Friday, March 28, 2014


Is this how a Tibetan lama looks like? Maybe so. I've asked the "Buddhism and Modern Thought" class to watch the hagiographic documentary "Crazy Wisdom: A Film about the Life and Times of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche." The most important founder of Tibetan Buddhist institutions in the West, Chögyam Trungpa is - to put it mildly - a fascinating character. It'll be interesting to hear what students make of his unconcealed "drinking and womanizing" (as Joni Mitchell described it in her song about meeting him), but I suspect our discussion will gravitate to the ways he recreated the outward forms of British colonialism in Boulder. He gave his hippie followers elocution lessons in the queen's English, setting up an aristocratic "Court" complete with valets and maids, and the khaki-clad Dorje Kasung military guard.
All of this is described in this film as inspired "crazy wisdom," the kind of counter-intuitive, even mind-blowing demands which only a truly enlightened vajra master could or would make. I can sort of see how troubling and transformative it will have been for people coming out of the anti-war movement to have to cut their hair, put on uniforms and drill for hours - a leaning into the power of aggression which promised to be able to truly transcend and end it... and for Americans to have to engage in extended deadly earnest play at the British class system to wean them from the shallow promises of "spiritual materialism." Maybe.

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