Can you say something about the other types of relationships between men and women that are not love relationships?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Observe people closely and you will often see what sort of relationship you could have with them. You can see whether attachment arises and what kind of connection it could be—more sexual, more emotional, and so on.

There are four roles a woman can take on for the man and vice-versa. A woman can be like a mother who tries to parent him. Or if the man and woman simply have a lot of fun together, she’s more like a sister. If she is protected by him, she is like a daughter. And if there is physical attraction, she is rather like a lover.

The woman can perceive the man in the same way. He is like a father if he is a protector, giving security. If being together with him is fun but doesn’t involve too many emotions, then he is like a brother. If he is someone who needs to be protected and nurtured, he is like a son. And if he is physically attractive and the relationship flows well, he is like a lover.

Everybody wants to be the lover, of course. This is more exciting and special. But I can tell you, in my experience—and through the blessing of all Buddhas—ten years later, it no longer matters whether someone was like a sister, a daughter, or a lover to me. No matter how close it was, in long-lasting relationships this is not important at all.

Of course one gives more and is more open towards a person one makes love to, since this is a close relationship. But the lasting qualities are much more important, the qualities of the dharma and the quality of trust. What is really important is to grow, to develop ourselves, and to work together.

There is great blessing in being together, but if there is too much attachment, then suffering and difficulties arise too. The most important is to share the dharma—the development and the growth.

I’ve got problems with my femininity. Somehow I have deficits and blockages in this respect. Can you give me some advice?

Lama Ole’s answer:

It is possible for a woman to lose touch with her femininity because she has been talked into believing that it is something bad. This is a crucial mistake. We Danes say there are no frigid women, only clumsy men. A derogatory view of femininity can be brought about by men as well as by women. Sometimes it is rooted in a negative experience in one’s childhood.

In this case, one needs to recover one’s femininity. This is possible through meditation. Mind is like a radiating jewel, and once it is purified through meditation, you obtain something good. You can identify with a Tara form or, if you are a lively type, with a red feminine energy form. If you identify completely with it, all flaws dissolve and any destroyed femininity will be completely restored. Similarly, meditation on the protectors gives men the strength they didn’t have before.

With monks and nuns, it’s the other way around: men meditate on female aspects because they lack those qualities, and women meditate on male aspects since they lack those. This is how one gets the balance.

It is essential to understand that your mind is the mind of the Buddha and that all veils and disturbances are negligible, that they are only dust on the jewel. It’s the jewel itself that is real.

Is the path of development to enlightenment the same for men and women?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If you look at the whole path, women have an easier start because most of the teachers today are men. But it doesn’t necessarily have to stay that way in the future. Today women can fall in love with the teacher, and by being completely focused on him they can absorb a lot and develop very quickly. In contrast, men first have to test each other. There is always a certain amount of rivalry involved. That’s why it is a bit more difficult for men in the beginning. Women also have an advantage because of their gentle and giving nature, while men often show aggression and have to protect others.

But at some point, some very subtle attachments remain more strongly in women—maybe to a man, a child, the family, etc. That’s why the man, who always stays a bit playful like a child, gets through more easily at the end, because he can let go better.

The woman comes to things more with her totality and richness, in a holistic way. And the man bumps up against something and reaches a new dimension, getting through that way. That is why men and women complement each other so well. When there is a good relationship between a man and a woman, the woman can soften the man with her devotion and openness so that he won’t be so stiff and competitive. And in the end, the man can show the woman a few things: “Look! We can do it like this or like that” and so on. And again we see that men and women work better together. Neither is better, but rather together they round each other out and function in a more meaningful way.

There are many ways of learning from each other and developing. When a man meets a woman, she can be his lover, or mother (she shows him the world), or daughter (he protects her), or sister (she helps him progress). When a woman meets a man, it works the other way around. The man is her lover, or father (he takes care of her and protects her), or brother (he shows her how things are), or son (she can do something for him and live out her protective feelings). This range of possible relationships contains a tremendous opportunity to complement each other, a huge field of power and joy that cultivates growth. We just have to find it.

I’m very proud that my male and my female students are developing equally well. Today we also have as many female as male Diamond Way teachers. If they stick with it, we will have many female buddhas.

And actually, it is true that mind in itself has no gender. Only in the moment it connects with a body does it take on certain qualities, a certain type of energy. But as soon as the body is gone, everyone’s mind is clear light—then there is no difference at all.

You said before that wisdom is regarded as a female quality and activity as a male one. But that doesn’t mean that women are basically passive, does it?

Lama Ole’s answer:

No. Of course there are women who look delicate but run a whole company, and men who can carry two pianos but are very shy at the same time.

On the outer level, we are more or less either a man or a woman. Also on the secret level. But on the inner level you might come into the world with a certain imprint due to karma or habits. On the inner level, a lady might have a rather male character and man a rather female one.

Basically it’s just a matter of learning as much as possible from each other. We should develop wisdom as well as activity to their fruition, and understand that they lie within each of us. The man brings in one third of the possibilities of mind, the woman brings in another third, and the last third arises from the tension between the two—from their union. Being with people and close to them is in itself an experience of growth. It’s essential to complement each other, because all cultures that suppress the female element never come to rest. They are always fighting.

I developed most of my wisdom from women because I have a very male character. That’s why women were always my best teachers. There are also women who are very feminine and learn best with a man. Then they feel complete. And finally, there are people who are well mixed. They have both masculine and feminine qualities in equal parts and therefore don’t feel the need for the other. If they want to keep the freedom of having a partner, they become yogis, if not, they become monks or nuns.

Check out how you are put together psychologically, emotionally, and physiologically, because that is the basis from which you can work with yourself.

What are the male and female qualities on the outer, inner, and secret levels?

Lama Ole’s answer:

The higher the teachings, the more important the female aspects of enlightenment become. But that is not the most important point. Some people see the world as male or female, or think either patriarchy or matriarchy is better. But that doesn’t work, because thinking only in terms of one or the other is just too small.

Above all, it is a matter of linking both aspects. On the outer level, you still need distinct male and female qualities and strengths. On the inner and secret levels, we should try to connect male activity and female wisdom. The female lotus flower should embrace the male diamond. We should find the point where both energies fuse.

In this process, the outer differences between men and women are very important and inspiring. The female body is the essence of the five liberating wisdoms, and the male body is the essence of the four liberating activities. It is very important that deep trust develops between the sexes. There is nothing more neurotic than men who hate women and women who are afraid of men. The opposite sex should be the place where we find peace—a temple where we meet.

My best teachers have been women. It’s true that men were the source of transmission and teachings, but women caused the energy to sink from the head to the heart.

Could you please clearly explain the five wisdoms as female qualities?

Lama Ole’s answer:

I see women as bearers of the five wisdoms because I almost always learn them from women.

Very often, when it’s necessary to understand something, suddenly a woman is able to describe the situation as it really is. She then does or says something, maybe unconsciously, that in one moment presents the entire situation as a totality. This is possible because she picks up on things holistically rather than through concepts and ideas. That’s why she can show things as they are. Women can do that especially well when they are calm and not changing with the activities around them.

Women are also more democratic—you can see that, for example, with children. A woman dealing with children has much more discriminating wisdom. She can see what each child has or is able to do. Men would rather set up a concept and then go through with it stubbornly, while women often see more details and work with them. Another aspect of discriminating wisdom becomes obvious when decisions have to be made. There women are often very cool and clear.

And then there is the wisdom of experience. Who teaches the children? Who helps them develop? Who keeps the culture of a country alive? Who carries all this on? It works through the mothers. They are who pass on culture to the next generations. The men flutter to and fro, while the women bring in experience. This is also true when it comes to intuition; one sees that in many cases.

Why do men and women so often feel that they are not understood by the opposite sex?

Lama Ole’s answer:

We simply experience some things differently. For example, a man has problems recognizing that a woman has a 24-hour rhythm: if she is not met with understanding during the day, there won’t be much going on in the evening—no warmth. With a man it is different. He can compartmentalize his day quite well. During the day, he can be discriminating and a bit curt, focused on survival, while at night he is nice and wants happiness and love. It is important for the man to know that the woman experiences this 24-hour thing, and for the woman to understand that the man is not a hypocrite even if he seems soberly organized during the day but is an enamored prince at night.

Let me give an example that shows how differently things are experienced. A couple goes out in the evening. The dinner is good, the film is lousy, but the sex is good. The next day, when the man asks how she liked the film, the woman will say it was good, because she sees it as part of a whole. Then he thinks, “Doesn’t she have any taste?” And when the woman asks him how the day was, he’ll say, “The film was lousy,” and she thinks he also means the dinner and the sex. So it is good to know that you are experiencing things differently. Be nice to each other and enjoy each other; this may be the best advice.

Life is too short for a battle of the sexes!

Why are there so few women in Buddhist institutions?

Lama Ole’s answer:

The women just don’t want it so much. They don’t care as much about high positions in a hierarchical system. Women would rather work in circles than in pyramids, and they don’t enjoy power struggles as much as men do. As long as you don’t disturb a woman and her family, she is peaceful. But when a man hears about someone in the next valley who says he’s the strongest, he will cross a high mountain to check him out.

Then, when a family is started, the women usually spend more time with the children because this is more important to them than advancing in any institution. But as soon as they have more time, they start to open up to the outside again. Then they have unbeatable new experience and tremendous maturity, and they become very good teachers.

In our lineage, women have as much say as men do. We work on the level of fun and friendship. Among my own students—also among those I send out to teach and lead the centers—there are just as many women as men. But it seems that fewer women than men want to drop out of their personal life completely and devote themselves one hundred percent to something beyond personal. Most of them want something for themselves: a family or a man. But we have smart and able women who are quite good at combining the dharma on the one hand with some private life and family on the other.

Is sexuality the only way to bring together the male and female principles?

Lama Ole’s answer:

It’s best if everything male and female basically inspires you. You move through space and perceive it—the openness itself—as the female principle. Likewise, you experience joy as the male principle. You open up towards all qualities and the inherent potential of everybody who crosses your path.

On the personal level, we distinguish between four kinds of relationships, depending on the way people react to each other: a woman can be a mother, a daughter, a sister, or a lover. Not everybody embodies every type. It’s the same thing with the men: there are father types, sons, brothers, and the men that a lady would like to take home immediately. Thus, men and women can complement and touch one another in different ways.

All in all, we should try to let ourselves be inspired by the whole spectrum of experience. At first, you might think mainly of sexual relationships and that kind of closeness. But then you discover that a relationship with fewer desires might be even stronger and, in the long run, more beneficial.

However, the type of encounter is also subject to the degree to which one’s masculinity or femininity has developed. There are people who are very masculine or feminine, and thus need partners to find their balance. For instance, when I am not together with a woman for a longer period, I walk around like a tank: I forget to shave and end up being too rude.

The same is true for some women who are very feminine: if there is no man around, they only talk about hats and kids for days on end and nothing else happens. In these cases, men and women need each other a lot.

There are also the types of people who are less extreme. They have some female and some male qualities, a little bit of both. They can do well without a partner.

Are men and women considered equal in Buddhism?

Lama Ole’s answer:

In Tibetan Buddhism, yes. But there are three different levels in Buddhism:

1) In Theravada Buddhism, the male principle is considered to be higher than the female. It is said that on the last step to enlightenment one must take rebirth as a man. Women are seen more as dangerous distractions for the monks.

2) In Mahayana Buddhism, it is said that the male mind is stronger. But even here men and women are more or less on the same level.

3) And in Diamond Way Buddhism, the male and female principles are equally important. Male or female alone is too little. The point is that we learn from each other, that we complement each other. On the inner level, the female is wisdom and the male is activity. And on the secret level, the female is space and the male bliss. In Diamond Way Buddhism, one can’t say “better” or “worse.” It is a matter of realizing both and bringing both together.

That’s why on the highest level of enlightenment, the Maha-Annuttara Yoga Tantra, there are only male and female buddhas in union.