Crazy Wisdom

 

Johanna Demetrakas's documentary Crazy Wisdom explores the story of Chögyam Trungpa, the brilliant "bad boy of Buddhism," who was pivotal in bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West.  Trungpa shattered any preconceived notions about how an enlightened teacher should behave.  Born in Tibet, recognized as an exceptional reincarnate lama and trained in the rigorous monastic tradition, Trungpa fled his homeland during the Chinese Communist invasion.  In Britain, realizing a cultural gap prevented his students from any deep understanding of Buddhism, he renounced his vows, eloped with a sixteen year-old, and lived as a westerner.  In the U.S., he openly drank alcohol and had intimate relations with students. Was this crazy wisdom?

Trungpa landed in the U.S. in 1970 and legend has it that he said to his students: "Take me to your poets." He drew a following of the country's prominent avant-garde artists, spiritual teachers, and intellectuals - including R.D. LaingJohn CageRam Dass, and Pema Chodron.  Poet Allen Ginsbergconsidered Trungpa his guru; Catholic priest Thomas Merton wanted to write a book with him; music icon Joni Mitchell wrote a song about him.  Trungpa became renowned for translating ancient Buddhist concepts into language and ideas that Westerners could understand. Humor was always a part of his teaching - "Enlightenment is better than Disneyland," he quipped, and he warned of the dangers of the "Western spiritual supermarket."

 



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