Some people are quite proud of their years of practice or their close contact to the Lama, and they look down on beginners. Can you say something about this?

Lama Ole’s answer:

If one wants to help others, then pride is the worst enemy. Proud people think they’re better than others, cutting themselves off from the rest and making them feel uncomfortable.

I insist that you—especially those who work closely with me—make yourselves the servants of the people, as Frederick the Great of old Prussia put it. Loyalty—looking up to others—is perhaps the strongest feeling there is. Of course you should let yourself be inspired from above; but you should also have solidarity and think of others who are weaker. We must learn not only to be loyal but also to see what we can do for others. That is a precious human quality, but it must be learned because it only begins from a certain level of consciousness onwards. I want my students to always think, “I am here for people”—not “I don’t have time right now” or “this one I’ll keep a bit short.”

One should never think a problem is too silly. Of course ninety percent of all problems are rather silly, but they are part of people’s growth. And if we don’t give people what they need, they won’t develop further. Perhaps the problem is silly to those of us who have meditated a few years longer or who did more in the last life, but for them the problems are real. So we must respond to them and really do our best—without thinking at all about “better” or “worse.” We should really be the humblest servant of everyone who comes.

That is difficult of course. We are often in a hurry and short of time. Most aren’t used to acting this way either. In the business world you don’t have to, but in Buddhism you do! That applies to all of you in the centers and to those who travel with me. When people just want to make trouble, you can say, “Talk to him over there” or send them away; but when they have a real problem, we must respond to it and not think that we’re too good for them.

When I talk with people who have wrong views, I get arrogant quite quickly. And when they notice that, they accept what I say even less. Would it be better for me not to say anything at all?

Lama Ole’s answer:

At some point that simply stops. First try to understand that they are all buddhas and that it is actually fantastic that they can think at all and that you can share something with them. Then try to build things up from this level.

One should always try to focus on something beautiful about the other person. If his face is a bit strange, then perhaps his hands are nice, or his tie, or the car he drives, or his girlfriend—anything! Find something that interests you, and that sets him at ease as well, and make that the basis of the encounter. Then from this point of richness, you expand the connection more and more until you can really share something.

At the same time, one must also understand that the reason something disturbs us in others, making us arrogant and proud, is that we have a problem with these things ourselves. One must keep this in mind; it’s easy to forget. The world is just a mirror for ourselves. We only take issue with things on the outside if we still have a few thorny patches on the inside. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk with others until we are enlightened. We only learn by doing!

If you have a problem to clear up with someone, then you can start on a level where you see eye to eye. Then you can simply say, in a very matter-of-fact way, “Hey, yesterday I heard you say this and that. Did you really mean it that way? I think about it like this…” Start first from a level of surplus, and then it will go over well. When you really like people, they will accept anything from you! They’ll feel it.

You are a young bodhisattva, so it’s actually just a matter of time until the stiff style is gone and you can follow your heart completely. And you don’t lose wisdom in the process; you don’t get dull or unclear. You keep the clarity, and at the same time you are free to focus on what you want and to help beings in different ways.

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.

How do the disturbing emotions transform into the buddha wisdoms, and what do these wisdoms mean?

Lama Ole’s answer:

When looking at disturbing emotions, our view is very important: From the view of the eagle, everything is wisdom. From the view of the mole, everything is a disturbing emotion. Only few take the eagle’s view, while most experience anger, jealousy, etc. But if one doesn’t respond to the emotions, if one simply lets them appear in mind and dissolve in mind again, then an entirely new dimension appears, a completely new experience—the way coal dust transforms into diamonds.

When anger dissolves again, mirror-like wisdom appears—like a mirror showing everything as it is. One sees things and recognizes them precisely for what they are. One doesn’t add or remove anything. This ability to see clearly is compared to the lucidity of a diamond.

In the case of pride, one has the chance to transform narrow pride—thinking, “I am better than you!”—into all-inclusive pride, thinking, “We all are great!” And when pride dissolves back into the mind, then one suddenly recognizes that everything is composed of a great number of conditions. Nothing appears by itself; everything is interdependent. This is called equalizing wisdom, because everything takes on the same taste of richness—like jewels that shine by themselves.

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 is spiritual pride?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Spiritual pride arises if you don’t face up to things and you always start something new as soon as you get deep in one area and have to work with yourself. This way you don’t develop, but rather you always think you know better because you’ve already tried everything.

I’ll give an example. It was in Copenhagen, the only time I have ever been to a Theosophical Society. On the way to the lecture rooms, I couldn’t even see the wallpaper because there were books everywhere. Almost all of them were secret books, and I thought, “Whoever reads so many secret things in a mixed-up way will certainly get confused.” And, “Who is actually printing those books if they are so secret?”

I explained what Buddhism is: that we don’t want suppression and holy wars; that we don’t have a creator god who punishes and judges; that instead, karma—the law of cause and effect—is working in our lives; that Buddhism is not a religion of belief; that we don’t have any gods, and so on. Then, after the lecture, one lady said with joy and devotion, “Ah, again we see that everything is from God and that everything is the same.”

But when they got old and the time to die arrived, many Theosophists came to me. They were totally confused and had no clarity. Everything was mixed up with a bit of sugar coating to make it feel good. I was very happy that I could help some of them.

It is similar with Hindu groups—for example, with Bhagwan (a guru called Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh or Osho). Also today in the New Age movement, people get fascinated by crystals and such things, which is totally heartwarming but doesn’t point to one’s own mind. None of these things point to mind itself. Various facts are mixed in a way that feels good, but there is no clarity. Thus one doesn’t hold anything in one’s hands at the moment of death. When people get sick and old and start looking for lasting values, they have nothing.

Only three feelings are real: fearlessness, joy, and love. They are real because their cause does not change—namely, that mind is space. And this space is radiantly clear and limitless. If you experience these feelings, if this grows inside you, then you are approaching the radiant power of your mind. All other feelings are conditioned, put together, and impermanent.

What can we do against pride?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Here, there actually might be only one way: transform the exclusive pride into an inclusive pride. That is, instead of thinking, “How great I am,” one thinks, “How great we all are.”

Life becomes very complicated if you think you are better than others. You always find yourself in bad company and you act accordingly, making everything difficult. But if you think the other way around—that we are all great—then you are in good company; you can learn from everybody and be truly beneficial right here and now with your mind, thoughts, and actions. And this is why I strongly advise you to shape your environment as positively as possible—not to emphasize mistakes and negativity, but to learn to perceive beautiful and interesting things. After a while, good experiences arise and it becomes easy to think in a positive, fully engaged way.

The opposite of this mental attitude—that is, the perfected pecking-order culture—is one you can experience, for example, in a Chinese monastery. There are seven classes of tea: the one in the uppermost drawer has been harvested by certified virgins on the full moon, while the bottom drawer has grass. And when you enter, the monk looks at you and pulls open the second drawer from the bottom. If one constructs such a system, one will have a very complicated life.

How can we avoid developing pride?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Actually, pride is very important for development in the Diamond Way. However, it must not be the exclusive type pride that degrades others, but rather the inclusive kind—the ability to experience the beautiful, exciting, and fantastic aspects of everything and everyone. This is the positive, useful kind that we call vajra—or “diamond”—pride.

The exclusive, negative pride is where one judges others, thinking, “I am good and the others are not good.” It narrows the situation and difficulties arise. And those difficulties are usually one’s own problems, which arise again and again because they are the projections of one’s own mind. The world is a mirror for one’s own face. If you can see a lot of good things in your fellow human beings, then it is a sign that the negative pride has been removed from your mind to a great extent. But if instead you mostly see others’ mistakes, then you know you still have some work to do. Try to see everybody as a Buddha—to always discover something good in them. Then there will also be good feedback for your own mind.

Development starts when we meet people and are able to give them something—in the sense that we put happiness, beauty, and meaning into the encounter, anticipating a good connection. Thus we reach a level where a relationship of mutual learning begins. People start to learn from each other. They grow, new possibilities develop, difficulties fall away, and in the end there is a pure mandala. Also on the relative level, it is so easy: those who give are always rich and experience heaven, but those who have to hold on to everything and can never get enough experience hell.