Chimi lhakhang – The Abode of the Divine Madman
Did you know that Chimmi Lhakhang is the most revered “Temple of Fertility” made famous by no other than the maverick Lama and saint Drukpa Kuenley who was a fine example of the Tibetan tradition of “crazy wisdom”. If you don’t know his history, he was born in Tibet, trained at Ralung monastery and a contemporary and disciple of Pema Lingpa, the famous treasure finder.
He travelled the length and breadth of Bhutan and Tibet as a Neljorpa (yogi) using songs, humour and outrageous behaviour to dramatize his teachings to the common man. This down to earth technique helped him to teach the dharma in a language that the common man related to. He probably felt that the stiffness of the clergy and social conventions which were keeping people from learning the true teachings of Buddha.
In a way, his outrageous, often obscene, actions and sexual antics were a deliberate tactic developed by him to provoke people to discard their inhibitions and preconceptions and concentrate on more profound aspects of life. Tango monastery is apparently the proud owner of a thanka (religious painting) that Kuenley urinated on! He is also credited with having created Bhutan’s strange animal, the Takin (now the national animal of Bhutan), by sticking the head of a goat onto the body of a cow!
Interesting Facts about Chimmi Lhakhang and Lama Drukpa Kuenley
Chimmi Lhakhang was built by Ngawang Choegyel in 1499, later the site was blessed by Drukpa Kuenley. Lama Drukpa Kuenley built the small Chorten (stupa), which is located adjacent to the temple.
Although Chimmi Lhakhang is made popular by the most revered figure ‘the divine madman’ who carried the thunderbolt of wisdom in the shape of a Phallus. On the contrary, in ChimmiLhakhang itself, you won’t find any phallic symbols on the temple walls. In fact, they are generally not depicted in community temples and dzongs, which are places of worship where lamas and other Buddhist monks and nuns who have adopted a celibate lifestyle, pursuing religious and spiritual attainment.
Lama Drukpa Kuenley’s unorthodox teachings of the Dharma through sexual exploits became legendry even as flying phalluses on ropes and strings high above rooftops of houses or brightly painted on walls are enduring testaments of his fame that spread far and wide across the kingdom, Tibet as well and perhaps even beyond.
Chimmi Lhakhang is widely known as the ‘fertility temple’ in Bhutan. There are even numerous anecdotes about non-Buddhist tourists who surprisingly (probably as desperate as they were) even prayed in Chimmi Lhakhang to bless them with children. Local couples religiously pay homage to Drukpa Kuenley as the father of fertility.
Unlike other temples in Bhutan, if you happen to go to Chimmi Lhakhang, the caretaker Lama blesses pilgrims, even unsuspecting ones with a wooden phallus along with the bow and arrow believed to have once belonged to Lam Drukpa Kuenley. The woman who desires or longs to bear a child is made to carry a massive wooden phallus and circumambulate the temple three times.
As is the custom in Bhutan, many parents with newly born babies visit a Lama or a monk for the christening of the newborn. If a newborn acquires the name from Chimmi Lhakhang, the first name invariably turns out to be ‘Kinley’! If you happen to know somebody named Kinley, ask him how he acquired the name!
Around the vicinity of Chimmi Lhakhang, handicraft and painting shops are mushrooming everywhere but the most common item you find there happens to be wooden phalluses of all shapes and sizes. It is generally believed that wearing or keeping a phallus will ward off evils. Therefore, I reckon you buy one for yourself if you happen to be there.
In order to give you all an insight into the antics of Drukpa Kuenley, here’s a piece of poetry he wrote (of course, translated from his original text) on one occasion when he met his contemporary Pema Lingpa:
I, the madman from Kyishodruk,
Wander around from place to place
I believe in lamas when it suits me
I practice the Dharma in my own way
I choose any qualities, they are all illusions
Any gods, they are all the Emptiness of the Mind
I use fair and foul words for Mantras, it’s all the same
My meditation practice is girls and wine
I do whatever I feel like, strolling around in the Void
Last time I saw you with the Bumthang trulku
With my great karmic background, I could approach
Indeed it was auspicious to meet you on my pilgrim’s round!
If you would want to know more about Lam Drukpa Kuenley’s biography and collection of songs, poems and bar-room anecdotes, try Keith Dowman’s The Divine Madman.