Lanterns Light the way to Spiritual Growth

How lanterns guide the spirit.

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There is something awe-inspiring and breathtakingly beautiful about witnessing the release of hundreds of floating lanterns illuminating the dark night sky. Steeped in ancient tradition, today lanterns are used to commemorate cultural and spiritual celebrations in many communities around the world. 

The origin of the sky lantern
Kharma Creations explains that sky lanterns, a floating version of traditional paper chinese lanterns, are known for their beauty, especially when they take to the air during festivals and special occasions. 

The lanterns are made of oiled rice paper on a bamboo frame, and house a candle or fuel source. After the lanterns are lit, the flame generates heat in the air inside the lanterns, causing them to float in the air until the flame goes out. 

Afar Magazine reports that sky lanterns originated thousands of years ago during the Eastern Han Dynasty in China, when they were used to convey military signals across long distances. 

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Lantern festivals around the world
Afar Magazine explains that some of the more popular festivals held around the world hold great spiritual significance according to Buddhist tradition.

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The Full Moon Lantern Festival in Hoi An is a time for meditation and honors deceased ancestors. At sundown, everyone in the city shuts off their electricity so that the lantern lights can illuminate more brightly. Lanterns are released onto the river and are thought to bring happiness and health.

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The annual Spring Lantern Festival in China originated 2,000 years ago when the emperor ordered that all temples, households, and royal palaces light lanterns to show respect to the Buddha. Today, the festival is held at the end of the Chinese New Year and heralds the coming of the spring season, a time of joy and renewal for society.

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The Lantern Floating Hawaii festival honors and remembers loved ones who have passed away. The ceremony consists of traditional musical performances and prayers and ends with participants releasing floating lanterns into the Pacific Ocean, inspiring hope and good fortune.

Lantern carriers spread light and love
According to Letterpile Lantern Carriers are unique, spiritually evolved individuals who see it as their life mission to spread light and love to others around the world. Author and Poet Phyllis Doyle Burns described the essence of a lantern carrier in an essay on Letterpile, “A Lantern Carrier is one who stands up for those who are too weak to help themselves. When one is given love, light, and hope, it enables them to stand stronger and have faith in themselves,” she stated. 

“Many may think that it is impossible to live in a world of peace and love. Yet it can be started. It starts with one person who carries a lantern of light to someone in the wilderness of life. A cry in the wilderness is heard and a Lantern Carrier responds. Another light is lit, another person is helped to their feet, and then there are two to carry on that light,” Doyle Burns explained. 

Environmentally friendly lanterns
While in the past sky lanterns were thought to be potentially dangerous and wasteful, Kharma Creations reports that beginning in 2010, people began constructing wire-free lanterns so that they are not harmful to animals who might ingest parts of them after their fall from the sky. And flame resistant wool has replaced metal, making them better for the  environment.

Afar Magazine reports that at some festivals members of the Buddhist community retrieve the used lanterns so that they can be cleaned and repaired to be repurposed for use during future festivals.

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