Humanity has lived under a dark, dark cloud of self-condemnation. If you condemn yourself, how can you grow? How can you ever become mature? And if you condemn yourself, how can you worship existence? If you cannot worship existence within you, you will become incapable of worshipping existence in others; it will be impossible.
You can become part of the whole only if you have great respect for the God that resides within you. You are a host, God is your guest. By loving yourself you will know this: that God has chosen you to be a vehicle. In choosing you to be a vehicle he has already respected you, loved you. In creating you he has shown his love for you. He has not made you accidentally; he has made you with a certain destiny, with a certain potential, with a certain glory that you have to attain. Yes, God has created man in his own image. Man has to become a God. Unless man becomes a God there is going to be no fulfillment, no contentment. But how can you become a God? 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. This is their trick, to cut the very root of love. And they are very cunning people. The most cunning profession in the world is that of the priest. Then he says, “Love others.” Now it is going to be plastic, synthetic, a pretension, a performance. They say, “Love humanity, your mother country, your motherland, life, existence, God.” Big words, but utterly meaningless. Have you ever come across humanity? You always come across human beings—and you have condemned the first human being that you came across, that is you.
You have not respected yourself, not loved yourself. Now your whole life will be wasted in condemning others. 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 way out; 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. He says, Love yourself . . . This can become the foundation of a radical transformation. Don’t be afraid of loving yourself. Love totally, and you will be surprised: The day you can get rid of all self-condemnation, self-disrespect—the day you can get rid of the idea of original sin, the day you can think of yourself as worthy and loved by existence—will be a day of great blessing.
From that day onward you will start seeing people in their true light, and you will have compassion. And it will not be a cultivated compassion; it will be a natural, spontaneous flow. And 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? And meditation is nothing but enjoying your beautiful aloneness. 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, 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 into an ugly being? Who wants to go deep into one’s own mud, into one’s own darkness? Who wants to enter into the hell that you think you are? You want to keep this whole thing covered up with beautiful flowers and you want always to escape from yourself. Hence people are continuously seeking company. 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 watching 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!
We don’t have too much time. We don’t have time enough to grow, to be, to rejoice. But this is one of the basic problems created by a wrong upbringing: you avoid yourself. People are sitting in front of their TVs glued to their chairs, for four, five, even six hours. The average American is watching TV five hours per day, and this disease is going to spread all over the world. And what are you seeing? And what are you getting? Burning your eyes . . . But this has always been so; even if the TV was not there, there are other things. The problem is the same: how to avoid oneself because one feels so ugly. And who has made you so ugly?—your so-called religious people, your popes, your shankaracharyas. They are responsible for distorting your faces—and they have succeeded; they have made everybody ugly.
Each child is born beautiful and then we start distorting his beauty, crippling him in many ways, paralyzing him in many ways, distorting his proportion, making him unbalanced. Sooner or later he becomes so disgusted with himself that he is ready to be with anybody. He may go to a prostitute just to avoid himself. Love yourself, says Buddha. And this can transform the whole world. It can destroy the whole ugly past. It can herald a new age, it can be the beginning of a new humanity. Hence my insistence on love—but 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, on these sutras of the Buddha, which has paid any attention to the firs part: Love yourself.