Psychosis, Stabbing, Secrecy & Death at a Neo-Buddhist University in Arizona

Via on May 4, 2012

Editor’s update: a post from Geshe Michael Roach describing his education.

Editor’s update: a rebuttal to the below, by John Stillwell, is offered here. As a reader-created open forum, we welcome all views: write@elephantjournal.com.

~

Author’s update: I have since published a followup piece to this post, which attempts to collate and analyze the 660+ comments, opinions, and concerns generated in the thread below by both supporters and critics of Diamond Mountain and Michael Roach. MR

reporting and opinion by Matthew Remski

Special thanks to Joel Kramer, Diana Alstad, and Michael Stone

for their help in the preparation of this article .

 

Abstract for Media Outlets

Ian Thorson, 38, died on the morning of 4/22/12 of apparent dehydration in a cave in southeastern Arizona, after having been banished by the administration of nearby Diamond Mountain University, which is under the leadership of “Geshe” Michael Roach. Thorson’s wife, “Lama” Christie McNally, was rescued from the death scene by helicopter. Thorson had for years exhibited signs of mental illness and violence towards others, including McNally, who had recently stabbed him, presumably in self-defense. The failure to fully report the couple’s violence to local authorities, along with the subsequent banishment of the couple from Diamond Mountain property without adequate psychiatric, medical, and community care, all raise stark questions about the competency  of this secretive and autocratic organization, and call into doubt whether its Board is qualified to protect the safety of the remaining residents of Diamond Mountain.

 

The Story and My Intention

A tragedy has occurred, and is continuing to unfold, amidst the mountains of southeastern Arizona. Thirty-eight year-old Ian Thorson died on Sunday, April 22nd, in a mountain cave at 6000 feet of elevation. The Cochise County Sheriff’s spokesperson has ruled out foul play so far, but the investigation is ongoing. The coroner’s report has yet to be released. The immediate cause of Thorson’s death is most likely exposure and dehydration. But I believe that a full investigation will show that the deeper causes involve cultish religious fanaticism, untreated psychosis, and the gross negligence, incompetence, and obstructionism of the Board of Directors of a neo-Buddhist retreat centre called Diamond Mountain University, headed by its founder and spiritual director, Michael Roach. This full legal and medical investigation is warranted immediately, because there are still 35 people in retreat on Diamond Mountain property who may well be in as much physical and mental danger as Thorson was.

Thorson was found dead in a 6-by-8 foot cave on federal reserve land, attended by his dehydrated wife, Christie McNally, 39, a former lover of Roach, known to the Diamond Mountain Community, and globally, as “Lama Christie.” She is recovering from her loss and exposure symptoms in an undisclosed location.

My intention in breaking this terrible story to the meditation and yoga community, and the public at large, is fourfold, and without malice. Firstly, I wish to encourage an immediate investigation into the physical and mental safety of the remaining Diamond Mountain residents. Secondly, I wish to amplify our ongoing discussion of what constitutes grounded, empathetic, and useful spirituality – as opposed to narcissistic and dissociative delusions of grandeur that may be harmful not only to practitioners, but to the larger culture. Thirdly, I want to put pressure (and encourage others to put pressure) on the Board of Directors of Diamond Mountain University to curb the obvious whitewashing of events that has already begun (characterized by Roach’s recent open letter). The events at Diamond Mountain evoke core questions of responsible leadership, democratic accountability and therapeutic qualifications that the directors should answer to, not only for the sake of their own students, but for the wider Buddhist community, and for spiritual seekers in general, many of whom come to ashrams and retreat centres with deep psychological wounds that are tragically salted by robes and prayers and authoritarian power structures. Lastly, I’m writing in the hope of softening the grip that I believe Roach has upon his followers, many of whom, including Thorson, were friends and acquaintances of mine, long ago, when I myself (full disclosure) was also in Roach’s considerable thrall. I acknowledge that many people around the world feel that their lives have been enriched by Roach’s enthusiastic idealism, and I do not wish to demean this. But my long-view concern is that the power structure that Roach has consciously or unconsciously fostered around his charisma depresses independent thought and growth, and is now protecting itself by flinging Thorson’s corpse, and the personhood of Christie McNally, into the outer dark of spiritual rationalization.

I have gathered as much information as I’ve been able to in the push to publish this story in time to mediate the danger to the remaining retreatants. Unfortunately, my attempts over the last few days to engage with my old community acquaintances about the events have been dead-ends, because, I believe, of the secrecy endemic to cults. Nonetheless, I do have a considered view on the documents that everyone can plainly access, and I hope my thoughts on these will encourage more skilled inquiry—both journalistic and legal—to follow. I will be careful to qualify my perceptions with the words “seem” and “presumably,” and my opinions with the phrase “I believe.”

My analysis of these events is in some areas speculative. I am quite sure that I will unintentionally render certain details incorrectly, and I hope that knowledgeable respondents to this post help me with factual errors, which I will correct in the text itself, in real time, as evidence is presented. I intend for this to be an open document, evolving towards greater clarity through the input of many. I will not let factual errors linger online, and will notify readers through social media of the edits I make.

There are two accounts of the events leading up to Thorson’s death. Neither come from disinterested parties, and the details of each have not be independently confirmed. One account is written by Roach himself, in this open letter that was “reviewed and approved by the Board of Directors of the University.” The other account is incomplete, published on April 19th by Christie McNally, three days before Thorson’s death. McNally’s letter is profoundly disturbing in many ways, showing what I believe to be the depth of her spirituality-induced delusions of grandeur, magical thinking, denial, and Stockholm Syndrome symptoms. The idea that this person in this state was teaching Buddhism or leading anyone through anything as extreme as a medieval-style three-year meditation retreat is absurd to me.

I’ll reconstruct the general history according to the available accounts, but also by drawing on my personal knowledge of this group, which is informed by my understanding of cult dynamics. This will involve my reading of incompetence, negligence, and buck-passing in Roach’s letter. I’ll end with a call for full disclosure from the Directors of Diamond Mountain University, and an appeal to the more grounded leaders of Western Buddhist culture to intervene on behalf of this community with the grace of good mentorship. Though I am admittedly antagonistic to extremist religious belief and behaviour, this article is not an anti-religious crusade. I repeat: there are about 35 people at this moment in deep seclusion in the Arizona desert under the influence of a woman who appears to have gone insane, and their guardians—the administration of Diamond Mountain—have shown themselves to be, I believe, unequal to the task of protecting and nurturing them.

 

Background to the Tragedy

McNally has been a student of Roach since 1996. Roach himself had been a student of the late Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tharchin, of Howell, New Jersey, since the mid 70s. In the mid-80s he took monk’s robes, and attained the Tibetan monastic degree of “Geshe.” By the time I became Roach’s student in 1998, McNally was at his side continually, ostensibly as a personal assistant to his extensive teaching appearances, and also as a co-worker in the translation of ritual Tibetan texts for Roach’s growing population of American and European students. Roach’s closeness to McNally raised eyebrows in more conservative wings of the westernizing Tibetan Buddhist community, and there were rumours that they were lovers, something that Roach’s monastic vows would have forbidden. It was utterly obvious to me that they were lovers, and this was confirmed in 1999 on a trip to India during which many community members expressed dismay at seeing McNally slink out of Roach’s cell before dawn every day. Because by nature I care little for tradition or propriety, the sexuality of their relationship didn’t bother me personally, until I became aware of the acute power imbalances that it projected into the social sphere of the group, and later, how the closeness seemed to contribute to the distortion McNally’s self-image and mental health. I also believed that their boundary-less merging stripped her of interpersonal presence, giving her the same vacant gaze with which Roach seemed to mesmerize his acolytes. It seemed that she took on the social dysfunction of all charismatics: brilliant in a group, but insufferable in person. Soon she began to parrot his speech: a strange mixture of English nouns and choppy Tibetan syntax. “Tiblish,” I used to call it. An essential skill, I believe, in her later rapid ascent as Diamond Mountain teaching star. I believe she quite literally lost her own voice as she became host to his.

It’s hard to remember Christy as-she-was. I suppose it’s because I never saw her except in Roach’s shadow, walking a few steps behind him always, carrying his shoulderbag with his 30-lb late 90′s laptop bumping on her tiny hip, fetching food for him at every communal meal, waiting outside the men’s room while he took a leak. She was my age, an English major like myself, someone I should have been able to talk to. But for Christy to even say hello to anyone besides Roach seemed to involve an intense effort to demagnetize herself from his gaze. I wondered if she was lonely with this strange man, twenty years her senior. I remember wishing a private life for her, of libraries and dance classes, graduate school and study carrels. A life not overdetermined by the dreams of a giant. Alone, but with autonomy, integrity. Perhaps this is a solitude she can can finally experience now, shorn of merging, shorn of fantasy, shorn of romantic violence. This would be my hope for Christy, once she recovers from this terrible amputation: a bright solitude. A room of her own.

In 2000, Roach, McNally, and five of his other female students entered a closed 3-year retreat on desert land close to the 960 acres of what has become Diamond Mountain University. While marketing the retreat during its fundraising period as “traditional,” “authentic,” and “ancient,” Roach neglected to disclose to his thousands of sponsors that he would be cohabiting with McNally in a shared desert yurt, a fact that became apparent to many during the several open teaching periods of the retreat, during which hundreds of students traveled to the desert to hear Roach teach blindfolded. Many were confused, some disappointed, and a few were outraged. The broader western Tibetan Buddhist community began shunning both Roach and his community, not only for his unconventional behaviour and lack of transparency, but also increasingly for his shoddy scholarship and new-age-thin interpretations of Middle-Way philosophy – the bedrock of Gelukpa metaphysics. It was primarily this latter weakness that prompted me to leave his instruction at that time, although I also had grave misgivings about how he seemed to manipulate his students, including myself, with make-work projects and student rivalries designed to stratify his power through grievances he would both provoke and resolve.

Roach and McNally emerged from retreat in 2003 as openly committed spiritual partners who engaged in “celibate intimacy,” a claim that mystified their married students, and outraged the pious. By virtue of her retreat completion, but also, I believe, to professionalize their relationship, Roach elevated McNally to teacherly status with the title of “Lama.” Luminaries in the Buddhist world as prominent as Robert Thurman implored Roach to renounce his monk’s vows if he wanted to continue in open relationship. Roach refused by publicly claiming saintly status through his constant verbal allusions to private revelatory experience, and by claiming he was beyond supervision, as he does in this 2003 interview. The relationship exposed their multiple challenges to Tibetan orthodoxy to full and tawdry view, and concretized the boundaries of their growing cult by forcing their devotees to separate themselves from the broader Western Buddhist culture, which now firmly rejected and criticized Roach’s titles and authority. By association, his rebellion separated his followers from the Dalai Lama, the head of their own lineage, who through his Public Office, censured Roach in 2006. In what I presume to have been an attempt to heal the rift the Public Office left the door open for Roach’s followers to attend teachings of the Dalai Lama, and many did and still do. Many remain convinced that Roach’s teachings and those of the Dalai Lama are part of a coherent cloth, but there is much debate on the matter.

I hope that Diamond Mountain residents and Roach’s students around the world fully understand what this rupture means. It matters little that he had doctrinal differences with Tibetan hierarchy: Tibetan Buddhism has been invigorated by doctrinal debate for centuries. What matters is that Roach effectively extracted himself from the cultural oversight of the larger tradition. Over the years he has made many justifications for establishing himself beyond the pale: he’s a realized being, the old schools don’t understand the contemporary zeitgeist, etc., etc. But whatever the justification is, he has found a niche for himself with no supervision. And there is no human organizational structure in existence that remains functional and resists authoritarianism without its highest members being subject to the oversight of peers.

Not every rupture in Roach’s world is political or theological. McNally separated herself from Roach in 2008 or 2009, who was shortly thereafter seen swanked up in Armani and hitting the Manhattan clubs with Russian models. McNally soon partnered with Thorson, and began making charismatic inroads into the New York yoga scene, teaming up to teach wholly fictional “ancient Tibetan asana practices for reaching spiritual goals using a partner.”

I remember Ian Thorson from perhaps two hundred classes and lectures across America, Europe, and India between 1998 and 2000. He was thin and wispy, underfed and protein deficient, perhaps anemic, with impeccable lotus posture, and distant, unfocussed, entranced eyes. He’d sit right up at the front of any teaching, his eyes rolled back, clothes unwashed, hair tousled, by turns elated and catatonic in his trance. I ate rice and dal with him at the same table at Sera Mey monastery in Bylakuppe for a month in 1999. We talked philosophy and the esoteric for the short spurts in which he could hold conversational attention. He complained that his family could never understand him. I had the impression he came from wealth—he graduated Stanford—but he was always bumming money and rides. I don’t remember him asking me a single question about my life, or lifting a finger to help any of the hordes of women devotees setting up the lecture halls or tea or whatnot. Altogether he seemed tragically self-absorbed. He had a girlfriend named Beatrice in those days. By the end of the India trip she was pregnant. I don’t know what happened to her. I think she ended up returning to Germany with the baby. Baby must be about twelve now, and I wonder if he or she has substantial knowledge of daddy, and whether and how his death will be known to them.

There was something strange going on with Ian. During every teaching he displayed severe and rattling kriyas—spontaneous bursts of internal energy that jagged up his spine, snapped his head back sharply, and made him gasp or hiccup or yelp or bark. At the time I took these tremors to be signs of kundalini openness, but now I see them as bursts of neurological misfiring induced by zealous meditative abstraction and cognitive self-referentiality. There were always a bunch of kriya-kids at Roach’s feet, with Ian at the centre. Roach seemed to pay them no mind, which normalized their jitterbugging to the rest of us, who I believe felt vaguely insecure that our own evolutionary prowess failed to bestow such outward signs. The kriya-kids all sat up front, and Roach looked over them to the more mundane sea of the hoi polloi, as if to say: Do you see the power I have over those who truly surrender to me? I occasionally felt my own mirror neurology shudder in Ian’s presence. But I put a lid on it, preferring to enjoy the conductivity of my inner body alone in the forests of Vermont, where I lived in between Manhattan or California or Galway intensives.

Apparently Ian’s tremors weren’t all light and grooviness. As Roach states in his open letter:

Ian was incredibly sensitive to outside stimulus—an accomplished poet, linguist, and spiritual practitioner who could “hear” the world in a way that most of us cannot.  Sometimes those of us who spent time around him would see him get overwhelmed by this sensitivity and fly into windmills of unintended physical outbursts, which at times caused potentially serious physical harm to those close by.

This unqualified diagnosis by Roach is actually a crafty validation of his own spiritual power and authority. For if Ian is a sensitive jitterbugging waif under the power of the Holy Ghost, the teachings are working. But if Ian is actually suffering from psycho-somatic dystonia or neuropathy, or histrionic or somatization disorders resulting in aggression and assault, he’s in the wrong damned place, and Roach is out of his league as mentor. Further, Roach’s charisma may be provoking him towards deeper confusion, perhaps rage. Further still: the students around Ian would be neglectfully endangered by a colleague’s unfortunate mental illness, instead of witnesses to some magical and incomprehensible transformation. In my opinion, Roach has negligently misdiagnosed a profoundly disturbed man, perhaps dissuading him and others from seeking proper treatment. But this is no surprise. The first rule of a cult is: turn everything oppressive or dysfunctional into a sign of the Greater Plan. The sick person is “spiritually sensitive.” A violent outburst is a “purification.” An assault is the “result of the victim’s karma.” Enduring an assault defenselessly is a high virtue.

There’s an old adage: “The devil quotes scripture.” A self-validating metaphysics will twist anything to its purposes. I remember Shantideva’s  Bodhisattva’s Way of Life being one of Roach’s favourite texts. In it the sage writes (as per Stephen Batchelor’s translation of 6:43):

Both the weapon and my body
Are the causes of my suffering.
Since the other gave rise to the weapon,
and I to the body,
With whom should I be angry?

I remember being enthralled by Shantideva’s breathtaking and poetic subject/object blurring: it taught me a lot about consciousness and the stickiness of private perspective. But now now I have to wonder whether Roach’s usage of this and similar passages, distorted by his solipsism, has been gasoline to his dangerous fire.

 

A Stabbing in the Desert

In 2010, after several years of increasingly grandiose claims and proselytizing around the globe on subjects as diverse as “Spiritual Marriage,” “Creating Your Own Buddha Paradise,” “The Secrets of Jesus and the Buddha,” and “Enlightened Business,” McNally was appointed Retreat Director for the second three-year retreat, and went into desert silence with Thorson and 39 of her own disciples on the University property. She was appointed by Board members that she herself had chosen, as she recounts in her letter of April 19th. But at some point (we won’t be sure until the Board does a thorough public inquiry) episodes of domestic violence erupted within the secluded house she shared with Thorson. Retreatants are sworn to silence by retreat protocol, so if any of them were aware of trouble, there would be pressure against reporting. But then, McNally reached out, consciously or not, for help.

Every six months or so, the Retreat Director and selected retreatants, and non-retreatant teachers gather publicly to give teachings. These are strange and austere events, as the retreatants are either blindfolded or separated from the public by a scrim. In early February of this year, McNally spoke at one of these events, attended by students and acolytes from around the world. As Roach reports:

During her public talk on the evening of Saturday, February 4, which I also attended, Lama Christie told a story which appeared to describe serious incidents of mutual spousal abuse between herself and her husband, Ian Thorson, on campus during the retreat.

Lama Christie described what sounded like repeated physical abuse of herself by her husband, and also an incident in which she had stabbed Ian with a knife, under what she described as a spiritual influence.

Roach and the Board were of course deeply concerned, and they met the next day to deliberate. And this is where, I believe, we can begin to see years of authoritarian control, solipsistic philosophy, psychological shadow suppression, overt whitewashing, and subliminal scapegoating begin to snowball. It is important to know that most if not all of the Board members have been long-term students of both Roach and McNally, and that most have donated vast amounts of time and money to his vision. I believe that this power dynamic alone would suppress the democratic functions of such a body. The question to keep in mind as the story rolls onward is: “What would an independent and peer-reviewed process have looked like, in place of unanimous decisions being reached by those within a matrix of social control?” A simpler question for the lawyers might be: “With Roach in control of the Board, does Diamond Mountain forfeit its 501(c)(3) status?”

Roach reports that local police were made aware of the contents of McNally’s talk, but chose to take no further action. I hope further investigation reveals why. If the police reviewed a transcript or audio recording of the talk, I would be concerned that they might not have derived enough context from this alone to be sufficiently alerted to the potential for danger. I don’t imagine that anyone internal to the group would have been able to provide police with the full spectrum of concern, including Thorson’s history, the history of internal power dynamics, the philosophical zeitgeist of the group, and the violence-laden meditation visualizations of their Tantric practice.

McNally’s letter of 4/19 describes months of battery at the hands of Thorson (complete with delusional justifications). At Roach’s admission, this battery was coherent with a pattern that the staff at Diamond Mountain was well aware of for some time, from different contexts:

Members of the Board had previously received multiple formal and informal reports of partner abuse and assault of students and staff by Ian, including a written complaint of an incident which took place off campus, and another incident at the University which led to Ian being asked to leave the campus for a period of time.

Multiple formal and informal reports. And yes, McNally had indeed stabbed Thorson with a knife three times, I imagine in self-defense, as attested to by the retreatant who was a medical doctor. The doctor stitched him up and then was bound to silence not only by the rule of the retreat but also, I believe, by his spiritual subordination to the couple. One of the stab wounds was “deep enough to threaten vital organs.”

It comes as no surprise to me that knife-violence would characterize the psychosis of a deranged couple in this context. Why? Because the central tantric meditation practice of this group involves the fantastical visualization of oneself as a sexually aroused goddess, armed with a chop-knife, who dances on the corpses of foreign deities, and then ritually dismembers herself limb by limb for an auto-cannibalistic feast meant to represent egoic dissolution. The Vajrayogini Tantra reveals a horrific yet strangely beautiful poetics of embodied sacrifice to the present moment. When I practiced it I found it compelling for many reasons, but nobody asked me at the initiation: “Have you ever had suicidal mentation or violent thoughts or outbursts?” And no-one asked Thorson and McNally, either. What have we done in our new-age, neo-colonial appropriation of these arcane wisdom traditions, that we blithely overlook the potential for psychiatric trauma that they obviously contain? How can we play with fragile people in this way?

Tragically, McNally’s letter describes the events through a thick pall of what seems like Stockholm Syndrome confusion. She writes: “My Love’s temporary aggression in those first few months of the retreat didn’t ripen for me as a negative karma in the slightest. I saw the whole thing as a divine play. He taught me so much.” And in a stunning whitewash of her armed self-defense, she writes: “Well, there is this big knife we got as a wedding present… thus began our rather dangerous play. If I had had any training at all, the accident never would have happened. I simply did not understand that the knife could actually cut someone. Neither of us even realized he was cut when it happened.”

 

A Board of Directors, Blinded by Dogma

From the discovery of the battery and stabbing onwards, I believe every decision the Board made has been (most likely unconsciously) designed to protect the hierarchy of the University and the sanctity of its dogma, rather than to nurture the physical and emotional health of these two critically troubled people, or anyone lower on the ladder of power.

The State of Arizona has a very liberal involuntary commitment law (Revised Title 36) which allows virtually anyone who had suspected that Thorson or McNally had mental problems and needed help could have filed an application to a state-licensed healthcare agency for a court-ordered evaluation. This point is crucial to remember. Because by not taking advantage of this power, the Board has protected itself from any outside intervention that might have questioned the competence of the entire University. In so doing, I believe they also actively presumed training and jurisdiction where they had none: deciding to treat two mutual batterers – one of whom was a stabbing victim – not as people in dire mental danger in need of assessment and perhaps medication, but as free-thinking, upright citizens who had made a few errors in moral judgment that they could correct, perhaps, with a change in philosophy.

The decision to not immediately invite outside law enforcement or mental health services to the property to examine the situation and interview the principles is, I believe, coherent with group’s general resistance to outside influence. On site, the sheriff or the shrink would be, I believe, as invasive to Diamond Moutain property as other Buddhist teachings or teachers would be to Diamond Mountain cosmology and lineage. The stakes in resolving the issue internally are very high for the Diamond Mountain infrastructure.

Instead of taking advantage of Title 36 or appealing to law enforcement for direct help, the Diamond Mountain Board, according to Roach’s own account, came up with what in my opinion was an incompetent, secretive, and punitive plan to oust the offending dyad from their Eden. This plan consisted of $3600 in cash, a rental car, two prepaid cell phones, a hotel booking by the nearest airport, and two flight tickets to the US destination of their choice: all to be made available to them once they had been served with a notice from the Board to vacate their residence. The plan did not provide for psychiatric assessment or support, nor qualified chaperoning, nor contacts for shelter services. It appears that not one single piece of help was offered to the couple from outside of the worldview and power dynamic of the cult. Not one mediating influence was allowed to intervene. Roach writes that he made attempts to persuade McNally to seek guidance, but the encouragement was towards guidance from other spiritual teachers – most probably also unqualified in the realms of psychiatric health. Most disturbing, perhaps, is that this plan did not consider the possibility that Thorson and McNally should at the very least be restrained from each other’s presence until it was verifiably clear that they posed no danger to each other. Let’s let this sink in: on some level, the entire Board felt that it was within Thorson and McNally’s personal rights as responsible adults to batter each other. But please—not on the University property!

In essence, I believe the Diamond Mountain Board and Roach unsafely banished two mentally ill and mutually violent people for whom they held communal (if not legal) responsibility to the mercy of their psychosis and the terrifying isolation of not only the surrounding desert, but also what they would have perceived as the closed door of the broader Buddhist and spiritual community. We have to remember that to follow an excommunicant like Roach is a self-isolating act. If Buddhism shuns Roach—okay: stick to Roach. But when Roach banishes you: where do you go? The stakes of banishment rise algorithmically for those who are incapable of self-authorization because of cultic influence. The cult leader is a life-raft in a stormy sea. Residents of Diamond Mountain routinely describe their acreage as “the end of the world,” in harmony with Roach’s my-way-or-the-highway metaphysics. So where do you go when you’ve been banished not only from the last place on earth, but also from the grace of the leader you depend on for your self-worth?

 

The Veil of Secrecy

The secrecy that kept the Board from reaching out for qualified help soon metastasized into confusion and uncertainty as Diamond Mountain carried out their decision to banish the couple. The Board hand-delivered letters to the couple’s tent, demanding they leave within the hour, to meet their assistant who would be standing by with the rented car. There was no answer, and the messengers failed to find the couple. After several days of uncertainty, the assistant e-mailed the message that the couple had left the grounds, but would refuse to disclose their location. Further requests for information from the assistant were ignored. The Board and Roach, according to Roach’s account, remain ignorant of the couple’s whereabouts between the date they deliver the letter (Roach doesn’t specify but it is before February 20th, which is when the assistant’s e-mail was received by the Board) and the day of Thorson’s death.

For sixty-one days, Roach and the Board claim that they had no knowledge of the couple’s whereabouts. What did they do in their uncertainty and professed worry? Roach sent emails to the assistant that went ignored. Roach asked other “spiritual teachers” of McNally to try to communicate with her as well. The requests were ignored. And what did they fail to do? File a Missing Persons Report. And why didn’t they? Because drawing law enforcement attention to the case would implicitly criminalize the events. I also believe that there would have been a strong motivation to avoid the public humiliation of the police finding them, and taking statements describing their experience. A cult cannot appeal to outside authority, as this would disrupt the self-generated logic and legitimacy of the group.

In perhaps the most cultish decision of all, Roach and the Board thought it best not to contact the couple’s families directly when it was clear that they had gone missing. Roach explains: “We felt that the decision of contacting relatives about the recent events and situation was only the couple’s to make.” I believe the likelihood that Thorson and McNally would have contacted their families of their own accord in this state of hiding and humiliation would be very low. I remember, somewhere back around 1999, asking McNally and Roach outright over lunch one day what her parents thought about her travelling the world on the arm of this weird monk. She laughed and said: “O they think I’m in a cult.” Roach smiled somewhat ironically and said “Well you are in a cult.” She giggled, I believe, nervously.

Secrecy is endemic to both the structure and the metaphysics of Roach’s organization. Buddhist knowledge was secret. His relationship with McNally was secret. Whether or not it involved intercourse was secret. The instructions for rituals were secret. The nature of his realizations was secret. The locations and identities of many of his teachers were secret. Tantric practices were secret. In the absence of physical coercion, secrecy was the key currency of Roach’s power.

And how’s this for secrecy? As of this writing, there are close to 7000 reads of the letter from the Venerables Chandra and Akasha, who are reportedly taking care of McNally in her seclusion, and close to 5000 reads of the letter from McNally. Only the first letter has been left open to comments, and after one week of exposure there are only 16 comments. This is akin to a blackout in social media culture. My personal social media network connects me to several old Diamond Mountain affiliated friends. None to my knowledge have shared these two letters. I have only seen four shares of Roach’s letter, and only a handful of comments upon it, all expressing condolence to McNally and the assistants, and none with any questions. I have reached out to several of these old friends to express my dismay at the events, to ask how they are handling the news, to ask about the health of the community, and to ask if there is any more to share, and I receive eerily similar responses: “Geshe Michael’s letter tells it all, dear,” and “Anything more I would have to say about it would be gossip, dear.” Everybody’s calling me “dear.”

Two things to note here: as an ex-member of this cult, I will not likely be a trusted confidante in a time of trauma and loss, unless it is to those who crave the empathy of an outsider. I understand this. But my friend’s comment about “gossip” reveals something deeper than any social exclusion. All students of Roach have taken initiation into the Bodhisattva Vows, one of which explicitly forbids criticism of the clergy. The Brahma Net Sutra gives a definition of this major vow. Stalinist bureaucrats would be proud:

A disciple of the Buddha must not himself broadcast the misdeeds or infractions of Bodhisattva-clerics or Bodhisattva-laypersons, or of [ordinary] monks and nuns—nor encourage others to do so. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of discussing the offenses of the assembly. As a Buddha’s disciple, whenever he hears evil persons, externalists or followers of the Two Vehicles speak of practices contrary to the Dharma or contrary to the precepts within the Buddhist community, he should instruct them with a compassionate mind and lead them to develop wholesome faith in the Mahayana. If instead, he discusses the faults and misdeeds that occur within the assembly, he commits a Parajika offense.

It is now Friday. Last Saturday, when I came across the news, I thought that surely it would be widely known by now. But as the days have dragged on and I have pounded together these thoughts and memories, it has become clear that nobody from within the Diamond Mountain community, or perhaps those sympathetic to them, would be broadcasting these events, along with the cascade of questions they raise. So here I am, and here we are.

 

Requests to the Diamond Mountain Board: Rob Ruisinger, Nicole Davis, Jigme Palmo, Charae Sachanandani, Scott Vacek, Tim Muehlhausen, Evan Osherow.

  1. Remove Michael Roach from the Board of Directors. His past intimacy with McNally and his current spiritual influence over you will make it impossible for you to perform your regulatory function under the articles of Diamond Mountain’s  501(c)(3) non-profit status. Surely you must also recognize that he is not fit to disinterestedly administrate any internal inquiry into the death of his former lover’s husband.
  2. Disclose everything that you knew about the domestic violence, the stabbing, and the other retreatant’s reactions/responses, and how you have addressed their concerns. Show the transparency that will expose the effects of the power relationships you foster.
  3. Invite full police, state, and medical official investigations. Bring in professionals to question all principles.
  4. Explain why you thought it reasonable to allow two disturbed and mutually violent people to remain in each other’s presence after clear evidence of potentially mortal danger to both of them.
  5. Explain why you did not call on local law enforcement and mental health officials to intervene in a circumstance for which you have no qualification.
  6. Create an emergency fund for the residential mental health care of Christie McNally, in the eventuality that this is recommended by public health professionals. In the event that this episode destroys her professional teaching career, create an additional fund for her continuing education and career transition.
  7. Describe the educational or work experience  of the “assistant” who was assigned to chaperone the couple that would have qualified him or her to care for a mentally ill and mutually violent couple.`
  8. Report the medical doctor referenced in Roach’s letter as having sutured Thorson’s wounds to the appropriate medical licensing board so that they can investigate why he/she did not report Thorson’s stab wounds to authorities.
  9. Release the remaining retreatants from their ritual vow of silence, so they can say anything they need to related to the events, their leadership, and their concerns. Release them further from their long-term vow against disclosing grievances against their leadership.
  10. Show publicly that the retreatants currently under your care have no history of mental illness that might endanger their health within the context of the severe isolation of your retreat property and the potentially provocative nature of the meditation practices that you advocate.
  11. Disclose the protocol by which you evaluate the mental health of retreatants, and how you will update this protocol in view of this tragedy.
  12. Disclose the qualifications of the replacement Retreat Leader, John Brady, and have him issue a statement detailing how he is specifically administering to the retreatants who have been disturbed by these events.
  13. Publish the transcript of McNally’s February 4th talk, in which she made allusion to the domestic violence and the stabbing.
  14. Provide the link on your website to McNally’s letter of 4/19, to both end the silencing of her point of view, but also to expose the clear psychosis at the very heart of your faculty.
  15. Remove Michael Roach from the teaching schedule of Diamond Mountain University until he has shown that he has put himself under the supervision of his lineage, perhaps by submitting himself for monastic review to his home community of Rashi Gempil Ling, in Howell, New Jersey.

 

Requests to the Mentors of the Greater Buddhist Community, including the Office of the Dalai Lama

Modern Western Buddhism prides itself on being anti-authoritarian grounded in reason, and non-cultish. In the light of Thorson’s death, its time for the community mentors to step up and prove it.

There are many mentors I have in mind. All of them are either non-sectarian or have scholarly or secular backgrounds. I’ll name a few, but please suggest more: Robert Thurman, Pema Chodron, Sharon Salzberg, Michael Stone, Blanche Hartman, Bernie Glassman, Stephen Batchelor, Mathieu Ricard, Sylvia Boorstein, Jeffrey Hopkins. Also: the senior teachers of FPMT will probably be up to the task. Here are some things you can do to help both the safety of Diamond Mountain residents, but also the general movement towards responsible leadership in Buddhist and other spiritual organizations.

  1. Please take time to investigate Roach’s history and teachings, and publish your thoughts on the broader Buddhist life to those students of Roach who are confused, in distress, and perhaps hungry for a more grounded cosmology. A series of calm, welcoming, non-judgmental open letters might be most helpful.
  2. Please disclose any protocols for mental health and physical safety that you have designed as leaders or members of Buddhist communities that would be helpful to the Diamond Mountain Board as they go through a necessary review of their own practices.
  3. Offer gratis counseling/conversation to any Diamond Mountain practitioner who might reach out for a broader view.

I also call on the Private Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to review these events and to consider reiterating and strengthening its censure of Michael Roach, first initiated in 2006.

 

In closing, for now…

I’m so grateful I grew up since my involvement with Roach ended in 2000—at least a little bit. I read The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power, by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad, went into therapy, worked on my daddy/authority issues, and now I return to meditation only once in a while to touch the quieter parts of my experience: not to escape anything or fantasize about what’s not here. I have a good and meaningful job. I don’t fly around the world chasing bliss and approval, responsible to nothing but the wind of my thought, avoiding those who know me best. I am no longer, as Leonard Cohen sings, “starving in some deep mystery, like a man who is sure what is true.” Like Ian seemed to be.

Goodbye, Ian. A younger, thinner, sadder version of myself died with you in that cave, dry as dust. I send my love to your child, wherever he or she is.

 

 

Matthew Remski is an author, yoga teacher, ayurvedic therapist and educator, and co-founder of Yoga Community Toronto. Please check out his site for more writings on Ayurveda and Yoga.

 

 

 

 

~

The opinions expressed by the authors at elephant journal and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of elephant journal or any employee thereof. elephant journal is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied in the article above.

 

___________

CORRECTIONS (posted 5/6/12, 5am)

As I wrote above, I expected to get some details wrong. I invited corrections, and received several, for which I am grateful. I hope that crowd-sourcing this story helps to establish a clearer picture.

Most corrections are minor. I have a few dates wrong, and I misrepresented the housing situation for retreatants at DM. I’ve also taken out a few terms that are immaterial to the argument, but which some found offensive.

The correction of substance involves my omission of Roach’s statement that he and the Board alerted the police to the contents of McNally’s talk on 2/4/12.  Roach doesn’t describe this in detail in his open letter, which led me to presume that the disclosure was not clear enough to provoke further law enforcement interest. I might be mistaken here. In any case, my omission created the impression that the Board did less than they did, and I have corrected it. My contention is that the strongest disclosure would have evolved from professional, on-site investigation at that point.

While I am grateful for the corrections, none of my critics have substantially engaged the core material of the article: the 15 suggestions I make to the Board.

Here are the corrections I’ve made so far:

Abstract: changed “…failure to report..” to “…failure to fully report…”

1st graph: changed “camped out” to “in retreat”

7th graph: changed “I’ll reconstruct the general history according to the available accounts, but also by drawing on my personal knowledge of this cult, and my understanding of cult  dynamics in general.”

to

“I’ll reconstruct the general history according to the available accounts, but also by drawing on my personal knowledge of this group, which is informed by my understanding of cult dynamics.”

 7th graph: changed “camping” to “in deep seclusion”

11th graph: changed

“His rebellion even alienated his followers from the Dalai Lama, the head of their own lineage, who publicly censured him in 2006.”

to

“By association, his rebellion separated his followers from the Dalai Lama, the head of their own lineage, who through his Public Office, censured Roach in 2006. In what I presume to have been an attempt to heal the rift the Public Office left the door open for Roach’s followers to attend teachings of the Dalai Lama, and many did and still do. Many remain convinced that Roach’s teachings and those of the Dalai Lama are part of a coherent cloth, but there is much debate on the matter.”

graph 13: 

Not every rupture in Roach’s world is political or theological. Ian Thorson was the retreat assistant for Roach and McNally. Sometime between 2003 and 2005, Thorson and McNally became lovers. She separated herself from Roach, who was shortly thereafter seen swanked up in Armani and hitting the Manhattan clubs with Russian models. McNally and Thorson soon began making charismatic inroads into the New York yoga scene, teaming up to teach wholly fictional “ancient Tibetan asana practices for reaching spiritual goals using a partner”.

to

Not every rupture in Roach’s world is political or theological. McNally separated herself from Roach in 2008 or 2009, who was shortly thereafter seen swanked up in Armani and hitting the Manhattan clubs with Russian models. McNally soon partnered with Thorson, and began making charismatic inroads into the New York yoga scene, teaming up to teach wholly fictional “ancient Tibetan asana practices for reaching spiritual goals using a partner”.

graph 14: removed “probably vegan” from the description of Thorson, as one commenter found it offensive.

graph 19:

“This is all crazy-making. I believe.”

to

“I remember being enthralled by Shantideva’s breathtaking and poetic subject/object blurring: it taught me a lot about consciousness. But now I see how dangerous such poetry can be without existential grounding.”

graph 20:

“But at some point (we won’t be sure until the Board does a thorough public inquiry) the other retreatants began hearing episodes of domestic violence from within the secluded house she shared with Thorson. Retreatants are sworn to silence by retreat protocol, so of course nothing was reported – until McNally reached out, consciously or not, for help.”

to

“But at some point (we won’t be sure until the Board does a thorough public inquiry) episodes of domestic violence erupted within the secluded house she shared with Thorson. Retreatants are sworn to silence by retreat protocol, so if any of them were aware of trouble, there would be pressure against reporting. But then, McNally reached out, consciously or not, for help.”

graph 23:

“Roach and the Board interviewed the retreatants and their assistants and found out that yes, Thorson and McNally had been battering each other for some time, with Thorson probably being the majority aggressor. McNally’s letter of 4/19 confirms this (complete with delusional justifications).”

to:

“Roach reports that local police were made aware of the contents of McNally’s talk, but chose to take no further action. I hope further investigation reveals why. If the police reviewed a transcript or audio recording of the talk, I would be concerned that they might not have derived enough context from this alone to be sufficiently alerted to the potential for danger. I don’t imagine that anyone internal to the group would have been able to provide police with the full spectrum of concern, including Thorson’s history, the history of internal power dynamics, the philosophical zeitgeist of the group, and the violence-laden meditation visualizations of their Tantric practice.”

 graph 30:

“The decision to not immediately report the battering or stabbing to outside law enforcement or mental health services is coherent with general cultic resistance to outside influence. The sheriff or the shrink would be, I believe, as invasive to Diamond Moutain property as other Buddhist teachings or teachers would be to Diamond Mountain cosmology and lineage.”

to:

“The decision to not immediately invite outside law enforcement or mental health services to the property to examine the situation and interview the principles is, I believe, coherent with group’s general resistance to outside influence. On site, the sheriff or the shrink would be, I believe, as invasive to Diamond Moutain property as other Buddhist teachings or teachers would be to Diamond Mountain cosmology and lineage.”

 

graph 33: “tent” to “residence”

graph 35:

“A common characteristic of many of Roach’s followers (including myself way back when) is familial alienation.”

removed: a commenter pointed out this was an unfair generalization


second last graph:
changed “Like Ian was.” to “Like Ian seemed to be.”

____
CORRECTION (posted 5/18/12 6:30am)
section on Shantideva:

And of course all cultists have handy scriptures to back them up: As Shantideva says in the third chapter of Bodhisattva’s Way of Life(one of Roach’s favourite texts):

His the knife, and mine the body:

the twofold cause of suffering.

He has grasped the knife,

I my body.
 At which is there anger?

Those who injure me are really impelled by my actions.

For this they will go to the realms of hell.

Surely it is they who are harmed by me?

I remember being enthralled by Shantideva’s breathtaking and poetic subject/object blurring: it taught me a lot about consciousness. But now I see how dangerous such poetry can be without existential grounding.

 changed, through dialogue with Phurba and others, to:

There’s an old adage: “The devil quotes scripture.” A self-validating metaphysics will twist anything to its purposes. I remember Shantideva’s  Bodhisattva’s Way of Life being one of Roach’s favourite texts. In it the sage writes (as per Stephen Batchelor’s translation of 6:43):

Both the weapon and my body
Are the causes of my suffering.
Since the other gave rise to the weapon,
and I to the body,
With whom should I be angry?

I remember being enthralled by Shantideva’s breathtaking and poetic subject/object blurring: it taught me a lot about consciousness and the stickiness of private perspective. But now now I have to wonder whether Roach’s usage of this and similar passages, distorted by his solipsism, has been gasoline to his dangerous fire.

About yoga 2.0 lab

Matthew Remski is an Ayurvedic practitioner and Yoga Teacher Trainer in Toronto. His latest book, Threads of Yoga, is gathering international acclaim. He's teaching this online course starting 1/7/14. It's currently full, but there is a reduced-tuition option for auditing. The 12 weekly lessons will be available online for six months following the course. Participants receive a 130-page manual of notes.

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716 Responses to “Psychosis, Stabbing, Secrecy & Death at a Neo-Buddhist University in Arizona”

  1. OM says:

    Matthew Remski : or Jaded Heart

    Great Deal of bitterness and Envy in this writing , Kagyu Lineage is know for Crazy Wisdom , certainly not for many or All , but there is craziness everywhere especially in what is considered normal or ok. Lack of Compassion in the writing is sad and obviously there is much Healing to continue for the writer , OM AH HUm
    To say , "now I return to meditation only once in a while to touch the quieter parts of my experience: not to escape anything or fantasize about what’s not here"– if this is the case then you should not be instructing anyone in any Yoga no matter how watered down , you are obviously an Intellectual so stick with that, perhaps Jnana Yoga

    Balancing the Mundane and the Supra
    The Yin and the Yan
    everyday extraordinary carrying Fuel and chopping wood

    the closing comments , "Like Ian was". and referencing his child in that way is highly unprofessional from someone who is touting himself as one nowadays with a "meaningful job" unless your job involves cleaning up or offering alms I doubt it is very meaningful to anyone but your own Ego and need for approval and Self validation and Worth . Your heart is hurt and if you do not face and heal that nothing you do write or say has any meaning or authority . One Hemisphere of you Brain works very Well , but the Heart is weak , Padma Sidhi Hum HUm HUm

    Bow to your Sensei Padmasambhava Kwan Yin Compassionate Goddesses Tara om tare svaha

    gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svah

    Aham Prema Namah Shivay

    May Truth BE Victorious OM

  2. heynow says:

    “this secretive and autocratic organization”

    gosh, perhaps your old acquaintances didnt contact you because you are a pernicious troll looking for view counts?

    there are NOT 35 people “camped out” at DM. they are living in houses and are not in danger of dying from exposure and dehydration. therefore they are not “in as much physical and mental danger as Thorson was” you horrible, godawful troll.

    • matthew says:

      I am correcting the housing description.

      I think it would be wise if the Board could somehow show that the remaining retreatants are all mentally healthy. My suggestion is that they disclose the protocol for retreatant approval, and show that participants are not in mental danger, which can lead to physical danger.

      • Ted Lemon says:

        You changed "camping" to "in seclusion." Why didn't you change it to "living in houses in seclusion?" When you thought they were living in tents, you seemed to thing that the quality of their living quarters was relevant; now that you know otherwise, you seem to think it is not. Can you explain?

        • matthew says:

          I can make your edit to "houses in seclusion". It does not change the overall point that there was a poverty of external oversight. This is especially true of the Board's eviction plan.

          • Ted Lemon says:

            So what would it look like for there to be not a "poverty of external oversight" in a three-year silent retreat? Daily inspections?

          • matthew says:

            How about thorough and professional psychological assessments for all retreatants PRIOR to admission?

            How about thorough and professional psychiatric assessments for the couple as they are evicted from the tsam?

      • Tara Jolie says:

        According to Lama Christie's letter, 2 retreatants were addicted to drugs and had drugs with them claiming they were tapering off…I don't know, it is completely inappropriate for addicts to go into long-term retreat…

        • Phurba says:

          I agree that this is a very pertinent point and am surprised it has not been included in Matthew's article. This appears quite disturbing.. on top of the fact that their retreat land is smack dab in the middle of a common drug-smuggling route from Mexico, according to Jerry their neighbor.

          • matthew says:

            I had considered it, but weighing in at 7000 words dissuaded me…

            But I am coming to see through this process that it is far too easy to be distracted by the microfacts of the Board's reaction to the behaviour of the couple and the tragedy. The larger story emerging for me now is how to track McNally's rise to Retreat Leader status, a role for which she was tragically unqualified. Pulling on this thread, I believe, leads back to the question: How did she become legitimized as a teacher? To which the answer might be that Roach had to professionalize his partnership to legitimize his heterodox behaviour. And not only professionalize it through co-teaching, but also commodify it as a "model" spiritual partnership, allowing them to travel the world for years and get paid for telling people how to love each other.

          • Lobsang says:

            @Matthew. Well, Christie actually has a very impressive resume. Reading her bio as an outsider or someone new to the tradition, it's actually quite sparkling given her age and cultural background. Is it legit? Can anyone verify it hasn't been "airbrushed"?

          • matthew says:

            I'm aware of the resume. Given the reflex of hyperbole common within Roach's own self-description, I have my doubts. Josh Hawkes does a good job of interrogating the language she uses in another biography: http://badkarmanews.blogspot.ca/2010/05/lama-chri

            What comes to mind first in reviewing this bio is: how many of its details are dependent on Roach's word or validation? And: has there been any independent review of the quality of her translations? Frank Boccio reports of recently having attended a teaching in which commentaries by Roach were being called "translations".

            But more importantly and more broadly: read again McNally's letter of 4/19. Does the language level, discernment, and general tone accord with someone who claims such education?

          • Lobsang says:

            BIO: Lama Christie McNally – PART 1/2

            Lama Christie McNally started her formal course of study at Kopan Monastery in Nepal, in a program
            founded by Lama Thubten Yeshe that is now continued by his heart disciple Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
            She then went on to continue and deepen her studies, and enrolled in the Asian Classics Institute,
            where she met her root Lama, Geshe Michael Roach. She studied at the feet of her teacher for 15
            years, going through the entire course of study needed to complete a Geshe degree. (A Geshe
            degree is akin to a doctorate of Buddhism.)

            Lama Christie during this same time also studied with Geshe Michael’s root Lama, Sermey Ari Khensur
            Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin, at Rashi Gempel Ling Monastery in Howell, New Jersey. Khen
            Rinpoche, as he is known to westerners, introduced Lama Christie to the higher secret teachings of
            Buddhism. She was initiated into the secret mandalas of Bairava (The Frightener) and Vajrayogini (the
            Angel of Diamond).

            Lama Christie also had the rare opportunity to study extensively at Sera Mey Monastic University in
            south India. She was blessed to study with several teachers there, but her main Lamas were Geshe
            Thupten Rinchen and Gyalrong Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Trinley Topgye. In addition to very deep and
            difficult teachings on emptiness, these two Lamas also furthered her study in the higher teachings.
            After all of this, Lama Christie took these teachings into isolation, and completed a deep silent retreat
            of three years, three months, and three days in the Arizona desert.

          • Lobsang says:

            BIO: Lama Christie McNally – PART 2/2

            When she and her teacher emerged from this retreat, they founded Diamond Mountain Buddhist
            University and Retreat Center, a place dedicated to advanced teachings in Buddhist philosophy and
            training in deep retreat, located in the foothills of the Chiricahua Mountains in southern Arizona. For
            more information, or to download Lama Christie’s classes and meditations, contact: diamondmtn.org
            or tibetanbookofmeditation.org.

            At Diamond Mountain, Lama Christie developed and taught a series of 18 courses directed towards
            the study and actual practice of seeing emptiness directly. In addition, she and her teacher taught
            an 18-course series on the highest secret teachings. After initiating this group of close students into
            their first secret mandala in the fall of 2005, Lama Christie was formally given the title of Lama, thus
            becoming one of the world’s first female Lamas.

            Lama Christie has also been a student of Indian traditions for the past 18 years, and has studied with
            great masters such as Swami Swaroopananda of the Sivananda lineage and the late Shri Pattabhi
            Jois. She is well-versed in both the Sankya and Advaita Vedanta schools of thought, as well as the
            study of Hindu Tantra. Lama Christie is thus a lineage holder of both Buddhism and Yoga philosophy.
            She is also a translator of ancient Sanskrit and Tibetan. Among her many translations are the Samadhi
            Raja Sutra (King of Concentration Sutra) of Lord Buddha; Master Kamalashila’s Bhavanakrama (the
            most well-known Buddhist text on the art of meditation); Master Pa Dampa Sangye’s Ngul Gong (The
            Silver Egg); Arya Nagarjuna’s famous text on emptiness, Mula Prajna (Root Text on Wisdom); the classic
            text on Mahamudra by the 1st Panchen Lama Yang Sel Drunme (Light of Crystal Clarity); Je
            Tsongkapa’s quintessential text on the Recitation of Diamond Dorde Rinpay Zintri (Notes on the Steps
            of the Diamond Recitation); Chone Drakpa Shedrup’s treatise on the inner body Kelden Gye Je (A
            Book to Please Those with a Core of Goodness); Master Dharma Rakshita’s famous lojong text Maja
            Dukjom (Gobbling Up the Poison—the Heart-Opening Practice of the Peacock); and Master Saraha’s
            Doha Kosha Giti (A Song from the House of Songs ). All of these translations (with the exception of a
            few secret texts) can be found for free online at diamondmtn.org under Lama Christie’s Bokjinpa
            courses.

            She has also written a number of books for mainstream audiences. In addition to her first solo book,
            the Tibetan Book of Meditation, she is also the co-author of several books written with Geshe Michael
            Roach: The Diamond Cutter, The Tibetan Book of Yoga, The Essential Yoga Sutra, How Yoga Works, The
            Eastern Path to Heaven, and Karmic Management. And she has recently completed a new book with
            her partner Ian Thorson, called: Two As One: A Journey to Yoga.

            Lama Christie is also the co-founder of the Yoga Studies Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated
            to bringing yoga wisdom to the world, by offering worldwide courses in both asana training and yoga
            philosophy. Within this organization, Lama Christie created Tibetan Heart Yoga, a practice of yoga
            based on the Tibetan secret teachings which utilizes the principles of karma and meditation within the
            yoga practice. In addition, Lama Christie and Geshe Michael have developed 10-day advanced
            courses on famous yoga texts such as the Yoga Sutras, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and the Bhagavad
            Gita. For more information about teachings in your area, contact: yogastudiesinstitute.org.
            Lama Christie has taught thousands of people throughout the world in places such as India, Japan,
            China, Singapore, Australia, Mongolia, Taiwan, Mexico, Canada, as well as many places throughout
            South America and Europe.

            In December of this year, Lama Christie will lead 50 people into deep solitary retreat, for three years,
            three months, and three days. Their goal is peace—both to the world, and within themselves.

          • Tara Jolie says:

            When "Lama" Christie was asked the question how does one become a lama, she answered that one becomes a lama when there are students who ask you to be their lama. No one actually "qualified" her as a lama except her followers. The DM teaches that anyone can be your lama, anyone who teaches you anything is your lama…since everything is teaching!!! This is rather convenient!

          • matthew says:

            Tara: I have heard this as well, either in audio or video somewhere. Do you know of a specific citation?

          • Tara Jolie says:

            Matthew, it was a video teaching on Diamond Mountain's website. If I remember it right, it was a teaching she gave before she enter the 2nd 3-year retreat. I just went to DM's website and looks like they wiped her out…I can't find it. There is no doubt she said it.

          • Tara Jolie says:

            Here she said something similar but this is not the one I originally referred to.
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=092El4b7c3Y

          • transparent says:

            Gosh whenever I hear her voice, the false accent, shallow breathing, disfunction comes to mind. How did any one with discernment find her to be a teacher. So transparent.

          • matthew says:

            Between my knowing her in 2000 and now, she seems to have picked up almost every one of Roach's performative affectations: thus my reference to "Tiblish". This seems common amongst other DM teachers as well. To me it is a fascinating story of mirroring and posturing: authenticity through mimicry.

          • Phurba says:

            This resume is not that impressive actually. The bulk of her study time was with Roach, a monk who she assisted in breaking his vows. The rest of her studies were briefly with a few other teachers in India and Nepal, –the same as any westerner travelling for dharma studies. And then, with Roaches own teacher in NJ. Compared to all of the Lamas I have ever studied with, this resume is very thin. Regardless, the most important thing in acting as a Lama is ones inner qualities. One may have less of a resume than this, but be a great Lama, due to development in prior lives. There is no hardline here. The most important thing is being true to the lineage, and only teaching when one's own Lama recognizes that this is something you are ready for, –that you have the capacity to benefit many beings and should not hesitate. In Christie's case, her Lama was also her lover, in an awkward position of having lied to his students about the nature of the relationship for years before it was made public. So as Matthew points out, the entire motivation for jettisoning her into a teaching position is quite suspect. And even if not, you would have to have deep confidence in Roach's qualities and abilities as a Lama to trust in his insight that Christie was prepared to be such herself. For many, a monk who breaks his vows to be in a relationship with his own student, and lies about it for years, already disqualifies him from being a decent Lama himself, let alone a great source for appointing new ones.

          • Phurba says:

            Yeah, that does seem to be the larger story, if you will do a follow-up.

    • matthew says:

      5/6/12 4am EST: corrections are now inserted into the article, and detailed at the bottom.

      perhaps the word "piece" is best for this "piece".

      I haven't called for anyone to be dragged out of retreat. I have suggested that the Board show a renewal of competence.

      I claim no authority over religious matters. I have a strong interest in authentic personal development and social ethics, and I write from that standpoint.

  3. Brad Yantzer says:

    Matthew, as shocking it is not, my heart gasps at the truth and reality of the situation. My heart and wishes go to all those involved. To me this is more of the same as all the other BS out there parading as spiritual but under the facade lay sharp teeth dripping with saliva of desires and ego. It is often even hidden for the view of the one in the offense. John Friend is but another name and another target in the media. The scary thing is that it is everywhere constantly. I only trace the roots of this back to stepping out of the truth and into the mind. The spiritual community is filled with hyper jumping to the nondual with out the safety net of the knowledge leading to the experience that actually brings one there. What you are left with is exactly like your Yoga 2.0, someones take on how an ancient science needs to be changed because things are so different now. But remember this science has remained through out time, untouched and pure. It is only when either the uneducated and unexperienced get their hands on something or when the power hungry ego needs more that the purity is lost. This is what we have today. I don't see an end to it, it is gonna hurt. What are we gonna do, try to put any kind of template or formation of foundation down for those who are feeding off the irresponsible crutch of our narcissistic yoga/buddhism/spiritual movement? How do you stop a tidal wave?
    The problem is not in how it is now, the problem is that it was never really taught.

    • Brad says:

      Oh and Matthew, this happens everywhere that ignorance is fit. I am reminded just now of a time when i was a triathlete. Down in Santa Cruz during a triathlon, one of the participants die and washed up on shore. They told no one, covered it up and continued the race as nothing had happened. No surprise.

      • Verasa says:

        Come on, Brad, you were NEVER a triathlete. You were a personal trainer to a triathlete. You apparently don't recall that the 55-year old man who died during that swim had a heart attack, and was respectfully and publicly drawn from the water. No one covered it up. He was in one of the last groups of people in the water, when the race was well underway for everyone else. All the participants and observers who knew about it were saddened and at the award ceremony he was acknowledged. Please tell the truth.

      • Verasa says:

        This point is only relevant because you invalidate your credibility when you embellish your rantings with misinformation suited to your purpose. Is your purpose only to get some air-time by confirming — in your own words with your own "experience" — the vulnerability (and tragic consequences) of human frailties? While it is true — and forever has been and forever will be — that people will be duped by "guru" types who misuse truths and pure concepts, Matthew's article already brilliantly illustrates this point.

      • Verasa says:

        The confusing disjointed nature of your commentary is a melange of complaints, not all relevant to Matthew's story. What is clear is that you are suffering. Suffering is caused by humans' inability to accept that things are as they are. If you are as enlightened as you purport to be, you would know that public ranting accomplishes nothing, especially when invalidated by inaccurate "facts," except to scream that you have not accepted that humans are fallible and forever will be, no matter what you tell them. They become aware only when they decide to become aware. Life's real teachers are experiences. People who read this article or lived this story choose to learn or not from it. Let that be. Ranting about it only shows that YOU are unable to handle your suffering. May you find it in your "gasping" heart to do good in this world not by insulting others for their mistakes and by bending facts but by positivity, truth, gentleness and compassion.

  4. PAX says:

    Hi Matthew,

    I am not sure if I would include Stephen Batchelor on a list of would be mentors. I don't think he considers himself a Buddhist anymore and he definitely no longer follows the Tibetan tradition in fact he has a very negative view towards it. I would recommend more Tibetan Buddhist to help integrate the DMU students back into the fold. There are many excellent teachers Gelek Rinpoche, Lama Kunga, Thubten Chodron to name a few.

    Lastly I had some experience with this group and my prayers are with them during this time.

    • matthew says:

      PAX: this is a good point. I don't think he provides enough "bridging language", now that you point it out. I don't know the Tibetans you mention, or else I would insert their names. But I hope your comment gets enough exposure to be useful to some.

  5. Gyelten Jangchub says:

    Personally, I never found Michael Roach to be charismatic. Actually I found him rather repulsive. However, he has contributed to making Buddhist teachings available to a Western audience. I think he deserves a lot of credit for that.

    As to the author of this article, Matthew, it's clear you have an ax to grind. Describing Kriyas as "bursts of neurological misfiring induced by zealous meditative abstraction and cognitive self-referentiality" shows a great disdain and disrespect for a central aspect of tantric practice. Meanwhile, you clearly have quite a lot of respect for the standard unenlightened Western establishment mind. "Some unknown level of marital discord going on? Send in the cops and psychiatrists!" I suppose that Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree refusing to move, having visions of demons and past lives, would be considered delusional and suicidal today. Better put him on some Ritalin and file him away somewhere until he can be placed in a job, to function as a mildly retarded, yet harmless, cog in our society. There, it's all better now.

    • Phurba says:

      Gyelten, -though "kriyas" are thought fondly of or even glorified in some Hindu yogic traditions, they are not seen as a positive sign at all in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the opposite actually.

    • matthew says:

      Gyelten: my materialist description of the kriya phenomenon is not actually reductive to me. To think there are little-understood forces at play in our neurology that are correlated with spontaneous behaviours is what not gives me the same goosebumps of pleasure that I once experienced visualizing chakras etc.

      The marital discord was not unknown. DM knew about it for a long time. Ian was stabbed. Who are you going to call: an exorcist?

  6. nrfd says:

    Before reading this, I never would have thought that anything could make me feel sympathy for Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally (who have gotten under my skin for years), especially following such a tragic occurrence. And yet, this incredibly judgmental, prejudicial diatribe has done just that. I only wish I had stopped reading at the ridiculous vegan comment, or the creepy description of how the author remembered Christie to be.

    There's also something rotten in all this about how Christie and her role seem to be defined in ways that they wouldn't be were she a man and/or older. Here she is, serving as the teacher for a serious retreat, with some presumably serious practitioners, and you're still writing about her as if she were an awestruck teenager who must be "mentally ill." How about holding her responsible for a situation that she herself took responsibility for? Or at least giving her a chance to comment on the death of her husband before calling her a mentally ill fraud?

    And EJ, this is a new low. Seriously sleazy move. A few more like this and you'll find likely yourselves in the libel lawsuit that puts you out of business.

    • Jim Dey says:

      Very well said, nfrd.

      I also find it ironic how EJ was trying to pretend nothing was wrong when the Anusara organization was coming unravelled, not linking to the website with the accusation against Friend. Some were validated and some were incorrect. However, this sleaze-ball attack gets published right away. Shame on you Waylon.

  7. anonymouswone says:

    Part of this is an idea of living like milarepa did. Traditional Tibetan Buddhism has stories of yogis living in caves. Modern people find it appealing the idea of returning to nature . My question would be when they did this in Tibet were lots of dead bodies found also? And if so what did the Buddhist masters comment about it who knew how to do this lifestyle?

  8. anonymouswone says:

    Im seeking former members of Geshe Michael Roach's organisation and current defenders. I have written a website about the dynamics of Tibetan Buddhism and the problems that various sects might have in common. I hope you will come and share your knowledge with me so we can all learn and understand these issues better. If mutliple sects are experiencing similar issues and we can see this perhaps we will come closer to understanding the causes http://removingallobstaclestoflourishingnkt.blogs

  9. Sam Muglia says:

    Dude, You need to relax.

  10. Jerry says:

    Repeating myself…it is not safe out here (we live in the Last House on the Left(yikes) before you cross the property line and are retinking living out here because of the drug smuggling.

    Living next door we have run into people that were not happy with friends or family being part of DM or were leaving themselves. Our view of Roach(who I've never spoken with) is colored by these meetings. A few years ago I went up to the Temple to retrieve my dog (they don't allow dogs or even pack animals..(.which might have both come in handy 2 sundays ago) and a girl kissed the tire tracks of a car coming from the big house that Roach lived in…".holly crap they are in trouble" I said to myself. I worry about a few people in the retreat I have met who stayed at a house in town I rented out I have heard the same thing from other townies…most were pretty together but.I just think some were going along with this as part of a group dynamic or for some sort of economic boost completing this gives them. One guy in retreat has given orders that even if his mom dies he should not be disturbed The first retreat drove the leader over the edge and some people just don't want to see more go too.

    Why not just do 3 month retreats under new leadership?The cloud would be lifted……. no one seems to every answer this question..

    • Jerry says:

      From Christy who was forced to leave because she was losing it or because she was telling stories about the first retreat that were not the offical line "During the third month of the retreat, a woman left her husband, leaving him absolutely devastated. He came to me begging for help, because he was having thoughts to leave the retreat, and even thoughts of suicide"

      I hope this is the guy i heard about in town but regardless shouldn't an outside person talk to him…brother…sister..mom….

  11. Ted Lemon says:

    "Not allowed to be private," not "now allowed to be private." Too bad we can't edit our comments here.

  12. Sid Johnson says:

    I am so grateful to Matthew for writing this. I was involved with this group from 1999 to 2005, and sat on the original board of directors at the beginning of the first 3 year retreat. I could write a book (and maybe someday I will) about the dysfunction and general madness that permeated every aspect of this bizarre organization. It is embarrassing now to admit that I willfully participated, and I sense it is this same embarrassment that keeps other former members from coming forward. At some point I will disclose more, like the details of the "initiation" I witnessed, including the infamous incident in which Mr. Roach stabbed himself in the hand in front of a room full of students, setting the precedent for magical interpretations of violence. I share Matthews concern that others may be in danger, although I am not really interested in getting into debates with the faithful who are still drunk on the koolaid. For those of you still involved but in doubt, I want you to know there are so many healthier options out there. Getting free from the dogma, superstition and dysfunction is where the real liberation lies.

    • aguse says:

      it should be noted, Sid thinks all of tibetan buddhism is a joke. practicing buddhism to him is synonymous with drinking koolaid.

      btw Sid havent you heard? you were never practicing willfully, you were manipulated by a pernicious and evil cult. they were so secretive and masterful in their cultish ways that they even managed to get you to believe you were practicing of your own free will. one wonders how you even managed to escape from the clutches of this immoral evil cult!

      • Sid Johnson says:

        thanks for clarifying my thoughts for me Aguse, I assume we have been very close at some point since you know my thoughts so well. And since your comments also indicate that you are are devoted practicioner, I will also assume that your sarcasm is of the most compassionate type, though it is unclear why you are spending your days trolling the far reaches of the internet instead of meditating. I can assure you that with Ian's death, I consider Tibetan Buddhism to be anything but a joke.

    • Phurba says:

      "infamous incident in which Mr. Roach stabbed himself in the hand in front of a room full of students, setting the precedent for magical interpretations of violence"

      Yes, this incident should be referenced in Matthew's article.. I also thought of this and believe it is a solid reference point for this situation, -especially considering Roach's condemnation of possessing or using a weapon at DM in his public letter..

    • matthew says:

      Sid. Thanks for reaching out. I had no idea about the public self-stabbing. It seems like Phurba corroborates. Is this widely known?

      I think the embarrassment/self-editing reflex is simply exhausted at a certain point. For years in my personal and professional life I muted my association with Roach. But when I saw this story, nothing could stop my outpouring. I look forward to when this happens for you, in your own time.

      • Greg says:

        Yes, I think it is widely known. I was there, but my memory is vague now. Christie and Roach were lecturing together at DM, and Christie said something about devotion to partners (Lamas?). Then, in a half joking sort of way, she said something about how she wouldn't be surprised if Roach might hurt himself if she asked him to. Roach immediately picked up the knife with one hand and, despite faint protests from Christie, seemed to stab his other hand, which was placed flat on the ground (they were both seated on the floor). It was hard to see. Christie appeared distressed, and his hand was quickly wrapped in a kata, which then showed drops of blood. The lecture continued. I remember wondering at the time if it was a planned stunt.

        • matthew says:

          This sounds like a very provocative moment that could definitely confuse many people. The aspect of spectacle here is very interesting. I should consider adding it to the "knife-play" segment, but I would like more people out there to describe it, if possible.

          • sid johnson says:

            It was well documented on the "critical" websites that were up until recently, along with the letter from the Office of the Dalai Lama. It would be helpful to access that content.
            My recollection is similar to Gregs, I was sitting near the back of the room so didn't have a good view, but I remember Christie exclaiming "No!", then comforting him while he sobbed for for a minute or two.

  13. Anon says:

    I am so shocked to hear about Ian. I was also involved in the group from 1999-2003. Yes there was a lot of secrecy, and some revelations in late 2002, not mentioned here, that prompted me to leave. As well, I was going through enormous heartbreak and depression, which I won't bore you with. Your article is very thorough and alarming. But at the same time it helps me compartmentalise that unhappy period of my life. So thanks for that. I am not suggesting that Diamond Mountain was responsible, but as you suggest here, there was a lack of fundamental empathy for those who were vulnerable. I managed to extract myself quietly and dealt with my unhappiness surrounded by my loving family. I don't practice Buddhism any more but I respect the Dalai Lama, and always will. Thanks Matt.

  14. wakajawaka says:

    To the best of my understanding there is no bodhisattva vow that states:

    "A disciple of the Buddha must not himself broadcast the misdeeds or infractions of Bodhisattva-clerics or Bodhisattva-laypersons, or of [ordinary] monks and nuns — nor encourage others to do so. "

    Which vow in particular were you referring to and where did you get that information?

    • Ekan says:

      There are 10 major precepts and 48 minor precepts listed in the Brahma Net Sutra.
      The sixth major precept quoted below. It deals with speech. The current phrases are things like, "I will not speak abusively" (Shingon), "I will refrain from divisive speech" (GMR), "I will not discuss the faults of others (Zen)."

      Below I have typed the translation by Master Hua

      THE SIXTH MAJOR PRECEPT PROHIBITS DISCUSSING OFFENSES OF THE MEMBERS OF THE FOUR ASSEMBLIES. A disciple of the Buddha must not himself discuss the offenses of any Bodhisattva Sanghan, Bodhisattva lay person, Bhikshu or Bhikshuni, nor may he encourage others to do so or involve himself in the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of speaking of the offenses of the Four Assemblies. Whenever a Bodhisattva hears an evil-hearted externalist or evil exponent of the small vehicles speak of practices which are not in accord with the Dharma and not in accord with the precepts within Buddhism, he should always feel pity for such detractors, instruct them, and lead them to a wholesome belief in the Great Vehicle. If, instead, a Bodhisattva discusses the faults of those within the Buddha-Dharma, he thereby commits a Bodhisattva Parajika offense.

      • aguse says:

        within geluk tibetan buddhism this vow does not exist. "i will refrain from divisive speech" is not a bodhisattva vow, it is one of the 10 nonvirtues, and it goes without saying that it does not preclude speaking up against immorality that one sees one doing.

        this is yet one more wrong point in a gigantic list of inaccurate points in the article.

        • Tara Jolie says:

          Whether you want to argue that this vow is not within Geluk Tibetan Buddhism or not, the fact is this is one of the main vows that their follower keep in their famous "Six-Times A Day book". When I raised questions regarding GM and LC's teachings and qualifications, I was told I am breaking this specific divisive speech vow.

        • ekanthomason says:

          I believe a case can be made that it is a bodhisattva precept. First we have to take down the walls that divide one sect from another and just use sutras.
          The Mahavairocana Sutra ("The Maha-vairocana-abhisambodhi Tantra" translated by Stephen Hodge) is a sutra that did make it to Tibet.
          Chapter 20, titled The Bodhisattva's Training Accompanied by Expedient Means, lists the ways a bodhisattva can go about in samsara and not be harmed. The "10 non-virtues" (your term), known in this sutra as the "10 wholesome actions" are listed.
          paragraph 2. – I shall teach concerning the method of engaging in the practice of a Bodhisattva.
          paragraph 6 – Turn away from severing life…
          paragraph 7 – Turn away from taking what is not given…
          paragraph 8 – Turn away from sexual misconduct…
          paragraph 9 – Turn away from lying…
          paragraph 10 – Turn away from abuse…
          paragraph 11 – Turn away from slander. He should act so as not to bring about discord or harm and the like, anywhere. Bodhisattvas do not cause dissension among beings. But on the other occasions, exceptionally, if he sees beings who have become bogged down in various heretical positions, he will cause division by means of that, so that those beings may be established in this simple method of the All-knowing One.
          And so on…
          So, you see, it is a bodhisattva precept.

  15. [...] Rebuttal: “Psychosis, Stabbing, Secrecy & Death at a Neo-Buddhist University in Arizona.” Rebuttal by John Stillwell. [...]

  16. Warren Clarke says:

    The reason the police did not become involved is because they have no desire to enter into partner disputes, especially when knowledge of the incident comes six months after-the-fact and has been resolved. The board replaced McNally with John Brady as inside-the-tsam retreat director. He is older, capable, knowledgable and responsible. The retreatants are in no danger whatsoever. Supply lines are efficient. Communication by post is permitted, but not e-mail. No coercion or brainwashing occurs at DMU. I know. I am a rogue with a critical 'bad attitude' and everyone in the campground is aware of it. I do not agree with all of the decisions made by the Board of Directors. No. For unrelated reasons (summer travel season) I have just recently left DMU after seven months as a volunteer caretaker. I was there. My cactus garden is blossoming. I trust that this wave of crisis created will subside and that the retreatants will persue their practice for peace and spiritual profit, to benefit all, without scatalogical sectarianism.

    • matthew says:

      Thank you Warren for weighing in. As I made clear in the post, I am waiting to hear why the Board thought it acceptable to evict them together, when they had a history of known mutual abuse, and for this eviction to be handled by inside helpers, rather than professional medical/law enforcement.

      • Warren Clarke says:

        Last first: to invite the police into the tsam was literally unthinkable. Professional medical people were among the number of the retreatants Second to last, second: to here disagree with Geshe Michael, who felt that Christie was making an unconcious cry for help, as per his letter, I sensed that the incident had resolved sufficiently, that both literally and figuratively healing had occurred, that, self-chosen without a suspicion or foreknowledge of the repercussions that would follow, that Christie felt it was appropriate to acknowledge and share the nature of the incident with the community. Just so you know, the Board discussed the situation for long, trying hours for a full night, informing the community the next day. Personally (and I am indeed willing to state an opionion even though hindsight is worthless) I felt that the decision was actually too abrupt; that they should have let things gel and settle a little longer. And first last, no one except those aiding the pair knew that they had returned to continue the retreat together, where for over two months they were camped without cabin ammenites in their high cave, with only love and not abuse. The night before I left nine of us shared a quiet, powerful puja for Ian. Blessings.

        • matthew says:

          I'm glad to read of the puja: I imagine it was very intense and bonding.

          I appreciate the on-site report. I find however that the decisions you describe are burdened by group-think dynamic that refers to no outside sources for advice or supervision. "To invite the police into the tsam was literally unthinkable", is indeed literally unthinkable unless there is the capacity to think independently, civilly, and democratically. The other example I'll point out is: "Professional medical people were among the number of the retreatants". Yes: and the doctor within failed to report the stabbing he sutured. Why? Allegiance? A culture of silence and obedience?"

          • Ekan says:

            Dr. is a she.

          • matthew says:

            oops. classic mistake. ouch.

          • Warren Clarke says:

            I got sewed up once by a doctor in the back country who didn't report it because I got sewed up. And if that's a solipcism, sew what! Deep retreat means just that, no outsiders. Ask a Tibetan. Yes, it is indeed a 'culture of silence.' It's called Buddhism. I learned that at the San Francisco Zen Center back in '67 when I got paddle-swacked for opening my mouth during zazen.

        • Ekan says:

          My understanding is that it was John Brady who is responsible for giving the couple five days to get out. Why did they need 5 days? Did they use that time to scout out the cave? It sounds like the board had a plan…get them off the property in one hour…and they should have stuck to it. That was probably his first decision as retreat director and things would likely be different without that decision.

          • Warren Clarke says:

            running late here, sorry. From what I am aware, the Board gave them two hours to depart, then relented with more time. John Brady was not involved with the decision. Apparently Christie and Ian, who were expected to clear out, had decided to return secretly to the tsam.For the benefit of one and all, get the geography straight: the retreat valley, up around the bend a mile from the campground, is something of a box canyon. The legal boundary separating DMU from Ft. Bowie is a barb-wire fence at the bottom of the south cliffs. The 'psychic' boundary of the tsam extends to the top, perhaps to the other side, maybe 1500 ft. higher, on federal property. They made the loop tour, with help, and either knew about the high cave or found it later. I suspect the latter. Ven. Chandra, who has now acknowledged helping them, kept his silence at the time. Having worked processing orders from the retreatants in the commissary, I know (Dr. Watson) that at least two people from inside the tsam were suplying them as well, based upon certain special write-in orders from Cabin 99 that began to show up elsewhere after they departed the adobe Lama Dome that was their residence. I did not draw the connection at the time because we all assumed that they were out of the area in a hotel somewhere until Christie's letter/teaching turned up on Facebook two months later. The cave was way uphill. It must have been out of sight to some extent. Any one of the retreatants could have looked up and seen someone climbing around up there. Most likely there was an agreed upon drop point for food, water and supplies. Those supplying them, I surmise, did not know the location of the cave.They would have certainly directed the rescue effort to it if they did._ Keep in mind, let me repeat, keep in mind that everyone panicked at Christie's revelation of the stabbing incident. Keep in mind also that it had occurred a full year earlier and that Christie felt that it could be brought out into the open and discussed as a teaching. The decision to ask them to leave was made by Geshe Michael. The board ratified it. The issue of karmic responsibility is very tangled. Ultimately, all karma is personal, so point your finger at the mirror, not the world. Debate is indeed encourage at DMU, within guidelines, but members of the Board will fall back upon 'policy' or 'that's the way Geshe-hla wants it done', if an impasse is reached, terminating further discussion. I guess I just get annoyed at people who are patently not enlightened trying to tell me what enlightened behavior should be 'like'. Peace.

          • matthew says:

            Thank you for the great report, Warren.

            It seems that indications of retreatant support for McNally and Thorson without the Board's knowledge speaks to the layers of confusion and secrecy supported by dysfunctional power dynamics.

            Your statement: "Debate is indeed encourage at DMU, within guidelines, but members of the Board will fall back upon 'policy' or 'that's the way Geshe-hla wants it done', if an impasse is reached, terminating further discussion."

            … is one of the most telling on this thread.

          • Craig says:

            Warren, I'm still trying to understand the geography to understand how remote they were compared to retreat valley. This 'Tara' mountain Ven. Chandra and Ven. Akasha refer to…. Would that be a lower peak on Bowie mountain or another name for Bowie mountain? Or would they have been on a much lower elevation peak such as the peak that reaches 6031 just southwest of the Lama House (and Ven. Chandra and Ven. Akasha got the elevation wrong)? Or maybe on the peak between those two that reaches just over 6,600 feet at its highest point?

    • Lobsang says:

      @Warren. You state that John Brady, the new retreat director is "older, capable, knowledgable and responsible". So please clarify — it read to me like Christie was a less-than-capable retreat director since you're implying that "older" could mean "more mature" or a "better choice" than Christie? Did you feel this way before the board took action? Should they have taken action sooner in your opinion?

      In corporate business terms, is Christie a CEO who must answer to their board so that there are checks and balances? Certainly when a CEO is removed in business by the board, it's traumatic to everyone (employees, the stock price, etc) — it's a big mess! And typically it means the CEO really screwed up! Fraud, Incompetence, Scandal, etc… A corporate board is typically selective of whom they bring in, and they are usually tolerant of mistakes like missing a quarter (or year etc) as well. At least as long as they believe in the CEO's plan to ultimately return profits. If the CEO doesn't deliver they're out!

      Just imagine if retreat directors had annual goals they must abide by such as "this many must become level one Buddha's" or "your percentage of retreat washouts must be less than 10%" lolol!

      But seriously, consider the scrutiny that businesses, where their own pure motivation is profit, must endure in the eyes of the public! Why is it where Spiritual matters are concerned, there is so little scrutiny? And something the Buddha always insisted we do!

      • Warren Clarke says:

        Oh, Lobsang. you seem to be obsessed by the business aspect of Buddhism, not my forte. My practice is tara bhakti. Enlightentenment (may I presume) is beyond the realm where per centages hold sway. I say this with some years of professional marketing research under my belt. The day I got promoted to office manager (my third on the job) my boss told me, "We chart trends, gather statistics, measure and compare databases. All incidents are unique. Everything we do here is bullshit. Here is your work assignment."

        It was prearranged that there should be no communication between the retreatants and the community, the Board included except in case of life-threatening emergency. Early on one retreatant suffered a heart attack, was rushed to the hospital in Tucson, and recovering three days later elected (bless her!) to return.

        • Lobsang says:

          @Warren — I was using the board/ceo as simply an analogy for board/retreat director. And by extension, suggesting that there's a ton of scrutiny in the financial business world, but so little in our spiritual world where the stakes are so much higher!

          • Warren Clarke says:

            The great sadness is that it appears that it was first Lama Christie who became ill during the intense week-long heat wave, while Ian cared for her; then as she somewhat recovered he, too, contracted the ailment which put them both into a delerium, taking Ian. Again, we did not know they were nearby. Those that did kept their own silence and may speak for themselves. And, may I refer to my friend Jim Dey's comments earlier on this thread by way of the higher stakes.

  17. Jacob Kyle says:

    I think most people should appreciate that the spirit of skepticism that this piece embodies is fundamental to the life of any organic, healthy spiritual community. I commend Matthew for speaking out in the spirit of openness and transparency that marks the best in our culture. I swallowed Matthew’s words excitedly, feeling that they were in line with some of the discomfort I have had in the short time I have been involved in this community. However, not a day after reading his paper, I have questions for Matthew. I have questions regarding some of his own presuppositions, his seemingly unquestioned use of certain fear-mongering rhetorical devices and his complete dismissal of any discussion of this “neo-Buddhist” community at the level of their own truth, which would, of course, involve addressing specific tenets of their Buddhist worldview. The questions that I have should not be taken as a rebuttal of Matthew’s concerns but rather as contributing another layer to the overall discussion.

    My questions relate to two basic features of Matthew’s charges: that Geshe Michael Roach’s community is a “cult” and his pervasive appeal to “mental illness”. Both features, I think, relate to a presupposition about what constitutes “health” and “normality”, labels that bring to bear the notion of emptiness.

    From a young age, I can recall many instances when some community was referred to as a “cult”. I remember there being a community somewhere in the woods near where I grew up in the Northwest, a group of houses surrounded by a tall green wall. I drove by it one day with my family and my mother or some adult pointed out that this was a cult. I had been sufficiently indoctrinated to know that “cult” meant “bad”, meant “insane” and probably had something to do with demons and suicide. My point is that Matthew falls into the habit of so many political ideologues by appealing to a term of generalization so loaded with emotion that its use cannot be analytical, but rhetorical. It is a rhetorical device that does more to foster fear and divisiveness than it does the kind of novel understanding required to be true to the specific contextual conditions of a unique community. It tosses Roach’s community into the irrational bin of “mad cultists”, thereby subverting a more sophisticated understanding of the reasoning behind certain practices. And anyone familiar with Tibetan Buddhism—even the Roach “variant”—knows that there is usually a rich reasoning behind these practices. By not taking stock of the reasoning that might have manifested, for example, certain comments by McNally that Matthew quotes, he does something parallel to what conservatives do when they label Obama a “socialist”. Like the charge of “socialist” in American political discourse, “cult” stirs up the same kind of animosity and fear in American spiritual discourse. And if a label is this reductive and loaded with meaning, isn’t it better to analyze with a different vocabulary? All we are told are that certain characteristics are the defining characteristics of a cult, but we are not offered a critical appraisal of the very notion of a cult, which would do well to avoid unnecessary fear-mongering and give us an informed idea of what we are actually talking about.

    My second main concern relates to the first which, taken together, points to the elephant in the room: the Buddhist concept of emptiness. How Matthew can criticize using all these labels without even alluding to the concept of emptiness is something I find baffling, especially considering the fact that he claims to have been a part of the community himself at one time. But more on this in a minute.

    • matthew says:

      Jacob: I'm really grateful for your analysis here. What it shows me is that rhetoric is the child of passion, and passion can analyze to a point. I doubt I will ever be in such a situation again as a writer, but if it somehow comes up, because of your reflection here I'll be sure to breathe more deeply and scan for words that come from my gut, but that are not necessarily helpful in fostering the best discourse.

      • Arly says:

        Like these?

        fanaticism, psychosis, gross negligence, incompetence, obstructionism, danger, whitewashing, delusions of grandeur, tragically, authoritarian power, considerable thrall, secrecy, cult, buck-passing, power imbalance, mesmerize acolytes, dysfunction, insufferable person, romantic violence, terrible amputation, confused, disappointed, shoddy scholar, manipulative, tawdry, forcing devotees, rebellion, beyond the pale, rupture, catatonic, tragically self-absorbed, underfed and protein deficient, zealous, insecure, crafty, histrionic, profoundly disturbed, grandiose, strange and austere, shadow suppression, subliminal scapegoating, authoritarian control, deranged, psychosis, arcane, neo-colonial, fragile, trauma, critically troubled, ladder of power, dogma, disturbing, banished, mentally ill, terrifying isolation, cult leader, stormy sea, metastasized, criminalize, public humiliation, alienation, physical coercion, power, and Stalinist bureaucrats.

        • matthew says:

          These are all descriptive words that apply to my reasoning. I'm aware that there are technical definitions of "cult" from the perspective of modern Rel Studies scholarship, and there is an argument to be had here as to whether DM fits the definition. This is the one word that feels gut-like to me. I'll think more about it.

          • Arly says:

            Reasoning? Insufferable person? Insecure? Crafty? Deranged? Where is the reasoning?

            You ever seen what lives in a human gut? Sh*t. Slimy, brown stuff. If that's what you mean, then yes, all these and "cult" came from your gut.

  18. Jacob Kyle says:

    My second concern is regarding Matthew’s continuing return to a notion of the “mentally ill”. This concern relates to an overall one I have with contemporary culture, in that this culture, in its appeal to mental illness, endorses a historically contingent notion of “normality” that is both culturally and emotionally leveling. In other words, what is this supposedly objective notion of “normal behavior” that is serving as a ruler for the various points Matthew makes about McNally and Thorson‘s abnormal, red-flag behavior? Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to imply that there are not certainly actions which point to an individual’s need to seek help from healthcare professionals (nor that ritualized stabbing isn’t one of them!). Obviously, people suffer from emotional imbalances that should be treated. But there is a difference between what should be properly considered as a mental illness and what should be addressed at the level of worldview. Of course, many statements by McNally that Matthew quoted, taken out of context, sound like the ravings of a mad women. But read within the larger context of a spiritual vocabulary and worldview, perhaps to some they are still disturbing, but they are nevertheless intelligible. Of course, everyone knows that the line is fine between spiritualized discourse and psychologically-questionable diatribe; some would even argue that what constitutes the difference is entirely ambiguous, for hasn’t the historically recent emergence of “psychology” and “psychotherapy” as disciplines in many ways supplanted religion and spirituality as the preferred vehicle for the working-through or transcendence of psychical issues? For example, were we to import this modern notion of Western mental health into a pre-invasion Native American community, our doctors would almost certainly diagnose shamans, medicine men, and like spiritual practitioners as mentally ill. All of them would almost certainly be considered as suffering from the kind of “delusions of grandeur” that Matthew takes to be characteristic of mental decline. The same applies to other current non-Western cultures. Furthermore, I don’t imagine it would be very difficult for a mental health advocate to make the case, if he/she were so determined, that a yogi’s claim to divinity is itself a delusion of grandeur. Should we then send all the om-ing, lotus-legged vegans to the loony bin for mental assessment? Well, perhaps.

    Again, my comments are not meant to say that McNally should not visit a mental health professional. Given all the things this poor woman has gone through, she no doubt should. But she should for the sake of a well-rounded, multi-faceted approach to life, not because the modern mental health industry is the only way to properly deal with psychological phenomena. And that is what distinguishes Matthew’s argument: he presupposes that there is something “objective”, “true”, and “real” about the concepts and worldview that he endorses. Of course, the problem is that, for those who meditate on emptiness, nothing is objective, so Matthew’s views can be seen by many Buddhists as no more than the subjective projections of an individual who speaks from a place of relative cultural indoctrination, at least when it comes to concepts like “cult” and the “mental”.

    • HighlySkeptical says:

      "Again, my comments are not meant to say that McNally should not visit a mental health professional. Given all the things this poor woman has gone through, she no doubt should."

      Damn straight. Not because she's "gone through" so much – but before she stabs somebody else 3 times. The woman writes that she thinks she's a goddess, and she's already violently harmed another person. If you all weren't busy making up special standards for her, the law might suggest she needs to be remanded to a mental institution. She needs a psychiatric evaluation stat.

    • Ted Lemon says:

      One thing I find interesting about this discussion is how different it would be if we were talking about conflicts that occurred during the ascent of an 8000 meter peak by a team of experienced mountaineers. Such an undertaking is incredibly dangerous, and frequently results in the death of a participant. And yet nobody ever asks "why wasn't there more oversight?" Well, except for Into Thin Air, but that was the exception, and the author didn't really draw any helpful conclusions.

      The point is, when doing things in a solitary way outside the immediate and ready protection of modern society, what has to be done when something goes wrong really is different than what would be done if the same events occurred in a city. So to judge what occurs by the standards of what ought to have occurred in a city doesn't really make sense. In a city, Christie and Ian would have had the help they needed in minutes, or at worst hours, not days. But nobody does three year retreats in cities.

    • Phurba says:

      Good points Jacob. It is a perpetually difficult thing to navigate the contrasting worldviews of American / modern materialism and the manifold views found under the umbrella of Tibetan Buddhism. I find it challenging, being intertwined with both. But I think why here some rush into using the term cult, –perhaps too hastily– is because even the conventional views, practices, and moral conduct of Tibetan Buddhism appear to have been left behind by this group's leaders some time ago. Once a small group with charismatic leaders defects from larger religious contexts and develops very unique beliefs and practices, it is not incorrect to label them a cult. At least, according to the definition of the word.

      Similarly, mental illness (or sanity) may be defined by the context of the society in question… and you raise an But don't Don't forget about the Mahayana Buddhist teachings on the two-truths, and the importance of respecting relative-reality too.. Relative and ultimate: two wings of a bird. Interesting point about cultural relativity. But today in the postmodern age of internet access I think everyone is quite sensitive to this. If a man from a south american jungle tribe was transplanted to NYC and began having experiences that were out-of-the-ordinary for an average New Yorker, I am sure his background would be taken into account before anyone had him referred to a mental health specialist. However, in this case the actions of this couple were not only way off base according to acceptable conduct per conventional Tibetan Buddhism– they were way outside the conventions of the unconventional spin on Tibetan Buddhism that is taught at DM. So it wouldn't be a biggie to imagine that both should have been provided with some mental health assistance. What could the downside have been? Even their reactions to the intervention of their supposed Guru, –GMR– was quite bizarre from the standards of Vajrayana Buddhist conduct. But maybe it made sense to them in the context of GMR's own reactions to the advice and criticism of his teachers. It is all quite sad.

    • matthew says:

      Jacob: these are very good and subtle points, and I thank you for raising them. My repetition of "mental illness" language does have some unfortunate consequences, but on the whole I employed it to spotlight and reframe the language of spiritual ascendency within which certain dangerous behaviours are shrouded by those whose worldview is at stake.

      I don't in my heart or my other writings presuppose anything “objective”, “true”, and “real” about the language I use. I understand it is language. And language is power, not truth. So I use language in the same way I use herbs or food in my work as an Ayurvedic practitioner: to foster the application of opposite qualities to clarify an imbalance.

  19. Jacob Kyle says:

    I think that Matthew would have spear-headed a much more fruitful discussion if he had addressed Roach’s community not from a place of vilifying condemnation, but at the level of their own truth, which would have been to take the issue of emptiness seriously and to engage in a discussion of the potential ethical consequences of seeing things as empty. For if emptiness is interpreted from a place of emotional imbalance or ignorance, it could certainly lead to the sort of problematic consequences that took place at Diamond Mountain. I, for one, in my short time engaging with the notion of emptiness, have many times returned to this question of ethical ramifications, because, it seems to me, this is a territory that deserves much more consideration by the wider Buddhist community. Seeing the world as empty must be acknowledged as, yes, quite liberating, but also potentially dangerous to many. It is a far from innocuous concept, and, in my view, most who grapple with it are not approaching it with the kind of well-rounded philosophical and emotional sophistication that is required for enlightened understanding. For example, there are numerous reasons why the pen analogy so common to Geshe Michael’s teachings is a weak and problematic one, yet it is ceaselessly regurgitated by teachers in this lineage as the epitomizing analogy of emptiness. That a dog chews on what a human writes with is hardly radical or illuminating, yet it is packaged as if it is a life-altering realization. For some, perhaps it is, but my concern is that this reductive and simplistic notion of emptiness might lead to a certain kind of ignorance rather than enlightenment, and new students should be both skeptical and wary.

    There is much room for inappropriate interpretations when a tradition that arose in another historical cultural context is transplanted into a cultural context with its own particular history and sociological patterns. In their eagerness for the exotic East, Westerners on the path do a grave disservice to themselves by turning their backs on their own historical traditions. By doing so, they do not, of course, somehow relieve themselves from the influences of their heritage. Rather, they drive it underground, pushing it into the unconscious where it simmers and hisses like a sleeping serpent, waiting for the most inconvenient of times to awaken and shock us out of our fantasies.

    • matthew says:

      Jacob: this is an excellent point and discussion to be had, and it's personally a central concern/interest of mine: the social and ethical implications of solipsism, and the transhistorical fantasies of the postmodern alienated seeking consolation.

      For me, it's for a later time. Grad school, maybe. Once the imminent danger aspect is well covered off.

      • Arly says:

        Yes, Matthew, let's leave a really good discussion for later because we're trying to incite hysteria now by writing a piece whose tone is seriously lacking any objectivity, whose corrections are considered minor according to you although some topple the cornerstones of your plea of 'cult', and whose placement of said corrections is so buried the reader doesn't get the correct info until they read past your picture and bio thus having first drawn them into your web of half-truths and full-blown lies without any sense of responsibility for that.

        Shame on you!

        YELLOW JOURNALISM! Elephant Journal, what were you thinking?

    • n allen says:

      That is why Geshe Michael never taught emptiness without teaching karma. He always cautioned to be weary of any teacher who taught emptiness without teaching karma – that if everything is a projection based on how we have treated others in the past, then the only thing to do is take care of others.

      • matthew says:

        "if everything is a projection based on how we have treated others in the past, then the only thing to do is take care of others"…

        This is the view at stake. It is said by many Middle-Way adherents to be a nihilistic/solipsistic distortion.

    • matthew says:

      Actually Jacob, upon further consideration, a discussion of events at DM "at the level of their own truth" would be quite obfuscating. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, when mortal danger is involved, philosophical insider-ism is inappropriate, especially when the philosophy involved is implicated in dangerous behaviour.

      Roach already broke the story from within the apologia of his metaphysics. Another view was needed.

  20. HighlySkeptical says:

    Matthew:

    Of course the Board and the followers of Roach have all clammed up. Thorson’s death could still be ruled a negligent homicide, for which they could be criminally responsible. All we seem to firmly know is that McNally stabbed him and then he shows up dead weeks later. If everyone wasn’t so resolutely being defensive and “spiritual,” the authorities would have to take a good hard look at the case as a criminal matter. Which they should.

    I’ll take issue with your points above. Why do you call for various Buddhist leaders to get involved in this cult’s affairs? Why not the Arizona police? A man actually died, after all, under highly mysterious circumstances, while in the company of McNally’s who appears to have believed herself to have become a “different kind of Being.” People who believe themselves to be God are usually extremely mentally ill.

    Where is McNally, why isn’t she in the hospital or the custody of the police? Who is shielding her from these legitimate questions?

    Don’t back down before the followers of Roach – they have an obvious financial and legal interest in hushing the whole thing up. Although they are victims of his cult abusiveness, like most cult members, they will lash out to protect their group identity. The criminal aspects only raise the stakes for them.

    Keep up the pressure and pour the sunshine in. Good work so far.

    • ccf says:

      you have your ideas and facts wrong too. Ian was stabbed over a year ago, it was 3 months into their retreat time when this happened. YOu were'nt at the talks and didnt hear what she said and didnt hear how it happened and now you , just like mathew are claiming to know things??? The recording that spoke about the stabbing was given to the police !!! and if they chose not to charge her, there is a reason for that, because it was not intentional at all, but because there is a vow of no violence in the buddhist vows and at DM they were asked to leave because of that. You dont know where she is and you are assuming that she hasnt had medical intervention or questioned by the police. This is not a cover-up at all, it will be fully open for the police to investigate and decide on any action. You dont have all the facts and yet you as is mathew making speculations and assumptions. It will all come out in due time as it will be investigated no doubt as it needs to be from many sources. I am not a follower, but this is in really bad taste during a time of grieving.

      • Phurba says:

        HUH? He was stabbed over a year ago, and yet the DM board did not take action or report it to the police until a couple months ago? ? ? This is far more alarming than the version you are trying to correct. WOW. SO why was this not dealt with for a year? It was a secret until Christie mentioned it in the February teachings? How could the doctor who treated his wounds in good conscience keep this a secret? ? ? Obviously the police were not notified a year ago because it is said that what was shared with the police were parts of the recorded teachings given in February, just a few months ago. Is this true, that the stabbing occurred OVER A YEAR AGO?

        • matthew says:

          Yes. That is what is becoming clear, I'm afraid. It is possible that responsibility for this covering lies only with McNally, Thorson, and the presiding Doctor. So the germ of the secret might have been quite small. This is why looking at the general context of secrecy within the organization is so important, in my view.

    • Student of Dharma says:

      Geshe Michael Roach doesn't run a cult. I really hope that people get their facts straight. This word is being completely abused. Geshe Michael gives free Dharma teachings in Pheonix Arizona to those that interested in studying with a highly qualified teacher. People that are claiming that Geshe Michael runs a cult are completely incorrect and have virtually no grounds for saying this. Diamond Mountain is a free university where Dharma Teachings are given in the middle of the desert.

      Why is it in the middle of the Desert ? Because the quiet of the desert is conducive to meditation.

    • Ted Lemon says:

      We've clammed up? Huh. This must be some new meaning of the term "clammed up" that I haven't heard before… :)

    • matthew says:

      HS: I focused my requests to the Board and to outside mentors because I know less about the legalities of Arizona than I do about what would be sane and helpful within intentional community. It may well be that the Board is legally in the clear. That does not make them ethically or philosophically clear. But I do express a few times my hope that the exposure creates pressure for full investigative reporting and law enforcement attention.

  21. Student of Dharma says:

    I have been a student of Geshe Michael for almost 7 years and Geshe MIchael has taught me how to become a kinder person and has helped me increase my compassion for others and myself immensely. Throughout these seven years I have traveled with him around the world, Asia and South America. He has treated me with incredible kindness and has touched my heart deeply. I have also been a student of the Dharma for almost a decade and a student of yoga for many years. The late Diado Loori Roshi (zen master of the mountains and rivers order), also a great luminary of our time was my first Dharma teacher who I also see as a completely remarkable being. I feel fortunate to have been able to study with these beings and many other wonderful Gelugpla Lamas of Tibetan Buddhism from a wide range of centers. FPMT included. I continue to do this while studying with Geshe hla.

    This article aside from being filled with incorrect statements was written at a time when a group of people are mourning the loss of a dear friend. We should all do our best to put compassion into practice.

    • matthew says:

      Student: the minor corrections have been posted.

      It sounds like you've had a good experience. However, contributing to Roach's hagiography at this time does nothing to address the structural and social issues at the heart of the tragedy, nor does it relieve the Board from responsibility for the remaining practitioners.

      • Arly says:

        The minor corrections include the fact that 35 people don't live like slaves or animals in tents but in really nice homes.

        There is also the minor correction that they alienate their families, but since this is an unfair generalization. This implies it still happens, but provides absolutely no evidence or anecdotal evidence to support that fact.

        This minor correction, which is one of the cornerstones of a cult, is the LAST in a list of corrections NOT EVEN IN THE ARTICLE! It's buried way down deep underneath so you, the reader, are first incensed and then have to re-negotiate the 'corrections' and piece together a new opinion later.

        Matthew, you're a self-serving tool. I don't understand why anyone here would ever agree with your assessments. If the police think something is wrong they will investigate. It's a non-profit. It has to meet certain standards. If the county or state thinks something is wrong, they will investigate.

        So far you and a few couch potatoes think something is wrong but aren't doing anything about it but grasping at straws.

        • matthew says:

          Arly: I don't think you're reading properly. The generalization was removed. Investigation often happens when communal will demands. Plus: I argue that the Board cannot properly investigate itself as long as Roach is at the head.

      • Student of Dharma says:

        Please stop the misguided gossip Matthew. The structural and social issues ? Really, come on now. Yea, your really doing something about the issues and really creating an outcry of concern. Womp womp.

    • Kevin says:

      I also agree that GMR's teachings have been of great benefit to me. My time on the land was of huge benefit for me. For me, clear discussion is a form of compassion and the attempts of all of us posting here assists me in making sense of these events and to assist me as I contemplate my continuing relationship with the DM community and all of the people that I love so dearly who are members of this large community.

  22. @visvavajra says:

    Hi Matthew,

    I noticed one more very minor item that needs corection: you said "the Dalai Lama, the head of their own lineage".

    I'm assuming the lineage you meant is Gelugpa. However, the Dalai Lama is not the head of Gelugpa, the actual head is the Ganden Tripa.

    • matthew says:

      Hi: I did mean that, and I apologize for the mistake. I guess I don't understand the hierarchy, and have been told for more than a decade that HHDL was the "head" of the Geluk. Can you elucidate further?

      • @visvavajra says:

        I've been studying Tibetan Buddhism since the 80s and only recently found out about this and was rather surprised, even though it's not something hidden (for instance you can read about when the current one took office here: http://www.loselingmonastery.org/news.php?id=13). It just doesn't seem to be something very widely known.

        In terms of ecclesiatic hierarchy, HHDL is actually only the head of Drepung Monastery.

        You can read more about the Ganden Tripa on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganden_Tripa

        • Pax says:

          This is true HH the Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of Tibet. He received most of His early training from the Geluk school but as the spiritual leader of Tibet He has also received teachings from all the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

        • matthew says:

          Interesting. How would you suggest I describe HHDL in terms of the hierarchical relationship that DM claims to be part of? Instead of "head": maybe "central influence"?

          • Phurba says:

            Well Roach refers to HH the DL as one of his gurus, –as such, he was one of the gurus that he wrote a letter to post retreat to inform them that he had secretly been in retreat with a female student. So regardless of the larger formal structures HH the DL is a supreme authority for DM because he is their main teachers own guru. In addition to this, HH the DL may not be ''officially' the head of the Geluk lineage, but in many ways he does act as such. So you have not been totally incorrect. But sure, you could say "central influence" as an alternative, but do note that Roach looks/looked to HH the DL as one of his own Vajra masters, and therefore is obligated to follow his command.

          • Tara Jolie says:

            HHDL is the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, not the head of the Geluk school. HHDL is deemed as more powerful partly due to his reincarnation status. Its not uncommon in Tibetan Buddhism that the head of a lineage is not always the most well known and most powerful Lama.

            I have long been noticing Geshe Michael's students advertising themselves as "lineage holders of the lineage of the Dalai Lama". This is a very curious way of stating who they are but it also make their followers very visible to those who are in the known. First, I just have not seen anyone else calling themselves that. Second, did they actually get HHDL's permission to do that? Third, to me it sounds like a marketing ploy to lure in follower using HHDL's name.

            Geshe Michael, Diamond Mountain, and Three Jewels yoga studios produced a "lineage tree poster" where they placed Geshe Michael directly underneath HHDL in the lineage tree. Its equal to the effect and implication of placing Naropa directly underneath Tilopa. I really really doubt this is the lineage tree most Gelugpas are ever aware of.

          • PAX says:

            A tantric lineage holder is generally someone qualified to pass down the complete tantric teachings for certain deities. For example in the Geluk lineage the previous Ling Rinpoche was the Yamantaka linage holder. He had all the Yamantaka teachings and passed them down to his students. Usually to become a lineage holder you must complete the retreat requirements for that practice. Then you are able to do self initiations and give empowerments into that practice. Usually to become a holder of a lineage the Lama that gave you the practice must also give you permission to pass the lineage down. In some cases in Tibet there are rare lineages that are only held by one or 2 people so these people are sought out so that the lineage does not die out. There are some lineages that have died out. There are also sutra lineages but I am not sure how strict the requirements are for passing these down. Most tantric lineages can be traced back to the Mahasiddhas.

          • Tara Jolie says:

            Thanks Pax for clarifying. I think its troubling for Geshe Michael and Lama Christine's students to refer themselves as "lineage holders of the lineage of the Dalai Lama". Doesn't this mean they are claiming to be the lineage holders of the entire Geluk lineage? Instead of a specific practice lineage like Yamantaka? And, I guess their students got the permission to pass the lineage down from Geshe Michale and LC. So, that makes their claim legitimate? In the lineage I belong to, completing the retreat for that practice does not automatically qualify one to give empowerment.

          • Phurba says:

            I believe that if your Vajra master is still alive you must be given permission by them to give empowerments. If this is not the letter of tantric law, it is at least the practice in the lineages with which I am familiar. Creating a lineage tree diagram such as the one you describe certainly implies that Roach was not only given permission to be a Tantric guru by HH the DL, but that he is given continual approval by HH the DL as a Vajra master and representative of the lineage. If either of these is not true, (which certainly appears to be the case) to present himself as such would most likely cause him to be considered a samaya breaker, which is not only worse than simply "unqualified", but is one of the dirtiest words in the Vajrayana vocabulary and is said to have terrible consequences, and is akin to spiritual leprosy — i.e., you really don't want to be anywhere near this person physically or psychically.

          • ekanthomason says:

            I found the lineage poster. It has been scanned and pieced together. If anyone is interested in seeing it, let me know where to post it.

            A hand drawn arrow loops from Pabongka Rinpoche to Trijang Rinpoche with a caption saying "This Lama becomes the tutor of His Holiness the current Dalai Lama, and root Lama to Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin." This is correct so far.

            Another arrow from Trijang Rinpoche to HHDL. This is correct.

            There is a hand drawn arrow from the center of HHDL's image to Khen Rinpoche.
            I believe this is an error by the person who drew the arrows because the placement of the images on the page appear to be layed out to facilitate an arrow between Trijang Rinpoche and Khen Rinpoche. Regardless, this is an error.

            The final arrow is drawn from Khen Rinpoche's image to a description of GMR. This is correct.

          • PAX says:

            I'm not sure what they mean by this since HHDL also holds lineages from the other Tibetan schools besides Geluk. He even has His only cycle of Dzogchen teachings passed down from the 5th Dalai Lama. It would be impossible for them to hold all the lineages in the Geluk tradition. Besides main practices like Heruka and Yamantaka their are also many minor practices. I'm pretty certain most of the practices Michael Roach received were from his main guru Sermey Khen Tharchin Rinpoche, who has passed away. It is possible most of the lineages he received from him could be traced through HHDL. I am almost certain he would need permission to give empowerments. It is possible Khen Rinpoche gave him this. One should only take Vajrayana empowerment's from someone authorized to give them and you must have complete confidence in them as a Vajra guru. I wonder if they are just using this term "lineage holder" loosely to mean they are upholding the teachings of the Geluk school. They should clarify this to any student that wishes to study from them.

          • Tara Jolie says:

            These "lineage holders" are the ones who finished Diamond Mountain's Advance Tantric trainings with GM and LC. These "lineage holder" are "Lamas" themselves who collect Tantric students and give empowerments.

          • Phurba says:

            This is incredibly disturbing.. I remember this was said to be happening back in 2006, I didn't want to believe it. This whole thing is a total tragedy.

  23. Allison says:

    I think I saw another Allison on here and it's not me, Allison D. Just being clear. I did not post a 'yay' to this firebomb.

  24. Paul says:

    I have no independent knowledge of these events, and I have no bias in favor of or opposed to DM or Geshe Michael. The extent of my involvement with Geshe Michael is that I have read some of his books and like them, and I attended one teaching given by him and Lama Christie, which was very inspiring. I have no idea what actually happened over the past few months beyond what is reported in all the letters and articles that have come out recently, and my reaction is simply to offer prayers and blessings to everyone involved.

    Matthew Remski claims to have grown up a little bit since he left Geshe Michael, and I have no reason to disbelieve that. But his article was not written by a grown-up (nor was it written by an authentic teacher of yoga, which Mr. Remski claims to be), and consequently it is not credible. I am not disagreeing with, or even expressing any opinion about, the facts he offers or his conclusions or his recommendations. From where I sit, I am not qualified to make those judgments. But I am qualified to react to the tone and use of language in Mr. Remski's article, all the way from the title to the last line of the piece. A grown-up (or a real teacher of yoga) who shared Mr. Remski's views would have made the same points with dispassion, discernment and objectivity. Instead, Mr. Remski has contributed to the noise and confusion of avidya. That is regrettable.

    • matthew says:

      Paul: I don't claim to be an "authentic" teacher of yoga. I just practice and share yoga: what I've learned about self-inquiry, empathy, connection and service from many sources both good and bad, and a lot of experience.

      Vairagya is but one value in the vast ocean of yoga's ethics. Passion is another. Everything for its time.

  25. Chaiwallah says:

    This is yet another sad and disgraceful episode that gives Dharma a bad name. I much appreciate the invitation to "community mentors" to step up and offer advice. As a founder of Jamyang Study Group (originally formed as affiliated to FPMT but no longer so; Patron: His Holiness the Dalai Lama) and many other Buddhist and Tibet-related groups since the 1970s, and as 'Chaiwallah' at the Urgyen Fiends Chai Khana on the Old Dharamsala Wallahs, I shall consult my community and convey whatever good advice comes up. Obviously, the first thing for the board to do would be to unequivocally censure Roach and remove him forthwith from all positions and connections with the organisation, and secondly to issue a statement detailing the steps that are being taken to rectify the situation.

  26. Ekan says:

    What happened to the picture of Ian?

  27. Another Perspective says:

    Hi Matthew,
    I am curious if you have ever visited Diamond Mountain for yourself. I wonder this mainly because of the idea presented in your piece that DM is resistant to outside influences and teachers. When DM was running as a "university", I stayed there for a full term, and often visited for parts of terms (I live in Tucson, so it was easy for me). There were often teachers from outside the DM community: martial arts teachers, yoga teachers, and even Geshe Lothar, from Sera Mey Monastery.
    Geshe Michael and some students of his actually had a program to send young people over to study at Sera Mey Monastery every year. My fiance and I were able to participate in this program, and to study with the monks at Sera Mey in India for about a month in 2008/2009. They organized this and helped us raise funds for the trip. I know many others who also participated in this program. This does not seem like isolation from other Buddhist communities to me!
    As far as the "secret-ism" at DM – the teachings of Tantra are meant to be secret for those who have not shown themselves to be well-versed in the teachings of Buddhism. At Sera Mey, I was not allowed to participate in or view a Tantric ceremony, because I had not received Tantric initiation or teachings. Would you also accuse Sera Mey monastery of being a cult? How about Gyu Mey Tantric college?

    One other point I would like to address – you seem to imply that teachers at DM bully students into not questioning what is being taught. My experience has been quite the opposite! DM strove to keep traditional Tibetan debate alive and well. There is a designated debate ground at DM, and debate night was a time when we were all encouraged to question everything we'd heard. I studied debate/logic at DM, at Sera Mey, and at Three Jewels Tucson ( a Dharma center run by the same lineage). Yes, a dynamic teacher with many followers may entice people to be less questioning, but I cannot count how many times I have been told to question the teachings for myself by people of the DM community.
    Does this mean there are no wrong views amongst DM students? – or course not! One person commented here that they were told not to question Geshe Michael and Lama Christie's qualifications for teaching. If this is true it does seem quite crazy to me – I have always been strongly encouraged to find out as much as a can about a teacher's credentials! (and that encouragement came from people of the DM community, and indeed there are guidelines for checking out a teacher in ACI Course 1)

    Anyway, I couldn't resist putting in my 2 cents. I hope it is at least somewhat beneficial.

    • matthew says:

      AP: I have not visited DM, and don't feel the need to to report and comment upon the available documents and my personal experience.

      Of the visiting teachers you cite, are there any who do not consider themselves to be direct students of Roach? Frank Boccio reports from Tucson that his non-sectarian presentation of a wide variety of buddhist philosophy perspectives a the 3 Jewels met with substantial disbelief.

      The financial ties between Roach and Sera Mey have yet to be fully disclosed. I'm sure that there has been philanthropic exchange, but it seems that the money has come with strings, as evidenced by the monk who appeared at Roach's teaching in 2006 near Dharamsala pretending to be bearing gifts from HHDL, to obfuscate his recent censure.

      Secrecy in tantra is one thing. When it might be influencing the decision of a doctor to not report a stabbing, it's another.

      If you look closely at the debate protocols you're engaged in, you might see that the a priori rules rig true discourse. This seems to be part of scholastic style. Treatises on Prasangika philosophy are often delivered against the straw-man arguments of earlier thinkers, which are exposed to ridicule. True debate at DM would involve participants from other lineages and even belief systems, or better, non-belief systems. True debate at DM would be Roach vs Sam Harris. I would totally visit DM to see that.

      • Another Perspective says:

        Matthew,
        By mentioning teachers as being "outside the DM community" I indeed meant people who are not students of Roach, and some who I believe do not consider themselves Buddhist (here I refer to Darren Rhodes, a popular yoga teacher in Tucson and DM. As far as I know he does not consider himself part of any Buddhist lineage, though I do not know him personally). Also, Geshe Lothar is not a student of Geshe Michael! He is the head of the Ari Labrang at Sera Mey and currently looking after the young Khen Rinpoche.
        I was not attempting to make any assertions about the financial ties between Geshe Michael and Sera Mey, I only wished to point out that he helped me and many others go to study there. I brought this up as counter-evidence to your position that following Geshe Michael means you are cut off from any other Buddhist community.
        Why do you assume we only debated with "DM followers"? There were often people at DM from other backgrounds! I recall many situations like this – a man who had studied kagyu, a non-Buddhist there to make a documentary – and these people were more than encouraged to participate in debate. Also, and perhaps this is a matter of personal preference, I found that a system of logical debate allowed for much deeper discussion (because even when engaging in philosophical debate people can bicker or get personal). Moreover, even debate amongst the DM community was passionate and riddled with differences of opinion. We were all struggling to understand difficult matters – like the implications of karms, we bounced ideas off one another, and played devil's advocate again and again. I think you may have been surprised, had you seen it.

        I agree that a doctor not reporting a stabbing is serious business and should be looked into. I mainly wished to address your depiction of DM as a gathering place of subservient, like-minded people with no connection to any other communities – a depiction wildly contradictory to my own experience.

        • matthew says:

          Thank you, AP, for setting the scene. Debating at DM clearly evolved from the earlier days. Given the openness you describe and the heterogeneous nature of views, how do you personally think power seemed to continue to organize itself so clearly around the charisma of McNally and Roach? Organized to the point that she was appointed retreat director while within a potentially abusive relationship, and having the capacity to write such a strangely juvenile letter on 4/19? It's hard to imagine this happening in an environment of free thought. It seems that openness showed up in some places, but there were definitely choke points of silence and power capable of rationalizing bizarre behaviour and denying grave situations.

          • Another Perspective says:

            Unfortunately, I doubt I can offer much insight into those matters. Although I've been to their teachings, I study closely under other teachers in the lineage, and I know neither Geshe Michael nor Lama Christie personally (I've only met them a few times). I also did not know Ian. I have not been directly involved with the retreat, and I knew nothing of these events until some friends from DM posted the open letters on facebook.

            Personally, I see no evidence that Geshe Michael was being untruthful in his letter and hiding information as you impy. It seems to me they did make a serious effort to address the grave situation.

            I do also question the descision to allow Lama Christie to go into retreat with someone known to be abusive, but as I said I am not personally involved in this situation. I would really need more information if I were to make a judgement on the matter.

            The attitudes toward Geshe Michael and Lama Christie I saw around DM were certainly respectful. They are the founders of DM and many people's personal teachers after all. I recall debating/having discussions with close students of theirs, and they were always comfortable debating (usually eager to debate) things G. Michael or L. Christie had taught. They were often the instigators of such discussion, and very scrutinizing.

            All I can really say is that Geshe Michael and Lama Christie did have celebrity around DM, but I never saw abuses of that celebrity nor did I feel that I was being kept out of a secret "in group" or that people's opinions were being choked off. I know many people who wanted to get more closely involved with them and did. G. Michael and L. Christie were not unapproachable. I also know many like myself who visited and hung around DM, but study closely with other teachers.
            I hope that addresses your questions somewhat.

          • matthew says:

            It does. And I do believe that the Board's efforts would have seemed sufficient "from their own side", as they say. But the power dynamic within which they are enmeshed as his followers makes for vulnerable discernment.

            I think your comment speaks to the fact that DM encompassed a broad orbit of participants and stakeholders, many of whom are not devotees. This makes the situation all the more head-spinningly complicated, for sure. Which is why, I believe, this dialogue will be most helpful to so many.

          • Another Perspective says:

            Just a thought – have you explored the 3 year retreat website at all? The site is retreat4peace.org and there are blogs from caretakers and retreatants (from before they went into retreat). You may find it interesting and/or helpful.

          • matthew says:

            I have, AP. For the most part, the accounts are happy records of people preparing for a great adventure. They seem well confident that they are being taken of by sensible leadership. I'm afraid this does not make it so.

      • APearson says:

        Hi Matthew. I'm grateful to you for the kindness you continue to extend to your readers, no matter the opinion or tone we bring. I see that you are deeply concerned for this particular community and are seeking to both ask and answer important questions. My campus experience, beginning in late 2008 and continuing on-and-off through May 2011, will help address your question to "Another Perspective" about visiting teachers and the overall concern that students have been discouraged from independent thought and growth:

        During my time at the Diamond Mountain campus, I was able to attend guest teaching events with teachers who were not direct students of Lama Christie or Geshe Michael. These included the Sivananda Yoga tradition, the Chinese Taoist tradition, and a variety of yoga classes from all of the well-known yoga lineages. There were additional non-Diamond Mountain lineage teachings, but at this writing I don't recall them and don't want to misinform your readership. Additionally, every 6 to 8 weeks the campus was graced with the presence of local Apache Elders and their families. They came to dance and offer prayers on Apache Holy Ground within the Diamond Mountain property. Students and staff always joined the Elders, spending time in the sacred and afterward preparing a feast. From all of these teachings and meetings flowed an abundance of ideas, discussion, and friendship. Key to these events was a sense of openness, a willingness to explore other beliefs, and the opportunity to question.

        As a Christian, I initially worried that my views on God would be dismissed, but I discovered the opposite to be true. Because so many of the students and teachers came from non-Buddhist backgrounds, there was a constant flow of ideas and discussion ranging across many religions including Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and Jewish. I preferred to debate Christian ideas on the debate ground and was never at a loss for debate partners who wanted not to convince me about their beliefs, but to explore their own notions about God, Christianity, karma, etc.

        If someone had a tradition they wanted to share, it was welcomed. In the final year before the Retreat started, we enjoyed many Shabbat dinners, complete with hand-washing, Kiddush prayers, and before-meal Jewish theological discussions. During Kirtans I had the opportunity to learn basic Muslim prayers and develop an understanding of Qur'an and it's relationship to the Bible. My favorite Christmas memory of recent years is one spent in Bowie, the nearest town to Diamond Mountain. Students and teachers went door-to-door singing Christmas carols followed by our participation in a local church's Candlelight Service.

        Having presented my experience at Diamond Mountain with a variety of non-Buddhist traditions, I'll finish by writing that the same openness, questioning, and debate applied to these traditions was equally applied to Buddhist concepts and ideas that were not from the Diamond Mountain lineage. I had over 20 different teachers while on campus, including Geshe Michael and Lama Christie. Never once was I encouraged by any teacher or student to adhere only to a Diamond Mountain ideology. Each of the schools of Buddhism was presented in historical and cultural context. Varying ideas about karma, emptiness, and all number of other Buddhist concepts were debated informally over meals, in drawn-out 'battles' on the debate ground, and throughout teaching discourse. There was not a sense that the teachers or the teachings should not be questioned or that Diamond Mountain offered the only and ultimate way. Rather, there was a focus on generosity and virtue, a constant effort toward patience and diligence, a dedication to meditation and wisdom. The focus on these ideals created an environment where independent questioning was inherent and growth was the natural outcome.

        • matthew says:

          AP: thanks for reaching out with the great description. I feel like simply repeating the question I just asked AP:

          Given the openness you describe and the heterogeneous nature of views, how do you personally think power seemed to continue to organize itself so clearly around the charisma of McNally and Roach? Organized to the point that she was appointed retreat director while within a potentially abusive relationship, and having the capacity to write such a strangely juvenile letter on 4/19? It's hard to imagine this happening in an environment of free thought. It seems that openness showed up in some places, but there were definitely choke points of silence and power capable of rationalizing bizarre behaviour and minimizing grave situations.

          • ACM says:

            Matthew, what makes you "think power seemed to continue to organize itself so clearly around the charisma of McNally and Roach?" There is an assumption being made here that you base your question on. Perhaps there was a great respect given to both teachers, perhaps rightfully so.

            I have only ever seen GMR as humble, deeply caring, grounded, and generous. If he is also 'charismatic,' that is not a bad thing, unless there is abuse of power, which I repeatedly hear you assume and offer no evidence of, even when evidence is offered to the contrary.

            Concern about Lama Christie, Ian, and their choices both within retreat, and after leaving… all that I understand. But your agenda against DM, the Board and GMR himself, appear to be utterly baseless.

          • matthew says:

            Alongside the reflections I presented in the original about the web of spiritual control over which I believe Roach presides (consciously or not, I should add!) I'll quote Warren Clarke from above in this thread, a retreat assistant:

            "The decision to ask them to leave was made by Geshe Michael. The board ratified it. The issue of karmic responsibility is very tangled. Ultimately, all karma is personal, so point your finger at the mirror, not the world. Debate is indeed encourage at DMU, within guidelines, but members of the Board will fall back upon 'policy' or 'that's the way Geshe-hla wants it done', if an impasse is reached, terminating further discussion."

            As for power organizing itself around McNally, her ascent to Retreat Leader position with her obviously fragile grip on reality is evidence enough for me.

            Please remember that Roach is the head of the Board. The person and his influence cannot be untangled. This is a key structural problem that I present for review in the 15 requests to the Board.

  28. Geronimo says:

    Figuring or studying Buddhism and workings of Karma are admission that one wants to get stronger mentally, spiritually, and (with yoga) physically. Through service to others one learns that they will benefit karmicly. These realizations in our modern consumerist society usually occur to the lucky retired in this country because we have to work so hard to pay for everything and then get two weeks vacation (whereas the Europeans get six weeks vacation)

    The tragedy of Ian’s death is made worse with your aspersions that he was mentally ill and now practically demand the mental check up of everyone associated with this “organization”

    I wonder when geronimo prayed for guidance on the same land that Ian died on and probably to understand the forces that drive and swallow up individuals in this unique and valuable system called The United States…..whether he got the same answer to follow big daddy’s rules or the Father in the Sky to make oneself happy….but at least in this country and unlike any other country I know about we can search for these rules with real answers because of all the People who made Karmic sacrifices for me and Ian and even you….GMR is a holy person and everyone that I have met in this organization has the best ultimate intentions…..

  29. Roberto says:

    Let the air out of your worthless bags of skin, all of you.

    • matthew says:

      For those of you who don't get the reference, Roberto is citing a common Lam-Rim teaching in renunciation, in which the practitioner is encouraged to see his own and other's bodies as dirty, worthless, rotting corpses in order to acclimatize to the "apparent" fact of death.

      Why he invokes it during a serious discussion of what sensible renunciation looks like (how to run a safe retreat, for instance), is a mystery to me.

  30. Manhattan Tara says:

    For shame Elephant Journal. That you would publish something whose obvious intent is to slander and cause harm to others is surprising. In the year that I’ve followed the various writers on here I have NEVER read something that seems more fit for the National Enquirer. Should questions be asked in this situation? Yes! A man has died. But ask with compassion. Op-Ed or not, it’s obvious this author has an agenda. The sensational nature of this article makes me heartsick. If this is the type of journalism I can expect in the future I will not be renewing my membership to this site.

    • Phurba says:

      Really Tara? I get the opposite from the article: it seems like a pretty compassionate intention. Maybe semi-wrathful compassion, but compassion all the same. What is harmful about the article? The only harm that could possibly be perceived as arising from this article is to the attachments that disciples of Roach and Christie have to perceiving their leaders as perfect, and to the attachment to believing in their controversial spin on Mahayana is authentic Dharma.
      If these disciples are truly confident that these two things are true, then no harm can actually arise from the authors opposing view. It is simply an opposing view. In actual fact, it is the events themselves, -the actions of these two teachers that create the biggest cause for doubt. The article merely highlights them and asks pointed questions. So where is the actual harm? I am not happy to hear the Chinese authorities label HH the Dalai Lama as a terrorist.. it is actually absurd, and not based on any real evidence or actions by HH. And as such it does not harm my confidence in his qualities. What is harmful is that hundreds of thousands of disciples of HH are prevented from seeing him, and tortured or killed if they are found with photos of him. No such freedoms are being taken in this case, and any questioning is based on actual documented actions or statements by the two parties, not pure fabrication as in the Chinese example. SO don't be so melodramatic!

      • Warren Clarke says:

        Phurba, gosh you are a fool, but don't take it personally. Let's take an example: once again the N. Y. Post article was dredged up in which Mr. Roach appeared in an (expensive) Armani suit at some swank disco. Now, the premise behind the shaved head and robes of the ordained monk is anonymity. This is achieved in Burma or Viet-nam or pre-commie Tibet, where three out of every seven or eight people on the street are ordained, but, gosh, it don't woik so good in New Yawk. So Geshe-hla chooses to dress for the occasion, suit-and-tie for the Buddhist Business Ethics classes, robes for tantra. Oh, yeah, he was seen in the company of a Russian model at said disco. Far out, he speaks fluent Russian. Maybe they were having a pleasant dharma conversation. Dos vedanya, Phurba.

        • Phurba says:

          What does this have to do with my post? You find the reference to the NY Post article offensive? I generally find the NY Post offensive in general, it is a muckracking rag. However, in this case there is really not much to be offended by: they expose the activities of a so-called Buddhist teacher who purports to be keeping his vinaya vows. Well, some of these vinaya vows are to abandon singing, dancing, listening music, perfumes, sitting on high seats and beds, etc.
          So even if this guy was not in his robes for a reason (his teacher gave him permission to not wear robes and to grow hair in order to work a job and help support the center and monastery, not to go clubbing with girls) there does not seem to be any ethical need for him to be having a "pleasant dharma conversation" in the midst of an establishment that is for drinking alcohol, listening to music, and dancing. I know many Tibetan monks but none whom go dancing in clubs, as it is an outright breakage of vows. It is you who appear to be the fool sir.

          • Warren Clarke says:

            well, ya know, I took a Red Tara empowerment where the sacrament was a double-shot of JD and, yep, I did indeedy feel empowered. Once I played the 21 Praises to Tara, singing in Tibetan to the tune of "Let It All Hang Out" by The Hombres for a young refugee monk recently arrived in America who knew about 200 words of English and he rocked it all the way thru, singing way better Tibetan than me while dancing up a storm in the Vajrapani gompa. I clipped a photo of a couple of monks-in-maroon playing pool and put it on the kitchen yurt refrigerator. Is that a violation of vows, too? You know, indulgence in sports and unethical gambling for money (or maybe just for beer)? Hey, once I was living in a boarding house and had the upper bunk, so that blew the high-bed vow, right? There are centers that have a no-alcohol policy (were talkin' FPMT here) but have a bottle or two of whiskey or vodka stashed away for the visiting lamas, but that's different because they have been transformed into nectar. I have been to parties with live rock'n'roll in the gompa, robes aswirl on the dance floor. Did I miss anything?

          • Phurba says:

            "Did I miss anything?"

            Yes, apparently a whole lot. This is the degenerate age. Just because people who wear robes and call themselves monks act a certain way doesn't mean it is proper conduct for monks, and that they are upholding vinaya. This behaviors may fly for tantrikas, just not ones who have taken monastic ordination. HH the 6th Dalai Lama never took full ordination for this very reason, even though HE was able to display siddhis publicly. Perhaps you've heard this excerpt of his poem:
            "Pink clouds
            Hide frost and hailstorms;
            He who is a half-monk
            Is a hidden enemy of the dharma."

            As for your empowerment: when alcohol has been transformed properly in the context of tsok puja (which is part of the preparation for empowerments) this alcohol takes on the qualities of amrita. Monks may partake of this, although no one should drink the alcohol from the kapala to the point of losing mindfulness (drunkeness). This is a rare exception based on Vajrayana principles, it in no way means that monks are free to drink alcohol outside of this unique context and go to bars. As for your young refugee monk: not all Tibetan monks are that familiar with their vows or take them that seriously: many ordain for mixtures of reasons –their parents sent them, they didn't have jobs, etc. I.E. economic, cultural, or political reasons.. Not out of pure renunciation. So observing some random monks conduct as a justification for the conduct of an elder very famous and public Dharma teacher, who professes to be upholding the vinaya and is a representative of the Gelug tradition which is all about the reform of degeneration of the vinaya… it is quite misguided.

  31. Geronimo says:

    I am really wondering if the vow of celibacy applies to some monks or all. I am sad and disappointed about Ian’s death ……does this middle way need to be called the Liberal Way or left way? I am disillusioned with questions about everything including the poorly written article that is disguised journalism and awful but the Boards responses are are almost as poor….there needs to be some clear clarification about the boundaries of this middle way in the USA after we find out what really happened. I am just so sad for Ian and everyone associated with it; be it directly or indirectly…

    • matthew says:

      Geronimo: I did not disguise the article as journalism. I stated that I was using 3 available sources and my own experience. Your first question is very important, and I hope others clarify the issue. My understanding is that Vinaya insists on celibacy, with no exceptions.

      • Phurba says:

        There are different interpretations according to lineage about how to balance the different levels of vows: the pratimoksha, bodhisattva, and vajrayana vows if you have taken all three sets. In Tibetan tradition most monks hold all three, not just the pratimoksha vows. Sometimes, it is considered appropriate to 'break' the lower vows (pratimoksha being the lowest set based on outward conduct, vajrayana being the highest set) in order to properly keep the higher vows. It is quite complex. There is a text about this by Ngari Panchen with commentary by Dudjom Rinpoche titled "Ascertaining the Three Vows". It is useful to study, but is specific to the Nyingma lineage. In regards to the Gelug tradition, I don't know if there is a text on this issue that has been translated into english, but in general the Gelug lineage is much more strict about the purity of the outer-conduct aspect, i.e. the pratimoksha vows. In some rare cases, in either tradition, it may be considered OK to engage in karmamudra practice with a consort -even if one still has pratimoksha vows of celibacy. But the normal thing to do would be to disrobe if one wanted to engage in karmamudra with a physical consort. Most monks simply use a visualized consort. Roach's own teachers in the Gelug lineage such as HH the DL and Lama Zopa expressed the view of the Gelug lineage quite clearly: if a monk is qualified to be engaging in karmamudra practice with a physical consort than he must be at a very high level of realization — the only way to show this is through displaying siddhis. In Lama Zopa's letter, he quite frankly asked Roach to do this publicly, since he has already taken a consort publicly, so as to remove doubt and controversy and instill faith and confidence. He never did this. The appropriate course of action would have been to consult with his own gurus BEFORE he took a consort, privately, to say he felt he was ready to do so, and asked their permission. At this point, they may have asked for a private display of siddhi. If satisfied, they may have encouraged him to go forward with it, but I am sure only with a qualified consort. However, this conversation apparently never happened. There is a rare historic case of this, with HH the DL's own tutor's father. Here is an excerpt from Alexander Berzin's website about this: "Serkong Rinpoche never claimed himself to be a yogi or to have any special powers. If we wanted an example of someone who did, he said we did not need to look only to the remote past. His father, Serkong Dorjey-chang, was a clear example. As a monk at Ganden Jangtsey Monastery, his father had attained the stage of anuttarayoga tantra at which he could practice special yoga techniques with a consort to reach the deepest level of mind. This advanced point on the complete stage requires full mastery of the subtle energy system, with total control over both internal and external matter and energy. His vows of celibacy would normally prohibit him from such practice. When His Holiness the Thirteenth Dalai Lama asked for proof of his attainment, Serkong Dorjey-chang tied a yak horn into a knot and presented it. Convinced, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama permitted Serkong Dorjey-chang to keep his monastic holdings while practicing at this level. Rinpoche matter-of-factly mentioned that they kept this horn in his home as a child."

      • anonymous says:

        Partner practice is actually a high spiritual practiced practiced by many monks. The Dalai Lama has publicly spoken in reference to his consorts/spiritual partners.

        • Phurba says:

          You are incorrect on both counts. If you have even a shred of evidence for these ill-informed claims, share it with us. Of course, you don't, because it is simply misinformation.

  32. Padma Kadag says:

    The Geshe was very familiar with Ian's "character flaws", or psychosis, for sometime prior to the retreat. The Geshe admits and mentions this prior knowledge in his official statement. If the Geshe were acting out of wisdom and just plain common sense, he would not have put Ian in retreat either individually and certainly not in a group especially when you consider the nature of Ian's apparent "issues". I do not know the Geshe nor do I know Ian. All of my information regarding Ian's less than normal behavior comes from the Geshe and "Lama" Christy's own descriptions which were seemingly well known prior to his admittance to retreat. This is the problem if we are to point at one. This failure in judgement by the leaders of DM is the root of the cause.

    • matthew says:

      Very succinct. I hope that the emerging analysis of group dynamics, power, and social control will help to clarify the context for this failure in judgement.

  33. Ben says:

    These have been my questions from the beginning:

    If Ian had a history of violence with women, why was he allowed to go into three year retreat with Christie?
    Did anyone make sure it was safe for him to do so and, if so, who and how did they determine this?
    Was Christie aware of his history and was she advised on how to deal with violent behavior if it arose?
    Was Christie's belief (I am inclined to use the word "delusion") that Ian's violent behavior was a example of a "Divine Being" engaged in "Divine play" a result of the stresses of deep retreat or a result of teachings given at DMU and considered the proper way to interpret a violent spouse?
    If someone else in the retreat came to Christie with reports of another retreatant being violent or delusional, would she have advised them that it was "Divine play"?
    Why was she in charge?

    • matthew says:

      Thank you Ben for being succinct where clearly I can't be! I especially appreciate the question about Christie's supervisory capacity.

      The story of why she was in charge is crucial.

  34. anonymous says:

    Just putting out there what people often tend to exclude: partner practice is actually a high spiritual practice practiced by many monks. There are several remarks That imply that Geshe Michael broke his vows through his partnership with McNally. The Dalai Lama has also spoken in reference to his spiritual partnerships that involve a consort/spiritual partnership. The “banishment of GM” notably came about when he publicly displayed his partnership.

    • Padma Kadag says:

      No…not many monks practice with a consort.

    • Phurba says:

      No, the Dalai Lama has never taken a physical consort, you are spreading misinformation. And no, hardly any monks have ever done this, and if ever –only in rare circumstances where they have proven their capacity to do this: please refer to my response to Geronimo directly above.

  35. Warren Clarke says:

    The "Dharma Wheel" site is running a fair bit of erroneous speculation and misinformation. I couldn't make it through their complicated blogging process, so I'll see if I can straighten stuff out here. Time line: the letter that Christie wrote six weeks ago from the cave was published on Facebook only days before Ian's tragic death. Christie had passed the letter to another (never mind whom) to post it for her. How did Ian die of dehydration if there was water in the cave? He had passed out from delirium in the searing heat and died in his sleep.—–As for neighbor Jerry (hey, hi Jer, I was over at your place with K– a couple times; she's doing great in the retreat, got her garden goin' good) the illegals and drugs have pretty much stopped coming through since all the retreat valley construction activity began. I know. I used to pick up all the garbage they'd leave way up every remote wash, huge bagsfull. There ain't no more. As for potential instability among the retreatants, don't worry on their behalf. The volunteers know who they are, oh yeah, and the largest problem at the moment appears to be overeating, not a big deal. They are a hardy bunch up there. Yes, D. S. would have been the man for the rescue job, but he got yanked out already last year during the Big Freeze when the pipes all cracked, bless him. We let him be. The government had three helicopters and a huge crew of search and rescue people bivouacked at Ft. Bowie.

    • Phurba says:

      So the official cause of death has been declared? And it is what, heatstroke?

      • matthew says:

        A poster on to the rebuttal post named "concern4ian" is saying the following:

        Hi Matthew,
        Thanks for the work you've done with this article! Great to hear of interest from reporters. Hopefully something good will come of it.

        Yesterday, after reading your article and others' comments, I decided to try contacting cochise county sheriff to determine the status of investigation. Was met with confusion…no recollection of ian thorson…after i provided more details was transferred to wilcox search & rescue. These guys coordinated the retrieval of ian from cave. Was told here that it would be up to the medical examiner's office to determine if an investigation would be necessary. Called medical examiner's office. Was told the autopsy is not yet complete, "waiting for doctor to sign off on tox results."

        While there may be more that can be done if one were to press sheriff's office (i won't be doing this), it would appear they are unaware of any larger context to these incidents. Perhaps none of the dots have been connected.

      • Warren Clarke says:

        as to 'official cause', I couldn't say. Something both infectious and contagious (bacterial? viral?) appears to have seriously weakened and depleted their vitality. Temperature in the mid-nineties for days, searing sun. The weather did not break until three days after he had died. Inside my humble yurt it was about a hundred and fifteen. I imagine their small cave was as hot or more.

        • Arly says:

          So you're saying it's possible they just got sick and then succumbed to extreme heat while they were sick, but were otherwise fine in the cave? And I also read there was water in the cave with them.

          Caves seem to be traditional for retreats. Doesn't sound like neglect. Sounds like bad timing. Illness and extreme heat.

          Matthew I think you should look into the neglect that occurred when Laura Ingalls Wilder's family all came down with some kind of flu and they were so sick she had to crawl out of her fever bed as a child and bring water in the dipper to her ma and pa who were practically dying. Sounds like a clear case of neglect what with brining those children across the prairies to the middle of nowhere and then not being able to care for them properly. They almost died.

          Dude!!!!!!!!!! Life is not certain. You all are screaming renunciation earlier in your comments but renunciation is founded on the fact of death and impermanence. People who are unstable do crazy things all the time in the comfort of their suburban homes and in the cubicles of their middle class jobs. Mothers remember their mass murdering sons with a "He was such a good boy. Such a quiet boy." Why don't you attack one of these mothers?

          Because this is weirdly personal for you. One might say it's abnormally personal for you. Obsessively personal for you. Criminally personal for you? Only time will tell. You invest so much time into being right here, I just wonder how long it will be before YOU snap?

          Is anyone watching this Matthew? Does anyone know his mental history? Why is it most of the people who rail against this Buddhist place have spent years in therapy? Maybe more of the people with mental problems left the group than stayed.

  36. Arly says:

    You've already stated that you're not qualified as a journalist even though you 'report' from available sources. I appreciate a person's right to state facts and ask questions, even throw in an opinion, in efforts to make something known of which the public may be not aware.

    You have no idea how much respect I have for speaking up in situations where speaking may not be encouraged or even suppressed. But you have been irresponsible to a high degree.

    It's the tone of your 'piece' and your dogged attachment to any favorable comment and pat dismissal of any conflicting opinion as irrelevant. You have done nothing but blame, throw shit, insult, and whine in your piece. You don't correct the article, leaving it intact to deliver your original hysterical message only adding corrections at the bottom.

    You change your facts at the bottom, but never change your opinion. At all. Oh my gosh, they live like slaves in tents! Oh, no they don't. Well, it is still neglect and a cult.

    They alienate their families, well, I'm just generalizing here, I have no real anecdotal evidence of that. But even though that's the mark of a cult and may not be happening here *sputter sputter* it's a cult.

    You have been very irresponsible.

    I was waiting, dear Matthew, I was waiting for someone with balls to stand up and say I'm confused, can you help me understand. I was hoping someone who had heartfelt questions would come forward to say help me because this is more than my practice explains.

    I don't expect everyone to be confused. It sounds like many practitioners are helping each other, are being supportive of family and friends, are still grieving as well or holding the event as a type of ascension. But there will be some. And you could have done such a great service by opening up and just saying you were angry or confused or heartbroken or any number of things you and others might be feeling. But instead of asking What's the problem here, you decided what the problem was and ever since you have not let go to any other idea.

    There will be no real discussion here. You have written your 'piece' in such a way as to continue to infect with your opinion based on half truths. And your corrections are not complete nor are they in the right place. And they are not all minor.

    You have been very irresponsible. You have incited hysteria and not once have you revised the actual material nor corrected your opinion based on these corrections. Before they were corrected, these facts were the reasons that supported your conclusion. Once corrected, they were 'minor'. You have been irresponsible and continue to be. You are behaving in a sad, small manner. There is no courage here.

    Elephant Journal should be ashamed of itself. You should be ashamed of yourself, Matthew. If you had as much fervor for justice as you say, you would have been on a plane within hours and visited the police and filed a complaint demanding an investigation. But you just sit comfortable and safe behind a keyboard making stuff up as you see fit. You don't have questions, Matthew, you have blaming statements.

    Not everyone seems to have been thrown into a state of confusion.

    But I am waiting still. I am waiting for someone to say they are hurting and want to know how they can understand this thing. That at least would be honest.

    • matthew says:

      Arly: I'll respond in-depth later, but I must say: the corrections are absolutely inserted into the text. Please read it again. The "corrections" section at the bottom is simply a record of what I changed, for transparency, and to make sure that the corrective comments didn't seem to be senseless.

      I am honestly concerned and saddened by the event, and like everyone am trying to understand it according to the best available sources.

      • Arly says:

        It's kind of a pain to keep going back and forth from the list to the text, but it looks like you have inserted your version of the corrections. So I apologize for not seeing that and making incorrect comment to that. Please also accept my apology for stating that in my more recent comment as well.

        I do believe you don't want to see people hurt. I also believe you've piggybacked your issues on top of an event that has nothing to do with your issues. It comes off as most distasteful.

        • matthew says:

          I know it's a pain, and must be maddening. I do wish that the original post had been clearer, and I'm grateful that the corrections came so quickly and I was able to insert them relatively quickly.

          We will probably disagree about the usage of the word "cult", and I do take this seriously. I'm thinking about going back and making the usages of the word non-declarative, but comparative. Because I do believe that strong aspects of secrecy and social control are central to how this story unfolds, and it would be irresponsible to ignore this, not only for the current residents, but also for the many others in other communities who might be experiencing the same dynamics.

          I definitely have issues, and they showed up in the piece, and I was transparent about them. To me, the transparency is key: it reveals an emotional view of the situation that adds a different kind of truth than the journalistic. Your emotional view is doing the same thing in many ways, and as difficult as this is, I'm glad we're both here together.

          The power imbalance between us, I'm afraid, is that I published first. I'm sorry about the pressured position this has put you in.

  37. jerry says:

    A few notes:
    Read "Darkness at Noon" sometime of get thrown in the hole for a while.You will fear for these ordinary people infected with "magic thinking" too
    Temps in Bowie April 2012…it just wasn't that hot (until the day Ian Died) note the cave is 1000 plus feet above where these readings were taken he died because "the experiment" made them make bad choices that weakened them…who is next?
    DS should have been "bothered' he would have gotten you guys to the cave with the evened out dirt floor (only one) and now will come out of this a new man but knowing he wasn't given the choice to help save ian yet he was brought out to fix frozen pipes!!!! wtf,

    Hey i admit we like most of the people up there but really do wish "the Crummy Carnival That Never Leaves" would just pack up and go. it is an eysore from out place….If a western facade of a Fort was built on the road to a Temple in Tibet monks would hate it.We feel the same about a temple on the road to the Fort Bowie.The site of a meeting of some of the greatest warriors (on both sides) of the 19th century.All this spiritual stuff about the Apaches is great but remember they had a whole separate language for the art of war.They are the ultimate badasses.

    The retreat is called The Three Year Retreat For Peace" Fail!!!! End it

    The drug Smuggling danger is not over Krentz was shot 20 miles to the east for finding some bales.There was a car chase between two group last month by our ranch,Locks have been shot off at night with AK47s…it is not safe Warren…you just don't get out enough

    • Phurba says:

      Wow, so really the list of bad judgement by the leaders is getting longer:

      Starting with choosing retreat land in the middle of a well known drug-smuggling route, in a desert with extreme temperatures and other conditions

      Empowering a young unqualified girl to be a Tantric Lama and retreat master

      Allowing many retreatants to shack up together as couples

      Allowing someone with well known psychological issues including outbursts of violence and spousal abuse into retreat with his spouse

      Allowing still-recovering drug addicts into retreat

      Allowing martial arts instruction including weapons-play into retreat

      Not to mention the many that Matthew addressed in his article such as not insisting on psychological evaluation of the couple after the stabbing incident was brought to light, instead of just kicking them off the property without any oversight.

      I agree that considering this long list of bad judgements, the continuation of the retreat is worrisome. There does not seem to be much resembling a traditional Tibetan Drupta about this situation in the desert. Contrast this with the various well-run and traditional druptas in other parts of the US and it is like night and day.

      As for the aesthetics of Tibetan structures in the context of war memorials, I don't think you'll find many sympathetic readers here, in the context of real human tragedy. I'd stick to the important issues!

      • Arly says:

        "Shack up"? 7 out of the 8 couples are married. .

        • Phurba says:

          I included that because it is not even remotely traditional in Tibetan Buddhism to have a group 3 year retreat composed of couples, marriage is irrelevant. And there are reasons why not.

      • Warren Clarke says:

        Phurba, I've called you a fool before and I'm going to do it again.

        Retreat in extreme desert conditions? Uh, Tibet comes to mind.

        Known psychological issues, outbursts of violence? Have you not read the life stories of Nagarjuna or Milarepa? Whoa, you are a slow pup.

        • Phurba says:

          Yeah, it's not a valid comparison.. Tibetans such as Milarepa were native to the heights and extreme weather conditions of the himalayas. . but even Han Chinese that have tried to live in certain altitudes that the local Tibetans live happily in have gotten too sick and weak in those conditions to handle it and have had to move.. because their DNA is not up to it. A lot of the whiteys, including Christie and Ian's ancestry evolved in northern climates, not the searing dry heat of desert conditions. I certainly have read the life story of Milarepa, but I think most people from our cultural conditioning and ancestry that would just outright try to imitate his lifestyle would be idiots. Unless, of course, a wisdom teacher with the qualities of Marpa knew we were prepared for such, and instructed us to do it. I guess where we differ is in believing that Roach or Christie were, or are, qualified to make that kind of call.

          • Another Perspective says:

            Hi Phurba,
            As a native of Tucson for the past 7 years or so, it seems strange to compare it to the oxygen deficient land of Tibet. Yes, there is extreme heat during the summer, and it is very dry, but you don't get sick just by living here. With enough water and shelter, it's just as habitable as any other place in the US (and I'm a pale northerner!).

          • Phurba says:

            Hey I wasn't the one to compare it to Tibet, that was Warren's doing… I went along for the ride..I was just pointing out that extreme heat and desert environments can be oppressive and dangerous to people who are not familiar with them and/or not genetically acclimated. That said, I am not really concerned at all for the retreatants at Garchen Rinpoche's drupta because I am confident in his oversight, and decisions about who could join it, their karma and capacity to endure the situation. I don't have this confidence, and many people apparently share this lack of confidence– in the leaders of DM. . . and this tragic event should be a huge wake up call in that regards. And as a side note– in general, in my opinion extreme heat is not the most conducive for meditation and yoga, at least for those of northern climates.. it is well known that heat causes lethargy, and dullness of awareness.. (Usually, personally — in high temperatures I find more obstacles to meditation, sleepiness, etc. than when it is cooler, -temperate or even a bit too cold, and this appears to be a common experience) Of course, India has extreme heat and that is the homeland of the dharma, but then, it wasn't northern-Europeans who were practicing there. This is probably the least interesting or important thing on my list– and it was even just a side-note to the drug-smuggling route category. so it is odd that it's gotten the only replies.. maybe a straw man. Anyway, I am happy to cross it off, if there is a consensus that it is irrelevant.. that still leaves 7, same number as before, –and counting… of seriously worrisome errors in judgement.

          • Warren Clarke says:

            yeah it was all my doing. we compare it to Tibet all the time. (And yesterday I was at 12,000ft., road dog that I am) You folks in Tucson have air conditioning and fast food. But you have both obscured my main point, that of magical (or may we call it 'psychotic' ) violence perpetrated by Nagarjuna and Milarepa, in one case resulting in death, even in the hagiographies.

          • matthew says:

            this is a really rich thematic point, and i'm glad you've both massaged it out. it speaks to yet another vein of cross-cultural translation — this one rooted in the land itself.

          • Phurba says:

            I am not familiar with what you are referring to in Nagarjuna's hagiography, but in regards to Milarepa's he committed mass murder using black magic at behest of his vengeful mother: and instantly felt remorse and was terrified of the consequences. This led him to the dharma. He was not a Lama when he committed these actions. His life after was all about atoning for them. In regards to the recent stabbings: they were committed by someone calling themselves a lama, and there seemed to be no admission that there was anything wrong with the action, or remorse: –we were "playing" i didn't know it could cut him, etc. etc.— So I don't really see how you can compare that with Milarepa, but maybe I am totally misreading your point?

          • Phurba says:

            Also, -hagiographies are hagiographies, –how literal they should be read is a huge issue. Look at Dudjom Lingpa's recently translated autobiography: most of it is visionary experiences that would not be corroborated by anyone else from a historic POV. Almost like recording your dreams. To look at a hagiography, and then base your behavior, or judgement of your behavior, on that also seems like an act of confusion. . . That doesn't mean we shouldn't be inspired by these writings, but we should also be inspired by relative consensual reality, and it's laws, including those of the society we live in. Of course, once attaining vast spiritual power we may not be so subject to laws of gravity or physics, –but I am still waiting to see anything like that displayed by anyone associated with DM, as are Lama Zopa, and HH the DL apparently.

          • Tara Jolie says:

            Phurba, GM and DM taught that only enlightened or almost enlightened beings can see their miracles! The reason why we (I guess including Lama Zopa and HHDL) can't see their miracles is because we are not enlightened or almost enlightened.

          • Phurba says:

            Yeah, another way to spin things to justify not accomplishing the challenge set forth by Lama Zopa and HH, apparently. This is not a Buddhist teaching.

          • ekanthomason says:

            If I told you that I saw both GMR and Christie 'perform miracles' would you believe me? Miracles come way before enlightenment. My Japanese teacher told me "don't make any deals for power during my meditations. People who do usually die young." Miracles don't mean much in my book and they really can't be talked about rationally except between people who have a strong trust in one another.

          • Tara Jolie says:

            A lot of GM and LC's followers claim they have seen their miracles! I know that! Its great that you may not care about miracles but the way they taught it can be misleading in so many ways. Those who "think" they saw miracles can start thinking they are enlightened or almost enlightened and justify their usage of the title "Lama" to be gurus themselves.

      • jerry says:

        Phurba..i was just revealing my axe to grind in this matter…..we like western History and this is a bit of an eye sore….my main point isn't something even you want to hear. Long bouts of isolation make one go crazy….

    • PAX says:

      Hi Jerry,

      In one of your earlier posts you mentioned that Ian only weighed 90 lbs when they found him. Where did you hear this? Was it confirmed? How tall was he? If they were regularly receiving food why was he so malnourished?

      Thanks for your posts.

    • Warren Clarke says:

      aw, Jer, ya did it. You've hit my sore spot. I've hiked straight over the hills to Apache Pass Road, hitchhiked into Bowie a hundred times, walked every inch of the way, cut across the desert land north of your place seven miles, no roads at all just to take a look, hiked half way to the marble quarry up behind the head ranger's house way past your place way up above Emigrant Rd., blahblahetc.

      Twenty miles away is halfway to Lourdsburg, not exactly DMU property. I'll give you one point. The temple is an eyesore, not exactly Tibetan architecture.

      • jerry says:

        Warren you know they come through Bear Springs,Apache pass and Little Immigrant Canyon just from seeing the foot prints…..The Human traffickers have been warned off..it's the dope guys.
        As a side you should go to the Marble Quarry it is sort of amazing..and another example of the DM elite not listening to local knowledge. The historic right of way (on maps) goes straight through DM.When the existing quarry starts up again the owner would have a good legal claim to run trucks with crushed Marble through the canyon (they are trying to get the ok to go the other way but this is a possibility)..last summer not a mile from the retreat i came upon 7 guys with packs waiting for a ride out.Just me,my dogs …hell facing 5 years in prison,might have made me think twice about hitting the lone hiker with a rock. Bill Hoy (Edward Abbey's ranger buddy had his dogs slain by them on Apache Pass Road a few years back …. This area is tricky..Border Patrol guys are moved around and just don't know the hidden washes. 600 yards from my house a group of Miners (12) were burnt alive by the Apaches in 1860..the smugglers use this same area today to surprise outsiders trying to use their routes.

        • Warren Clarke says:

          yeah, ok, you of course know where the "natural gas pipeline" crosses Old Ft. Bowie Rd. and right from that perspective it looks flat as a pancake to the south forever……Not 25 yards after you (or I) hop the fence on the north side, the west side of the little tiny wash drops off into a vertical, perfectly shaded cliff, a 50 foot drop. That's where they hang out, where I found a torn up day bag and some empty water bottles…..close to the road, effectively invisible. The Border Patrol don't have a clue.

          • Warren Clarke says:

            Jer: oops (south forever), make that 'north' forever, sorry. David and Kat are the only other ones who know their way around. Everyone else stays close.

          • jerry says:

            Warren that is why i just went friggin nuts when I heard about this.David and Kat and the people next door like us should have been in the loop on the rescue…If you know how many illegals we've lead down from behind our ranch back in the housing boom you would know we might have come in handy.The problem was the new board members were not introduced to any of us when the retreat started.Kat's pack animals would have nice too….except they were not allowed to stay.

          • Warren Clarke says:

            Jerry the Sunday it all came down we all saw the helicopters go back and forth up and down over "Retreat Valley" and knew something was up but didn't know what. I went up to Ft. Bowie with a new volunteer lady for pure Sunday tourism and ran into all the activity in spades. Ven. Chandra was there, came quickly over to me , told me to turn around immediately and leave, and using the f-word repeatedly, threatened me and pushed me. I told him he was violating his vows. With him was a member of the Board, who said, "I'm on the Board of Directors and I am ordering you to leave!" to which I responded, "I'm a private citizen on public land and I'll do what I want." A nice young law officer had to come over, separate us and chill them out, saying "We've got an emergency here and don't need the drama!" to which I heartily agreed. Turns out Chandra was part of Christie and Ian's supply line, so I guess I understand his apprehension, but his conduct was abysmal. The Board was trying for damage control, just as Geshe Michael was back in February. So look what happens.

            Christie, in her letter, mentioned people with flash lights hunting them. No, people from DMU don't go climbing around up behind Ft. Bowie at night, they need flash lights to get across the parking lot. Nor was it Border Patrol. They don't use headlamps. They use search lights. It was illegals taking the high path to avoid detection themselves. Christie and Ian did well to duck for cover at that point.

          • jerry says:

            Warren …that is all examples of why the retreat should have been put off at the very least…they just rushed it to start it on a certain calendar day. i also think volunteers like yourself,Matt or the lady who's van was destroyed by the cow meets car action last month should be paid.What do the workers get out of this..no speaking gigs…no titles…just the chance of injury, illness etc.
            The building crews should have been funded to keep on building cool little places on nearby private land…..it was a no brainier….why is it wrong for the worker bees not to get some of the honey?

          • Warren Clarke says:

            Jer…the start date was to keep everyone on it…the pace of construction was very uneven….every one of the separate cabins was paid for by the occupants…it was David who had the task of keeping it all moving forward and getting all the building permits together..all the details…he was awesome……….we, some of us, did get paid a little bit here and there, but out of private pockets, negotiated independently, nothing from the GMU general fund…a couple cabins were built by outside contractors…..as for me, no complaints; I knew the ropes and rules, it was not my first time there……oh, hey, the van may still run again, it's almost fixed, but John Klump is out another cow

  38. Nancy Allen says:

    All of this has really helped illustrate what Geshe Michael always tried to teach about the emptiness of a Lama. To me, he is one of the kindest people I have ever had the honor to be near. All I have seen is a being who, morning until very late at night, non-stop, works for others. He teaches two things – kindness and wisdom, and that they are two sides of the same coin. When he isn't teaching, he is translating ancient texts. When he isn't teaching or translating, he is making people happy in some way.

    I have been a student of his since 2004. i can easily say that these teachings are not in any way "neo-Buddhist." They always reference a Sutra or commentary. They are clear and thorough and if followed correctly, they help you to be a better, kinder person.

    • matthew says:

      Nancy: your experience of Roach is as valid as my own.

      In your view, has his enthusiasm and philosophy helped him and his Board make appropriate decisions in the matters of McNally's qualifications for leadership, retreat safety, Ian's admittance to retreat, and the details of their eviction?

      This would be a key point for me. Kindness and altruism are not the only qualifications for responsible management.

      • jerry says:

        Nancy, Ben,Kedran,Sarah and Judy Brewer were up their during your time.Ben finished Winston's house and did much of the permitting.They left because they believed the first retreat was a fraud….he can go on and on about it but many of the newer members might want to talk with him.

  39. taj says:

    Your obvious anger, which clouds clear thinking, would be reason enough to hold your words until you calmed down. Then you might be able to get the facts straight and leave behind the assumptions and vicious attack of people’s character. Your valid points get lost in the muddle of emotional attack.
    I have been to several religious centers and found Diamond Mountain to be the most free and open of them all. When you go there, there is virtually no pressure to conform or participate and open discussion and disagreement is encouraged. Debate is a big part of the curriculum. Whether you attend classes and teachings is totally up to you. Most of the people I have known there have regular contact with their families and are not estranged as you suggest.
    All of the retreaters are free to leave at any time. You say; Retreatants are sworn to silence by retreat protocol. You, as a teacher of yoga, probably have some knowledge of the inner body and the benefits of keeping silence for periods of time. Many traditions have this practice of keeping silence which is in no way equivalent to suppression of opinion or subordination to authority. The retreaters are in silence but communicate by writing and are free to say whatever they want in that format. I am in touch with one of the retreaters who sends me notes regularly about things he needs. When the news of the potential domestic abuse came out, he was concerned about how his family would feel and advised me that if they were upset he would send them news of how he was doing.
    It is sad to me that you said such derogatory things about Ian, who you have very little current knowledge of, in an open forum where his family, who are in deep grieving, are likely to see it. You have slandered his character based on events from 12 years ago and assumptions of his present state of mind.
    The idea that you could judge these peoples mental states from afar is absurd. (untreated psychosis- insanity – spiritually induced delusions of grandeur, magical thinking, denial, and Stockholm Syndrome symptoms) Are you a trained psychologist? Did you consult a trained Psychiatrist before making this diagnosis? Perhaps you have; negligently misdiagnosed or made an: unqualified diagnosis Are you dealing with facts or just spewing venom?
    You seem to have missed the fact that as soon as the Diamond Mountain board of directors heard about what seemed to be abusive behavior, they consulted the police as well as got psychological evaluations to the best of their ability with no cooperation from the people involved. They then, with great sadness, compassion and concern, removed Lam Christie and Ian from the position of retreat leaders. You say you need to protect the retreaters; there are about 35 people at this moment in deep seclusion in the Arizona desert under the influence of a woman who appears to have gone insane. You obviously, in your deeply emotional state, missed the fact that the retreaters are no longer under the influence of these two people. Perhaps you should be subjected to a psychological evaluation since you are exhibiting anger and aggression which does not seem to be based in fact.

    • Coming From You says:

      I read only concerns and compassion from Matthew's writing. If you read anger and aggression, maybe its coming from you.

  40. taj says:

    You also reach into the past to support your accusations with unrelated incidents. I learned long ago that to bring the past into a current situation acts only to fuel emotion and cloud anyone’s ability to clearly discern the facts of the current situation. This does not mean that the past has no bearing on the present but certainly people can and do change. Because I pushed someone as a toddler does not mean I am prone to violence now. Because I once cheated on a relationship does not mean I would do it again. Perhaps I learned from my mistakes of the past and to keep bringing them up doesn’t help. Much of your diatribe is based on events of 12 years ago. Are you the same as you were 12 years ago and should we diagnose your current state of mind based on how we perceived your state of mind then, as though you had not done years of self reflection and therapy? Perhaps even though you seem to have changed, you might slip back into some previous behaviors so we shouldn’t give you the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps because you were subject to cult mentality then, you are not qualified to be a yoga teacher now.
    Just because someone is odd or holds odd beliefs does not mean they are mentally ill.
    It is not an easy thing to predict when someone’s angry outbursts will lead to violent actions or when a mind will slip into instability. I have known many angry people who have not gone over the edge into violent actions. Are you suggesting that if someone has angry outbursts, we as a culture immediately put them in a mental hospital for evaluation? If we could predict violence, there would be no more violence and our prisons would be empty. Also in cases where violence is likely, we are not able to take away someone’s personal rights until they actually commit a crime. I have known several people who work in adult and child protective services and there are very strict rules on how and when to intervene so as not to take away basic human rights. These are not easy or clear cut decisions. In this case, when the evidence of potential domestic abuse was presented to the police, they chose not to take action. Are you suggesting that you, from many miles away with no personal knowledge of the evidence are better equipped to make an evaluation than the local police? Perhaps we should blame the police for the outcome because they made a decision which turned out badly. Or perhaps we should blame you for not taking action sooner given that you forsaw the insanity and did nothing about it.
    You present your case as though it is easy to make decisions in situations like this and that well thought out decisions will always turn out nicely. Have you never made a decision to the best of your ability only to have it turn out badly? There are accidents happening everyday in which the people involved carry a lot of guilt over how they could have done something differently to have avoided it.
    Yes, investigating is important. To the best of my knowledge, there is currently an investigation into the incident by the local police. The Diamond Mountain Board is also investigating the details. There is a lot of agonizing over the decisions made, how it could have been different and how to proceed. Many have offered care and concern. A meeting was held where open questioning was invited and candid answers were supplied. Some asked questions similar to some of yours and they were answered clearly.
    I for one find it far easier to accept concern and advice when it is presented in a coherent and non accusatory fashion, especially if I am in a tense situation in the first place. When someone is obviously angry and is spewing nasty accusations along with incorrect information, it is hard to listen to any wisdom which may be buried inside the ugliness. I am sorry that your heart is so wounded. If you truly wish to be helpful, perhaps you should present your ideas without all the venom.

  41. randolphr says:

    Very absorbing to say the least. My only add here is that questioning the full scope of meaning or authenticity of a letter written by the office of HH the DL is an assertion that seems to stand on scant and almost desperate reasoning.

    Despite the very sad and awful nature of this story in all it's complexity, that the contributors here have far more than generally kept to a genuine focus of communication is very admirable. Heartening, even. Strengthening within the here and now and of the going forward.

  42. Arly says:

    to rebut: to expose the falsity of (PART ONE)

    PARAGRAPH 1: "stabbed him, presumably in self-defense" She already said it was an accident. So presumably means: this will incite the public quickly, even though presumably means there is no actual evidence of this yet. Falsity.

    "without adequate psychiatric, medical, and community care" According to Christie's letter, they were well enough to attend meetings and meet with retreaters. Scratch the need for medical care. The local professional authorities didn't seem to consider the previous year's alleged domestic violence issue to be of concern; scratch the need for psychiatric care. Community care seems to have been given in the form of attendants, travel arrangements, phones, and money. Doesn't look like they were dumped by the side of the road or anything. Falsity.

    2: "The Cochise County Sheriff's spokesperson has ruled out foul play so far, but the investigation is ongoing." There is no ongoing investigation according to the Cochise county sheriff's office as per a comment below. Falsity.

    "deeper causes involve religious fanaticism, untreated psychosis…etc" Someone who sounds like he was around at the time comments they both were sick with some flu and succumbed to the intense heat of the cave even though they had water. Okay, death by stupid camping choice? You make it sound like the coroner is going to list your opinions as cause of death. Falsity.

    "This full legal and medical investigation is warranted immediately" Legal and medical professionals don't seem to think so. Falsity.

    4: "without malice." Are you f-ing kidding? You've already presented 3 outright lies and malicious innuendos. Er I mean presumptions. Opinions? Well, they are definitely not facts so I'll stick with: are you f-ing kidding? FALSITY.

    "encourage an immediate investigation" Well, you're certainly encouraging the right people. A bunch of people on the web who either hate the place or love the place, none of whom have the authority to open any such investigation and aren't going to leave the comfort of their own homes to do so even if they could. Good call, Matthew. This shows Matthew's false intent. He's not asking for something he can get. He's just stirring the pot.

    "amplify our ongoing discussion of what constitutes grounded, empathetic, and useful spirituality" Because after all, you and I were just shooting the breeze on your porch when we got the news. Who is "our"? What discussion? Falsity. Useful spirituality? Hitler thought judaism and catholicism were not useful spirituality. What exactly are you advocating here?

    continued:

  43. Arly says:

    PART TWO

    "I want to put pressure on the Board" That doesn't sound conducive to a working relationship and according to you they haven't answered 14 of your emails. Some people don't like to be pressured. Have you thought of sending a sympathy card, just to let them know you care as much as you say you do? Not a falsity, but a stupidity.

    "writing in the hope of softening the grip I believe Roach has upon his followers" NOW you're talking. That's one of the few honest things you've said. It's personal. You have issues. You want other people to agree with your issues. You just rebutted your own ENTIRE "piece" with this.

    5: "secrecy endemic to cults" Maybe they won't talk to you because they just don't like you. Most cult members are so hell-bent on endlessly verbally assaulting me with their happiness, I have to show them my vampire fangs to scare them away. You haven't established this IS a cult so down boy. Falsity.

    "a considered view" It's not considered. It's absolute. If it were considered, by definition, at least one of your ideas would have changed or been bent a bit due to the addition of the many corrections you have been given. Corrections to items you once saw as cornerstones of your arguments, but once corrected, now become "minor" points according to you. Falsity.

    "skilled inquiry both journalistic and legal" Admission that your own "piece" is not skilled, not journalism, and not legal. Agreed.

    "I will be careful to qualify…with seem…presumably…I believe" The very fact that you've already used the word "cult" without the words "seem" "presumably" or "I believe" kind of proves you have one agenda here. It's all your opinion. Why not just say calmly: "I read 3 documents and a couple of newspaper articles online. WTF? I want to know if everyone's okay?" I believe that would be seem honest. Presumably. Falsity.

    6: "I will correct in the text itself" Then why are all the corrections at the end of the page where the reader isn't going to see them until they've already been assimilated into your skewed reality? Falsity.

    I'm not going to bother with the rest. Matthew Remski has used an event that hasn't resulted in any legal or medical blame to DM as the catalyst for his unresolved issues, motivating him to call for an investigation which he wants someone else to administer because he is not qualified. Without a criminal connection between this event and DM, what is his "piece" about? Unresolved personal issues aimed at something he's no longer even a part of. Take away everything about the death of Ian Thorson in this "piece" and see what's left. Personal vendetta.

    Next episode: Cults – Does DM measure up?

  44. Arly says:

    PART THREE

    CHARISMATIC LEADER

    Has anyone seen Geshe Michael Roach? Google him. Watch some videos. He's, you know, nice. Now Google charismatic people. I got Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp, David Lee Roth, and Winston Churchill.

    I think we're done with that one.

    CULT MEMBERS GET A NEW IDENTITY BASED ON THE GROUP

    Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, and Cary Grant got new names. Catholic nuns get a new name. Jesus got a new name. The bible says – he shall be called Emanual. Matthew Remski got a refuge name. Well, I guess it takes one to know one. So which buddhist cult are you in Matthew? So DM people, are you known by any cult names? Because if one of you is called Hugh Jackman, I'm joining. I didn't think so. Moving on.

    MEMBERS ARE SUBJECT TO ENTRAPMENT, ISOLATION FROM FRIENDS, RELATIVES, MAINSTREAM CULTURE, AND THEIR ACCESS TO INFORMATION IS SEVERELY CONTROLLED

    Most of these people seem to live normal lives, work, have families and live in numerous cities across the globe. Not much isolation going on. Except the retreat of course, but then isn't that the purpose of retreat? And we've already heard those that want to are in contact with family and friends.

    I have heard that Geshe Michael Roach taught people to stop reading newspapers on a daily basis to maintain some peace of mind. Have you seen the political news his students post on Facebook? Doesn't look like they took their cult law seriously. Moving on.

    THE LEADER IS NOT ACCOUNTABLE TO ANY AUTHORITIES

    Geshe Michael Roach seems to be accountable to the IRS and the county where DM is. DM's finances are on the web for anyone to see. They did go to the police. Also seems like the retreat houses met some kind of state imposed building codes. Moving on.

    THE GROUP IS PREOCCUPIED WITH MAKING MONEY

    Have you seen the pictures of this place? Staff and visitors live in tents and yurts. Show me the money. Geshe Michael Roach has also said something about owning an old Volvo. Probably because it's so charismatic. Moving on.

    MEMBERS ARE EXPECTED TO DEVOTE INORDINATE AMOUNTS OF TIME TO THE GROUP AND GROUP-RELATED ACTIVITIES

    But they live at home. With their families. And they go to work. :-/ Moving on.

  45. Arly says:

    PART FOUR

    MOST TRUE BELIEVERS FEEL THERE CAN BE NO OUTSIDE LIFE

    Read the above. Almost no one lives at this center. No one seems to want to. Did you see the pictures? They all live in New York and Asheville and Portland and lots of really beautiful places. (Hey, I did my research.) Moving on.

    LEADERSHIP INDUCES FEELINGS OF SHAME AND DOUBT

    Not according to comments here. It seems that one's religious beliefs are quite respected and one is free to come and go as one pleases. The only members who have professed to feeling shame and doubt are the ones who've left and gone into therapy to resolve their unrelated personal issues. Moving on.

    THE GROUP CLAIMS BEING SPECIAL, ON A SPECIAL MISSION TO SAVE HUMANITY

    "Presumably" Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King did the same thing. Alright, one point for the cult. Because you're losing and I feel sorry for you, Remski.

    MEMBERS RECEIVE WHAT SEEMS TO BE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE FROM A CHARISMATIC LEADER OR GROUP

    We've covered charismatic. So I should really throw this one out but since the pro-cult movement is losing, I'm going to give it a mercy point.

    What's wrong exactly with unconditional love and acceptance?

    Children must belong to cults because their parents (who are charismatic, give you your name and identity, isolate you from friends they don't like, control access to TV and the world, are preoccupied with making money, expect children to devote inordinate amounts of time to homework and housework, induce feelings of shame and guilt if children don't, and claim they alone can save you because they know what's best for you) most assuredly fit the profile of cult leaders. Is Matthew Remski willing to concede that a family is a cult because it meets more criteria than DM?

    Except parents don't even love their kids unconditionally.

    Two points for the cult. Eight points against.

    Sorry DM. I won't be joining. I was looking for a cult. And you don't meet my needs.

    No matter what self-serving dribble Matthew Remski believes he seemingly presumes about cults.

    PS: On the matter of the safety of the retreaters and of the teacher who has so recently lost her husband: I offer my sincerest condolences and hope that any needs the organization may have to keep people safe are being reviewed and met.

    I am not angry at Matthew Remski. I am startled, horrified, taken aback, aghast, shocked, bewildered, sickened, saddened, appalled and dismayed by Matthew Remksi and everyone who has unflinchingly agreed with him regardless of the fact that this "piece" is riddled with unproven innuendo and personally motivated criticism.

    I appreciate a good question. It's just too bad he didn't ask one. I presume to believe that it shouldn't seem as if he has.

    May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
    May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
    May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
    May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger.

    • Arly says:

      I may be incorrect about paragraph 6. If so, I concede that I am wrong. I haven't checked all the corrections, but Matthew has stated he has not only provided the list of corrections at the end but also inserted them in the main text. Apologies for not checking more clearly.

  46. Jared says:

    I've read through the entire article, both letters, all the comments so far, the rebuttal by John, and all of those comments. Fantastic discussion. In full disclosure, I am a semi-student of GMR, attending some shorter retreats, doing a few ACI courses, etc. – but I do not have a lama, financial investment, or any kind of other interest in this topic besides deciding whether or not to continue to study under GMR's system. Unfortunately there is little objectivity, so I've been trying to balance the attacks and counter-attacks.

    While I find the presentation and tone of this article objectionable, the larger discussion has brought up some important points that I hope some of GMR's students might address.

    Integrity: Lama Christie appears to have lost her bearings and her letter appears, to me, indefensible for a high practitioner. GMR has repeatedly said, and echoes in his letter, that students should not receive higher teachings without getting the foundations down first. He has also said, that on occasion there are 'special students' to whom you can introduce tantra, so long as you make sure to go back to the foundations – which he made special reference to Lama Christie. GMR said that in these cases, you must be very careful, and that you are taking responsibility for that student's welfare. Therefore, by GMR's own standards, he has failed in the proper care of Lama Christie.

    This point is particularly troubling when I consider that GMR deceived the public into believing he was in solitude, while actually living with LC. Now I don't expect GMR to be perfect, and I can understand if things moved quickly and some relationship developed. I can even understand him hiding this fact until after the retreat ended. But where rubber meets to road for me is the speed at which LC became a 'lama', how GMR made extremely strong claims without evidence in order to maintain lineage status, and how I see tantric studies being encouraged rather quickly in the school. It feels as if something occurred between GMR and LC on that first retreat that was in defiance of orthodoxy – but in order to maintain some status, LC was bestowed title too quickly and a new system had to be developed that justified the relationship. Something just doesn't fit. Either provide evidence that you've had the realizations you claim (though by listening to some of his speeches, it appears he admits to having a way to go on his own path) or have the guts to come out and stand by what you believe in. But don't try to wiggle around the system to maintain lineage authority. I want a lama that is willing to stand up, be honest, and fight for what he/she believes is right. There is another Lama famous for sexual deviance, but he was not afraid to admit it. That's what I mean by integrity.

    To me, this account makes most sense. LC is perhaps unqualified and loose with the teachings because GMR's reputation depended upon him granting her a status of 'lama' prematurely. This may have affected her own ego and made further teachings difficult – in particular the fundamentals.

    This loose attitude seems rather pervasive in the school now. They say 'there aren't enough doctors in the field'. Yoga knowledge is sufficient for Tantra. Teachers often speaking that they notice corruptions taking form. Perhaps there is a consequence to fast-food Dharma…

    I could be mistaken. If so, I would welcome any students of GMR to correct my errors or to help shed light on some of these mysteries. If not, I would hope that GMR come clean with the entire story – thereby regaining my respect.

    I do not however, feel there is any kind of cultish, power obsession going on. I see no reason to suspect ill-intent on the part of GMR, nor DM. There is value in his teachings, courses, and system. But integrity is Wedge that separates good teachers from great leaders.

    • matthew says:

      Jared. Thank you for this very considered response to the whole picture. I envy your overview position!

      Your last graph offers the trickiest issue: that of intent. I tried to pepper throughout my piece the large possibility that actions/decisions within a social-power dynamic can have "unconscious" roots. I don't think conscious intent can be finally established, any more than a history can be completely told.

      In the absence of discerning true intent, what becomes important are the structural considerations at stake: does the Board have enough openness and independence to effectively examine itself? Can it transparently assess, for example, the series of events that led to their appointment of McNally as Retreat Leader?

      • Jared says:

        Your questioning structural implications is certainly valid. It does seem that the board had sufficient independence and free thought to remove LC from her role and remove the couple from the premises – which I think undercuts the idea that they are brainwashed servants to their Lama. Although it could be argued that their allegiance to GMR prevailed as a damage-control measure. However, if their official Lama was indeed LC, this would be problematic.

    • aguse says:

      1. traditionally anyone who has completed a 3 year retreat can use the title "Lama"

      2. Christie had already completed one 3 year retreat. its pretty obvious that she was one of the most appropriate people for the job.

      3. you yourself cannot meditate properly even for an hour let alone a week let alone 3 years. bad things can happen to even skilled practitioners over long periods of time. in this case, they chose to run into a cave after being confronted.

      4. sometimes exalted states of mind can be seen as extremely negative and inappropriate to dopes who think life is comfortable (until the rug is pulled out from under them). sometimes various conditions can arise which put the mind on edge temporarily. i didn't find anything about Christie's letter to be "out of touch"–just a bit eccentric at the end.

      5. nice theories you have going on there. i'm sure yours are the correct ones. one minor point that could bring down your entire steaming pile of theories: if a monk is sufficiently realized, he can practice with a consort. it is not "in defiance of orthodoxy ". however, it is appropriate to be very skeptical of any practitioner who asserts such realization.

      • Tara Jolie says:

        Just not sure if this statement is true: "traditionally anyone who has completed a 3 year retreat can use the title "Lama"

        It is certainly not true in my lineage. Is this a Geluk tradition? And, it is to my knowledge, most of these new "Lamas" GM and LC trained have not done a 3 year retreat.

        • aguse says:

          its traditional, meaning nyingma and kagyu. gelug came later, where study was way more emphasized than retreats, so the cultural and conventional emphasis changed. these days theyve continued to change, and so lama is used for any teacher one respects.

          • Tara Jolie says:

            I am not sure where you are getting these information. Perhaps from Geshe Michael and DM? They are the only people who I know that have taught that Lama is used for any teacher one respects. Its definitely not so in Nyinma and Kagyu. Lama is reserved for Vajra guru. Not "anyone who teaches you anything is your Lama" as I have heard DM taught. And, you are correct that Nyingma and Kagyu place more emphasis on retreats esp. Three year retreat (lineages I also practice under). I am taught that finishing the three year retreat does not even mean you are qualify to teach. It does not mean extra accomplishment. It is not like a diploma! Many young monks in India even finish their 1st 3 year retreat before they reach the age of 20 and they are not Lamas!

          • Phurba says:

            that is my understanding and experience too Tara. doing a three year retreat does not automatically make one a Lama. In fact there are a whole slew of Americans who have done multiple 3 year retreats who don't call themselves Lamas or even teach.

          • Tara Jolie says:

            Phurba, I was there when my Lama initiated a Three-Year Retreat and he specifically made a warning to all the participants that completing a three year retreat does not qualify one to teach. It is not like a certificate of realization. Its just a retreat. He further explained that nowadays many unqualified practitioners are trying to use completion of a three year retreat as some kind of proof of realization or proof of scholarship to collect followers. I wonder who he was referring to.

      • Jared says:

        1) Can you cite any others outside of the GMR tradition?

        2) same as question 1. Just because she appeared one of the most qualified, doesn't mean she was indeed qualified. And why was a violent individual qualified to join? The use of "it's pretty obvious" in a discussion is generally code for "I have no reasonable evidence".

        3) if bad things can happen to even skilled practitioners, why was a known violent individual, Admitted by GMR himself, allowed to attend? Why did a stabbing not stop the retreat under such a circumstance?

        4) no need to be insulting. Seems pretty doppy to not understand that a blade can cut someone, or that a retreat that 'puts the mind on edge' is risky for someone with a violent background. Perhaps 'divine play' is code for fetish? That would be more reasonable than anything you've come up with.

        5) which is why I am skeptical. Big claims require big evidence. Talk is cheap.

      • sgriggly says:

        1. "Lama" is the Tibetan translation of the Sanskrit "Guru"… these days, its use as an honorific title varies greatly. Tibetans from Kham region use the title for anyone who's a monk… it may be used in the old schools, as you say, for someone with advanced tantric levels of attainment. or, it may be reserved for tulku lineages (reincarnations of specific masters). in any case, you could wonder if "Lama" Christie is any of those things (she's not an ordained nun or a recognized tulku, so far as i know…). i'm in no position to comment, but it seems to be a title given to her by her teacher GM, who was also her lover at the time (was it a conflict of interest? from comments made by GM himself, the relationship seems to have had the characteristics of romantic entanglement, thus it was not a pure Guru/Disciple relationship; that raises some flags for me…)

        2. just completing a retreat doesn't qualify you for anything… (as is pointed out below).

        3. yes. it's true. bad things can happen to even skilled practitioners…

        4. not sure what you mean here…

        5. "if a monk is sufficiently realized, he can practice with a consort." this may be true for some monks in some lineages. but again… it's your Guru who determines whether or not you are "sufficiently realized." the fact that GM's gurus did not confer this, or give him the practice, and he just declared himself "sufficiently realized" is another red flag. most realized people are extraordinarily modest, and would NEVER make such a claim… for example, every single time HHDL talks of himself, he says "i am only a simple monk." as you say, you ought to be VERY skeptical of anyone who makes such a claim… this behavior is certainly not orthodox in any way, shape, or form…

    • taj says:

      Your article raises some good points. Perhaps people were taken too quickly to the status of lama and this is something for the organization to take a look at. Perhaps people can be teachers, which spreads the information, without being called lamas. It seems there is confusion as to what the term really means. When I googled lama, it mostly said a monk. I have also heard, anyone who has spoken a word of scripture. So when different people see something differently it is hard to say who is right. The Tibetan tradition of Buddhism has several different schools and levels of philosophy with variations within them. As to the fact that Geshe Michael was practicing with Lama Christie in secrecy, this seems to be the norm in Tibetan Buddhism and is probably what he was advised to do. It seems there was a controversy with established authority when he came out in the open with it. So I think we need to take that into consideration when we question his character. Did he risk estrangement when he openly admitted to a practice which was traditionally secret. My understanding is that it is kept secret because of the potential for misunderstanding which certainly seems to be the case here when you referred to it as sexual deviance.

      • Tara Jolie says:

        GM and LC gave these new "Lamas" permission to teach tantra and give empowerments, hence they need the title of "Lama" to justify and legitimize what they are doing. Dharma teachers don't teach tantra or give empowerments or act like a guru.

      • Jared says:

        Good points Taj. I was not aware that such a tradition existed, and that it is traditionally secret. I guess if that's the case, the struggle would still be with his method of defending the practice. He makes a very strong claim, and gives Lama Christie title very quickly. Which isn't to say he is wrong to do so, it just seems fishy, you know? I would like to see such things backed up, otherwise how are we to tell the difference from talkers and true realizers?

        • Fishy indeed says:

          Jared, technically a monk can practice with a physical consort once he demonstrated his ability to perform some kind of miracle as proof of some kind of realization. No one outside of GM's followers saw any miracle ever performed by him. That's the reason why he had to keep it a secret. Talkers or true realizers?

        • Phurba says:

          Just to clarify: There are different interpretations according to lineage about how to balance the different levels of vows: the pratimoksha, bodhisattva, and vajrayana vows if you have taken all three sets. In Tibetan tradition most monks hold all three, not just the pratimoksha vows. Sometimes, it is considered appropriate to 'break' the lower vows (pratimoksha being the lowest set based on outward conduct, vajrayana being the highest set) in order to properly keep the higher vows. It is quite complex. There is a text about this by Ngari Panchen with commentary by Dudjom Rinpoche titled "Ascertaining the Three Vows". It is useful to study, but is specific to the Nyingma lineage. In regards to the Gelug tradition, I don't know if there is a text on this issue that has been translated into english, but in general the Gelug lineage is much more strict about the purity of the outer-conduct aspect, i.e. the pratimoksha vows. In some rare cases, in either tradition, it may be considered OK to engage in karmamudra practice with a consort -even if one still has pratimoksha vows of celibacy. But the normal thing to do would be to disrobe if one wanted to engage in karmamudra with a physical consort. Most monks simply use a visualized consort. Roach's own teachers in the Gelug lineage such as HH the DL and Lama Zopa expressed the view of the Gelug lineage quite clearly: if a monk is qualified to be engaging in karmamudra practice with a physical consort than he must be at a very high level of realization — the only way to show this is through displaying siddhis. In Lama Zopa's letter, he quite frankly asked Roach to do this publicly, since he has already taken a consort publicly, so as to remove doubt and controversy and instill faith and confidence. He never did this. The appropriate course of action would have been to consult with his own gurus BEFORE he took a consort, privately, to say he felt he was ready to do so, and asked their permission. At this point, they may have asked for a private display of siddhi. If satisfied, they may have encouraged him to go forward with it, but I am sure only with a qualified consort. However, this conversation apparently never happened. There is a rare historic case of this, with HH the DL's own tutor's father. Here is an excerpt from Alexander Berzin's website about this: "Serkong Rinpoche never claimed himself to be a yogi or to have any special powers. If we wanted an example of someone who did, he said we did not need to look only to the remote past. His father, Serkong Dorjey-chang, was a clear example. As a monk at Ganden Jangtsey Monastery, his father had attained the stage of anuttarayoga tantra at which he could practice special yoga techniques with a consort to reach the deepest level of mind. This advanced point on the complete stage requires full mastery of the subtle energy system, with total control over both internal and external matter and energy. His vows of celibacy would normally prohibit him from such practice. When His Holiness the Thirteenth Dalai Lama asked for proof of his attainment, Serkong Dorjey-chang tied a yak horn into a knot and presented it. Convinced, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama permitted Serkong Dorjey-chang to keep his monastic holdings while practicing at this level. Rinpoche matter-of-factly mentioned that they kept this horn in his home as a child."

        • Another Perspective says:

          Here is a link to an interview (I think from 2006?) where a lot of these questions are addressed by G. Michael and L. Christie : http://aci-la.org/gmlc_interview.pdf

          • Phurba says:

            "Christie has over 150 regular senior students at Diamond Mountain. In
            September 2006, a large group of them completed a special multi-year course of
            traditional Tibetan training under her guidance, and began training in what is
            called the "Diamond Way," the highest level of Buddhist studies. At this point,
            by Tibetan custom, the teacher earns the title of "lama"; and she thus became one
            of the first women to be awarded this title." This is just fiction. Tibetan custom does not just label anyone
            a lama who starts teaching Vajrayana. Any random unqualified charlatan could start teaching people something they call Vajrayana, but does this earn them the title lama in the view of the actual wisdom holders of the four great lineages? NO. Their qualities need to be recognized, and they must be enthroned by a qualified lineage holder. We still don't know that anyone gave Roach the authority to teach Vajrayana in his lineage, so his bestowal of this authority on someone else is quite suspect. And finally, the feminist angle on this is also absurd. There have been many, many female lamas both in Indian and Tibetan history. For a few of the most well known ones, you can read Tsultrim Allione's book, Women of Wisdom — but there are many others. Of course, there are far fewer women lamas that we know of in historic Tibet than male ones, but it is purely make-believe to call Christie "one of the first women to be awarded this title".

          • matthew says:

            Phurba: can the exaggerations apparent in almost every aspect of the group's self-promotion be subject to any kind of official review? Is there any mechanism within the general Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy that could issue a statement/judgement on these claims? I'm not talking about the claims of revelation, which violate cultural norms (and actually simply insult regular people), but the dodgy claims about how Tibetan protocol unfolds? In the Catholic Church, there is an Office for the Preservation of the Faith, which the current pope used to head. Anything like this?

          • Phurba says:

            Well, the most common default review used by the majority of Tibetan Buddhists to check on the validity or controversial nature of a given Lama is composing an inquiry to the Office of HH the Dalai Lama. Even if that letter we are all familiar with was not published publicly by this office, it still acts as an official review. Unfortunately, the Office of HHDL does not always reply to an inquiry. I did write them once in regards to some one else to get an official opinion and never heard back. I assume because as of yet, they have no official opinion at this point, in support or detriment of that individual. It is a bit complicated sometimes, because of the rift in the Gelugpa school, a lot of politics are complex. Even the former official head of the Gelugpa school, although while in his position "officially" supported HH's stance on the so-called "protector" controversy, once he stepped down he became an open supporter of that unfortunate practice again.. In many ways, HH, and therefore his Office, are navigating a political minefield, with so many levels and intricacies.. so as a default official review board, it may not be the ultimate ideal. But at the same time, HH is perhaps the most uniquely qualified and respected individual to judge matters of dispute within all the major Tibetan Buddhist lineages. Generally though, often questions would be better addressed to the heads of the respective lineages. So if there was a question of a Sakya Lama or group, refer inquiry to Sakya Trizen. Or in the case of a Nyingma Lama, you could refer to the new head Tsetrul Rinpoche, or other high elder lineage-holders such as Chatral Rinpoche (if you have an open line of communication), or Shenpen Dawa Rinpoche or Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche. In Kagyu I would personally refer to Thrangu Rinpoche or Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso as they are the most senior and knowledgeable, although ultimately this will become the Karmapas responsibility. And then if what is needed is the opinion of a RIme master that is an authority and holder of lineages of all schools, other than HH the Dalai Lama I would recommend Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. That's just my 2¢ though.

          • Phurba says:

            The main problem is there is a cultural tendency to not openly criticize dharma teachers, even if they are widely criticized behind closed doors. I believe this is a particularly Tibetan cultural thing, and not an aspect of any set of vows. There is also something related to Tibetan Buddhist belief that is akin to "temdrel", or auspicious interdependence.. this can be used loosely in a similar way to affirmations, you know, just talking about the positive, not focusing on the negative, to help nurture the fruition of the positive, etc. Sometimes the cultural background of us Westerners and Tibetans just doesn't mesh perfectly.. a friend of mine who lived in Nepal for a couple decades understands the Tibetan cultural relational background quite well, but for many of us, it is an ever unfolding mystery.

          • Tara Jolie says:

            Phurba, among the masters you listed above, I know at least one of them has privately denounced GM. And, I am pretty sure he is not coming out publicly. Tibetan culture and politic is difficult o navigate as you stated.

          • Tara Jolie says:

            Agree!!!

  47. Thick as a Brick says:

    In the style you so enjoy using, there are two points to make here: One, there is unbiased, objective writing and reporting, and Two, there is ax grinding biased opinion blasting. This definitely falls into the latter and as such is difficult to take seriously. Nice to know you "care" so much about others with no agenda. Hope this generates nice publicity for your "yoga 2.0". Next time try not to write with such anger and judgement :)

    • matthew says:

      Thick: I was transparent about my intentions and method. There are many throughout this comment thread who are taking the 15 requests to Board that this piece makes very seriously.

  48. aguse says:

    noone is questioning its existence. however, it doesnt say what you pretend it says.
    for example, its not a public letter. PRIVATE COMMUNICATION DOES NOT FIT THE DEFINITION OF A CENSURE.
    SORRY.

    furthermore, what His Holiness himself has written contradicts what the letter says. it is possible for a monk to practice with a consort and maintain his vows.

    • tenpel says:

      "it is possible for a monk to practice with a consort and maintain his vows."

      not in Gelug school, Roach's school. There it is recommended to give back the vows. And if not even Je Tsong Khapa, the Gelug "founder", relied on a consort, who is Roach that he thinks he can? IMO this man has gone astray and leads his students astray.

      I attended a public teaching of him and his "consort" in Berlin, and listened and checked attentively. This had nothing to do with Buddhism but with fulfilling samsaric desires.

      • Tara Jolie says:

        I actually discussed whether Gelugpas can practice with a physical consort and maintain his monastic vows with GM and DM's followers. I cited HHDL stating Gelug monks only use visualizations regarding consort. The response: "Its because its a tantric practice so its a secret! Of course HHDL is not going to publicly tell people what they really do!" Sadly, this is what his students actually believe in.

        • Phurba says:

          Well his students should really do their due-diligence. Meet with senior masters of the Gelug school, and ask. Since they are all already supposedly initiates and most of them already have 'spiritual partners', then any of these senior masters of Gelug lineage shouldn't be confined to secrecy talking to them privately, and will tell them straight. Of course, it is silly that when there's already many books published on the topic of karmamudra, GM would claim that HH was lying to everyone to keep it secret. The basic facts are as seen in the story I quoted from Berzin's website: In Gelug, if one is a monk you must have extraordinary realization and abilities, and show them to your Guru to get permission to practice karmamudra in advance. So while it may be true for rare, rare, exceptional cases such as when Serkong Dorje Chang showed his siddhi to the 13th Dalai Lama by tying a yak horn in a knot: this is not a generally accepted practice by Gelug monks by any means. And it seems GM never sought permission from any of his teachers, he just went ahead and took a consort.. and he never displayed any siddhis for his teachers to judge his level of realization. This is not respectful of the tradition, or of his gurus. We know he did not ask permission or inform his gurus in advance, because we have these open letters documenting him telling them after the fact. This is not proper conduct. And if Khen Rinpoche had given him permission beforehand, you can be sure he would have mentioned that in his letter.

          • Tara Jolie says:

            Phurba, I think its pretty clear now that GM's followers don't practice "dual diligence" otherwise they would have known what he taught is not consistent with the Gelug school and Buddhism in general. They believe anything he says.

        • tenpel says:

          This is what they learned from Roach. Roach first bends the Dharma to fit his imaginations and to justify his actions. Now he and his followers are very skilled and used to bend the facts by escaping to a magical or "secret" level. The meaning is: you cannot understand it because its beyond your level of investigation. A Buddha would never do such things. As he says in the Kalama Sutra:

          "Of course you are uncertain, Kalamas. Of course you are in doubt. When there are reasons for doubt, uncertainty is born. So in this case, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering' — then you should abandon them.
          http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/a

          • Tara Jolie says:

            Tenpel, can't agree with you more! Bending facts by escaping to magical or secret level. Some of my favorite twisted logic are "if I can't see them as enlightened beings/angels/whatever, its because my mind is not pure." And, If they can see each others as Bodhisattvas then they all must be Bodhisattvas because only Bodhisattvas can recognize other Bodhisattvas…actually my list can go on and on…

          • tenpel says:

            I know this pattern from other teachers who have gone astray. They and their followers circle around these things to justify the system and to suppress their doubts.

            Most of gone-astray-teachers I would say might suffer from something like a personality disorder. I don't know much about Roach but I could find the patterns of Narcissistic personality disorder in two of my former Buddhist teachers:

            A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

            1) Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
            2) Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
            3) Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
            4) Requires excessive admiration
            5) Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
            6) Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
            7) Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
            8) Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
            9) Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissistic_persona

          • matthew says:

            Tenpel: thanks for the citation. I sometimes find this clinical language very stark and clarifying.

          • Kevin says:

            This speaks precisely to my major concern within the community

      • Lobsang says:

        While I don't think they ever described the formal relationship in conventional terms, I've recently come across the fact that Geshe Michael's consort was for a time his wife. He and Christie were married as they filed for and were granted a divorce in Dec 2010. This does not happen in the Gelug tradition though in some Tibetan Buddhist traditions I believe lamas do in fact marry – Nyingma perhaps – but someone else who knows better should comment. But at least in the eyes of the laws of the US, they were formally husband and wife.

        Case Number:V-1300-DO-201080417
        Title:In Re the Marriage of: MICHAE
        Category:Civil
        Court:Yavapai County Superior
        Filing Date:09/23/2010

        CHRISTIE MCNALLY RESPONDENT – RT1 Date of Birth: 11/1972
        MICHAEL ROACH PETITIONER – PE1 Date of Birth: 12/1952

        12/01/2010 DECREE: DEFAULT DISSOLUTION WITHOUT CHILDREN PE1
        12/01/2010 ORDER: Granting PE1
        11/16/2010 NOTICE: Notice PE1
        11/01/2010 SERVICE: AFFIDAVIT OF SERVICE BY MAIL RT1
        11/01/2010 APPLICATION: FOR DEFAULT PE1
        11/01/2010 MOTION: Motion PE1
        09/23/2010 INJUNCTION: Preliminary Injunction PE1 0
        9/23/2010 NOTICE: Creditors PE1
        09/23/2010 NOTICE: Health Insurance PE1
        09/23/2010 Petition: Dissolution of Marriage PE1
        09/23/2010 SUMMONS: SUMMONS

        • Phurba says:

          Sure, in Nyingma Lamas can marry, but not Lamas who are monks. In the Nyingma, there is the path of the Ngakpa– who practices according to ngakpa lineage and vows. This is the tantric-lay-householder yogi who emphasizes the internal vows relating to awareness — keeping a minimum of the pratimoksha vows, but not the many pratimoksha vows that a monk will keep. It is not appropriate for a monk of any lineage to marry, the monastic vows are not specific to any of the four Tibetan schools, they go back to the the Buddha himself. The Nagkpa tradition is a tantric one, that Guru Rinpoche established in Tibet in the 8th century.

        • ekanthomason says:

          OMG! I have a wedding photo of Christie on her wedding day in New York when she married Ian. It is dated October 5, 2010. Not sure that was the date of the wedding or the day I downloaded the photo. http://apps.supremecourt.az.gov/publicaccess/case

          • Tara Jolie says:

            So this means Christine married Ian before she was divorced from GM? The soap opera continues…

        • tenpel says:

          Also Gelug lamas can marry. The point is that monks and nuns cannot marry, they have the vow of celibacy. Also Nyingma, Kagyua or Sakya monks or nuns have it and should not marry. The point is rather if one is ordained as monk or nun or not, and then on top of it if one is a lama as a monk/nun or a lama without being a monk or nun.

          When the great Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche from Kagyu school was asked about Westerners having done a 3year retreat to use the title lama for themselves, he replied wisely: "If not even such persons like Matthew Ricard or Tenzin Palmo use the title lama, why should you use it?" Westerners are carried away with titles and names. Better to avoid that, it becomes too often a main obstacle for Dharma practice and inner growth. People start to identify with titles, names, their actions but Buddhism is not a way to create a better self but to overcome the wrong perception of a true self.

          • AnnetteVictoria says:

            "Buddhism is not a way to create a better self but to overcome the wrong perception of a true self."

            Beautifully stated, tenpel.

          • Tara Jolie says:

            The reason GM gave for not disrobing:

            "And I think that if I were crazy and I disrobed, I think that I would lose my vision of Vajra Yogini. You see? It's the foundation of that experience, and not in any way a problem with that experience. The goal of becoming ordained is to have this experience."
            — Interview of Geshe Michael Roach by T. Monkyi for publication in a Buddhist magazine a
            few days after Geshe Michael’s Easter 2003 three year retreat teachings.

            It just does not make any sense!!! If he is indeed a 8th Bhumi Bodhisattva, fear of losing vision of Vajrayogini shouldn't exist. And I thought LC was his Vajrayogini in human flash…

            My Lama told me that "there is a possibility that one day I might ask you to drop your self identity as a Buddhist and not do any practices at all. Being a Buddhist is a path, someday we all need to drop the path." Just as you said Tenpel, its to overcome the wrong perception of a true and better self!

            I know when that day comes for me it will be extremely hard but a true student always try to follow her Vajra Guru's instruction!!! (Of course, the Vajra Guru needs to be a legitimate one to begin with.)

        • Kevin says:

          Wow… this I ever knew about… I am so glad that "due diligence" is being done by many people

        • PAX says:

          As petitioner it looks like Michael Roach is the one that filed for divorce on 9/23/12. The default must mean that she did not respond. So if Michael Roach divorced Vajrayogini then I would guess he lost his vision of her despite remaining in robes.

          • matthew says:

            The default does imply non-response, but that doesn't mean non-agreement. It can be the simplest way of ushering it through.

  49. Cassie says:

    To Arly.

    For someone who requested Matthew to use less anger in his post, you certainly use the word “f-ing” a lot, which if I’m not mistaken, stands for “fucking”, a pretty angry word, in general. Let’s let all of us pots and kettles call all of the other pots and kettles black, and then get on with asking ourselves if the drama whirlwind that surrounds DM makes sense, when everyone’s final goal is supposedly enlightenment.

    • Arly says:

      If fucking was an angry word, then all sexual relationships would be rape. All children would be born out of violence. And it probably wouldn't feel so good.

      Nice math, professor, out of a word count of 1,764, I used f-ing twice. That's "a lot"?

      Perhaps you missed the point because you are too busy being a prude. With no math skills. Who thinks fucking is violent. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me."

      If the goal is enlightenment then what's everyone doing wasting their time writing about some old guy who owns a Volvo? What lineage is that? How does that get you enlightened? Bugger that.

  50. tenpel says:

    BTW, a real Geshe from Sera, who studied with Roach in Sera, and who is teaching in Monastery Nalanda / France said, that Roach studied all together not more than 4 years at Sera monastery. His title was given as an honorific title for his financial sponsorship.

    • matthew says:

      This would be extremely important if found to be true, tenpel. How might one go about verifying it?

      • tenpel says:

        I am a fully ordained Buddhist monk and was in Nalanda monastery, France, in Dec. 2006. During the Vinaya teachings the question about Roach came up and Geshe Jamphal replied that he knows him from Sera, that they shared classes but that Roach were often absent and that he all in all might have studied only for four years there.

        I asked (either him or another Geshe) why he has a Geshe title, and the reply was, that also cooks who didn't study can receive a Geshe title as an honour to their work. Roach is known of having financed Sera very much. For verification write a letter to Sera Monastery or call in Nalanda France.

    • Jared says:

      I didn't think GMR spent all of his studies at Sera. It's my understanding that most of his study was completed in New Jersey under Khen Rinpoche.

      • tenpel says:

        If one understands the rigorous studies and the study content in the Gelug monasteries to attain a Geshe title for such a person it is clear that this cannot be accomplished under a single teacher in New Jersey.

        As far as I know one of the few Westerners who really undertook those hardships and effort and finished the Geshe study properly with the required exams is George Dreyfus.

        For a small background about the ("controversial") bestowing of the Geshe title see: http://thedorjeshugdengroup.wordpress.com/2011/07

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