From Bhutan to America, Michael Ellis believes every culture needs a divine madman.
In the peaceful Buddhist country of Bhutan there are three venerated historical figures. My favorite is Drupek Kunley known by his nickname – the Divine Madman. He came down into Bhutan in the 15th century from Tibet with a simple goal in mind; to poke fun at the Buddhist establishment. He felt they were too regimented, too uptight and too restricted by dogma.
Like Socrates, who was convicted of corrupting Athenian youth, the Divine Madman was corrupting the entire country. He believed that much wisdom could be gained at the bottom of the wine bottle and below the naval - that sex was one of the pleasures of life. His signature was his own phallus, a.k.a. the Flaming Thunderbolt. There are many ribald stories about the antics of DK as he wandered through the countryside. Not content with mocking the Buddhist hierarchy, he also subdued wrathful local deities, who were terrorizing the people
Traveling throughout Bhutan today you see replicas of the Thunderbolt gracing buildings or hanging from the sides of homes. Disturbingly graphic for some, these images are in stark contrast to the modesty of the local people. But all cultures need a jester, coyote, Raven, or Pan figure. We need these icons that show us that there is a different way being in the world.
Years ago I realized that we actually had a divine madman living in our place and time. And that was Larry Harvey, the visionary founder of Burning Man.