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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Interview: Lama Ole Nydahl -- An unconventional Lama

July 16, 2010

by Raquel Dura Lahoz
The Baltic Times (Lithuania)
July 15, 2010

Lama Ole Nydahl is one of the few Westerners
fully qualified as a Lama and meditation teacher.
Born in 1941 in Denmark, as a child he had dreams
and memories of clashes with Chinese troops,
where he protected the civilian population of
eastern Tibet. During his honeymoon he had his
first contacts with the Buddhist world. Thus,
Lama Nydahl and his wife were the first Western
students of the 16th Karmapa – the grand master
of Karma Kagyu, a major Tibetan Buddhist school.
Since then this unusual Lama, who wears jeans and
trainers, has passed on their Buddhist knowledge
in a different city every day, inspiring
thousands of people in their lessons and in more
than 600 schools of Buddhism that he has
worldwide, where he teaches the Diamond Way, a
branch of Buddhism. Lama Nydahl met with The
Baltic Times in Riga during his trip to the
Baltic countries, in which he also visited Vilnius.

Q: What are your biggest impressions from your
visits to the Baltic countries? Are people interested in Buddhism here?

A: I like coming here and I have good friends in
the Baltic countries. They are doing very good
work, giving the chance for the conscience to
learn. I like the work they do here. They
definitely are very interested in Buddhism. They
are more interested than thirty five years ago,
when we started giving lessons in the West. In
today’s lesson in Riga we have over three hundred
people really interested in this way of life.

Q: What do you intend to achieve with these
lessons about Diamond Way Buddhism around the
world? How do you describe this way of Buddhism?

A: I think we have a very great tradition of
philosophical and psychological knowledge, but
Buddhism can give more to people about this. I
think giving people great ‘daily’ activities and
some basic instructions about the nature of the
mind are the best things that I can offer to the
world. I also give a way to meditate to teach the
timeless practical methods of Diamond Way
Buddhism. This is a practical and robust system
that develops the qualities and inherent richness
of the mind. The Diamond Way makes the methods of
the Buddha effective, and this is an accessible
way to the modern world. It helps to discover and
to develop our own internal wealth for the
benefit of all beings. That method uses the
energy of every situation to know the mind. Your
mind is clear light which never dies. When you
understand this, you become powerful and the fear
disappears and gives way to happiness.

Q: You have traveled all over the world teaching
principles of Buddhism for 35 years, and you have
established more than 600 Buddhist centers. How
did you decide that you wanted to devote yourself to this?

A: I think this is something I promised myself in
my last life. It is a part of me. When I was a
child I was always thinking about going to the
Eastern Himalayas. Then, I and Hannah, my wife,
met my teacher, the 16th Karmapa, during our
honeymoon in Nepal in 1968. We decided that we
wanted to devote our life to Buddhism. My teacher
gave me the honor of teaching Buddhism. I learned
all my knowledge with him between 1969 and 1980.
In the Himalayas in the ’70s my wife and I were
thinking if people could be interested in
learning this way of meditation. When my teacher
decided I was ready, he trusted me completely.
Therefore, he wanted that Hannah and I teach and
transmit our lineage in Europe. From there, I’ve
been expanding the areas in the West to bring the
Diamond Way to as many people as possible. Now we
have created meditation study centers all over
the world: South America, Canada, Australia… I
don’t have any in Africa because they are
probably not in an abstract mindset and, of
course, I don’t have any Buddhist center in the
Islamic world because there people can be killed
if they leave Islam. I have learned from our
mistakes at the beginning, and now I can give
solid teaching to the world. I think that I will
be teaching the Diamond Way until they carry me
away, because I am the most experienced and I can do the most.

Q: What have you learned all these years from Buddhism?

A: The main thing I have learned is to really see
the pure nature, the perfect qualities of
everybody. I have learned to find the best
qualities in people very well. People can get to
know oneself, to know our real nature and I think
this is the first thing I have internalized. And
I have learned that everybody is looking for joy.
I think this is my job. I want to show them their
perfect features, their potential and the way by
which they can find their joy and happiness.

Q: What would you emphasize from Buddhism?

A: Buddhism doesn’t have rules. We are not
talking about a good god and a bad devil.
Buddhism is advice and Buddha is not our creator,
he is not our punisher or our judge. He is just a
friend who is trying to help us find an
experience that he had in his life. There is not
a paradise or a hell. Buddha is teaching us peace
of mind, the clear light in our minds and how to
develop compassion and be happy. Of course, we
don’t allow some things, but this is common
sense. Buddha would say to definitely avoid
killing people, lying to cause harm, stealing… A
lot of things, like Christianity, are things with
common sense. What is not common sense are things
like suppressing women in Islamic countries or to
kill someone because of their religion.

Q: Why is the Diamond Way so successful in Europe?

A: Well, if people want to experience, if they
are a bit adventurous, if they are not satisfied,
Diamond Way has good teachings. Because people
want an experience, they don’t want a belief.  In
Europe people have been educated in a critical
and scientific way, so they need something more,
they need the experience. I think Diamond is the
only way you can use if you want to experience
your real nature and life. Because you are going
to see that there is not separation between
meditation and after meditation. You are going to
have different experiences always. And if you are
going on with meditation, you can see that
everything is pure. It is based on, we don’t need
to die to go to a pure land or paradise; we don’t
need to go somewhere else to meet purity.
Everything we see, all the time, is perfect and
pure, but we have to find it, and this is where
the Diamond Way can help people. If you want to
be a Buddhist you need just three things: to
learn the methods, to make friends in your own
way and to believe that there is an objective
which you are going to get, and then you will be
able to know the purity of our world.

Q: Do you think we could apply the principles of
Buddhism in politics or the economy?

A: Well, some people tried to do this. I think
when people get involved in politics they become
selfish and they just want to win. So, this is
not a question for those politicians who want to
cheat people. They have to use forces to create
other situations where everybody can have
benefit, and I think this is the way that
Buddhism can help the politicians to manage our
resources better. They have to find the way to
help the greatest number of people.

Q: What is the main problem in the world? How can we solve it?

A: People don’t like to hear it, but the main
problem is overpopulation. This is one of the
really big ones. It is simply that the world is
overpopulated. There are people who live in ways
that people shouldn’t live, like in poor
countries in Asia or Africa. We are seven billion
people now and it is expected that by 2050, we
will be around nine billion people on the Earth.
All the experts say that, if we are lucky, this
world can sustain two billion people with a good
living standard. The same experts are saying that
in ninety years, at the end of this century,
there will be just one billion people, not more
than that, because we have destroyed all the
resources and no more people will be able to live
on Earth. A solution is give money, to pay people
in the poor countries to have fewer children. If
you have one child you will receive two dollars a
day, if you have two children you will receive
one dollar but if you have more children you are
not going to be paid. They will have fewer kids.
They could have one or two children and they
could take care of them and educate them, instead
of having seven kids doing nothing. And if there
were less people in the world we could live
better, the endangered animals could survive and
we could stop destroying the ecological system.

Q: Is there some other problem that it is a threat to the world?

A: I have two fears, one is overpopulation and
the other is Islam. They could destroy the Earth.
Nobody has killed more Buddhist people as have
the Muslims. Historically, they have cost us
millions of people, simply because they were
Buddhists. And they are destroying the women in
their countries. But what we are doing now will
be reflected in our next life, so these kind of
men will be destroyed by women in their later
lives. It is very important that we protect free speech and women’s rights.

Q: How can critical people from Europe, who grew
up in a culture of science, accept the principles
of Buddhism, with its meditation, mantra…?

A: They have to know that body, speech and mind
have influence between them. When you practice
with mantra, when you feel it, you don’t have to
think about science, you are just experiencing
things in your body. When you practice with
mantras, the syllables used bring energy to
different centers in your body: HUNG activates
one’s chest, AH leads the energy to the throat,
and OM makes the head vibrate. You are feeling
that, and nothing else is needed. And when you go
into meditation you know that the energy flows in
your body and in your mind. Our experiences are
always in our mind. That kind of meditation helps
us to make contact with our inherent
enlightenment and accomplish the experience of
our full potential. It is not about thinking, it
is about understanding our nature and trying to
experience all we can. This is the reason why
Buddhism is coming strongly to the West, because
people need to experience, and they find results with Buddhism.

Q: How much time do you spend in meditation? What
do you do in a day of your life?

A: I sleep four or five hours a day; I have been
sleeping as little as I do for many years. And
sometimes I am really tired, but I have to work
as much as I can. I am travelling every day to
other cities or countries to teach my lessons and
help people with them. But every morning I do
some meditation practices and, of course,
usually, in lectures every night, I guide the
meditation of my attendees. But during the day,
the rest of the time, I am in meditation because
my mind doesn’t change. I have been doing
meditation for forty years and now I can’t
differentiate one state from another, and that is
what I am trying to teach to people. Actually,
the reason I can work so much and sleep so little
is because I am sort of in meditation all the time.

Q: What is your goal now?
A: I have to say what my teachers told me. I have
a mission: teaching. I am not doing that because
of me. I am teaching because the 16th Karmapa
told me and my wife what we should do. I don’t
have my own agenda. And since my wife died, while
sitting in meditation in my arms, I have
continued by myself. And I will continue teaching the Way until I can’t.

Q: How can the Baltic people be happier?

A: They have to find how well they are doing in
the world, even with crisis, even with problems,
even with separation between the locals and
Russians… If you are seeing the purity, the
richness and the freedom that we have, we will be
happy. Baltic people can find happiness if they
stop to think about their situation and start
thinking about their luck. They have to be happy with that.
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