Lotus flower and leaf have a self-cleaning property: when water droplets touch the surface of a lotus flower or leaf, they pick up all the dirty particles and roll off from the surface due to it’s micro and nanoscopic architecture.
Humans, as well as all beings, lack this self-cleaning quality – as a result they get polluted by input received from six senses: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind.
For example; even though input received by an eye is only a colour; humans, through their individual interpretations, offer widely different meanings to what they see. What is actually happening is when light rays that reflect off objects and travel through the eye’s optical system are refracted and focused on a point of sharp focus. When the brain takes two images from each eye, these are then combined with ‘individual interpretation’ of the object, which leads to ‘subjective perception’ of the object that differs from ‘objective reality’. As a result, each individual may, like, dislike or neither like nor dislike of what she/he sees.
Due to this subjective interpretation, humans always suffer or get tired due to the continuation of the thought process attached to this. As beings, we always receive 5 inputs such as color, sound, taste, aroma and feels (temperature or pressure), subjective interpretation of which makes people dirty always.
Hence, the Buddhist philosophy always encourages humans to become a “Lotus” because it makes people self-cleaning, which means that when an input is received from five senses, humans do not make subjective interpretations.
From an insightful perspective, we should understand ‘subjective interpretation’ as dirty particles in the lotus parable and when we let objective reality to occur (as Surface in the lotus parable), we see ‘reality’, and thus, we don’t get polluted.
In other words, the subjective judgments that have been made with five senses are like mirages or illusions because these reflect nothing useful or never will people get satisfied – deers being deceived by a mirage and running towards the mirage never being able to satisfy the thirst.
But what if someone can understand that the subjective interpretations of inputs are not real but only illusions and the decisions that are taken based on the illusions are falsified/invalid?
To understand this phenomenon better: think about a time when we see a dream; the dreamer is not aware that he is in a dream: he is experiencing a situation as real. But if he suddenly wakes up and thinks about the dream, he will realize that all the decisions that have taken on the dream are useless.
In summary, all beings suffer due to the acceptance of illusions/ subjective interpretation as real, the repercussion of which is to get polluted themself due to faulty decisions. Therefore, by understanding the world as full of illusions, and developing the ‘self-cleaning property’ (i.e. the skill to observe ‘objective reality’ rather than letting subjective interpretation takes over) he/she can definitely be a “Lotus”.
Reference: Sūtra on the White Lotus of the Sublime Dharma (In Sanskrit: Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra)
Author – Ven. Homagama Rewatha Thero