In the past when I had a more stable home life ( more fixed in place and circumstance), we had a family altar whereupon I had glass candles fueled by paraffin based oil and with woven wicks . The oil was pulled to the top of the wick by fire. The oil, the wick, the fire work in conjunction to produce one effect; a flame and consequently light.
Today on the same altar in my temp setting of a small cabin on a horse ranch, I have fake candles run by batteries, and LED lights that flicker. Because of safety concerns I don’t want to use open flames with a liquid fuel source in easily breakable vessels as part of my expression of religious practice. In this case the battery can be switched to “On”, “Off” or the “Timer” which shuts off the lights after four hours. Very safe and the batteries last a really long time. After my evening meditation the lamps stay lit as I go to sleep and offer a nice background for my nightly wish to be in meditation. As I retire I ask for help for the benefit of all beings, which includes me.
The candles of either kind are a good example of the use of images, statues, phrases, altars, wall hangings, objects and such, in religious practice.* Their purpose is just to serve as reminders of basic teachings; irrespective of what the religion is, they are handy tools for ones “profession”. In the case of the candles they teach me that for anything to occur there has to be a cause and from all cause there arise consequences.
There is usually a combination of things for a consequence to occur.
In the case of a candle there has to be fuel (battery or liquid), ignition (flame or “on” switch), and supply channel (wick or electrical wiring), and there has to be an active participant in bringing these three independent conditions into operation.
Cause and effect. Karma.
The conditions as they separately exist (fuel, vessel, wick) are just that they depend on an outside force (me), to produce an effect of their combination.
A light on an altar in a small cabin is the result. If some of the conditions are altered slightly, then the potential effects can also include a fire in a wooden cabin, on a dry grass prairie, near a huge forest.
Those candles remind me that I have a huge array (infinite at times), of choices of how I go about conducting my life. Seeing the influence I have on the conditions of my life and the results brought about by my acting on, or not, the combination of conditions in front of me at any given time. Heady stuff indeed.
Slowly, very it seems, through this practice; I become more contained.
*Below from the “Questions of King Milinda”
“The king asked: “Venerable Nagasena, is it so that one does not transmigrate and [yet] one is reborn?”
“Yes, your majesty, one does not transmigrate and one is reborn.”
“How, venerable Nagasena, is it that one does not transmigrate and one is reborn? Give me an analogy.”
“Just as, your majesty, if someone kindled one lamp from another, is it indeed so, your majesty, that the lamp would transmigrate from the other lamp?”
“Certainly not, venerable sir.”
“Indeed just so, your majesty, one does not transmigrate and one is reborn.”