as Shiva, as few as one other scholar questioned the
assumption that cross-legged sitting is the equivalent of yoga. He
notes a plethora of other similarly dated depictions while questioning
the validity of the assumptions that the postures are yogic and then
informs that no similar depictions appear for the next two thousand
years. White then proceeds to demonstrate examples outside India
extending through out the ancient world of similar postures.
Whites discussion returns to South Asia in finding the only
remaining sculptures that have survived to present day depicting
that represent full lotus position are Buddhist and Jain and dating
from the first or second century CE. Here the Buddha or Jain
devotee is seated on a dais and White restrains himself from
interesting digressions to return to the central theme, are these
yogic postures? If so, then what is one to make of the fact that
following its representation on the Indus Valley seals it does not
resurface for nearly 2,000 years, and that when it does so, it
appears at nearly the same time in four geographically distant
regions, that is, at Bharut in Central India, in Indo-Scythian
Transoxiania, in Anatolia and Thrace, and in France and Italy? To
which I note the same consternation in finding the simultaneous
emergence of entheogenic cults in equally disparate regions using
nearly identical plants (or alchemy with certain substances like
mercury). These matters of yoga and entheogens may be more
closely linked linked and will be discussed in a companion article.
But as White (2009) asks what is a yogi? while examining
previous scholarship concerning Buddhist and Jaina yoga which
describes practices (such as extreme fasting, stopping the breath
entirely, and closing the teeth while pressing the tongue against the
palate )which are now standard in most yogic regimens. But these
techniques are described as greatly vexing the early Buddhists with
headaches and copious sweating, roaring in the ears, great pain
and mental distraction. It is against these methods, in this context
Jaina in origin, that the Buddhist is said to have proposed his own
method precisely the non-ascetic, non-self-mortifying way that is
the main doctrine of the Middle Way. White notes that it must be
emphasized that at no point is the word yoga mentioned in neither in
the Jaina practices he rejects nor in his own methods of cultivation
the term for both being jhana or meditation. Again we will speak a bit
more of Buddhist, and specifically Tibetan yoga (lotus posture)
below. White informs that not until second cent ad is yoga employed
but in the nonspecific sense of application or practice. But in 2nd
century Asvagosha who uses yoga to denote limited food eating,
breath control, tongue to roof of mouth or khecari mudra.
White (2009) cites evidence of later Hindu sources that use the

terms of a six-fold yoga for first time that mentions familiar aspects
of yoga such as pranayama (White informs stopping breath in that
context), pratyahara withdrawing the senses), dhyanam
(meditation), dharana (fixing the mind), tarka (contemplative inquiry),
and Samadhi (concentration) with the shocking omission, for
modern scholars anyway, that there is no mention of asanas or
seated positions. The implications of this lack of asanas, especially
to the modern student of yoga, can be potentially devastating to
cherished notions of an ancient science. Whites theory becomes
clear when contemplating this merging in the mind between crosslegged positions and the dais they sit upon.
White (2009) writes I would argue that in the centuries of the
beginning the common era the cross legged lotus position was a
mark of royal sovereignty, royal gods or goddesses, their priests,
and kings sat enthroned in this posture atop a dais, lotus or cushion.
When Buddhas and Jinas began representing anthropomorphically
in Kushan-era sculpture and coinage, their cross-legged posture
was originally an indication of their royal sovereignty, rather than
any meditative or yogic practice. Once again at length:
Here I would suggest that the term lotus posture or position
(padmasana) derives not from the pose itself, which in no way
resembles a lotus flower, but rather from a throne or seat (asana)
representing a lotus (padma). Such is the case in Hindu Tantra, in
which the primary sense of the term asana is, precisely, the throne
of a deity. Such a throne, which is altogether appropriate for the
royal goddess Sri the divine embodiment of royal sovereignty who
dwells in the lotuswould also be for the Buddha (White 2009).
This is a very compelling deduction and it is very well plausible. I will
offer my own speculation on the origins of the position below, but to
offer some embellishment to this theory I would like to mention a few
things. As mentioned above the lotus symbolism of this posture is
fundamental in stilling the body for prolonged periods. Being
naturally prone to idleness, I have investigated sitting postures
extensively and this one can be maintained for hours with out
paresthesia and circulation can be maintained by subtle shifts and
movements. This combined with the use of the mulabandha roots
the yogi while his energy is flying upwards (Uddiyana) through the
his spine until it blossoms in the 1000 petaled lotus flower
Sahasrara the seventh chakra. Many scholars not the psychoactive
use of lotus, even a few a suggest its the soma (Spess 2000;
McDonald 2004) and I think it was certainly admixture. The
concerted symbolism may behind the possible assuming of this
posture assumed when ingesting the soma or lotus potions. Another
point is that certain yogic activities are associated with the subtle
light-body manifestations of the lotus of the heart and the
blossoming lotus chakra. The seven chakras are also
seen/symbolized/experienced as lotus blossoms.

Adhomukha Mahapadma, Amlana Padma, Dashashatadala Padma,


Pankaja, Sahasrabja, Sahasrachchada Panikaja, Sahasradala,
Sahasradala Adhomukha Padma, Sahasradala Padma,
Sahasrapatra,

Not all figures are cross-legged on the lotus are in lotus position
(which we stipulate as having the feet turned up on the thighs with
the knees down and rotation of hips) nor are they always even
sitting cross-legged or lotus position as the legs dangle over in more
casual poses. If one is a yogi all manner of sitting are yogic and
actions are yogic (consider how Milarepa is usually depicted or the
various casual but belted positions of the mahasiddhas). It depends
on what is meant by the term, which White takes to task as well. But
if it can abstractly be reduced to some sense of abiding, either in
meditation or visualization or prayer or all at once then distinctions
truly blur to the most fundamental behaviors of humanity.

Indian Style
Most authors do not discriminate between the general crosslegged posture that is found represented in art the world over in
ancient times to the more precise lotus posture with the upturned
feet and knees down. Contemporary yoga recognizes a half-lotus or
accomplished pose siddhasana (as well as variations of the lotus
upside down and reclining etc. examples in full version). The actual
definition of a lotus position (full external rotation of the hips in
flexion) of that precision may have been a later evolution of postures
assumed for regal or pious reasons, or it may be the limitations of
primitive art in depicting accurately. The notions of secrecy might
factor in these matters as being esoteric doctrines that evolved and
became occult. But as they questions are likely not to be resolved
satisfactorily there might be room for speculation of a distinctly
Asian posture that evolved into a system. Certainly an Indian or
Chinese origin might be prime suspects for such a science that was
always seemingly vaguely associated with ritual plants, alchemy,
macrobiotic or fasting techniques as well as breath and
manipulations of the body that might be called psycho-sexual drug
yoga.
Practicing yoga in the forest I have just been still enough and for
long enough that certain wild animals gradually forgot that a human
was invading their woods and moved about quite close. I wondered
if the actual position evolved from starving (evolving to fasting)
hunters, who devised a posture to remain utterly still for long periods
(lotus position) and who tried to conceal their smell by covering
themselves with ashes (bhasma). One of the incarnations of Shiva
is kiratar or the hunter and his various forms as Rudra are
associated with the bow and archer that transcend from killing game
to killing the darkness of ignorance. Many artistic renderings of
Shiva, and other yogis, will have them sitting on the skin of a wild
animal (symbolizing the slaying of their passions). The wild animal
pelt of the hunter is still used in many traditions as the standard mat
for meditation and cultivation. This also connects with the discussed
horned god sometimes identified as Shiva, the Lord of animals
(though White doubts the depiction on the seal is Shiva or depicting
yoga.) The most beautiful example of Shiva in the lotus position was
in the home of one guru and it pictured the lord on skins naked with
his bow and three arrows down before him. The guru explained this
was because he invented the doctrine of ahimsa or non-violence.
A hunter becoming disillusioned with hunting is the basis of many
tales the most famous being the famous Banyan deer story. The
hunter progresses up the wheel of incarnations such as with King
Chitrabhanu who was too late in the woods to return to his starving
family with his game. The deer was tied on a bael tree branch and
he climbs up dropping leaves and crying tears of sorrow for his poor
family. At the time of death, I saw two messengers of Lord Shiva.
They were sent down to conduct my soul to the abode of Lord

Shiva. I learnt then for the first time of the great merit I had earned
by the unconscious worship of Lord Shiva during the night of
Shivaratri. They told me that there was a Lingam at the bottom of
the tree. The leaves I dropped fell on the Lingam. My tears which I
had shed out of pure sorrow for my family fell onto the Lingam and
washed it. And I had fasted all day and all night. Thus did I
unconsciously worship the Lord.

The lotus position is especially useful for prolonged sexual acts in


Tantric rituals with the consort resting on the yogi's lap.
Padamasana destrots any sickness. Ghevanda Samhita I

Although Shiva is seated on the tiger skin in various cross legged


representations, most texts instruct to use a deer skin:
The place where he sits should be firm, neither too high nor too low,
and situated in a clean spot. He should first cover it with sacred
grass, then with a deer skin; then lay a cloth over these. Bhagavad
Gita 6:11

Tilopa with his arrows

Most of the Mahasiddha are depicted in repose or in states of yoga

on various animal skins. On the bottom right Saraha sits on a skin


holding his piercing arrow of gnosis.

The 18 Siddha sit with various legs (right or left foot placed on
opposite thigh first)

Putting the Best Foot Forward


"Place the right foot on the left thigh and the left foot on the right
thigh...with the soles upward, and place the hands on the thighs,
with the palms upwards...This is called Padma-asana, the destroyer
of all diseases. It is difficult of attainment by everybody, but can be
learned by intelligence. The Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika I.46-49
As hinted at above there is little consensus on which foot is to go
first on which thigh in assuming the lotus posture. Gradually the
basic cross-legged repose became a distinct pose expressed in the
full padmasana or in the half Ardha Padmasana or the siddhasana.
But as mentioned, certain sects or lineages seemed to have favored
one arraignment of feet and limbs over another. Even within the
same broad traditions different feet or legs are stipulated as being
the placed on the corresponding thigh. Modern gurus and lamas
have informed me of their opinions on the correlation as to which
foot goes where and their reasons ranged from positions
corresponding to certain organs on one side of the body or the
other, to the sex of the person to the day of the week of the specific
practice. In fact, the reasons I collected from asking in person and in
correspondence began to grow as I never quite got the same
answer twice. Reverting to texts or statues and icons of gods or
yogis proves just as diverse in representations.
A modern work on yoga (Maehle 2007) of Ashtanga (a style
developed in the 20th century but based on legendary ancient
texts), says the following:
"Padmasana: Right Leg First
Why is Padmasana traditionally done only by first placing the
right leg and then bringing the left leg on top? When asked this
question, K. Pattabhi Jois quoted the Yoga Shastra as saying,
"Right side first and left leg on top purifies liver and spleen. Left leg

first and right leg on top is of no use at all." He also noted that the
lotus done in this way stimulates insulin production.
Contemporary teachers have suggested performing Padamasana
on both side to balance the body. Improving the symmetry of the
body is achieved by through the standing postures. However, the
postures that strongly influence the abdominal and thoracic cavity,
such as Padamasana, do not have have the function of making the
body symmetrical, but of accommodating the symmetry of the
abdominal and thoracic organs. To accommodate the fact that the
liver is in the right side of the abdominal cavity and the spleen in the
left, the right leg is first placed into position with the left leg on top."
In Tibet, where the full lotus pose is called rdo rje'i skyil krung is
also called the vajra pose and the definitive text in the west on
Tibetan yoga or Yantra Yoga instructs for the Flaming Lotus to
cross your legs in vajra posture with the left leg under the right with
the footnote adding to reverse this for females (Norbu 2008). In
other words one puts the left foot on the right thigh first corresponds
to personal instructions I have been given from various lamas. But
the introductory text on tummo describes the preliminary practices
advises one to assume the full-lotus position with your right foot on
the left thigh and your left foot on the right thigh implying that the
right foot goes first (Yeshe 1998). But a class on such things reveal
people, irregardless of sex, assuming the position as they wished
with no corrections forthcoming as what seemed crucial, as Lama
Yeshe's text notes, is that the spine is straight. This accords with the
theory of the lotus and spine as stem symbolism. A scientific study
of of tummo deduced that the toes were protected from heat loss by
the lotus position, and remained elevated for circulation (Benson et
al 1982).
The Japanese styles seem to favor the right foot on the left thigh
first for kekka fuza. These stem from the traditions known in the
sutras as the five positions of Vairocana or in the tantras as the
seven positions or Dharmas of Vairocana. I have seen Korean,
Cambodian and Indian representations, practitioners and
photographs of different feet in different orders even in the same
artistic grouping.

Botanical Notes: An extract from the forthcoming work A Yogi's


Pharmacopoeia
Nymphaea sp. Nymphaea caerulea Lotus Blue Water Lily. Sanskrit
utpala, padma, Nalina, Aravinda, Jalaja, Raajeeva, Puskara,
Ambuja, Abja, Pankaja, Pundarika (whitish), Kokanada (red),
Indivara (bluish). Tamil Thaamarai, Ambel.
The lotus as soma has been argued by Spess (2000) and
McDonald (2004) and the former argues persuasively for a complex
system of visionary herbalism based on the various combinations of
the many species that are variously called lotus (and related water
lilies). Some are listed as ranging from mildly to heavily
psychoactive to nearly lethal to fatally intoxicating. The symbolisms,
also expressed in art and poetry, represented specific species and
corresponded with lunar or solar influences based on the blooming
during the day or night. He speculates of specific parts used for
specific purposes, either infused and consumed simply or fermented
into alcoholic potions. Whole plants, admixtures and the various
mixed resins and saps of the plants all could be expertly exploited
by the ancient herbalists.

Mahdihassan (2002) writes of Shiva and ascetic elixirs/soma and


the lotus: Lotus is the only plant which does not eject its seeds as
such to germinate elsewhere. Its seeds mature within the seed-bud
and when just germinated leave the mother plant as young living
plants. It is the only plant which can be called as it were oveviviparous. This is really a zoological term suggesting that eggs
hatch within insect and the young emerge as independent motile
creatures. Thus lotus represents the only case of self-generation, as
it were, in the plant kingdom. And what is self-generating really
means self-producing, besides self-growing, which is the feature of
all plants. Thus the lotus incorporates fertility-cum-fecundity or
growth-cum-reproduction; no other plant does this. This makes
Lotus a favorite symbol. It is also a symbol for transcendence as its
roots are born in mud and it rises through murky waters to blossom,
above the water and dry.
Although some question its psychoactive properties, it can,
prepared properly, exhibit marked changes in mood, visual
perceptions and produce a sense of well-being as well as aiding a
meditative or even erotic state, if there need be a distinction. It has
affinity with alcohol, infused in herbal wines or as tinctures, or can
be subjected to a cold water extraction (snow is perfect with a little
water like other ice resin operations). Here the powdered material,
the petals and stamens especially, are agitated in icy water and
strained and pressed through a triple-folded muslin cloth and the
resultant liquid is evaporated. The product is a nice incense or
smoking resin that has synergistic effects with certain other smoking
herbs.
Lotus seeds are an excellent tonic and fasting supplement and the
various plant parts have extensive uses in Ayurveda. Puri (2007)
writes earlier in India, honey obtained from lotus flower growing in
Kashmir, Bengal and Himalayas, was considered the best.
Ayurveda describes lotus preparations for numerous disorders
ranging from infusions for piles and diabetes to gruels of white and
blue lotus and sugar (sa-padma-nilotpala-sarkara) that removes
pitta disorders. Nutritive tonic, aphrodisiac, astringent, nervine,
rejuvenative and hemostatic and useful in raktapitta bleeding
disorders and said to promote conception alleviate thirst and
inflamations as well as euphoric and aiding in muscle spasms and
alleviating thirst. Siddha texts discuss the medical applications of a
number of species such as Nymphae edulis abd Nymphae stella
and Nymphae rudra and their various characteristics that are
indicated for disorders. The red drives away syphalis and urinary
sugar and is good for eyes and high blood pressure and wounds.
Some preparations involve the flowers and water distilled and
resulting drink cures problems of the uriniary track and excessive
thirst and sores and irritation of the penis. A boiled infusion of N.
Stella powdered with sugar until its like honey taken in morning and
evening will cool the brain, cool the eyes and reduce palpitations of
the heart. (Raamachandran 2008).

Spess (2000) argues that the lotus and related plants is the soma
of the Vedas and makes a cogent argument for its place in the
visionary plants of ancient mystics from Egypt into India and the rest
of Asia. It is certainly very gentle and subtle in its effects, perhaps
more Buddhist than Vedic, though that is based on perhaps
prejudicial readings of sources. But it is easy to write this herbs
effects off, some claim placebo, but the extracts effect on visual
perceptions alone and the noted aphrodisiac effects, beg this herb
be given more attention. The petals are not a bad smoke as well
and though mild, its fragrant enough and lacking acridity to be
thoroughly pleasant, again with other smoked plants. Said to be
especially attributed to Arya Tara and Manjugosha. The five
precious medicines, and one list is from Beyer (1978) which is stag
tser (vyaghra-hantaka), kantakara, aparajitam, utapala, and
indrapani which he says are Potentilla discolor, Sambucus
racenisam Clitoria ternate, Nymphaea caerules, and Belamcanda
chinensis.
Robert Beer (2004) describes the blue lotus Skt. utpala or nilabja or
nilakamala as especially sacred to Green Tara, representing purity
and compassion. He notes that ut pa la in Tibetan usually refers to
blue lotus but also mentions other colors. The White lotus, Sanskrit
upadarika, kumudo, Tib. pad ma dkar po or edible lotus, Nymphaea
esculenta is esteemed by White Tara, its sixteen or one hundred
petals symboling purity and perfection. The red or pink Melumbium
speciosum is known as Sanskrit kamala Tibetan pad ma dmar po is
the one most used in dais or lotus seats. The yellow utpala is really
a water lilly, while the black or night lotus is a dark indigo species of
nilakamala or blue lotus.

Note: I have rarely met an athletic or healthy female that could not
do the position, even if it took some initial effort while many males
have told me they could not do it or only after a period of stretching.
Perhaps women are involved in sports or activities that promote
increased flexibility or even perhaps biologically women are
naturally more flexible. Hip flexibility is a primary concern here, and
a study (Hamilton et al 1992) suggested
that ballet dancers of both sexes had equal difficulty assuming the
lotus position.

Buddha on Lotus in Lotus, To depict one on a sacred flower like the


lotus, one must cross ones legs of course. Its certainly a regal pose,
and as stated quite practical once mastered in subtly shifting
muscles and weight to allow blood flow for maximum time in one
position. The typical (and dreadfully politically incorrect but apt in
this context) Indian style of school children in American, not India
the country.
Noble sir, flowers like the blue lotus, the red lotus, the white lotus,
the water lily, and the moon lily do not grow on the dry ground in the
wilderness, but do grow in the swamps and mud banks.
Just so, the Buddha-qualities do not grow in living beings certainly
destined for the uncreated but do grow in those living beings who
are like swamps and mud banks of passions. Likewise, as seeds do
not grow in the sky but do grow in the earth, so the Buddha-qualities
do not grow in those determined for the Absolute but do grow in
those who conceive the spirit of enlightenment, after having
produced a Sumeru-like mountain of egoistic views. Vimalakirti
Sutra,

References
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Ganapathy, T.N. (2003). The Yoga of Siddha Boganthar. KYP.
Hamilton, G. et al. (1992) A profile of the musculoskeletal
characteristics of elite professional ballet dancers. Am J Sports Med
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Madhihassan, S. (2002). Indian Alchemy or Rasayana in Light of


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