By Ty H. Phillips
“Any guide that can be switched off and rewound while you browse a pornographic magazine or gamble is not going to work.”
Right in the introduction, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse nails it.
To me, this was the essence of the book—derailment. I have noticed that there are predominantly two types of people, those who are desperate for the guru, accepting almost anyone who uses the title and giving themselves wholeheartedly to even the most vile of people and those who refuse all gurus and insist on relying on their “inner guru” in an attempt to put their ego in a safe place and rely solely on an intellectual attempt at enlightenment.
In our effort to find a middle path to this concept of a healthy relationship with the guru, focused on the teaching and not the teacher, we tend to look at every flaw they have and hence, The Guru Drinks Bourbon.
In my writings I have touched on this issue at length. We are excuse makers by nature. We point out every burp, fart, and flaw we can in an attempt to derail the teacher and all the while ignore the teaching. This isn’t of course saying we should give just anyone a free pass for any behavior they may exhibit but we must be mindful that to err is human, as is our teacher.
Khyentse makes this point perfectly in a hard hitting yet totally humorous text that is everything I hoped it would be and more. A profound follow up to What Makes You Not a Buddhist, Khyentse nails down every excuse and ego driven attempt to discredit the search for a qualified teacher (especially in the Vajrayana teachings which encompass crazy wisdom), and our attempts to focus intellectually on every obscure and detailed teaching while all the while not living it out or truly understanding it.
As he points out, the greatest teachers will meet us where we are emotionally, even if that means wearing gold teeth and a rolex to get our attention, in order to shatter the preconceived notions we may have. Teachers will come into absolute conflict with our egos in order to show us the path we are standing on is not firm, but flimsy.
The Guru Drinks Bourbon is a tour de force of indispensable teachings that enlighten. Khyentse’s ability to poke at the western mind is almost unrivaled and his humor is both charming and disarming. His work fits not only for the new student, but even more so for the educated students who love the “credentials of dharma.”
Editor: Dana Gornall