Of the numerous saints and scholars who visited Bhutan in the course of the centuries, the Tibetan lama Drukpa Kuenley (1455 - 1529) is without doubt the most popular Buddhist yogi in Bhutanese history. Drukpa Kunley was born into the noble clan of Ralung Monastery in western Tibet. He is commonly seen to be roaming around carrying his bow and arrows.
He is mostly remembered for his unconventional and unorthodox methods of teaching Buddhism - usually with bizarre sexual connotations and socially unacceptable behaviour that challenge the preconceived notions of Buddhism. His ‘crazy wisdom’ earned him the name “Divine Madman.” He was famous for his unconventional methods of guiding women to enlightenment, and gained the title of “The Saint of 5,000 Women”. He would seek out beautiful ladies and by having sexual intercourse with them, lead them to ultimate spiritual freedom with his “Magic Thunderbolt”. It is said that he would not bless anyone who came to seek his guidance and blessings unless they brought with them a beautiful woman and a bottle of chung (liquor). Singing, dancing, poetry and copulation were all integral parts of his teachings. He was well known for using phallus to awaken unenlightened beings and to subdue demons. Hence, there is a powerful 10-inches phallus totem made of wood and ivory alongside his bow and arrow that is now stored in Chime Lhakhang that is used for fertility blessings for visitors.
There are so many other folklore and anecdotes about this Divine Madman’s idiosyncrasies. One states that there was a particular occasion where Drukpa Kunley was given a sacred thread to tie around his neck but he used it to tie his penis instead, hoping that it would bring him some “luck with the ladies”. Therefore, there are some paintings showing ribbon adorning the phallus. Another legend has it that he once urinated on a thangkha which the urine later transformed into gold. The thangka is believed to be currently stored in Tango Goemba (Tango Monastery).
Amongst his outrageous way of living, he can also be seen roaming naked in the freezing weather of Bhutan. Hence, he is easily spotted in the intricate wall murals seen inside the temples throughout Bhutan - usually depicted without clothes, carrying a bow and arrow, or a cup of wine with his dog, Sachi by his side.
To get a glimpse into the eccentricity of Drukpa Kunley, here’s a piece of poem he wrote (translated from his original text) on one occasion when he met his contemporary Pema Lingpa, the famous treasure revealer:
I, the madman from Kyishodruk,
Wander around from place to place
I believe in lamas when it suits me
I practice the Dharma in my own way
I choose any qualities, they are all illusions
Any gods, they are all the Emptiness of the Mind
I use fair and foul words for Mantras, it’s all the same
My meditation practice is girls and wine
I do whatever I feel like, strolling around in the Void
Last time I saw you with the Bumthang trulku
With my great karmic background, I could approach
Indeed it was auspicious to meet you on my pilgrim’s round!