Leading from the Mud and Beyond: About the Lotus


Why Lotus? That is the reason for this blog. When I dreamt up the name, it was after eight months of deliberating and paying other people to deliberate, on what I wanted to call my decision enlightening company. I like to guide people to decide… and to decide with clarity.

It doesn't matter if you are on the wrong path, the right path or no path, as long as you know you are on it. That is the first step, seeing through the foggy circumstance and acknowledging what is clearly your current position. Second step is to decide what you want to do with that knowledge.  This is the guiding principle behind Leading Lotus and its methodology.

Enjoy this homage to the Lotus. Many people know the Lotus for its beauty but are clueless about its superior biology.

The Sacred Lotus

Nelumbo Nucifera is its botanical name. But people found friendly ways of calling it. “Sacred Lotus”, "Bean of India", “Padme”, “Hasu”, “Sesen” are all just a few. The origins are traced to Asia with a wide flourish in India, China, Australia, Far East Asia, Middle East and some parts of the US.

The Lotus grows in the murkiest of muck, rising above the water with giant, pristine and showy leaves and flowers. Everything above water is immaculate, despite the filthy environment on which they rest upon. It’s been around circa 135 to 145 million years, thriving from the age of dinosaurs to modern times. That is mind blowing for a vegetation.

The Lotus Flower

We’ll review this super biology of the plant that has kept it alive for this long. Then we’ll look into humanity’s love affair with the Lotus, as far back as 5000 BC.  To kick it off, here are some quotes to showcase one of nature’s most remarkable creations:

“The Lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud” - Buddhist proverb
“The Lotus grows out of the mud. Without the mud, there is no Lotus. Suffering is a kind of mud, that we must use in order to grow the flower of Understanding and Love” - Thich Nat Hanh/ Vietnamese Monk
“As a lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises out of water to stand above it unsoiled, so I, born in the world, raised in the world having overcome the world, live unsoiled by the world.” – Buddha
By means of microscopic observation and astronomical projection the lotus flower can become the foundation for an entire theory of the universe and an agent whereby we may perceive Truth.” – Yukio Mishima/ Japanese Author

A Guide to Lotus Biology

The Nelumbo is an evolutionary relic from the late cretaceous period (135 - 145 million years ago).

Its survival has been attributed to its powerful genetic system that allows it to self-revive and regenerate. Scientists in 1990 were able to re-germinate a 1,300 (+/- 270) years old seed back to live, after laying dormant. That is equivalent to reviving a frozen cave man.

Who knew that the secret to the fountain of youth, is literally in a plant. Its powerful anti-aging genetics is opening doors in life sciences dealing with human aging combating genetic dysfunctions.

Looking, though, at a pragmatic angle, the Lotus is a constant giver of nature.

Firstly, in Asia, every part of this plant, including the rhizome, seeds, pods and flower is consumed as nutritional food. It is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, iron and natural antibiotics. The antibiotics is a coating on the fruit, which explains the disease fighting ability. The Lotus communities have also learnt to extract a silk-like liquid from the rhizome to make natural fabric fiber.

The Lotus provides shelter and heat for the bio-diversity in the pond. The flower can heat up just as warm blooded mammals do, to a high of 86F (30C), even if air temperature is 50F (10C).  The thermoregulation ability to attract insects is strange, since the plant has bisexual organs and can self-pollinate itself. The plant’s habitat creates a symbiotic relationship for a variety of fish, amphibians, insects and microbes, providing them food, shelter and warmth.

Thirdly, the plant ‘s biological structure is alien:

  1. The root system is elaborate and indefinite, functioning to absorb nutrients and to anchor the plant to the muddy ground. These root systems are so complex and strong that have been known to drown unsuspecting thirsty animals like cows.
  2. The stem branches out of the soil thick, versatile and able to withstand wind due to the hexagon air ducts of various sizes.
  3. Size does matter, when it comes to the Lotus, with leaves as big as 24-inch diameter, the flowers at 8-inch, and with the plant at a height of about 60 inch. Some even report at 150cm tall!
  4. The Lotus flower’s center has a curious chalice-like pod that looks like a shower head, where seeds are produced. The pod bows down to release the seeds into the pond, when it’s time
  5. The “Lotus effect” is coined after the plant’s amazing self-cleaning and water-repelling ability, known as ultra-hydrophobia. Water droplets pick up dirt and roll off the surface of the Lotus due to its nanosomic architecture, which is the reason for its immaculate look above the water.

The Symbolic Reverence

“The lotus lives in this world, but is not of this world.”

The plant plays a significant cultural and religious role for Hindus, Buddhists, Chinese, Japanese and many Far East Asian societies. The “Blue Lotus” held a prominent role in ancient Egyptian culture, though it was actually the Water Lilly that was commonly mistaken for the Lotus. The Hindu and Chinese gods and goddesses were depicted sitting on enormous Lotus flowers. Buddha is always seen with Lotus symbols sitting in a “padme” (lotus flower) position, a posture commonly used in yoga. The Egyptians depicted the Sun god, Atum-Ra with the Lotus flower in his hands.

Weirdly, it seems, that various cultures have created similar symbolic meanings around the Lotus. In Hindu and Buddhist cultures, you see the famous Lotus mandala symbols for energy alignment, rebirth, knowledge and spiritual awakening.  The Chinese and Japanese revered the Lotus for its longevity and serenity. In Egyptology, the Lotus was revered as the symbol for Sun god, a highly significant divine figure, representing rebirth, resurrection and creation.

‍The Lotus Temple in New Delhi

It is obvious why people are hurled into a world of spiritual quotes and learning proverbs when encountering the Lotus. The biological creativity and the many use of the plant from health to visual serenity, speaks to its renewal, rebirth and longevity status. But most evidently, the Lotus’s weird bio-rhythmic process has everyone aspiring to “rise above the crummy environment, only to shine beautifully above adversity”.

Let’s explore this bio-rhythm. The Lotus flower emerges flawlessly clean from the muddy pond, lifting itself high up in the morning to greet the Sun. It’s dagger shaped petals unfurling one by one, sun bathing in all of the sun’s glory till dusk looms. When the sun starts to dip, the Lotus flower closes its petals tight, descends back undaunted by the murky water and there it rests for the night. Only to repeat this cycle in the morning and tirelessly proceeds to greet, sunbathe, submerge and repeat day after day. One might start to notice the connecting symbolism by now.

While the mystics and spiritualists are mindfully dazed at the Lotus, scientists on the other hand are baffled at its complete evolutionary strategy to thrive not only for millions of years but also beautifully.

If this is not inspiring enough, the next section will definitely tickle your fascination.

Fun Facts in Engineering and Design

Biomimetic, or Biomimicry, has come a long way. This is the art of copying from mother nature and re-engineering man-made stuff to mimic nature’s capabilities at its best.  Engineering and technological advancements have borrowed quite a lot from the Lotus.

Ultrahydrophobicity, is the Lotus Effect patent. A mouthful of a word, with so many human benefits. Consider the ability to self-clean and water repel by yourself, never having to wash yourself ever again, even if you decide to take a dive in swampy muddy lakes. Now consider, how this can be used for things that you do not want getting dirty outside. We now have an engineering idea.

The Lotus has a two-pronged structure that does this well. Without going into deep science, the Lotus has nanostructure with microscopic bumps coated in a special bio-chemical wax. The dirt never adheres to the surface of the plant and the water than picks it up and rolls it off. Pristine as it can be. Since the filing of patents on “Lotus Effect®”, you can find this technology in water/dirt resistant surfacing products like exterior paints, treated roof tiles, coating sprays, self-cleaning glass on control towers, stain resistant textiles, awnings, tarpaulins, sails, boat resurfacing and pretty much anything you’d like self-cleaned. 

‍Arts Museum in Singapore

Scientists only recently discovered that the Lotus can regulate temperature like humans do. While we do this with an elaborate nervous and hormonal system, Lotus does this in a science baffling manner. In terms of energy output, “one lotus radiates at one watt, 40 blossoms crank out heat of a light bulb in a living room and 70 blossoms is equivalent to a human in a toasty living room reading newspaper”, as scientist put it. This is an enormous energy zapping capability. Researchers are speculating that attracting pollinating customers outweighs this expanse of carbohydrate. Indeed, lucky beetles get stuck in the flower when the petals close up at night, like staying at a heated hotel to mate and have full room service, while getting slathered in the Lotus’s pollen. Imagine the engineering advancement if we can regulate heat outdoors simply like that.

‍Fantasy Island: The Opalescent Lotus Building and the Bloom of Iconic in China Wujin

Finally, now that scientists in China combined with UCLA and around Asia have opened the genome structure of Lotus to the scientific world, the possibilities for longevity miracles are plenty. Scientists are studying the cell regeneration and disease fighting capabilities of the Lotus to find solutions to healthier human aging. Though this phenomenon has been long known to the ancients in Asia and Egypt, as they speak of resurrection and renewal through lotus laced herbal teas and cuisine, modern scientists will find a new way to extract potent remedies at the nanolevel.