The Life of the Madman of U

ISBN : 9780190244026

David M. DiValerio
248 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Oct 2016
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The Life of the Madman of U tells the story of Kunga Zangpo (1458-1532), a famous Tibetan Buddhist ascetic of the Kagyu sect. Having grown weary of the trials of human existence, Zangpo renounced the world during his teenage years, committing himself to learning and practicing the holy Dharma as a monk. Some years later he would give up his monkhood to take on a unique tantric asceticism that entailed dressing in human remains, wandering from place to place, and provoking others to attack him physically, among other norm-overturning behaviors. It was because of this asceticism that Zangpo came to be known as the Madman of U. Written in two parts in 1494 and 1537, this biography provides a rich depiction of religious life in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Tibet. Between his travels across central and western Tibet, the Himalayas, and Nepal, Zangpo undertook inspiring feats of meditation, isolating himself in caves for years at a stretch. The book also details Zangpo's many miracles, a testament to the spiritual perfection he attained. His final thirty years were spent at his monastery of Tsimar Pel, where he dispensed teachings to his numerous disciples and followers. The life of this remarkable and controversial figure provides new means for understanding the tradition of the "holy madman" (smyon pa) in Tibetan Buddhism. This valuable example of Tibetan Buddhist hagiographical literature is here made available in a complete English translation for the first time.


List of Illustrations
Technical Note

Part I, by Nyukla Penchen Ngawang Drakpa, 1494
1. Life before Monkhood
2. Early Training
3. Meditation
4. Taking on the Observance
5. Teaching

Part II, by Lhatong Lotsawa Shenyen Namgyel, 1537
6. Further Activities
7. Triumph over Samsara
8. Further Practice and Teaching
9. Death

Epilogue: The Madman of U's Legacy
Tibetan Spellings of Personal and Place Names
Tibetan Texts Referred to in the Biography
Works Cited

About the author: 

David M. DiValerio is Assistant Professor of History and Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He completed his PhD in Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, and has conducted research in India, Nepal, and Tibet.

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