The steady (un-flickering) flame at the altar.


In any temple at the sanctum is the idol we worship. The idol symbolizes the ideals we aspire to become part of our nature. The idol also symbolizes the ideals deep rooted in us.  We fail to see them due to our bias and ignorance and hence our inability to see the ideals at work. Our visit to the temple and the viewing of the idol is also an effort to confront our bias and ignorance and overcome their limitations in due course!

The space around the idol at the sanctum is relatively dark, since there are no windows or openings other than the main (and the only) entrance. Near the idol is placed an oil lamp. The flame of the lamp illuminates the space. Through this illumination we see the idol. The flame itself remains still (motionless) in the absence of any breeze or cross wind.

The devotee who stands in front of the idol offers his/her worship to the Lord. In this process, the devotee is in a state of deep contemplation and reflection (Dhyanam). While the body remains still, the contemplative mind of the devotee reflects on the connectors. In due course all perturbations and wave like oscillations of the mind subside into a calm stillness on their own accord, since the cause and effect of all emotions are understood and the roles of the connectors at play become clear. With a still mind, the intellect reflects on all thoughts and they too cease to exist after some time, since all thoughts are also the results of the connectors. At that point the devotee stands still, motionless, free of emotional perturbations of the mind or intellectual ambivalences.  In that state of existence there is a quiet piece and a sublime tranquility, which cannot be adequately described. It is experienced by each on his/her own accord through his/her own effort.

The oil lamp which illumines the idol remains still and motionless. The devotee (of ideals we wish to practice, imbibe and recognize them when they are at work) also remains still and motionless. “Self Control” illumines any and all aspects – of body, mind and intellect – related to the “Self”!

The steady mind of a person in deep and sustained contemplation (Dhyani) is like the steady (un- flickering) flame of the lamp at a place free of breeze                          B.G.  6. 19.

While the above quote refers to a devotee, it is easy to see the connection of steady intellect, backed up by an emotionally neutral mind and well controlled body functions ready to respond to any commands in any of our efforts. This is the state of existence required of any one for the highest performance in any field of endeavor. All aspects of success in every effort – surgeons, musicians, engineers, leaders, scientists, workers, parent, teacher, student …- requires the state of mind of a “Dhyani” as a prerequisite for highest levels of accomplishment in that endeavor. The steady (un-flickering) flame of the lamp at the sanctum is merely a beacon of light for such possibilities and accomplishments.

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3 Responses to The steady (un-flickering) flame at the altar.

  1. Jay says:

    This is a nice article that compares the steady state of unfettered concentration achieved by a top practitioner of TM to an unflickering lamp. An example of such a lamp is the one that illuminates Akilandeswari (Universal Mother) at the Thiruvanaikkaval temple near Sri Rangam in South India. Next time I am in the presence of such a symbol of high concentration, I will try to emulate it for at least a few seconds!


  2. i love your explanations.


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