But for centuries your roots have been cut, poisoned. You have been made afraid of ever being in love with yourself, which is the first step of love and the first experience. 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.
Only a Buddha can say: Love yourself… No priest, no politician, can agree with it, because this is destroying their whole edifice, their whole structure of exploitation. If a man is not allowed to love himself, his spirit, his soul, becomes weaker and weaker every day. His body may grow but he has no inner growth, because he has no inner nourishment. He remains a body almost without a soul or with only a potentiality, a possibility, of a soul. The soul remains a seed, and it will remain a seed if you cannot find the right soil of love for it. And you will not find it if you follow the stupid idea: “Don’t love yourself.”
I also teach my sannyasins to love themselves first; it has nothing to do with ego. In fact, love is such a light that the darkness of the ego cannot exist in it at all. If you love others, if your love is focused on others, you will live in darkness.
Turn your light towards 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…
Don’t condemn yourself. You have been condemned so much, and you have accepted all that condemnation. Now you go on doing harm to yourself. Nobody thinks himself worthy enough, nobody thinks himself a beautiful creation of existence; nobody thinks that he is needed at all.