“Don’t think of monkeys!”

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Osho says: “You cannot repress any thought… The easiest thing is not to force, but to be just a witness.”

A tribe of monkeys

When I say to you that meditation is nothing but thoughtlessness, you can misunderstand me. You are not to do anything to become thoughtless, because whatever you will do will be again a thought. You have to learn to see the procession of thoughts, standing by the side of the road as if it does not matter to you what is passing by. Just the ordinary traffic – if you can take your thoughts in such a manner that they are not of much concern, then easily, slowly, the caravan of thoughts which has continued for thousands of years disappears.

You have to understand a simple thing, that giving attention is giving nourishment. If you don’t give any attention but remain unconcerned, the thoughts start dying on their own. They don’t have any other way to get energy, any other source of life. You are their energy, and because you go on giving them attention, seriously, you think it is very difficult to be free from thought. It is the easiest thing in the world, but it has to be done in the right way.

The right way is just to stand by the side. The traffic goes on – let it go. Don’t make any judgment of good and bad; don’t appreciate, don’t condemn. That is what is meant by being easy. It is all okay.

Without forcing… and that is something that has to be remembered, because our natural tendency is that if we have to become thoughtless, why not force the thoughts? Why not throw them out? But by the very act of forcing them, you are giving them energy, you are giving them nourishment, you are taking note of them and you are making them important – so important that without throwing them, you cannot meditate.

Just try to throw out any single thought, and you will see how difficult it is. The more you throw it the more it bounces back! It will enjoy the game very much, and you are going to be defeated finally. You have taken a wrong route.

I have always told an ancient Tibetan story….

A young man was very much interested in the esoteric, in the mysterious. He found a saint who was known to have many secrets, but it was very difficult to get any secret from him. The young man said, “I will see. I will devote my whole life to his service, and I will get the secrets, the mysteries.”

So he remained with the old saint. The old saint told him, “You are unnecessarily wasting your time. I don’t have anything, I am just a poor old soul. Because I don’t speak, people think I am keeping some secret. But I don’t have anything to say, so I remain silent.”

But the man said, “I cannot be persuaded so easily. You will have to give me the secret which opens the door of all the mysteries.”

Tired of the young man, because twenty-four hours a day he was there… the poor old saint had to arrange for his food, had to ask somebody to take care for his clothes; the winter was coming and he would need more clothes. It had become a burden. Finally the old man got fed up. He told the young fellow, “Today I am going to tell you the secret. It is not very difficult. It is very simple.”

Tibetan Mantra in stone

In Tibet there is a common mantra which religious people repeat: Om mani padme hum. He said, “Everything is hidden in this.”

But the young man said, “Don’t befool me! Everybody knows this mantra, it is not a secret. It is the most widely known mantra to the Tibetans.”

He said, “It is true, it is widely known. But the key is not known to them for opening it. Do you know the key for opening it?”

The young man said, “Key? I have never heard that there is a key to open a mantra.”

“That is the secret! The key is, while you are repeating the mantra – just for five minutes – just don’t let any monkey pop into your head.”

He said, “You seem to be an old idiot! In my whole life I have never thought of a monkey. Why should I think of one?”

He rushed down the stairs of the temple where the old saint lived. But strangely, even though he was not reciting the mantra, monkeys started coming, giggling. He would close his eyes and they would be there. He would run to this side and they would be there. They were not outside, they were inside his head. And slowly slowly the crowd was becoming bigger. As far as he could see, only monkeys and monkeys, and doing all kinds of circus!

He said, “My god, this is the key? I am finished! I have not even started the mantra.”

Finally he said, “Let me take a good bath and get rid of all these monkeys.” But the more he pushed them away, the more they jumped towards him. He took the bath, he burned incense, he sat in a religious lotus posture, but whatever he was doing, monkeys were watching from every side. He said, “It is strange – monkeys have never visited this house…” The whole night he tried, but he could not repeat this simple mantra Om mani padme hum without monkeys jumping in.

By the morning he was so tired. He said, “This old saint, I will kill him! What kind of key…?” In the morning he rushed to the old saint and said, “Please take away your key. I am almost mad!”

The old man said, “That’s why I was not telling anybody, because the key is very difficult. Now do you understand why I was silent?”

He said, “I don’t want to listen to a single word from you. You just take this key back and let me go home. And I don’t want these monkeys to follow me!”

The saint said, “If you give back the key, never repeat the mantra again. The monkeys will come! I cannot help it, they are not in my power.”

The man dropped the mantra, he dropped the key. He descended the same steps and there was no monkey at all. He closed his eyes and there was no monkey. He looked all around and there was no monkey. He said, “It is strange…” He tried just once on the way, to see what happens when he says Om mani padme hum and closes his eyes. And they were all coming, from all directions!

You cannot repress any thought. The very repressive process gives it energy, life, strength. And it weakens you because you become a defeated partner in the game. The easiest thing is not to force but to be just a witness. If a monkey comes, let him come. Just say “Hello!” and he will go. But don’t tell him to go. Just be a witness that a monkey has come, or a thousand monkeys have come. What does it matter? It is none of your business. They may be going to some gathering, some religious festival, so let them go. It is none of your concern. And soon the crowd will disappear, seeing that “the man is not interested.”

All your thoughts are in the same category. Never force any thought to go away; otherwise it will rebound with greater energy. And the energy is yours! You are on a self-defeating track. The more you throw it away the more it will come back.

Osho, The Buddha: The Emptiness of the Heart – Talks on Zen, Ch 1 (excerpt)


Series compiled by Shanti
All excerpts of this series can be found in: 1001 Tales

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