The Role of Statues and Depictions of the Divine

On his Facebook page, Taoist Master, Deng Ming-Dao writes:

“If Taoists believe that we should look beyond gods, why then are the temples filled with them? If the master says that all answers are inside of us, why does the master help us find a personal deity to whom we direct our chants and our prayers? If all is illusory—including our little human world and the grandiose vision of heaven we have crafted for ourselves—why do Taoists work to restore temples and convey the scriptures?

They do this because we need these aids when we’re still young on the path. We need the gods to focus our imaginations. We need devotion to discipline ourselves, and to give expression to our piety. We need the words of the past sages to help us pacify our intellects.

Later, you can be one of those Taoist beggars in rags, wandering the road without caring about a single religious object or conception. You won’t need gods, you won’t need temples, you won’t need scriptures.

And yet, you’ll be grinning.”

I have been pondering what this means for me and my practice, and how I interpret the role of statues and images of the Divine, especially when they are consecrated.

When priests consecrate a statue or image of the Divine, regardless of whether it is Jesus, Buddha, Guanyin, or any other holy depiction that we feel drawn to, they direct the divine energy into the object.  The object, which now contains concentrated divine energy, becomes sort of like an embodied, perpetual prayer which appeals with us and also on our behalf to the Divine to help develop those qualities in us which we so admire and attribute to it.  In our devotion it aids us in purifying ourselves to make ourselves receptive for the treasures of the same divine qualities which we are gradually excavating in ourselves through our spiritual practice.