Ngak’chang Rinpoche

Ngak’chang Rinpoche

teaching on yeshé ’cholwa

This portrait of Ngak’chang Rinpoche was taken in Shaftsbury, Dorset in 1990-1991. Ngak’chang Rinpoche is wearing his formal empowerment shawl. He is wearing the takdröl, a yogi’s hair ornament, given to him by Lama Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche in McLeod Ganj in 1981. Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche said that after his passing, Ngak’chang Rinpoche would manifest Crazy Wisdom.

When questioned concerning this statement, Ngak’chang Rinpoche said:
Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche was giving encouragement to apprentices rather than pointing out anything special about me. The inner meaning of this statement alludes to the fact that without proper supervision I would probably act in a ridiculous manner.

On another occasion Ngak’chang Rinpoche was asked about the phenomenon of Crazy Wisdom in the context of Dorje Tröllö, and this was his response: ‘Crazy Wisdom in Tibetan is yeshé ’cholwa (ye shes ‘chol ba). Yeshé means primordial wisdom. Yé means primordial. Shé means knowing. So yeshé means primordial knowing – that is, knowing which has not been created. The word ‘shérab’ means knowledge – knowledge which comes from experience, knowledge which emerges in parts. Yeshé, however, does not emerge in parts; she arises from primordial rigpa. This is also called ye-rig. ‘Cholwa means wildness – so yeshé ’cholwa means ‘wisdom gone wild’ but it also signifies non-dual discourtesy and non-dual abruptness.

The usual translation ‘crazy-wisdom’ is misunderstood, particularly by a variety of Western Buddhist teachers. You cannot ‘discover your own Crazy Wisdom by offering lollipops to strangers’. You cannot ‘discover your own Crazy Wisdom by meowing for no apparent reason’. These are both quotes from a book. That is both banal and ridiculous. I should have prefaced this by saying that Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche once described me as ‘one big diplomat’. He was not being polite when he said this. I do not think this is a good way to be; it is just how I am, and I cannot help it sometimes. Being ‘one big diplomat’ means that, in terms of teaching, one engages with the dualistic condition. If one is conversing with the dualistic state, one tries not to upset the dualistic state. One flatters the dualistic state. One is kind to the dualistic state, in order to introduce the idea that at some point one might have to murder the dualistic state. It is going to take a while, however, and one wishes to assure the dualistic state that it is not really going to die. This is being ‘one big diplomat’. It is also being fairly treacherous – but it is diplomatic. Yeshé ’cholwa has no truck with diplomacy. Yeshé ’cholwa is discourteous to duality. Yeshé ’cholwa uses expletives when it converses with samsara. Yeshé ’cholwa employs coarse and derisorily contemptuous language. Yeshé ’cholwa throws ad hominem abuse at samsara. This is why it is called wisdom-gone-wild or ‘crazy wisdom’, because non-duality looks crazy from the point of view of duality. Duality thinks that Lamas should respect duality – and be polite, courteous, democratic, wholesome, biodegradable, and everything good. But yeshé ’cholwa does not deliver courtesy. Yeshé ’cholwa delivers vulgarity, discourtesy, and dismissiveness. Yeshé ’cholwa does not play along with duality; it gives duality no room; it barges in front of duality at the bus-stop so that duality misses the bus and falls in the gutter.

If we practise Dorje Tröllö we have to become Dorje Tröllö – and to be Dorje Tröllö is to have complete discourtesy for our own dualistic state. That is the craziness of Crazy Wisdom. To be Dorje Tröllö is to open a big can of whupp-ass in respect of our tendencies to edit drüpthab – either as the words we find in liturgical drüpthabs, or in the semantic structure of the Lama’s drüpthab of speech. We have to contact that sparkling through of the enlightened state. We have to contact the radiant discourtesy of the vajra-vulgarian Dorje Tröllö, whose radiant rudeness, radiant insolence, radiant contempt, radiant scorn, radiant derision, radiant disdain is all-consuming. Yeshé ’cholwa dismisses the dualistic state out-of-hand. Yeshé ’cholwa gives it no quarter. Yeshé ’cholwa makes no excuses for duality, Yeshé ’cholwa  doesn’t give it another five minutes; it doesn’t supply it with a repeater alarm. There is something entirely blunt about this.