Crazy Wisdom: The Life & Times of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Movie Review by Ron Wilkinson, Monsters and Critics, Nov 28, 2011

Los Angeles, CA (USA) -- Whether the viewer adheres to, or even grasps, Eastern religion, or not, this look inside the guru entertains.

Chogyam Trungpa (1939-1987) was the culmination of Buddhist lineage going back nearly to the beginning of Buddhism, several hundred years before the birth of Christ. He was Buddhist royalty. What made him famous was his embracing of Western civilization and his work is translating Buddhist doctrine into practical guidance for Western audiences.

He founded both Vajradhatu and Naropa Universities to explore and develop the Shambhala Training method, a secular approach to meditation. Shambhala teaches that a peaceful, meditative approach to self-awareness is a way towards an enlightened society.

It teaches that enlightenment is not something solely for the Gods or a chosen few. Rather, that it is possible for any person to achieve it through respectful discipline and self-examination.

He was also known as the "Bad Boy of Buddhism" for his denunciation of those who denounce what is supposed to be denounced by most modern religions. He smoked cigarettes, drank to extremes, was considered by many to be vigorously non-recovering alcoholic, and had open sexual relations with many women.

Very young women. He had thousands, if not millions of dedicated followers, lived a simple lifestyle, but had everything he wanted.

Nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you try. At least according to Trungpa.

He was in the right place at the right time in the Western world. The 1960?s through 1980?s saw a period of deep introspection amongst a vast number of middle class and white-collar persons, especially the young. From the Beatles to the Beach Boys, everybody had a guru.

Trungpa was able to approach a society that was rapidly losing its moral guideposts as science slashed away at the traditional foundations/superstitions of Christianity. He translated many Tibetan texts into English and gained a better understanding of Western theological terminology and practice, than did other Buddhist luminaries.

He used this knowledge, coupled with an insatiable love of Western political and spiritual freedom, to couple with Americans and provide an alternative, workable solution to the determination of the pathway to, well, salvation.

This film is about all of that. Nothing more and nothing less.

The outstanding part of the film is the depiction of the fight that Trungpa waged with himself in the West. The first rule of science is that the scientific investigator never experiments on himself. Trungpa seemed to feel that exposing himself to all of the delusions, greed and egomania of the West was his best tool for giving himself to his followers.

The film shows the master with all of his warts and blemishes as it shows him wowing audiences around the world. He is caught up in superficial egotistical show business religion, breaks free, and then is drawn into a morass of xenophobic reactions from which only a magician could escape.

Throughout it all he keeps practicing what he termed ?crazy wisdom,? an anchoring to deep-seated convictions obtained through self-knowledge, and, most importantly, an unconditional love of the crazy world around him.

His followers saw the denunciations flow from his back as he radiated the knowledge that what others saw in him was really just a reflection of themselves.

A commendable collection of archival footage and present day interviews with the leaders of American alternative religious movements. This is a fun film even for those who will understand next to nothing about what the man has to say.

It is an easygoing look at a way of life that offers solutions to many of today?s emotional battles that are usually fought with drugs, prescription and non-prescription, conspicuous consumption and lawsuits. There might be a better way.

Genre: Documentary
Directed by: Johanna Demetrakas
Featuring: Pema Chodron, Ram Dass and Allen Ginsberg
Release Date: November 25, 2011
MPAA: Not Rated
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Country: USA
Language: Tibetan / English
Color: Color