Chapter 9: Be Yourself
And if a child is continuously told that he is not to be himself, that he is worthless.. The parents say, “I will love you only if you behave in a certain way” - that is, according to them, according to their idea. The child has to survive; hence he has to listen to the parents. All children are beautiful like roses - small children, before the age of three - they are beautiful. You can see their joy overflowing; they are flooded with energy. You cannot compete with a child as far as energy is concerned.
In an American university they did an experiment. They told a great wrestler, a man of immense power, that he has to follow a small child and do whatsoever the child does. “If the child jumps, you jump; if the child runs, you run; if the child starts rolling on the ground, you roll on the ground. Do whatsoever the child does. If the child screams, you scream; if the child giggles, you giggle. Just imitate the child.”
Within three hours he was flat on the ground! He said, “I cannot continue. This child will drive me crazy!” And the child enjoyed the whole thing, because seeing that a grown-up person was imitating him he did many more things that he had never done before. He stood on his head, he invented so many things just to see whether this man could do them or not. In three hours the child was as full of energy as before and he said, “Are you finished? What happened?”
You cannot follow a child; he has overflowing energy. But we start curbing, cutting, chunk by chunk. We start creating a small prison around the child - a psychological prison, of course. Slowly slowly the child shrinks, becomes more and more encaged. By the time he comes out of the university he is stupid, mediocre, with no energy, with all kinds of foolish ideologies - full of bullshit. And all that he was is lost. Now he is just an imitator, a carbon copy.
Desiderata has a great message: Be yourself. And this has been the message of all the enlightened ones. Buddha says: Be a light unto yourself. That was his last statement. Dying, on the deathbed, he opened his eyes and gave his last message to humanity: Be a light unto yourself.don’t imitate anybody.
On the one hand imitation makes you weak, on the other hand it makes you miserable. Weak and miserable, that is how the vested interests want you. And they have found such a beautiful trick that unless you are very intelligent you are bound to be trapped - because who would not like to be like Jesus? The idea fascinates. Who would not like to be a Buddha? It hypnotizes. Buddha is beauty - pure beauty, pure grace. Who would not like to be a Buddha?
Hence the child cannot say to the parents or to the teachers that they are wrong. It appeals even to his reason, it feels reasonable, sensible. And it does one tremendous harm: it makes you hate yourself. You cannot love yourself, and the more you fail in being the other, the more you hate yourself.
I have observed thousands of people, I have been working on thousands of people continuously, and my own observation is that I rarely come across a person who loves himself.