Don’t Try to Love Yourself! Indian Yogi vs. New-Age Spirituality

New age spiritual philosophies are often staked on messages like “love yourself”, “be kind to yourself” and broad-brush  statements like “the universe loves you”. The idea apparently is for one to repeat these “affirmations”, stick them to “vision boards”, mirrors or whatever one has handy that enables sticking, so that one is constantly reminded to, you know, constantly brain-wash oneself through the day.

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev has a sobering reply to this trend of getting people to like themselves.

“Liking themselves?” Someone else should like you. “I like myself” – what nonsense is this? These concepts and philosophies are floating around all over the world, particularly on the West Coast of America. When I recently went to California, I happened to attend a lecture at Stanford University where the speaker held the view, “You must be compassionate to yourself.” I said, “To like, love and be compassionate, you need two entities. If you create two entities within yourself, you are either schizophrenic or possessed. Either you need a psychiatrist or an exorcist.

An individual means “not further divisible.” If you made yourself in such a way that you have no friends, and are not capable of being alone, you create two within yourself. Don’t play this game. Initially, it may be fun, but if it establishes itself, you will become sick. The line between sanity and insanity is very thin. If you keep pushing it, you will land on the other side, and you will not know where you are…

Do not try to like yourself. What is there to like about you? “Then should I dislike myself?” Why are you thinking on those terms? Where is the question of liking or disliking yourself? When you look at yourself as just a piece of life, there is neither a need to like nor dislike this most fundamental life within you. If you see, “This is only me and me alone,” you will keep this well. If there are two, doing makeup for both is difficult.”

Abundance of ‘Affirmations for Abundance’

Yet, the internet is full of people offering ‘affirmation sedatives’ that promise to help you attract ‘abundance’ in everything from love to wealth. Being compassionate and kind have been reduced, by the new-agers into fridge-magnet reminders that aim to help one cultivate an artificial personality where one must convince oneself and behave as though one has only compassion pouring out of every cell of one’s body.

So what about those yogis and saints who have strived hard over the millennia to understand real compassion and love? Those who have practiced austerities, given up worldly life, strived in daily life to be in yoga every moment, dedicated their entire lives to search for the Truth with a mind and heart yearning to know God? What a waste of time, then. They could’ve just created a vision board and stuck a few hearts and quotations to look at everyday and apparently had the universe love them back!

Quit playing games

All our suffering starts when we start to make up and believe stories about ourselves. When we begin playing games with ourselves. You cannot fundamentally and meaningfully transform yourself if you cannot “to thine own self be true”.

Conscience is different from Consciousness. One is moral and social, the other is existential.

Psychological tricks may be fine to give you a feel good kick from time to time but when life really bites, the tricks will fall by the wayside.

Sadhguru:

“With these ideas, “Love yourself. Believe in yourself. Be compassionate to yourself,” you are asking for sickness. And if you ask very strongly, you may get it. Do not ask for these things. It is vital to understand that you are an individual – you cannot divide yourself, or if you do, you are playing a psychological game with which you are asking for insanity to manifest itself. When you live with those kinds of people, it may seem normal, but if life situations push you, you will go crazy. If life situations are conducive, you can play these games and somehow get by, but nothing significant will happen in your life because unless you are an individual, you cannot transform; you cannot transcend.”

Reference: http://isha.sadhguru.org/blog/lifestyle/relationships/should-you-love-yourself/

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Shruti Bakshi
Shruti Bakshi is the Founder of the LivingWise Project. She has worked for several years in banking and financial services in London, Paris and Mumbai. Shruti writes about life at the intersection of spirituality and modern society. Her debut novel 'From Dior to Dharma' was released in May 2017. International link: From Dior to Dharma
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6 Replies to “Don’t Try to Love Yourself! Indian Yogi vs. New-Age Spirituality”

  1. RahulYuvi

    Very well written ! We need to just acknowledge the whole existence..that’s it…Question of Loving or not loving thyselves doesn’t even arise,for we too ,no matter how small, are a part of this beautiful existence or nature whatever you call it !

  2. yogibanker

    Hi Shruti, great article! I think you are right. What do you think of the whole loving kindness mindfulness style approach. I think loving, liking yourself is a tool, but not an end in itself. I’m sue anyone who is trained in humanistic pyschotherapy would have some interesting thoughts on this.

    • Shruti Bakshi

      Hi Scott, thanks for the comment! Yes that’s an interesting point – I think psychotherapists would see it differently because their interest is still in the mechanism of the mind. So they’ll for instance try to correct negative tendencies or emotions in a person by trying to turn their mind towards positive tendencies/habits/emotions, sometimes by blatantly repressing the unpleasant. But the yogic systems go a step beyond – they see that whether positive or negative, they’re still tendencies! And as long as we’re operating within our tendencies, we’re still within our own mind constructs, not able to perceive with equanimity. I agree though that psychological tools can be helpful for people in certain situations but cannot be ends in themselves – one needs to outgrow them. (Hope I’m not sounding too preachy – would hate that!).

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