(Quoted from Crazy Wisdom and Other Bad Ideas - below)
(quote)In the west, we have a particular danger of gurus who cynically or naively capitalize on the possibilities that open up when you lead people out to sea. Many such teachers claim that their degree of understanding places them outside of the normal range of human values.
Sure, they may seem like selfish assholes on the surface, but that’s just because they’ve broken through to the other side. And if that means the guru wants to sleep with your wife, like Adi Da or Richard Baker, then brace yourself for a lesson on non-attachment. (unquote)
Not What You Think-Crazy Wisdom at Fifty-Five | Tinfoil Ushnisha
Feb 24, 2013 ... It's Sunday for Japhy, the day after his "Day of Beauty" with Gigi, Harry and Marie. Marie out did herself, as usual, with Japhy's topiary, that ...tinfoilushnisha.wordpress.com/.../not-what-you-think-crazy-wisdom-at-fifty- five/ - 49k
Not What You Think-Crazy Wisdom at Fifty-Five
(Quote)Reading Khenchen Thrangu’s commentary it occurred to Japhy that “crazy wisdom” as he and his vajra cohorts know it, is fifty-five years old.
“We actually have a date of birth for crazy wisdom, August 3, 1957, which was the day Khenpo Gangshar transmitted his lineage at Thrangu Tashi Chöling’s school Shedrup Dargye Ling.”
Among many of Japhy’s vajra cohorts, when most of them think of “crazy wisdom” they think of Chogyam Trungpa’s much ballyhooed misbehavior, which in fact has nothing to do with what those of Japhy’s cohorts in the know, know to be crazy wisdom.
“Today, I and my vajra cohorts, thanks to the example of Khenchen Thrangu, and Khenpo Karthar, know that what many think of as crazy wisdom in the vajrayana is pure nonsense.”
Crazy wisdom or ‘yeshe chölwa’ (Tibetan:, Wylie: ye shes ‘chol ba) has nothing to do with how you behave. Based on the example of the two surviving Rinpoche’s who hold Khenpo Gangshar’s “crazy wisdom” lineage, Japhy and his vajra cohorts know better, that “crazy” or “chölwa” (, Wylie: ‘chol ba) in fact means “topsy-turvy, upside-down” in presentation, in the sense of a Tibetan dialectic, which has nothing to do with playing the fool to amaze and entertain your audience, which sadly is what many think crazy wisdom to be.
“In addition to the example of Khenchen Thrangu and Khenpo Karthar, we have, through the late Tulku Urgyen, we have Yongey Mingyur. His father, Tulku Urgyen received the lineage directly from Khenpo Gangshar.”
Historically, for Japhy and his cohorts, the origin of the crazy wisdom lineage can be traced back through Khenpo Ganghar’s root guru, Sechen Kongtrul, to Jamgon Kongtrul Kongtrul the Great, best known for his role in the 19th Century Tibetan Renaissance movement, Ri-Me, ????????(Wylie: rid med), which turned the conventional wisdom of centuries of Tibetan vajrayana’s rabid sectarianism on its head, by introducing Tibetans to the notion that vajra encampments of different lineages have something to learn from each other.
“In Tibet, back in the 19th century, this was thought to be crazy, as in topsy-turvy, upside-down, which is what the crazy wisdom lineage did to the Tibetan sectarian establishment at the time.”
As Japhy and his cohorts understand crazy wisdom, what makes Khenchen Thrangu, Khenpo Karthar and Yongey Mingyur holders of the crazy wisdom lineage crazy in their dharma activity, is to be seen in how they have turned the conventional wisdom of today’s Tibetan vajrayana establishment on its head.
“When I began with Khenpo Karthar over thirty years ago the conventional wisdom of the Tibetan establishment was that as an American, already in my twenties, given my utter lack of familiarity with the dharma, which anyone born Tibetan is born to, I had a snowball’s chance in hell of being able to practice the vajrayana on par with a Tibetan.”
After Japhy received the lung and tri for Mahamudra from KKR, given that KKR was teaching his fellow cohorts that they had to complete ngondro before receiving the lung and tri for Mahamudra at that time, he kept it under his hat until relatively recently. My receiving the lung and tri for Mahamudra before I had even heard of ngondro, was nothing if not topsy-turvy, upside down.
“Of course, the vajrayana conventional wisdom of today in America is that crazy wisdom is when a Rinpoche behaves badly. Sadly, this is simply juvenile, which is why I make a point to emphasize my doing HHK17?s ngondro, which is the opposite of behaving badly, instead my misbehavior in life, which has nothing to with wisdom, and everything to do with my ignorance. Any nitwit can fake crazy wisdom, if crazy wisdom is nothing more than behaving badly.”
Crazy Wisdom And Other Bad Ideals on Meso Blog
Google citations for yeshe cholwa
Here was another article and set of reflections
On Crazy Wisdom and Other Bad Ideas
with 11 comments
“To ordinary people, I look completely mad. To me, ordinary people look completely mad.” – Milarepa
Viktor Frankl, the celebrated author of Man’s Search for Meaning, was addressing a congress of psychologists and psychiatrists when he read two short writings to his audience. One was written by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger; the other, by a hospitalized paranoid schizophrenic. Which, he asked, was written by one of the world’s most prominent philosophers, and which by the patient?
Of course, they were unanimous in judging Heidegger to be the madman. (1)
How do you tell the difference between craziness and genius? It’s not always so easy. Sometimes the perspective that makes sense is simply wrong.
When Thomas Jefferson heard reports from Yale that meteorites had recently fallen, for example, he is said to have replied that “it was easier to believe that two Yankee Professors could lie than to admit that stones could fall from heaven.”
Madness and genius both entail perspectives that lie outside of the ordinary range of what people accept to be true.
The Tibetan Buddhists speak of a distinction between what is true from the perspective of ordinary life, and what is really true. According to one tradition, something is conventionally true if it cannot be disproven by normal reasoning or perception. But ordinary reasoning and perception are mistaken, so there is no simple way to arrive at the ultimate truth. (2)
This distinction between the way that things appear and what’s really going on is at the heart of Buddhist teachings, which hold that our mistaken ideas about the world are the ultimate source of all suffering.
When we translate this problem into a human context, we find groups of people trying to collectively orient themselves with respect to what’s really going on. But how do you know?
Of course, you can simply not worry about it – you can settle down in your own vision of reality and say that everyone else is wrong. That’s a common approach.
But if you don’t accept the normal version of reality, and you want to figure out what’s really going on, you have to go outside of convention. Most of the venerated spiritual masters have said that the ordinary perspective is mistaken.
The problem is, whenever people come together and reinforce a shared set of beliefs, they run the danger of creating a sealed-off world and losing their moorings to the planet earth. There has to be some basis for staying grounded, or it is very easy to drift off into space.
In the west, we have a particular danger of gurus who cynically or naively capitalize on the possibilities that open up when you lead people out to sea. Many such teachers claim that their degree of understanding places them outside of the normal range of human values.
Sure, they may seem like selfish assholes on the surface, but that’s just because they’ve broken through to the other side. And if that means the guru wants to sleep with your wife, like Adi Da or Richard Baker, then brace yourself for a lesson on non-attachment.
Such teachers have often appealed to the idea of “crazy wisdom,” which is supposedly of Tibetan origin, though in my 15 years of study I have yet to see the corresponding Tibetan term, or find any teacher in Tibet who advocates it as a philosophy.
There is, however, a rich tradition of folklore regarding venerated teachers who shock their disciples with unorthodox behavior, trying to wake them up by confounding their expectations. People like Tilopa, Milarepa, Drukpa Kunley, and the Sixth Dalai Lama fit the bill. It’s also a beloved and common motif in China and Japan – the itinerant Zen priest who piles contempt on the bureaucratic functionaries of the great temples.
It’s a charming motif, the mad fool. But I see no evidence that it was ever intended as a philosophy of practice or teaching. Most of the Tibetan sources I’ve read that deal with such an approach consist of scornful denunciations of self-described Tantrikas who use the Dharma as an excuse to indulge their appetites.
In the short history of the Dharma in the west, we have been blessed with an abundance of controversial teachers who, to all appearances, have acted unethically by pressuring students to sleep with them as part of their practice or by appropriating funds. And many of these teachers are defended as practitioners of crazy wisdom. Two of the many examples that come to mind are Chogyam Trungpa and Richard Baker.
(Persons in the comments section disputed whether 'abundance' was the right word. Well -- Chogyam Trungpa. Muktananda. Adi Da. Richard Baker. Rajneesh.
Sai Baba, Dennis Merzel, Eido, Sasaki,Zen Master Rama, Sri Chinmoy, Sogyal, Castaneda -- for more, go to the group archives for Cult Education Awareness. Abundance seems a restrained term and appropriate to use.-Corboy. Yet another instance in Tibetan Buddhism of promiscuity plus violence is described in Washington Post journalist Martha Sherril's book, The Buddha From Brooklyn.
Now back to essay. )
"Trungpa, who drank vodka like you and I drink water, according to his friend Shunryu Suzuki, is remembered as a sensitive, insightful teacher and a gifted writer. But he is also remembered for his raging alcoholism and controversial sexual tendencies, including reports that he led his followers in wild sex parties that got out of hand, with some students literally finding themselves stripped bare by hordes of others.
Having written a book by the name of Crazy Wisdom
, Trungpa probably did more than any other figure to introduce and defend the concept to American culture. He spoke of crazy wisdom as though it were an established and mainstream tradition in Tibet, which it is not.
"That may well be his most enduring legacy to western Dharma, which leads me to agree with Kenneth Rexroth, who said that ““Many believe Chögyam Trungpa has unquestionably done more harm to Buddhism in the United States than any man living.”
"Richard Baker is an American Zen monk and energetic disciple of Shunryu Suzuki, the Japanese Soto Zen priest who founded of the San Francisco Zen Center. Baker was an enormously effective organizer and played a vital role at building the Zen Center into the prominent institution it is today. But he also was an egomaniac, using community funds to buy expensive vases and cars while a number of the students who worked full-time to keep the Center afloat did not even receive health care. And he slept with many of his students – a behavior that was, for whatever reasons, long tolerated and indulged, until one of his students became suicidal after his wife began sleeping with Baker. (3)
"Eventually he was forced out of the institution that he helped build, but many years after that debacle he showed himself in interviews to be bizarrely heedless of the impact of his behavior. Reading an interview he gave with Tricycle magazine, I got the sense he doesn’t even understand why people were angry.
"It is not so odd to me that a charismatic narcissist could set loose his unfettered appetites on a crowd of students and call it enlightenment.
"But it is odd to me that so many of his students didn’t seem to know how to take it. “Perhaps it is the great teaching of Buddha,” they may have said to themselves, “when he takes the food off my plate. I should greet it with equanimity.”
I was inspired to write on this topic this morning after reading in the New York Times about the latest chapter in the dramatic saga of American teacher Michael Roach, founder of the Asian Classics Input Project, and formerly a geshe of the Tibetan Sera monastery, until he was kicked out.
I took one of his correspondence courses in 2000, and at the time I was put off by what I took to be his doctrinaire perspective. Many times in his lecture series, he exhorted his students to just “take the Buddha’s word for it.”
Now, I do not subscribe to that point of view. The Tibetan scholar Gendun Choephel said the following about “taking the Buddha’s word for it”:
One may think: ‘We concede that our decisions are unreliable, but when we follow the decisions of the Buddha, we are infallible.’
Then who decided that the Buddha is infallible? If you say ‘The great scholars and adepts like Nagarjuna decided that he is infallible,’ then who decided that Nagarjuna is infallible?
If you say ‘The Foremost Lama [Tsong Khapa] decided it,’ then who knows that the Foremost Lama is infallible?
If you say ‘Our kind and peerless lama, the excellent and great so and so decided,’ then infallibility, which depends on your excellent lama, is decided by your own mind.
In fact, therefore, it is a tiger who vouches for the lion, it is a yak who vouches for a tiger, it is a dog who vouches for a yak, it is a mouse who vouches for a dog, it is an insect who vouches for a mouse. Thus, an insect is made the final voucher for them all.
Therefore, when one analyzes in detail the final basis for any decision, apart from coming back to one’s own mind, nothing else whatsoever is perceived.” (4)
There is no way out of this circle.
Ultimately, you are the judge of truth and falsity, and you are responsible for your judgment.
Michael Roach and Christie McNally
Michael Roach’s behavior has become increasingly strange in recent years. He was disowned by the Tibetan establishment after he began an unprecedented “celibate marriage” with his student Christie McNally several years ago, in which they were never to be more than fifteen feet away from one another.
That struck a lot of people as pretty weird. It’s the kind of distorted expression of sexuality, I think, that tends to come out of celibate clergies. I could not help but wonder why he didn’t do the obvious thing, give back his monastic vows and marry his cupcake? It seemed like a red flag to me.
The story just got a lot worse. Reports came out this week that McNally, who has since “divorced” Roach and married another fellow, was found delirious on the desert property run by Roach’s group.
McNally and her new husband Ian Thorson had continued living at Roach’s desert retreat center, but had a turbulent time of it. The two were apparently told to leave the retreat center after McNally stabbed Thorson during a fight.
Instead of complying, they headed for the hills and hid out on the land.
Tragically, both fell ill while living in a cave, and were too weak to retrieve water. By the time the couple was found by a search party, Thorson was dead.
You know, in all of these cases, the warning signs were not subtle. We have charismatic personalities associated with devoted students. We have increasingly prominent evidence that something is wrong with the guy in charge, and the signs are ignored. Cognitive dissonance is explained away by the students as crazy wisdom.
So, students of the Dharma, a word of warning: if your teacher tells you that sex with him is part of the practice, something is probably wrong. When they’re driving a Rolls while the center is kept afloat by volunteer work, something is probably wrong. If you’re told to “just trust” the tradition or the guy in charge, something is probably wrong. When you start seeing widespread evidence of students considering unethical or criminal behavior, something is probably wrong.
I’m an advocate for Sane Wisdom.
And ninety-nine times out of a hundred, when your teacher starts talking about crazy wisdom, the sane thing to do is get up and walk away.
1) Frankl V. The Will to Meaning. Plume. 1988. pg. 4.
2) See, for example: Newland G. The Two Truths. Snow Lion. 1992.
3) Downing M. Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center. Counterpoint. 2002.
4) From Choephel’s Ornament of Nagarjuna’s Thought, translated in: Lopez Jr, DS. The Madman’s Middle Way. The University of Chicago Press. 2006. pp. 49-50.
Written by Mesocosm
June 7, 2012 at 10:12 am
Posted in Articles, Musings
Tagged with crazy wisdom, criticism, michael roach, richard baker, trungpa
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1. A thoughtful, necessary post. The term in Tibetan I was taught is yeshe chölwa, though you could then quite reasonably ask where it’s found, in what texts/oral traditions; and that I do not know (I’m just a recovering Zen person).
I do know that it’s easier to ignore or rationalize such cognitive dissonance when you’re in hierarchical situations: when victims (e.g. students) are disempowered and often also isolated, then they lose that ability to reality-check what their teacher is saying (there being not a lot of external reality against which to check it). The teacher becomes, usually at his/her insistence, the primary or only source of validation; at which point, of course, it’s the student who feels craziest. Really strikingly similar to an unhealthy romantic relationship. The only real refuge is in the precepts (and in finding a really good psychotherapist). Thank you for writing this—
June 7, 2012 at 2:25 pm
o Thank you for taking the time to reading my post, and for sharing your thoughts, J.
Thank you also for pointing me to yeshe chölwa – I am not surprised to learn that a term exists, but I’ve not run into it in my own reading, for what it’s worth.
The crucial point is that it’s a good narrative device, but a very poor model for practice.
I think you’re quite right. The asymmetry of the student-teacher relationship, as well as the role of transference – particularly in traditions that actively cultivate transference, like the bhakti or guru yoga tradtions – are precisely why a responsible teacher will place strict limits on sexual involvement with students. It’s a situation that is fraught with peril, and many lives have been damaged.
June 7, 2012 at 2:39 pm
§ Agreed—although I sometimes feel there’s so much attention paid to sexual abuse (understandably: it’s horrifying, plus calling it out looks more dramatic on e.g. a helpful chart), that not enough notice is taken of psychological and emotional injuries—often severe, and of the type that can set a practitioner back for decades. And this I find to be unfortunately much more common; systemic, even. In other words people don’t have to perish in caves for their spiritual communities to be truly sick. (Now I’m just writing my own post on your blog, lazy creature that I am, so please excuse.)
On Crazy Wisdom and Other Bad Ideas | Mesocosm
Jun 7, 2012 ... The term in Tibetan I was taught is yeshe chölwa, though you could then quite reasonably ask where it's found, in what texts/oral traditions; and ...mesocosm.net/2012/06/07/on-crazy-wisdom-and-other-bad-ideas/ - 88k - Cached - Similar pages
Corboy note: These two essays are important.
Vast damage has been done via the 'crazy wisdom' alibi.
Persons who suffered abuse disowned their own suffering by invoking this alibi.
Persons who made abusive gurus into self objects, projecting their own ideal
selves onto these abusive gurus, used the 'crazy wisdom' alibi to rationalize
and justify the violence and fiscal abuse perpetrated by these idealized thugs.
And those who delighted in the violence perpetrated by gurus but who carefully
avoided ever living under the authority of these persons used the crazy wise
alibi or rude guru alibi to defend these types.
Any suggestion that a spiritual seeker had basic human rights was considered
So read these essays and ponder the implications.
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 07/10/2015 05:15AM by corboy.