Just the opposite has been taught to you by all the traditions of the world—all the civilizations, all the cultures, all the churches. They say: Love others, don’t love yourself And there is a certain cunning strategy behind their teaching. 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, 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.
All the priests and politicians are parasites. 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 that 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, 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 by loving others without loving yourself, trying to love others, that the ego arises. The missionaries, the social reformers, the social servants have the greatest egos in the world—naturally, because they think themselves to be superior human beings. They are not ordinary— ordinary people love themselves. They love others, they love great ideals, they love God. And all their love is false, because all their love is without any roots.
A man who loves himself takes the first step toward real love. It is like throwing a pebble into a silent lake: The first, circular ripples will arise around the pebble, very close to the pebble—naturally, where else can they arise? And then they will go on spreading; they will reach the farthest shore. If you stop those ripples arising close to the pebble, there will be no other ripples at all. Then you cannot hope to create ripples reaching to the farthest shores; it is impossible. And the priests and the politicians became aware of the phenomenon: Stop people loving themselves and you have destroyed their capacity to love. Now whatsoever they think is love will be only pseudo. It may be duty, but not love—and duty is a four-letter dirty word. Parents are fulfilling their duties toward their children and then in return, children will fulfill their duties toward their parents. The wife is dutiful toward her husband and the husband is dutiful toward his wife. Where is love?
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!” These servants of the people are the most pseudo people in the world, and the most mischievous, too. If we can get rid of the public servants, humanity will be unburdened, will feel very light, will be able to dance again, sing again.
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 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. Buddha says we live under the same eternal law—aes dhammo sanantano. In the details we may be a little bit different from each other—that brings variety, that 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: 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.
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.”
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 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.