The Divine Madman

In order to get a brief summary of the texts, one may look no further than the titles of the two stories. Both titles aptly sum up the important events that occur in the stories. The first story is entitled How Drupka Kunley bound the Demons of Bhutan and directed the Aged of that Land to the Path of Liberation. This story chronicles Drupka Kunley’s adventures as he defeats various demons of Bhutan. An enlightened Lama, Kunley is visited in a dream by a goddess who tells him to travel to Bhutan to fulfill a prophecy that “foretold the conversion” (121) of the people living there. On his way to Bhutan, Kunley is faced with a variety of demons, all of which he defeats with his penis (also called his Flaming Thunderbolt of Wisdom). In addition to converting all of the demons to the way of the Buddha, Kunley also assists many elderly people out of Samsara. Using many unconventional techniques such as obscene prayers, Kunley helps many of Bhutan’s aged reach enlightenment. In this way, Kunley fulfills the prophecy initially stated in the beginning of the story – he binds many demons and sets many of the elderly on the path to liberation.

The second story is called How Drupka Kunley instructed his Consorts in the Southern Valley. In this story, Kunley teaches the people of the Southern Valley about sexual practices, worship, and other tenants by which one should live. Kunley mostly uses his sexual advances as ways to instruct the people about his various truths. This is exemplified by many of the situations Kunley finds himself in, specifically in the sex that Kunley has with many maidens. Kunely eventually instructs all the people of the Southern Valley about ethics, sex, and worship.

While reading these texts, it is important to remember the title of the work where these stories come from: The Divine Madman. Through this title, one can see that there is acknowledgement of Kunley’s madness despite his divinity. These stories might have been told in order to highlight that the divine manifest themselves in a variety of ways; although one may seem insane, they could harbor some spiritual qualities. Additionally, these stories may have instructed people about various teaching of the Buddha in a clear, easy to understand fashion. By using the most basic human drive – sex – the stories can be relatable to everyone, thus making them easier to understand.

I did have a few questions while reading the stories. Obviously, sexuality is a huge part of both texts and the images used to describe male and female sex organs differed greatly. Kunley’s penis is constantly described as a mighty and powerful object that can fell demons, whereas the few descriptions of female vaginas describe them as gaping and weak. I wonder if these kind of descriptions contributed to the idea that women are beneath men. Additionally, Kunley describes women as constantly wanting sex and they always lust after a man. I thought this seemed pretty contradictory, since Kunley himself states that he “never tires of girls” (140). Throughout the stories, it seemed as if women’s lust for sex was a negative thing, whereas Kunley’s carnal desires were used as instructive tools. Where did this idea come from? Are stories such as these powerful enough to dilute the thinking of a whole community?

7 thoughts on “The Divine Madman

  1. I found these stories really interesting. I really like how these stories are very open about sex and don’t treat it like taboo like the western religions. Also, the trust they had in Durpka Kunley was surprising. If someone told me to recite that prayer, I probably would just write them off as crazy.

  2. I do like your point about the gender differences and how they seem contradictory to other religions in the way sex is portrayed. While I’m not quite sure what the purpose and the audience of these stories is meant to be, the overall lessons allow the audience to believe in a god who can overall do some good in terms of releasing from the cycle of samsara. Even though the common theme is a positive one, the way in which Drupka Kunley approaches his “good actions” is a little unorthodox to Western cultures and religions. It seems like this story is a little far fetched for an entire religion to believe and act on because of the “madman” like actions. I think this story doesn’t really accomplish teaching the morals of being a “good” person because Kunley’s approach to living life appears unusual to other traditions.

  3. You’re questions point out some interesting undertones. I definitely agree with you and saw a difference between the way male and female genitalia were presented, particularly when the serpent demon went to the nun on page 126 and 128. I too noticed that women’s sexual desires were portrayed negatively, especially on the last page 156 when Zangmo Chodzom wanted to have intercourse with him but once they started he wouldn’t let her stop as a punishment for wanting to get together with him at a bad time. A similar situation is seen earlier too on page 145 where the Lama tells the villagers that “Gokye Palmo pretended to be asleep when I wanted her. But then when I tried to leave her she wouldn’t let me go!” in which seems to be an attempt to “slut shame” Gokye Palmo because she wasn’t up for sex when the Lama wanted to have sex. Women are definitely not presented in a positive manner in this story. Also, did anyone else notice that on page 156 after the Lama rapes Chodzom in front of the villagers it implies that she becomes enlightened? Is this some way of passively saying rape is acceptable?

  4. I felt a bit uncomfortable throughout the text, not just because of the explicitness, but because of the portrayal of women. Women were all portrayed as lustful beings (he even stated it as a truth), and when one woman said she had sex merely once before and hadn’t even felt it, Kunley’s initial response of “I desire no such leftovers as you!” felt really wrong. It was a fun read, it was just that the cultural context slightly bothered me.

  5. Like Tatyana, I also felt as though rape was being promoted in this reading – especially towards the end. At first I thought that Kunley was violently using his “Flaming Thunderbolt of Wisdom” simply to fight off demons. He would use it to knock out demons’ teeth, cover demonesses in his foreskin, intimidate demons, and even “thrust [it] up the demon’s rear” in order to force the demons out of their evil ways (141). This form of violence reminded me of the stories we read a couple weeks ago about Virupa, who would use violence to put an end to the bad in the world (e.g. the yogis that killed and ate humans). Though there are people who oppose the use of violence under any circumstance, using violence to fight evil is seen as justifiable by most people. However, as the reading progressed, I realized that he was not just sexually violent towards evil creatures – he also raped humans who cause no harm. On page 145, Kunley sneaks into bed with a woman that offered him lodging while he was in Jenang Wache and “thrust his Thunderbolt into her.” As Tatyana mentioned, he also rapes Chodzom in front of a large crowd. How can these acts of violence be justified? And why is it that men are readily willing to give up their wives to Kunley when they find out he is a Buddha?

  6. The sexual aspect of the reading was definitely something new and something we have not seen in the religious texts we have analyzed thus far. I am interested in understanding who the audience is for this story. Who was this tailored to, if anyone specific? Or was this reading meant for everyone?

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