The Mahayana Buddhist Lotus Sutra says that Buddhahood, absolute happiness and freedom from human fear and suffering, is inherent in all of life and nature. When Netero awakens his ability, he’s pictured sitting in meditation inside a fully-bloomed lotus flower, a symbol of illuminated self-awareness. As a flower that emerges from mud, it represents first and foremost rising above adversity to achieve enlightenment. Its second meaning is purification, while the third is faithfulness, crucial to rising above the murk. The mud itself represents how humanity is born, in a world of suffering. The suffering is essential in making us stronger, teaching us the value in choosing the right path over the easy one, like Ging’s message to Gon at the start of his journey as a Hunter. He warned his son that if he searched for him, he shouldn’t expect to find him. Gon’s lesson is that he must find his own path, on his own terms and through his own strength.
Finally, the lotus symbolises rebirth. In Buddhism’s literal sense it relates to reincarnation, but it also refers to overcoming, getting through dark times, discovering a new way of seeing the world. The King is reborn in defeat and from the womb of the Earth as Meruem, “the light that shines on everything”, serene in his revived and renewed prowess. Through Netero’s sacrifice (in which he punctures his own heart, detonating a bomb that explodes into a gargantuan rose) he has learned the value and beauty in humanity and its simplest pleasures, with the Ant aspect of his consciousness swamped by the empathy and understanding of his blossoming humanity. In loving Komugi and being loved by her in return, her blindness capturing the childlike purity that awakened his compassion, he knows honour beyond status. He has found the means of living his life as his best and truest self, and returning to the name his mother gave to him, he places himself in Komugi’s care. It’s intriguing that the Mantra for strength and courage is “Om Hanumate Namah”, the final utterance similar to the Japanese for name, “namae”. This word in turn holds the term “amae” – psychoanalyst Takeo Doi’s coined concept of an ideal relationship, similar to the dependent bond between parent and child.
This is the inspiration Netero provides, in the legacy of leadership he leaves behind to his Hunters. The hunter appears in Buddhist fable as a reprehensible figure, selfish, impetuous, impatient and unwise. The Hunters we know are learning to overcome their fury, naïveté and selfish urges, and Netero presided over them all, equal, caring and sage. In sacrificing himself, he ensures a bright future for his fellow Hunters to continue building, offering them all new life.