by Venerable Master Chin Kung
Lamps offered symbolize light. Our minds should be as just and as honorable. We should help others, even at our expense. The lamps offered should be oil lamps. The burning of oil represents sacrificing oneself to illuminate others. This is great compassion. Today, light bulbs are used and this symbolic representation [of the oil lamps] is hardly seen.
Therefore, these things seen in a Buddhist cultivation center are educational in nature and serve to remind the practitioners [of the Buddha’s teachings] at all times. But today many people forget the true meaning of the offerings. They use the offerings as a way to fawn on or to ingratiate themselves with Buddhas and bodhisattvas. A true gentleman in this mundane world would not accept any flattery, let alone Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Hence, we must understand the true meaning of making offerings.
We also see lamps, which symbolize wisdom and brightness; incense sticks, which symbolize self-discipline and deep concentration. You will not see anything in the cultivation and lecture halls that do not symbolize some teaching. However, it is a sad loss that many Buddhists are totally ignorant of the educational significance of these objects. They do not know why they burn the incense or why they make offerings to the images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Their belief is actually superstition. Some people criticize Buddhists as being superstitious. These critics are right. Too many Buddhists are confused about Buddhism.