What should we do to deal with attachment?

Lama Ole’s answer:

The Buddha gave two pieces of advice concerning attachment, and Karmapa has added another special remedy. On the highest, absolute level—within the Mother Tantra lineage—the Buddha advises working with the melting phase in particular. This means that one keeps the building-up phase in the meditation short and remains in the melting phase for a long time. In the meditation on the 8th Karmapa, there are also special antidotes for attachment.

On a practical, everyday level, and for people who are mainly motivated by strong desires and wishes, the Buddha advises us to think a lot about impermanence, so that we do not bind ourselves too much to the world of phenomena. Secondly, we should share everything good we experience with all sentient beings because desire types do experience a lot of wonderful and rich things. We should always carry a feeling inside us of “I want to show this to others!”

If you make use of all the different levels in this way, you will obtain good results. The most important is to understand that the thought wasn’t here before, it will be gone by tomorrow, and it need not disturb you today—like the waves in the ocean which come and go.

Is it correct to say that desire must be present for a human rebirth?

And if we don’t transform our feelings of desire, will we still be reborn as human beings?

Lama Ole’s answer: 

That’s basically true as long as we don’t do anything really harmful. If we carry out a lot of negative actions in our lives or if we are very miserly with money, we will very likely be reborn in Africa, South America, or places like that. Likewise, if we have been greedy but also generous, we might be reborn in North America or Europe. But the good places are shrinking while the bad places are growing.

It is smart to learn how to develop ourselves. And the beautiful thing about a Buddhist practice is that we don’t need to change or destroy our desires or attachments. We only have to learn to turn all the energy of our desire around. Right now, this energy is focused on athletic partners, money, and holidays. We just need to direct it towards liberation and enlightenment instead. Desire is a very positive force if one knows how to transform the clinging and limiting attachments into liberating and enlightened desire. The tiger doesn’t have to be put to sleep; you can ride him. You harness the tiger to the front of a plough and steer it in the direction you want to go. In other words, we use the power inherent in the disturbing emotions, even though this may not be so easy.

In some cases, it’s helpful to relax and just avoid the most difficult situations where we usually go through the roof. It’s wise to experience everything as dreamlike. Think, “the emotion wasn’t here five minutes ago, and it will disappear in another five minutes. If I get involved with it now, I’ll only get into trouble.” But the most important thing is to make use of the power while turning it around. This is exactly what a fighter does: he takes his enemy’s power and uses it against him.

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.