A lama from the Eastern Tibetan province of Golok came to see the great Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye. The lama told Jamgön Rinpoche that he had stayed in a retreat hut meditating for nine or ten years, “My practice is quite good now. At times I have some degree of clairvoyance. Whenever I place my attention on something, it remains unshakable; I feel so quiet and serene! I experience a state totally without thoughts and concepts. During long stretches of time I experience nothing but bliss, clarity and nonthought. I would say that my meditation has been rather successful!”
“Oh what a pity!” was Jamgön Kongtrül’s response.
The meditator left slightly downcast, only to return the next morning. “Honestly, Rinpoche, my practice of samadhi is good. I have managed to equalize all mental states of pleasure and pain. The three poisons of anger, desire and dullness have no real hold over me anymore. After meditating for nine years, I would think that this level is quite good.”
“Oh what a pity!” retorted Jamgön Kongtrül. The meditator thought, “He is reputed to be an eminent master beyond jealousy, but it sounds to me as if he is slightly jealous of me. I wonder!” He then said, “I came here to ask you about the nature of mind because of your great reputation. My meditation during day time is fine; I’m not asking about that at all. I’m quite satisfied! What I want to ask about is how to practice during the night; that is when I experience some difficulty.”
Jamgön Kongtrül’s reply was again just “Oh what a pity!” The lama thought, “He really is envious of me! He probably doesn’t have a fraction of the clairvoyant powers I do!” When the meditator explained his clairvoyance, “For me it is no problem at all to see three to four days into the future,”
Jamgön Kongtrül again said, “Oh what a pity!”
The meditator left for his quarters. He must have begun to doubt himself, because after some days he returned and said, “I’m going back to my retreat. What should I do now?”
Jamgön Rinpoche told him, “Don’t meditate any more! From today on, give up meditating! If you want to follow my advice, then go home and stay in retreat for three years, but without meditating even the slightest! Do not cultivate the state of stillness even in the slightest!”
The meditator thought to himself, “What is he saying! I wonder why; what does it mean? On the other hand, he is supposedly a great master. I will try it out and see what happens.” So he said, “All right, Rinpoche,” and left. When back in retreat, he had quite a hard time trying not to meditate. Every time he simply let be, without the attempt to meditate, he always found himself meditating again.
Later he said, “That first year was so difficult! The second year was somewhat better.” At this point, he found that in the ‘act of meditating’ he had simply been keeping his mind busy. Now he understood what Jamgön Kongtrül meant by saying “Do not meditate.”
The third year he reached true nonmeditation, leaving deliberate cultivation totally behind. He discovered a state utterly free from doing and meditating; by simply leaving awareness exactly as it naturally is. At that point nothing spectacular took place in his practice, no special clairvoyance either. Moreover, his meditation experiences of bliss, clarity and nonthought had vanished, after which he thought, “Now my meditation practice is totally lost! I better go back and get more advice!”
Returning before Jamgön Kongtrül and relating his experience, Rinpoche replied, “Right on! Right on! Those three years made your meditation successful! Right on!” Jamgön Kongtrül continued, “You don’t need to meditate by deliberately keeping something in mind, but also don’t be distracted!”
The meditator said, “It may be due to my former training in stillness, but, actually, the stretches of distraction are quite short. There isn’t much distraction anymore. I feel I have discovered what you meant. I experience a state which is not created through meditation yet which lasts for a while, by itself.” “Right on!”
Jamgön Kongtrül said, “Now spend the rest of your life training in that!”