What should I do about my anger if it is already there?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If it is anger that gradually builds up and that you can feel physically, then dig in the garden. If it is a violent temper instead, then think, “Now I’ll become like a tree trunk;” or simply imagine Karmapa above of your head, then let him fall into your heart and radiate.

If you can get so much space in mind that you can recognize the things before they come, then you can work with them. Then you are not the target; you can see everything in a beyond-personal way. Then you also know that all beings want to have happiness and avoid suffering, but they don’t know what is really happening. People can’t help it. There is no one who doesn’t want to have happiness and avoid suffering. But people are so confused that they almost always grab the nettles instead of the flowers. They believe that they can create an advantage for themselves by harming someone. But that is impossible; sooner or later the difficulties always come back on oneself. Everything is cause and effect. And if you have a connection to some difficult people, then think, “I must have done something to them previously. Now I will drop the ball, because if I throw it back, then it might come back at me in my next life. Rather, I’ll push the ball away and not pick it up. Then I won’t owe those people anything anymore. Bye-bye, good luck.” It would be smart to think this way.

The most stupid thing one can do is to take personal trips seriously, to believe they are real and thus hold on to them.

What is the difference between anger and disappointment?

Anger is the wish to harm others. Disappointment means regret that great possibilities couldn’t be used. If, for example, a great opportunity passes by or friends are not doing well, then a deep feeling of regret appears. If the missed opportunities affect oneself strongly, then one has to be careful that the feeling doesn’t degenerate into anger.

Is it true that anger is the worst of all disturbing emotions?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Anger is the biggest enemy of our development. If one is angry, one destroys everything: the joy, the good feelings—everything.

Anger is actually a confession of weakness. At least this is how we see it in Scandinavia, my home. If you become angry, you have already failed. It means you couldn’t handle the situation.

But this doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t act powerfully! Powerful action is important; but one must not be angry in the process. One can do all kinds of things as long as the motivation is to bring the least possible amount of suffering into the world. With this motivation, one can even become a soldier as a Buddhist. I would also take drastic measures if someone got in the way of a good cause; but it would be without anger. It is all about the feeling one has while doing something. A doctor who doesn’t operate on a patient because it causes pain is not a good doctor.

How can we deal with anger in the Diamond Way?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Many people have difficulties with anger and other disturbing emotions. There are three basic types of people: mostly confused, mostly angry, and mostly greedy. One can work with all three types on three different levels.

In the case of anger, on the outer level we can try to turn anger into compassion. We can wish others happiness, especially when we see that they experience many things that cause them difficulties. On the inner level, one works with meditation. Here we invest a lot of time in the building-up phase of meditation; and the melting phase—in which the Buddha dissolves into light and melts into us—we keep very short. On the third level of the Diamond Way (Mahamudra for us or Maha Ati for the Nyingmas), one doesn’t put any more energy into the emotion. One can let anger in like a thief entering an empty house. He can run around, look into the drawers and under the carpet, but he’ll find that everything is empty. He doesn’t get any energy. And then when he disappears, he won’t come back again so easily. One can also think of the song about Lili Marleen: “Everything passes, everything will be over sometime.”

If you look at the cause and the effect of anger, then you can see that neither bearing it in silence nor playing it out can help you deal with it better. Only when you are no longer angry should you act. Anger is confused; you make many mistakes while you are angry. You act as if you were under the influence of alcohol: you have red eyes, say strange things, and break things with your hands. You can’t drive a car well and you can injure yourself easily. Adrenaline poisoning is exactly the same. Without anger you can act much better in any situation, and you also get to the root of an issue better.

You have to know that anger is not our friend. Anger might give warmth, but it is like burning our money instead of coal or oil. Within a very short time, anger burns up a lot of good impressions that have accumulated in the mind. It burns all the joy out of you, which could have led to more development otherwise. As soon as you have identified anger as an enemy, you have to catch it and defeat it.

Anger is a real weakness. It gives us a perceived feeling of strength, but in reality it harms us. When one is certain of this and really has realized, “Anger is not my friend, it doesn’t help me, it only harms me,” then one can remove this feeling. For this kind of work, there is a method with three levels:

  1. Give less food to the tiger to keep it from getting too loud. Anger only lives from the energy you put into it. Watch out for the situations where it always throws you into the water.
  2. Check closely how the tiger functions, how it paces back and forth baring its teeth and rolling its eyes. Observe precisely how it works, how the emotion is.
  3. Then ride the tiger. Once you know it well, use its power as raw energy for all the tasks in front of your nose.

1st level: Avoid.

As long as you don’t feel very strong, I advise avoiding situations that come too close to you and where you don’t have any control. This is better than embarrassing yourself in front of your friends or destroying friendships. It is not cowardly to get out of the way of difficulties and trouble if you know that you usually become very angry in such situations. It is better to take a walk in the fresh air; that’s much healthier. Normally, we cannot avoid anger very easily, because the reason we become angry is actually that we have difficulties ourselves. If we don’t have anger, then it cannot be triggered. But if we have the vibration of this feeling within ourselves, then it can be activated. So that you don’t have to avoid such situations all the time, you can learn to attain inner distance. This is how to become stronger and able to do more on the 2nd level.

2nd level: Develop compassion.

If you always finds yourself in situations where anger arises again and again, then you can turn the negativity around and transform anger into compassion.

To get some inner distance, you can make clear to yourself, “The anger wasn’t there before, it won’t be there later, and if I respond to it now there will only be suffering.” Or one builds up a protective barrier by experiencing the situation as if in a dream. This means just observing everything as if it were a movie. Observe each scene and use the salami technique—cutting them into individual sequences. With this technique you will become able to act where you otherwise might have stiffened up or done something illogical. For example, in a situation where someone is approaching you with a knife, or if someone is always talking badly about you, then you can transform your reaction into compassion. You can think, “People have so many difficulties; they need me as a scapegoat because they have a real problem themselves. And they have to endure themselves twenty-four hours a day, while I only have to spend ten minutes with them.”

3rd level: Transform anger into mirror-like wisdom.

You are angry, but you don’t act on it. You observe how the anger appears in the space of mind and how it dissolves again. You might think of throwing a few cups of coffee into the other’s face or slamming the door. But you don’t do it. You just sit there—like a tree trunk, as the Tibetans say—and you see how the feeling dissolves again. You perceive that feelings come, change, and leave again. You are aware of what’s there, but you don’t hit anyone and you don’t yell or reach for your gun. Instead you just sit there and observe how it passes by.

The disturbing emotions awaken your interest more and more rarely, until one day they just stay away. You experience anger like a bad program on TV: you don’t have to watch it or take it seriously. Then the anger leaves, like waves that come and go in the ocean. And when the wave, the emotion, later returns to the mind, it has changed. Suddenly you have experiences of complete clarity, of real insight and total understanding. Such experiences of beyond-personal, fully clear, mirror-like states will appear ever more powerfully until you are able to hold this state of wisdom.

This is the transformation of anger. It is called “mirror-like wisdom” and it appears within everyone who is able to let their emotions dissolve back into space. This creates a domino effect: transformed anger brings down pride, pushes over attachment, removes jealousy, and finally it even dissolves ignorance. And then everything is wisdom.

4th additional step: Learn to use the energies.

If you have pacified the disturbing emotion with the hundred-syllable purification mantra or through compassion, then you have regained control; you can’t explode anymore. The moment after the biggest wave has passed by—when the energy itself is still there but unable to seduce you into doing something negative—then you can use it for things that have to be done anyway. When you recognize your anger, pride, jealousy, and so on, then wash the car, clean the toilet, tidy up the house, dig in the garden, take care of your thirty phone calls and fifty letters.

It also doesn’t make sense to turn feelings into dramas, to work them out by doing something like beating a pillow while imagining beating someone up. Mind is truly a creature of habit—it becomes what we put into it. If we play out our anger, we’ll see that the next chance it gets it will come back with even more force. And after a while, all our friends are suddenly gone because no one likes angry people. Anger creates bad vibrations. Don’t give any power to it; don’t think about it. Rather push it into a corner until it dies by itself, and do something useful instead!

Disturbing emotions are like clouds that pass in front of the sun. Treating them like waves in the water that come and go, one doesn’t have to take them seriously; but the water in them can be very useful. Actually, in Buddhism our view of disturbing emotions is very different from that of other religions. In the Diamond Way, we see all disturbing emotions as raw material for enlightenment.

Is it true that the actual cause of anger is ignorance?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Yes, all suffering and difficulties appear from ignorance. We don’t know what causes happiness and suffering, and so we grab the nettles instead of the flowers; we make mistakes all the time. The local religion here [Christianity] has the opinion that anger appears from evil. But Buddha says that its cause is ignorance.

Basic ignorance is mind’s inability to recognize the unity of the observer, what is observed, and the act of observing itself. In other words, subject, object, and action form a totality and condition each other. The unenlightened mind is unable to recognize this unity—just as the eye can see outwardly but cannot see itself.

If we do not recognize this unity, then everything that is happening in the space of mind fragments into an “I” and a “you.” Due to the tension between “I” and “you,” likes and dislikes appear.

More complicated emotions like pride, jealousy, and confusion appear, and one considers them real even though they change constantly. One does one thing, thinks another, and says yet a third thing. This brings results and creates habits, which then come back on oneself. So this is how ignorance becomes the cause of anger.

How does anger arise?

Answer of Lama Ole

If one is completely within the flow of things, then no anger arises. The precondition for anger is a separation in the mind: “I am here and something is happening there.”

If you don’t create this separation, then you can enjoy everything. You share a totality, everything flows. But if you start to think, “I am here and they are there,” and so on, then things get funny. From that point on, anger can develop.

Then there is also idealistic anger. It appears when one thinks that things should actually be different from how they are. I am disturbed by a few such things as well—for example, by what people in Africa or in the Islamic world are doing to each other. But if instead one has compassion and hopes that maybe those people can resolve their difficulties in the foreseeable future, then one is smart. One can transform anger into compassion. That is good and it doesn’t cost anything. Anger, on the other hand, costs a lot.

Until puberty, one experiences the continuation of one’s previous life. Starting with puberty—when the big engine of sexuality is turned on and the ego-illusion and habits become stronger—one creates one’s new life. Later on, from age sixty or so, people’s faces show what they have done with their lives—whether beneficial or harmful actions were predominant. Then it’s a pity if someone looks like three days of rainy weather. One can really see how anger and bad feelings become stronger and stronger. But someone who has many good feelings and makes good wishes for others looks really good even at the end of his or her life. It is important to be vigilant here.

What exactly is anger?

Anger is the wish to harm another being. The conditions for real anger are that

– I know you are a human being,
– I don’t like you and I want to harm you,
– I do it or have it done,
– and afterwards I am satisfied with it.

This is real anger. To blow up and make a mistake is a very ordinary reaction, but the clear intention to want to harm someone is not present.

Most people let themselves be provoked by something and then act in a thoughtless way, but not with the conscious intention to harm others.

When I understood that all things are composite and therefore transient, I lost all interest in everything. How can I experience the world full of infinite possibilities again?

Lama Ole’s answer:

When one experiences things as transitory, this often comes with a loss of interest and excitement. And then the question is, What comes after our attachment to things has been loosened and does not drive us anymore? How can one go on from there?

I myself am always interested in the next picture, in the unfolding of every situation into an even wider space of ever more possibilities. It is important that even while something is still happening, you are already with the next thing, then the next, so that fulfillment never stops.

So don’t try to hold on to something to the point that you just sit there not knowing how to take it further, but instead go from one experience when it reaches its peak to the next peak.

And remember that highest bliss is highest truth! Try to feel at home where there is highest bliss, highest meaning, highest fulfillment, highest awareness, highest experience, and so on. Try to see everything that brings pain, limitations, and difficulties as functional errors from the outset. The nature of all beings is always that of the Buddha. The clear light of mind is the same everywhere.

One is mistaken as long as one doesn’t recognize that. One runs after one’s inner and outer impressions and is caught in an eternal cycle. We develop compassion if we can see this situation as it is, without any stickiness or sugar coating. One can indeed say that our general experience is suffering compared to the bliss of enlightenment.

If we try to see everything as pure, can’t we lose ourselves in illusions and superficiality?

Yes, that may happen indeed. For some time in Kathmandu, we had people who threw in too many of their own trips. They said, “Everything is pure,” and then ate some things that didn’t do them any good.
The point is that if we want something too forcefully, we are outside of our center and can therefore make mistakes. One has to know that on the ultimate level all beings are buddhas, but since they don’t know that yet they make many mistakes. It is a matter of holding ultimate and conditioned truth at the same time.

People make the mistake of confusing the path and the goal, of mixing up conditioned and ultimate truth. And that usually happens to people when they are under emotional pressure—when they simply want to see something in particular, or when they have to protect themselves from an experience that would be too painful. That’s why I say that the pure view should develop out of mature understanding, and not because one is escaping or hiding from things.

One should think, “Everybody is a buddha. Let’s see who has discovered that already and who hasn’t.” This means that we take it easy and that there is no pressure. The easiest way here is to look into the mirror and check, “How important is it for me that this situation comes out in this or that way?” This especially plays a part in matters of love. Maybe in the beginning, falling in love is only possible if one projects a beautiful image onto the other person. At first there might just be certain hormones that let the other appear as especially desirable. And then later on, you find out if there is really anything behind it—whether there is a bond or whether it was just a brief attraction.

And there, it is important to watch oneself closely—“Do I just want to see that or do I really see it?” If one is not trying to see something but sees it nevertheless, then one won’t make mistakes. Thus we should always act from our center. We are centered as long as we stand there firmly, without having to prove or apologize for anything.

How do you experience an unpleasant situation on the highest level — for example, if you are caught in smog and can’t breathe well?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Then I am aware of the inability to breathe for a moment and imagine how all those lead molecules find their way into my blood stream, where they go from there, and so on. Of course I try to leave the place, but it’s no tragedy.

We will all grow old, get sick, and die. The question is whether you make a problem out of it or not—here you can decide. You might also enjoy holding your breath. Instead of experiencing the breath in the throat, you experience it in the chest, and then comes pressure in the eyes. It’s possible to turn anything that happens into a party in the mind. In the same way one celebrates a beautiful lady, mind can celebrate itself.
And again, it’s about doing two things at the same time. On the one hand, one maintains the fresh moment of experiencing whatever is happening, and on the other, one considers what is worthwhile and what isn’t—how to manage to live a bit longer and to take better care of oneself.

Also remember that nobody will want to listen to you if you are caught in too many dramas and tragedies. The joyful view is better, where people say, “Ah, here there might be possibilities” and “here we can do something.” The way you act will influence people. If you can do something witty, joyful, and meaningful, then people will listen to you. You should always stay in a good mood.

If you lose the feeling of people’s buddha nature, of their potential, then you will become lonesome. Try to think instead, “OK, we made a little mistake there; maybe we can change it in this or that way,” and come in with surplus. Then you’re in a good position.

How can we keep the level of development we have reached?

Lama Ole’s answer:

On the level of cause and effect, we simply decide not to kill anymore, not to abuse others sexually, not to steal, not to lie, not to get “stupid drunk,” and so on. We find out where we made mistakes in the past and say to ourselves, “I am not going to do that anymore.”

On the second level, which is more psychological, disturbing feelings are dealt with. Here we try to remove our anger, attachment, jealousy, pride, and confusion. We recognize that those feelings don’t bring any benefit but only destroy a lot.

The third level is all about insight. It’s a matter of knowing that a higher level of joy means a higher level of truth and that enlightenment is the full unfolding of mind. This is a well-rounded state, at rest in itself and beyond hope and fear. We cannot grasp at or produce this state of mind, but only give space for it to appear.

There is a good joke about this. Enlightenment is like meeting a beautiful lady. If you chase her, she’ll call the police. Instead, you have to park your Porsche in front of her door, put your checkbook on top, and wait until she comes. So we can create the outer conditions for enlightenment, but we cannot grasp at it.

Aren’t we suppressing our disturbing feelings if we try to hold a pure view at all times?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Keeping the pure view starves out the disturbing feelings. We deliberately do not take them seriously or perceive them as real, because we know that the mirror behind the images is greater than any image could be—that the experiencer, our mind itself, is far more exciting than anything that is experienced. The experience itself is not distorted by this view; on the contrary, one sees things more as they are. One chooses only to see what is real and to draw energy away from what is not real.

So, if a disturbing feeling means a lower level of truth than a happy feeling, then you are simply smart if you direct your awareness and energy towards happiness and truth instead of giving attention to where nothing good can be expected anyway. I would say that this is not suppressing disturbing feelings, but simply being smart.

Sometimes we call the group of people who are active in the Buddhist center a “mandala.” What does this mean?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Mandalas are self-arisen enlightened power-fields. This term is also used for the people who belong to this power-field through attuning themselves to an enlightened principle. Concerning the groups that are connected to me, it works like this: as long as we are friends, are honest with each other, and trust each other, everything that happens in the centers will express Karmapa’s whole circle of protection.

It is important that these mandalas are beyond personal. As the Danish saying goes, “The cemeteries are full of irreplaceable people.” However often one may think, “Everything depends on me and nothing will work without me,” as soon as someone leaves, something within the power-field shifts and others take over that job. New aspects come in and maybe everything works even better than before.

Many people think that those who are active in the centers are completely altruistic and self-sacrificing, and are only working for others. These people hold themselves back from getting too involved in the center because they are afraid they won’t have enough time for their own practice. But actually, one also does center work for oneself. If we manage to be a good example at all times and not slack off when people come to hear something, we will experience real spiritual growth. After a long, hard day’s work, when we’re just about to pat ourselves on the back, there are people standing there again, with their uncle who hasn’t understood anything about the teachings. It just goes on like that until someday we forget to pat our own back and the ego dies miserably of starvation. Then everything is fun; whatever happens is meaningful and we experience it all as a gift. That’s where we want to be.

It’s a little secret: one does the work for others, but the one who does the work benefits most.

How is it possible to experience a love-hate relationship?

Lama Ole’s answer:

It seems to me that a love-hate relationship is frustrated love. First you love something and then you hate it because you cannot obtain it.

If one loves something and does get it, but then hates it nonetheless, then one might have been confused in the first place and had too many expectations.

Are men and women considered equal in Buddhism?

Lama Ole’s answer:

In Tibetan Buddhism, yes. But there are three different levels in Buddhism:

1) In Theravada Buddhism, the male principle is considered to be higher than the female. It is said that on the last step to enlightenment one must take rebirth as a man. Women are seen more as dangerous distractions for the monks.

2) In Mahayana Buddhism, it is said that the male mind is stronger. But even here men and women are more or less on the same level.

3) And in Diamond Way Buddhism, the male and female principles are equally important. Male or female alone is too little. The point is that we learn from each other, that we complement each other. On the inner level, the female is wisdom and the male is activity. And on the secret level, the female is space and the male bliss. In Diamond Way Buddhism, one can’t say “better” or “worse.” It is a matter of realizing both and bringing both together.

That’s why on the highest level of enlightenment, the Maha-Annuttara Yoga Tantra, there are only male and female buddhas in union.