It happened that one man came to Tilopa. The man wanted to attain buddhahood and he had heard that this Tilopa has attained. And Tilopa was staying in a temple somewhere in Tibet. The man came; Tilopa was sitting, and the man said, ”I would like to stop my thoughts.”
Tilopa said, ”It is very easy. I will give you a device, a technique. You follow this: just sit down and don’t think of monkeys. This will do.”
The man said, ”So easy? Just not thinking of monkeys? But I have never been thinking about them.”
Tilopa said, ”Now you do it, and tomorrow morning you report.”
You can understand what happened to that poor man… monkeys and monkeys all around. In the night he couldn’t get any sleep, not a wink. He would open his eyes and they were sitting there, or he would close his eyes and they were sitting there, and they were making faces…. He was simply surprised. ”Why has this man given this technique, because if monkeys are the problem, then I have never been bothered by them. This is happening for the first time!”
And he tried, in the morning again he tried. He took a bath, sat, but nothing doing: the monkeys wouldn’t leave him. He came back by the evening almost mad – because the monkeys were following him and he was talking to them. He came and he said, ”Save me somehow. I don’t want this, I was okay, I don’t want ANY meditation. And I don’t want your enlightenment – but save me from these monkeys!”
If you think of monkeys, it may be that they may not come to you. But if you want not… if you want them NOT to come to you, then they will follow you. They have their egos and they cannot leave you so easily. And what do you think of yourself: trying not to think of monkeys? The monkeys get irritated, this cannot be allowed.
This happens to people. Tilopa was joking, he was saying that if you try to stop a thought, you cannot. On the contrary, the very effort to stop it gives it energy, the very effort to avoid it becomes attention. So, whenever you want to avoid something you are paying too much attention to it. If you want not to think a thought, you are already thinking about it.
Remember this, otherwise you will be in the same plight. The poor man who was obsessed became obsessed with monkeys because he wanted to stop them. There is no need to stop the mind. Thoughts are rootless, homeless vagabonds, you need not be worried about them. You simply watch, watch without looking at them, simply look.
If they come, good, don’t feel bad – because even a slight feeling that it is not good and you have started fighting. It’s okay, it is natural: as leaves come in the trees, thoughts come to the mind. It’s okay, it is perfectly as it should be. If they don’t come, it is beautiful. You simply remain an impartial watcher, neither for nor against, neither appreciating nor condemning – without any valuation. You simply sit inside yourself and look, looking without looking at.
And this happens, that the more you look, the less you find; the deeper you look, the thoughts disappear, disperse. Once you know this then the key is in your hand.