This weekend, I saw Crazy Wisdom, a documentary about Tibetan lama/Western guru Chogyam Trungpa. Trungpa was and is considered a “bad boy” of Buddhism, a reincarnated lama from Tibet who spread Buddhism’s wisdom to the West in his own, inimitable style.
A smoker, a heavy drinker, and a man known for having intimate relations with many of his students, Chogyam Trungpa was not the stereotypical image of a guru. He was known for having “crazy wisdom,” the kind of insight that could be seen as being entirely, totally free or entirely, totally crazy. And what is the difference, really? So long as one can exist in society, there is room for our eccentricity, our total humanness.
Loved by his followers for being totally, completely human and having no apologies about it, Chogyam Trungpa taught by example. He challenged accepted memes and spoke wisdom in such a way that it forced people to think for themselves. One of his most famous books also contains one of his (still) most controversial ideas: that those on the spiritual path may be reinforcing the ego instead of dismantling it if they become too enamored of their spiritual knowledge or pursuits (I’m referring to Spiritual Materialism, one of Trungpa’s most important books).
Crazy Wisdom has lots of great archival footage of Trungpa as well as of the Vermont meditation center that later became the first building of the growing Shambala spiritual community. There’s some footage of Tibet and Trungpa’s travels around the world, and at the end of the film, Trungpa’s cremation ceremony is shown.
This documentary sheds some light on Trungpa’s life and personality, although there is still a sense of “who was this man?” at the end of the film. And that’s probably just as he would have wanted it.
More on Trungpa from the Shambala website: http://www.shambhala.org/teachers/chogyam-trungpa.php
Check out Crazy Wisdom through Saturday, December 3, 2011 at the Ruben Museum of Art in NYC.