But that personal magnetism isn’t visible in the stock film of the guru, who died in 1987. Director Johanna Demetrakas is herself a former student whose personal archives supply much of the vintage footage in Crazy Wisdom, which outlines Trungpa’s biography:
- his recognition as an incarnate lama
- his escape from occupied Tibet on foot through the Himalayas
- his travels from Oxford to founding Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, in 1974.
There his program of describing the road to enlightenment in everyday, workmanlike English made him a sought-after figure among counterculture kids. In part, Trungpa’s popularity might be explained by the fact that, a great drinker and philanderer, he practiced contemplation without the sacrifices of asceticism.
It is suggested that Trungpa was in possession of yeshe chölwa -- the title’s “crazy wisdom” -- and, as a sort of holy fool, his apparent misbehavior could be read as a manifestation of higher spiritual truths. If you’re determined to see something, it’s easy to find it -- so those inclined to interest in Tibetan Buddhism will discover something here.
Watching footage of Trungpa in later life, dressed as a banana republic [cult] generalissimo, I detected only charlatanism.