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We begin with one of the most profound sutras of Gautama the Buddha:
Love yourself and watch — today, tomorrow, always.
Love is the nourishment for the soul. Just as food is to the body, so love is to the soul. Without food the body is weak, without love the soul is weak. And no state, no church and no vested interest has ever wanted people to have strong souls, because a person with spiritual energy is bound to be rebellious.
Love makes you rebellious, revolutionary. Love gives you wings to soar high. Love gives you insight into things, so that nobody can deceive you, exploit you, oppress you. And the priests and the politicians survive only on your blood – they survive only on exploitation. They are parasites, all the priests and all the politicians.
To make you spiritually weak they have found a sure method, one hundred percent guaranteed, and that is to teach you not to love yourself – because if a man cannot love himself he cannot love anybody else either. The teaching is very tricky. They say: Love others – because they know if you cannot love yourself you cannot love at all. But they go on saying: Love others, love humanity, love God, love nature, love your wife, your husband, your children and your parents, but don’t love yourself, because to love oneself is selfish according to them.
They condemn self-love as they condemn nothing else – and they have made their teaching look very logical. They say: If you love yourself you will become an egoist, if you love yourself you will become narcissistic. It is not true. A man who loves himself finds that there is no ego in him. It is in loving others without loving yourself, in trying to love others that the ego arises.
Love knows nothing of duty. Duty is a burden, a formality. Love is a joy, a sharing; love is informal. The lover never feels that he has done enough; the lover always feels that more was possible. The lover never feels, ‘I have obliged the other.’ On the contrary, he feels, ‘Because my love has been received, I am obliged. The other has obliged me by receiving my gift, by not rejecting it.’ The man of duty thinks, ‘I am higher, spiritual, extraordinary. Look how I serve people!’
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: Es dhammo sanantano
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: that 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.
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.
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? Meditation is nothing but enjoying your beautiful aloneness and 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 and 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 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 they think they are? You want to keep this whole thing covered up with beautiful flowers and you want always to escape from yourself.
Hence people are seeking company continuously. 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 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, 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 yourself and watch...today, tomorrow, always.”
Create loving energy around yourself. Love your body and 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? We cannot look the enemy eye to eye; we can look only 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.
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.
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.