Crazy Wisdom

Being in his presence was like being suddenly aware of an oncoming truck: it put every cell in your brain SMACK! into the present moment. And in that moment you could be outraged, moved to tears or intellectually inspired… or all at once. ~Filmmaker Johanna Demetrakas


Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Chögyam Trungpa fled the invasion of Tibet, studied at Oxford, and shattered Westerners’ notions of how an enlightened teacher should behave, and became a pivotal figure in bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West. Allen Ginsberg made him his guru. Joni Mitchell wrote a song about him. It was 1970 and he was the first Tibetan lama most Americans had ever seen. Yet he openly drank, and carried on intimate relationships with his students. Was this how an enlightened teacher should behave? Crazy Wisdom, the long-awaited feature documentary to explore the life, teachings, and ‘crazy wisdom’ of Chögyam Trungpa recently premiered Nationally, with exclusive never-before-seen archival material and commentary from his inner circle. Called a genius, rascal, and social visionary; ‘one of the greatest spiritual teachers of the 20th century,’ and ‘the bad boy of Buddhism,’ Trungpa defied categorization.

Official trailer for the documentary “Crazy Wisdom” by filmmaker Johanna Demetrakas, 2011.

Director Johanna Demetrakas uses archival footage, animation, interviews, and original imagery to build a film that mirrors Trungpa’s challenging energy and invites viewers to go beyond fixed ideas about our teachers and leaders. The material Demetrakas works with most skillfully is Rinpoche’s transformation from a young monk to a realized master who looked like an ordinary guy from the seventies (a cigarette-smoking, saki-drinking, multiple-lady-loving man in jeans and a tie-dyed T-shirt), and then from a seemingly somewhat ordinary seventies guy to an eighties man who wore elaborate military uniforms and often seemed drunk -and, to an outside observer, perhaps a little nuts. This is the real heart of the film, where several of Trungpa Rinpoche’s family, friends, lovers, and close students -including Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, Pema Chödrön, Ram Dass, and Rinpoche’s wife, Diana Mukpo -are interviewed and talk about their firsthand experiences of Rinpoche. Crazy Wisdom looks at the man and the myths about him, and attempts to set the record straight.

These interviews, illustrated with old photographs and film footage and voiceovers of Rinpoche speaking, are not only biographical; each interview is a teaching in itself -a pith instruction passed from Trungpa Rinpoche to his student and now to us. Though we won’t become enlightened listening to these funny, scary, and mind-stopping instructional tales, we will definitely know where to begin -with meditation and a necessary awareness of our own basic goodness and self-delusion. For more information about the film and screening dates visit:


The ancient teachings and practical instructions that Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche brought with him found an eager audience in the America of the 1970s, a decade during which he traveled nearly constantly throughout North America, published six books, and established three meditation centers and a contemplative university (Naropa University). Trungpa became renowned for translating ancient Buddhist concepts into language and ideas that Westerners could understand. Humor was always a part of his teaching – “Enlightenment is better than Disneyland,” he quipped, and he warned of the dangers of the “Western spiritual supermarket.”


Founded by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1974, Naropa University is the first of its kind as a Buddhist-inspired university in North America that integrates ancient traditions of wisdom into the curriculum of modern education. Since its inception, Naropa has been dedicated to contemplative education in which awareness of thought processes, sense perceptions and emotions are integrated into the study of specific disciplines.

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