Tag Archives: enlightenment

Symbolism of Light

Apart from the philosophical connotations that light posses, it also is utilized throughout many cultures around the world as both a literal and metaphorical symbol. The Yin and Yang is one of the best examples of this concept as discussed previously, but there are many others as well. When different world religions are analyzed from a lighting perspective, it can be seen that different cultures and religions view light through its symbolic nature. Several global holidays use the symbolism of light as a marking of celebration. Following are some holidays which use light for its symbolism.

In Buddhism light is used as a symbol in the ritual of the eight offerings where it plays a central role. Apart from Buddhism, Islam also uses light as a symbol, most visually through its interpretation of ‘the lamp’ in the Qur’an;

“God is the Light of the heavens and the earth.
The Parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a Lamp
the Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star
Lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the east nor of the West,
whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it
Light upon Light! God doth guide whom He will to His Light
God doth set forth Parables for men: and God doth know all things.”

Another symbol commonly used if the candlelight as a symbol of wisdom. In our physical world we see things through the medium of light. If we do not have sun or electric light, this world is so dark that we cannot see anything. In our spiritual and mental world the physical light cannot help us to see. We see only through wisdom. We may stumble many times in daily life because we lack ‘light’ and ‘wisdom’. Light in this sense can also be translated into a more eastern sensibility through the term ‘enlightenment’. Jung writes in the foreword to An Introduction to Japanese Buddhism;

“This strange perception is called Satori, and may be translated as “Enlightenment”. Suzuki says (see page 95), “Satori is the raison d’etre of Zen, and without it there is no Zen.” It should not be too difficult for the Western mind to grasp what a mystic understands by “enlightenment”, or what is known as “enlightenment” in religious parlance.”

Religion:

• When different world religions are analyzed from a lighting perspective, different cultures and religions view light for its symbolic nature. Several of the global holidays use the symbolism of light celebration. In the images that will be shared in the talk, the following are the different holidays which use light for its symbolism.

Symbols of Light:

• Obon Festival [Japan]

• Hanukkah

• Loy Krathong [Thailand]

• Diwali

• Paper Lantern Festival [Singapore]

• Christmas

• Ramadan

• Cathedral of Light 1936

• Tribute in Light, New York

• Symphony of Lights, Hong Kong

• SRBS Bridge, Dubai