It is unlikely that there is a plant anywhere that is more closely associated with religious meanings than the lotus. Hinduism and Buddhism are both heavily associated with the lotus. In fact, the flower often acts a symbol for both religions just as the crescent moon does for Islam.
In Buddhism, the lotus is associated with the most exalted and enlightened state of man. A person’s head would be held high, above the muck of existence, but their feet would be rooted in experience. The lotus also represents the path a person must travel to reach enlightenment. They are born into the suffering of the world, just as the lotus begins in the mud below the waters of a pond. Then, the person grows and eventually surpasses the needs of the world to bask in the light of enlightenment in the same way the lotus grows up through the water and opens in the light on the surface.
Hinduism is possibly tied even more closely to the lotus blossom. The very act of worship, puja, literally translates to “the flower act.” Flowers are used as offerings and associated with various deities, but the lotus is the most important. The lotus represents beauty, prosperity, fertility, eternity, purity and divinity. Like in Buddhism, lotus blossoms represent someone who has achieved enlightenment, but Hinduism has further associations with this flower. The crown chakra is called the “thousand petaled lotus,” and the lotus position is adopted by yogis wishing to reach the highest levels of consciousness. The goddess Lakshmi is almost always depicted standing or sitting on a lotus, and Vishnu is usually shown holding a lotus in at least one hand.