Self-love is one of those things that has been frowned upon as self-indulgence or vanity, a character flaw to be whispered about, discouraged, even corrected, and it’s only relatively recently that it’s come to be accepted as an essential ingredient for mental health.
Here Osho speaks about what happens when we love ourselves, and how when we do, we can easily become meditative.
“A man who loves himself respects himself, and a man who loves himself and respects himself, respects others too because he knows, ‘Just as I am, so are others. Just as I enjoy love, respect, dignity, so do others.’ He becomes aware that we are not different; as far as the fundamentals are concerned, we are one. We are under the same law: aes dhammo sanantano.
“Buddha says: ‘We live under the same eternal law.’ In the details we may be a little bit different from each other – which brings variety, which is beautiful – but in the foundations we are part of one nature.
“The man who loves himself enjoys the love so much, becomes so blissful, that the love starts overflowing, it starts reaching others. It has to reach. If you live love, you have to share it. You cannot go on loving yourself forever, because one thing will become absolutely clear to you: if loving one person, yourself, is so tremendously ecstatic and beautiful, how much more ecstasy is waiting for you if you start sharing your love with many, many people!
“Slowly the ripples start reaching farther and farther. You love other people, then you start loving animals, birds, trees, rocks. You can fill the whole universe with your love. A single person is enough to fill the whole universe with love, just as a single pebble can fill the whole lake with ripples – a small pebble.[…]
“Turn your light toward yourself first, become a light unto yourself first. Let the light dispel your inner darkness, your inner weakness. Let love make you a tremendous power, a spiritual force. And once your soul is powerful you know you are not going to die, you are immortal, you are eternal.
“Love gives you the first insight into eternity; love is the only experience that transcends time. That’s why lovers are not afraid of death: love knows no death. A single moment of love is more than a whole eternity. But love has to begin from the very beginning. Love has to start with this first step: Love yourself….[…]
“Man has to become godly. Unless man becomes godly there is going to be no fulfillment, no contentment. But how can you become godly? Your priests say that you are a sinner. Your priests say that you are doomed, that you are bound to go to hell. And they make you very much afraid of loving yourself.[…]
“That’s why people are such great fault-finders. They find fault with themselves – how can they avoid finding the same faults in others? In fact, they will find them and they will magnify them, they will make them as big as possible. That seems to be the only saving device; somehow, to save face, you have to do it. That’s why there is so much criticism and such a lack of love.
“I say this is one of the most profound sutras of Buddha, and only an awakened person can give you such an insight.[…]
“And a person who loves himself can easily become meditative, because meditation means being with yourself. If you hate yourself – as you do, as you have been told to do, and you have been following it religiously – if you hate yourself, how can you be with yourself? And meditation is nothing but enjoying your beautiful aloneness, celebrating yourself; that’s what meditation is all about.
“Meditation is not a relationship; the other is not needed at all, one is enough unto oneself. One is bathed in one’s own glory, bathed in one’s own light. One is simply joyous because one is alive, because one is.
“The greatest miracle in the world is that you are, that I am. To be is the greatest miracle, and meditation opens the doors of this great miracle. But only a man who loves himself can meditate; otherwise you are always escaping from yourself, avoiding yourself. Who wants to look at an ugly face and who wants to penetrate into an ugly being? Who wants to go deep into one’s own mud, into one’s own darkness? Who wants to enter the hell that you think you are? You want to keep this whole thing covered up with beautiful flowers and you always want to escape from yourself.
“Hence people are continuously seeking company. They can’t be with themselves; they want to be with others. People are seeking any type of company, if they can avoid the company of themselves anything will do. They will sit in a movie house for three hours seeing something utterly stupid. They will read a detective novel for hours, wasting their time. They will read the same newspaper again and again just to keep themselves engaged. They will play cards and chess just to kill time – as if they have too much time![…]
“Love yourself… says Buddha. And this can transform the whole world. It can destroy the whole ugly past. It can herald a new age, it can be the beginning of a new humanity.
“Hence my insistence on love – but love begins with you yourself, then it can go on spreading. It goes on spreading of its own accord; you need not do anything to spread it.
“Love yourself… says Buddha. And then immediately he adds: …and watch… That is meditation, that is Buddha’s name for meditation. But the first requirement is to love yourself, and then watch. If you don’t love yourself and start watching, you may feel like committing suicide.
“Many Buddhists feel like committing suicide because they don’t pay attention to the first part of the sutra, they immediately jump to the second: watch yourself. In fact, I have never come across a single commentary on The Dhammapada, on these sutras of the Buddha, which has paid any attention to the first part: Love yourself…
“Socrates says: ‘Know thyself,’ Buddha says: ‘Love thyself.’ And Buddha is far truer, because unless you love yourself you will never know yourself – knowing comes only later on, love prepares the ground. Love is the possibility of knowing oneself, love is the right way to know oneself.[…]
“Love thyself and watch – today, tomorrow, always.
“Create loving energy around yourself. Love your body, love your mind. Love your whole mechanism, your whole organism. By ‘love’ is meant: accept it as it is, don’t try to repress. We repress only when we hate something, we repress only when we are against something. Don’t repress, because if you repress, how are you going to watch? And we cannot look eye-to-eye with the enemy; we can only look in the eyes of our beloved. If you are not a lover of yourself you will not be able to look into your own eyes, into your own face, into your own reality.
“Watching is meditation, Buddha’s name for meditation. ‘Watch’ is Buddha’s watchword. He says: ‘Be aware, be alert, don’t be unconscious.’ Don’t behave in a sleepy way. Don’t go on functioning like a machine, like a robot. That’s how people are functioning.[…]
“Meditation means: put the mind aside and watch. The first step: Love yourself… will help you tremendously. By loving yourself you will have destroyed much that society has implanted within you. You will have become freer from the society and its conditioning.
“The second step is: watch – just watch. Buddha does not say what has to be watched – everything! Walking, watch your walking. Eating, watch your eating. Taking a shower, watch the water, the cold water falling on you, the touch of the water, the coldness, the shiver that goes through your spine – watch everything; …today, tomorrow, always.
“A moment finally comes when you can watch even your sleep. That is the ultimate in watching. The body goes to sleep and there is still a watcher awake, silently watching the body fast asleep. That is the ultimate in watching. Right now just the opposite is the case: your body is awake but you are asleep. Then you will be awake and your body will be asleep. The body needs rest but your consciousness needs no sleep. Your consciousness is consciousness; it is alertness, that is its very nature.[…]
“The soul soars higher and higher. As you become more watchful you start having wings – then the whole sky is yours. Man is a meeting of the earth and the sky, of body and soul.”