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The Teacher-Student Relationship
By Jamgön Kongtrul The Great
The message—encapsulated so well in Gyatrul Rinpoche’s introduction—is that the Lama is the central and indispensable element of all Buddhist practice, most particularly the practice of Vajrayana.
Ron Garry’s translation of and commentary on Jamgön Kongtrul the Great’s The Teacher-Student Relationship is a valuable, if difficult book. Much of the difficulty comes from its complex structure – which, if a reader were not careful, might obscure its essential message.
This book will appeal to readers interested in the traditional use of textual authority to explain and establish doctrine. In a time when the unquestionable rôle of the vajra master is being called into question by some factions – such a powerful and incontrovertible method of clearing up doubt is indeed necessary. Ironically, many of the specifics of the text and its several commentaries may prove distracting to readers primarily interested in this central issue. The very attempt to bring context and accuracy to the work renders it difficult.
The ‘root text’ that forms the book’s core is an extremely short excerpt from a larger work. The book then includes Kongtrul’s own commentary. It additionally provides the translator’s commentary, which includes various background explanations.
The translator’s introduction and commentary is heavy reading – particularly placed as the first section of the book. Therefore, readers are advised to first read the pithy root text, followed by Kongtrul’s ‘Auto-Commentary’. The translator’s material should be saved for reference or further research and investigation.
Although readers unfamiliar with the topic may require the information contained in the translator’s introduction to provide context for Kongtrul’s texts, they would be better served by a more straightforward presentation, such as Ngala Rig’dzin Dorje’s Dangerous Friend.