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Saturday, September 20, 2003

LIGHTING THE EVENING LAMP


Lighting The Evening Lamp

I have always seen my mother light a small silver lamp in the mornings and evenings in front of the deities in our small pooja room at home. It used to set me thinking that in the days of electricity what was the significance of lighting the lamp. As far as my knowledge goes people in the olden days used to get up early and sleep early. As there was no electricity in those days lamps were lit. I am sure most of us would have questioned our parents. I want this article to enlighten people on why we light the lamp.

Lamps are lit during prayers, festivals, celebrations, religious ceremonies, at opening ceremonies/events where it is usually kept burning up to the end of the ceremony/event.
Lighting lamps is considered auspicious.
Clarified butter (Ghee) or oil is used to light a lamp, it is believed that the clarified butter or oil represents the ego within us, and this needs to be removed or burnt off.
Light represents knowledge and darkness represents ignorance. Lighting one oil lamp enables the lighting of countless number of lamps, just as one knowledgeable person can enlighten others with his knowledge.
Light represents the presence of God as we believe that he is the authority that gives us knowledge and removes ignorance ( as in the Bhagavad Geeta, where Krishna advises Arjuna).
All of mankind is in search of peace and this ultimately comes from the realization of ultimate truth and knowledge. A diya or deep is an oil lamp lit such that everything outside and below the rim of the lamp is dark. The inside of the lamp glows with the flame of the wick, and the trajectory of the light is upwards. Each diya represents a human being.
Once the lamp is lighted, the darkness recedes to bottom of the lamp but does not go away. By lighting the lamp, the individual not only illuminates himself but also everything around him so that the inflated ego is put in its proper place. The ego is not destroyed but transcended by the light of patience, compassion, love, and respect for all beings.
In the darkness of night, all one sees from a distance are the identical flickering lights of the lamps, not the lamps themselves. The row of lamps indicates a row of people. It tells us that it is the illuminated part.
Patience, compassion, love and respect for all beings that unites us in a world of darkness.


Why do we do Aarti?
Aarti being performed with Camphor has a spiritual significance. Camphor burns itself out completely without leaving a trace. Camphor represents our Vasanas, unmanifest desires. So also if we were to take refuge in the Lord, obtain knowledge, these desires will get burnt out. Although the camphor burns itself out, it emits a nice perfume. On a human plane it means that we should sacrifice ourselves to serve society, in the process spread the perfume of love and happiness to all.
We close our eyes while performing the Aarti as if to look within. The Self or Atman is within us. Self realization can be achieved by knowing thyself, with the flame of knowledge.
At the end of the aarti we place the hands over the flame and touch our eyes and top of the head. It means that may the light that illumined the Lord light up my vision, may my thoughts be pure and beautiful. With the Aarti comes the flame which signifies light. There can be light in our lives only if we have knowledge. In an era of darkness there would be ignorance, we would be perpetually running to fulfill our vasanas resulting in unhappiness and stress all around

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