Drukpa Kunley (1455–1529)

The Naljorpa (literally " He who has attained perfect serenity," but usually interpreted as "an ascetic possessing magic powers") Drukpa Kunley was an awakened Buddha, a Master of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. His style, his humor, his earthiness, his sexual escapades and his general manner of relating to people, were often provoking, but they won him a place in the hearts of all the Himalayan peoples – from the Sikkimese in the East to the Ladakhis in the West. He often delivered his teachings and messages in songs and poems, and some of them have been preserved. Like many other masters he declares himself to be a pointer to liberation, who can show you the way. But he makes it clear that you need to walk on it yourself:

Although the clitoris is suitably triangular,
It is ineligible as devil - food for the local god’s worship.
Although love - juice can never dry up in the sun,
It is unsuited for tea to quench thirst.
Although a scrotum can hang very low,
It is an unsuitable bag for the hermitage’s victuals.
Although a penis has a sound shaft and a large head,
It is not a hammer to strike a nail .
Though endowed with a human body and shapely,
It is not proper to be mistress to the Lord of Death.
Although your mind may be virtuous and pure,
The Buddhas ’ Teaching is not accomplished by staying at home.
The teaching of the Tantric Mysteries is most profound
But liberation cannot be gained without profound experience.
Drukpa Kunley may show you the way,
But you must traverse the path by yourself.


Drukpa Kunley and a Dakini embracing each other

In another poem he describes his unorthodox, but successful way of teaching:

Om mani peme hung!
People say Drukpa Kunley is utterly mad –
But in madness all sensory forms are the Path!
People say that Drukpa Kunley’s organ is immense –
But his member brings joy to the hearts of young girls!
People say that Drukpa Kunley is too fond of sex –
But bonking results in a host of fine sons!
People say that Drukpa Kunley has an amazing, tight arse –
But a tight arse shortens the rope of Samsara!
People say that Drukpa Kunley has a bright red vein –
But a red vein gathers a cloud of Dakinis!
People say that Drukpa Kunley does nothing but babble –
But this babbler has forsaken his homeland!
People say that Drukpa Kunley is extraordinarily handsome –
But his beauty endears him to the Mon girls’ hearts!
People say that Drukpa Kunley is verily a Buddha –
But through subjection of inimical ignorance, awareness grows!


Drukpa Kunley is still very much revered in Bhutan, where the phallus has become an important symbol of protection and worship. The phallus is painted on many walls and sold in monasteries.

Failing to catch the spirit of the Buddhas,
What use is it to follow the letter of the Law?
Without an apprenticeship to a competent Master,
What use is great talent and intelligence?
Unable to love all beings as your sons,
What use is solemn prayer and ritual?
Ignorant of the sole point of the Three Vows,
What is gained by breaking each in turn?
Failing to realize that Buddha is within,
What reality can be found outside?
Incapable of a natural stream of meditation,
What can be gained by violating thought?
Unable to regulate life according to the seasons and the time of the day,
Who are you but a muddled, undiscriminating fool?
If an enlightened perspective is not intuitively grasped,
What can be gained by a systematic search?
Living on borrowed time and energy, wasting your life,
Who will repay your debts in the future?
Wearing coarse and scanty clothing in great discomfort,
What can the ascetic gain by suffering the cold hells in this life?
The aspirant striving without specific instruction,
Like an ant climbing a sand hill , accomplishes nothing;
Gathering instruction, but ignoring meditation on the nature of mind
Is like starving oneself when the larder is full;
The sage who refuses to teach or write
Is as useless as the jewel in the King Snake’s head;
The fool who knows nothing but prattles constantly
Merely proclaims his ignorance to all.
Understanding the essence of the Teaching, practise it!
picture and poems from "The Divine Madman - The Sublime Life and Songs of Drukpa Kunley", translated by Keith Dowman and Sonam Paljor