The Negative Way As Whiplash

The negative way refers to the method by which false identifications are removed, typically one after the other. It’s fair to say that a good number of spiritual practitioners don’t much like the negative way since it’s believed that it can desiccate the spirit and inadvertently lead one to nihilism. More preferable is the positive way, the direct realization that you are THIS.

The reason these objections to the negative way don’t stick, however, is that the actual experience of earnest sadhakas actually reveals that, to a considerable degree, this is just how the path “works.” You see, time and again, just where you’re caught; it’s painful; you’re invited to inquire more deeply.

Consider some examples:

1. Suppose your greatest vice is pride. Then, sure enough, you’ll be angry that “these fools” who continue to irk you. Pride is precisely what’s leading to the anger, then the whiplash you experience. The negative way says, “Whatever you are is beyond pride. Go!”

2. If you find yourself caught up with a recurrent selfish desire, you’ll experience whiplash: you won’t get what you want, and the actual result will be at once surprising and painful. Find out what is beyond desire.

3. If you’re carrying around fear within you, you’ll see that fear manifest time and again, sometimes in shocking ways. This seeing will slowly free you from “I am the body.” What is it that is fearless?

4. After a while, it’s clear that the thoughts that come up during seated practice are remarkably recurrent. Not only are you not your thoughts but thoughts are not real (they are asat). By virtue of seeing this movie play over, and over, and over, and over again, you can’t help but realize their unreality. What is prior to all thought?

It certainly seems that dukkha continues, provided there is mindfulness, to spur disidentification and to engender a deeper inquiry into What I Am. Therefore, welcome all whiplash as your best friend.