The Life of the Madman of Ü

The Life of the Madman of Ü (2016) is the first-ever complete English translation of the religious biography of Künga Zangpo (1458-1532), a Tibetan ascetic whose idiosyncratic implementation of the Unexcelled Yoga Tantras led him to dress in human remains, emulate wrathful deities, and provoke others to attack him—thus earning him the title of the “Madman from Ü.” The original work was composed in two parts, in 1494 and 1537, bearing the title The Life Story of the Noble Künga Zangpo, Glorious Holy Lama, the Preeminent Siddha Whose Practice is Totally Victorious in All Respects, Called “That Which without Restriction Gives Goosebumps of Faith.”

The text follows its protagonist through every phase of his life, from his humble upbringing to his perfect saintly death. Throughout, the text details the many decades Künga Zangpo spent in meditative retreat, the great masters he studied with, and the hundreds of disciples to whom he transmitted the teachings. Surprising at every turn, the story offers beauty and inspiration while giving an extraordinary look into pre-modern Tibetan religious culture.

The translation is preceded by an introduction that orients readers to the Madman of Ü’s religious pursuits and to the fifteenth-century Tibetan world in which he lived.

This book has been reviewed in History of Religion and Reading Religion.

More information can be found at Oxford University Press’s website or on Amazon.

A page from the 1494 woodblock edition

DiValerio_Life.U 2nd.revised