Tibetan “Madmen” in the Marketplace
This talk explores the phenomenon of “holy madmen” or “mad siddhas” (grub thob smyon pa) in Tibetan Buddhism by focusing on the life and times of one of its foremost exemplars. After giving up his monkhood, Sangyé Gyeltsen (1452-1507) rose to fame by doing shocking things like going about naked and eating human feces in the public spaces of central Tibet, which earned him renown as the Madman of Tsang. This talk explores how Sangyé Gyeltsen’s eccentric behavior, which was actually a form of “tantric fundamentalism,” positioned him in the competitive religious marketplace of his day, enabling an historically grounded interpretation of his identity as a “madman.”
Since finishing his Ph.D.. in Religious Studies at the University of Virginia in 2011, David has been an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.