Can you say something about marriage and parenthood in the modern world?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Like in other areas of life, the partners in a marriage want to have happiness and avoid suffering. In this respect, the marriage is no different from any other relationship between a man and woman—with or without the marriage certificate. Both partners are always free to do as they wish. But this changes as soon as children are born because they depend on their parents. When kids are involved, a couple should try to stay together, even though it might be difficult to find a common language at times. In this case, it would be better for the children to sometimes spend more time with the mother and sometimes more time with the father, as the children like.

Our attitude is what matters: we should support the other person’s growth and development, which means giving instead of taking or exploiting. To do this, we basically need to see our partner as something very precious, as somebody who is able to develop.

If a relationship falls apart, should people stay together for the children’s sake?

Lama Ole’s answer:

This depends on the quality of the relationship between the partners. Nobody benefits from ill-tempered, joyless parents who feel like victims because they had children together at some point. In my opinion, this is an escape from life. Neither the partners nor the children feel good about that. Children get along better with a single parent than with parents who argue or even play their children against each other. This way, they can be together with one parent and then the other, as they like.

If the children are small, it is best to try to stay together at first. If this doesn’t work, they should separate rather than gluing together something that doesn’t fit. They should never forget to speak nicely about each other, and for that, a certain distance is essential.

Sometimes people come together only as a result of their shared karmic debts. They make love on a hot summer night, the woman gets pregnant and has the child, and all of this is because of old karmic debts that need to be paid to another being. In this case, they have to work with it as well as possible, but the situation shouldn’t make them and everyone else unhappy.

I would check whether my partner is my friend—whether we are developing together and making good wishes for each other, or whether he or she can only see me in a restricted role. On this basis, you can decide what you want to do. This life is only one among countless lives, and since that’s the way it is, one has to think beyond the present lifespan. What matters in the long run is real development.

No doubt, for the spiritual development of the partner and the children, it’s best if both parents are around and share the work. One parent might look after the children while the other has time for meditation. This way, we don’t have to cut back in any way. We can even develop well, which in turn benefits everybody.

My husband has allied himself with his parents against me and everybody is nagging me. I really want to leave, but I’m afraid they have already influenced the children so much that they won’t want to come with me. Could you give me some advice?

Lama Ole’s answer:

What I am going to say may sound wild, but I would like to introduce a few new thoughts—to add a few keys to the piano so that you have more options to work with. Maybe you’ll make the usual choice of quarrelling with the husband and the parents-in-law. But I’d like to offer you a wider range of ideas, and you can decide what to do.

Basically, I’m of the opinion that one should suffer as little as possible and cause the least possible suffering to others. I suggest you set up your own life with your own friends. Treat your husband like the weather, which you cannot influence. If it rains, at least the grain is growing, and when the sun shines it’s nice. That is, enjoy what you want to have and swallow down what you don’t like.

If he speaks badly about you in front of others and behaves in an unacceptable way, kick him out. Every day is the first day of the rest of your life. One shouldn’t waste time dealing with difficult things. Children prefer to be alone with their mother instead of constantly seeing their father speak badly about their mother.

If the children don’t want to come with you, then consider this an advantage. You can start over again and build yourself a new life. The children will come back when they are old enough and able to think for themselves. There will be some days when your husband plans on doing something but cannot leave the kids with their grandparents. Then maybe he’ll ask you to take them for a weekend.

For the children, it is better to remain in one place until they are able to think independently. At three or four years old, they already know very clearly what they want. If they can be corrupted by their grandparents, who have a lot of money and who can do everything for them, then this is simply their personal karma, which might be stronger with the grandparents than with you. But at least you can be sure that you have done your best.

If parents separate, which parent should the children stay with?

Lama Ole’s answer:

When taking a human rebirth, a person will be female if the karmic bond is stronger with the father or male if it is stronger with the mother. That basically means that girls feel more drawn to the father and boys to the mother.

This can change throughout one’s life due to other karmas. I believe that the simplest solution is for the children to live with the parent who has found a new partner with a good connection to the children. This is especially true if one parent doesn’t find a new partner. A family is certainly better than a single parent, unless the bond with that parent is particularly strong.

In most cases, I recommend having an extended family, the way the Nepalese live, for example. In their culture, former partners and their new partners create two families out of one, where the children can maintain a good bond with both parents. In this situation, it is important that the former partners do not feel anger towards one another for being left. Both have to be satisfied when they separate.

How can I see beauty in being a mother?

I have a baby and I haven’t slept well for eight months. I am totally exhausted and the child is often sick. I want to give him love, but I am so tired that I fear I’ll drop from exhaustion.

Lama Ole’s answer:

I am also working up to my limits all the time. Often I arrive at some place, meet all my friends, and am eager to talk to them. But I know that if I don’t lie down for an hour first, I’ll give a very boring lecture later because I would tell the same thing again and again due to fatigue.

But it is also possible to use pain as a source of energy. Several times I have only made it through a lecture because I had pain as a driving force. I remember that once I extended a lecture a lot because the police were standing outside and wanted to talk to me about the car I came with. And since they didn’t want to interrupt the lecture, I extended it more and more until they left. I was so tired that I could hardly keep my eyes open. But my boots were too tight and that pain enabled me to hold out.

I believe it was the actor Laurence Olivier who recommended always keeping a stone in your shoe when you have to learn something. This painful pressure was a point of reference for him from which he could gain strength. If your eyes hurt, then be aware of them and pull the energy of the pain out from them. If your back hurts, then be aware of it and use it as an energy source.

In your case, it would be best for you to use your motherly love as a source of strength. This is actually what two billion mothers in the world do in exactly the same way at this very moment. Try to draw strength from your motherly love and experience.

Always find whatever is strongest and get energy from there. Whatever thoughts appear, put them to use. Enrich yourself through your experiences. Start from a rich perspective and never from a poor one. We create our own lives; we ourselves determine what happens. Take the way of identification—it is the fastest and most direct.

On the outer level, avoid anything that could lead to difficult dreams and experiences. Avoid real hostilities and big problems, for example, by never borrowing a lot of money. Then, on the inner level, it is about developing compassion and wisdom. Compassion means thinking of others so much that one has no more time for oneself and that one also truly recognizes and experiences the wish for happiness for all beings. Wisdom means not taking things personally anymore: awakening to the fact that such things happen to everybody at some time.

And on the highest level, one identifies directly with the buddhas. All our meditations work in exactly the same way. After a twenty minute meditation, everything is not how it was before. When coming out of the meditation, one goes into a pure world: Everybody is a buddha whether they know it or not. Everything is inherently pure, with all qualities and possibilities. It is important to experience everything from a level of surplus. And that means not just meditating but also acting like a buddha as much possible. Also after the meditation, the partner is too chubby, the dog still barks, the children are still unruly, and the boss is still insufferable. But one experiences all this in a different way. It is important to experience a pure level when coming out of the meditation.