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The Divine Madman Drukpa Kunley

Drukpa Kunley (pronounced “Drook-Pa Coon-Lee”) was a Bhutanese yogi and poet popularly known as “the Divine Madman” who renounced the ascetic life of a monk for a more lighthearted and fun lifestyle. He is legendary for drinking wine, being promiscuous, and using his “Flaming Thunderbolt of Wisdom” (the nickname for his penis) to strike down and subdue evil demons.

The Divine Madman Drukpa Kunley
The Divine Madman Drukpa Kunley is often portayed with his dog Sachi

The Buddha advocated for the “middle road” between a self-indulgent, materialistic lifestyle and an ascetic life of sacrifice. Drukpa Kunley began as an ascetic monk, but denounced that lifestyle and spent the rest of his days on the other, more fun side of the middle road.

“I have come without prejudice to help you, where can I find the best booze and most beautiful women?”– Drukpa Kunley upon entering a village

Although Drukpa Kunley’s methods are considered blasphemous and crude, he is considered Bhutan’s patron saint and one of it’s greatest spiritual leaders. His influence is a reminder to the Bhutanese people to have fun and enjoy life.

Drukpa Kunley’s influence is found all over Bhutan, especially painted on the walls of people’s homes. Don’t be surprised when you see giant, flying phalluses painted on buildings. They are symbols of good luck and ward of evil spirits.

Phallus painting on a building in Bhutan
Phallus painting on a building in Bhutan

Chimi Lhakang (Temple of the Divine Madman)

Chimi Lhakang (aka Temple of the Divine Madman) is a monastery near the Puna Tseng Chhu (river) in the Punkaha Valley. It is perched on a hill in a way that resembles a woman’s breast.

Chimi Lhakang is perched on a hill in the Punakha Valley
Chimi Lhakang is perched on a hill in the Punakha Valley

Drukpa Kunley famously subdued a demon at Dochu La (the 10,000 foot pass between Thimphu and Punakha) and trapped it in a rock here in the Punakha Valley. He built a small chorten at this spot and in 1499 the larger monastery was built in his honor. Women often come here for the famous fertility blessing which involves being tapped on the head by a five hundred year old ten inch phallus.

Originally Published: | Updated on | Categorized under: International

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Zachary Collier

As owner of Northwest Rafting Company, Zach Collier combines international guiding experience in places like Siberia, Bhutan, and Chile with a natural business acumen for systems and logistics. Whether he’s on big water or in the back office, Zach strives to ensure Northwest Rafting Company offers exceptional whitewater and wilderness experiences for guests and guides alike.

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