How do the disturbing emotions transform into the buddha wisdoms, and what do these wisdoms mean?

Lama Ole’s answer:

When looking at disturbing emotions, our view is very important: From the view of the eagle, everything is wisdom. From the view of the mole, everything is a disturbing emotion. Only few take the eagle’s view, while most experience anger, jealousy, etc. But if one doesn’t respond to the emotions, if one simply lets them appear in mind and dissolve in mind again, then an entirely new dimension appears, a completely new experience—the way coal dust transforms into diamonds.

When anger dissolves again, mirror-like wisdom appears—like a mirror showing everything as it is. One sees things and recognizes them precisely for what they are. One doesn’t add or remove anything. This ability to see clearly is compared to the lucidity of a diamond.

In the case of pride, one has the chance to transform narrow pride—thinking, “I am better than you!”—into all-inclusive pride, thinking, “We all are great!” And when pride dissolves back into the mind, then one suddenly recognizes that everything is composed of a great number of conditions. Nothing appears by itself; everything is interdependent. This is called equalizing wisdom, because everything takes on the same taste of richness—like jewels that shine by themselves.

What should we do to deal with attachment?

Lama Ole’s answer:

The Buddha gave two pieces of advice concerning attachment, and Karmapa has added another special remedy. On the highest, absolute level—within the Mother Tantra lineage—the Buddha advises working with the melting phase in particular. This means that one keeps the building-up phase in the meditation short and remains in the melting phase for a long time. In the meditation on the 8th Karmapa, there are also special antidotes for attachment.

On a practical, everyday level, and for people who are mainly motivated by strong desires and wishes, the Buddha advises us to think a lot about impermanence, so that we do not bind ourselves too much to the world of phenomena. Secondly, we should share everything good we experience with all sentient beings because desire types do experience a lot of wonderful and rich things. We should always carry a feeling inside us of “I want to show this to others!”

If you make use of all the different levels in this way, you will obtain good results. The most important is to understand that the thought wasn’t here before, it will be gone by tomorrow, and it need not disturb you today—like the waves in the ocean which come and go.

How can we be sure that the joy we experience is not a strong dependency?

Lama Ole’s answer:

We can examine the level on which the joy takes place. If it consists of having something and stops the moment we don’t have it anymore, then the joy is constricting and unpleasant.

Actually, we can enjoy everything as long as we don’t have a problem once it’s gone. If the pleasure becomes strong enough, then it breaks the limits of the ego. One can enter it via the ego and discover something that is a thousand times greater than anything one has ever known before. As long as it doesn’t dominate us, we can enjoy it fearlessly. As an old master once said, “Since everything is a play of mind anyway, we may as well enjoy it.” What he was talking about is life itself.

Is it correct to say that desire must be present for a human rebirth?

And if we don’t transform our feelings of desire, will we still be reborn as human beings?

Lama Ole’s answer: 

That’s basically true as long as we don’t do anything really harmful. If we carry out a lot of negative actions in our lives or if we are very miserly with money, we will very likely be reborn in Africa, South America, or places like that. Likewise, if we have been greedy but also generous, we might be reborn in North America or Europe. But the good places are shrinking while the bad places are growing.

It is smart to learn how to develop ourselves. And the beautiful thing about a Buddhist practice is that we don’t need to change or destroy our desires or attachments. We only have to learn to turn all the energy of our desire around. Right now, this energy is focused on athletic partners, money, and holidays. We just need to direct it towards liberation and enlightenment instead. Desire is a very positive force if one knows how to transform the clinging and limiting attachments into liberating and enlightened desire. The tiger doesn’t have to be put to sleep; you can ride him. You harness the tiger to the front of a plough and steer it in the direction you want to go. In other words, we use the power inherent in the disturbing emotions, even though this may not be so easy.

In some cases, it’s helpful to relax and just avoid the most difficult situations where we usually go through the roof. It’s wise to experience everything as dreamlike. Think, “the emotion wasn’t here five minutes ago, and it will disappear in another five minutes. If I get involved with it now, I’ll only get into trouble.” But the most important thing is to make use of the power while turning it around. This is exactly what a fighter does: he takes his enemy’s power and uses it against him.

Could you say something about desire, anger, and confusion types?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Most people have some of everything: pride, jealousy, desire, confusion, and anger. Some see something and immediately notice many things they like and maybe one thing they don’t like. These are mostly desire types. Others see right away many things they don’t like and perhaps one thing they like. So these are mostly anger types. And other people are not clear about what they like and don’t like. These are the confusion types.

Some, for example, are desire types at the beginning because they have a physical need for love. Then when the body is content, one’s old anger may come up and start to find a lot of faults in one’s partner. We actually see this often—a beautiful honeymoon and then afterwards the people yell at each other.

I myself am purely a desire type. My mind works in such a way that I understand others’ mistakes as wrong programs that are being thrown out. I forget almost all the mistakes. And when we meet the next time, I greet you happily because I have forgotten past problems. But if someone has done something good, then afterwards I remember very well and I like to ask about the experiences.

There are anger types who criticize everything. However, since they know exactly what they don’t like, they hold on to it less than other people might. This is how they make fast progress. I know such a woman; she had astonishing progress with her meditation. Anger types have to learn from situations where they always get angry or think that they have to protect themselves. They need a protected frame where they are not attacked and can thus let go of their defensive attitude. They need space around them in order to see how things really are and how beautiful the world is in its true nature. Then they discover their richness and can let their whole strength, love, and surplus play freely. Most anger types end up with the Nyingmapas; their teachings are directed towards that.

Desire types like everything. Instead of moving ahead in a focused and linear way, they jump fully into things and make progress like this. Desire types have to learn to recognize the difference between impermanent and permanent things. They mostly end up being Kagyu.

The confusion type often has to take the way of thinking. He progresses step by step through increasingly better understanding and clearer insight, level by level. Most confusion types end up with the Gelugpas.

The different schools function more or less in the following way. For the Nyingmapas, the view from above is most important: by flying across a lake, for example, to get an overview of it, one gains an understanding of the lake. With the Kagyupas, the direct experience is most important: one jumps into the lake and swims, feeling the water on the body. For the Kagyupas, everything is very close like in a family. And for the Gelugpas, analysis and understanding are essential: the approach is to take a sample of the lake water into the laboratory to see what’s inside.

We cannot say that one approach is good and another bad. One school is good for some and another school is good for others. If one follows the right path, one will reach the goal. And when one has become a Buddha, then the difference is gone as to which path one took. It is only a question of how to go up; when one has arrived, there is no difference anymore.

Is it possible to somehow use impatience in a meaningful way?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Yes, I think so! I will give you an example of how I deal with impatience. Impatience is always pleasant if it is like driving a car with the rev-counter in the green zone.

In the low, white zone, the pistons are pounding too hard, which is not good, and in the red zone the oil film may be damaged. So it is about staying in the middle, two to six thousand revolutions per minute.

The trick is to always have so many things to do at the same time that you stay within these limits. For example, if people are always asking a lot from you, then you are totally present with them. If they are a bit less close, you can do various practical things. And if they are well occupied with themselves, then maybe you can be with them and still write letters to keep your connections to others. If you always stay in the green, then you are using your impatience well and it becomes as useful as possible for everyone.

How can one learn patience?

Lama Ole’s answer:

I would say the easiest way is to avoid situations where you usually fall into the water. If you feel stronger after a period of avoiding something, then you can see the situation with more humor; you can laugh about it and see it from a beyond-personal level.

Also, if you start to keep more of a distance, then in the end you will be able to “let the thief come to an empty house.” This means simply not putting any energy into a feeling of impatience or agitation. Instead, see how the feeling runs here and there and how it tries to provoke you, but you don’t do anything. Then you can even use the energy of these feelings to wash the dishes, clean the car, or dig in the garden.

So to begin with, avoid situations where you get impatient. Once you are stronger and have more distance, you realize that it is like a dream anyway and you can observe the feeling without reacting to it.

But patience has to be learned, and it doesn’t simply mean holding out and reacting after a delay. One could sit there like a cat, waiting for hours for a mouse to finally pounce on it. This is not patience! It is important to create space for oneself, to be able to look at the situation from a distance. In this way a transformation can take place, if one wants to work with it. During this process, one can mature in such a way that more and more space and freedom arise. One develops more options for handling difficulties and no longer experiences any absolute blockage or obstacles.

Is it true that we use up our good karma if we have no patience?

Lama Ole’s answer:

To have no patience means to get angry. And getting angry burns all the different good karmas. The many positive impressions in one’s mind burn away and disappear.

There are a lot of beings in the world who think, say, and do good things—beings who build up a lot of positivity. But every time they get to a level where a change—a new dimension of awareness—is required, fear and uncertainty arise. Then the beings start to get angry and fall down. When the old habitual feelings and thoughts spread out again, the beings build up good things once more, fall down again, build up again, and so on.

Since I firmly resolved to consciously work to get rid of my own anger, I find myself less and less often in situations where I would have become angry before. Is this a coincidence?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Definitely not. A very important pillar of our work is the Bodhisattva Promise. From the moment you take this promise, when you work against your anger, fewer and fewer unpleasant people will come to you. I promise you this.

The same thing happens when you stop killing mosquitoes. Then fewer and fewer mosquitoes will come and bite you, because they have the karma for a short life and if they don’t get killed by you then they have to go somewhere else. This is how it is when you stop being angry. The angry people will then go somewhere else because they don’t have a connection with you. You won’t see them anymore.

Hannah and I took the Bodhisattva Promise with Karmapa on a full moon in September, 1970. Before that, there were always fights and big quarrels. I don’t know where the angry people have gone; I don’t have anything to do with them anymore. I only meet nice people everywhere. At times there are a few “rumor-mill people,” but they also say less and less.

It’s like this: one moves within certain power-fields or energy-fields. If, for example, one leaves a circle of violence, then one won’t meet those people anymore. If the violence—the disturbing emotions—are removed from oneself, then one doesn’t have anything to do with them anymore.

Hannah and I observed this throughout the five years we were in the Himalayas. For example, we never saw an animal being slaughtered. And slaughtering happens on every street right at the roadside. We have never been to a festival with sacrifices, where entire mountains are soaked in blood. I have never seen this. I’ve seen only the happy goats, and afterwards a few goat cutlets.

By taking this Bodhisattva Promise, a great deal of harshness, negativity, and things that cause pain and suffering will disappear from your life. I can promise you this.

I’ve noticed that when I manage to avoid anger in a personal encounter, then afterwards slightly arrogant feelings appear. This also isn’t good, is it?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If it helps you avoid anger, then it is okay to have a feeling of arrogance or any other substitute feeling. You can have this until you get tired of it—then it will also leave.

Treat anger like a poison: You simply have to split it into less dangerous components and then break it down further. In the end, you can spread it on the ground as fertilizer.

Almost any means is allowed to avoid anger. I also recommend you to think, “I only have to spend ten minutes with him, but he has to be with himself twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.” This is also slightly arrogant, because you put yourself above someone else. But if it keeps you away from an outburst of anger, then it has been useful as well.

In the end one merely watches and thinks, “Why does he do that?” One doesn’t have any anger anymore and can’t understand where it went.

To me it doesn’t feel like anger comes from inside but that it is planted in me from the outside. Is that possible?

Answer of Lama Ole :

If you don’t have any anger in yourself, then you won’t feel any anger outside! I promise you: it is a question of ring and hook. If there is no ring for the hook of your anger to catch, then you see the supposed opponent as a strange animal in a zoological garden performing somersaults. No angry feeling can arise; you only think, “Strange, why does he act in such a funny way?”

By meditating and removing anger in yourself, you become like a duck: everything poured onto you streams down on all sides and you don’t get wet. This is what we are aiming for.

You might cover the whole world outside with leather to walk in comfort. This would be nice, but also a lot of work. Or instead you meditate, which is like putting on shoes. Then you have your own small piece of leather to walk on, and it also doesn’t hurt.

Is it possible to think that we are angry with someone for a certain reason, but that the real reason lies in an issue from a former life?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Yes, it is quite possible that in a previous life someone took your partner away or killed you. This could be your karma.

This is actually one of the reasons it is so difficult to stop wars. Many beings kill each other and then meet again in another life in all kinds of countries just to kill each other again and again. The only antidote is that the people in an area become so positive that those with bad karma don’t get born in those countries anymore.

If we completely give up anger, won’t we be ignored by others and simply not taken seriously?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If we stop the “either-or” and “me-you” confrontations, if we stop hoping and fearing, this doesn’t mean that we suddenly become friendly vegetables, sitting around, looking at our navels and saying “OM” every hour.

When one has removed the disturbing emotions, then one becomes really effective. Beyond what we think, what we want, what we imagine, beyond this level lies the total joy, power, love—the full energy of our mind. Everything is there, and only when the disturbing emotions are gone can it express itself completely.

We don’t allow anything and everything to be done to us. We don’t become passive or sit around like an ascetic who permits everything without interfering. When the disturbing emotions are gone, then we step in. We become like a “crazy elephant,” as Milarepa said; we do exactly what is needed, without expectations or fear. We react like a sword and cut through wherever necessary.

When you switch from an “either-or” to a smooth “both-and” way of thinking, then you can work with the energies and lead them where you want. So instead of stopping the tiger, you tie a plow to its tail. You direct it, and then it plows the entire piece of land you wanted to sow.

I myself see everything unpleasant as a purification and everything pleasant as a blessing. I see what harms beings, what causes their problems. And with a beyond-personal motivation, I then step in and let things happen the way I want. This happens to all of us as soon as our own expectations and fears are gone. You suddenly have much more strength than before. You’re more effective and certain in what you do. If you are sure that you are doing the right thing, without ego, then you are much stronger and more persistent. But you must not get angry in the process.

In many martial arts, it is said that you must beware the anger of a patient man, because he knows what he is doing. He hasn’t wasted his energy in five minutes of drama. He works in a focused way on what he wants. Always make sure that everything you do emerges from a simple, good conscience; otherwise you lose face. You sit there with egg in your beard and nobody can take you seriously.

The way to change could look like this:

At the beginning, for example, you might go to vote thinking, “Where will I get the biggest amount of money?” or “How can I avoid further speed limits?” On the next level you might think, “What benefits everybody? What brings them more and more freedom and lets them all thrive?” On the third level, you know what you do is right and you simply do what is in front of your nose. There are no more doubts. You are beyond personal; you do what is most useful.

With a Buddhist attitude, one never becomes a “wimp.” However, we already misunderstand this a little bit too. Buddhist countries are usually easy to overrun and destroy. When attacked, they don’t defend themselves well enough. This applies to the countries that were mostly governed by monks. When there were more practical people—laymen and yogis—they could defend themselves better.

If one thinks, “Everybody has Buddha nature; they are fine and we don’t need to protect ourselves,” then the neighbor—who might have only been a little villain—becomes a big villain because he was given the chance, because no one showed him his limits so that he could learn to behave well.

We should be strong and able to protect ourselves!

Although I try to work with my disturbing emotions, some people still make me aggressive. What should I do?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Keep trying until the people don’t make you aggressive anymore. If you think about the fact that all people—even those who make you mad—can expect sickness, old age, and death, then your anger will turn into compassion.

Look at your antagonist like this: He was born, that hurt, he cried, he was so little and unprotected. During his life he had many wishes; some were fulfilled, others weren’t. Right now he wants many things he can’t get. He wants to avoid many things he can’t avoid. Maybe he wants to avoid you but you’re there anyway. And he constantly has to look after everything he owns.

If you have observed this closely, then you will realize that he’s badly off and has difficulties. You can develop compassion and see that this poor guy needs your help rather than an argument. Then you can step aside and let him hit the wall. Or you stop him in a way that is unpleasant for him. But when you react in this way, it must never be out of anger! You have to be aware that if he develops a habit of behaving badly, then it will be very difficult for him to change again. So stop him now.

You can handle people as you like, impress them, be charming, and so on, as long as you wish to liberate them. Check yourself! With compassion and the wish to be useful for others, you can apply your charm. And if you are free of anger, then you can be hard on others in order to help them.

First, always keep the liberating Buddhist view in mind. Then when you begin to see more clearly how people live, what they wish for, and how many difficulties they actually have, aversion will constantly decrease and your wishes for their happiness will increase.

What is the difference between hatred and anger?

Anger is something that comes fresh from the machine. It is hatred if it has been stored in the warehouse for a while.

Anger is there if you react to something. In the case of hatred, the memory of unpleasant experiences is already there, and then negative feelings are activated. Hatred has deep roots and can spread widely. Anger is more a short-term reaction and then you forget the situation.

The gradient within Europe is interesting as well: The farther you go south, the faster anger flares up; but the people there also get rid of it quickly. In Northern Europe, anger appears more slowly but it also stays longer. So the emotional reactions within Europe are a bit different.