Images of You

Jesus ChristI have been thinking about that one word, image, for quite some time.  When I woke up this morning, the image in my head was quite profound and more demanding of me than any I have seen in a long time.

First, a little context:  Last June I received a phone call from a former ward member.  She is the secretary to the president of the Mount Timpanogos Temple.  They had been discussing a need for someone to fill a special assignment in the temple office and I immediately came to mind.  I was willing to help but needed to postpone any action as we were helping my mother-in-law, Norma, settle into our home.  That need was greatly extended when Norma entered the hospital and then died within four days.  That postponement lasted until October when I received a follow-up phone call asking if I was still willing to help with this special assignment, I most certainly was.

October 16th I met with a representative of the temple presidency.  I was finally told what the special assignment entailed:  I would be reconciling temple recommends for living ordinances with computer generated sheets for the same ordinances.  I would need to make any corrections to any errors or missing information that I found.  The work would be tedious and need to be meticulously completely.  I knew I would be a good fit, this would simply be a form of meditation for me and where better to meditate?

Let me interrupt here for a moment.  If you haven’t read my little article, An LDS Yogi, already then let me state here that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also known as the Mormons.  In short, the Church teaches that we are all children of God and we see him as a loving Heavenly Father.  His Son, Jesus Christ, lived a perfect life, atoned for the sins of all mankind, was resurrected and continues to live as a resurrected being.  Above all, the church teaches, as did Christ, that the single most important thing we can do is love one another.  Part of the doctrine of the church is that salvation from death is already given to everyone (1 Cor 15:21, 22).  Everyone, regardless of how we live, will be resurrected.  Exaltation, becoming a joint-heir with Christ (Rom 8:16, 17), requires each individual to receive the ordinances of the priesthood—baptism, confirmation and all temple ordinances.  My assignment is to verify that all the work done for the living at the Mount Timpanogos Temple has been recorded accurately.  Why do I spend hours alone each week, comparing paperwork?  Because the accuracy of those records are eternally vital.  I stopped believing years ago, I know it to be true.  I have seen and heard and felt.

As part of the interview on the 16th, I was informed that I would be required to shave.  I kept my beard neatly trimmed into a Van Dyke at the time.  This didn’t surprise me too much but what did surprise me was that this requirement was actually in a 2001 letter from the First Presidency of the Church.  I agreed that I would shave after I had a chance to discuss the situation with a member of the temple presidency.  I was set apart that night and returned the next morning, Van Dyke intact, to begin my assignment.

After I had completed my day’s work, I met with a member of the temple presidency.  I explained that I preferred not to shave and that I maintained my Van Dyke specifically because my wife likes it best.  I don’t wear a ring, that finger was injured during surgery and the nerve in it gets crazy when I wear a ring.  Instead of a ring, I see my Van Dyke as my outward expression of my marriage vows.

BeforeAfter

I was given a choice:  “Keep your facial hair as it is and continue to live the good life you’ve lived but we would not have you serve in the temple in that case.”  When I heard this, I knew that I could not make a wrong choice.  With a smile on my face, I said, “Then I will see you next week without the beard.”  That smile froze on my face and I do not recall anything further that was said as I heard, “Good because it’s offensive.  It’s really, really offensive.”  I had already committed to beginning the assignment.  I would not back out now but I was quite unsure how I was going to bring myself to return to the temple the next week.

 

Image


Image plays a very important role in the practice of Yoga.  We read and talk quite a bit about the false self-image that we each create for ourselves.  This ego created image covers up and hides our true nature.  Much of the beginning practice of Yoga focuses on dismantling this self-image so the practitioner can experience their True Self, sometimes for the first time in their life.  This is where the catch phrase of the 60’s and 70’s, “Find my Self,” came from.  Unfortunately, many incorrectly thought that drug induced highs were a shortcut to experiencing the True Self and, sadly, there are many that still believe this.  Even if such highs can create such a connection, they also create a dependence or attachment to their continued use.  Yoga creates freedom from attachments and not a further dependence on them.

If you have read many of my posts, then you know that I have mentioned kindergarten, high school and graduate levels of practice.  This dismantling of the false self-image starts at the very beginning and continues throughout the master program but along the way something new does show up.  Yoga is the stilling of the modifications of the mind, then the Seer abides in its own true nature.  At other times, the Seer appears to take on the form of the modifications of the mind.  We can actually use the fact that the Seer appears to take on the form of the modifications to our advantage by filling the mind with something worth being.  The Bhagavad Gita points to this when Krishna tells Arjuna to “always think of me.” (B. G. 18:65)  We appear to be, become the image of, whatever image we use to fill the mind.  This intentional filling of the mind is, just like dismantling the false-self, both a beginning and an advanced practice.  Patañjali alludes to this a number of times in the Yoga Sutras:  1:28-46 gives insight into intentionally engaging the mind as does 2:33 & 34.

 

The Image of God


CaesarJesusThis brings me full circle to this morning.  When I woke, the time was between 3:30 and 4:00 AM.  Immediately on waking, an image filled my mind.  A marble bust of Caesar was on the left and a painting of Christ was on the right, both figures gazed toward the center of this tableau.  My mind echoed a familiar voice, “Whose image are you?”  When I look into my mirror in the morning, I see the face of a businessman, a lawyer, a politician, the faces of influence and power in our modern world.  Oddly enough, that face looks very much like the Romans of old, the faces of influence and power in the ancient world.

As I lie there in bed, a phrase that has often come up since October 17th filled my head, “Created in the image of God.”  As I wrote earlier, I don’t merely believe this.  This is something I know.  On the 18th of this month, I wrote on Facebook, “We are each uniquely wonderful and beautiful.  How could something created in the image of God be anything less?”  For some reason, Mormon culture—not doctrine but culture—clings to the belief that we should accept others unless they have a beard.  If a man has a beard, he is clearly living on the rebellious side.  Some will point to talks from the 70’s about not wanting to look like the rebellious hippies of that time.  Since when did the Church allow popular culture to dictate our standards on anything?  Apparently, since the 60’s and 70’s and now we look just as upright as Pilate, Tiberius, Kenneth Lay and Jamie Dimon.

MonsonJesusTo be fair, there are a great many bald faced men who are outstanding examples of Christ’s life.  The Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, is a wonderful example of this.  He is also one of the three men that signed the letter in 2001 stating that temple workers must be clean shaven; so, where does this leave me?  I seem to be at a bit of a crossroads.  Follow the cultural standard set for temple workers by a man I know to be the Prophet of God or answer the question I was asked this morning the only way I know how?  Knowing the virtue of both men in the image above, emulating either the smiling man or the bearded man would be a very good and courageous choice.

For me, however, there is no choice to be made.

Jai Bhagwan

PS

This is not a call for men everywhere to sprout beards nor is it a protest nor does it mean that I think I am somehow better than those without beards.  Rather, this is a public sharing of the journey I’ve been traveling since October regarding something as simple as facial hair.  As I wrote earlier, I know.  I have seen and heard and felt.

If you are ever inclined to talk about religion in depth, let me know—ramdas@wasatchyoga.com.

This image grabbed my attention in ways I cannot fully express; so, I had to share.
This image grabbed my attention in ways I cannot fully express; so, I had to share.