The Sublime Essence of the Lotus Feet

- abridged from an essay by Laurel Fishman -


Sri Krishna's Lotusfeet
Srimati Radharani's Lotusfeet

Pervading Eastern philosophy and religion for thousands of years, the lotus-feet is a metaphor for the divine feet of the gods, saints and other exalted spiritual beings. Figurative language, analogies and mystic descriptions are used in spiritual instruction throughout many teachings.

The lotus is a spiritual symbol in many religions and cultures, and some of its meanings signify spiritual development, creation, purity and rebirth.

The true meaning of the phrase "lotus feet" is transcendental, not readily grasped by intellect alone.

A student or follower in a spiritual tradition of higher truth, a disciple of a spiritual teacher, master, saint or guru, or the devotee of a particular deity or lord can express humility, surrender, devotion, deference, dedication and love by worshiping, contemplating or meditating upon the lotus feet of his chosen spiritual teacher, etc. In these ways, communion with the divine is established.

Lotusfeet of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda
It is said, metaphorically, that the spiritual master plants his lotus feet in the heart of the disciple. Sincere spiritual students are encouraged to enshrine God's lotus feet or enshrine the lotus feet of the spiritual master within their heart.

Śrī Guru-vandanā
(The worship of the spiritual master's lotusfeet.
- from Prema-bhakti-candrikā -

(1)
śrī-guru-caraṇa-padma, kevala-bhakati-sadma,
bando mui sāvadhāna mate
jāhāra prasāde bhāi, e bhava toriyā jāi,
kṛṣṇa-prāpti hoy jāhā ha’te
(2)
guru-mukha-padma-vākya, cittete koriyā aikya,
ār nā koriho mane āśā
śrī-guru-caraṇe rati, ei se uttama-gati,
je prasāde pūre sarva āśā
(3)
cakhu-dān dilo jei, janme janme prabhu sei,
divya jñān hṛde prokāśito
prema-bhakti jāhā hoite, avidyā vināśa jāte,
vede gāy jāhāra carito
(4)
śrī-guru karuṇā-sindhu, adhama janāra bandhu,
lokanāth lokera jīvana
hā hā prabhu koro doyā, deho more pada-chāyā,
ebe jaśa ghuṣuk tribhuvana
1) The lotus feet of our spiritual master are the only way by which we can attain pure devotional service. I bow to his lotus feet with great awe and reverence. By his grace one can cross the ocean of material suffering and obtain the mercy of Kṛṣṇa.
2) My only wish is to have my consciousness purified by the words emanating from his lotus mouth. Attachment to his lotus feet is the perfection that fulfills all desires.
3) He opens my darkened eyes and fills my heart with transcendental knowledge. He is my Lord birth after birth. From him ecstatic prema emanates; by him ignorance is destroyed. The Vedic scriptures sing of his character.
4) Our spiritual master is the ocean of mercy, the friend of the poor, and the lord and master of the devotees. O master! Be merciful unto me. Give me the shade of your lotus feet. Your fame is spread all over the three worlds.

1.) Die Lotosfüße unseres spirituellen Meisters sind unsere einzige Möglichkeit, reinen hingebungsvollen Dienst zu erreichen. Mit großer Hochachtung und Aufmerksamkeit verbeuge ich mich daher vor seinen Lotosfüßen. Mein lieber Bruder (mein lieber Geist), es ist nur seiner Barmherzigkeit zu verdanken, daß wir den Ozean des materiellen Daseins überqueren und Śrī Kṛṣṇa erlangen können.

2.) Mein einziger Wunsch ist es, daß es mir gelingen möge, durch die lotosgleichen Worte aus seinem Munde mein Bewußtsein zu reinigen. Ich hege keinerlei andere Wünsche mehr. Anhaftung an die Lotosfüße des spirituellen Meisters ist die Vollkommenheit des Lebens. Durch seine Barmherzigkeit allein werden sämtliche Wünsche in Erfüllung gehen.
3.) Mein spiritueller Meister gab mir das Geschenk transzendentaler Sicht und offenbarte göttliches Wissen in meinem Herzen. Er soll Geburt für Geburt mein Herr sein. Von ihm geht reine liebende Hingabe aus, und durch ihn wird alle Unwissenheit zerstört. Die vedischen Schriften besingen seinen Charakter.
4.) O spiritueller Meister, du bist ein Ozean der Barmherzigkeit, der Freund der bedingten Seelen und der Herr und Meister aller Menschen. O mein Meister, bitte sei mir barmherzig und gewähre mir den Schatten deiner Lotosfüße! Mögen deine Herrlichkeiten nun in allen drei Welten verkündet werden!

naiṣāṁ matis tāvad urukramāṅghriṁ
spṛśaty anarthāpagamo yad-arthaḥ
mahīyasāṁ pāda-rajo-'bhiṣekaṁ
niṣkiñcanānāṁ na vṛṇīta yāvat
Unless they smear upon their bodies the dust of the lotus feet of a Vaiṣṇava completely freed from material contamination, persons very much inclined toward materialistic life cannot be attached to the lotus feet of the Lord, who is glorified for His uncommon activities. Only by becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious and taking shelter at the lotus feet of the Lord in this way can one be freed from material contamination. (SB 7.5.32)
"One cannot obtain Krsna-bhakti, or the devotional service of the Lord, by official execution of the Vedic rituals. One has to approach a pure devotee. Narottama dasa Thakura sings,chadiya vaisnava-seva nistara payeche keba: "Who has been elevated without rendering service to a pure Vaishnava?" It is the statement of Prahlada Maharaja that unless one is able to accept the dust from the lotus feet of a pure Vaishnava there is no possibility of achieving the platform of devotional service. That is the secret." (Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Adi 8.17)

"The person who has not at any time received upon his head the dust from the feet of a pure devotee of the Lord is certainly a dead body." (Sri Caitanya Caritamrita Madhya 2.31)

"The dust of the feet of a devotee, the water that has washed the feet of a devotee, and the remnants of food left by a devotee are three very powerful substances. By rendering service to these three, one attains the supreme goal of ecstatic love for Krishna. In all the revealed scriptures this is loudly declared again and again. Therefore, my dear devotees, please hear from me, for I insist again and again: please keep faith in these three and render service to them without hesitation. From these three one achieves the highest goal of life, ecstatic love of Krishna. This is the greatest mercy of Lord Krishna. The evidence is Kalidasa himself. (Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Antya 16.60-63)



Throughout Eastern scripture and literature, the spiritual student is encouraged to take shelter, or take refuge, of the lotus feet of his teacher, spiritual master, deity or lord.
The feet of these holy beings are compared to the lotus, but to nothing else. The softness of the feet of holy beings is considered so unparalleled that it can be compared only to the delicacy of lotus petals. Just as the lotus is soft, sublime, sacred and sweet, so are the lotus feet of the true spiritual preceptor.

By meditating on the lotus feet, spiritual unfoldment is possible, and to touch the lotus feet is to be blessed. This is often understood to be similar to the transcendental experience of washing, anointing or kissing the feet of Jesus, the son of Christ.

Mary Magdalene washing Jesus Feet
Jesus, the son of Christ, washing Feet
This also compares to the understanding that what is part of or what comes in contact with a divine being is blessed or imbued with spiritual potency, such as the hem of his clothing, the chair he sits on or the articles he uses.

In spiritual traditions throughout the East, it is also affirmed that touching the lotus feet releases the spiritual student from negative karmic consequences of living a worldly life devoid of the understanding of higher truth. Similarly, all good, true and pure desires can be fulfilled by sincere reflection on the lotus feet.

Placing the attention on the lotus feet with a reverential attitude can dispel mundane preoccupations of the ego, such as desires born out of vanity, pride and greed. Suffering, affliction, pain, fear and discontent fade away as body and mind become purified through attaching the mind to the lotus feet. The illusion of separation from the divine fades away.

It is believed that upon first glance at the lotus feet, it is possible to perceive — via the senses — fresh lotus blossoms. Even to gaze upon the lotus feet can illumine the soul.
In the act of falling at the lotus feet, touching the lotus feet, gazing upon the lotus feet or surrendering to the lotus feet, the ego can be subdued in favor of a higher state of awareness.

Krishna washing Radhas Lotus Feet
Krishna washing Radhas Lotus Feet
Krishna paints Radha's Lotus Feet
The phrase "contacting the lotus feet of a guru" means to connect with a spiritual master to follow his teachings.

It is considered an act of divine grace to be attracted to the lotus feet.

By taking refuge at the master's lotus feet, the devotee can receive innumerable spiritual benefits, just as he might attain through making pilgrimages, fasting, doing charitable acts, performing austerities and engaging in yogic disciplines. 

Sometimes the lotus feet are referred to as "a pool of sacred nectar that grants salvation to the world-weary pilgrims on the path."   

Many Eastern saints maintain that devotion to the lotus feet of a spiritual master produces the experience of divine light and sound, which can be described as drinking the water of life emanating from the lotus feet of the lord.

It is also said that the lotus feet themselves are a pool of the water of life. The sacred form of the lotus feet is believed to be undifferentiated from the entire form of the exalted spiritual being, particularly the radiant form (also known as the light body) of this being, which manifests to the sincere spiritual follower.

Radha worships Krishna's Lotus Feet
Radha worships Krishna's Lotus Feet
Radha paints Krishna's Lotus Feet
When a disciple fixes his attention on the center between the two eyebrows, the spiritual eye, it is possible to see the divine light that shines from the lotus feet of the master's radiant form on the astral plane.

Divine light has been described as the sight of the lord or master's lotus feet flaming in the forehead of the disciple.

In certain Eastern traditions, the lotus feet are also believed to be one and the same thing as the light and sound of the divine, which emanate through the higher planes to manifest here on Earth, perceivable through mystical experience.

Devotion to the light and sound is often defined simply as devotion to the lotus feet.
The lotus feet are sometimes said to be spiritual wisdom itself, or pure consciousness.
It is said that God's lotus feet are the support of the soul.

Krishna holds Radhas feet
Lotus feet manifest in the mind through regular spiritual practice, when man's consciousness is concentrated through devotional exercises and disciplines. Some of these include repetition of holy names.

Because they believe that whatever is thought of at the moment of death determines where the soul of a living entity goes next, devotees who accept Lord Krishna as God pray to remember Krishna's lotus feet at the time of death in order to go to Krishna's spiritual abode.

Offerings can be made to the lotus feet. Some of these are flowers, rice, and water. Prayers, invocations and obeisances are also offered to the lotus feet.

According to Vedic scripture, the soles of the lotus feet of holy beings are decorated with several sacred symbols. These signs include the conch shell, the thunderbolt, the half-moon and — of course — the lotus.

The lotus feet of Lord Nityananda (identified in certain Eastern teachings as an incarnation of Lord Balarama, Lord Krishna's older brother) are said to have the sacred markings. The conch shell on the bottom of Nityananda's feet signifies that those who take shelter of the lotus feet of Lord Nityananda are rescued from all kinds of suffering to become fearless and victorious. In spiritual ceremonies, the conch shell holds water to indicate how Nityananda's lotus feet hold transcendental water to soothe his devotees.

Lotus Footprints of Lord Nityananda
Lotus Footprints of Sri Advaita Acarya
The half-moon marking on the sole of Lord Nityananda's lotus feet is also symbolic of the lotus feet. The half-moon is a symbol of Lord Shiva. (Lord Shiva is a form of God in Hindu religion; in the trimurti — often called the Hindu trinity — Lord Shiva is the destroyer, Lord Brahma is the creator, and Lord Vishnu is the preserver.)

Just as the moon emits cooling rays, Lord Nityananda's lotus feet are said to emit soothing blessings to quench the sufferings of those who are exhausted by material pursuits and wish to be immersed in spiritual understanding. The lotus feet cool the fire of seeking to fulfill one worldly desire after another.

Vedic scripture says, "The lotus feet of Lord Nityananda are as cooling as a million moons."

The thunderbolt marking on the sole of Lord Nityananda's lotus feet symbolizes that meditating on Nityananda's lotus feet can shatter accumulated karma, granting freedom from the negative effects of attachment to ego gratifications. Ruler of the heavens and god of thunder and rain, Lord Indra, has the thunderbolt as his weapon.

Padma-madhu is the honey collected from the lotus flower. Ayurvedic doctors recommend rubbing padma-madhu in the eyes to cure various eye afflictions. In the same way that impurities in the eyes prevent seeing clearly and cause pain but are healed by padma-madhu, it is said that the guru-pada-padma-madhu (the name for the transcendental honey that flows from the lotus feet of a God-realized guru) can also "cleanse" the disciple's eyes — removing the darkness of ignorance, restoring a vision of eternal truth and relieving the pain caused by lack of spiritual knowledge.

Padma-madhu, the honey from the lotus flower, is considered a restorer of vitality. In a similar way, transcendental honey coming forth mellifluously from the lotus feet of a God-realized master or holy being provides spiritual sustenance.


"All the holy places of pilgrimage [tirthas] established by gods crave for the dust of the holy feet of the saints." [Sri Guru Granth Sahib (1263)]

All tirthas and places of pilgrimage pray for and seek the holy dust of the lotus feet of true saints in order to regain their original splendour and fragrance. And it is the holy dust of such like sacred feet that restores these tirthas to their original purity, spiritual power and shakti by washing off the accumulated sins there at.

When all the tirthas and sacred rivers and places of pilgrimages worship these lotus feet and off-load their accumulated sins in the holy dust of such sacred feet, let us also swim across this burning ocean of Samsara (the ocean of birth and death) by holding fast to the lotus feet of true saints and spiritual teachers.

By surrendering at these holy feet, we can also off-load all our burden and worries there at and travel light the journey of spiritual self realisation.
With total surrender to the spiritual teacher one is blessed with the mercy and divine grace of the guru.

Similarly, when the true Guru sets or implants His Holy Feet in a pure heart of the truth-seeker, that person becomes a centre of pilgrimage himself, he becomes holy, adorable and worshipable. Having been thus blessed he becomes a living Temple of God. Only such a person is entitled to be called saintly and he becomes a blessing to humanity.

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