Q047: Master Lu, for light offerings, what is the best number of candles and oil lamps to be placed on the altar for Buddhas and Bodhisattvas? Can we offer electrically-powered lotus lamps or candle lights? Can we leave them on 24 hours a day?

A047: 

  • Generally, the number of Buddha’s lights, or oil lamps should be the same as the number of statues or images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on the altar.
  • If you are making offerings to 2 statues or images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, then you need 2 oil lamps. If you are making offerings to 3 statues or images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, then you need 3 oil lamps.  If you are making offerings to many statues or images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas on your altar, then you can just offer a total of 2 oil lamps.
  • If you are making offerings to one statue or image of Buddha or Bodhisattva, it is best to offer one oil lamp. Offering two oil lamps is also acceptable.
  • If you are offering candles, it is best to offer red candles and to have an even number for candle offerings (e.g. two red candles). It is also alright if you do not make candle offerings.
  • You should extinguish the oil lamps and candles after you finish making full prostrations, or before the incense has completely finished burning. The burning of oil lamps and candles without offering incense tends to attract foreign spirits.
  • You can use electrically-powered lotus lamps or candle lights, provided that you are also offering real oil lamps and candles on the altar at the same time. You should not leave the lamps or lights on 24 hours a day. In general, you can switch them on before you make incense offerings and perform full prostrations, and then switch them off before the incense finishes burning.
  • Before the incense has completely finished burning, you can extinguish the candles, then extinguish the oil lamps, and then switch off the electric lamps or candles. When you extinguish the candles and oil lamps, you should never use your mouth to blow at them. You can use a lid or other devices to extinguish the flame.
  • Leaving lotus lamps or candle lights on for a long period of time can easily attract foreign spirits.

 

[Updated 2012.04.25]