If there is strong attraction in the relationship but a conflict erupts around nearly every topic, does the relationship have any future?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If arguments happen too often and too loudly, then we can certainly get along better on our own or with another partner. If we always have different opinions and fight over every little thing, there is always a loser and a winner. We cannot build anything on this in the long term.

You and your partner should have a common foundation and shared goals you can agree upon. Otherwise nothing can develop.

What can I do if my partner often gets angry?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If he is angry, tell him how silly he looks. Tell him, “You should see yourself, standing there flailing your arms, saying weird things, shaking your head, going up the wall, making funny noises.” These shows are far too dramatic for an audience that is far too small and ungrateful. A great performance with a puffed-up chest and rolling eyes is wasted in front of an exhausted wife and two puzzled children in the kitchen. Tell him, “We need a worthy audience for you. This is way too much for us alone! Let’s get the neighbors. They should see it too.”

We have to tell people when they are making a fool of themselves. Tell him to keep the trip to himself, that you don’t want to have it. Tell him that you like him, and this is why you don’t want to see him being so stupid and weak.

Can too much happiness make you egotistical?

Lama Ole’s answer:

That depends on whether one is able to share the joy. At first one is probably a bit egotistical, but gradually one starts to share. If one is completely full of joy, it’s impossible to keep it for oneself. I myself literally explode with joy all the time. That’s how it is after twenty-five years of meditation. And I don’t think that I keep this for myself. During my first experience of the clear light of mind, everything exploded and I had tears in my eyes from joy.

Then when I told my wife Hannah about this experience, she reckoned that I would just become even more egotistical. It is possible that we don’t communicate this first experience of joy so well, but as soon as we have it deep in the marrow of our bones, we can’t keep it to ourselves. It’s simply not possible. An enlightenment where one looks unhappy does not exist for me.

When I am verbally attacked, I feel a helpless rage. How can I defend myself without getting angry?

Lama Ole’s answer:

I would quickly lead people onto thin ice. Like in Aikido: turn the momentum of the opponent around and knock him over with it. You say, “What was that? I didn’t understand you. Say it again.” And then they have to repeat it, and you say, “But you can’t mean it like that, now…how did you mean it?” And say, “Why don’t we ask so and so about it.” Then you tell the third person, “Listen, she said such and such; what do you think about that? Ah, here comes the boss—he should really know about this too. Listen, she said this and I think such and such. Who do you think is right?”

You inflate the whole thing out of proportion and then go off to the toilet and smoke a cigarette while all the people are discussing what she said and why. Then you come back in and say, “Thank you very much; that’s what I think too.” And you go on doing what you want. If people are unpleasant, lead them onto thin ice and make it big and embarrassing until they say either only nice things to you or nothing at all.

Of course there are also cases where one knows that one acted stupidly oneself. If someone complains about that, you can simply say, “I’m sorry.” That is something else. The point is not to be slippery like an eel and avoid all criticism, because then you don’t learn anything. You should apologize immediately if you have made a mistake. But if somebody tries to make trouble only out of spite, then simply make him look so ridiculous that he doesn’t do it again. That is my advice. Life is short and we don’t have time for kindergarten games. We simply don’t have time for that.

If we have the feeling that disturbing energies or ghosts come to us, how much can we trust this feeling? Why do they come and what can we do to prevent this?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If you arrive somewhere and get a strange feeling, then you must first check yourself. Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed? Is the bad trip yours? But if you are sure that you’re feeling well but that you always get the same strange feeling at a certain place, then there may be some disturbing energies there that you are open to or have a connection with.

The best antidote against this is actually compassion. If they come to disturb you and you have compassion, they experience that as an unpleasant smell. They can’t stand it and go away again. And if they come because they need help, then they get help this way.

It is also excellent to make good wishes: “May you have great happiness and may all suffering leave you”—or something like that. If you do that, you can really do a lot of good. They are really capable of knowing what you do and think, so you can actually do something for them if you have this openness to them. But you must also know that you can’t trust them. Beings do not get wiser when they are dead. You can’t depend on them. You can only trust beings who have overcome the concept of the ego and who think more of others than of themselves. With the other ones, you can get yourself into a real Mephisto thing, like in Faust. You can get into real difficulties there.

This is why in Buddhism we only work with the protectors who have a wisdom eye on their foreheads. That is the sign that they are Bodhisattvas, who only work for the benefit of others.

So, if you experience disturbing energies, wish them everything good, but don’t get involved with them and don’t make any promises.

If one falls into states of confusion after taking drugs, is that only due to the drugs or does one also have to have a predisposition for it?

Lama Ole’s answer:

There must really be a ring and hook there. I am from the sixties and had a lot of experience with drugs. I wrote my exams at the University of Copenhagen, and before I met Buddhism I was very interested in all possibilities for unfolding the mind.

OK, the clear light that one sees on LSD is really great, or being able to leave one’s body and all of that. But gradually you discover that it’s actually not the drugs that make you happy. The happiness that you might have experienced in half a year gets compressed into eight hours. When you have done that a few times, at some point the red letters come from the bank, “Overdrawn! Overdrawn!” and the joy and meaning are gone—fear and confusion take their place.

If you have taken drugs, then that is the background you can work with. You then develop yourself further through meditation, which lays a foundation for everything beyond that. But if you haven’t taken drugs, you don’t need to do it now.

I am not saying that LSD should not be used. It should be available for psychologists to use in cases of extreme fear of death. Actually, in such cases, minimal doses of 25 micrograms can make a “click” so that the fear disappears. I think that LSD should be available as a tool—as medicine—in the hands of good psychologists, perhaps also lamas if they have the time. But it should not simply be available for everyone to stuff their heads with. That is not good. And if you achieve development without drugs, if you succeed with your own strength through meditation, it is much more effective. You establish something permanent. If you take drugs, first you’re way up and then you crash again; you have a lot of yo-yo trips that you can gab about later, but you have no lasting experience. With meditation, you put one stone on top of the other. Wherever you are in your development—that’s where you really are.

Is it a disturbing emotion if I am annoyed by people who make mistakes?

Lama Ole’s answer:

That depends on your view. Annoyance can also arise from idealism—for example, if you think, “They are so wonderful and now they’re doing something so stupid again!” This type of annoyance, where there is no intent to harm beings, is actually a kind of disappointment.

If you see people on a high level, if you are sometimes disappointed by them but don’t give up your high view, if you still expect exciting things from them, then it is something good. But if you think they are impossible, then it really is anger and something negative. It can be good to sometimes shake people up if you like them. But if you want to harm them, then it’s not good.

If a person hates another so much as to want to kill them, what should that person do?

Lama Ole’s answer:

What did Buddha say to that? If you want to kill a person, then you should consider that you’d actually only kill a corpse. Within a very short time, the person would have died anyway—perhaps they are already seriously ill. It’s not worth the trouble and doesn’t make any sense.

And what would I say? I’d say the best thing you can do is to forgive people. If you forgive them, you don’t have to meet them again in the next life—the bond is gone. If you hate people, then they show up in the next life; they’ll be just as odious and you’ll have to work with them again. So I always think, forgive them quickly, wish them all the best, and be happy that you can get away from them. That’s my advice—except when people come to you for help. Then you have a responsibility for them.

Also in relationships, I always advise separating on good terms. When people split up as enemies, it’s as if all of the experiences they had together are frozen—they have no access to them. Then in every new relationship, they’ll have to go through the same dramas, tragedies, and fiascos again. If people separate as friends and wish each other all the best, then they have their hands free and can do what they want.

Does meditation also help clear up hostile connections with people from our past?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Yes—for example, in the long refuge meditation, you imagine any enemies you have next to yourself. They also join in and receive the blessing of the practice. And that really works. I remember when Hannah and I went to Nepal in 1969/70, I had had a lot of fistfights in the past. I hadn’t seriously hurt anybody, but there were a few people who really wanted to settle the score—and they were ready to get together to do that, too.

While we were away for a few years learning to meditate and doing the foundational practices, I just put them beside me during the meditation. And when Hannah and I came back, they were waiting at the airport and greeted us like old friends. At some point, the whole power-field had changed. Meditating on buddhas is very powerful.

It’s like this: a hook can’t catch a ball; it can only catch a ring. If there is no openness from the other person, then nothing happens. But if there is a ring, if the person you have difficulties with is open to you, then something can be caught and the connection will improve.

Are there Buddhist explanations for how psychoses develop?

Lama Ole’s answer:

In Buddhism, one speaks of four different kinds of madness:

The first kind arises if one used a lot of drugs or alcohol in former lives. Then in this life, one will be born without enough neurological connections in the brain—so the “machine” works with some defects.

Second, there are malfunctions that result from using a lot of drugs or alcohol in this life.

The third type appears when a person has lived so unhappily, brought so little joy into his life, and let himself go so much that he is no longer protected by the good impressions in the mind of a healthy person. Then various strange energies can come in and work inside a person. This is called schizophrenia.

And the fourth possibility is that a person has allowed so many negative and disturbing impressions to accumulate in the store consciousness that every time the mind comes to these points, it can’t stand it and tries to escape into something else. These would be states of paranoia.

After death, problems and disturbances associated with the body fall away, and one has new possibilities again. On the other hand, when one has built up very strong disturbing energies within oneself, then these also go along into the next life.

What can one do against fears that keep coming back?

Lama Ole’s answer:

The best way to fight fear is in the long term. Working with the mind is like working with the body. If we do a lot of pull-ups today, we will not be strong today but rather tomorrow. Today, the arms hurt.

Meditation works exactly like this. If we have a problem today, we cannot remove it through meditating today. If, however, we meditated yesterday, the problem will not come today. And if it still comes, we can just wipe it off the table. We simply do not plant and harvest on the same day.

However, there are also methods for working on something like this quickly. Imagine you are in the process of conquering your mind, and then suddenly some problem shows up: fear, anger, clumsiness, or something like that. You can deal with it in two ways. Either you attack the problem or the disturbing emotion directly, sending in two battalions and saying, “Stop! That is not okay!” If you have enough capital in the form of good impressions in mind, then this will succeed. But if you notice that you don’t yet have enough knights in shining armor to get through this way—that is, the necessary motivation, power, or confidence—then you conquer the surrounding land instead. You just go on and do not think about the problem. Don’t identify with it; don’t feed it. Then when you look for the problem later on, it’s nowhere to be found.

Another option is to confront one’s fear by meeting it head on—no matter how bad it feels at first. This way one breaks its neck and it will never come back again. I remember one example from my own life when I was a child. I was visiting my uncle in Jutland and there was a thick electric cable in his basement. I had been told that this cable turned into a snake at night. One morning, my parents came down into the basement and saw me—I was probably three or four years old—with the cable in one hand and a club in the other. I had stood there all night, waiting for it to turn into a snake so I could smash it up. This is one way to deal with fear. But one can also go the way of wisdom and discover that there is no snake at all. This is easier of course.

How can one quickly dissolve fear?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Look around and think, “Who might want to buy this fear?” Then think, “She won’t buy it, he won’t either, and she over there is also not interested!” So you notice, “Well, maybe this fear is useless!” and then simply throw it away.

Fear is also often connected to the breath. One breathes in a wrong and irregular way in a fearful situation. So one technique is to force oneself to breathe more slowly and deeply. Breathe in to a point just below the navel. Hold the breath for a moment in the belly as if in a vase—but not to the point of dizziness—then breathe out again. If you breathe deeply like this a couple of times, the fear will gradually go away.

The best way to deal with all fears and difficulties is to think, “All beings are my friends and will benefit if I’m doing well. So I will simply give my best in doing whatever is in front of my nose.” Then one does just that. This is also good if one gets scared before exams. Then think, “This is actually a complete conspiracy. The examiner wants me to pass; the teacher wants me to pass. It’s all in my favor.” And then go into the exam, sit down with your friends, explain to them everything they didn’t understand, and give it your best in the exam. Make your environment so friendly that you can only win.

How can one get rid of the ego?

Lama Ole’s answer:

You outsmart the thing by its own means. Buddhism is a method of constantly outsmarting the ego. You have to use the energy of the ego—the illusory, non-existent ego—in order to get to where it is no longer there. So you use this idea of a self to purify the veils until there is no more ego illusion.

The ego is very strong, but it is also stupid. There are some great teachers in the history of the Karma Kagyu lineage who worked directly against the ego. The story of Milarepa and his teacher Marpa is particularly well known—that was still a really tough school. But most of the time, one has to give people something sweet at first. The ego then thinks, “Ah, not only am I a good guy, but now I’m also getting spiritual.” One then keeps this good feeling as long as possible.

Later, the ego slowly discovers that it gets a lot of bread and potatoes but little meat and vegetables. One now belongs to a noble family. Especially with me as a teacher, it is clear that I like a “stiff upper lip” and good style, and that I don’t like to see drama and weakness. Suddenly, the ego can’t play all the games it used to. It can’t build itself up anymore through powerful feelings like, “I hate him,” “I am the best,” “I am the worst,” and so on.

Seeing that it’s not doing so well, the ego then tries to protect itself by all means. For example, it projects feelings, or a sore back, or thoughts like, “I am constantly getting worse!”—which is not true at all. It’s just that one can suddenly see how one has always been. In this difficult situation, we throw another piece of meat to the ego—for example, the bodhisattva attitude. We tell it, “You are here to help all beings.” At first, the ego thinks we’ve noticed how good it is and all the things it can do, but actually the bodhisattva attitude is complete poison for it. First, we have to think of others all the time and therefore have no more time to think of ourselves; and second, we always get those teachings on emptiness, which say that we don’t exist at all.

This is really fatal for the ego. Now it has already become so weak that it has only one place left to entrench itself. That’s when it starts to see what others are doing wrong. It has already given up trying to protect itself, since it knows that everything is actually an illusion. Now instead it tries to find faults in others—“He does this and she says that,” and so on. How do we conquer this final bastion? How do we make the ego smolder and finally snuff it out completely? Through the pure view! We think, “Even my doubt is my buddha nature. Even my most evil thoughts are spontaneous wisdom. My biggest problem is my best way out.” Then we’ve made it.

What can we do against stubbornness and egotism?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Against egotism it helps to see that all people are in the same situation as we are. They all want to be happy and avoid suffering. They behave well when they are doing well and become unpleasant when they’re having a bad time. So we can see that they are not so different from us.

And against stubbornness? The best is maybe to say “PEI!” Every time you are totally stuck in your own fixed ideas, you can quickly say “PEI!” inwardly. It’s like a pile of peas being hit by a stick; they fly everywhere. A sharp “PEI!” is very good. Then when the elements of your stubbornness condense again, say “PEI!” once more, and then maybe they’ll stay away.

If people take themselves too seriously, tickle them. Just be careful of where you are standing in relation to them, because if they are angry they might try to hit you with the back of their head. So duck down a bit to the side and tickle from there. And then say, “Aren’t you happy today?” And even though they’re taking themselves incredibly seriously, they’ll start to laugh.

How is it possible that someone who has reached a high level of realization can still be hindered by the body—for example, by alcoholism?

Lama Ole’s answer:

That can happen easily. The Tibetans compare the body to four snakes in a tube. The snakes must have their heads at the same level at all times, otherwise they bite each other and become sick. There must be a balance between blood, lymph, black bile, and yellow bile. If the body gets out of balance, then it can actually become quite difficult. We have teachers like Trungpa Tulku who died of alcoholism. The leader of the Nyingmapas was beaten so hard by the Chinese that he became half crazy.

As long as there is a body, difficulties will always arise. If one doesn’t have a body, then it’s impossible to talk to people. So it is simply a challenge one has to deal with. The important thing to understand is the word tulku. It means “illusory body”—that one experiences having rather than being one’s body.