If one falls into states of confusion after taking drugs, is that only due to the drugs or does one also have to have a predisposition for it?

Lama Ole’s answer:

There must really be a ring and hook there. I am from the sixties and had a lot of experience with drugs. I wrote my exams at the University of Copenhagen, and before I met Buddhism I was very interested in all possibilities for unfolding the mind.

OK, the clear light that one sees on LSD is really great, or being able to leave one’s body and all of that. But gradually you discover that it’s actually not the drugs that make you happy. The happiness that you might have experienced in half a year gets compressed into eight hours. When you have done that a few times, at some point the red letters come from the bank, “Overdrawn! Overdrawn!” and the joy and meaning are gone—fear and confusion take their place.

If you have taken drugs, then that is the background you can work with. You then develop yourself further through meditation, which lays a foundation for everything beyond that. But if you haven’t taken drugs, you don’t need to do it now.

I am not saying that LSD should not be used. It should be available for psychologists to use in cases of extreme fear of death. Actually, in such cases, minimal doses of 25 micrograms can make a “click” so that the fear disappears. I think that LSD should be available as a tool—as medicine—in the hands of good psychologists, perhaps also lamas if they have the time. But it should not simply be available for everyone to stuff their heads with. That is not good. And if you achieve development without drugs, if you succeed with your own strength through meditation, it is much more effective. You establish something permanent. If you take drugs, first you’re way up and then you crash again; you have a lot of yo-yo trips that you can gab about later, but you have no lasting experience. With meditation, you put one stone on top of the other. Wherever you are in your development—that’s where you really are.

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.

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.

What can we do when our grief over someone’s death lasts too long?

Lama Ole’s answer:

You should try to get over the grief as soon as possible, because while grieving you simply don’t have any surplus. Instead of grieving for people who are dead, you could do a few good things in their name.

Do it like the old Germanic peoples: they get together three days after the death and drink a fair amount to the noble exploits of the one who has died. In this way, they let go of the dead.

When my parents died, I could help them get to the pure lands, where they are protected and doing well. My experience with this is that I still feel them, that they are there and doing good things. Let go of the grief; it doesn’t benefit anybody.

What can I do when my thoughts start racing?

Lama Ole’s answer:

In general, thoughts are always there. A thought arises, and if one observes it one realizes that it just continues to flow like a stream, like waves that come and go. It is interesting when they are there; it is also good when they are not there.

You shouldn’t take thoughts too seriously. Thoughts, concepts, and ideas are useful if you have to learn something or apply your intelligence. Whenever you aren’t engaged in work that requires full concentration, you can disconnect the stream of thoughts from the immediate actions.

For example, while riding a bicycle one doesn’t think, “Now first I have to move one foot here and the other foot there, and at the same time I have to hold the handle bar and shift into the right gear,” and so on. Instead, one just sits on the bike, trusts the wisdom of the body, and rides it. If one does what lies in front of one’s nose and the thoughts continue in parallel, then the actions become more spontaneous, effortless, and useful.

Body, speech, and mind contain a great amount of spontaneous, intuitive wisdom and energy. You are a Buddha; you have everything in you; you are connected with everything.

Thoughts are very good if you can switch them on and off as you like. Then you think what you want and turn them off again when you have thought enough—you are spontaneous and effortless. The best teachers for this are the surfers on the coasts of California, Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand. They lie on their boards in the water. For a long time there are no waves. Then a wave appears that would bring them only halfway to the shore, and another comes that would break the board. Then finally, the right wave appears and the happy surfer gets up and rides in. He doesn’t hate one wave and isn’t attached to another, but instead he simply does what’s possible. And when we live in this way, the abilities and powers inside us come to the fore. I also learn a lot in this way about patience.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to turn off the thoughts when they become too many. But there is a good method which Milarepa also used centuries ago. He spoke the syllable “PEI.” In the very moment one says PEI aloud or inwardly, the thoughts diffuse and are gone.

Another way to free yourself from thoughts is to imagine the lama on top of your head. The lama appears as if made of water, and you let this water flow into yourself. This way you become the lama himself, who in our case is always the Karmapa. Imagine that you yourself are Karmapa and try to hold this perception and feeling as well as possible.

If important thoughts come up that distract you from what you have to concentrate on, then you can write them down. Since we Westerners react strongly to written things, it is very helpful to use notes to keep from being distracted from what is important in the moment.

I often daydream for a long time. When I notice that I’m doing it, I try to focus on my work but it is hard for me to get really clear in my head. What does this mean?

Lama Ole’s answer:

For you it is certainly good to do a lot of practical work—to stay on the ground and not be pulled away. You found the right methods through your intuitive wisdom.

Forcing oneself to do something very precisely, here and now, is probably the best antidote against floating away, especially if one is very dreamy. Okay, if one has just fallen in love then dreaming is all right. But for general life, dreaming is not so meaningful. Instead it’s better to pull yourself together a bit and do what’s in front of your nose. One day you will break the old habit, and then any daydreams will be inspiration, fascination—everything will be interesting.

This is a case where one shouldn’t use any mantras, because with mantras one also lifts off. That’s why mantras are good against disturbing emotions.

What’s the difference between love and attachment in relationships?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Disturbing emotions like attachment originally arise from confusion. There are only three emotions that do not result from confusion and are therefore absolute: fearlessness, joy, and love.

Fearlessness arises when mind recognizes its space nature—when mind discovers that it isn’t a thing, but indestructible like space itself. Joy emerges when mind recognizes its clarity nature. This happens when, on the basis of fearlessness, mind experiences its free play—its potential and its richness. Then one becomes joyful and happy.

Love arises when mind recognizes its unlimited nature. If you realize that the nature of mind is space-clarity and boundlessness, and that all beings are like us—that they want to be happy and to avoid suffering—you’ll notice that you cannot separate your own feeling from those of others. There is simply nothing else you can do but become a loving and caring person. Only these feelings have the true nature of mind as their cause, and thus they really are of a permanent nature.

The mind of normal people is like an eye: it looks outward but cannot see itself. All phenomena in space can be measured and described, but the question of the size of mind, of its length, width, form, or taste—nobody can answer these. We know everything about the outer world but nothing about the one who experiences it. This is bad since the outer images are constantly changing, whereas mind always remains the same.

From mind’s inability to see itself, two fundamental emotions emerge. The first is attachment or desire. We experience ourselves as being less than the totality of all phenomena and long for something we think we don’t have. The second emotion is aversion. We think that we don’t like all those people out there, that they are dangerous.

Many people tend to mistake desire for virility and think that without any desires we would be impotent. This misunderstanding is based on a misinterpretation of words, but it is the reason why many don’t want to meditate. This is why we use the term attachment instead.

If we take a closer look at love and attachment, we can clearly distinguish between two things. The first one only has positive aspects; it is the giving type of love. This love manifests itself through a direct exchange with someone or through a general feeling of compassion, sharing with others whatever one has. It also appears as sympathetic joy, meaning that we are happy about things that don’t have anything to do with us personally—simply because we consider them to be meaningful. And finally, with this kind of love we are balanced; we know that everyone has buddha nature, no matter how much this clear light may be hidden.

The other, bad kind of love doesn’t take place in the here and now, but instead happens in the past or future. It doesn’t set others free but rather limits and confines them. This kind of love cannot rejoice if the partner learns and develops but rather worries that he or she is becoming smarter than we are and might run away soon. We should really make sure to get rid of this jealous, narrow-minded, envious, and expectant kind of love the moment we see it approaching. Restrictive control isn’t beneficial to anybody. We should give freedom to people and let them go. If they come back, they belong with you; if they leave for good, they will be happier somewhere else. Everything clingy, sticky, and full of expectations isn’t good. Everything liberating is good.

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.

How can we get rid of indecisiveness?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Think about the interconnectedness of everything—that you are not really separate from others. If you want to be useful for others, then make the very strong wish to be able to give them what they need. Then you will do the right thing spontaneously and effortlessly, without thinking that now you are doing this for someone else. This is the goal.