video Teaching

Why Light Offerings?


In this short video, Phakchok Rinpoche explains the meaning of light offerings or traditional butter lamp offerings.

Why lights? Light means understanding because light represents wisdom. And light removes and dispels misunderstanding. All of our sufferings come from not knowing and not seeing. Offering lights or butter lamps indirectly removes confusion. Moreover, to be successful in life we need to have clear ideas and a good understanding. And we should not just believe that success and good results are based on luck. Instead, when we have problems, we search for a clear understanding and wisdom to solve those problems.

Throughout the Buddhist world, in all traditions of Buddhist practice, devotees offer light. The life stories of accomplished men and women give examples of people beginning their path to liberation by offering light to an image or at a place of pilgrimage. We are lighting the way for ourselves and for other beings when we make the wish to dispel the darkness of ignorance! In the Mahayana sutra, the Perfection of Generosity, the Buddha explained why bodhisattvas offered lamps:

How do bodhisattvas exert themselves in the practice of generosity by offering lamps? Noble son, bodhisattvas do so by reflecting in this way: ‘Offering lamps represents the purification of the divine eye. Therefore, I will definitely practice generosity by offering lamps!’ When practicing generosity by offering lamps, bodhisattvas make the following aspiration: ‘In accordance with the aspirations taught by the buddhas, through this offering of lamps may I cause the divine eye of all beings to be purified!

Why make so many light offerings at a time? For example, we hear about the big offerings of 100,000 butter lamps. How does this benefit? The effect of making large offerings is immense. Because of this, Rinpoche reminds us that we all should make big offerings. Vast offerings reduce obstacles and achieve big results. And the good news is that even large light offerings are relatively easy for us to arrange.

The traditional offerings are butter lamps, as in the photo on this page. But, we can also use candles and lanterns. Nowadays, especially inside buildings, we often use electric or battery-operated lights.

When we make light offerings, just as when we engage in any other virtuous activity, we begin by engendering the correct motivation. Therefore, we pause before we start our offerings to recall the vast attitude of bodhicitta.  To inspire you, here we include a beautiful aspiration prayer by Mipham Rinpoche. The Tibetan/English text for the prayer can be found at Chants for the Meditation Session at Samye Translations.

This illuminating lamp of original pure awareness
I offer to the maṇḍala deities of Vidyādhara Padmakara.
May all beings, my mothers, wherever awareness pervades,
attain the dharmakāya level of aware emptiness.

If you are inspired to offer a traditional butter lamp, you can make light offerings here as part of our ongoing light offering program.




Related Courses