Lighting lamps has become a method of making offerings since the Buddha’s time. Among the Ten Offerings (incense, flowers, lamps, ointments, fruit, tea, food, treasures, beads, and clothing), lamps are essential as they symbolize radiance and wisdom. Because the minds of sentient beings are hindered by the afflictions of ignorance, one therefore lights lamps before the Buddhas so that any darkness within can be illuminated by both this light and the wisdom-radiance of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, giving birth to a wise solution and the perfection of our own wisdom.
Various scriptures such as the Avatamsaka Sutra, Great Assembly Sutra, and Bodhisattva Treasury Sutra, note the merits of offerings lights. In the Merits of Bestowing Lamps Sutra, if one sincerely makes offerings of lights to the Buddha within pagodas or temples, one may be blessed in various ways including:
— full and complete limbs and eyes.
— a healthy body and beautiful voice.
— a clear mind, unmoved by ignorance.
— good vision.
— good eyes and cornea.
— a peaceful life without fear
— ease of body and mind with wealth and treasures.
— able to receive jeweled necklaces and groves & gardens.
— a healthful body full of vitality.
— freedom from altercations and fights with others.
— freedom from the afflictions of ignorance.
At the beginning of the year, a special service is held to install the light-offering benefactor names known as the Light Offering Inauguration Service. This is one of many services which mark the start of the Lunar New Year.
Throughout the year, twice a month on the new and full moon days, a special dedication service is also performed for those who have made the annual light offering to pray for the continued peace and well-being of all benefactors.
At the end of the lunar year, a final dedication for all light-offering benefactors marks the close of another year as devotees return to the temple in gratitude for the Light Offering Completion Service.