dīpa ［灯明］ (, Pali; tōmyō): A lamp, light, or lantern. A lamp was regarded as an important offering to the Buddha. After the time of Shakyamuni, lamps were offered before Buddhist stupas, images of the Buddha, and sutra scrolls. The offering of dīpa was believed to be a meritorious deed that brought benefit to the donor. The Sutra on the Wise and the Foolish tells the story of a poor woman who wished to offer an oil lamp to Shakyamuni Buddha. She went out begging, but could gain only one coin. With that coin, she obtained a single oil lamp and offered it to the Buddha. That night, though all the lamps offered by kings and other people went out, her lamp alone continued to burn throughout the night.
This story is also found in the Prophecy of Buddhahood for King Ajātashatru Sutra, though it differs somewhat in its details. In either version, it is widely known as “The Poor Woman’s Lamp.” Buddhist sutras mention lamps with various kinds of oil. The Lotus Sutra, for example, refers to lamps of champaka oil, lamps of sumanā oil, lamps of pātala oil, lamps of vārshika oil, lamps of navamālikā oil, and lamps of utpala oil. These Sanskrit names indicate the trees and flowers that produce the oil. In Buddhism, the lamp is compared to wisdom, the “light” of which dispels the darkness associated with ignorance. The Lotus Sutra compares Shakyamuni Buddha to a bright lamp of wisdom. The lamp of Dharma or the Law means the Buddha’s teachings. The Mahāparinibbāna-suttanta, the Pali version of the Nirvana Sutra, says that one should be one’s own lamp, and that one should take the truth as one’s own lamp.