The lotus plant begins as a seedling buried deep in the muck at the dark bottom of the pond. From there the stalk grows to the surface of the pond, where the tightly wrapped flower bud, in the full light of the sun, opens into a beautiful symmetrical blossom. Few things in nature seem more fully open than does a lotus blossom in full bloom. This whole process from seed to flower makes a wonderful symbol for the path that leads to awakening.
Buddha said that everyone can be compared to some stage in the growth of the lotus plant. Many people are still at the seedling stage, immersed in darkness. Others have begun to sprout and are making their way toward the light. Some have broken through the surface but are still holding back; the bud is well formed but still tightly wrapped. And there are those few who are already beginning to open and simply need the full light of the sun to blossom completely. Buddha’s teaching would be that sunlight. “Everyone,” he said, “can benefit from it to some degree. No matter where he or she may be, every person can make some progress toward the light. And some can be moved to awaken completely.”