“How can that female swan who is accustomed to sporting with the king of swans amidst lotus flowers ever cast her eyes on a water-crow that stays amidst bunches of grass?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 56.20)
The lotus flower is the symbol of purity. It has this unique ability to remain untouched in spite of contact with something that is otherwise contaminated. The lotus flower floats atop the water, which may have dirt and other rubbish things inside. The dirty side is attractive to the crows, and the lotus flowers to the swans.
Sita Devi, the princess of Videha, once used this comparison to describe why she could never be with the King of Lanka. She compared herself to the swan swimming amongst the most beautiful lotus flowers with the king of swans, represented by her husband, Shri Rama. As a swan-like person, she couldn’t now associate with the crow-like Ravana.
As a symbol of purity, it is not surprising that the lotus flower is often used when describing God. In His transcendental form, four specific aspects are compared to that flower.
1. The navel
There is an origin to everything. Even though there is always a beginning to a beginning, to trace out the history of all living things we reach someone who is Himself sanatana. That is to say He has no beginning and no end. What we deem to be a starting point is merely a marker; the universe goes through cycles of creation, maintenance and destruction.
For our understanding, Vishnu exists when nothing else is around. This is one name for God, and it refers to a specific personality, also. God is more than an abstract concept. He is beyond imagination. In that four-handed, beautiful manifestation, Vishnu has a lotus-like navel; hence one of His other names is Padmanabha.
From that navel grows a stem with a lotus flower. Lord Brahma, the creator, emerges from that flower, and he gets to work using the material energy, consisting of three modes. Brahma is like a painter sitting in front of a canvas. Every species we know of is a combination of spirit and matter, with the matter consisting of goodness, passion and ignorance. While Brahma is labeled the creator, it is the lotus-like navel of Vishnu which is actually responsible.
Vishnu’s hands are lotus-like; more specifically the palms. Vishnu descends to earth as Krishna, which is a two-handed form of the same original Deity. Evidence of Krishna’s lotus-like hands are found throughout Vedic literature.
One time those soft and beautiful hands tried to carry grain to meet a fruit vendor. The grain would suffice as payment, but unfortunately most of it fell to the ground during transit. The vendor was enchanted by the child Krishna regardless, so she made sure those hands did not leave without carrying something in return. She filled the hands with fruit, even though hardly any payment was made. As God never leaves the devotees poorer as a result of interaction with Him, the vendor soon noticed that the contents of her basket had been transformed, from fruit to jewels.
Many names address this feature. One is Aravindaksha. Krishna’s eyes are like lotus petals. A person can stare at them constantly. While God can see with any body part, even in a supposedly unmanifest form like the Supersoul the eyes are special. When they blink even more loving feelings arise.
The lotus feet are the ideal object of meditation. Don’t focus on void. Don’t just sit in silence, with your eyes closed. Gaze upon the beautiful feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Serve those feet and soon become a servant of the servant of God.
Start at the feet and then gradually work your way up. The process is helped along by the deity in the temple. This is the chief resident in a house of worship. While God’s form can never be limited to a statue or painting, through His Divine mercy the replica is as powerful as the original. This is only for the devotees, as the image they contemplate in the temple soon remains with them wherever they go, making life in the difficult material world much easier.
Those feet are soft, despite walking on the hard ground. In the sacred land of Vrindavana, the cows are so happy to see Krishna that milk constantly drips from them. This softens the ground so that the lotus feet don’t feel any discomfort.
In four places like lotus known,
The flower from navel grown.
Petal-like eyes a stunning sight,
Gopis for vision even at night.
Palms of the hands grains forsaking,
But fruit from the vendor lady taking.
Lotus feet object for meditation,
Taken at temple visit occasion.
Categories: the four