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Flame is the “flame” of true knowledge. At the end of any aarti, we place our hands over the flame and then touch our eyes and the top of the head. It means “May the light that illuminated the Lord light up my vision; May my vision be divine and my thoughts noble and beautiful.”
The metaphysical implication of aarti extends further. The sun, moon, stars, lightning and fire are the natural sources of light. The Lord is the source of these wondrous phenomena of the universe. It is due to Him alone that everything exists.
As we light up the Lord with the flame of the aarti, we turn our attention to the very source of all light which symbolizes knowledge and life. Also, the Sun is the presiding deity of the intellect, the moon, that of the mind, and fire, that of speech. The Lord is the supreme consciousness that illuminates all of them. Without Him, the intellect cannot think, the mind cannot feel and the tongue cannot speak. The Lord is beyond the mind, intellect and speech.
How can these finite entities illuminate the Lord? Therefore, as we perform the aarti we chant:
Na tatra suryo bhaati na chandra taarakam, Nemaa vidyuto bhaanti kutoyamagnib
Tameva bhaantam anubhaati sarvam, Tasya bhasa sarvam idam vibhaati
“He is there where the sun does not shine, nor the moon, stars and lightning. Then what to talk of this small flame (in my hand), everything (in the universe) shines only after the Lord, and by His light alone are we all illumined”
In our spiritual journey, even as we serve the guru and society, we should willingly sacrifice ourselves and all we have, to spread the “perfume” of love to all.
We often wait a long while to see the illuminated Lord. But, when the aarti is actually performed, our eyes close automatically as if to look within. This is to signify that each of us is a temple of the Lord.