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79 As further evidence of “holy madness” being taken out of context and re-applied to make sense of the Tibetan tradition, consider Glenn H. 80 The Second Dalai Lama (1475-1542, who served as a foil to the irreverent Drukpa Künlé in the story cited by Ardussi and Epstein and mentioned above) sometimes referred to himself as a “madman” (smyon pa), using the term as a pen name. The practice of using “madman” as a pen name has a long history, as will be described in Chapter Seven. 81 Here the Second Dalai Lama’s use of “madman” as a 79 This applies in both scholarly and popular thinking about Buddhism.

It is also quite similar to the traditional Tibetan presentation, as described above, but with greater emphasis placed on the interpretation of its being a form of teaching. Here we have considered the way two popular authors and teachers of Buddhism have presented the phenomenon of “holy madness” in Tibet. They represent an important and influential voice in the conversation on the subject, with a wider readership than most academics writing on Tibetan Buddhism could ever dream of achieving. Restrained neither by an indebtedness to traditional Tibetan ways of thinking nor to the mandates of modern scholarly standards, they are free to present these ideas in the way that seems most compelling to them.

This is sometimes interpreted as a lesson to the unenlightened, teaching that because everything is ultimately empty, nothing is impossible. Even that which seems to be most solid is, in truth, malleable. The yogi’s purpose is not to show off, but to teach others the important truth of emptiness. It is for their benefit. The third major way in which Tibetans today explain the behavior of the holy madman also involves an element of intentionality, but the yogi’s concern is directed inward rather than outward.

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Subversive Sainthood and Tantric Fundamentalism: An Historical Study of Tibet's Holy Madmen by David Michael DiValerio


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