L is for Lotus

There is something mesmerizing about this animated graphic, as this woman dances in a circle in front of a circling flower. Is she Indian? Persian? Chinese? I can make an argument for each, and she seems like an amalgam of all three, which is perhaps the point.

You can watch her dance on Youtube here.

The title is “Silk Road Dream|Burning Lotus” and the creator is branded as “Life Makeover,” where other mini animated movies show off products. Is this dancer showing products, or the skill of the artist? Or both?

It’s ironic to be called burning lotus, since a lotus is a water lily. And the symbol of a spiritual adviser who suggested we should avoid craving material goods. And that the hypnotic music, swirling graphic, and picturesque dance are all like narcotic lotus that the Greeks told stories about.

“The Lotus Eaters,” by Heath Robinson.

Mythology & Legend

In Homer’s epic, Odysseus wanders into the land of the lotus-eaters, one of the many perils that kept him from getting home to Penelope. He was only halfway through the journey at Book Nine, but still finding peril at every island. In one case, where he stopped to get fresh water, his men encountered the lotus-eaters. When they ate of the native water lily, they “left off caring and about home” but only wanted to stay and have more lotus.

Speculation over the 2500 years since the Odyssey was written has suggested that the lotus of the story was marijuana, persimmon, nettles, Trifolium, or a kind of blue lotus that did grow in Egypt. Nymphaea caerulea, that blue lotus, was known to have sleep-inducing properties. It may have been a coincidence that the water lilies in the story were the same ones that were all over the lush jungles and rice ponds of southern Asia.

Lotus seeds or their flowers might have been sold anywhere along the Silk Road. The herbs with narcotic properties would have been in demand as well. The Silk Road required a lot of wandering; Ibn Battutah took 30 years to get home. Maybe he was inspired by the old story rather than freaked out by it.

Legend & History

The lotus that Siddhartha Gautama was likely familiar with is was different. The southeast Asia one was Nelumbo nucifera, called the Indian lotus or the sacred lotus now. It’s the national flower of India and Vietnam. The open lotus flower was thought of the symbol of spiritual attainment.

Siddhartha was a man who sat under a tree, contemplating the universe, until he brought forth some ideas which helped him leave a more peaceful life. He told others about them, and it sounded great, and more and more and more. Pretty soon, the man became legend, with paintings and stories conjured about him. Every where the baby Buddha stepped, a lotus flower appeared.

Buddhist sites will tell you then that the lotus is pure.

Because the lotus grows in muddy water, it symbolizes the purity of enlightened mind arising amidst the suffering of samsara. It also represents nonattachment, as it is rooted in mud (attachment and desire) but its flowers blossom on long stalks unsullied by the mud below.

From LionsRoar.com
Photo by Ahmed Saffu.

…and Marketing

The purpose of Lotus today, then, may land somewhere between the spiritual purity of the Buddha and the narcotic hawked by the lotus-eaters. The reputation of both seems to have merged in today’s level of marketing. Google Lotus and Silk Road and you get a long list, starting with the twirling lady and her cognitively dissonant burning lotus.

Aromatherapy, jewelry, paintings, silk pillowcases, French silk! $320 French silk scarves… a Floating Lotus Pashmina Scarf for only $740, unfortunately out of stock today but handmade using old-fashioned spindles– It sells, somehow, through the Silk Road Spaceship company.

Transcendental Floating Lotus seems a perfect way to forget a new Silk Road into outer space, don’t you think?

Silk Road Spaceship company logo.

5 Replies to “L is for Lotus”

    1. Thanks for the comment! (Are you doing the challenge? let me know — I also visit websites!)

  1. Well, thanks a lot, I think! I loved this post and learned more about the lotus than I ever knew. An hour later, after listening to more Asian musical interpretations of the lotus, I ended up getting squirreled down the rabbit hole (to mix my metaphors) of these Bulgarian beauties:…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_HMh96A2zY
    known as Destiny Quartet, but there is a decided flamenco flair to this piece, so I got confused and ended up here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcZeaUZve88&list=RDEM3rlf9LFT-vY1AQvEZJ0m_Q&start_radio=1&rv=116LOLuGnDk
    because, girls with…instruments. Thanks for a great post—and in case you ever wondered does anyone read your posts, including the A-Z alphabet tribute, I do because I always end up somewhere other than where you sent me. I mean you sent me to China and I ended up in Spain or Bulgaria or Hungary…or somewhere.

    1. This is the greatest comment in the history of comments, by which I mean, I do wonder and do care whether people do, and I don’t get a lot of readers, likes, or comments, so they all count more for me! I really appreciate the notes, plus I love where you took ME!

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