By Dru Peers
Over the past few decades the speed of life has dramatically increased, but the “wisdom gone wild,” called Crazy Wisdom in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, swims against this tide.
It is not, however, an ego-enterprise. I have seen an article recently posted on the internet advocating arbitrary acts of general craziness for the sake of it. It reads like an adolescent’s diary. Such may well be crazy, but it certainly isn’t wise. Crazy Wisdom is not an ego-project. That is to say, you don’t have it, it has you. It will spontaneously arise out of practice, or not—practice of Right Action and the Eightfold Path. You don’t chose it, it chooses you.
Crazy Wisdom bases itself on basic sanity, the gentler rhythms of nature and the understanding of our ancestors.
Without a connection to the earth the heart becomes hard, all too often an attribute of false Crazy Wisdom; the kind that stinks of self-consciousness, based as it is on ego-striving. Lack of respect for growing, living things leads to lack of respect for humans. The ancestors knew that it is simply wise to live close to nature’s softening influence.
For the indigenous peoples of many lands, nature was not considered harsh or wild. There is an intimacy with it that was taken as normal. Crazy wisdom pre-supposes this intimate knowledge, the experience of working with things as they are at the kitchen sink level of life. It arises spontaneously from tenderness and ego-lessness, which is precisely why it knows where to slice through deception. Only then can the “the transparent view that cuts through conventional norms and conventional emotionalism,” as Chogyam Trungpa describes crazy wisdom, manifest. Only then can it appear “as an ornament to the basic wisdom that is already there.” (Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa Vol. IV, pg. 131).
In Tibetan Buddhist art, the final and absolute aspect of crazy wisdom is depicted in the figure Dorje Trollo. Trungpa attributes to him the qualities of fearlessness and bluntness. The same qualities seem to fit the Celtic god Taranis or Tuireann (“Te-dan”), the god of thunder. A pan-European god, he is described as riding the heavens in a chariot drawn by goats.
Trungpa’s title vidyadhara means, “he who holds the scientific knowledge…continuously scientific in the sense that it is continuously in accordance with the nature of the elements.” It is this knowledge that makes crazy wisdom more than merely “acting the goat.”
Kitchen sink sanity forms the basis, but sooner or later the experience of hopelessness will arise. The spiritual journey ultimately becomes a prison of our own making from which we can no longer escape.
Abandon hope all ye who enter here was carved in stone over the door to the monastery where I first entered a community of monks, the act of being willing to surrender the idea of authorship over my life.
It was the biography of St. Columcille (‘Dove of the Church’) that inspired Trungpa to encourage a more western, Celtic form of Buddhism. Columcille came to understand that the spiritual path isn’t about fighting or winning. A renowned as a man of letters, he was to become known for his great tenderness, especially with animals.
The first line in a monastic Rule attributed to him reads, forgiveness from the heart of everyone. Columcille’s kind of for-giving is pro-active, anticipatory and therefore could be said to be crazy. It for-gives—gives beforehand—forgiving (slaying) anything that the ego conjures up to distract, including any so-called Crazy Wisdom not based on and arising out of the basic sanity of Right Action.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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