The Divine Madman
Bhutan is an exotic & strange destination. But of all of its unique characteristics, none seems more peculiar to us than the history & legends of the great religious teacher & holyman, Lama Drukpa Kunley, known throughout Bhutan as “The Divine Madman.”
Drukpa Kunley was born in Tibet in the year of the wood-pig in the eighth cycle—or, as we would call it, 1455.
As a child he was extremely precocious & had full memory of his previous incarnations. After his father was killed in a family feud, he became disillusioned with the world & dedicated himself to a religious life, eventually becoming a monk. In his early twenties, he gave up his robes & became a mendicant, w&ering throughout the country & gaining mastery of the spiritual arts & magic.
As he traveled through Tibet & into Bhutan, he purposely spurned accepted ways of behavior as a method of calling attention to the hypocrisy, selfishness & greed of the world & thus led people to adopt honest & spiritual lives. His unorthodox methods of religious teaching seem most peculiar from our frame of reference because they were based on a very ribald & debauched life style. The great lama spent much of his time singing & drinking with young ladies & deflowering virgins.
Reading the legends of Lama Drukpa Kunley is like reading Rabelais—both relying on the idea of divine excess. When he is not drinking chang (a sort of Tibetan beer) or making love to a maiden he is using his “Flaming Thunderbolt of Wisdom” to strike down evil demons. He is totally irreverent & ridicules the establishment, especially corrupt & self seeking priests. He performs magical feats—what the Judeo-Christian culture calls “miracles”—blessing or damning families, based on their moral treatment of others, turning tiny quantities of tea into amounts sufficient to quench the thirst of thous&s, exorcising evil spirits, reforming demons, & instantaneously transporting himself to far off locations. In some of the stories he slaughters animals for their meat then, from their bones, restores them to life & sends them on their way.
He is adored by the Bhutanese who, despite being a very conservative society who never show affection in public, protect their homes from evil spirits & promote fertility by painting cartoon images of flying phalluses on the outside walls of their houses.
Near the town of Punakha, Drukpa Kunley founded a monastery dedicated to fertility. Each year hundreds of people come from all over Bhutan to pray for children. In the temple they are blessed by a monk holding a symbolic phallus.