Is it possible to control our sexuality and to use it in our practice? I myself experience it as a rather uncontrollable energy.

Lama Ole’s answer:

This is the age-old question of psychology. People used to think sexuality was just there and that we couldn’t control it. Today, we see it as part of our totality instead of thinking of it as a loose cannon shooting in every possible direction. We can awaken it, calm it, or guide it in the desired direction.

During sexual union, I sometimes experience that the energies spread out and also rise up a bit. What can one do in this moment to benefit from it?

Lama Ole’s answer:

As a good student of mine, you should do what you always do: think of everything pleasant as a blessing that you want to pass on to all beings, and everything unpleasant as a purification and a teaching on how to help others. Whatever happens, we rest in it, enjoy it, and don’t create strange ideas about it.

Then if it appears naturally, we can expand it. You might know the energy centers in the body: four fingers below the navel, in the navel, in the heart, in the throat, and in the head. If we perceive energy in one or another location, then we pull the energy towards the heart and from there radiate it out to all beings. If we bring the experience to the center of our chest at heart level, then it works in the most well-rounded way.

If we have a lot of thoughts in our heads and can’t come to rest, then we pull everything down to the heart and radiate it out from there. If there is a lot of energy in the lower chakras, then we also take this energy up to the heart and radiate it out from there. Wherever there is surplus, pull that to your heart and expand it. If we can give up the feeling of separation between ourselves and our partners, then some of the general energies in the lateral channels of our body will enter the central channel. This then results in different states and experiences of openness within the body.

The same happens if one learns to hold this state in meditation, filling up the entire upper body from the heart and the lower body from the navel. In meditation, most of the time it happens through openness and dedication, through courage and joy. In love, it happens through the female and the male complementing each other. But we also shouldn’t create too many concepts about it since it isn’t easy.

What does Buddhism say about fidelity in a partnership?

Lama Ole’s answer:

First of all, it is important to understand that Buddha isn’t a creator god or a wrathful god wagging his finger at us with some type of moral judgement. Buddha simply wishes us well—that we live, die, and are reborn in a better way, and that we develop. To a very large extent, the Buddha stayed out of people’s bedrooms. This was the smartest thing he could do.

As a matter of fact, there is a lot of variation among people. From a cultural standpoint, there are many approaches to fidelity. In the West, the one-to-one model prevails: one man with one woman, one woman with one man, and they have a few kids. This model has generated the most solid society in the West. And indeed, it looks like it fits best for most people. But often, it can become a bit too tight; there is too much pressure and too many expectations, like a pressure cooker. In other countries, polygamy is practised, where the man has various women partners. But there are also countries, like Tibet, where women have several male partners.

In Greenland, the code of hospitality entails that the host allow the visitor to spend the night with his wife. That’s because the visiter has often travelled over ice for a few weeks, whereas the husband is always around. Of course it is a precondition that the wife agrees to this.

In Arab countries, by contrast, the women have to cover up their bodies since the men don’t want other people to see how beautiful or how ugly they are. Unfortunately, as a consequence, women’s mobility is limited to a high degree, and a lot of traffic accidents happen because they can’t see properly.

Between these models of freedom and limitations, different people find their way. To a large extent, this depends on karma. In most cases, we probably have the strongest karma with the one or two partners we were already together with in former lifetimes.

Incest was the only thing that the Buddha resolutely opposed. On this point, he was absolutely clear. But apart from that, one can live well as a Buddhist in nearly every society without getting into trouble. A sexual relationship that doesn’t cause harm is a good sexual relationship.

However, the moment that children join in, true responsibility emerges. Then we have brought beings into the world who depend on us. In this case, we should try to be a good family or at least have a good relationship with one another.

Which is better, a long-term relationship or a lot of casual encounters?

Lama Ole’s answer:

There are a lot of different opinions here. For instance, the Danes say, “Why make one person unhappy if you can make many people happy instead?” That was a good option before AIDS appeared. As soon as that happened, the days of making love easily and happily belonged to the past. Since then it’s become riskier, and we should watch out and protect ourselves.

We should also take care not to break too many hearts. By that I mean that you should send clear signals straight away. If you only want a brief encounter, be honest and make this clear from the start to avoid burdening yourself with false promises or other unpleasant things. Love should create joy and not difficulties.

Sometimes a relationship only comes about because the person fits our patterns—for example, they represent a mother or father figure. How should we handle this? Should we try to analyze it or just ignore it?

Lama Ole’s answer:

As soon as we give something a name, we make it small. If we say, “that is like this,” we define the thing and don’t give it the chance to be anything else. In this way, we take space away from the situation and rob it of all other possibilities. It is best to stay in the flow. My advice here would be for both people to see for themselves how to best complement each other, how they can best come together. Analysis is a good approach for dead things. If one begins to cut something up to investigate it, then it’s in slices—it’s dead.

But a relationship is always in motion, and we shouldn’t paralyze it. We simply aim for what we want to achieve. This doesn’t mean being dishonest or not wanting to see something. But in every situation, we give an advance—we give space so that the best thing can develop. I call this “dynamic truth.” Each person looks more at the possibilities than at what has already been achieved. It is like water: it flows; it’s alive!

I experience my physical needs very strongly as attachment and as really unpleasant. How can I deal with that?

Lama Ole’s answer:

In the Diamond Way, we practice as lay people and yogis because we see disturbing emotions as the raw material for enlightenment. This distinguishes us from the Hinayana or Theravada level of monks and nuns.

The good thing is that one can open up to the Buddha with everything, even with our sexuality. The Buddha teaches that the body is a temple with 72,000 energy channels. The female parts are a lotus flower and the male parts a diamond. Everything experienced is seen as pure, as full of wisdom and meaning. And if we ourselves feel pure, we can open up to the Buddha and learn from him; we can work with these energies. In everything that happens, purity, excitement, and freshness appear in every moment.

It is a real obstacle if one has been raised to see the body as an enemy and everything below the belt as bad. Often a Catholic education is the cause. In my opinion, a lot of Catholics need therapy to restore a reasonably healthy relationship with their bodies.

It is important to open up to the buddhas completely, also with our desires and feelings. This way we can ask them to reach out to us, especially if it is about love. Women are more aware than men in this regard. They understand the importance of love much better than men do.

If a man goes to a woman, he should open up to experience her wisdom and to understand the deep importance of love and the significance of openness.

What’s the purpose of the tantric union practices?

Lama Ole’s answer:

In tantric union practice, the main focus is to bring the male and female together to become “complete.” Of course we maintain our outward appearance, but on the inner and secret levels, we can quickly adopt the other gender’s qualities: men gain the intuition inherent in the women, and women obtain the strength of the men. On the deepest level, the man receives the space that transforms everything into something beyond personal, while the woman obtains the joy that rounds everything off.

The practice is very good if one is truly capable of doing it. Men and women can really complement each other that way. Women have certain energies in their bodies that contain different wisdoms and insights: There is a mirror-like wisdom which shows everything the way it really is. There’s an equalizing wisdom that shows the complexity of things. There is also a discriminating wisdom, a wisdom of experience, and an intuitive, all-pervading wisdom. If the man goes to the woman as if he is going to a temple, full of respect and dignity, if he opens up to her and is able to see her on a very high level, he will receive these wisdoms. If the woman approaches the man in same way, she will receive the four activities: the pacifying activity, the enriching activity, the fascinating activity, and the powerfully protecting activity.

On the deepest level, the female is like a lotus flower—warm, open, and happily holding something—while the male is like a diamond which enjoys radiating on its own. But a lotus that doesn’t hold anything and a diamond that doesn’t radiate for anybody are of no use. This is why it is important to bring the female and the male together. On the inner and secret levels, this encounter brings forth a complete human being.

But even if one has accomplished this, one still has desire for the other. Actually, once one has become liberated from hindrances and veils, one’s physical appearance might become more distinctly male or female and one’s ability to love becomes stronger. And on the inner and secret levels, there is great enrichment.

I once heard you say that when a woman has an affair, it is more alarming for a partnership than when a man does it. How exactly did you mean that?

Lama Ole’s answer:

I am always in close contact with people. They come to me and write letters asking me for advice. Hence, I can deduce certain patterns. They might not be valid for everybody, but I would say that they are valid in most cases.

Based on what I’ve seen and heard, I do think that for the woman, the mental level of a relationship is more important, whereas for the man it’s the physical relationship. As long as the man doesn’t build up a relationship of trust with another woman, women don’t feel too disturbed if their partner has fun somewhere else from time to time. On the other hand, a woman can have her five movie stars pinned up on the wall, and it doesn’t bother the man as long as dinner is cooked when he comes home. But he doesn’t want her to go to bed with other men. The physical level is more important for the man, while the mental level is more important for the woman.

Quite often, an affair has a different meaning for a man and for a woman—there is certainly a difference there. If a man has an affair, it might just be because he was in a good mood. A man goes out, has some fun, wakes up in another bed, checks whether she’s a blonde or a redhead, and then goes home and forgets about it. But if a woman does this, in most cases it’s because her relationship is somehow in bad shape. When a woman has an affair, it reveals more about the state of a relationship than when a man does it. That’s why there is the saying, “What Caesar does is not so important; look instead at what Caesar’s wife does to discover the true state of the nation.”

It is said that one should avoid causing sexual harm. However, if one doesn’t want to be monogamous, this happens rather quickly, doesn’t it?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Yes, that’s true. Sexuality also means suffering. It’s a very strong thing. Desire is the strongest of the emotions; it’s the cause for our human rebirth.

People take their emotions seriously. That’s why we should be careful and shouldn’t break hearts for no reason. Breaking hearts is not a good sport! At first, one might consider oneself someone special, above the drama of broken hearts. But then one day somebody comes along and breaks one’s own heart. It can happen that one partner in the relationship falls in love with somebody else. One should always try to handle it as responsibly as possible.

Are there forms of partnership that work well other than a monogamous relationship?

Lama Ole’s answer:

I would say that if there isn’t any jealousy, it can work very well with more partners. In Tibet, for instance, it was more likely that a woman had more than one man and not the other way around. Nevertheless, in most cases, a one-to-one relationship as the core family with a certain degree of openness is the best solution—though there are also cases where it can work well with several partners.

But one always has to take care that nobody suffers or is taken advantage of. Every time people come together, it should be based on the idea of helping another being to grow and to develop.

Sometimes men become quite clingy and attached to me although I only wanted to be friendly. How should I handle this?

Lama Ole’s answer:

It’s best to explain to them how fantastic it would be to share something on many levels—to have a brother or a friend. This way you lead them out of the sexual attachments. And one should tell them in particular, “What you are looking for in me is in yourself. Why don’t you try to meditate a bit?”

Simply meditate on the level of highest wisdom, again and again, and make people aware of their strength and potential. If people want something they cannot get, if they want something in an unhealthy way, it is best to send them on. It’s best to use the energies and help them become independent. Then you can work together later on.

How can I dissolve sexual inhibitions and shyness?

Lama Ole’s answer:

I advise people to see the body as a tool to give the other person joy, and to wholeheartedly jump into the experience. It’s worth it to fully focus on the partner and not think about oneself. Both partners can do this.

The man can be happy about the joy he gives to the woman. And the woman can enjoy the power she activates in the man. In matters of love, I would always decide to follow whoever is experiencing the highest feeling and bliss. If it’s the man who is experiencing something more intensely, then the woman can emotionally melt together with him. And if it’s the woman who has a more intense experience, the man can dive into her experience and be happy to be able to give her so much. It’s like a good encounter between close friends: let the best storyteller do the talking. We simply choose the best trip.

What is the best way to handle sexuality?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Try to see your emotions and your body as tools to benefit and help others. Actually, we can reach other people’s minds through physical joy. This gives them freedom and the chance to experience their own power and qualities. Love is like an initiation where we bring out richness and beauty in each other.

In the past, people saw sexuality as separate from the mind and only belonging to the body. I believe the exact opposite is true: sexuality has something to do with our totality, with our behavior and our whole experience.

Are there any guidelines in Buddhism concerning sexuality?

Answer of Lama Ole Nydahl:

Regarding sexuality, the Buddha gave teachings on three levels. For those who have difficulties with their sexual life—for example, people who get depressed during an orgasm and feel that they are losing something, or for people who have problems with relationships—the Buddha’s advice for this group of people is to become a monk or a nun. That puts the problem on ice and keeps everything out of their lives, but it doesn’t lead to joy and happiness. Their troubles are obviously rooted in previous lifetimes, in which they were unable to build up anything good with others.

Then there is the level of the average lay person, where one sees the body as a tool to give one’s partner joy and happiness. The male part is seen as a diamond and the female part as a lotus flower, and a couple tries to give each other as much happiness as possible.

Then there’s the third level of the accomplishers. They are bound, above all, to their view. Monks and nuns are committed to avoiding suffering; lay people are committed to using their abilities and applying wisdom and compassion in everyday life; and yogis are committed to their view—to constantly seeing everything on the highest, purest level and to always experiencing highest bliss. On this level, if we are capable of seeing something pure in every human being, our sexual lives can be tools to create enormous joy. If it happens on the level of purity, if we have respect for each other, if we experience ourselves and others on a beyond-personal level, then enlightened energies can move and we learn something in the process—it’s totally amazing!

There are, of course, big differences among these levels. Just a quarter-hour of freestyle wrestling with a bottle of wine in your belly—that’s not something I would do or recommend to others. This only causes trouble. On the other hand, it is very good if you can consciously share time together and give each other joy—called detong in Tibetan and “space and bliss inseparable” in English. Then hold this state and radiate it into space as a constant source of joy, as a beyond-personal source of joy that radiates to all sentient beings. If you are capable of doing that, you can bring huge amounts of blessing and a lot of inspiration into the world. You can help many people discover their own potential and strength.

How can sexuality be used for meditation practice?

Lama Ole’s answer:

A meditator’s goal is to have the same control of his body that a racecar driver has of his car. That is, we become capable of steering the energies in the way and direction we choose. However, only those who have already accomplished a lot can do this practice. It is necessary to train, to learn to experience things in a beyond-personal way, and to develop meditative power.

If we look at the succession of the practices, the tantric union teachings come after the practice of “inner heat,” where one can sit in the snow and melt it. To do this correctly, one must be able to pull the energies down, hold them, and turn them around. There is a yogi joke that if a man has truly accomplished this practice, he can pull water mixed with milk up through his penis and then release the water and milk again separately. I have no idea to what extent this is true, but in any case, the practice is very difficult indeed.

The reason we don’t talk a lot about sexual union practices isn’t prudishness. From the Buddhist viewpoint, the body is neither dirty nor sinful. It is a tool—a temple of energy where enlightenment can take place. But one explanation of why union practices are not mentioned often is that many people have difficulties concerning sexuality. If we talk about the energies of the body, sexual energies, and working with them, people often start to think in their old-fashioned Christian or Islamic concepts, regarding sexuality as something dirty and wrong. They build up dualities.

The union practices are generally kept secret for the people’s own good—because they simply cannot understand what a jewel they are holding. If we still hope and fear, hold on and push away, if we want to keep ourselves under control and develop disturbing feelings, then it’s better to keep the lid on it. Only when we can meet each other in a state of giving and taking and aim at developing each other, only then does the tantric union practice become useful. Not until one experiences everything as a dream and can see both practitioners as forms of energy and light does it make any sense to invoke the powerfields and exchange energies.

Generally speaking, it’s like this: use your body as a tool to give others joy and avoid causing them suffering. You should also not destroy the joy experienced when making love with any ideas about how we should do it. Enjoy, be good to your partner, and everything else will evolve gradually.

In Buddhism, the ultimate level of insight is called detong, which means the inseparability of joy and emptiness. That means that you remain in a state of bliss and ecstasy. You keep this state without interruption, and you are in full control of it. But it is not a personal state. You radiate into space, full of joy. As soon as something is touched by you, it starts to radiate too. In this state, the experience isn’t that one person is doing something for somebody else. Rather something happens in open space. Try to hold this level all the time, when making love too. Experience it as the highest initiation and not as a small thing you only want to keep for yourself. Then it will be an encounter full of highest truth and the most beautiful jewels. Stay aware of this and then radiate on everything.