This is the continuing story of Milarepa and his disciple Rechungpa, first encountered in volume 18 of the Complete Works. As portrayed in The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, Rechungpa is a promising disciple, but he has a lot to learn, being sometimes proud, distracted, anxious, desirous of comfort and praise, over-attached to book learning, stubborn, sulky and liable to go to extremes. In other words, he is very human, and surely recognizable to anyone who has embarked on the spiritual path. He all too often takes his teacher's advice the wrong way, or simply ignores it, and it takes all of Milarepa's skill, compassion and patience to keep their relationship intact and help his unruly disciple to stay on the path to Enlightenment.
In the story that begins this volume, matters come to a head when Milarepa burns the books that Rechungpa went all the way to India to acquire, but by the end of the volume, Rechungpa is able to set out on his own mission to teach the Dharma. Much happens in between.
Sangharakshita's commentary, based on seminars given in the late 1970s and early 1980s, draws from the stories of Milarepa and his wayward disciple much valuable advice for any would-be spiritual practitioner.