The fifteenth-century Himalayan saint Drukpa Kunley is a beloved figure throughout Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal, known both for his profound mastery of Buddhist practice as well as his highly unconventional and often humorous behavior. Ever the proverbial trickster and “crazy wisdom” yogi, his outward appearance and conduct of carousing, philandering, and breaking social norms is understood to be a means to rouse ordinary people out of habitual ways of thinking that leads them toward spiritual awakening.
Elizabeth Monson has spent decades traveling throughout the Himalayas, retracing Drukpa Kunley’s steps and translating his works. In this creative telling, she has reimagined his life based on historical accounts, autobiographical sketches, folktales, and first-hand ethnographic research. The result, with flourishes of magical encounters and references to his superhuman capacities, is a poignant narrative of Kunley’s life, revealing to the reader the quintessential example of the capacity of Buddhism to skillfully bring people to liberation.