THE DIVINE MADMAN
For anyone who has toured Bhutan, the creative depiction of the phallus on buildings in the form of paintings and wooden carvings is a familiar scene, and the cultural history behind this graphic handicraft understood. As any knowledgeable guide will explain, this common occurrence is not seen by the Bhutanese as pornographic or erotic, but as their culture teaches them, a way to ward off evil spirits, dispel malicious gossip, and aid in fertility. It is a belief that brings childless couples from all over the world in the hopes of becoming pregnant. These customs are based on activities and beliefs of one of Bhutan’s most popular saints, the Lam Drukpa Kunley, who lived at the turn of the 15th into the 16th centuries. He felt that the stiffness of the clergy and social convention were keeping people from learning the true teachings of Buddha; and, his outrageous, often obscene actions were a deliberate method of provoking people to discard their preconceptions . . . hence this cultural icon was soon referred to as the Divine Madman.
The best wine lies at the bottom of the pail, and happiness lies below the navel
So great was the people’s love for Lam Kunley that a temple was built and dedicated to his memory.The Chimi Lhakhang temple is located an easy 15-minute walk through a field of rice paddies, just north of the small hamlet of Sosokha; it is near the town of Punakha, a little over two and a half hours from Thimphu, the capital city. Overlooking the fields from its serene and quiet location on a small hill above the village, the Lhakhang is relatively small in size, square in shape, with a golden spire atop a golden yellow roof.
Prayer wheels grace its exterior walls, embedded with slates carved with images of saints. Inside the temple, the prayer hall has tantric paraphernalia, and a statue of a robed Kunley centrally located at the altar. Chimi Lhakhang is the repository of the original wooden phallus that the Divine Madman brought from Tibet. Decorated with a silver handle and used to bless people who visit on pilgrimage, this 10-inch wooden phallus is softly tapped on the heads of women hoping to beget children.