A friend scolded me a few days ago. He said that I needed to keep a picture of my ex-spiritual teacher on my altar as a sign of respect and gratitude. He has many pictures of his teachers all over the place, including on his altar. He believes that my not showing this sign of respect is holding me back. I disagree.
He seems to think that I have issues with my ex-teacher. I don't. I don't have any energy around him. I forgave him years ago for what ever I thought he did, which in hindsight was nothing. He never did anything harmful to me. He was just living his life as a human being. I am grateful that he was the first teacher to point me to awakening. That was huge and I will never forget the role he played. For five years I listened to him and drank in the truth of his words. But at some point I was complete. Done. There was no more energy there for me. Other teachers showed up in various forms (or not in form) but I was clear that I would not worship anyone again.
I understand that one path of enlightenment is devotion, and I have felt that. I'm not saying that it is wrong for someone to be devoted to their teacher. But at this stage of my life, devotion seems disempowering. I do not have pictures of anyone on my altar--not Jesus, not Ammachi, not Ramana Maharshi, not Archangel Michael--even though I deeply love them and value their support. They are brothers and sisters who are showing me the way Home. That said, I do have pictures of Ammachi and Ramana along with my family's pictures. To me they are family--albeit more evolved than the rest--who have found the way out of suffering and can help me. I do not place them on a pedestal.
So what do I keep on my altar? Candles, flowers, feathers, mandalas, water from certain sacred places, my intentions for what I want to create. At this point everything is a teacher: my friends, my cats, nature...you name it. We are all each other's teachers. Singling out one form to worship is limiting and does not tell the whole story.