Crazy Wisdom is the long-awaited feature documentary to explore the life, teachings, and "crazy wisdom" of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, a pivotal figure in bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the ... See full summary »
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Crazy Wisdom is the long-awaited feature documentary to explore the life, teachings, and "crazy wisdom" of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, a pivotal figure in bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West. Called a genius, rascal, and social visionary; 'one of the greatest spiritual teachers of the 20th century,' and 'the bad boy of Buddhism,' Trungpa defied categorization. Raised and trained in the rigorous Tibetan monastic tradition, Trungpa came to the West and shattered our preconceived notions about how an enlightened teacher should behave - he openly smoked, drank, and had intimate relations with students - yet his teachings are recognized as authentic, vast, and influential. Twenty years after his death, with unprecedented access and exclusive archival material, Crazy Wisdom looks at the man and the myths about him, and attempts to set the record straight. Written by
Lisa Leeman, Producer
Chogyam Trungpa was a Tibetan 'tulku' who ventured to America and established a Tibetan Buddhist center in Boulder, CO in the 1970s. Coming at the twilight of the hippie period of the 1960s he found many followers who had experimented with psychedelics and were ready for further explorations into new worlds of consciousness. Some people, of course, are naturally attracted to ritualistic religion and Tibet had lots of rituals. And Buddhism has always had an aspect of psychotherapy, a promise of healing for minds in distress, especially for people unable to afford expensive shrinks. Few Westerners had tasted for themselves the exotic and esoteric teachings of Tibet and the fact that Trungpa promised to open these new and exciting spiritual realms for them, (and in a community which at the same time indulged in drunken revelry and free sex) was a compelling magnet to inquiring minds everywhere. Lots of well-known poets, writers and artists went to study at Trungpa's feet. That his behavior was eccentric and even scandalous was just an added attraction.
Trungpa's addiction to alcohol was legendary and this film doesn't try to cover it up. His students argue that the booze didn't impair his judgment but the facts speak otherwise. The video, of course, never mentions it, but in 1975 Trungpa staged a meditation retreat at Snowmass, CO which devolved into a wild naked party. Trungpa, drunk as a skunk, provoked a bloody fight which landed several followers in the hospital. The Boulder Buddhist center had began to acquire the reputation as a cult and that was not helped by Trungpa's drunkenness and womanizing. He took full advantage of his position as guru to ravish his female students, though by all indications they went willingly to his bed. He was married and this caused his young wife a great deal of heartache. His followers defended him. He was a genuine Tibetan and supposedly enlightened and conventional rules didn't apply to him. After all, this was "crazy wisdom." How could you argue with that? He died young of alcoholism, but for many that didn't diminish his message.
One thing is certain, Trungpa's followers weren't the usual losers and zombies who get caught in cults. Many of them were very intelligent and independent artists and writers. But there was a similar cultish dynamic. Many of them had to be treated for alcoholism after Trungpa died and the Buddhist center in Boulder self-destructed. They drank because he was their role model and he drank. They refused to see any of the guru's behaviors in a negative light. The scandal that finished off the Boulder Tibetan Buddhist center is another bizarre story never mentioned in the movie.
It is probably unrealistic for people to expect their saints to be totally pure and without usual human failings. People want to project their fantasies of purity and goodness on their leaders and gurus. No human can live up to those impossible expectations. At least Trungpa was out in the open, he was never hypocritical, what you saw was what you got. Many people found him genuinely likable and for them he seemed to possess a great deal of wisdom. The viewer must decide for himself. Was he full of "crazy wisdom" or just crazy? The film is well-made, but glosses over the negative aspects of his operation and fails to explore the nature of the esoteric Tibetan traditions that were the main attraction at the Boulder center. However you can get a pretty good feel for who Trungpa was and how he influenced so many people by watching this documentary.
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