Mad Monk – Gendun Chöpel

Gendun Chöpel was brilliant. As a student he beat all his teachers at debating points of dharma. In his first monastery he specialised in taking positions that could not be won in traditional dharma debates – and winning them. His greatest was to take the non-Buddhist view of the Jains, who contrary to Buddhists believe that plants have consciousness, and leave his fellow students unable to gainsay him!

As a result he was kicked out.

Alas! After I had gone elsewhere,
Some lamas who can explain nothing,
Said that Nechung, king of deeds,
Did not permit me to stay due to my excessive pride.

Arriving at the famous Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, one of the three important Gelug monasteries, he signed on with a tutor famous for his defense of Tsongkhapa. The two did not get on! Often they were heard having shouting matches with each other over dharma points.

Chöpel went to India for twelve years where he learnt the arts of love, and like the sixth Dalai Lama became known for his poetry. He regretted his countrymen’s use of Sanskrit texts as amulets rather than translating them into their own language. When he returned he tried to teach them the ideas from outside their land, such as the world not being flat.

I have written facts,
Unheard of in the Land of Snows.
Because of my poor and ragged appearance,
No one is there to heed my words.

At one point he was put in prison and all his writings taken.

Today you can read some of these works as well as his life story.

Source: Gendun Chophel

Film: Angry Monk

Life Story: The Madman’s Middle Way


3 Comments on “Mad Monk – Gendun Chöpel”

  1. oxherder says:

    Very interesting. I do say I believe plants have consciousnesses and I am a Buddhist. Perhaps I am a minority!

    • DharmaForum says:

      That is very interesting, Oxherder, Buddhists should examine everything they believe in and try to prove themselves right or wrong! That is what the Abhidharma is, a method to try and understand the world by understanding our minds. We should examine our views about plants. What is your view on why plants have consciousness?

      • oxherder says:

        Yes, understanding the origins of our beliefs and thoughts is very important! My view about why i think plants have consciousnesses is born from multiple facets. I should first begin by explaining that what the term ‘consciousness’ means to one person differs from another. ‘My’ definition of it means there is some recognition of the Universe perceiving itself. When this occurs, I feel there is a consciousness at work.
        I feel that plant consciousness differs quite significantly from animal consciousnesses but these differences do not make it not-conscious of the Universe.
        Why do I feel this way? The deepest reason is what my ‘gut’ tells me.. more so than even my gut.. I am reminded what Albert Einstein once said… “There comes a time when the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge but can never prove how it got there.” I feel as though I can sometimes understand plant consciousnesses directly. Which brings to the studies of hunter-gatherer tribes from any where on the globe at any period in time.. they all claim that they speak to the plants and that plants speak to them. I believe these indigenous peoples, as they live in the closest natural equilibrium with our Earth mother and are most likely to be able to ‘hear’ the plants.
        A open heart-mind can open our plant-ears!
        As a Buddhist, I do constantly try to think of the origins of all my beliefs and this is very healthy I feel. It leads to the eliminate of ‘false’ truths and opens our heart to deeper realisation of our true self…and then how could plants not be in our hearts with their dancing love and wisdom? 🙂

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