Originally the lotus was an idiom for water which was the source of life, fertility, many children, abundance, continuity and the right of kings. It played a major role in wishfulfillment and was used in religious and festive decorations. Buddhism employed the lotus as a simile for purity because of its habit of producing flowers that are untainted by the mud from which they arose. Simultaneously, it was a simile for beauty as attested by the numerous names that alluded to the lotus- lotus faced, lotus eyed, heart of the lotus. It also stood for detachment and enlightenment, the ability to rise above one’s circumstance and freedom from bias.
The lotus is the national flower of India and it symbolizes hope
The lotus made its appearance when the Mahayana school introduced the concept of the eternal Buddha the first Buddha who was shown sitting on a lotus throne was possibly the cosmic Buddha Amitabha.
Buddhism in China introduced a love for nature and the use of vegetal forms, a sense of gentleness and serenity.
From book The Lotus in the Buddhist art of India by Teoh Eng Soon, 2002
This symbolizes Bodhi, the state of total mental purity and spiritual perfection, and the pacification of our nature. It generally has eight petals corresponding to the Noble Eightfold Path of the Good Law. It is the lotus found at the heart of the Garbhadhatu Mandala, being the womb or embryo of the world. It is characteristic of the esoteric sects, and the lotus of the Buddhas.