I always lose the pure view as soon as I have to deal with other people. I immediately have thoughts like, “That backside is too fat” or “that nose is too long,” and so on. What can I do?

Lama Ole’s answer:

I think compassion is the most helpful. Wish people all the best so that everything else becomes secondary—whether they have a weird hair color, are too skinny or fat, or whatever else. You just direct the good trip you’re on towards your fellow beings and consciously wish them all the best so that it rubs off on them. Then everything else is OK anyway.

The way they are is their kind of wisdom, their peculiarity. One can also use wisdom—for example, by imagining what karmic causes have led to their present look or behavior. But I think compassion is best.

I don’t understand this “pure view” thing! It’s simply a fact that some things and some people are beautiful and others are not! Aren’t we just fooling ourselves there?

Lama Ole’s answer:

In this case, it is about being able to see something fantastic in everything—for example, in being both slim and portly. This is a level beyond the common experience, where everything is fantastic just because it can happen. On the ordinary level, every lady wishes to look a bit like an hourglass and every gentleman wants to have the shape of a “Y.” This is on the level of attachment. On the higher level, even if somebody looks the other way around, I can see that some wisdom processes have come together to make this happen.

The same is true for thoughts. Everybody wants to be smart and not confused. But as a matter of fact, even confused thoughts are true in their essence just because they arise. If one goes beyond attachment, everything is fantastic merely because it happens—because it shows the possibilities of space. But of course it is difficult to go beyond the everyday world. In Buddhism, we have a few people who have attained that. For example, outside of Lhasa there was a highly realized lady who worked as a butcher. And all the people passing by said, “Help! What a wild creature! Let’s get out of here!” She stood there with her eyes rolling wildly and took the head off of everything!

But a dharma teacher saw that she sent the minds of those animals on to pure levels of consciousness. He went to her and bowed down. She placed her bloody knife on his head, and he spontaneously developed twenty-one special abilities.

There are cases in which the common social standards don’t fit anymore. Social norms only take us so far, and after that comes a level of immense freedom. But whoever moves into that level must have a great sense of self-responsibility. As long as one is quacking along like all the others on the pond, following social expectations, one has the protection of the crowd. But as soon as we move farther out, we have to have a tremendous amount of compassion that everybody can feel. We have to work very hard and really love people. If in the process one is only concerned with oneself, then one gets into trouble and makes enemies.

Only once we are beyond the personal level will unconventional behavior be accepted and will we be respected. If we have this deep universal love and work for the benefit of all beings, there is no more glue to the conditioned world. Then we can really move freely. And the best is to have several feet to stand on—to develop freedom and new possibilities at courses and to deepen these experiences in daily meditation. This way you bring into the world the extra power that you gain from this beyond-personal view for the benefit of all.

How can we always experience things on the highest level and at the same time work with them practically on the relative level?

Lama Ole’s answer:

That’s easy: you just remember that everyone is a buddha and at the same time that they don’t know it. That’s why one shouldn’t give a bottle of wine to a drunk or a gun to an angry man. If one didn’t know that all beings are buddhas, it wouldn’t make sense to do anything. The fact that they have buddha nature makes Buddhist practice worth it.

The view is what is crucial. Imagine you are a teacher and you enter the classroom and think, “Who put those thirty angry gorillas here?” Then you might as well turn around and leave, because one cannot teach gorillas anything. What can you do with that attitude? But if you come in and think, “Who brought these thirty Einsteins into my class?” then suddenly everything is possible and you give your best. And maybe they’ll quit poking their pencils around in their ears and mouths and will actually listen and learn.

Everything is a projection of one’s own mind. So the faults we see in others we actually have ourselves. For example, if one gets angry about something, this happens because something within oneself was attacked. If one doesn’t have any anger within oneself and people behave strangely, then one thinks, “Why do they do that? What’s the meaning of this?” You look at it like a strange object in a showcase. But if you get angry, that means something in yourself got pricked. We don’t see the world directly; we see it through our own gray or rosy eyeglasses. The more we see people as pure and beautiful, the closer we come to what they really are.

We don’t have to die to go to a pure land, or go anyplace else to meet buddhas. We just have to thoroughly polish our own glasses. If we do that we are at home; we see that every atom vibrates with joy and is held together by love, that everything has meaning just because it appears or doesn’t appear.

On the highest level, you are like someone sitting on the mountaintop with a 360-degree view—everything is open, vast, and full of possibilities. At the same time, you can look down the side of the mountain and say, “All those people have been my parents or friends at some time. They are all trying to find happiness and avoid suffering, and causing themselves some difficulties in the process.” Then without losing the pure view, you work on the relative level to preserve and pass on the Buddhist methods.

Is the path of development to enlightenment the same for men and women?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If you look at the whole path, women have an easier start because most of the teachers today are men. But it doesn’t necessarily have to stay that way in the future. Today women can fall in love with the teacher, and by being completely focused on him they can absorb a lot and develop very quickly. In contrast, men first have to test each other. There is always a certain amount of rivalry involved. That’s why it is a bit more difficult for men in the beginning. Women also have an advantage because of their gentle and giving nature, while men often show aggression and have to protect others.

But at some point, some very subtle attachments remain more strongly in women—maybe to a man, a child, the family, etc. That’s why the man, who always stays a bit playful like a child, gets through more easily at the end, because he can let go better.

The woman comes to things more with her totality and richness, in a holistic way. And the man bumps up against something and reaches a new dimension, getting through that way. That is why men and women complement each other so well. When there is a good relationship between a man and a woman, the woman can soften the man with her devotion and openness so that he won’t be so stiff and competitive. And in the end, the man can show the woman a few things: “Look! We can do it like this or like that” and so on. And again we see that men and women work better together. Neither is better, but rather together they round each other out and function in a more meaningful way.

There are many ways of learning from each other and developing. When a man meets a woman, she can be his lover, or mother (she shows him the world), or daughter (he protects her), or sister (she helps him progress). When a woman meets a man, it works the other way around. The man is her lover, or father (he takes care of her and protects her), or brother (he shows her how things are), or son (she can do something for him and live out her protective feelings). This range of possible relationships contains a tremendous opportunity to complement each other, a huge field of power and joy that cultivates growth. We just have to find it.

I’m very proud that my male and my female students are developing equally well. Today we also have as many female as male Diamond Way teachers. If they stick with it, we will have many female buddhas.

And actually, it is true that mind in itself has no gender. Only in the moment it connects with a body does it take on certain qualities, a certain type of energy. But as soon as the body is gone, everyone’s mind is clear light—then there is no difference at all.

You said before that wisdom is regarded as a female quality and activity as a male one. But that doesn’t mean that women are basically passive, does it?

Lama Ole’s answer:

No. Of course there are women who look delicate but run a whole company, and men who can carry two pianos but are very shy at the same time.

On the outer level, we are more or less either a man or a woman. Also on the secret level. But on the inner level you might come into the world with a certain imprint due to karma or habits. On the inner level, a lady might have a rather male character and man a rather female one.

Basically it’s just a matter of learning as much as possible from each other. We should develop wisdom as well as activity to their fruition, and understand that they lie within each of us. The man brings in one third of the possibilities of mind, the woman brings in another third, and the last third arises from the tension between the two—from their union. Being with people and close to them is in itself an experience of growth. It’s essential to complement each other, because all cultures that suppress the female element never come to rest. They are always fighting.

I developed most of my wisdom from women because I have a very male character. That’s why women were always my best teachers. There are also women who are very feminine and learn best with a man. Then they feel complete. And finally, there are people who are well mixed. They have both masculine and feminine qualities in equal parts and therefore don’t feel the need for the other. If they want to keep the freedom of having a partner, they become yogis, if not, they become monks or nuns.

Check out how you are put together psychologically, emotionally, and physiologically, because that is the basis from which you can work with yourself.

What are the male and female qualities on the outer, inner, and secret levels?

Lama Ole’s answer:

The higher the teachings, the more important the female aspects of enlightenment become. But that is not the most important point. Some people see the world as male or female, or think either patriarchy or matriarchy is better. But that doesn’t work, because thinking only in terms of one or the other is just too small.

Above all, it is a matter of linking both aspects. On the outer level, you still need distinct male and female qualities and strengths. On the inner and secret levels, we should try to connect male activity and female wisdom. The female lotus flower should embrace the male diamond. We should find the point where both energies fuse.

In this process, the outer differences between men and women are very important and inspiring. The female body is the essence of the five liberating wisdoms, and the male body is the essence of the four liberating activities. It is very important that deep trust develops between the sexes. There is nothing more neurotic than men who hate women and women who are afraid of men. The opposite sex should be the place where we find peace—a temple where we meet.

My best teachers have been women. It’s true that men were the source of transmission and teachings, but women caused the energy to sink from the head to the heart.

Could you please clearly explain the five wisdoms as female qualities?

Lama Ole’s answer:

I see women as bearers of the five wisdoms because I almost always learn them from women.

Very often, when it’s necessary to understand something, suddenly a woman is able to describe the situation as it really is. She then does or says something, maybe unconsciously, that in one moment presents the entire situation as a totality. This is possible because she picks up on things holistically rather than through concepts and ideas. That’s why she can show things as they are. Women can do that especially well when they are calm and not changing with the activities around them.

Women are also more democratic—you can see that, for example, with children. A woman dealing with children has much more discriminating wisdom. She can see what each child has or is able to do. Men would rather set up a concept and then go through with it stubbornly, while women often see more details and work with them. Another aspect of discriminating wisdom becomes obvious when decisions have to be made. There women are often very cool and clear.

And then there is the wisdom of experience. Who teaches the children? Who helps them develop? Who keeps the culture of a country alive? Who carries all this on? It works through the mothers. They are who pass on culture to the next generations. The men flutter to and fro, while the women bring in experience. This is also true when it comes to intuition; one sees that in many cases.

How do the five wisdoms feel?

Lama Ole’s answer:

After the clear light of union, after the highest bliss of togetherness, when the world re-arises out of space, one experiences the feelings of the five wisdoms. The world is clear, or rich, or warm and meaningful, or very distinct and cutting-through, or very intuitive. This is what arises from the clear light, from bliss. The world has a taste, character, or feeling. You take this with you into the day and pass it on to others, and then it comes back to you again. In the same way, the woman who leaves the arms of her lover also takes something with her. She absorbs his power, his bliss, or his abilities.

This happens either through physical union or through being together and sharing work or a home. If one is open to this, one can really absorb something. We see and experience the world through the wisdom and activity that we give and receive. A poet writes differently every time he has a new girlfriend because she has given him something new.

Esoteric things are trendy right now, and many people are really into this, saying they see auras and meet angels and so on. What do you think of this?

We Danes are famous for never having had a strong government or really big, famous people because whenever someone got too big, everybody started to laugh at them. That big broad laughter flattens everything, and most talented people had to leave the country at some point. I’m not talking about myself, I like to be in Denmark…

At some point, I decided completely unceremoniously that there are two forms of spirituality. There are people who can handle their lives, who deal with what needs to be done, and everything runs pretty much as it should. At some point, they discover that working in a margarine factory for 40 years, going off into retirement with a nice speech, and then getting buried 10 years later with an even nicer speech—this can’t be everything that a human life has to offer. And then, on the basis of a practical life, they start to develop deeper abilities and qualities. What these people experience—people who have their lives together, who stand there strong, who have nothing to prove or excuse—you can trust that. You can believe what these people say.

Then there is the other kind of “spiritual” people. Whenever they have to meet a challenge, they pull their heads in and don’t get anything done. They can’t manage it; they can’t do it; they don’t have the courage or stamina. And then they retreat from the world and create their own sweet little universe that no one else can really examine. I have no trust at all in what they experience.

I really look at what people accomplish, how they hold themselves, and whether one can count on them. If I think that they respect themselves, do as they say, and are above playing childish games, then I trust what they say.

But if people run away from the challenges of the world, I stay away from them. If people are too holy and without self-irony, unable to laugh at themselves and somehow unclear and sweet; if things are not fully understood and not clearly expressed, then all my hair stands on end and I think, “Get out of there!” because I consider it unhealthy.

Could you say something about your own experiences with drugs?

Lama Ole’s answer:

In the sixties, drugs had a different function than they have now. The spiritual horizon lay two centimeters above the highest tower in Copenhagen—not more than that. We had completely square heads. We would have become even more materialistic than our parents. We drank a lot and had three or four fistfights every week because the pressure was so high. There was no vision for our lives—no view.

The drugs made us more human. But perhaps eighty or ninety percent of Hannah’s and my friends from that time are dead today. We paid a high price. But it is like that for those fighting on the front: they get blown away. Then the next people come and take over the land that the first people conquered. There is no doubt that our entire spiritual environment and our openness is much greater today because the brave people in the sixties broke through the widespread concepts of those times—because they had enough trust in space to break through.

But today drugs are an old hat. They are completely ridiculous. When we took drugs, we were the avant-garde, the best of the society, who took them to make new worlds accessible. Today, deadbeat kids take them to commit suicide slowly. Drugs are out.

It seems like every drug has a period in which it activates many karmas. For example, if we look at old sources about the conquest of the Americas, tobacco was a hallucinogenic when it first came to the West. The people who used tobacco were often depicted vomiting. Over their heads there were little thought bubbles with all sorts of strange things happening. Those people completely hallucinated. And now tobacco is just bad for the lungs.

That means: stay away from drugs. They are no good anymore. My generation killed themselves with drugs. That is also the reason why today the Japanese assemble semi-conductors and not the Europeans or Americans. An entire generation here and in America, who should have done that, is gone. That is why East Asia got ahead. They suppressed drug use; they did not allow their young people that freedom.

How do drugs work from the Buddhist point of view? Are the things one experiences real?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Drugs as a whole are not recommended. The basis for the strong experiences they offer is not the drug itself. The basis is mind. The experiences arise out of our mind. There is not one drug that can bring happiness. The only thing a drug can do is to pack the happiness we would have had over a long period into a very short period. Then, after a while, one has nothing left and the bad experiences come.

In Copenhagen in 1963, there were maybe twenty or thirty people in our group of friends. Today, there are five of us left and two or three of them are carrying their heads under their arms. Of those who survived, only a handful function normally. The losses from drugs are just too high. I really advise against it.

I wouldn’t even use hash, the mildest of them all—and also not too much alcohol. The best thing we have is our clear understanding and the inner abilities of mind. I would bank on that. That is the best drug. Another good drug is a beautiful woman!—or a strong man. Love is also an excellent drug.

Do you think that people like Aldous Huxley—who thought a lot about philosophy, tried out lots of different things, and also experimented with drugs—could find their own way to enlightenment?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Aldous Huxley actually had two sides. He was extremely gifted, but on several levels he was quite immature. The whole Huxley family was brilliant. It is too bad that their genes died out because, like so many other intelligent people, they forgot to reproduce.
On the one hand, Aldous Huxley was a humanist and on the other hand he had an understanding of perception. There is a lot of wisdom in his books. Also what his wife, Laura Huxley, said about his death is very good: as he lay dying, she sensed his voice echoing further out into space. At least he came to a very high level of consciousness. But if there was no hook for the ring, it is unsure whether he went to a pure land. It is more likely that he went to a god realm.

It is very difficult to enter a pure land out of one’s own power. One needs refuge and a connection to a buddha.

How do drugs affect the mind?

Lama Ole’s answer:

With the exception of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and a few similar drugs from the Amazon, drugs have the opposite effect of meditation. Drugs show you the experiences in mind; meditation shows you mind itself. Drugs scatter mind; meditation gathers it. Taking drugs and meditating are not compatible.

Alcohol—as stupid, unspiritual, and uninspired as it is—is indeed better because it doesn’t make you slippery. You act stupidly, but you’re aware of it and excuse yourself later—people understand and then it’s over.

But hash is different. It makes you slippery like an eel. Your twist things to please yourself. You get older but not wiser. I myself smoked a lot—almost every day for about nine years of my life. In the sixties, we believed that it could be useful. We really thought that. We had Leary, Alpert, Huxley—all of the best brains with us who said that.

But my experience with drug users is that I become restless when I’m with them. I don’t feel that what I’m doing is catching on. If I am with people who drink, I try to tell them something. But with people who smoke hash, I would rather read the newspaper because I have the feeling that whatever I say won’t be understood.

I would advise people who want to meditate to stop smoking hash. It is cheaper to learn to meditate! And after a while, it is at least as pleasant. But it is more difficult. You have to build it up with your own strength. On the other hand, what you have built yourself you can stand on firmly!

Do we always have to tell the truth, or can we lie to protect someone in certain cases?

Lama Ole’s answer:

That depends on the level of your practice. On the level of Theravada—the level of cause and effect, where the focus is more on oneself than on others—you should always tell the truth. Here it is very important to avoid the ten harmful actions. These are divided into three harmful actions of the body: killing, stealing, and harming others sexually; four harmful actions of speech: lying, slandering, rough or harmful speech, and meaningless speech; and three harmful actions of the mind: being greedy, hating others, and having wrong views.

On the Mahayana or Bodhisattva level, there are sometimes situations in which one can protect other beings by not telling the truth. For example, if someone comes running down the street followed by fifteen farmers armed with pitchforks who ask us where he went, then we should not tell the truth because this would bring harm to the person. On the level of the Great Way or Mahayana, there are actually only three harmful actions of the mind that we must absolutely avoid: we must not hate, not be envious, and not be confused. With our body and speech, we can do anything to benefit all beings in the best possible way.

There is a good story about this in the book The Divine Madman about the famous Tibetan yogi Drugpa Kunley. His mother was known throughout the whole village as a gossip. She was always talking about others and starting rumors. Drugpa Kunley knew that she didn’t have much longer to live and that her behavior would not bring her pleasant experiences in her next life. Because he loved his mother, he advised her again and again to learn to meditate, but that didn’t help and she held on to her habit of gossiping. One day, Drugpa Kunley ran through the village yelling at the top of his lungs, “I just slept with my mother!”—which of course wasn’t true. When this reached his mother’s ears, it was so embarrassing that she couldn’t say anything to anyone. From this point on, she used her time for meditation instead of gossiping, and when she died Drugpa Kunley was able to lead her mind into a state of liberation.

If the motivation is good, one can also lie sometimes. But it should not become a habit and should not happen out of weakness but only to protect others.