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Traditions behind lighting a Lamp

Visit any Indian home, at dawn or at dusk, and you’ll see a lamp lit at the altar, its radiance casting a bright glow on the burnished gold face of the deity behind it. The altar, all of a sudden, becomes the brightest spot in the house. So, what’s the logic behind this? What’s the spiritual significance? And does science have anything to say about it? The Logic The lamp represents fire and luster, symbols of the sun, and of man’s discovery of fire. Fire liberated early man from eating raw meat, and paved the way to civilization. The central hearth fire has always been the center of primitive man’s home life, the place around which to plan and communicate. The lamp we light today is a small version of the ancient fire hearth, which once liberated us, and even today differentiates us from lower animals. We gather around the lamp every day to offer prayers, still keeping the flame as the center of our existence. The Science
  • Psychology: Fire enhances receptivity by creating the illusion of a protected circle, beyond which darkness reigns. It’s something that goes back to our most primal memories. Fire means security and a weapon against darkness. Fire fills us with energy, keeping the mind alert, active and receptive to knowledge and emotion.
  • Evolution: Primitive man used fire to keep predators away, but there’s more. It’s that very fire which is the reason for civilisation as we know it today. When we sleep, we experience a deep Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase, when our muscles enter a semi-paralytic phase. It’s during the REM cycle that we memorise skills and knowledge necessary for survival. 15% of our sleep time is devoted to REM. Without the fire at their backs, early men could never have afforded good REM sleep, or learnt multi-step skills such as making stone cutting. Without fire, early man wouldn’t have evolved at all, and we wouldn’t be the great civilisation that we are today.
The Tradition and Spirituality We use good vegetable oils such as castor oil, coconut oil or sesame oil or ghee to light lamps. The oil or ghee symbolizes our vaasanas (negative tendencies, lust) and the wick symbolizes the human ego. When our vaasanas and ego meet the flame of spiritual knowledge, they perish in smoke. Pure oils and ghee exude a more positive light and field of energy around the lamp. Light symbolizes knowledge while darkness symbolizes ignorance. Knowledge eradicates ignorance just as light eradicates darkness. Knowledge is the everlasting inner wealth, the route to accomplishing all our material needs. Even as the lamp’s flame burns upwards, our spirits rise towards greater knowledge, higher ideals, and positive thinking. We worship the lamp’s flame as God, or Chaitanya, the illuminator of knowledge. Therefore, when the lamp is lit just as twilight gains victory over the day, we feel the glow of divinity coming from the flame. If every home cherishes this divine flame, there will be no more darkness of thought or purpose. Light a lamp in your home today, whether you believe in god or not, because you want to be surrounded by the divinity of knowledge.
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