AKA Crazy Wisdom: The Life & Times Of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
Well, many people who already know plenty about me will be well aware that I’m not religious in any way. I’m a proud aetheist nowadays but I also like to think that I am respectful to others when it comes to personal beliefs and I don’t try to convert them as long as they don’t try to convert me. Because individuals can be wonderful examples of how to live a life. They can lead by example and inspire others. Individuals, with individual beliefs, can really make a difference. Organised religion, on the other hand, is something I view with mistrust and a mild disdain. But even in the grand scheme of organised religions, I’ve always had a soft spot for those who follow Buddhism. Oh, I’m not well versed in any of the major religions but, somehow, Buddhism has always seemed to be the best of the lot, the most spiritually enriching, the most sensible and the most likely to actually lead people to a point of harmony and contentment.
This documentary focuses on Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a man who helped bring Buddhism to the Western world and to make it an incredibly popular belief system thanks to his mix of honesty, intelligence and charm. But he was an unconventional sort, think of him in relation to Buddhism as the John Lennon of the 1970s was to The Beatles. You get the idea.
Johanna Demetrakas has created a celebration of the man’s life but has gone all about it the wrong way. The archival footage is worth watching, and quite interesting as a “time capsule” of a time when Buddhism gained some substantial publicity and popularity, along with many other movements of the 60s and 70s. Sadly, most of the people who give their views and accounts of what they saw and experienced come across as blinkered sycophants.
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was, to his credit, very honest with everyone about his own vices and excesses – alcohol, nicotine and sex appearing to be the three biggies – but the way in which everyone else just accepts this and uses his open manner about his weaknesses to show just how amazing he was fails to ring true. Buddhist or non-Buddhist, I can’t imagine many other people commanding such continued adoration if they lived openly with such vices. The scene in which Diana Mukpo, a woman who married this charismatic figure, explains how her husband dismissed his infidelity is so astonishing it makes you think of brainwashed cult members. I’m pretty sure that if I turned to my wife and said “well, yes babe, I love you but I’ll never be a traditional husband because I WILL have sex with many other women but when you and I lie together we connect in a unique way and always will and you’re the only woman I will love” it wouldn’t be long before I was wondering how best to keep my severed testicles on ice until I managed to get to the hospital.
But go back to that archival footage and watch Chogyma Trungpa Rinpoche answer questions, win people over and communicate in a witty and intelligent manner and you can’t help but see a tiny idea of what others obviously saw in him. In that way, the documentary almost succeeds. Those who love the man will certainly love this, everyone else will probably not mind giving it a miss.
DIRECTOR: JOHANNA DEMETRAKAS
STARS: CHOGYAM TRUNGPA RINPOCHE, DIANA MUKPO
RUNTIME: 86 MINS APPROX