When I see injustice, I get angry very quickly. Couldn’t this be useful if it motivates me to intervene?

Lama Ole’s answer:

With anger, you always act incorrectly. You shouldn’t be a wimp or limit your field of vision. You should do what is necessary with compassion.

I don’t know when the idea came up that one gets through better with anger. This is not true! Anger is a poison for the mind; it makes us sick and unclear. Only when you keep a cool head will you win.

Try to get to the understanding that all beings want happiness and to avoid suffering. Even if you can’t see it, all beings basically have buddha nature, even someone like Khomeini. He is not evil; his mind is merely so obscured that among all options he always chooses the wrong one. He also wants to have happiness and avoid suffering, but he is so confused that he only makes mistakes.

By understanding that people are ignorant and not evil, you can avoid anger. Get this insight and react with compassion, but also with the necessary sharpness.

I have understood that one can use violence if needed but should do so without anger?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Yes, that’s right. For example, if people are severely disturbing my lectures, then I sometimes carry them out personally. As long as one isn’t angry but does what is needed, then it is completely all right.

Sometimes it is simply important to take drastic measures. If we only have shirkers—who don’t risk anything, look away, and don’t take any responsibility—then our culture will disappear after a while.

If one must use violence, it should be without emotion. Rather, it is imperative that it be done with compassion. One should work like a doctor who knows, “If I don’t operate now, then there will be more suffering and difficulties afterwards.” The purpose must be to benefit others and ultimately to help them on their way.

Here is a funny example. My mother was about five feet tall and was from the pre-vitamin generation, but she was also a physical education teacher. We had a summer cottage in Denmark close to a meadow where horses used to graze. As a five-year-old boy, I once stood there with my back to the fence lost in thought, petting a horse that had its mouth above my shoulder. My mother saw that the horse suddenly flattened its ears; it somehow became aggressive and showed its teeth. My mother jumped over a fence that was as high as she was and drove her head against the horse’s belly with full power—just as the horse wanted to bite. The horse jumped three feet in the air. My mother had nothing against the horse but wanted me to continue on in life with two arms.

In situations like this, one experiences a completely new dimension, as if in slow motion. One acts very precisely, and most of the time one succeeds without harming the opponent too much.

Are there situations where one has to act with an angry appearance in order to create something good?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If you act with anger, then the result can’t be love, peace, and harmony. Anger is toxic. It is only when the ego doesn’t trust itself that it thinks it has to act with anger.

You act much more effectively without anger. Your actions are stronger and better when you act out of compassion. Then you are much smoother; you see precisely what is there and you get your results. Outwardly, you can put on a powerful, angry appearance, but inwardly you must not be angry.

Many young people come to me asking for a certificate that says that as Buddhists they cannot become soldiers. I cannot support this; I was a soldier myself. If there are no soldiers, then who will protect our society and our freedom? We actually have our freedom only because we had enough soldiers. You can very well be a Buddhist and protect your country. You just mustn’t be angry while you do it.

Sometimes I manage to fight anger quite well, but often this feeling turns into a strong sadness. What does that mean?

Lama Ole’s answer:

It is a sign that you have strong purifications. You jumped into this with deep interest and full of openness. You walked the way of the Buddha and have seen that there is suffering, that suffering has causes, and that perhaps there is an end to suffering.

You are strongly interested in bringing suffering to an end. And the more energy, openness, and trust you put into the practice, the more challenges will also come up. There can actually be situations where one goes through all kinds of things and thus cannot have much meaningful contact with many people. That is why we have retreats. There you can dump everything on the table without people constantly criticizing. You can silently go through many inner processes. It is best to do this with one’s teacher or in a group retreat. When the difficulty is gone, then one comes out and can be sociable again.

You are gifted and have really understood that the mind cannot be destroyed. Everything difficult that happens—that comes from the inside—is a purification. In these cases, you can be certain of three things: it won’t be too much, you will learn something from it, and you will always get rid of something.

It is important that you say a lot of mantras, a lot of KARMAPA CHENNO, and that you stay focused. You should also think about the emptiness of things: that everything appears, changes, and dissolves again, that things are not as real as you want to make them. The ego also likes to hide in the drama of the purification process. If you meditate, the energy channels will open up, you’ll go through purifications, but then get back to work. Don’t get absorbed with the drama too much.

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.

What can I do if I constantly have arguments with my parents because they always insist on their old-fashioned views and won’t accept anything new?

Lama Ole’s answer:

In some respects, there comes a time when one has to admit that they are “ready for the museum.” On some points they won’t be able to change and will just stay with the views and expressions of their time. In those cases, keep talking to them in a way they can understand and which benefits them. Try to keep things they can’t understand at all away from them, because for them it is now about enjoying a happy old age. You can tell yourself, “I can’t change them anyway, so I will just be friendly.”

On the other hand, there are actually situations where a spark of life is noticeable, and then one can try to tell them that they should change something, that they aren’t too old to try something new! But one really shouldn’t be angry, because parents are difficult out of stupidity, not malice. They wish their children only the best, but they can hardly understand their own situation. And if you are dependent on their support, then it is very difficult for them indeed when you argue with them too much.

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.

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.

My brother is very aggressive and picks fights all the time. Is there any way I can help him?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If he is willing to say a mantra, then a few million repetitions of OM MANI PEME HUNG would be good. That removes a lot of aggression.

I myself lost interest in fighting during my first visit to a nude sauna. There I suddenly saw how much naked skin there is that can be injured, how vulnerable people really are. When I left the sauna I thought, “Now I will protect them. Now I won’t beat them up anymore; I will change the program.” And that was very good!

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.