Directed by Joanna Demetrakas
Chogyam Trungpa is recognized for his role in bringing Buddhist traditions into Western culture, but to many he is remembered as a drunk monk, a spiritual expatriate who fled from the communist invasion in Tibet and, upon arriving in America, fell into the company of hippies, poets and artists. Twenty-three years after his death, documentarian Joanna Demetrakas presents Crazy Wisdom, a chronicle of the life of a teacher who shattered preconceptions of how an enlightened master should behave, guiding Westerners down the path towards awakening through unconventional, and sometimes controversial, methods.
Exiled after 1959's Tibetan Uprising, Trungpa looked to the West as a potential haven for the survival of the Buddhist lineage. To lay the foundation, he needed to translate Buddhism. His first move was to better understand Western culture. Trungpa embraced it. He renounced his vows, went to Oxford, eloped with a 16-year-old, went to America. Trungpa smoked. He drank. He committed adultery and openly slept with his students. Yet, he is responsible for the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the West. He started Shambhala Centers all over the United States. He founded the Naropa University, the first Buddhist university in America. Scholars, artists, poets were his devoted students. High spiritual leaders like the Dali Lama recognize Trungpa still as a preeminent teacher of the Buddhist tradition.
Demetrakas, a former pupil of Trungpa, interviews other students, scholars, and family members, providing a kaleidoscopic portrayal of a man who was difficult to understand. Allen Ginsberg, Baba Ram Dass, Robert Thurman and Pema Chodron are among the talking heads, as well as former lovers and pupils, his sons, and his wife. Trungpa never hid his flaws, and despite them, those close to him unceasingly loved him, exalted him, and continue to follow his teachings. Demetrakas asks one of his students, a martial arts master, what made him devote three years of his life to Trungpa. He wasn't committing, he replies, he simply loved being with him.
Though Demetrakas fails to bring any conclusions to the mystery behind the monk, her rambling narrative of his life and accomplishments enlightens audiences with rare, first-hand accounts of how Tibetan Buddhism was disseminated into the West, through a unflinchingly courageous monk who seemed mad at times, yet nevertheless wise.
Opens November 25