Thursday, 25 August 2011

Are candles required?

In the mind of the media, meditation—or anything spiritual—is irrevocably intertwined with the need for candles.   Two examples that immediately spring to mind are Teal'c practising kel'no'reem (Stargate) and Kira Nerys consulting the prophets (Star Trek DS9).  Sometimes I find myself wondering how they find the time to set up and light all those candles.  For most of us it can be a challenge to find time to meditate every day – without the need of creating a candlelit environment as well.

So may I state for the record... candles are not required for meditation.

For some forms of meditation a candle is actually a distraction.  If we are trying to let go of thought and sitting with our eyes slightly open to help avoid sleepiness, then the brightness of a candle can be disconcerting and disadvantageous for settling into our practice.

A candle can be used as a focus for meditation as a specific technique.  A butterlamp is ideal for this as it does not create a still and stable flame.  The flame will splutter and flicker, and it is this movement that we use as a focus.  We find the stillness of mind in the movement of the flame.

I do light a candle every day when I set up offering bowls in our shrine room, but this is a Buddhist ritual practice not a meditation – although it has a meditative quality to it in that the offering bowls should be set up mindfully.


  1. I might light up a some candles if I practice shi-nè during evenings, if it is dark. I have been collecting a set a elemental colour candle holders (like I have seen in Aro Ga'dzong at least). However, for me this is not a meditation aid, just some atmospheric lightning, because it is simply prettier than glow of white electric light bulbs.

  2. Thank you for your comment Sky Serpent. There have been a few comments on Facebook also. Atmospheric lighting certainly may help to settle the mind more than harsh electric light. Great to hear you are practising shi-nè regularly.


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