I'm looking for a slightly better theoretical understanding of "crazy wisdom", as if that's possible.

I've seen two superficially-sensible mentions of it on this site.

  • here --

    If you knew what is "Spiritual Snobbism" and "Spiritual Ego" and why they are extremely dangerous, you would appreciate why some teachers go a loooong way towards shedding off any traces of that, even at the expense of hurting their public image (Trungpa) and making fools of themselves (Dalai Lama). Scandalous behavior is part of a longstanding and very respected tradition called "Crazy Wisdom" that aims to "transcend the dualistic view of repulsive and nonrepulsive" in student's mind and melt the spiritual ego.

  • here (quoting Chogyam Trungpa) --

    The rest of The Hundred Thousand Songs deals with Milarepa's development as a teacher and his relationships with his students. Toward the end of his life he had completely perfected the transmutation process to the point where he could be called the Vidyadhara or "Holder of the Crazy Wisdom." No longer could he be swayed by the winds of hope and fear. The gods and goddesses and demons, his passions and their external projections, had been completely subjugated and transformed. Now his life was a continual dance with the dakinis.

    Finally Milarepa reached the "old dog" stage, his highest attainment. People could tread on him, use him as a road, as earth; he would always be there. He transcended his own individual existence so that, as we read his last teachings, there is a sense of the universality of Milarepa, the example of enlightenment.

I suspect it's specifically-Tibetan, perhaps there are some pretty eccentric Zen teachers too.

So some questions:

  • Is there a notable difference between "crazy wisdom", "just plain crazy", and, "undisciplined, predatory, sociopathic"?
  • What's the 'right' way to act or react or view, if any, if you meet with or even are such a one?
  • Does it have a specific direction (guiding light), or purpose (destination)?
  • Does it have any limits, precepts, actions that wouldn't do? And why not those, to be clear?
  • If someone appears to be, for example, homeless, drug-addict, alcoholic, prostitute, thief, con-man, bully, rather mad -- are these states distinguishable from crazy wisdom?
  • Is there any particular reason to call it "long standing and very respected" -- is the principal reason, that some people are very respectful of everyone? Or is it, not that they teach a new dhamma but that they're willing to bring that to a new unpromising audience? I don't know.

If my questions sound insane and horribly rude, it's I must be deeply ignorant of the subject ... sorry! Hoping to learn better.

I gathered that Trungpa for example did hurt his public image -- stories I've read of him, presented as an exemplar of crazy wisdom behaviour, are at least a superficial reminder of remarkable or 'anti-social' behaviour of other people one can meet -- social outcasts; 'underdogs'.

  • 1
    Please no "answers" from outside the tradition.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Oct 21, 2019 at 1:58

2 Answers 2


What is Crazy Wisdom?

See Wikipedia.

Is there a notable difference between "crazy wisdom", "just plain crazy", and, "undisciplined, predatory, sociopathic"?

In the case of ordinary craziness, we are constantly trying to win the game. We might even try to turn craziness into a credential of some kind so we can come out ahead. We might try to magnetize people with passion or destroy them with aggression or whatever. There’s a constant game going on in the mind. Mind’s game- constant strategies going on- might bring us a moment of relief occasionally, but that relief has to be maintained by further aggression.

In the case of primordial craziness, we do not allow ourselves to get seduced by passion or aroused by aggression at all. We relate to these experiences as they are, and if anything comes up in the midst of that complete ordinariness and begins to make itself into a “big deal,” then we cut it down- without any special reference to whether it is good or bad. Crazy wisdom is just the action of truth. It cuts everything down. It doesn’t even try to translate falseness into truthfulness, because even that in itself is corruption. It is ruthless, because if you want the complete truth, if you want to be completely wholly wholesome, than any suggestion that comes up of translating whatever arises into “your terms” is not worth “looking into.”

On the other hand, the usual crazy approach is completely up for that kind of thing – for making whatever comes up to fit into your thing. You make it suit what you want to be, suit what you want to see. But crazy wisdom becomes completely accurate out of the moment of things as they are.

~Chogyam Trungpa, Crazy Wisdom

-- So the key difference is, ordinary craziness is acting out of Ego's overwhelming passions, aggression, and delusions - and "crazy wisdom" is acting out of enlightened mind but without concessions towards deluded samsaric ideas about right and wrong.

Does it have a specific direction (guiding light), or purpose (destination)?

To cut through student's samsaric attachments and neurosis.

What's the 'right' way to act or react or view, if any, if you meet with or even are such a one?

Please see Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche's "Guru and Student in the Vajrayana" (original post on Facebook is here).


The term 'crazy wisdom' comes from Trungpa, but it's not a specifically Tibetan (or even a specifically Buddhist) concept. I'm reminded of a story about a Hindu monk (I forget which one, sorry) who woke up in the middle of the night to find a thief rifling through his meager possessions. The thief took off like a startled deer, the monk gave chase, and they ran through the streets like madmen until the thief lost his footing and fell. Then the monk pounced on him and said: "Hey, you! You forgot to take my blanket. Here!" And the monk shoved his blanket into the thief's hands and walked off.

The story goes on to say that the thief threw off his bad ways and became a devotee in his own right, but that's not the point of the monk's actions. It wasn't calculated to have that effect. Perhaps the monk saw someone in desperate straights and wanted to help; perhaps the monk saw the irony in the situation and decided to have some good-natured fun. Crazy wisdom always has this sense of someone who is aware of the desperate attachments of those around her but who does not fall into them. She does not embrace or reject them; does not condemn or condone. She simply helps the attachments play themselves out to their own ironically irrational conclusions, so that the other person can see the irony of it.

Most people are caught up in their own attachments and in the attachments of others. The want for themselves, and they are willing to do poorly by others to get it. The truly crazy are bound by attachments like a straight-jacket. They cannot help but do poorly by others because they cannot see that their attachments are mere attachments; their attachments are their immutable reality. 'Crazy wisdom' is the ability to act without attachment in the conscious presence of attachments.

One has to be careful in spiritual communities, of course, because spiritual communities are often vulnerable to crazy people pretending to have crazy wisdom. For instance in the Tibetan community, for whatever 'crazy wisdom' Trungpa himself had, his son (the Sakyong) is merely crazed, yet too few of the devout members of that community see it. There is an extent to which one must overlook the human failings of a teacher in order to appreciate a teaching, sure. But that should be a conscious and judicious application of grace for both the teacher and the student, not a blind expression of fealty. But... people have to see that for themselves, so...

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .