"Crazy wisdom" came up a few times in recent comments, so I thought I'd elaborate on it a bit. In its most basic definition, "crazy wisdom" refers an enlightened person behaving in socially unconventional ways. You can find "crazy wisdom" in many spiritual traditions, including Taoism and Hinduism.
The "crazy wise" person, freed from convention and self-clinging, spontaneously responds to life without inhibition. "Crazy wisdom" masters through history have broken rules, including precepts. They snubbed people in authority, took lovers, drank alcohol, dressed inappropriately (or not at all). Can this really be wisdom?
To those of us not wise enough to get away with "crazy," it might all look foolish. But I think context is important. In Chinese literature, for example, "crazy wisdom" Taoists sometimes are pitted against hyper-moralistic Confucians. The Confucians in the stories needed to loosen up.
Put another way -- crazy wisdom in the context of a rigidly authoritarian or hierarchical culture may indeed shock people into questioning their cultural assumptions, and that can be a good thing. But in a culture in which convention-breaking is winked at -- celebrated, even -- that's something else again.
American Beats who took up Zen in the gray-flannel-suit 1950s tended to romanticize the "crazy wisdom" parts of it, which is certainly understandable. But Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, who established the San Francisco Zen Center in the late 1960s during the height of the Counterculture, talked people down from craziness. Instead, he introduced his students to the discipline of traditional Zen practice. His students didn't need to be shocked out of attachment to convention.
Last year, Brad Warner wrote a blog post called "Crazy Wisdom? Or Just Plain Nuts?" He had recently watched two documentaries, one about the late Choyam Trungpa Rinpoche and the other about Shoko Asahara, the cult leader responsible for the poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995.
I was struck by the ways in which Chogyam Trungpa resembled Shoko Asahara. There are several extremely important differences between the two men. The biggest difference is that Trungpa was trained and ordained in a legitimate Buddhist lineage. Shoko Asahara just pretty much made his credentials up. And Trungpa was wise as well as crazy whereas Asahara was just crazy and had no wisdom at all.
Still, it would be easy for someone to be fooled into believing Shoko Asahara was also an example of crazy wisdom and to excuse his weirdness for signs of deep enlightenment. Trungpa was openly a boozer. Asahara made no secret of his use of LSD. Trungpa had a legion of uniformed guards who served as a kind of Buddhist militia. Asahara had all kind of bizarre paramilitary operatives in his cult. Superficially one could site a number of points the two men had in common.
Trungpa possibly remains the single most influential teacher in western Buddhism. He wrote books and essays that are still worth reading, and some of his students are highly respected dharma teachers today. Yet it was reported he was capable of petty cruelties, especially when he'd been drinking.
To me, it's one thing if the unconventional behavior is spontaneously arising from a place of compassion and wisdom, and other thing entirely if it is self-serving and attention-seeking. And I think you are more likely to bump into the latter behavior than the former, even among teachers.