A Fool’s Journey

“When it comes to matters of the heart
There is nothing a fool won’t get used to.”  Bonnie Raitt

Back in the early 70’s, when I was an aspiring Methodist minister, I offered a sermon on foolishness as it relates to the spiritual path. I mused on the common theme of being a fool for the sake of following our spiritual inclinations one finds in sacred literature. St. Paul talked about being a “fool for the sake of Christ.” In the Russian Oththodox tradition, the Holy Fool or yurodivye, is an honored person who teaches through a kind of feigned insanity. The Hano Clown in the Hopi culture is painted in horizontal black and white bands. His antics mirror the silly things humans do through clownish juxtaposition.

Now, I observe the same theme in the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition. The notion of “crazy wisdom” arises in the form of Buddhist teachers who act in unconventional ways to free us from our limited ego-bound perception. They push our buttons until there are no more buttons to push. Our Nyingma lineage has many examples of this behavior from Padmasambhava all the way down to Dudjom Lingpa and our close lineage.

Although these teachers may offer glimpses into the wild unconditioned expanse of our wisdom mind, the real importance of their unconventional demeanor is to remind us that following a dedicated spiritual path is pretty foolish. My yoga master spoke from his own realization when he said, “following the spiritual path totally screws up your traditional life!” 

We always risk appearing the fool if we listen to the dictates of our innate compassionate nature. As practitioners, however, it is better to leave the outward expression of lunacy to the skill of realized beings. We should keep our own foolishness to ourselves and simply appear in forms that benefit all beings. This way, we eliminate the possibility of developing a fake crazy persona in the name of spiritual truth. We have enough of these types of idiots.

Mastery of our fool’s journey comes though the creation stage practice where we internally visualize ourself as an enlightened being that adopts all sorts of wild forms in order to emanate compassion to the world. We grow accustomed to this expression of our true nature and realize it is a very natural way of being. After all, when it comes to love, there is nothing a fool won’t get used to.