India Design Motifs – The Lotus, Part 23

BY: SUN STAFF - 4.9 2017

Krsna Dancing on a Lotus
South India, c. 1825

 A study of the historical, spiritual and cultural elements of Vedic design.

Before we proceed with our exploration of the lotus rendered as a design motif in Vedic art and architecture, we present this beautiful passage from Srila Prabhupada's Teachings of Queen Kunti, in which the association between the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the transcendental symbol of the lotus is described.

Teachings of Queen Kunti

Chapter 5: The Vision of Lotuses

"Here are some of the specific symbolical marks on the spiritual body of the Personality of Godhead which distinguishes His body from the bodies of all others. They are all special features of the body of the Lord. The Lord may appear as one of us, but He is always distinct by His specific bodily features. Srimati Kunti claims herself unfit to see the Lord because of her being a woman. This is claimed because women, sudras (the laborer class), and the dvija-bandhus, or the wretched descendants of the higher three classes, are unfit by intelligence to understand transcendental subject matter concerning the spiritual name, fame, attributes, forms, etc., of the Supreme Absolute Truth. Such persons, although they are unfit to enter into the spiritual affairs of the Lord, can see Him as the arca-vigraha, who descends on the material world just to distribute favors to the fallen souls, including the above-mentioned women, sudras, and dvija-bandhus. Because such fallen souls cannot see anything beyond matter, the Lord condescends to enter into each and every one of the innumerable universes as the Garbhodakasayi Visnu, who grows a lotus stem from the lotuslike depression in the center of His transcendental abdomen, and thus Brahma, the first living being in the universe, is born. Therefore, the Lord is known as the Pankajanabhi. The Pankajanabhi Lord accepts the arca-vigraha (His transcendental form) in different elements, namely a form within the mind, a form made of wood, a form made of earth, a form made of metal, a form made of jewels, a form made of paint, a form drawn on sand, etc. All such forms of the Lord are always decorated with garlands of lotus flowers, and there should be a soothing atmosphere in the temple of worship to attract the burning attention of the nondevotees always engaged in material wranglings.

The meditators worship a form within the mind. Therefore, the Lord is merciful even to the women, sudras, and dvija-bandhus, provided they agree to visit the temple and worship the different forms made for them. Such temple visitors are not idolaters, as alleged by some men with a poor fund of knowledge. All the great acaryas established such temples of worship in all places just to favor the less intelligent, and one should not pose himself as transcending the stage of temple worship while one is actually in the category of the sudras and the women or less. One should begin to see the Lord from His lotus feet, gradually rising to the thighs, waist, chest, and face. One should not try to look at the face of the Lord without being accustomed to seeing the lotus feet of the Lord. Srimati Kunti, because of her being the aunt of the Lord, did not begin to see the Lord from the lotus feet because the Lord might feel ashamed, and thus Kuntidevi, just to save a painful situation for the Lord, began to see the Lord just above His lotus feet, i.e., from the waist of the Lord, gradually rising to the face, and then down to the lotus feet. In the round, everything there is in order.

If one sees a lotus flower, one can immediately remember Krsna. For example, if one loves one's child and one sees any of the child's garments, or his shoes or a small ship or any of his playthings, one will immediately remember the child: "Oh, these are my child's shoes. These are my child's playthings. This is his garment." This is the nature of love. So if one actually loves God, Krsna, one can remember Him always.

It is not difficult to remember Krsna. Here Kuntidevi describes Krsna with reference to lotus flowers. Similarly, when Krsna describes Himself in Bhagavad-gita, He says, raso 'ham apsu kaunteya: "I am the taste of liquids." So one can remember Krsna by tasting water. Even if one is drinking liquor, if he thinks, "The taste of this drink is Krsna," he will one day turn out to be a great saintly person. So I can request even drunkards to become Krsna conscious, what to speak of others, because Krsna says, raso 'ham apsu kaunteya: "I am the taste of liquids." Generally in this context "liquid" is taken to mean water. But liquor is also liquid; it is only sugar and molasses or some other combination fermented and distilled. Of course, it is bad because it creates intoxication. Although in one sense nothing is bad, liquor is bad because it creates bad effects. In America there are many drunkards. There is no scarcity of them. But I may request even the drunkards, "When drinking wine, kindly remember that the taste of this drink is Krsna. Just begin in this way, and one day you will become a saintly, Krsna conscious person." 

So here, in these prayers, Kuntidevi, a great devotee, is giving us an opportunity to become Krsna conscious simply by concentrating our mind on pankaja, the lotus flower. Panka means "mud," and ja means "generate." Although the lotus flower is generated from mud, it is a most important flower, and Krsna likes it very much. Kuntidevi therefore describes all the parts of Krsna's body with reference to lotus flowers, so that as soon as one sees a lotus flower one will immediately think of Krsna: "Oh, Krsna's navel is just like a lotus, and from Krsna's navel grew the stem of the lotus upon which Brahma, the creator of this universe, was born. This universe includes so many planets, seas, mountains, and cities with motorcars and other paraphernalia, but the entire universe began from that lotus."

Lotus-Clad: Radha and Krishna in phulsajjya flower adornment 
Basohli, Punjab Hills, c. 1730

Namah pankaja-maline. From Krsna comes the wonderful lotus flower that contains the seed of the entire universe. But He is not the source of only one such flower. Krsna is not so poor that He simply produces one lotus flower and then is finished. No. Just as there may be a garland with many flowers, Krsna is the source of innumerable universes, which may be compared to a big garland of lotuses. This is God. Yasyaika-nisvasita-kalam athavalambya/ jivanti loma-vilaja jagad-anda-nathah (Brahma-samhita 5.48). Krsna is unlimited. We are very much concerned with this one planet, but Krsna's creation contains an unlimited number of planets. We cannot count how many planets there are, any more than one can count how many hairs there are on one's head. This is the nature of Krsna's creation. To give another example, on one tree there is an unlimited number of leaves. Similarly, there is an unlimited number of planets, and there are unlimited universes. Therefore, Krsna is unlimited.

Krsna's navel resembles a lotus, He is garlanded with lotuses, and His eyes are also compared to the petals of a lotus (alola-candraka-lasad-vanamalya-vamsi [Bs. 5.31]. So if we simply think of only this one verse, which describes Krsna's body with reference to the lotus, we can meditate our whole life on how beautiful Krsna is, how wise Krsna is, and how Krsna manifests His creation. This is meditation -- thinking of Krsna. Dhyanavasthita-tad-gatena manasa pasyanti 'yam-yoginah [SB 12.13.1]. A yogi is one who always thinks of Krsna."