When no one but yourself holds you accountable to practice sometimes the hardest part of the practice is showing up. Even with a teacher in the room sometimes the hardest part is showing up.
When you don’t have a teacher in the room, a picture of your teacher or guru can be a helpful reminder to continue the path.
I grew up in a very strict Christian household and was cautioned never to bow to idols, statues, pictures, false gods, etc. The idea of having a picture, an alter, a cross, any of it would be justification to spend eternity burning in flames, much less a figure of Ganesha, or a smiling picture of Guruji.
Then into the flames I will dance unscathed.
I choose to have a Ganesha figure on my alter, not serving the purpose of bowing to a god but simply as a reminder that sometimes there are obstacles placed in my way to rise up to them, sometimes the obstacles are removed and I am reminded to be grateful. I also have a picture of Guruji. When I feel exhausted and ready to give up he is smiling and I ask myself for one more. When I think I’m bad ass in practice, he is simply sitting there reminding me to be humble.
My belief in bowing to an idol for worship has not changed, but my understanding of a figure or picture as a reminder has changed my concept of what an idol is or could represent.
My dear friend Sat Indar clarified it for me, ‘When you care enough to assign meaning to something you’re giving it your energy, so it will manifest.’