1. Crazy Wisdom: Introduction

This is Part 1 of Chris Tong's eight part article, An Overview of Adi Da's Crazy Wisdom and "The Way That I Teach".

The more you are motivated by Love, the more fearless and free your action will be.

The Dalai Lama

the "Crazy Wise" Master
Drukpa Kunley

"Crazy Wisdom" is an English translation from the Tibetan yeshe cholwa — this is not too surprising, as the Vajrayana school of Tibetan Buddhism has one of the richest traditions of "Crazy Wise" Spiritual Masters, from Drukpa Kunley, to Padmasambhava, Marpa, and (in recent times) Chφgyam Trungpa.

"Crazy" refers to the unconventional means — it is also traditionally referred to as "skillful means" (upaya-kausalya in Sanskrit; fang-pien in Chinese; hoben in Japanese) in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition — employed by the Master to serve the Spiritual liberation of his or her devotee. Perhaps best known (and also most caricatured) is the Zen Master who whacks the disciple over the head, and, as the traditional stories put it, "he then was enlightened." But the unconventional behavior used by Masters throughout the world's spiritual and religious traditions appears in every area of life. The famed Spiritual Master Drukpa Kunley wandered the Tibetan countryside, using sex as a means for Spiritual initiation of his female devotees. Sufi Masters have used a wide variety of means to "play" on the feelings of their devotees, and in so doing deepen their devotion, and break open their hearts, allowing the subsequent Spiritual Realization that is only possible in such a feelingly open state. (See, for example, Irina Tweedie's powerful and moving account of her experiences with her Sufi Master.)

A well-known story from The Lotus Sutra presents a useful metaphor for the skillful means of the Spiritual Master:

A man comes home to find his house on fire and his children inside entertaining themselves with their favorite playthings. He calls out to his children to leave the house, but they can't see that it is on fire, don't believe their father, and continue to play with their toys. Knowing that he doesn't have time to try to force them out, he considers how he may use skillful means. Then the man tells his children that he has arranged for them to receive gilded carts and toy oxen play with, and that these superior entertainments are awaiting them just outside the house gate. Hearing this, the children run from the (burning) house! And in so doing, they are saved.

Sometimes the term "Crazy Wisdom" is used exclusively in the "Trickster" sense (of which this story is an example) — the Spiritual Master chooses a time, place, and means that will catch the devotee "off guard", to create an opening so that he or she can draw them into a state, Spiritual or otherwise, that is greater than their usual state. Gurdjieff's famous "stop" exercises were of this kind; he would shout "STOP" to a student when they were least expecting it, and they were to freeze into physical immobility, regardless of the awkwardness or the circumstance, and it would often propel them into a new state of awareness.

We certainly will tell stories of Adi Da interacting with devotees in this manner. But for the purpose of this site, we will be using the term "Crazy Wisdom" to refer to any kind of "unconventional" behavior or viewpoint used by the Spiritual Master to serve the greater purpose of Spiritual liberation.

Part 2: A Simple but Powerful Example of Crazy Wisdom

Quotations from and/or photographs of Avatar Adi Da Samraj used by permission of the copyright owner:
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