For years I have contemplated what seems to me to be the basic message for well-being: love yourself. When I was a therapist, all day hearing: “I hate myself; I feel sorry for myself, I am proud of myself; I want to destroy myself; I feel good about myself,” I started wondering – who is this self?
I love when you say there is no self. That seems so freeing. Could you please say more?
The whole therapeutic movement has gone wrong on that point: “Love thyself.”
Socrates used to say, “Know thyself.” And there have been masters, particularly Sufis, who say, “Be thyself.” But there is only one person in the whole history of man, Gautam Buddha, who said, “There is no self. You are an emptiness, utter silence, a non-being.”
His message was much opposed by all the traditions because they all depended in some way or other on the idea of the self. There may have been differences on other points, but on one point they were all totally in agreement – and that was the existence of the self. Even people like George Gurdjieff – who used to talk about a very novel idea that you are not born with a self, you have to earn it – “Deserve thyself.” Finally, he also ends up with the self.
Gautam Buddha does not make any distinction between the self and the ego – and there is none. It is just sophistry, linguistic gymnastics, to make such distinctions; then you can discard the ego and save the self. But the self is simply another name of the ego. You are only changing names, and no transformation of being is happening.
Buddha’s message is tremendously significant: You are an emptiness; there is no point in you which can say “I.” Looked at from my vision, when I say to you, “Melt, dissolve into existence,” I am simply saying the same thing in more positive terms. Buddha’s way of saying it was so negative that many people were stopped, because the question arose, naturally, that if there is no self, why bother? What is there to achieve? Just to know that you are not?
A whole life of discipline, great effort for meditation, and the result is to know that you are not? The result does not seem to be worth it! At least without the meditation, without the discipline you have some sense of being. It may be wrong, but at least you are not feeling hollow and empty. Knowing that you are not, how will you live? Out of nothingness there is no possibility of any love, of any compassion – no possibility of anything. Out of nothing comes only nothing.
So the opponents of Buddha described his method as a subtle way of spiritual suicide – far more dangerous than ordinary suicide, because with ordinary suicide you will survive, you will take a new form, a new birth. But with Buddha you will be committing total suicide, annihilation. There will no longer be anything left of you, and you will never be heard from again, never found again.
You never were in the first place.