The Path of Negation

The path of negation is the path of understanding. The path of affirmation, which is the first portion of the self-discovery path, is a path in which we don’t seek to understand, we seek to escape. We want to escape the pain of life, the pain of our minds, the pain of our bodies, the pain of the world. We don’t really want to ask a lot of questions; we just want to know a way out—and the way out is through avoidance. We don’t eat meat, we don’t have sex, we don’t deal with money, we don’t deal with things that we know have caused us pain. The great teachers explain why these things cause us pain—attachment, desire, having a self, you know, all the different things. But—we just escape. We don’t really care. You go to the doctor and you hurt. You’re not really interested in knowing how the medicine works, you just want it to.

When people seek the spiritual path—which is the path of affirmation, the exoteric path, the first path we walk on, the first part of the path—it’s because they’re in pain and they want to get away from the pain. So we have a series of prescriptions that we ask them to follow, which causes them to regulate their lives, to separate themselves from the things that cause them pain. The things that cause pain are desire, attachment, egotism, vanity—all the things that religious people tend to avoid.

Now, the avoidance of that which causes you pain does not produce enlightenment. It produces avoidance. The avoidance may lessen or tranquilize the pain, but it will not produce enlightenment. Knowledge and understanding produce enlightenment. Religion is the avoidance of pain and suffering, I mean symbolically, in the hope for a better afterlife, meaning one less painful than the one we’re in. So if I don’t do this and I don’t do that and I do this and I do that, my next life, be it in heaven or another incarnation, will be better than this. In other words, it’s all predicated on the avoidance of pain.

But the path of negation, which is the esoteric or more advanced part of the enlightenment process, is the path of understanding. It’s the path of knowledge. Knowledge has nothing to do with avoidance or attraction. In our earlier understandings of life, we’re bound by attraction, desire. We go after what we desire, and if we don’t get it we’re frustrated and unhappy. If we do get it, we’re happy, maybe, for a short period of time—till the pleasure ends, till another desire comes and torments us. When it’s fulfilled, our expectations were greater and we’re frustrated because what we thought we would experience when this desire was fulfilled didn’t come up to what we thought, and we’re frustrated by that.

Human life is painful because of desire. We desire things and we chase after them. We’re afraid of things and we run away from them. And somewhere between the desire and the aversion we exist as a self. The self can be measured by what it avoids and what it seeks and by its sense of history—past remembrances. That makes a self.

Religion offers to people a way to get away from pain. You know you’re in pain; that’s why you go. You go seeking something, an antidote to pain. You’ve tried this, you’ve tried that; it hasn’t worked. So you go to religion. What the religions offer you is—it works! Turn your attention away from the sensorial so much, develop the virtues, avoid injuring others, avoid hate, essentially—self-control, compassion, love, understanding—we all know what religion symbolizes. Oh, there are fanatical, crazy religions that tell you to kill people who aren’t in your religion. That’s not a religion. That’s a political philosophy. But a real religion is something that leads us above pain. By following a number of different practices that are always the same—they may be rearranged differently in a particular religion or given different names—but it’s always the same, it’s structural, it’s what reduces pain, the pain that we experience in being, in our being-ness which can’t be ended by death since death is just a doorway to another condition that we experience.

When we follow the guidelines of religion, we find that our lives are better; we’re happier. Self-control works. Patience works. Kindness works. Love works. All of these things help. And when we lose them, we lose the path and our lives are miserable. When we’re selfish, vindictive, angry, when we don’t care more for others than we care for ourselves, life is terrible. So we follow the path of affirmation and we find it’s better. Life is better. It’s beautiful to love. To be loved is irrelevant. But when you love someone, you experience that emotion. It’s a beautiful emotion. It has its limitations, but it sure beats hate. To assist someone, to not always have to have everything, to give somebody else the bigger piece of cake—when we do it, we feel better. Practice it, you’ll find out.

The religious values are totally important, and as we practice them, to begin with, our lives are better. Then of course, after many incarnations of practicing them, we go into the monastic phase where we just want to really refine the practice. It’s worked thus far, and our karmas lead us to a monastery. In the monastery we take a vow of chastity, we take a vow of poverty and we devote our lives completely to the religious condition—more completely. Who knows where our minds are, but outwardly we have accepted certain conditions physically.

Now, just because you don’t have sex and because you don’t have money doesn’t mean that your mind is pure—but you’re doing those things in an attempt to purify the mind. Just because someone puts on an ochre robe or a priest’s robe means nothing. That’s just an outfit, that’s cloth. It symbolizes a state they hope to reach. It symbolizes a penitent, basically, someone who’s trying to purify themselves through austere religious practices.

But once you’ve done that or taken that as far as it goes, you will not become enlightened. You will have great self-control. But you will not be enlightened. I mean, go to a monastery and see who’s around. There are people who perhaps have self-control, more than most people do, they may be happier, their minds may be a little more still, they meditate; they pray, but they’re not enlightened. To become enlightened you have to go much further. You have to deal with the conditions that have arisen in the practice of religion. Sri Ramakrishna used to say, you have a thorn in your foot and you take the second thorn and you get the first one out, and then you throw them both away. You don’t keep the second thorn.

Religion is something that eliminates the initial pain that we experience when we’re out of control, when we’re completely bound by the senses and by our angers and lusts, our petty jealousies and our hates. But then religion, which removes the initial pain, has to be thrown away also. That’s the second thorn that gets out the first thorn, when we move into the world of enlightenment and samadhi, which is the esoteric, or what we call the path of negation. Samadhi is the path of negation. Not negation in the way that we think of positive and negative. It’s just a word that I’m using to try and express a direction. The word itself has no value. No word does, other than expressing a direction.

So then, the path of negation, or what we call tantra, leads us beyond self-control, beyond poverty, beyond sexual abstinence, beyond these types of purifications. In the path of negation, principally we’re working with what we call power. We avoid power and we learn humility and purity in the beginning.

Someone asked me not long ago, “Gee, in the 1980s and 70s you used to talk a lot about humility and purity and you used to teach those things. Will you teach them again?” And I said it’s not likely, because I was working with a group of students who were in the beginning phases of self-discovery. Most of my students now, we’ve gone through that phase, we’ve done that. We were doing a lot of basic work, structural work, exoteric work. But now I’m teaching about power because this is more advanced, now that they’ve gone through those rungs of the ladder.

Anyone who comes and studies with me now, since I really don’t teach about those things, has to have learned those things in another life or someplace else. I don’t teach the basics anymore. I mean, obviously I teach the basics of meditation and things like that. But the topics are completely esoteric now. I only teach tantra because it’s that part of the incarnation where the majority of my students are ready for that. Anyone else who comes in has to pick up the basics someplace else. I don’t do that anymore because it’s not necessary. My students require a more advanced education now.

The advanced education in tantra obviously has to do with the entrance into samadhi, the negation of the self. That’s what the path of negation means—not the negation of life, but the negation of limited states of mind, the negation of anything that is not enlightenment, which is the self. The two principal samskaras, perhaps three that have to be overcome—there are more—have to do with sex, money and power because in all those countless incarnations that one goes through in the religious practice, the avoidance factor for money and sex and power is tremendous, and we eventually sort of brand those things as evil. Well, they’re not. But we say they are because we’re so addicted to them we have to think of them that way for a while.

It’s like when you’re breaking up with somebody in a relationship, and maybe they’re not really so bad but you have to think they are for a while, just because you won’t let go of them and you have to do that now, so for a while you just think of them in a worse light than they really are. You really hate them, maybe for a little while. You need to do that to break away because if you don’t break away, something very unhealthy is going to happen. Then once you break away, you can let go of it—well, they’re really not so bad, you know. But for a while we have to use that. In other words, it’s kind of a martial arts move, where we have to use a certain emotion for a while to get away from something. But then we can think of somebody in a nice sense. We have to break our own attachment. It’s not their attachment to us, it’s our attachment to them.

Self-discovery is realistic. It’s not built on ideas and philosophies. It’s what works. Philosophies are nice if you like philosophies. But self-discovery is predicated on something that really brings you into enlightened states of mind.

So in tantra, in the path of negation, the primary education is exposing the student to the things that they’ve learned in past lives to avoid, and letting them gain knowledge about these things so that they can accept them as not good or bad. The advanced path is the path of knowledge, not avoidance, but knowledge. In the light of knowledge, all things are equal. All things are good if you will, because in a state of knowledge, that’s how life is. Seen through enlightenment, all things are enlightenment. Seen through the eye of purity, all things are pure.

What the student has to do is pursue all their mental obscurations and reach equipoised states of perfect mind, or as perfect as they can get on any given day, and the next day get to one that’s a little more perfect. Not a concept of pure or perfect, but perfection—in other words, the reality of the clear dharma state, the spotless state of original mind, which is inherent within all of us.

Mind itself is pure. The only time it doesn’t seem pure is when you’re in a state of consciousness that is differentiated, that is not pure. Again, the lack of purity does not imply evil. There is no such thing as corruption. That’s just how you see things from a kind of strange state of mind, and if you’re in a state of mind that sees things that way, that is how things appear.

I used to have a girlfriend a long time ago, when I was in college. She taught me a few things. She was an artist, and we used to go out walking sometimes. We’d be walking along and she’d be looking at the ground at all the trash people would drop. In my mind I saw all this junk, and I’d say, “Ooh, that’s gross. God, people are trashing the environment.” You know, it was the 60s, right? How horrible, all this garbage. And she said, “Wait a minute, look at the colors down there. Look at the colors of the M&M box or the—”, whatever it was. “Look at the colors,” she said, “there’s a whole world of colors, there’s an art here that’s present.”

I started to look at it that way, and I just said, “My God! I wasn’t seeing it.” In other words, I had such a defined way of automatically labeling things that were on the ground—that this was wrong and it was ugly. Then I looked at it from her point of view, and she was absolutely correct in that state of mind. She was seeing art. She was moving through worlds of art and they were moving through her. It was a much more interesting way to look at things because the way I was seeing things was very unpleasant. I was walking around saying, “Oh this is awful, oh, look at this, oh look at that,” and it made me unhappy. And the way she was seeing things was, “Look there’s no corruption here, there’s art.” That’s tantra. She was tantric, and that’s tantra.

In tantra, we see that life is art. But to bring yourself into those states of mind requires power. It’s very intricate; there’s no way that I can explain to you how this is done. There are no words to explain how you break into the advanced mental states, how you negate—if you will—the self. Not that it’s exactly a negation, that’s just another word. I can’t explain it to you. It’s something that I teach; it’s something that I live in all the time—that I am. But I can’t explain it. Words don’t do it.

What we do in tantra is, we go do things. We do things. Words are deceptive. You think you understand something because it’s explained to you and now you are under no obligation to do anything because you understand it. That’s not what I mean by the path of knowledge. The path of knowledge has nothing to do with words. The path of knowledge means that you have brought your mind into its original pure state, which is the original pure state of the universe.

Original is not time-structured, by the way. When I say “original,” that doesn’t mean a long time ago. Original occurs at every given moment. Original is a way of trying to explain something; it’s a term that we use in Buddhism to suggest that everything is pure. It doesn’t mean that things were originally this way and we can’t get back to it. It has nothing to do with time. The English translation has a time sense to it.

We are pure. That’s all there is, is purity. But you don’t see it that way because you’re in obscure states of mind. So in the teaching of tantra, what I do is direct people to engage in specific practices, and when they do those things they negate their samskaras and the self goes away because the self that a person has on the esoteric path is propped up by their avoidances, just as the self that a person has before they reach the esoteric path, before they start religion. In other words, in the beginning the self is created by attraction; some aversion, obviously, through fears. That creates a self. That self causes pain, frustration, whatever—the absence of enlightenment. Then, in the practice of the exoteric path we gradually, as we work through it, overcome—we drop the old self. Very often on a spiritual path, they even give you a new name.

Baptism suggests that you’re leaving the old life and entering the new. A confirmation name, a Buddhist name, a Hindu name that the teacher gives you means you are on the path and your old life is gone. Forget about it, don’t think about it, it’s gone. You are new. You are reborn. You are reborn on the exoteric path. But now on the exoteric path you will develop history and you will develop a new self. A happier brighter self, but it still stops enlightenment. After many incarnations of being on the exoteric path, this self becomes as hard, as predicated and as obscure, even though not as painful, as the self you had before the religion. In other words, the good self blocks you.

So then, in the advanced practice, you take a person and you have them go do the things that are their opposites. But they do them in a way that they couldn’t do them back at the beginning before they followed any path at all. They used to just go out and get rich but they were bound by it, you see. Now they have to go out and become wealthy or whatever it might be. They have to do that—but with purity, as part of their yoga, not as an attraction. In doing all the things that they’ve learned to avoid over the incarnations in religion—which has created this new religious, better, prototype self, but which ultimately blocks enlightenment—now they have to go do those things which they think they shouldn’t do. It’s just intrinsic in the multi-life memory: “I shouldn’t be rich. I shouldn’t do this. I shouldn’t have power,” because you know it corrupts, it brings you into very painful states of mind.

So then, the adept, the student, has to go do those things. But they’re not doing them like they were all the way back, you see. Because in the doing of them, they erase the current self. In other words, what forges the self is attraction and aversion. Your aversion to the things that used to cause you pain, which has created this happier new self, block you. So you have to now go out and go do the things that you don’t want to do. But you have to do them in a way that you obviously couldn’t do them in the beginning, because that’s why you got away from them.

In the beginning, wealth was causing you pain, your attachment to it, because it created a self that was ugly. Now that you’ve created a self that’s much nicer, through lives of poverty and chastity, great. But that self also blocks you. Now we have to go become wealthy again because you have to overcome your attachment to poverty that was created, and your attachment to the new, happier self. We’re not going to go back to the original self that was painful; we’re going to move on to no self.

So we give up things for a time, not because they matter but so we can change selves. We develop a kind of a caretaker personality, which is a nicer self for a while, on the road to no self. But then we have to go back when we’re strong enough, when our yoga’s tight enough, when our power’s up, if we really want to break through into higher levels of attention. And we have to go do all the things that we’ve learned to avoid without being affected by them. So we turn them all to a higher esoteric principle. We go become rich as part of yoga. We use that money only for our own life support and for doing good works, you see? In other words, we put a twist on it, naturally. If we get power, we will only use it in a constructive way, not in a destructive way, per se.

In other words, we learn to handle these things because there’s no self. If there’s no self, there’s no lack of purity, therefore we can’t use things in an impure way. Power and money, sex, all of these things are no problem in the hand of innocence, are they? In the absence of self, how can these things be considered obscurations or defilements since they are enlightenment, too. They are void in their nature and in their substance.

All things are void. So how possibly could there be any obscurations, since everything is void, when you’re void itself? There’s only the void. In the void, there’s only the shining, perfect clear light of reality; there’s no obscuration. To assume that wealth or sexuality or the usage of power, any of these things, are not void in nature, gives them a reality that they don’t actually have. They’re void. In the experience of their voidness, of their vacuity, the self, the temporal self, the transient caretaker, somewhat happier self that we’ve evolved on the exoteric path, vanishes. It dissolves in the clear light of reality, and there’s only the clear light of reality.

The final battles are the samskaras of good karma. They prevent samadhi. But you can’t just reach a mental understanding where you say, “Oh good, I understood what you’ve said, I’ve got it.” Nothing will happen; you won’t go into samadhi. You have to go do these things but with complete detachment. Naturally, for a religious person, the avoidance is intensive. They just don’t want to go do these things; they are so hung up on good karma and on method from so many lifetimes that there’s a terrific avoidance. But if they keep the avoidance, they will not become enlightened. They will stay in whatever mental states they’re in.

So the path of negation, tantra, has to do with silencing the self that has arisen, in a temporary sense, the wave that has arisen out of the ocean from good karma. The good karma of all those past lives of religious practice has brought you to the path of negation, but you are still attached to it and not necessarily consciously. What you have to do is go and do the things that keep that self empowered, that keep it manifest. You have to go and do the things it doesn’t want, which have become reflexive.

In other words, a true martial artist cannot be reflexive because if you’re reflexive, then someone else can calculate your reflexes and beat you. Reflexes are fine in the beginning of martial arts when we have no self-control and we can beat an opponent because our reflexes are better than theirs, and faster. We don’t think. If you take the time to think in a fight, you lose; a great martial artist can’t be reflexive. They’ve gone through that phase and now they operate purely through voidness/vacuity—no one can predict the move. Because you know, if you’ve trained in the reflexive schools yourselves, if you feint, if you make a move, you know what the reflex is going to be. Therefore, when they make that [move], you do the feint; they kick, they punch, whatever it is—you know what they’re going to do so while they’re making that motion, [so] you real quick move the other leg out from underneath them and crunch them. You can lead them into a reflexive move and defeat them, which is what you do in intermediate martial arts.

But in advanced martial arts, you’ve moved beyond that. You’re void. There’s no sense of what the combat will be. You don’t know what you’re going to do, nor are you going to be reflexive. You will perceive the voidness in your opponent and they will lose. You have to go beyond these reflexes that you develop. And anybody who just stays with their reflexes will lose against someone who’s gone beyond that. You see? The principle is in all things.

So to go beyond karma you have to end the structure of self. Even a good self will create another good self in the next life and another one, and that good self will never be enlightened. You’ll be bound, life after life, by good karma, which is better I suppose than being bound by bad karma, which would imply more pain. That’s what we mean by good and bad. So you must—if you find a tantric master, he has you go and do all the things you hate to do. You won’t know why you hate them, but it’ll just—you don’t want to do them. The things that he’s having you do are things that just seem totally contrary to you, to anything spiritual. Well, of course they are because all your ideas of what is spiritual are completely based around the path of affirmation, which is where you’ve been for a long time and that’s what caused you to get to where you are to meet the tantric master.

So the tantric master now will say, “OK, good.” The things they’ll tell you, you don’t want to do. You don’t even know why you don’t want to do them. You don’t know why it arouses such hate, anger. It’s because the self is so stuck, it’s so defined. And it’s got to go. Just as the other self went a long time ago before your current memory. Many lives ago you had another type of self that you had for countless lives and you eradicated it. You brought a new tenant in. This tenant is much nicer, which gives you some thought about what the other one must have been like! (Audience laughs.) The other one must have been a reeeal baaad dude, right? You look at this one and you can tell how impure, how uncontrolled, how filled with—you know, whatever it is that this one is. So if this is the new improved model, if this is the one that’s much more advanced than most of the people out there on the planet, it tells you what most people are in, which you know already. You know that already. You can see their auras. You can see the grayness and the deadness and you know you’re way beyond that.

Then you wonder, well, what am I doing in practice, since I know what I’m like, I’m such a creep. But you aren’t, in comparison to everyone else. You used to have one of those dead selves out there. You got rid of it. The reason you see yourself as a creep is because you have an appreciation of what perfection is, whereas no one else conceives of themselves in that way, since they don’t even strive. They just are—they exist, like amoebas, globbing along, making little amoebas.

Obviously if you think that you are a vile slime, that means that you aspire to something higher. No, I mean that whole understanding can only come out of a sense of perfection, do you understand? It’s because you have a sense of perfection, and you obviously want that, that you find something wrong with anything you consider to be imperfect. But most people don’t have that sense at all. Everything’s just fine the way it is. They don’t realize that they’re horrible, in other words, in a sense—that there’s limitation. They don’t know why they’re in pain.

So then, you’ve created this new self over many lives of practice. But now this one has to go if you want the ecstasy, if you want the enlightenment. You’re so attached to your ideas of practice. A tantric master always freaks everybody out, because he says, “Well, you know, let’s go do it in the road,” whatever it is. Let’s do the opposite of whatever you think should be. It’s only in the doing of that—you can’t fake it, you’ve got to go do the practice. In the doing of the practice, in a pure state, for the purpose of greater purification and for the purpose of enlightenment, if you’re doing it for that reason, then it frees you. If you’re not doing it for that reason, it would just bind you further to a self.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with anything. But if you want to get beyond self to enlightenment, there’s a way. Tantra is the advanced way; it’s the path of negation. The earlier way is the exoteric method of religion. Tantra is the advanced practice, the esoteric practice, in which we negate the evolved self that we’ve created through the earlier sections of the path.