“None attains to Ultimate Truth until a thousand honest people have called him a heretic.” ~ Junaid
Crazy wisdom, practiced by the crazy adepts of Tibetan Buddhism, the Avadhutas of Hinduism, and the sacred clowns of tribal cultures, has been called radical, inexplicable, and non-ordinary. As far as a tool for spiritual guidance, it is one of the most unusual types. It is designed to shock the conventional mind and twist the conservative mind. It’s not for the faint of heart. Neither is it for the overly-logical or the overly-reasonable.
It is the personification of the Middle Way, a tool used for dancing on the razor’s edge between atypical and extra cognition, between extraordinary and meta-ordinary disposition. It’s a meta-tool, for that matter, one that can crack open the entrenched, rigid, hardened head of ordinary, fixed thinking.
Crazy wisdom is focused clowning, indirect teaching, covert extroversion-introversion, direct contrarianism, and overt ninjaneering gained through oblique action. Rare is the person who can achieve such a state and maintain it through the inverted discipline that’s needed to fuel it. For much opprobrium must be endured and overcome, and one’s resilience tested in a thousand psychosocial ways.
Those capable of the uncanny abilities of crazy wisdom are polarity shifters, spinners, and twisters, laughing through anger, raging through laughter, tearing down the roof of typical thought through backwards logic and reasoning that opens secret doors, uncovers rabbit holes, and unveils wormholes.
But all of that comes after the basics, after the foundational fortitude necessary to uphold it has been forged through humorous fire. That being said, here are four simple ways crazy wisdom can be used to open your mind.
1) Purposefully go against societal norms
“There is a limit beyond which it is unhealthy for mankind to conceal truth in order not to offend those whose minds are closed.” ~ Sufi Haidar Gul
Call it non-conformity, call it counter-cultural, call it being contrarian, call it what you will – going against societal norms is a mind opener, it forces the idle mind out of its diurnal stupor. It shocks the immediate tribe’s ordinary sensibilities while challenging widely held beliefs. When used as a daily tool for leveraging open-mindedness, it can do wonders for your creativity and imagination.
Practicing going against societal norms can be as simple as practicing misfortune, as the stoic Seneca did, or as complex as strategically breaking outdated laws through eccentric action in order to reveal how petty the justice system is in the grand scheme of things.
It could be as simple as opposing orthodox, secular, and religious authorities through basic disobedience, or as complex as positioning yourself inside a bolted down fiberglass pyramid in the center of an Occupy Wallstreet protest, meditating with a sign hanging around your neck that reads, “When freedom is outlawed, only outlaws will be free.”
2) Alternate between opposites
“A spiritual teacher must be a person who can be totally balanced, but not one who cannot help but be balanced.” ~ Tokusan
In order to challenge fixed ideas and assumptions, sometimes you have to dance between opposites, alternating between harmony and opposition, piety and impiety, mortification and indulgence. Sometimes you have to make opposites shift polarities in order to keep yours and your immediate tribe’s mind open.
Whether through contradiction, negation, or paradoxical statements and actions, moving deftly between opposites is a powerful way to test your own discipline and open your eyes to spiritual truths that could not have been seen through typical modes of perception.
Alternating between opposites, whether through words or actions, is designed to bypass the rational mind in order to engage with mindfulness and ultimately, no-mind. The Ultimate Truth itself is primary; consequences and perceptions are secondary as such, the ramifications of switching, twisting, or off-setting opposites may be perceived by others as crazy, wild, or even amoral, but that matters little when compared to the fact that the dug-up truth revealed the absurdity, shallowness, or superficiality of the situation.
3) Attack the derivative and secondary through indirect teaching
“A tactful teacher is no teacher at all.” ~ Zen Saying
Sometimes in order to break through fixed biases, you must use the deceptive tactics that attack the derivative of a situation in order to reveal deeper truths.
Rather than care what others think of you, focus on the primary objective of truth while attacking the secondary subjective bias, using indirect methods of teaching, such as incurring blame or using consciously controlled anger for dynamic purposes in order to upset the apple cart of fixed assumptions.
Feigning a bad temper can be quite effective in indirectly attacking the secondary in order to reveal the primary of a given situation. It’s deceptive, sure, but it’s deception with higher purpose which most people won’t see at first (and may never see) but which has the potential to grow inside someone like a seed, into truthful fruition.
Whether feigning anger, incurring blame, or behaving like an eccentric, a wielder of crazy wisdom uses these as tools of indirect teaching in order to obtain a truthful revelation that could not have been attained in another way. Most important of all is to have fun in the process of revealing truth.
You may appear to be at variance with society because of your paradoxical actions, but it is in order to reveal that perception is always the paradox. As Mulla Nasrudin said, “Enjoy yourself, or try to learn that you will annoy someone. If you do not – you will annoy someone.”
4) Use humor to turn obstacles upside down
“Humor cannot be prevented from spreading; it is a way of slipping through the patterns of thought which are imposed upon mankind by habit and design.” ~ Mulla Nasrudin
This one is also an exercise in stoicism. Turning obstacles upside down flips the dynamic – bad becomes good, unhealthy is transformed into healthy, the obstacle becomes the path. In order to effectively do this, you need a good sense of humor.
Luckily that’s the cornerstone of crazy wisdom. There is neither good nor bad to those practicing crazy wisdom, but perception makes it so. As long as you are in control of perception and can focus on extrapolating the positive from the negative, then everything appears simply as an opportunity.
As Marcus Aurelius said, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
At the end of the day, violating accepted norms, tipping cultural apple carts, shocking superficiality into greater mystery, is all smoothed out through the sacred humor employed by the crazy wisdom teacher. Sacred humor is the lifeblood of crazy wisdom. It’s the polestar and the lodestone of eccentrism. Without it, your craziness isn’t wise, it’s just plain crazy.
With it, however, your craziness can launch you past the paradox of perception and into a heightened state of awareness where you are able to glimpse the true character of a situation, and although your crazy humor may be at odds with societal norms, your higher understanding of the overall Infinite Game of life absolves you of your variance within the petty Finite Games comprised of fixed thinking, ignorant biases, and rigid beliefs.
Crazy wisdom points the only way toward enlightenment – having a good sense of humor, which is usually masked by a thousand layers of cultural conditioning. Crazy wisdom has a way of reconditioning these conditions. As Chogyam Trungpa said, “The only thing to do is to quite painfully, unmask.”