Thank You, Rimpoche

The term crazy wisdom is generally associated with Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche (pronounced rim-po-shay), a remarkable teacher who was the first person to give me a real taste of what the Dharma is all about.

Rimpoche had been born and educated in Tibet as the 11th Trungpa tulku. A tulku is an incarnation of a famous teacher. Tulkus are educated within the monastic system in a strict, but caring manner. As a young tulku, Trungpa had several important gurus and learnt many practices and traditions. However, when he was driven out of Tibet by the Chinese invasion and some of his teachers had disappeared into Chinese prisons, never to be seen again, he decided that what mattered was not so much the forms of tradition, but the actual lived life of the Dharma.

Perhaps the inspiration for this attitude came particularly from one of those lost teachers of his, Jamgon Kongtrul of Sechen. When Trungpa had asked the Sechen lama what enlightenment was, Kongtrul said, “There is no such thing; but this is it!” Trungpa had learnt early that there were some gurus who were better at conveying the form and others who were better at living the spirit. When he came to the West where the traditional forms were either unknown or, too often, treated as exotic curiosities, he decided that he had to start from scratch.

When I First Found Buddhism

When I first found Buddhism, which was soon after Rimpoche had come to UK, there was not a lot of form to be had. There were few established Buddhist groups at that time and what there were were more academic than practising. To study Buddhism meant to study about it, not to do it. Trungpa was… well, I was going to write the cliche, ‘like a breath of fresh air’, but in fact he was more of a whirlwind, all energy on the outside and dead calm in the middle.

So Trungpa Rimpoche started from scratch and took to heart that Dharma is investigation of real life. And real life is pretty crazy. Wisdom, in Buddhism, is prajna. Prajna means to look below the surface. So, take real life and look below the surface, and you see plenty of craziness. The traditional form of religion is to shape people into the shape of moral people, but underneath that outer shape they can be just as crazy as ever. In fact, the circumstance of being fitted into a shape can make you even crazier.

Got What You've Got

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with being moral - I’m just saying that there is something to be said for authenticity. When the Sechen lama said “this is it’” I don’t think he was making a clever remark about living in the present moment. No, he was talking about the fact that you have got what you’ve got. However, whatever you’ve got - which may well be a bundle of really crazy stuff - the Buddhas still throw a light on it, still smile at it like a benign parent, still enjoy the life spirit that it evidences. When you live in that smile, then you know that you've got what you've got, but you also know it is a whole lot more than you thought. However, having a whole lot more does not mean that you have got rid of the rest. The term yana in Sanskrit means a "vehicle". The crazy yana is what we are going along in.


Could Buddhism, which started in the West in the days of let-it-all-hang-out Hippydom, be now in danger of becoming a kind of rather straight-buttoned, killjoy, puritanism, in which the self-perfection project leads people into adopting a spiritual manner on the outside, but does not really touch the cauldron of self-righteousness, self-pity, self-entitlement and self-silliness, on the inside? that does not even look at it in fact, but just goes on and on about perfect Buddha Nature nd stuff? Buddhism is not just about living on lentils and carrying out a procedure that one calls "my practice". That is hinayana. Hinayana is not really a school of Buddhism, it is an attitude toward Buddhism. It is the attitude that seeks personal rightness, personal benefit and no-sign-of-craziness. It is Buddhism in a small bottle.

Crazyana & Sillyana

Crazyana is different. Crazyana is what happens when we abandon Buddhism-in-order-to-get-something-for-me, which Rimpoche called ‘spiritual materialism’, and start looking at life ‘just as you are’ with all the self-silliness still happening. After all, that is how the Buddhas see us. They are not taken in by pretending. They see straight into the heart. They see how really silly we are. If it is painful to one to realise that the Buddha sees right into one's heart, then is it because one is ashamed of what he sees there. Well, that shame is part of the silliness, too. One could start right there. Investigate. Wow! Real human nature with no clothes on! What he sees there may be dukkha, but dukkha is a noble truth, and Buddhas love that.

The Root of Compassion

I now practise, more or less, in the Pureland style of Buddhism. One of the things that I like about Pureland is its realism about the human condition. We are all ‘bombu’ which means, roughly ‘foolish beings of wayward passion’. However, ever here, it is difficult to really get away from the question: yes, but how can I get to be a better class of bombu? which, of course, is to miss the point completely, but is a wonderful example of human silliness. It makes me think of the infamous Madame Mao who followed her husband's injunction that all revolutionaries should wear boiler suits so as to identify with the working masses, and so sent to Paris to have some very chic boiler suits tailor-made. We are like that, right? We mouth a doctrine of ordinariness while convinced deep down that oneself is something different - both better and worse - or just plain too frightened to put our money where out mouth is. The point of pointing this out, however, is not so as to say: so straighten up there and perform better - it is, rather, to help us see that being human is like that. If one can really digest that truth, then one is somewhere near to compassion.


Buddhism is not about me being better, nor worse for that matter; it is about compassion and wisdom and wisdom is really crazyana. Of course, if one is abandoned to compassion and wisdom, third parties might say that one is a good person, or they might just be shocked and disapproving that one is not performing according to their image of what a good person is supposed to look like, but the point is that the gaol is not to arrive at a position where others have such-and-such an opinion of one or, indeed, that one has such an opinion of oneself. Self isn’t in it. It is self that is crazy and that up-welling craving to be something - that is really crazy - but it is studying just that, just as it is, just as one is, that is the wisdom that feeds compassion, because we have all got it, and when you are at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, it is no use being a dormouse.

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Replies to This Discussion

That's lovely Dharmavidya. Sounds like he left some of his spirit with you, I can see it when you talk about him. You've got this knack for making it ok to be Bombu! I think the experience of being exposed to the Buddha in all of our inner realness is what makes our relationship with Him and each other so special. It's not many people who can say that their faith is based on the god-given right to be exactly who they really are!! This authenticity is pervasive and contagious and it takes a bit of getting used to, as I shed the layers of self righteousness which detract from the truth of deep humanity. Namo Amida Bu(   : 

I think of details that are so important in life, precisely the little things of our lives that shape our spirit…

When I was a child my mother used to chant while she was doing the household chorus. She was always chanting the best she could while she was doing the washing up, cleaning the house, ironing, sewing …And I remember to be playing with my toys, or reading or whatever, listening to that sweet and nice sound. I grew up listening to my mother singing…I could not explain really how this influenced me, but in a deep way, I am sure this was absolutely remarkable for me. A sense of gratitude for simple things was , in some way usually present with her… She did not use to give me “important talks”, but her way of living, just as she was, meant a great teaching.

Well , maybe this has not much to do with the text. It is only I wanted to share the connection I did from it.

Thank you Adam and Nati for your nice responses.

I really enjoyed this teaching though it brought up some interesting conundrums: if I am someone who wants to improve myself, or to learn or to create or to grow, and this is a delusion of wanting to get to be a "better class of bombu" than I guess that actually IS my bombu nature and seeing it, well, what am I going to do other than paying attention? Maybe paying attention, catching myself in the act, will change the act itself. But I would think trying to force it to change would itself be an attempt at self-power and thus bombu to the core. Sometimes I wonder if this Is the power of crazy wisdom. Just shake things up, shake things out, push your own tectonic plates together and give yourself an earthquake. Otherwise you will just tie the knots of samsara and conditioning tighter and tighter. I've always though there was something to be said for the Alexander the Great solution. Cut the knot, don't even bother trying to figure out how it's been put together. And in samsara the knot goes on forever through time in every direction.../>

I heard a radio interview recently with a Canadian classical composer who, today, composes beautiful liturgical music. He told the interviewer that when he was younger, after graduating with a music degree in composition and perfomance, he felt a calling and joined a Benedictine monastery. When the time came for him to take his vows he imagined that at least he would be able to play the organ. He was told, however, that he might never be able to do so, that to show his commitment he was expected to be willing to give up all other loves including music. The elder monk, seeing his expression, suggested that all in all, marriage wasn't so bad. And he did make the choice to leave and remain true to his love and talent for music. Now that I have written this down I think maybe I see the answer to my own question: he didn't abandon the monastery for selfish reasons or because his love for God was weak, he made the decision because his love for music gave him a different way to worship. It wasn't conceit or the belief that he had a right to have his talent acknowledged and appreciated, it was that love carried him where needed to go. In that moment of choice his faith was very strong. I could feel that faith as I listened to the small snippets of music that were played along with the interview. In a way my confusion came from my overly limited understaning of what god/Amida actually is, rather Amida is something vaster than I can hold with my limited bombu mind

I am feeling into this sense of accepting my bombu nature... This acceptance is feeling almost paradoxically to be the first step in becoming a moral being: even if wanting to be a moral being is itself a bombu desire. Without this acceptance delusion will necessarily creep in and scuttle the whole project.

Namo Amida (Bombu boo-boo) bu

Yes, that is all very true I'm sure. The Alexander the Great solution is right. Wanting to improve myself is bombu. It is essentially a form of pride or conceit and that is basic delusion. It is also a lack of faith in the natural process of growth and change. Too much forcing and focus on self. “Improvement” arrives naturally through engagement with the natural tasks of life which may include many “good deeds,” but the reason for a good deed is not to make oneself a better person, it is simply the intrinsic need at the time. The musician was true to the stage he was at. Each of us is where we are. That is not bad. For one person it is time to take up music and for another it is time to put it down. Which one is further “ahead”? Who can say? Different people thrive in different ways, but they do not do it by trying to make themselves thrive.



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