Crazy Wisdom: Incarnations of the Avadhoot


THE DIVINE MADMAN: The Sublime Life and Songs of Drukpa Kunley, © Keith Dowman, 1980, p. and "Messiah or Madman" contributed quotes to this article I wrote several years ago. I thought it might be good grist for the mill. It could be seen as an apology for LRH, but I do feel like LRH had tapped into some serious wisdom, and I do think the fits the description of an Avadhoot (

I found The Divine Madman to be full of interesting insights. One of the most interesting, was actually located right in the beginning, where Drukpa Kunley “…offered his robes to the image of Buddha, and as a mendicant wandering wherever he would, he abandoned systematic yoga and meditation.” What follows are the reasons for engaging in wandering, and use of “Crazy Wisdom” to demonstrate, rather than elucidate.
“Crazy Wisdom is just the action of truth. It cuts everything down. It does not even try to translate falseness into truthfulness, because that in itself is corruption.” Highly systematized rites and initiations are not what Crazy Wisdom flows from. Rather, the one who is so inspired, and at one with truth cannot help but respond from the hip, in the moment, with whatever is truth. “Crazy wisdom is not mere outlandish behavior, speech or action. Rather, the crazy wisdom adept does not stop at the boundaries of conventional behavior in his or her compassionate effort to liberate those with whom he or she comes into contact… [His actions] are perfectly matched to each situation. They bear the wisdom that is inherent in the realized condition of the adept.” (Emphasis of author, not added.)
Kunley’s verses, here, operate as rhetorical statements, justifying his deviations:
“Failing to catch the spirit of the Buddhas,
What use is it to follow the letter of the Law?
Without an apprenticeship to a competent Master,
What use is great talent and intelligence?
Unable to love all beings as your sons,
What use is solemn prayer and ritual?
Ignorant of the sole point of the Three Vows
What is gained by breaking each in turn?
Failing to realize that Buddha is within,
What reality can be found outside?
Incapable of natural stream of meditation,
What can be gained by violating thought?
Unable to regulate life according to the seasons and the time of the day,
Who are you but a muddled, indiscriminate fool?
If an enlightened perspective is not intuitively grasped,
What can be gained by a systematic search?
Living on borrowed time and energy, wasting your life,
Who will repay your debts in the future?
Wearing coarse and scanty clothing in great discomfort,
What can the ascetic gain by suffering the cold hells in this life?
The aspirant striving without specific instruction,
Like an ant climbing a sand hill, accomplishes nothing.
Gathering instruction, but ignoring meditation on the nature of mind,
Is like starving oneself when the larder is full.
The sage who refuses to teach or write,
Is as useless as the jewel in the King Snake’s head.
The fool who knows nothing but prattles constantly,
Merely proclaims his ignorance to all.
Understanding the essence of the Teaching, practise it!”​

Immediately after this explication of his basic philosophy, the first tale of how he puts it to action is told. It is the story of the instruction of his own mother. She has failed to recognize his abilities and stature, and, judging him by worldly standards and her own narrow perspective. Like many mothers, she wishes he would marry, and is unsatisfied with his choice of a wife. She offers to take up the duties of a wife, if he will only send this objectionable one away. “A good son,” she says, “should be like Ngawong Chogyal. See how he serves the monks, returns the kindness of his parents, works for the welfare of all beings, and keeps himself spiritually pure. He’s a true servant of the people.” Kunley then proceeds to shock her, by insisting that she perform all the duties of a wife, and lies down to bed with her. After she has expressed her disgust with this behavior, he relents. “But by exposing the hidden foibles of his mother, her faults were eradicated, her sins expiated, and her troubles and afflictions removed.” This is a critical component of Crazy Wisdom. Not just the shocking behavior, but its intent, and the results it brings. “There is no outward action or behavior that in itself can provide the means by which we may truly gauge a realizer. Rather, the value of such acts is that they allow those present to go beyond their own self-possession for a moment.”
Throughout the rest of the text, Kunley travels about, and wherever he goes, he confronts people, and their expectations, with his truth. He does this in shocking ways, demonstrating the falseness of people’s assumptions, doctrines, and limiting beliefs, rather than explaining. This method is very effective, and all those he touches go on to either greater states of understanding within their current mind-state, or even to achieve ultimate release from mind, becoming bodies of clear light, or rainbow forms, and the bliss of nirvana. This is the evidence that his acts are not profane, or mundane, but are, instead, perfect matching of understanding to situation, in order to bring about resolution, no matter what the moral character of his subjects. In Kunley’s own words:
“Realizing this Vision of sublime sameness
Ultimate compassion is discovered.
This Meditation which is illusion-free non-meditation
Centres you in the mind’s original disposition.
This Spontaneous Activity embracing each moment
Does not discriminate between good and bad situations.”​

His acts could be misunderstood, one by one, out of context, as inappropriate, bizarre, perverse or immoral. However, such “…deeds of a Buddha involving extrasensory powers, indeed, his entire life’s work, cannot be expressed in words, and his death, as his life, was associated with events that are beyond the scope of our vision to comprehend on this side of Nirvana.” His morality could certainly be questioned, but is largely irrelevant. Ethics and morality are often confused. When an ethical choice is difficult to discern, morals will often give guidance, but when one is illumined, as a Buddha is illumined, morality only serves to confine: Drukpa Kunley’s ethical sensibility was superior to unconscious moral servitude.
Drukpa Kunley is an example of a Tibetan Crazy Wise Man, and certainly quite famous in the countries close to those of his origin, and that follow Buddhist tradition. Of course, in the West, our history has a different backdrop, but that does not mean we do not have Crazy Wise Men of our own. One such is a rather famous character named Lafayette Ronald Hubbard. L. Ron Hubbard, as he is popularly known (abbr. LRH), was a science fiction writer, and an occultist who studied the methods of “The Golden Dawn Mystical Society”. Later, he founded his own religion, known as the Church of Scientology. Like Drukpa Kunley, LRH is thought to be a reborn master of mental discipline, by his followers. He is a good example of a modern Crazy Wise Man, because many of the deeds he is famous for are shocking.
“Surrounded by adoring teenyboppers, uniformed in mini-skirts, bikini tops and high-heeled boots, Hubbard was a bigamist who masterminded Watergate-style break-ins. He was an opium addict who secretly regarded himself as the successor to Aleister Crowley, self-proclaimed ‘Beast 666.’ These are but some of the facts about the man covered in this unusual biography.”​
Despite this panoply of apparent defects, one would be remiss if this distracted from the value of what Hubbard taught his disciples. And while there were many people who were very upset with the way Hubbard lived, and much that is defamatory has been written about him, those who followed the teachings described in his seminal work, “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health”, and the scores of other works in this area that he authored, or who were personally instructed or given counsel by him, benefited more than they were shocked or harmed. In fact:
“There are even those who claim to have witnessed him change his body's size, read minds, move objects telekinetically, or zoom up ladders defying gravity.... To his followers he is the reincarnation of the Buddha: The much-prophesied Messiah awaited by untold millions in the Far East and throughout the world. The Meitreya; ‘He whose name is kindness’; the one with the golden hair. It had been prophesied he would appear in the West, some two and a half thousand years after Buddha's death.”

In Hubbard’s own words:

“Everywhere you are
I can be addressed
But in your temples best
Address me and you address
Lord Buddha
Address Lord Buddha
And you then address
Regardless of the truth or falsity of that claim, or the claims to the powers ascribed to him, Hubbard sometimes shocked adherents with his teaching methods. He would lay down a course of study, and demand that it be followed with incredible precision, and that the students be able to execute drills with tremendous fidelity. Many of these “advanced courses” were taught aboard a huge cruise ship, dubbed the Freewinds by Hubbard. When a student would fail to execute a drill, or otherwise offend Hubbard’s sensibilities, he would “overboard” them: literally, he would have them walk the plank. This level of discipline, however, would later be seen as having lead a person to be much more effective at such drills, which in turn lead to greater access to abilities that they were seeking through scientology, Hubbard’s system of achieving enlightenment. During this period, Hubbard and his core followers had formed an organization called the “Sea Org”, which was essentially an extremely fanatical order of scientologists, using a naval ranking system, with LRH as Commodore. Many scientologists stopped following Hubbard at this time, because they thought that this was crazy behavior. And certainly, if this episode was all that was seen, it certainly could be viewed that way. Prior to this, Hubbard had lived as a Lord in Saint Hill Manor, in East Grinstead, England. The places he chose to put his organizations, however, and the administrative styles he imposed on them, were all, like Drukpa Kunley’s travels and lessons, decided by the exigencies of the moment, and the needs of Hubbard’s followers.
Both Kunley and Hubbard lived lives that consistently violated conventional moral standards, for their respective times; the lessons they taught their followers were often presented in unexpected, sometimes shocking, ways.
“The tradition of the avadhoots is a tradition of individuals who have realized God to one or another degree, and who, therefore, in their person have transcended the means to that realization and have to that real degree transcended the apparently independent or inner self.
Such individuals behave according to the contingencies of their associations. If they come into association with people who want to benefit from their company, they relate to those people according to what needs to be served in them. In general, such avadhoots are unconventional, wild, a little mad, because they are not limited by the ordinary state of mind that is based on a kind of linear, fixed notion about life. The mind of the avadhoot has been blown apart…”​

Crazy Wisdom crosses cultures, epochs, languages and styles. It is not limited to Buddhist systems. Christ, himself, could be seen as such an Adept, in that he embodied enlightenment, adapted his teaching style to the moment, was occasionally confrontational (as in the destruction of the moneychangers stalls inside the temple), and was renowned for miracles of healing. Thus, Crazy Wisdom will be with us, to stay, reborn as needed, and adapting to whatever system its avatar is born unto.
There are people who "think outside the box"
There are people who are fast-thinking, original.
There are people who are great "brainstormers" who easily think of innovative ways to deal with problems.
There are people who are charismatic, and /or charming.
There are people who are great story tellers.

All of these, or any combination of them can be fascinating to watch. They can make a person look interesting and exciting.
I started noticing (not in relation to scio or Lwrong) that there are some people who have some of the qualities above, but are not really as wonderful as they seem to be. Some of them can be a pain in the butt!

And that was what Hubbard was to many. But thousands of people, especially SO org people who saw overboarding, chain lockers, RPF and the rest, thought that lwrongs "uniqueness" meant that he could be a pig and get away with it.


Yep, I certainly understand that. I don't mean to put Hubbard on a pedestal. I just thought it was interesting to parallel these two figures. Certainly, Hubbard's reputation is far worse than Drukpa Kunley's, and deservedly so. He suffers by comparison. But I think there IS a comparison. Both the comparison, and the contrast, are edifying. I'm just hoping this thread will spark some interesting conversation, not that people will start idolizing Hubbard.

Plus, I like the word Avadhoot.
Yep, I certainly understand that. I don't mean to put Hubbard on a pedestal. I just thought it was interesting to parallel these two figures. Certainly, Hubbard's reputation is far worse than Drukpa Kunley's, and deservedly so. He suffers by comparison. But I think there IS a comparison. Both the comparison, and the contrast, are edifying. I'm just hoping this thread will spark some interesting conversation, not that people will start idolizing Hubbard.

Plus, I like the word Avadhoot.

Now you see, that's why I just posted on another thread that I like your posts.
I thought your OP on this thread is very interesting. And the persona type you refer to is very interesting. And it does kind of reflect why old mother hubbard is often called "brilliant", and how this alleged brilliance is seen to be worth the cost of the insanity, brutality etc. So good for a bit of a deconstructive look at not only Mrs Hub but maybe a few other guru maniacs as well.


Well, thank you very much, and I'm glad you got the point I was trying to make. May you find a ripe banana at Christmas time!