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Lotsa Fire

Buddha Mind - get one, be one.

Fire is such a primal energy and the sun - as a halo, disc, wheel or circle - is one of the most common religious symbols. Fire as a form of light is special in a way that needs a book, not just a few lines on one page. As a medium for purification it has no equal - only its antithesis, water, comes close. Fire is used in many Buddhist rituals:
PUJA: Every morning and evening in a monastery candles are lit on the shrine as part of the threefold offering of incense, candles and flowers, as symbols of the three refuges: Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Lighting a fire of any sort is nice - making it as an offering is special and using this as part of developing one's use of a shrine is an easy way to help focus the mind on the shrine and what it represents to you.
PROCESSION: One of the most common forms is circumambulation [see: LIFESTYLE - RITUAL]. It is very common that candles and incense are carried. The path followed can also be lit with a variety of lights.
PURIFICATION: If you want to get rid of it - burn it! Nothing like a fire to permanently remove - both physically and symbolically. The photo here is of the old stupa at Amaravati being cremated - after the circumambulation.
Another use of fire is as part of a forgiveness ceremony. The theme can be developed in many ways but one aspect of the ceremony can be writing down all the things in your life that you would like to let go of. Letting go of old ideas about another person is forgiveness. Write it all down and then ceremoniously burn it; let all that rubbish just go up in smoke.
Here are a few ways the process of creating lights can be used for contemplation or discussion of Buddhism.
You could download and sing the 'Child of Light' song as you are working.
Light dispels the darkness of ignorance - a symbol of Truth - the Dhamma
What does it mean 'The darkness of the mind?'
Where does the flame go to when it is blown out?
If you light one candle from another could you say they are both the same flame?
Gaze at the flame then close the eyes - how long does the afterimage last?
Look at the face of someone in the group then close your eyes - how long does the afterimage last?
Candle inserter - Save those burnt fingers.
Glass jars - Has to be the easiest.
Frozen tin-can lanterns - Recycle those old tins.
Oil lamps - Simple and elegant.
Candles - 101 ways to burn the house down (just joking).

TOP  Candle Inserter

You can experiment with a variety of containers for your lights but often the problem is getting the lit candle into your masterpiece without destroying it or setting it on fire or burning your fingers. This is a simple solution.

A length of wire - 8 gauge is ideal - a wire coat hanger will do fine
A tin can and something to cut it with
Stick on stuff
Bend the wire in half and bend the ends down at more or less a right angle. The down turn should be slightly longer than your deepest container.
Cut two strips off the tin can - say 70mm long x 40 wide. File the edges smooth.
Stick these strips to the wire down turns - these are the bits that grip the candle. This is the only difficult part and 'stick' can mean either soldering (by far the best) or, more easily, use an adhesive - silicone or a construction tube adhesive. You could try tying them on with wire.

TOP  Glass Jars / Bottles

             Glass and light go together extremely well. But....
             Fire burns and glass cuts -
An assortment of glass jars - remove any labels or stickers.
Decorative material - marker pens, cellophane, sand, petals, etc. (and the stuff to stick it on with)
Wire or string
Decorate the jar - make sure to leave enough space for the light to get out.
Tie the wire or string around the jar thread at the top to hang the jar. You may want to add a stick so that you can carry it (carrying from the wire can get hot).
That's it! - assuming you worked out that you need to light a candle and put it inside? Duh?

Another possibility is to use old bottles. These come in a much wider variety of interesting shapes and colours than jars. First you need to cut off the top. This can be done in two ways: Using a glass cutter (tidier but requires accuracy) or wrap cotton soaked in meths (not so predictable) - setting it alight creates a heat differential and the glass cracks along the heat line (you could encourage this with water (spray or pour - experiment (with care)).
Assuming you have a cut line: Tap along this line - preferably from the inside using a round ended metal rod. Adjust the rod so the end is exactly opposite the cut line. Tap gently along the cut line until a slight crack appears. Then move the tapper a few millimetres ahead of the crack and repeat this gentle tapping procedure. After you have completed one full revolution and each fracture has met itself, your bottle should separate easily. If it does not separate easily, carefully look for areas along the cutting line that have not begun to fracture and re-tap them lightly. You can finish the top edge by smoothing with a woodworkers sharpening stone.Use safety goggles when working with glass!

TOP  Frozen tin can Lanterns:


This needs forethought / time but there is nothing difficult and the result is very satisfying.


Tin can(s) - those that open at the top are best. Aluminium drink cans are fine but removing the tops is not so easy.
Hammer and a range of different size nails or things to make holes in the can.
A freezer
Use a marker pen or similar and draw a dot design on the can.
Fill the can with water and put it in the freezer. [this stops the can crumpling when you hit it]
When frozen, punch holes in the can according to your design. This can be a picture of the Buddha or any traditional symbols, your name, lines - anything. You may want to put holes on the top rim for a hanging wire.
You could decorate the outside if you wish.

TOP  Oil Lamps
These are very easy to make and have a lovely earthy quality to them.

Here are two lamps modeled
in clay by Sam and Sarah.

A container for the oil: This can be any mouldable material. If the material is porous (e.g. papier mache) you will need to seal it. You can use foil or plastic film or paint or wood glue. It is possible to use cans and the like but creating the wick holder poses problems.
Oil: Standard cooking oil is fine. Anything too refined may get hot and catch on fire.
Wick: This can be bought but cotton wool works fine.
Mould your container to the required shape. The critical part is getting a stable resting place for the wick.
Twist the wick and place it in the oil with a bit sticking out. You will need to experiment how much to have out. A pair of tweezers on hand may save your hand as you try moving the wick while it is burning!

TOP  Candles

The beauty of wax is that it will take on any shape, it can be moulded and cut, it is self sticking, etc. There so many ways that candles can be made so do experiment. If you don't like the finished product you can always melt it down and start over again. But, don't forget, a less than perfect candle will shine just as bright and long as any other candle - as will a less than perfect body / person.
A few Wax Tips:
Always melt wax in a container over a pot of hot water, such as a double-boiler.
To blend wax and dye, melt the wax first, then add the dye.
Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the wax.
Keep unused wax clean so you don't get dust and dirt in your candles.
If wax begins to smoke, turn off heat, but don't touch the wax.
If wax catches on fire, smother the flames with a lid.
Prime the wick before melting the wax: Immerse the wick in the wax for about five minutes. Pull the wick straight and lay flat to harden.


Beeswax sheets. These can be bought from any apiary supplier.
Wick. This can be bought but cotton wool works fine.
1) Wick should be about 1 " longer than the candle you wish to make. The first roll of wax around the wick is most important. Small children may need help with this step, since it must be very tight and even. Simply crimp the wax around the wick and pinch evenly until the entire edge is sealed. Roll tightly and evenly and seal the end by smoothing the seam with your thumb.
2) Beeswax is quite pliable when warm or at room temperature. In cold weather, it may be necessary to warm the wax with a hair dryer or by placing it near a heater until workable. Be careful not to melt the wax!
3) If your wax has a dull or frosty appearance, it has developed 'bloom'. This is a natural characteristic of beeswax and is easily removed by warming the surface gently with a hair dryer, restoring the original color.




One of the easiest ways to make a candle is using preformed beeswax sheets. Beeswax candles are beautiful, fragrant and very easy to make. They do not drip or smoke and burn longer, with a warmer glow, than paraffin candles. With a little help from an adult, even very young children get great results.

There are many ways of rolling the sheets.
Try diagonal rolling - this produces a cone.
Or roll them square - a very slight offset will give a small point to the candle which looks better than a hard square end.

Another very simple but effective way of making unique candles is by overdipping a white candle in coloured wax:
Melt a little plain wax and dye together. Heat a deep pan of water to almost boiling. Pour the wax slowly onto the hot water. Hold the candle you wish to colour by the wick and dip in up to the wick. Let cool and repeat if a thicker coating is desired.
You can then cut or carve the coloured candle to reveal bits of white underneath.

There is huge scope in making moulded candles which is only limited by your imagination - and suitable moulds. Remember: while the wax is liquid it will go anywhere; when it is hard you have to be able to get it out of the mould. It is possible - although sometimes difficult - to build a mould of two or more parts.
Lightly coat your mold with oil. Prepare your wick. Melt your wax over a low heat. Add any dyes and/or scents you want to use. Pour the wax into mold. Let the wax sit for at least eight hours. Top off the mold after it has settled and leave to harden. Remove the candle from the mold. Trim the wick and burn.

Scented Candles: Just add the scent of your choice to the melted wax!