“Work becomes pure when it is done as service to me. And he who performs actions, dedicating them to me, becomes like the lotus leaf that, while being in the water, is still untouched by the water.” — The Bhagavad Gita
Ancient Hindu and Buddhist scriptures have numerous analogies of the lotus flower. One of them is with respect to taking action, specifically, the action that aligns with a person’s Dharma or self-nature.
As per the Bhagavad Gita, it is our sacred duty in life to work according to our self-nature: this key insight lies at the heart of the philosophy of Karma Yoga. This Dharmic action is both the purest and the boldest action that we can ever participate in. And when we take such action, Lord Krishna says that we become like a lotus, that exists amidst murky water, yet remains untouched by dirt and glows and shines in all its glory with its beautiful colors and hues.
Another word for the lotus flower is paṅkaj, which means “born from mud.” The lotus flower grows from the mud found at the bottom of the lake, yet it rises above the water and blossoms toward the sky. Thus, the lotus flower is often used in Sanskrit literature as an example of something that is born amidst the dirt, and rises above it while retaining its purity.
Moreover, the beauty of the lotus leaf is that, although the flower relies on the muddy water around it for its birth, growth, and nourishment, the leaf does not allow itself to get wetted.
Each of us is surrounded by the murky waters of life’s challenging and unpredictable situations. We never truly know what curve ball life may throw at us at any given moment. And so, no matter the external circumstances, if we keep the lotus flower within us blooming, i.e. we navigate the difficult situations in life with wisdom and choose to take actions that align with our own nature, then we rise and blossom to our true potential.
Through this analogy of the lotus leaf, Lord Krishna says that just as it floats atop the surface of the lake, but does not allow itself to be wetted by the water, similarly, the karma yogis remain untouched by adversities and crisis situations in life, although performing the work as per their unique nature, because they perform their actions in divine consciousness.