The meaning of the Lotus as described by Nagarjuna is shown in the following quote:
[W]e can have nothing. We don’t have the true nature of the human mind. We can only have a counterfeit mind. There is no reason for our mind to exist. The Buddha said that we should have the true mind. (Nagarjuna, The Great Meaning of the Holy Life, 2.2-4).
There aren’t a lot of people who think that Nagarjuna actually means this in the first place. I would say that a lot of people who think this way are simply mishearing or misinterpreting a part of Nagarjuna’s teachings. As I wrote in my article called “The Lotus or the Buddhist Daoist Daoist Heart?” Nagatas is a Buddhist term for a profound state of insight and a “Daoist Lotus” or something similar which comes from that experience.
In the Lotus Sutra of the Lotus Sutra there is a picture of a great snake and a flower. They both grow on the ground. In the snake there is a root that sprouts out. The flower has flowers which grow on the flower stem which sprout out.
In the original text of the Lotus Sutra there are even more references of Lotus. Here’s one example:
The Daoist Lotus refers to the ultimate end – the enlightenment of the Dharma. This is how the Buddha described it: It is like a great snake being born from a mother that is the mother of a serpent or of flowers. The child is born of the mother when she has a snake in her womb – a snake with an unborn child. The Child with a Snake can be compared to a great snake with its tail, born of the mother’s womb when she has a snake inside her womb – a snake that has two tails. A child with seven snakes is similar to the Great Lotus. The Great Lotus has no hindrance. The Lotus does not have a single thing in its possession, no body, no head, no tail, no eyes, no ears, no nose, no mouth, no body, no heart. For the Great Lotus is like the sea with no wave of water. The Great Lotus is like a river filled with water. The Great Lotus is like rain falling from heaven.
Here’s my interpretation: The Daoist Lotus refers to the ultimate realization attained through the teaching methods of Buddhism – the enlightened
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