I have a very close circle of friends whom I’m strongly connected with. But now I realize that I have to get away from this group. How can I dissolve the connection with goodwill?

Lama Ole’s answer:

The best is to think that everybody benefits the most this way. You can think, “If they disturb me then they will also get bad karma, and I can only help them after I have gotten some distance.” You only need to justify it to yourself. To them you say something that can emotionally pass as a reason, and then you happily walk away. And the flimsier the explanation is, the more they will be forced to examine their own situation.

If you come in with a big, extensive explanation, with points and sub-points, and whys and wherefores, then they can address it on a conceptual level. Instead of this, the best thing is to say something like, “I often got headaches when we were together”—something completely subtle and feminine. Then they’ll start to ask “Why?” But by then you are nowhere to be found.
A gnawing feeling will remain with them. They’ll ask themselves, “What was that? Why headaches? Why would someone get headaches from us?” So you leave something that will keep on scratching and digging for a long time. Then you have left them a good gift. You have set something in motion with them.

How can we help a friend who has gotten himself into big trouble? He is not aware of what he is doing and rejects any good advice anyone offers.

Lama Ole’s answer:

There are direct and indirect ways to work with this. We may tell people directly, “Listen, do you know what you are doing to yourself?” We assert ourselves as well as possible. Apart from that, we make wishes to the buddhas and say, “Please, before all his capital is used up, just give him a good one on the nose, fast and hard so that he realizes that it was not a good idea and can get out of it.” We have good experiences with Tara in this type of situation, the female buddha principle. She can help in a motherly way. Mahakala may be a bit rough there, but we can use him too.

I would make wishes that they get into difficulties quickly so that they can stop quickly, instead of torturing themselves for a long time. Because the longer they keep on, the more strength they lose and the deeper they get into trouble. If people want to run head on into the wall, it is important that those who would usually hold a pillow in front of them pull it away from time to time and say, “Olé!”—because when it hurts, people may start to think. They really should be confronted with their actions.

My brother worked with people in withdrawal. He was very tough with them and provoked their pride. He really treated them like dirt, always pointing to their situation and saying, “Look at what you are now. Look at what you’ve done to yourself!” And in many cases, he was able to find a shred of pride and could then say, “Come on, now show me how you can do it differently.” He got them out like that, but it is difficult. Bad company is like honey—it sticks to your fingers.

How can we help friends who have started to take drugs and become rather arrogant and exclusive?

Lama Ole’s answer:

We should simply explain to people who take drugs that even though they feel better subjectively, objectively they function worse. Drugs decrease one’s ability to think critically. Although objectively their abilities continually decrease and they accomplish less and less in school, work, and life, they think they are good and are becoming better and better because their ability to think critically decreases so rapidly.

The ego avoids situations in which they could have developed. One can always point out the facts very clearly: exams they didn’t pass, work they didn’t do, personal issues they couldn’t cope with, and so on. They might feel good, but they are in their own personal dream. Seen objectively, life is not going particularly well for them. Actually, one can only help drug users once they have already discovered that their lives are going down the drain.

The reason why we don’t let people who take drugs into our centers is simply that it is a waste of time: you won’t be talking to them but rather to the drugs. If a heroin user walks in, he’ll be sentimental. If a cocaine addict comes, he’ll be callous and want to check everything. If someone on ecstasy comes in, he won’t understand anything. A person on amphetamines will run around the table three times and then out again. A pot smoker will sit there and have a lot of emotions, but the next morning he won’t remember anything.

Because our lives are so short and time is so scarce, we can say: “Thank you for coming and thank you for leaving. Come again tomorrow when you can understand what we are saying.