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Dreaming of Lotus Flowers

Recently I’ve had a vivid dream about a beautiful light mansion with a pool of white lotus flowers in front. I had the feeling that this place was somewhere in Thailand. I often dream of landscapes and particularly of those in Southeast Asia. I guess this is why I long to see all these amazing places in reality. Thus, I’ve wondered what the meaning of the lotus flower is and in the days following this dream, I’ve done a bit of research about lotus as symbol.

Lotus Flowers

Lotus (credit: Love Krittaya, wikimedia.org)

Lotus (credit: Love Krittaya, wikimedia.org)

First of all, I’ve learned about the spiritual and religious meaning of the lotus flower in different cultures. In ancient Egypt, for instance, the lotus was a symbol of rebirth and hence it was commonly used for wall and tomb paintings. The lotus has the power to renew itself since it loses old blooms and adds new ones in a daily cycle.

The lotus is also a symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism. In Hinduism, this flower stands for eternity, purity and peace. Hence, it is also the flower of the Gods for Brahma, the ultimate creator of the world, arises from a lotus. It is very interesting to note that in Buddhism the lotus flower has even more, i.e. a variety of meanings. For example, it symbolizes self-awareness, love and compassion of all beings and things, emptiness from desire, enlightenment, victory over attachments, overcoming suffering and spiritual development. Thus, the lotus also stands for patience, purity and mysticism.

Graceful 2014 painting by Narongrit Galajit

Graceful 2014 painting by Narongrit Galajit

You certainly know the lotus position which is a way of sitting during meditation. It is an important position in Buddhist meditation but also in yoga practices. The lotus has a deep spiritual meaning and in the lotus position the legs are crossed and tucked in a way that makes the bent knees look like the petals of a lotus. It is important that the soles of the feet are tucked away so that it is a respectful position to sit in when visiting a temple where exposing the bottom of your feet is considered rude.

In fact, there are lotus flowers and water lilies of different colours. Since I saw white lotus in my dream let me focus on the meaning of this paritcular colour: The white lotus symbolizes awakening, representing spiritual perfection and purity. Hence, it also stands for peace and a peaceful mind.

Well, how to interpret this dream now? Maybe I’m a person who is lucidly dreaming but the mansion and the lotus flowers surely symbolize a way to realize my longing and a path to awakening, in a worldly but also in a spiritual sense. How about you? Have you ever dreamed of water lilies or other flowers?

Yours, Sirinya

Reference: https://www.lotusflowermeaning.net/

http://www.flowermeaning.com/lotus-flower-meaning/

 




Hindu Gods in Thai Culture

You may certainly have noticed that Hindu gods are very prominent in Thai culture. Thus, there are often images of these gods in Thai temples and shrines. In fact, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are the three most important Hindu gods representing the recurring and continual cycles of birth, life, death and rebirth.

At the Ganesha Park (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

At the Ganesha Park (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Hindu Gods in Thai Culture

This trinity, along with the god Indra, Ganesha and some enlightened divinities and demons, have been converted to the Buddhist doctrine according to Buddhist belief. Hence, these gods often occur as guardians of temples and monasteries. In addition, they may also be seen attending the Buddha on important events in his life.

Brahma, Hindu gods (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Brahma, Hindu gods at the Ancient City, Samut Prakan (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

First there is Brahma (in Thai: Phra Phrom) who is the creator in the Hindu trinity. He is commonly depicted having four heads and the book of Vedas in his hand. His female aspect is the goddess of learning, Sarasvadi and his mount is the mythical celestial swan called Hong or Hamsa. Brahma is considered a guard of doors and pediments in temples. Furthermore, he is also popular as a protector of Thai hotels. Thus, in Thai culture, he is a deity of good fortune and protection.

Wat Yannawa Brahma (credit: photo dharma, Anandajoti Bhikku, wikimedia.org)

Wat Yannawa Brahma (credit: photo dharma, Anandajoti Bhikku, wikimedia.org)

In Thai art, Brahma is depicted in attendance to Buddhism along with Indra, at the crucial events in Buddha’s life. Hence, he is also considered to be converted to Buddhism. By the way, Hindu gods might also be the subject of one or the other Thai song. For instance, Noi (Krissada Sukosol), singer of the band Pru, featured a song called ‘Brahma Brahma’. I think this song is from the horror movie ‘Pawn Shop’ (Long Jamnam, 2013).

Another important god is Vishnu who is the preserver deity of the Hindu triad. In his hand, he often holds a disk and a conch shell. His mount is Garuda, the mythical bird that is half-human and half-eagle and the natural enemy of the Nagas. In other words, Garuda can be seen as the vehicle of Vishnu. What is more, Vishnu’s avatar is Rama, the hero of the Ramakien tale. In addition, this god is also associated with Thai royalty since the kings of the Chakkri dynasty have ‘Rama’ as part of their names. Similar to Brahma, Vishnu often functions as a (door) Wat guardian.

หน้าบันรูปพระนารายณ์ Vishnu tympanum (photo credit: กสิณธร ราชโอรส, wikimedia.org)

Vishnu tympanum (photo credit: wikimedia.org)

Shiva is the destroyer and regenerator aspect of the Hindu trinity. He usually has a third eye that is centred vertically on his forehead. Further characteristics are a brahmanical cord across his torso and sometimes a crescent moon which is caught in his tangled hair. Parvati is his consort and his mount is the bull Nandi.

Shiva on the bull Nandi, Prasat Muang Tam (photo credit: Ddalbiez, wikimedia.org)

Shiva on the bull Nandi, Prasat Muang Tam (photo credit: Ddalbiez, wikimedia.org)

The image of Ganesha (in Thai: Phra Pikanet) is also very prominent in Thai culture. For example, there is the Ganesha park in Nakhon Nayok which is considered a tribute to this elephant-headed god who is Shiva’s son. In Thailand, he is commonly seated at temple portals. What is more, he is also the patron of the arts and a protector of business.

Ganesha (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Ganesha at the same-named park in Nakhon Nayok (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Finally, we have the god Indra who is the god of Tavatimsa heaven. Hence, he is also the god of weather and war wielding a lightening bolt and riding Erawan, the multi-headed elephant. Indra is a temple guardian of portals and pediments. He is also prominent in the Vessantara story which is the last life of the Buddha-to-be. In addition, Indra occurs on mural paintings where he can be identified by his green colour. Along with Brahma, he is kneeling when attending Buddha during particular life events. Thus, it is indicated that the Hindu gods are subservient to Buddhism.

Bangkok Wat Arun Phra Prang, God Indra and the three-headed Erawan (photo credit Tsui, wikimedia.org)

Bangkok Wat Arun Phra Prang, God Indra and the three-headed Erawan (photo credit Tsui, wikimedia.org)

Summing up, we may claim that Hindu gods play a significant role in Thai culture. As a matter of fact, they not only show that Buddhism and Hinduism are intertwined but also represent a subservience of Hinduism to Buddhism. In this context, you might also want to check out my Thai Art Motifs Glossary for more general information 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference, Carol Stratton, What’s What In A Wat, Silkworm Books, 2010)