Why do we place our hands over the flame?
Flame refers to 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 constitute the natural sources of light. The Lord is the source of these phenomena. It is due to Him alone that everything exists.
As we try to light up the Lord with the flame of the aarti, we focus our attention to the source of all light which symbolizes knowledge and life. Also, the Sun is the deity of the intellect, the moon is the deity of the mind, and fire of speech. The Lord illuminates all of them. Without Him, the intellect cannot think, the mind cannot feel and the tongue cannot speak. The Lord is therefore beyond the mind, intellect and speech.
So, how can these finite entities illuminate the Lord? Therefore, as while performing the aarti, we chant:
Na tatra suryo bhaati na chandra taarakam, Nemaa vidyuto bhaanti kutoyamagnib
Tameva bhaantam anubhaati sarvam, Tasya bhasa sarvam idam vibhaati
This means – “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, as we serve the guru and society, we should sacrifice ourselves and all that we have, to spread the perfume of love to all.
We often wait a long while to see the illuminated Lord. But, as the aarti is performed, our eyes close on their own as if to look within. This signifies that each of us is a temple of the Lord.
[Excerpts from NHSF]