On the one hand, we should accept responsibility; on the other, we shouldn’t take things too seriously. How do these points fit together?”

Lama Ole’s answer:

You can take responsibility without becoming deadly serious. Take it with a bit of humor and farsightedness. If you have a sense of humor and see things in a beyond-personal way, then problems do not arise. But you can’t run like an engine without oil. I have maybe 100,000 students and people I have a connection to around the world. I take that seriously. I give 24 hours a day—but in a good mood, not a bad one. Do what is necessary, but don’t make a big deal out of it.

If there are disturbing energies in a room where we want to meditate, how can we remove them?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If strange energies come to you, there are two possibilities: either you have a negative connection to them from before and they want to harm you, or you owe them something and they’ve come to you for help. In both cases, compassion is the best solution. Before the meditation, you wish all the best for all beings. From your heart you radiate out rainbow light in all directions, wishing that it dissolves the suffering of all beings. Then you begin with the actual meditation, and there will be no problem.

Or you can take the help of the Buddhist protectors. The most important thing with the protectors is that we don’t use their mantras right away when there is a problem. Instead, we invoke the protectors in our daily practice to make ourselves strong. Then when the disturbing energies come, we can be gentle. It’s like with dogs: only the small ones need to bark. People with no protection and no power will start out aggressively, while those who are strong are also even tempered. The strong ones watch what happens but the disturbances don’t come—their energy field is not disturbed.

That said, there are also difficult places where it is simply unpleasant for everybody. The most difficult are slaughterhouses, where many animals have died.

What can I do about bad vibrations in my own home?

Lama Ole’s answer:

First, try to find out whether the source is external or internal. If the source is external—like a cemetery across the way, a slaughterhouse, or a corner with junkies or drunks—then place a mirror in such a way that it sends the bad vibrations back. Octagonal mirrors are usually used for this.

If the source is internal, then you can check whether something actually happened there that caused a lot of suffering. Did someone live there completely alone and devastated for thirty years? Was someone killed there? Did people beat each other up in there? You can try to find out what happened in the past.

On a general worldly level, it is smart to paint the walls or hang new wallpaper—with lighter colors if possible. You should also air out the room often, or you can burn something that drives away the negative energies. There is a resin from cherry trees that works well for this. I think the Catholics even use it in their incense. That is very good!

You can also hang Buddhist protectors of the five colors in the room. They make sure that nothing disturbing comes in again. Or you bring a girlfriend home with you and have lots of joy in that room; that helps, too.

The Mahamudra teachings say that everything is fantastic simply because it can happen. But on the other hand, it’s not fantastic when people kill each other, is it?

Lama Ole’s answer:

There are two levels from which to see this. When one sees that people treat each other badly, it’s unpleasant and one thinks, “Why do they do that? In the next life they will swap roles and do it all over again. Why oh why?”
But at the same time, one can see things on the absolute level: both the victim and the perpetrator have buddha nature and at some point they will also realize it. For example, if someone came in here and threw a dozen hand grenades around, we certainly wouldn’t like it if bits of our precious bodies suddenly flew in all directions. We wouldn’t like it, but actually the trajectory of every piece of flesh, metal, and bone would follow the laws of higher mathematical wisdom. We must be free of attachment to our body, otherwise we’ll never understand the highest view.

Buddha gives us both levels of understanding. That’s what it is all about. Then at the end of our life, we can say—just as Caesar Augustus said as he lay dying—“If I played my role well, please applaud!” We do our best, and in the end we know we can let everything go because it is all just a dream anyway. We must meditate a lot to really understand this. But if we can grasp it conceptually as a first step, that’s also good.

Sometimes I think that my main motivation for practice is fear. Is this also alright?

Lama Ole’s answer:

In your case, I would simply think, “OK, the fear is my horse!” As soon as fear comes up, you think, “Today my fear is particularly strong, so I will meditate a great deal!” I would let it run and use it again and again as a motor for the meditation. One day you will look around and all the veils will be gone. So use it!

One can learn to use the energy of a disturbing feeling, be it fear, jealousy, or any other. If one learns to use this power, the possibilities are huge.

How does fear appear?

Answer of Lama Ole Nydahl:

Fear is not a primary or secondary feeling, but a tertiary one. The primary, basic disturbing feeling is ignorance; from this, others arise such as confusion, pride, and anger. Out of these then fear arises.

Fear originates from old anger and resentment which come up again and which one cannot stand having in one’s own mind. If one has these disturbing feelings inside oneself, and one’s mind looks at its own content, then it will see things it does not like and experience fear.

The outer world is a projection of our mind. If we look through rose-colored glasses, the world is beautiful. If we look through black glasses, it is horrible. We will have fear if the anger, resentment, and disturbances inside us have not been worked out. The best way to get rid of fear is to very consciously wish all beings everything good every day, as often and deeply as possible. There is no fear that will not disappear then; the blockages that one cannot bear will fall away. Good wishes for others are the strongest antidote.

In the case of anger and fear, it is also very good to do one million repetitions of the mantra om mani peme hung. This mantra is like an all-purpose cleaner. Om removes pride, ma dissolves jealousy, ni removes attachment, pe cuts through confusion, me eliminates avarice and greed, and hung destroys anger. Whenever we say om mani peme hung, we clean the inner mirror of our mind. This is very effective!

What is meant by the four veils?

Lama Ole’s answer:

There are four veils covering our mind. Above all, there is basic ignorance—the inability to see that subject, object, and action are part of the same totality. Second, there are the disturbing emotions that arise from this ignorance. Third, there are the negative words and actions that arise from these disturbing feelings, and finally the habits that subsequently develop.

These four veils keep us from seeing the true nature of mind, from experiencing the real power and joy inside us. They are linked to one another like a chain. No matter where you break the chain, all of the links immediately become useless. If one tackles the disturbing emotions, one will also have fewer bad experiences. Then one will also be less and less interested in going against others, and the habits will slowly fade away as well. Or if, for example, one dissolves one’s own basic ignorance, the rest also falls away.

Whoever wants to eliminate the habitual veils should stay in meditation a bit longer and meditate on “space as joy,” on “space as freshness and possibility.” Here, we should especially hold the state of naked awareness, where we are not conscious of something but rather conscious of awareness itself. In this state, our habitual tendencies from beginningless time break up and dissolve.

If mind has been clear light from beginningless time, then why do disturbing feelings arise at all?

Lama Ole’s answer:

All disturbing feelings arise from ignorance. Ignorance is the fundamental inability of mind to see that the one experiencing, that which is experienced, and the experience itself complement one another—that space and its clarity are the same everywhere. Unfortunately, one mistakes space for an “I” and thinks that the clarity—all that appears in space—is a “you.” Out of this separation, the disturbing feelings arise.

We develop attachment to what we want and aversion against what we dislike. From attachment, desire and greed arise, and from aversion, hate and jealousy arise. Likewise, from ignorance—from stupidity—appears pride; one thinks of oneself as something real and important, even though one might die at any moment.

The Buddha teaches that there are 84,000 combinations of these basic disturbing emotions. They all lead to harmful actions and words, which again produce bad results. This suffering makes us believe that the world is against us. Then bad actions arise again, and the cycle continues on and on.

Because of Christianity, we here in the West believe that “clear” things cannot be holy. We think there can only be miracles if we leave things unclear, if they are a little bit mystical. But in Buddhism, we want to make everything as clear as possible! It is good to look at things carefully, to doubt, to differentiate, to be critical. This is how one becomes a really good Buddhist. Buddha explains the way things are, but the experience we must gain ourselves. It’s only unwise if we doubt the same things again and again. When we have resolved a doubt—and thus learnt something—we simply move on. But it is good to examine everything critically.

Whoever is critical in the beginning is like a diamond in the end: indestructible and clear. One has sorted out all doubts and internalized the essence of the teachings. Whoever is full of love and desire at first will be like a lotus flower in the end: open to everything.

People belong to different buddha families:

The transformation of anger is the diamond family.

The transformation of pride is the jewel family.

The transformation of attachment is the lotus family.

The transformation of jealousy is the action family.

The transformation of stupidity is the buddha family.

The strongest disturbing feeling—whatever puts the most stones in one’s way—is at the same time the best raw material for enlightenment.

When I notice my disturbing emotions and try to let them go, at the same time I feel my own reluctance to do this. Where does this come from?

Lama Ole’s answer:

This is precisely the influence of the ego; that’s why one needs wisdom. The ego is enchanting and addictive, just like all other poisons. After some years of meditation it’s easy to make fun of the ego. But until then, it’s not so easy. I compare the ego with a military coup in a banana republic. A few gentlemen with mustaches and berets enter, shoot a few people, and rule the country.

The mind in all its abundance is like a radiant jewel with a lot of different sides and qualities. Some of those facets—like memory, pride, expectation, hope, and fear—are strongly emotionally charged. They try to control the rest of the mind—for example, its ability to think in a mathematical or political way, artistic creation, and all its other interesting talents. This way, those fat gentlemen leading the coup believe they are somehow vindicated.

So overcoming the ego is about getting the fat men down from the horse and keeping them there. That is the point. When you succeed, you become spontaneous and effortless. Then the jewel of mind shines in all its facets, because it is wisdom in itself. Without filters and obstacles, the mind produces whatever quality is needed in the moment—that can come forward unhindered.

Regarding those dictators who try to run the system, we remove them by all means—attacking with wisdom, with joy, with everything possible, until the mind trusts itself and can rest in its center, without hope and fear, simply in the moment itself.

One starts by removing neurotic behavior; that is the first level of the Hinayana or Foundational Way. When the neuroses are gone, then compassion and wisdom arise on the level of the Great Way. After one progresses with this and gains surplus, one comes to the final level of the Diamond Way. In the end, one rests in the here and now, with all antennas extended in all directions. Fearlessness, joy, and love have arisen by themselves and no longer need any outer cause.

Can a big ego be useful?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Yes, if one transforms it. Normally it only blocks communication and is our worst enemy. But if one transforms the ego from thinking “How great I am!” to thinking “How great we all are!” then one’s experience goes straight from hell to paradise.

If you think, “I am so great and so much smarter than everyone else,” you are always lonely and in bad company. But if instead you think how great everyone else is and what they are capable of, then you’re always in good company and can learn something from everybody. You can give something to everyone and the world becomes more and more beautiful.

If a teacher stands in front of his class and thinks, “What are those thirty gorillas doing here?” he might as well leave immediately, because you can’t teach gorillas anything. But if he thinks, “What are those thirty Einsteins doing in my class?” then suddenly it is fun because the students can learn a lot.

Heaven and hell happen between your own ears or ribs, depending on where you imagine the mind to be. If you see people and everything in the world as great—this is heaven. If you see dangers, difficulties, and pain everywhere, then you are in hell.

Could you please explain the meaning of equanimity?

Answer of Lama Ole Nydahl:

Equanimity means being constantly aware that we are all already buddhas, whether we know it or not. It means having no attachment and aversion, not dividing anything into categories like “good” or “bad,” and always wishing everybody all the best. Of course one still has to act and know what is right or wrong for oneself, but all this should happen without anger or bad feelings towards others.

The best antidote to jealousy and all kinds of expectations is very simple: you make yourself infinitely rich in your mind, and that way you can give others all the happiness in the world. Every time you think of someone you want something from—for example, you want him to love you—think, “May he have all the happiness imaginable.” Because if you feel rich yourself and are in the position to give and to wish the other something good, then you will never go wrong.

A situation gets difficult if it feels small and narrow. If, for example, your former partner is now with someone else and you think, “Oh, right now he is with her doing this or that thing which is so wonderful and special and which we always did together…”—this is a thought that catches you, that you won’t get rid of. This is a narrow situation. But if you wish him fifty dancing girls or—for the ladies—as many mustachioed officers on horseback as she wants, if you wish everything in abundance for the other, then it is not personal anymore but rather like watching a Disney movie. And suddenly the problem dissolves. With this approach, a small, personal thing turns into something profound, and you can grow very quickly by using this way of thinking as a turbocharger.

All at once, you get out of the darkness and really start to shine. You can crack jokes about things that were very touchy to you before, and work with the situation without limitations. This gives a lot of strength and has an exceedingly liberating effect. Then, in addition, you might be lucky enough to get an extra bit of good energy from the teacher, who pushes you in the right direction to quickly discover your own power. Wishing everyone all the best is really very good.

How can we best practice equanimity in everyday life?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Most people have little control over what they experience and how they experience it. They depend on outer conditions and their mood—meaning that they are nice when they feel good and difficult when they feel bad. Recognizing this, you can try to bring them into the best possible situations, so that they do as well as possible. This helps them have the chance to be nice. This way, so to speak, the stone rolls more and more often into another, better direction. They can create the habit of playing in the comedies of life rather than the tragedies.

You should not let yourself be disturbed by difficult people. Just think that they behave as well as they can and that they don’t know any better. Don’t take things so seriously and personally.

However, one shouldn’t become too overconfident in this regard either. If your fellow human beings call your attention to the same flaw in yourself again and again, and yet you’re convinced that all the others are wrong, then you’d better examine yourself carefully.

What is the difference between patience and indifference?

Lama Ole’s answer:

That is a really good question! Patience does not mean “doing nothing” or “being indifferent.” Rather, it means having an imperturbable, unshakeable mind in any situation and not having any anger in connection with what one is doing. So it means that we always prevail, that we go our own way and always try to do our best without being directed by disturbing emotions.

Do you have no fear at all while parachuting?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If one has understood the emptiness of mind, one becomes fearless. Emptiness and fearlessness are inseparable. My parachuting accident benefitted me a lot because it gave me the chance to confirm that I really have no fear. It affirmed that I don’t just talk about something and stay superficial. I have checked it out and it is true.

Once one has had such an experience, one gets some distance from many things that simply don’t matter. Many beliefs and concepts become obsolete—one just doesn’t need them anymore. This is the most important part of becoming fearless.

If we go beyond our limits while, for example, riding a motorcycle, can’t we also confuse this with carelessness?

Lama Ole’s answer:

It’s like this: if you fly out of the curve, you were too fast, and if you don’t fly out, you were too slow. There is a fine line in between, depending on what you like and the quality of your tires. When the motorcycle, the road, and the driver come together as a natural totality, then everything works by itself.

But you should steer clear of such a situation if you’re not resting in your center. Don’t try to prove something hotheadedly—that always goes wrong and is really reckless.