Calmly quietly completely
The lovely lily lies gently in her pool
Not for her the riverís foolish gush
Whose waterborn commercial rush
Drains riven waters spilling to the sea
Where all descend spoiling to be free
Until down down they slip into that endless hush
Where all are bound to find their final quay
Yet see this picture in our
That shows a life of different kind
For though the lotus grows from mud
It then rises as a bud
To bloom up here in open light
Where eye can see with clear insight
©Thomas Albert Fox
, the water lily is, of course, the Lotus in Thailand and the East generally. It has considerable symbolic meanings throughout the region. In Thailand it is used to pay homage to Buddha in the temple and to make merit by giving to monks on their early morning walkabouts to collect donations of food. Thais prepare dok bua with scented sticks and candles wrapped together in a bunch and place these in front of the Buddha statue in the temple they visit. The budding lotus dok bua toom with its petals closed is preferred because it can be easily handled , but the lotus in full blossom is also used because of its delicate beauty. In Thai philosophy the lotus rises from the mud beneath the water into the light of life above.
Apart from its value in venerating the Buddha and in making merit, the lotus has many practical uses for Thais. The are many varieties and some provide the basis of an excellent medicine for the upset tummy called yahom (it works). Thais find this valuable for upsets caused by too many chillies and spiciness in food (indeed!). The sweet, refreshing, green seeds found in (ripe) lotus heads are eaten to pass the time or just for fun. If trying this donít forget to peel the soft green shell off the flesh of the seed before eating. Also, you need to crack open the white seed inside gently with your teeth and get rid of the tiny green shoot which is rather bitter before the seed can be fully enjoyed. (Yes, I think you can agree that it really does pass the time, and Thais, somewhat obscurely, find it fun).
Lotus seeds are made into candy syrup and used with crushed ice to make a lovely cold pudding. The fresh lotus stem has many Thai culinary uses. It can be fried or boiled or added to curry. Some example dishes are sai bua pad goong, gang bon sai bua, pad sai bua. The large lotus leaf is used to wrap food and can be seen in wide use in the morning markets. The leaf is very valuable because it does keep food fresh, especially raw foods such as meat & fish. The root as well as the stamen are used to make Thai medicines. In Thailand the lotus is both splendid and of real practical use.
In the West the lily represents the Trinity of mind, body and soul. Perhaps, the most famous reference is to the Fleur de Lys, of the Kings of France, when the triple Lily represented the triple majesty of God, his creation and royalty. An idea that seems somewhat overgrown nowadays.