Crazy for Wisdom

The Making of a Mad Yogin in Fifteenth-Century Tibet


In his early twenties, the Tibetan monk Sangyé Gyaltsen (1452–1507) left his monastery to become a wandering tantric yogin. As he moved from place to place, seeking enlightenment beyond the bounds of monasticism, his behavior became increasingly erratic. While some were shocked or even angered by his actions, others were drawn to him. Tsangnyön’s followers described his transgressive behaviors as enlightened action, rooted in authoritative Buddhist scripture. Using biographical sources, Stefan Larsson explores Sangyé Gyaltsen’s transformation into the charismatic ‘Madman of Tsang,’ Tsangnyön Heruka. Best known today as the author of the Life of Milarepa, Tsangnyön Heruka was one of the most influential mad yogins of Tibet. His biography brings its reader face-to-face with an unexpected aspect of Buddhist practice that flourished in fifteenth-century Tibet.
Restricted Access


EUR €121.00USD $159.00

Biographical Note

Stefan Larsson, Ph.D. (2009) in History of Religions, Stockholm University, is a postdoctoral fellow at University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses upon the non-monastic and practice-oriented aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, particularly as evidenced in Buddhist songs and biographical literature.

Review Quote

'The author is a knowledgeable and skilled translator, and his writing is clear and jargon-free. The translations and expositions of the hagiographies are valuable because these works have not, to my knowledge, received extensive treatment elsewhere... all in all Larsson’s book offers valuable information on an immensely important player in Tibet’s pre-Ganden-Potrang religious culture, with promise for future scholarship. The volume should be seen as a fruitful beginning for a longer-term project.' Carl S. Yamamoto, Towson University, Himalaya XXXII (2012)


All those interested in Religious Studies, Buddhism, Tibetan religion and culture, Tibetan history, Tantric Buddhism, Buddhist biography, the Kagyü tradition, Milarepa, holy madness and crazy wisdom.