[Photo courtesy book Crazy Wisdom]
It is much easier to appear holy, than to be sane. —Chogyam Trungpa
Chogyam Trungpa was a buddhist teacher famous for his work in the United States, where he founded the Shambhala lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He is the founder of Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado (United States) and the teacher of Pema Chodram, the well-known meditation teacher.
He is one of many spiritual teachers who brought teachings about enriching one's experience of life to the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of the other influential teachers of this time who stick in my mind include Sogyal Rinpoche, Alan Watts (though he did not like to call himself a teacher, he certainly exposed many to teachings) and Ram Das. Chogyam Trungpa's acheivements are impressive and his influence long lasting and wide-ranging even among this group of learned individuals.
He was certainly one of a kind, memorable for admirable and so admirable qualities. His reputation preceded him for alcoholism, the eventual cause of his death, and for his free attitude toward sex. I remember reading a quote somewhere, perhaps wikipedia, where someone said Trungpa had done more good, and more harm, than anyone else in the history of buddhism in America (perhaps the quote was from Rick Fields?). I have come to a new appreciation of less palatable qualities in teachers since my recent struggles in acceptance of my teachers, the 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje, and Lama Ole Nydahl. In the link to Pema Chodron above, she talks (in a YouTube clip) about how, in the Vajrayana traditions, your teacher is the biggest troublemaker in your life (by the way, I recommend the Pema link, its really good). Without going into details, I have found this to be true.
I am buddhist, and though he's not my teacher as such, the more I hear about Trungpa, the more I hold him in high regard, for his less socially acceptable points as well as his more palatable points. The emphasis in his teachings on holding the view in whatever comes your way, and on forgetting about posing, or appearances, no matter what is said of you is truly inspiring.
This is particularly interesting for me, since I am all for laughing at a photo of my teacher, but at the same time holding the utmost devotion and reverence for him in my heart. There is something about treating lightly the things or ideas that are most sacred that is compelling. It seems more respectful to me to direct energy toward holding the correct view than directing it into behaving correctly. So what does this have to do with fart jokes? Not much, except if I ever hear a good one involving my teacher I wil tell it with glee.