The understanding of the value of “Self-love” has been contaminated by the religions, particularly Christianity. Born out of “original sin” how can we even accept ourselves, let alone love ourselves? Biblical statements like, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” stories about the good Samaritan, the endless insistence on “service” and charity, and loving thy neighbor, are drilled into the vulnerable minds of young children. Not surprisingly the term, “self-love” is typically demeaned and associated with vanity, narcissism, selfishness, egotism, and so on. In reality, in the world today, there seems so much hatred and so little love – for the neighbor or the self!

Where have we gone wrong?

“Love is such a great mystery that even those who have loved tremendously don't know exactly what it is. It has never been defined and it will never be defined. By its very nature it remains indefinable. You cannot put it into words; words are too small and love is so vast. Words cannot even contain a far away distant echo of love; but millions of people live with this stupid idea that they know what love is, and this idea that ‘I already know what love is’ prevents them from inquiring into the phenomenon of love.”

“This is a strange kind of disease, it is infectious. It is given by the parents, by the teachers, by the society, to every child. People start telling him: 'Love your mother, love your father, love your brother, love your sister,' and nobody ever helps him to understand what love is, nobody ever makes it clear to him in what direction he has to search for love. They just go on preaching to him: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” And he does not know what love is in the first place, so he starts looking around and starts imitating.

“He sees that the mother says she loves the father, the father says he loves the mother, so he learns that this is what love is all about. And what he sees is ugly. He sees that they are continuously quarreling. And children are very alert, very intelligent. Their way of understanding things is not like adults, because they have no prejudices at all. They can see immediately, directly. Their penetration is really keen. They have no clouds in their eyes, no cobwebs – nothing hinders them from seeing clearly what love is. Whatsoever they find in their home, in their family, they think is love, and they will repeat the program in their own life. They will do the same to their wife as their father was doing; they will do the same to their husband as their mother was doing.

“Every child is going to repeat a certain conditioning which he caught when he was very small. And he will also think that he is loving that he knows what love is – and this is not love at all. It is something else parading as love, something not only different but antagonistic to love.”

Osho, The Old Pond...Plop!, Talk #27

How can we unlearn this conditioning?

“The first thing to remember is to be more loving to yourself. The moralists have poisoned the whole world. They say, ‘Don't love yourself. This is selfishness.’ They say, ‘Love others, don't love yourself. The love of the self is sin.’

“And I say to you that this is absolute nonsense – and not only nonsense; it is dangerous nonsense. Unless you love yourself you cannot love anybody, it is impossible, because a man who is not in love with himself cannot be in love with anybody. If you are in love with yourself, only then can your overflowing love reach somebody.

“A man who has not loved himself will hate himself, and if you yourself hate yourself, how can you love anybody? You will hate others also. You can only pretend. And when you cannot love yourself, how do you expect others to love you? Everyone is condemned in his own eyes. The whole moralistic teaching gives you only one thing: techniques of self condemnation – how to condemn yourself, how you are bad, a criminal, guilty, a sinner.”

Osho, The Book of the Secrets, Talk #64

Can you say more about self-love and the selfishness the moralists speak of?

“I teach you to be really selfish so that you can be altruistic. There is no contradiction between being selfish and being altruistic: being selfish is the very source of being altruistic. But you have been told just the opposite up to now, you have been taught the contrary: if you want to be altruistic, if you want to love others, don't love yourself – hate yourself in fact. If you want to respect others, don't respect yourself – humiliate yourself in every possible way, condemn yourself in every possible way.

“What has happened out of such teaching? Nobody loves anybody. The person who condemns himself cannot love anybody. If you cannot love even yourself – because you are the closest person to yourself – if your love cannot even reach to the closest point, it is impossible for you to reach toward the stars. You cannot love anything – you can pretend. And that's what humanity has become: a community of pretenders, of hypocrites.

“Please try to understand what I mean by being selfish. First you have to love yourself, know yourself, be yourself. Out of that you will radiate love, understanding, tenderness, care for others. Out of meditation arises true compassion. But meditation is a selfish phenomenon, meditation means just enjoying yourself and your aloneness, forgetting the whole world and just enjoying yourself. It is a selfish phenomenon, but out of this selfishness arises great altruism. And then there is no bragging about it. You don't become egoistic, you don't serve people, you don't make them feel obliged to you. You simply enjoy sharing your love, your joy.

“Desiderata says, don't condemn yourself: You are a child of the universe…. You belong to this beautiful existence. This existence has needed you, otherwise you would not have been here. And it needed you the way you are, otherwise it would not have created you the way you are. So don't try to be somebody else.”

Osho, Guida Spirituale, Talk #13

“The man who loves himself is never selfish, he cannot be. In that very loving state he becomes unselfish. This is the paradox: the man who loves himself is unselfish. He loves himself so much that he can give, and by giving he is not poorer but richer. He knows now that the more he gives, the more he has. By loving himself he has come to know the joy of loving. Now he wants to love everybody else too, because as love spreads he will be going deeper and deeper into joy.

Osho, The Tongue-Tip Taste of Tao, Talk #3

Is there a difference between a healthy love of oneself and egoistical pride?

“There is a great difference between the two, although they both look very alike. The healthy love of oneself is a great religious value. The person who does not love himself will not be able to love anybody else, ever. The first ripple of love has to rise in your heart. If it has not risen for yourself it cannot rise for anybody else, because everybody else is farther away from you.

“It is like throwing a stone in the silent lake – the first ripples will arise around the stone and then they will go on spreading to the further shores. The first ripple of love has to be around yourself. One has to love one's body, one has to love one's soul, one has to love one's totality.

“And this is natural; otherwise you would not be able to survive at all. And it is beautiful because it beautifies you. The person who loves himself becomes graceful, elegant. The person who loves himself is bound to become more silent, more meditative more prayerful than the person who does not love himself.”

Osho, The Secret, Talk #18

“I teach you self-love. But remember, self-love does not mean egotistical pride, not at all. In fact it means just the opposite. The person who loves himself finds there is no self in him. Love always melts the self: that is one of the alchemical secrets to be learned, understood, experienced. Love always melts the self. Whenever you love, the self disappears. You love a woman and at least in the few moments when there is real love for the woman, there is no self in you, no ego.

“Ego and love cannot exist together. They are like light and darkness: when light comes, darkness disappears. If you love yourself you will be surprised – self-love means the self disappears. In self-love there is no self ever found. That is the paradox: self-love is utterly selfless. It is not selfish – because whenever there is light there is no darkness, and whenever there is love there is no self.”

Osho, The Secret, Talk #18

So, self-love is not a sign of egomania?

“Self-love is just the opposite of egomania. In self-love there is no self, only love. In egomania there is no love, only self. In self-love you will start becoming more and more relaxed. A person who loves himself is totally relaxed. To love somebody else may create a little tension, because the other need not be always in tune with you. The other may have his or her own ideas. The other is a different world. There is every possibility of collision, clash. There is every possibility of storm and thunder because the other is a different world. There is always a subtle struggle going on.

“But when you love yourself, there is nobody else. There is no conflict – it is pure silence, it is tremendous delight. You are alone, nobody disturbs you. The other is not needed at all. And to me, a person who has become capable of such deep love towards himself becomes capable of loving others. If you cannot love yourself, how can you love others? It must first happen at close quarters, it must first happen within you, to spread towards others.”

Osho, The Beloved, Vol. 1, Talk #10

“So my message to you is: become a friend to yourself, trust yourself, love yourself, and then slowly slowly let that love and trust and friendship overflow. Let it spread to as many people as possible in as many directions as possible. Even rocks have to be loved! And then you will suddenly find that they are not dead. The moment you touch something with love it becomes alive; the moment you touch something without love it becomes dead. The people who love live in an alive existence and the people who don't love live in a dead existence.”

Osho, The Tongue-Tip Taste of Tao, Talk #3

So how to start this journey of learning to love ourselves?

“One has to begin not by loving oneself, because you don't know who you are. Who are you going to love?

“If you start by loving yourself, you will love only your ego, which is not your self, which is your false personality. Almost everybody loves his personality; everybody loves his ego…. This is not the love I have been talking about.

“Yes, I would like you to love yourself, because unless you love yourself you cannot love anybody else. You don't know what love is if you have not loved yourself. But before you can love yourself you have to know yourself; hence love is secondary, meditation is primary.

“And the miracle is, if you meditate and slowly, slowly get out of the ego and out of your personality and realize your real self, love will come on its own. You don't have to do anything, it is a spontaneous flowering. But it blossoms only in a certain climate, and that climate I call meditation. In the climate of silence – no-mind, no disturbance inside, absolute clarity, peace and silence – suddenly, you will see thousands of flowers have opened within you, and their fragrance is love.

“Naturally, first you will love yourself, because that will be your first encounter. First you will become aware of the fragrance that is arising in you and the light that has been born in you, and the blissfulness that is showering on you. Then loving will become your nature. Then you will love many; then you will love all.”

Osho, The Invitation, Talk #30