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Much Wisdom to be Found in Crazy Wisdom

February 7, 2011

Early in the 1970’s Chögyam Trungpa coined the term “crazy wisdom” to describe an advanced stage of realization on the Tibetan Buddhist path in which the teacher’s compassion drives him or her to transcend conventional norms. It is about being willing to do whatever is necessary to wake people up. But it is not about self-aggrandizement or outrageousness for outrageousness sake. Trungpa Rinpoche had studied with several masters in this lineage in Tibet, where he became steeped in this approach. As his journey to the West unfolded, he became increasingly willing to drop all pretense in order to communicate directly, and to go deep, with Western minds and hearts. Our understanding and practice of the Buddhist teachings would not be what they are today if he had not given his all to Buddhism in America.

When one of Rinpoche’s earliest students in America, filmmaker Johanna Demetrakis, decided to make a film about Trungpa Rinpoche’s life and work, the perfect title seemed clear. Crazy Wisdom: The Life and Times of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche is the product of almost twenty-five years of work on Johanna’s part. It premiered at the Santa Barbara Film Festival this past weekend, and it will soon be moving on to festivals around North America and beyond.

It’s an opportunity to see many aspects of Chögyam Trungpa, both through his own words as well as through the impressions of many who knew him, studied with him, or were his colleagues. In this beautifully shot film, the threads of the story are woven together with sensitivity. The pacing is spacious but alluring—appropriate for a film about a man who always created a deep and vast space for others.

I had the privilege of working with Johanna on some parts of the film. I was repeatedly impressed by her deep sense of the story, by her determination to remain true to the man and his life, as well as by her openness to seeing things from new perspectives and being open to surprises along the way. I found that she was able to share the freshness of her discoveries with the audience. You can learn more about the film here.

I haven’t actually seen the final final cut. So I’m waiting for Crazy Wisdom to cruise into my neighborhood. If you’ve seen the film, I’d love to know what you think about it. Leave your comments here.

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18 Responses to Much Wisdom to be Found in Crazy Wisdom

  • Wake up Boston! » Blog Archive » The Lineage of Crazy Wisdom says:

    [...] After many years in the making Crazy Wisdom: The Life and Times of Chögyam Trungpa, Johanna Demetrakis’s full–length documentary, premiered on Sunday, February 6, at the 2011 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. For links to reviews and information about the film, go to Carolyn Gimian’s blog. [...]

    Posted on February 8, 2011 at 2:46 am

  • Hellen says:

    I hear the film might make the rounds of the Shambhala Centers. That would be such a great gift. May it happen. Hellen

    Posted on February 8, 2011 at 3:29 am

  • Joel Wachbrit says:

    We went to the premiere last weekend and it sold out! The film is really quite excellent - Johanna did a spectacular job of bringing all the facets of Trungpa Rinpoche to the screen. And it will now screen in Boulder on Feb 18 as part of the Boulder Film Festival.

    Congrats to Johanna and her team!

    Posted on February 8, 2011 at 6:53 am

  • Emily Utz says:

    It's playing Friday, Feb 18th at 2:30pm @ First United Methodist Church of Boulder.

    1421 Spruce St.
    Boulder, CO 80302
    (303) 442-3770

    Posted on February 8, 2011 at 7:06 am

  • Keith says:

    What are the chances for a DVD of it as I doubt I'll ever see it otherwise?

    Posted on February 8, 2011 at 7:41 am

  • Geoffrey says:

    If anyone hears of a screening in Chicago, please post. Thanks.


    Posted on February 8, 2011 at 9:31 am

  • Stephen McLeod says:

    I hear you Keith! For those of us in the 'lucky country' (Australia) who won't get to see the film at any festivals or local Shambhala Centres, I do hope it will be released on DVD via Shambhala Publications (for example).

    Posted on February 8, 2011 at 11:41 am

  • Kim says:

    DVD please please please Shambhala Publications! I'm in Kathmandu and we NEED to see this film NOW!

    Posted on February 8, 2011 at 6:06 pm

  • marcel koek says:

    ...I wonder wether the movie is to be seen in the Netherlands someday...or on the internet...


    Posted on February 9, 2011 at 6:31 am

  • Lisa Leeman says:

    Hi there - I'm Johanna's producer on Crazy Wisdom. Carolyn & Joel, thank you for the kind words. fyi, we are just beginning our festival release, and are planning a wider release after that. We hope to take the film across the US, and around the world, whether in festivals, sangha screenings, or theaters. You can find updates on our website,, and on our facebook page. You can also sign up on our website to receive updates and notices about screenings, broadcast, and dvd release. Marcel, the film will indeed be seen on Dutch tv, on their Buddhist Broadcast Channel. We'll share news as we get it!

    Posted on February 11, 2011 at 7:33 am

  • Jan C. says:

    I am becoming more and more curious to see this video!

    Posted on February 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm

  • Eman says:

    Can't wait to see the movie!

    Posted on February 14, 2011 at 7:00 pm

  • Sarah S says:

    this is my first time here and just wanted to stop by and say hi everyone!.

    Posted on February 15, 2011 at 11:08 am

  • Qayyum says:

    Very wonderful news! I have long been taken with the photo of Trungpa Rinpoche with his arms upraised beside his crazy wisdom teacher who also has his arms in the I-give-up-don't-shoot gesture. My story is that Trungpa looks somewhat hesitant, while Gangshar seems like he's completely thrown himself in & is at impish ease with the effervescent universe. It seems clear (see the photos above) that TR picked up whatever his teacher was laying down. Bodhi svaha!

    Posted on February 16, 2011 at 10:20 am

  • John Peterson says:

    I'm really looking forward to seeing this film on DVD or in a theater in Houston.

    Posted on February 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm

  • Johanna Demetrakas says:

    Thank you everybody. We just got back from the Boulder International Film Festival which was also sold out. In fact there was such demand that the Festival scheduled a second screening, an honor. We look forward to visiting many cities especially in the U.S. and Canada, but we're also going to try for Australia!!! England and Europe. The film plays especially powerfully and majestically on the big screen, and it's been great to see how the general public (as well as many different sanghas) are so moved by the experience.


    Posted on February 22, 2011 at 9:13 am

  • Chris says:

    Crazy Wisdom is great when it comes from a realized master, but I've seen lots of problems when practitioners (myself included) rationalize shocking and often hurtful behavior as "crazy wisdom."

    Posted on February 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm

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    [...] 照片:年轻无羁的创巴仁波切,取自: 撰文:蔡雅琴 [...]

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