Does the mind need a body to become enlightened?

Lama Ole’s answer:

To become enlightened, it is better to have a body. In the pure lands, where one only imagines one has a body, reaching enlightenment is certain, but it happens much more slowly. To have a body means to experience desires, attachment, pride, and many other states. If the huge power contained in these feelings is transformed, it brings radiant enlightenment very quickly indeed. That is the advantage of having a body. If we properly use all the desires, attachments, expectations, etc., that we currently experience, then we are on the fastest path to enlightenment.

The body is also useful because we can hold the mind with it. Since the mind is bound to the body, one can, for example, use body posture during meditation to calm the mind down and focus it on one point. We can also work with sense impressions and our identification with them.

What actually keeps the mind tied to the body?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Habit! At this very moment you are connected to all energies and places everywhere. What keeps you in your body is an ego-illusion. There is actually no difference at all between the vibration in your skin and the vibration everywhere. And you don’t have to leave the body to become enlightened. What keeps you tied to your body now is habit. And habit again is what will try to hold you back while dying. This will continue until the ego-illusion falls away.

Why does the unenlightened mind always seek out a body again?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Our actions, thoughts, and words from former lives—our karma—work like a kind of glue, like something that makes things crystallize out of the possibilities of space. We then find parents when they make love—we tether ourselves to the fertilized egg and are born. And what binds us here is cause and effect and our ignorance in thinking that we are limited. We are bound here because the conditions are there, because a hook and a ring came together, because we aren’t able to see mind as clear light but instead identify with the body.

If we think we are our body, we are deluding ourselves. Rather, we have a body. The body is something through which we can work, but our true nature is clear light. As long as this is not recognized, we believe that we are our body and experience old age, sickness, death, and all the difficulties that go along with these concepts. Buddha shows us the experience that we really are clear light. This is the goal. The body is our tool to use for the benefit of all—without experiencing ups and downs, without expectations and fears, but simply because it feels so right.

What does it mean if one suddenly sees oneself from above?

Lama Ole’s answer:

That is a good state. It is good if one can leave the body; this is a sign of good karma and previous meditation. It means that you have little attachment to your body. It will be easier for you to do something for others, and dying will be easy, too. You should mix this wisdom with compassion so that you consciously do what benefits beings.

Hannah, my wife, often experienced this phenomenon of seeing herself from above. When she was a child, she used to see herself from a corner of the room. I have mostly experienced these states while on LSD or during accidents. Once while climbing, I fell ten meters down because the foothold I had put all my trust in came loose. There I was outside of my body. I saw my body spin around and knew that if all went well, I would continue to live, and if not I would go somewhere else.

Is it meaningful to keep our body in shape—for example, by bodybuilding?

Lama Ole’s answer:

A little bit of bodybuilding will certainly do no harm. At the same time, if you identify enough with the desired form, then you will get that form. In my case it is like this: I hardly have time for sports. I hold a pencil in my hand if I am writing something, and from time to time I hold a steering wheel. And yet I am still in rather good shape. The reason is that I see my body as a tool to protect others. While walking around, I experience myself in the shape of a “Y”—that is, with broad shoulders and a trim waistline. And the motivation is to be able to protect others. I think that if you do that, then all the extra kilos disappear by themselves, because in your own image of your body there is no place for them. They don’t fit into the plan.

The effectiveness of bodybuilding also works to a great extent through the mind—for example, if you focus on developing half an inch more muscle than last week. If you see yourself as the Buddha of Limitless Life, then you will certainly live long and be strong and healthy.

Sometimes I suddenly feel very tired when I still have many things to do. How can I know whether this is a real physical need for sleep or only a trip, a purification, or just a bad habit?

Lama Ole’s answer:

You determine this yourself by your motivation. You might want to do something meaningful and think of your body as a tool, but at the same time you have a huge pressure in your head, or maybe a little flu, or you haven’t slept for a few nights. Then it’s not a bad idea at all to lie down for a short while. What is decisive is the motivation to quickly enable yourself to do something for others again. If you use sleep as a medicine, then it is good and natural.

On the other hand, if you are dealing with difficult things or have problems with someone and don’t want to talk to them, and you then take five sleeping pills, pull the pillow over your head, and are out for twenty-four hours, then this isn’t so good.

I think that the problems of the body have to do with material that the mind can’t digest. If one has all kinds of problems in one’s mind, then one pushes them into the body over time and in turn the body doesn’t do well. But if one does what one likes and considers meaningful, then the body really can bear and do a lot.

Check yourself: What is your level of enjoyment? Are you more on the side of pleasure or on the side of aversion? If you are on the side of pleasure and think, “OK, the body is a machine and needs to rest from time to time,” then you do what you have to. But if you are on the side of aversion or reluctance, then you better give yourself a big kick until you do something useful.

How can we make our body more disciplined, with a greater capacity to work?

Lama Ole’s answer:

The best method in Diamond Way Buddhism is the 111,111 prostrations. If you have forced yourself through this practice, then everything in life is easy. Once you work your way through this intensive treatment, then the body isn’t a difficult master anymore but rather a good servant. Then you can use it for what you want to do, and it won’t be all crooked and obstructed anymore. After the prostrations, your body will be completely different.

I would give everybody this advice: use the prostrations to push out all the drugs, all the laziness, all the compromises, all the things you have constrained yourself with—forcefully blow all this out of yourself with the help of the prostrations and then move on.

Since the body is an important tool, we should take our needs seriously and take good care of our body, right?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Yes, of course! But as a human, one is subject to old age, sickness, and death. And therefore, it pays off to take as much money out of the bank with low interest rates and put it into the one with higher rates. This means elevating all physical attachments and ideas of a solid, sensually conditioned world to the level of freshness, freedom, and great joy. It is a question of what values we trust in and commit ourselves to. And here it is worthwhile to be interested in values that can’t break and that are really reliable.

We are currently on the relative level, but we hear there is an absolute level of full enlightenment. A part of us can understand this, while other parts still cannot. But first we hear about this highest level and look into the mirror. Then we meditate, and through the power of the teachings and the blessing they contain, attachments and limitations will loosen very quickly. And in the end, everything we had been fighting for earlier we now experience as a gift. Moreover, we see things on a level where nothing can be lost or disappear. It is a “both-and” view. On the one hand, what we have now gets better, more relaxed, and easier, and on top we achieve the absolute level which we don’t know yet.

Is it true that an enlightened person is reborn in a human body again and again?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Enlightened beings are reborn only if they wish to be. They have free choice. The bodhisattva Loving Eyes took rebirth multiple times among birds because apparently they are able to learn certain things. And all of space is truth. Wherever an openness for truth arises in us, this truth will manifest in such a way that we can connect with it, learn, and develop.

Is it really true that my actions in this life determine what kind of body I will be reborn with in my next life?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Yes! The body we have now is a consequence of karma. What we do in this life has four results. First, it determines the experiences we will have when we die—which subconscious impressions come up and whether we experience happiness or suffering. Second, if we are reborn as humans, it governs what kind of body and genetic constitution we get. Third, it determines the country we are born in—a pleasant or unpleasant one, a rich or poor one, and so on. And finally, what we do in this life molds the attitudes we develop when we’re reborn—whether we are basically friendly, like people, and want to help them, or whether we are generally difficult and bring people suffering and problems.

These are the four results of previous thoughts, words, and actions. One can say that the body is the solidified state of consciousness; it reflects the impressions that lie in the mind. And thus one can influence the mind through the body and the body through the mind.

How important is a healthy body in working with our mind?

Lama Ole’s answer:

That depends on one’s level of meditation. On the highest level, you can meditate on everything—on diseases, on suffering and difficulties, on tiredness, and so on. Everything can be transformed and used as raw material for meditation. Most of our rinpoches are in a bad state of health. They eat the wrong things and don’t really take care of their bodies, because from a certain level of meditation on, everything is pleasant—sickness, pain, everything is enjoyable because no matter what happens one just sits there and experiences joy.

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.

As Buddhists, what relationship should we have to our bodies?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Buddha gives direct advice on how to think of our body, speech, and mind. He explains that the body is an important tool to protect beings. This can be interpreted more or less psychologically. The body is there to be generous and to give others what they need. It is also a tool to give love. Compared to Christianity, Buddhism sees the body completely differently. It is in no way dirty or sinful.

The higher the teachings, the more pure the body is seen to be. On the level of practice, we view it as full of energy channels and totally pure, as fresh and new all the time, as exciting and meaningful. We see everything female as the expression of five wisdoms and everything male as the expression of four kinds of enlightened activity. By holding this view and never seeing others as boorish or unattractive, we set free a huge amount of creativity, love, joy, and power inside us, which then work for the best of all beings. To protect others, to give material things and love—that would really be a good Buddhist understanding of the body.

I experience my physical needs very strongly as attachment and as really unpleasant. How can I deal with that?

Lama Ole’s answer:

In the Diamond Way, we practice as lay people and yogis because we see disturbing emotions as the raw material for enlightenment. This distinguishes us from the Hinayana or Theravada level of monks and nuns.

The good thing is that one can open up to the Buddha with everything, even with our sexuality. The Buddha teaches that the body is a temple with 72,000 energy channels. The female parts are a lotus flower and the male parts a diamond. Everything experienced is seen as pure, as full of wisdom and meaning. And if we ourselves feel pure, we can open up to the Buddha and learn from him; we can work with these energies. In everything that happens, purity, excitement, and freshness appear in every moment.

It is a real obstacle if one has been raised to see the body as an enemy and everything below the belt as bad. Often a Catholic education is the cause. In my opinion, a lot of Catholics need therapy to restore a reasonably healthy relationship with their bodies.

It is important to open up to the buddhas completely, also with our desires and feelings. This way we can ask them to reach out to us, especially if it is about love. Women are more aware than men in this regard. They understand the importance of love much better than men do.

If a man goes to a woman, he should open up to experience her wisdom and to understand the deep importance of love and the significance of openness.