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.

How can we get rid of an aggressive person who simply won’t leave us in peace?

Lama Ole’s answer:

You should realize that aggressive people are actually in a weak position. A man who is doing well doesn’t have to bother anybody because he has enough power and security within himself.

So, in your case, the man has a problem and it is not your problem. Maybe you stepped on his tie in some previous life, but for you that is over. Now you’re standing in front of a person who is disturbed. There you are the doctor and have to decide how to treat him. He has come to you with his problem, and now you must decide how you want to help him.

There are various possibilities, but one thing must not happen: you must not get angry. If you get angry, you are on the same level as he is. Then you are also weak and will make mistakes.

Instead, you can talk with him directly and say, “Hey, listen, do you have a problem? Can I help you somehow?” Probably the best way to get rid of him is to be overly friendly and psychologically helpful: “You have this problem. I’ve heard all about it. How can we help you with it?” You talk about his problems until he has enough of you and finds someone else he can bother. If you say, “I talked with my Lama about your problem,” then you will be rid of him right away.

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.

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.

How should we react when we are provoked?

Lama Ole’s answer:

It is always a sign of strength if you can be good-natured. Small dogs have to bark, but big dogs don’t need to—everyone knows they’re strong. It’s also like that with us. The protector practice helps make us strong, and in critical situations we can then stay good-natured and cool. This is what it’s about.

That’s how you can recognize your own development. How much space do you have? How do you view what people do? Instead of feeling attacked, do you simply think, “Why do they do that? Why do they jump up and down, roll their eyes, and make funny noises. Why on earth would they act like that?”

What I am telling you here carries great responsibility. This is also part of the Bodhisattva Promise. The fastest way to develop is to always act as nobly as possible. Try to behave like a bodhisattva, even when you can’t stop the habits of your speech and you hear yourself saying something you know you shouldn’t say; or when you can’t control your mind and you find yourself in a corner where you don’t want to be; or when you can’t control your body and you do things that you know will drive others up the wall.

But even if you can’t stop yourself, you should at least try to see that it is happening among buddhas. One can smile a bit, make a joke about the scene one is making so that it doesn’t get too serious and heavy, so that it opens up a bit. Try to see the situation from the highest possible level. Simply decide that it is happening among buddhas—that it makes sense, that it’s good the way it’s unfolding.

This is the essence of everything I am talking about here. The disturbing emotions and the stupid habits are strong, but they are also klutzy. We can develop more and more space around the habits to avoid an attack of emotion or to just let it pass by. There are so many possibilities. Start a mantra so that the disturbing emotion slips away as though on a film of oil, or suddenly say “pei!” inwardly and then concentrate on something else. There are so many ways to block these emotional packages and tear them apart.

It is part of Diamond Way practice to see these trips are a dream, as old remnants of habits that one must not take seriously. Ninety percent of all problems are quite stupid. But they are part of people’s growth process. And if one is not there in the moment and is not able to give others what they need, then they don’t develop.

Maybe their problem seems stupid to us if we have meditated a few years longer or done more in the last life, but for them it feels very real. Then we have to address it and do our best. This is hard sometimes if one is in a rush. In business life, we don’t always have to deal with the problem, but in our relationships with others as Buddhists, we do. That applies to all of you—in the centers, those who travel with me, and so on.

OK, if people just want to make problems, then send them away. But if they have a real issue, we have to deal with it and not think of ourselves as better. Instead, see yourself as a midwife and think, “Ah, a beautiful child is coming into the world.”

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.

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 are the antidotes against disturbing emotions?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If anger is the biggest problem, then we should really force ourselves again and again to wish all beings everything good and to develop compassion.

If attachment is strongest, we should always remember that everything is impermanent, that we can’t take anything with us, and that instead we should let all beings take part in our joy.

And if confusion is strongest, then we should rest in whatever is there—we should go beyond concepts and simply rest in our center.

If pride is strongest, we should look at how everything is conditioned and falls apart again.

And if jealousy is strongest, we should go through with the experience completely to see that it is actually like a stream of awareness, like a stream of water in the ocean.

If we don’t let our anger out, then won’t it direct itself inward and cause problems there?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Under all circumstances, anger has to flow through the system of body and mind. If you keep it inside, then you get sick. But if you let it out, it isn’t any better. If one isn’t very strong mentally, then one should go to a therapist and talk with him or her about the situation.

But if one has a strong mind, then one clarifies the situation in meditation: One sits there and discovers, “The anger wasn’t there five minutes ago; in ten minutes it won’t be there either. And if I get caught up in it for the next quarter hour, then I’ll have problems.” You sit there the way someone who is drowning holds on to a log of wood without letting go. In the same way, you hold on to this attitude.

If anger has appeared in mind, has been understood by mind, and has dissolved back into mind—without catching or blocking anything—then it will be much harder to take it seriously the next time. And the third time it will already be quite thinned out. And someday it won’t come back at all, because it only lives on the energy we put into it.

If we don’t take anger seriously, if we see it as an interesting show—yesterday a sentimental flick, tomorrow the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”—then it won’t disturb us anymore. It only gets difficult when one identifies with the shows. Both the good and bad movies come to an end, but the space-clarity in which the movies come and go—that which is aware of the movies, which experiences the movies—that is permanent; that exists.

I am a psychotherapist and usually tell angry, blocked people to let their anger out. Would you advise against this in all cases?

Lama Ole’s answer:

I completely stand behind my advice that we shouldn’t do this. Mind is a creature of habit. If you allow yourself to be angry once today, then you will be angry twice tomorrow. And the day after tomorrow, you’ll be lonely because our fellow human beings don’t like angry people.

We have already created a whole generation of singles because everybody takes their own trips and feelings too seriously and thinks that they are so important and meaningful. Buddha’s and my own advice is to treat anger as a completely embarrassing, unpleasant, and slightly too clingy customer. Don’t put any energy into it. If the anger comes back, then try again not to put any energy into it.

It is important to remove the conditions that might cause anger. Always remember that the anger wasn’t there before, it won’t be there later, and if you live it out now it will lead to a lot of suffering afterwards.

Don’t create dramas; keep a stiff upper lip and put on a presentable face. Then work it off and let go of the things inwardly during meditation.

It is also important to know that Buddhism starts where psychology ends. Some people who are on a Buddhist path need a good psychologist, and that is all right. But if you have reached a level where you can stand behind yourself and your vision of the world, then just let things pass by without putting energy into them.

What should I do if I often find myself together with people whom I don’t fit in with or whose company I actually don’t like?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Then wish them all the best, leave, and do what you are interested in. Build up your own power-field somewhere else. Humans emanate certain energies; some match well and others don’t. If others are disturbed by what you are doing, then part company with them in a beyond-personal way—because you know that they also want to have happiness and to avoid suffering.

Act according to the situation. If you think someone is treating you badly, then you can teach him a lesson. You have to be able to stand up for yourself. But your reaction should always be relative to the situation. So please do not crack a nut with a sledgehammer.

I always thought that it was quite good to live out one’s anger from time to time. Do you have a different opinion about this?

Lama Ole’s answer:

I boxed for four years and I can tell you: If you want to win, you just need to make the opponent angry. Then he moves like a combine harvester through the ring and only makes mistakes.

Anger is like adrenaline poisoning. You get the same outer signs like red eyes; your hands break things, and your voice becomes hoarse and unclear. You sweat and experience adrenaline sickness caused by yourself. On the other hand, when we stay cool, we do exactly what we want and have complete control. We are grown up when we have control over life—when we can decide to take part in the comedies and stay away from the tragedies. I would definitely consider anger an enemy. It can look powerful if one stands there and rolls one’s eyes, but it is totally ineffective and only causes one to make mistakes.

If someone is constantly causing trouble for me, how can I clear up the situation without both of us getting angry?

Lama Ole’s answer:

It’s best to say what one thinks in an honest and friendly way.

Just tell the person, without any anger, that you don’t like certain things, that they are unpleasant to you, and that you would like this behavior to stop. If the other person does not react even to repeated requests, then make some distance. Clarify the conditions under which you could live together, then, move out or throw him or her out if necessary.

If one is greatly disturbed by the behavior of another person, how can one deal with it without getting angry?

Lama Ole’s answer:

When anger is triggered by habits, then it is important to be aware of what is happening there. Generally speaking, I am not against powerfully intervening in situations, as long as when you do it you don’t exclude the other people from your good wishes!

You can’t draw a line, saying, “Humanity is there and I am here.” Instead, bring in something positive and work with it. Then you’ll move forward. Of course you should show if you feel disturbed, otherwise you will become neurotic. You should just show it in a controlled, friendly way.

So if there is something that strongly disturbs you—if, for example, you see that your relationship with your boyfriend is about to end because he is always leaving his socks on the table when you two are about to eat—remember that he doesn’t do this to tease you. He does it because he didn’t learn any other way, maybe because he was raised badly. You tell him that it disturbs you and that it damages your relationship. Then, if he changes his habit, it is an act of love. And if he doesn’t change this habit, then you can use the energy of your anger to build up as much strength as you need to be able to move out.

But in the long run, one shouldn’t make a martyr of oneself. The following example illustrates this: A married couple had lived together for a long time and used to have rolls on Sundays. The husband would eat the upper half and his wife the lower. But there was always something about this that bothered both of them. After a long time, they realized that the man actually wanted to eat the lower half and the woman the upper half.

It is not good if one is so thin-skinned that one cannot talk to fellow human beings. It is better to find a good way of communicating and to keep in contact.