The Divine Madman: The Sublime Life and Songs of Drukpa Kunley

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Item Code: IDJ076
Author: Keith Dowman Sonam Paljor
Edition: 2000
ISBN: 9788177690132
Pages: 190 (9 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.4" X 5.4"
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Book Description

About the book:

This is the "secret biography" of one of Tibet's foremost saints, the Buddha Drukpa (1455-1570). Appearing in the spiritual lineage established by Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, and Milarepa, Drupka Kunley was recognized as an incarnation of the great Mahasiddha, Saraha. He is greatly loved by the people of Tibet as a "Crazy Wise" teacher and enlightened Master whose outrageous behavior and ribald humor were intended to awaken common people and yogis alike from the sleep of religious dogmatism and egoistic self-possession. This book is a compilation of anecdotes and songs passed on to this day in the taverns and temples of Tibet and Bhutan.

The Divine Madman was the first biography to appear in the West of a Crazy Adept "at work." In contrast to other more ascetical teachers of the East who teach negation of the body and its desires, Drukpa Kunley used desire, emotion, and sexuality to arouse disillusionment, insight, and delight in all he encountered. With consummate skill he followed the path of Tantra, or the realization of Bliss in the union of opposites, employing sexuality to quicken the awakening of his consorts. As an unparalleled chronicle of Enlightened action, The Divine Madman is the most potent introduction to the high teaching of Tantrism to date.

Keith Dowman, who has translated the Tibetan text into English, has spent fourteen years in northern India and the Himalaya, engaged in meditation and study of the Tibetan tradition. His published translations include Calm and Clear, The Legend of the Great Stupa, and The Loom of Light. Lee Baarslag, who has provided Illustrations full of authentic details, lives and paints in Nepal.




Drukpa Kunley and the Crazy Wisdom Method of Teaching by Georg Feuerstein

This volume records some of the stories about the Adept Drukpa Kunley (Tib: 'Brug-pa Kun-legs), which to this day are favorites of the people of Tibet and the surrounding regions. Whatever the historical credibility of these stories may be, they deserve our full attention for two reasons: first, become Drukpa Kunley counts among the most celebrated Adepts of the Himalayan countries, and second, because he belonged to the tradition of "Crazy Wisdom," of which precious little is known in the West.

Like that other great in the West better known Tibetan Adept Milarepa (1040-1123), Drukpa Kunley was a "madman" (smyon-pa), an Enlightened "eccentric." But unlike Milarepa, who was a celibate teaching by means of poetry and song, Drukpa Kunley used poetry, song, dance, humor, drink, and not least sex to Teach his contemporaries the great Lesson of spiritual life: that the individual being, with its countless likes and dislikes, is constantly immersed in the universal Reality-that the phenomenal world (samsara) is indeed coessential with the transcendental Reality (nirvana).

Drukpa Kunley, in the style of all the "divine madmen" before and after him, was a relentless critic of what the modern Crazy Adept Da Free John calls the "usual man" – whether he has donned a monk's garb or labors in the field. Drukpa Kunley mocked the secular and religious establishment, railed against commonplace morality and conventionalism, and lashed out against the narrow-mindedness of the earthling who does little more than stake out and defend his own insular existence.

The Spiritual Master is indeed a voice that rises in this wilderness, to Awaken every neighbor from the illusion of his acre of land, his ordinary pond, his body-mind. It is a necessary voice, the voice that sounds whenever the Truth of human experience is Revealed to one who is Awake. Therefore, such a one speaks, even with urgency and anger. It is the prophetic voice, the awful shout, expressed with all the gestures of frustrated Divinity.

The motivation for Drukpa Kunley's unusual exploits was not personal gain or self-aggrandizement, but the spontaneous desire to Enlighten others. "What I do is not the way I am, but the way I teach"2 is Master Da's explanation of Crazy Adept's unorthodox Teaching methods. "Care-free renunciation, an excess of compassion, total lack of inhibition, skilful use of shock-therapy, tears and laughter, are the specific characteristics of the divine madman," writes the translator of this volume (p.28).

In the West, but also in the East – wherever religious fundamentalism or a dualistic metaphysics holds reign, spiritual life is characteristically viewed in opposition to material, bodily existence. If it is regarded as legitimate at all, as it barely is in our society, it is generally promoted as an other-worldly, ascetical, and ethereal pursuit. Such spirituality is based on the presumption that Man is a disembodied, unfeeling, sexless, and relationless entity.

Crazy Wisdom Adepts have an altogether different view of Man and life in general. For them, Enlightenment is a whole-bodily Realization that does not presuppose a world-negative attitude, a disposition of mystical inversion, and esoteric ascent of awareness. They know Reality to be here and now and nondistinct from the creative struggle of life. As Master Da Free John writes:

We must surrender to and into the Present God. God is not elsewhere in relation to us now. God is always Present, Alive as all beings, Manifest as the total world. Our obligation is not to invert and go elsewhere to God, nor to extrovert and exploit ourselves in the self-possessed or anti-ecstatic mood that presumes God to be absent or non-existent. Our obligation is to Awaken beyond our selves, beyond the phenomena of body and mind, into That in which body and mind inhere. When we are thus Awakened, our lives become the Incarnation Ritual of Man, whereby only God is evident and only God is the Process of the present and the future. That Way of Life is not bound to this world or any other world, nor to any from of attention in body or mind. Rather, the Way of Life is Ecstatic, God-Made, Free, Radiant, and always already Happy.3

Although Drukpa Kunley, being a Buddhist, did not use the term "God," the mood of his Teaching is nevertheless akin to that of Master Da. By his own testimony always "relaxing in the stream of events" (p.93) and "never working, letting reality hang loosely" (p.133), Drukpa was continually and spontaneously communicating the great Truth of "Emptiness" –that "whatever arises is the Path of Release" (p. 133). This is what Master Da calls seventh-stage Wisdom. One who abides in the Self of God in the seventh stage of life is Awake to God under all conditions. He inheres in God through Self-Realization (the moment to moment re-cognition of attention) and, as the Self, inheres in God as Infinite Radiant Bliss. The Self is Awake to the Radiance of God. All objects, all arising conditions are found to be a transparent Play on the Radiant Immensity of the Divine Person. Thus, in the seventh stage of life, the soul inheres in God as the Self, and the Self inheres in God through re-cognition of everything in God.

Therefore, in the seventh stage of life, the soul is Awake as Love, or Ecstatic Worship of the Transcendental and All-Pervading Divine Person. All inwardness is transcended. All obsession experiences, objects, and others is transcended. There is constant re-cognition of all arising conditions of experience, but all the while there is natural abiding in the Ecstatic Love of God through radical intuition of the Condition of everything.

Thus, in the seventh stage of life, the arising of attention and experience is not at all prevented. The soul Awakens from its exile in the world and its seclusion in the heart. There is only Ecstasy, or Perfect God-love. Attention has been Transformed, so that it is simply the Radiance of the Self, rather than the binding gesture of an independent consciousness.4

From the Realizer's aerial view of existence, the world process is essentially chaotic, nonsensical, and utterly undependable. Where the conventional, ego-entrenched mind anxiously clings to meanings of its own making, and thereby exposes itself to repeated frustration and suffering, the Enlightened being sees the non-binding nature of all arising conditions-and encounters them with a sense of irrepressible humor. Perceiving God or Reality equally in everything, he neither shies away from anything nor becomes obsessed with any experience or idea. Because he is radically and irrevocably Free, he can also abstain from them without repressing any latent desires or tendencies. For the Realizer, life is Divine Creativity or Play (lila). In the language of Sufism, he is "drunk with God," which sacred inebriation makes him immune to the "poison of the world."

In his God-intoxication or Ecstasy, however, he is prone to behave at odds with the all-too-sober world of social convention. In the eyes of the world, therefore, he is a radical, an anarchist or eccentric – a lunatic. His very existence calls into question the established order. Living, as he does, out of the plenitude of the Whole, he has no need for any self-limitation. His entire life is a towering symbol, a constant demonstration, of the fact that the limitations the "usual man" presumes are merely neurotic strateties to introduce a semblance of stability and orderliness into the incessant flux of events that constitutes phenomenal existence.



The Naljorpa Drukpa Kunley was an awakened Buddha, a Master of Mahamudra and Dzokchen. I am very happy that English readers now have the opportunity to read a full account of a Tibetan Mahasiddha's life. The stories in this biography are not fiction or fable-the events described really happened. The lovely stories the Master left behind him are associated with existing landmarks, temples, and homes. Even since Tibet has been closed to us, the pilgrim can still find faith in the Naljorpa's power spots, and see his belongings, in the eastern Himalayas. This biography is full of inspiration.

The biographies of Tibetan saints are written in three distinct styles. The 'external biography' gives us factual information about the saint's life: where he was born; his youth; how the change in his mind took place; how he renounced the eight worldly preoccupations (praise and blame, loss and gain, pleasure and pain and notoriety and fame); how he gained an understanding of karma; how he met his teacher and took refuge in the Lama; how he practised his moral precepts, study, and meditation, to gain both relative and absolute compassion; how through the maintenance of his SAMAYA vows and his accomplishment of the two stages of Tantric practice, he brought his body, speech, and mind to full enlightenment. The external stories embody his teachings to common disciples and beginners, and show the events of his life in terms of ordinary perceptions.

The 'internal biography' emphasizes the inner life, describing the universe in terms of meditation experience, stages of realization, Deities, Dakinis, YIDAM, and Budd has and their Pure Lands. It describes spiritual evolution in terms of veins, subtle energies, and the essential, elemental body (rtsa rlung thig-le).

In this work the stories are written mostly in the style of the 'secret biography'. Here the Lama's life is fully revealed in terms of his perfect activity, and there is no distinction made between external events and the inner life. The path of development has ended, and with complete abandon, the Master is seen fulfilling the highest goal. He works without any discrimination, inhibition, or selfish motivation, to give meaning to other people's lives. It is called 'secret' because without having realized the Lama's state of mind, we cannot understand it, and because traditionally such literature is kept hidden away from people who are following a pure Hinayana discipline or the path of Mahayana altruism. An uncensored account of the Lama's activity is likely to raise all sorts of doubts and fears in the minds of devotees. Also, it is secret, a mystery, because a Buddha's existence resolves the paradoxes and dualities of being. The way Drukpa Kunley acts makes us understand how the Three Precepts of the Three Vehicles (Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana) can be combined without any contradiction.

We should understand that in his secret biography Drukpa Kunley takes his consorts like Milarepa, who took Tseringma to assist him in the final production of co-emergent bliss and wisdom in enlightenment. Wherever the Master finds his consorts, his great bliss awakens the Dakini's natural insight, Saraha, after a long tenure at Nalanda University, took an arrow-smith's daughter (a Dakini) as his consort, and said: Only now am I a truly pure Bhikshu.

Drukpa Kunley's life shows us a liberated mind that is free from the preconceptions, preferences, bias, and mental activity that bind us in tension and fear, and shows us a way of life that frees us from emotional attachments and family ties. He gives us a vision of mad indiscipline and free wandering, and having accomplished the goal of his Dharma in one lifetime, he demonstrates a deceptively simple example and inspiration. His behaviour shows us the result of the practice of Milarepa's precept: Concerning the way to pursue your inner search, reject all that increases mind-poisons and clinging to self even though it appears good; and, on the contrary, practice all that counteracts the five mind-poisons, and helps other beings, even though it appears to be bad: this is essentially in accord with the Dharma.

Drukpa Kunley is not only revered by all the Tibetan people. He is so beloved by the Bhutanese that they often like to think that his title refers to a Bhutanese origin rather than the Drukpa Kahgyu School. His style, his humour, his earthiness, his compassion, his manner of relating to people, won him a place in the hearts of all the Himalayan peoples-the Sikkimese, the Assamese, the Ladakhis, the Nepalis, the Kunnupas, and the Lahaulis. He may not have been the greatest of scholars or metaphysicians, although he left some beautiful literature behind him, but he is the saint closest to the hearts of the common people, the Buddha to whom they feel most akin. For the common people it was Drukpa Kunley who brought fire down from heaven, and who touched them closest to the bone.

I pray that by spreading this fully enlightened laughter-master's life-story to the ends of the earth, the myriads of beings of the present and the future may draw inspiration from his accomplishments in the Buddha-Dharma, so that the dark age may turn into the citadel of Buddhahood.




  Editor's Introduction 8
  List of Illustrations 20
  Foreword by Choegyal Gyamtso Tulku 21
  Translator's Introduction 25
  Prologue 35
Chapter 1 How Drukpa Kunley became an Ascetic Wanderer and how he delivered the Lady Sumchokma from the Ocean of Suffering 37
Chapter 2 How Drukpa Kunley visited Samye and Lhasa for the Sake of All Beings 53
Chapter 3 How Drukpa Kunley visited Taklung, Yalpachen and Sakya, to give Meaning to the Lives of the People 74
Chapter 4 How Drukpa Kunley travelled through East Tsang for the Sake of all Beings 87
Chapter 5 How Drukpa Kunley, the Master of Truth, went to Dakpo and Tsari and arrived in Bhutan 103
Chapter 6 How Drukpa Kunley bound the Demons of Bhutan and directed the Aged of that land to the Path of Liberation 119
Chapter 7 How Drukpa Kunley instructed his Consorts in the Southern Valleys 137
Chapter 8 How Drukpa Kunley returned from Bhutan to Tibet and the Events which attended his Nirvana 157
  Benedictory Prayers 174
  Translator's Notes 177
  Appendix 1 Map of Tibet and Bhutan 189
  Appendix 2 The Lineage of Drukpa Kunley 190

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