…𝒖𝒍𝒕𝒊𝒎𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒍𝒚, 𝒊𝒕 𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒆𝒔 𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒆𝒏𝒈𝒕𝒉 𝒐𝒇 𝒐𝒏𝒆’𝒔 𝒃𝒆𝒍𝒊𝒆𝒇 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒍𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒍 𝒐𝒇 𝒅𝒆𝒅𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏.
The elegantly designed Buddhist electric butter lamp draws inspiration from traditional butter lamps but incorporates modern Light-emitting diode (LED) rechargeable technology. It convincingly replicates the movement and flickering of a real flame, making it a safe alternative for light offerings without the concern of fire hazards, ideal for compact spaces, indoor shrines, or environments where open flames are prohibited.
In recent times, electric butter lamps have gained popularity among Bhutanese due to their eco-friendly and fire-safe LED lights, which authentically mimic the appearance of a traditional butter lamp’s flame.
Sonam Yangzom, a 37-year-old currently working at a private movie production house, stated, “Utilizing an electric butter lamp has not only proven to be a time-saver but also a cost-effective choice. In the early hours, I no longer experience the worry of running late for work and other commitments. I can simply light the electric butter lamp, offering my heartfelt prayers before commencing my day. Even though I initially spent approximately Nu 4500 on the butter lamp, it proves to be a cost-effective choice in the long term, as it doesn’t require significant ongoing expenses for oil, butter, and wick. The use of an electric butter lamp is also safe. There’s no emission of smoke, and the concern of fire hazards is eliminated.”
Pema, a 25-year-old teacher at Khasadrapchu Middle Secondary School, mentioned that she has been using an electric butter lamp for the past few months. She stated, “In my perspective, the act of lighting a butter lamp serves as a symbol of dispelling darkness and offering prayers for goodwill. Whether I choose a traditional or electric butter lamp, my core belief remains centered on wholeheartedly dedicating my prayers. Therefore, I do not consider my use of an electric butter lamp as a deviation from the sincere intention behind my offerings.”
Electric butter lamps are predominantly purchased by individuals who visit Nepal for pilgrimage. According to certain shopkeepers who sell these lamps in Bhutan, they have noticed a spike in sales this year compared to previous years.
The electric butter lamp has not entirely supplanted its traditional counterpart; instead, it serves as an alternative, particularly in exigent situations. According to Lhamo, a 62-year-old woman with six children, “I bought an electric butter lamp to replace the traditional one during difficult times. I use the electric butter lamp only when I’m not feeling well because I can’t manage the manual tasks that come with the traditional lamp, like cleaning the butter lamp, melting butter, and preparing the wick. However, when I’m in good health and not sick, I go back to using the traditional lamp.”
The popularity of electric butter lamps extends beyond Bhutan and has also found favor among Bhutanese individuals living in Australia. A 24-year-old Tshering, currently studying in Australia, said, “I discovered it while browsing through online shopping websites.”
While electric butter lamps have gained popularity among Bhutanese, there remain individuals who steadfastly adhere to the use of traditional butter lamps, holding distinct perspectives from those who choose the electric alternatives.
In a context marked by varying perspectives on the adoption of electric lamps, some individuals who continue to employ traditional butter lamps also extend their support to those who choose the electric alternatives.
In accordance with the guidance from Zhung Dratshang (the Central Monastic Body) concerning the use of two distinct types of butter lamps, it’s valuable to explore the symbolic significance associated with these lamps. The traditional butter lamp can be likened to the human physical form, where the butter within symbolizes the vital fluids coursing through the body, while the wick represents the underlying structure akin to bones. When brought together, these elements embody the holistic concept of “lue nga yed sum,” encompassing body, speech, and mind.
The electric butter lamps in use can be deemed acceptable due to the meaningful flame they emit, akin to illuminating a dark room. However, delving into the depth of significance associated with offering them and the intricate rituals involved may also deem them inappropriate in certain contexts. In earnest recommendation, advocating for the traditional approach aligns with the rightful path and imparts a profound sense of fulfillment and contentment, knowing one has followed the correct course. Choosing the electric option is akin to presenting artificial fruits and synthetic milk, devoid of authenticity and the touch of nature. From a religious perspective, embracing the traditional butter lamp is most fitting, although ultimately, it hinges on the strength of one’s belief and level of dedication. While evolving years bring about various transformations, it is prudent to evolve with the times, yet striking a balance is crucial. Embracing change when necessary and preserving the essence of our heritage should be the guiding principle, ensuring a connection to our roots is not lost.