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Walking in Wild Wisdom: Exploring the Life Story of the Mad Saint, Drukpa Kunley

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Shang Shung Institute UK



In this evening talk, Elizabeth Monson PhD., will discuss the life and teachings of the Tibetan Buddhist saint Drukpa Kunley (1455-1500) as he is portrayed in her recent book, Tales of a Mad Yogi: The Life and Wild Wisdom of Drukpa Kunley (Snow Lion, 2021). Drukpa Kunley is considered the most famous of Tibet’s crazy wisdom master and his wild antics and stories of his unconventional methods for bringing people to realization are infamous across the Himalayan Buddhist world. Although Drukpa Kunley was born in Tibet, he spent many years of his life as a wandering yogi, discovering a profound sense of home in the mountainous country of Bhutan. Today, Drukpa Kunley is considered one of the patron saints of Bhutan.


Was Drukpa Kunley as crazy as the folktales about him suggest? After reading and translating Drukpa Kunley’s spiritual autobiography into English and conducting extensive ethnographic research in Bhutan into the saint’s life and activities, Elizabeth discovered a saint who was far more than a madman. Seeing into Drukpa Kunley’s life and reading his teachings and descriptions of his interactions with his peers and teachers, Elizabeth suggests that Drukpa Kunley was not only crazy in a particular way, but also that he was an erudite, deeply realized, playful, and startlingly honest human being whose example for following the Buddhist path is just as useful today as it was five hundred years ago.



Elizabeth Monson, PhD, is the Spiritual Co-Director of Natural Dharma Fellowship and the Managing Teacher at Wonderwell Mountain Refuge. Liz was authorized as a dharma teacher and lineage holder in the Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and has been studying, practicing, and teaching Tibetan Buddhism in the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages for over thirty years.


Some of Liz’s teaching interests include accessing and practicing with the powerful awakened energies and open awareness expressed through the natural world; providing tools for how to become free in everyday life; transmitting lineage teachings; and responding to contemporary social and spiritual issues as a path for liberation.


Liz has lectured at the Harvard Divinity School and is the co-translator of More Than a Madman: The Divine Words of Drukpa Kunley (2014), a translation of the autobiography of the mad yogi, Drukpa Kunley. She is the author of Tales of a Mad Yogi: The Life and Wild Wisdom of Drukpa Kunley (Snowlion, 2021) and is currently writing a book on Tantra for Shambhala Publications.

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