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. [...] interview, Matthew Remski, a yoga teacher from Toronto who unleashed a storm online after posting a scathing critique of Mr. Roach after Mr. Thorson’s death, described Mr. Roach as a “charismatic Buddhist [...]

  2. Kate says:

    I’m not involved in any of this tradition but having read this, tonight I will pray for peace to come to you all. I dedicate the merit of my practice to your collective healing.

  3. [...] Matthew Remski, a yoga clergyman from Toronto who unleashed a charge online after posting a scathing critique of Mr. Roach after Mr. Thorson’s death, described Mr. Roach as a “charismatic Buddhist [...]

  4. [...] interview, Matthew Remski, a yoga teacher from Toronto who unleashed a storm online after posting a scathing critique of Mr. Roach after Mr. Thorson’s death, described Mr. Roach as a “charismatic Buddhist [...]

  5. [...] interview, Matthew Remski, a yoga teacher from Toronto who unleashed a storm online after posting a scathing critique of Mr. Roach after Mr. Thorson’s death, described Mr. Roach as a “charismatic Buddhist [...]

  6. [...] tragedy at Diamond Mountain or endorsement of Geshe Michael Roach. As with the previous articles by Matthew Remski and the rebuttal by John Stillwell, our hope is to encourage a conversation that is elevated beyond [...]

  7. Bob says:

    Dude told the New York Post that they do, in fact have sex. Or something that looks like sex, and 'involves penetration', but isn't actually sex.
    http://www.nypost.com/pagesixmag/issues/20100211/

    His words to that publication:

    "In yoga there are practices that involve joining with a partner [...] They are secret [...] You might think of them as sex, but their purpose is to move inner energy [...] There would be penetration, but no release of semen."

    So, in other words, sex.

  8. Guest says:

    I am an outsider–just stumbled upon the story. It would make for great fiction! But a sad real life situation. Roach appears to have become a narcissist. The poor disciples! But time to see reality as it is, not as we would like it to be. Knives cut. Hitting is not part of the process, the natural elements must be respected. You can't haul people out of deep retreat and expect them
    to manage. Om Mani Padme HuM The poor Tibetans, their own culture under desperate siege, and we fools aping their dress and calling ourselves Teachers! Time to re read "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism," that's the real diamond.

  9. Kristen says:

    I found this article during my regular perusal of MahaSangha news from Shambhala Sun. I am blown away that this has not found its way into other media. I feel such sadness for the all the retreatants at DM as they are shrouded in silence while mourning the loss of their lama and friend. Worst of all is the vow to keep silent when abuse is occurring; the suffering in silence. I applaud your efforts to make this tragedy visible in the Buddhist community so that we can be knowledgeable and support those who come out of retreat in need of help. Thank you for writing this!!

  10. [...] If you follow the websites Yoga Dork or Elephant Journal, you will have seen the articles surrounding the death of Ian Thorsten, after he and his wife Christy McNally were asked to leave Arizona’s Diamond Mountain Retreat. Thorsten–whose body was rumored to weigh only 100 lbs.–later died of exposure while the couple camped in the desert surrounding the retreat. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this story, but what stood out to me was a first-hand account of Thorsten’s thinness: [...]

  11. [...] interview, Matthew Remski, a yoga teacher from Toronto who unleashed a storm online after posting a scathing critique of Mr. Roach after Mr. Thorson’s death, described Mr. Roach as a “charismatic Buddhist [...]

  12. [...] salió la pareja en febrero después de participar un poco más de un año, ha sido pintado como un culto liderado por el vendedor de diamantes convertido en monje Michael Roach, con quien McNally se [...]

  13. Benson says:

    Jiddu Krishnamurti on Authentic Gurus:

    Question: There are so many gurus today, both in the East and in the West, each one pointing his own way to enlightenment. How is one to know if they are speaking the truth?
    Jiddu Krishnamurti – When a guru says he knows, he does not. When an Eastern guru or a man in the West says: "I have attained Enlightenment" – then you may be sure that he is not enlightened; enlightenment is not to be attained. It is not something that you reach step by step as if you were climbing a ladder. Enlightenment is not in the hands of time.

    Jiddu Krishnamurti spent the better part of his life, warning against religious con-men, false gurus, prophets, wise-men, etc. Sadly not too many people listened him. I guess this is not surprising, since people are basically sheep, and need false leaders "to show them the way" and such. Truly sad. I suggest everyone who is not familiar with this man, research him and read his books, teachings and philosophy. His is truly an amazing story, for he himself was groomed since his early childhood, to be such a false leader- 'The Star of The East' as it were. Upon coming of age, whilst barely in his early 20s, he rejected the entire matter as ignorance, nonsense, and B.S.
    http://www.messagefrommasters.com/Enlightenment/A
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiddu_Krishnamurti

  14. Justin says:

    As an outsider with relatively little interaction with any Tibetan tradition it's fairly easy to read between the lines and see how blinded many of the Buddhists are with this matter and how important it seems for the author to be more "right" or agenda driven then COMPASSIONATE.

    The one who's still alive that got the shortest end of the stick is Christie, and my prayers have been streaming towards her because she must be in a world of hurt – she lost her sangha, her husband in some sort of horrific tragedy or accident, plus her teacher.

    From what I can tell based on the videos of her posted on Youtube, Michael Roach had zero business installing her as a "Lama" and perhaps that was the beginning of the end.

    I would very much strongly encourage all the readers to (first and foremost) remember Christie in your daily prayers.

  15. MOhini M says:

    This so called "Lama" Christie appeared at Sivananda yoga retreat Bahamas this year in April. I had never heard of her before although I'm Buddhist. I had heard of Michael Roach though and he was there also as a featured speaker. Lama Christie came later after Roach had gone.. She was with two attendants dressed as Tibetan monks and another woman. She was the most pretentious person I have ever seen. She floated around in a white shalwar and the attendants would offer her food as though she were a goddess. She certainly seemed to think herself really special though i could see no reason for this delusion. She talked to nobody and seemed totally spaced out. What bothered me was the amount of respect accorded to her by the Swamis & ashram staff. I would think they should be more careful about the type of people who they elevate as supposedly spiritual. Hey – Sivanada staff, do your homework ! This Christie is obviously a mental case and should be in a hospital having treatment. Pity her late husband hadn't been put in a psych ward– he might be alive today. Christie's story is terrible. Where were her parents throughout all this?. Don't her family care what she does ? I find the whole thing sordid in the extreme, tragic & disgusting. I am happy the real Tibetan Buddhist establishment has shunned them. What about compassion in this tragic story? I'm sorry but its hard to be compassionate towards such poseurs as Roach, Christie and their deluded followers..

  16. Anonymous says:

    what can i add to this? i knew McNally and Roach, spent some time in Damond mountain and in Roaches teachings. The reason for this was to make people aware of roaches lies and decipt, and to try to help some firends to escape what I saw, and do see, as a cultish group. I sponsored and organised a website full of provavble and justifiable critisism of roach, which I believ he later paid to have removed, and generally made it clear that it would all end in tears. Roach is clearly a dissturbed individual with power and hold over people. This is what resulted in Eins death, and this alone.

  17. [...] Matthew Remski, a yoga clergyman from Toronto who unleashed a charge online after posting a scathing critique of Mr. Roach after Mr. Thorson’s death, described Mr. Roach as a “charismatic Buddhist [...]

  18. woodtiger74 says:

    You have a very dynamic and engaging writing style. Your ability to articulate the irony of life is wonderful. I have read this article a few times over the months. At first I felt it was too intense and nit picky, though I don't put down the importance if exposing the truth. But then I read it a few more times and decided largely due to your capacity to point out the harm present at DM that this is a valuable disclosure. I too was involved with this group at the same time you were and went to many of the early teachings on up through the teachings he gave at DM during his 3 year retreat. Being a LZR student at the time I remember clearly when LZR asked that GMR not teach at LMB anymore and that his group should be separated from any affiliation with the FPMT. This was before DM land was bought so LZR was looking way ahead and knew what was coming down the road. It was the begginning of a FPMT split that now I am sure makes a lot of sense to all of LZR's bewildered students at the time! I did not go down this road much farther because of LZR's advice and instead engaged in another Buddhist cult! I guess it was in my cards to join some kind of screwed up dharma affiliation. Thus I learned first hand the "guru papers" for myself. What's more shocking than cults to me is the amount of resistance from everyday people to be able to name a cult for what it is. After being in one for many years I was shocked to see how it's the last thing we come to naming even when we are so obviously engaged in one. The teacher is oblivious to his or her far reaching manipulation and I think that's the key that keeps the whole thing bound in secrecy and doubt. If the teacher is not aware that his or her powerful unconscious deficiencies are running the show then the disonence created by this inhability to be clear hypnotizes the followers into a bi polar struggle that leads no where and exhausts the soul with the insolvable conundrum of a healthy meeting place between good and evil. The only healthy meeting place is getting out of the cult! But sadly too many are locked into the see-saw of rejection and endorsement. Amaster mind could come up with a grand cult so easily (perhaps that is our governement) but often teachers have no idea that they have gone viral. So students think they know what they are doing! such a challenge to forge new waters with out becoming a meglomaniac. Christie McNally's letter "shift in the matrix" is the most amazing account of self undoing I have ever read. It shows the outcome of all the DM dissonance. Very sad~ but I try not to be punitive in bringing up her letter, it's more that it's the best and most accurate portrayal of what it's like once a cult has sucked you dry and the aftermath of the psyche's attempt to structure something useable or life affirming out of being too long in an environment of total dissonance. Anyway thank you for writing this important article! Hilarious paragraph about sexless sex and all in all an necessary out cry on the behalf of all dharmatoids!

  19. Natalie McCall says:

    Fascinating.
    What ever happened next?
    Is McNally ok?
    Did she get some psychiatric support?

    It sounds like an extreme feminist morality tale; get too close to a patriarchal religion and you will lose your voice, your authority, your health, your mind….I wish McNally all the best in the long route back to health away from all the gobble-de-gook.

    I imagine it will be hard for her to really and truly recognise and realise that all that time she thought she was enlightened (with students prostrating to her, putting her on high thrones, giving her silk scarves etc) she was actually in a gilded cage of collective delusion.

  20. [...] and mindfulness culture. In response to two instances of my criticism – writing about Anusara and exposing the deadly corruption at the heart of Michael Roach’s neo-Buddhist cult – I have received hundreds of emails from devotees accusing me of interference or malice or [...]

  21. [...] and mindfulness culture. In response to two instances of my criticism – writing about Anusara and exposing the deadly corruption at the heart of Michael Roach’s neo-Buddhist cult – I have received hundreds of emails from devotees accusing me of interference or malice or [...]

  22. [...] essentially destructive. Particularly given the successive shocks generated by the recent Anusara, Diamond Mountain, and Kaustaub Desikachar scandals, some, like her, feel that it’s time to keep quiet. Leave the [...]

  23. Lori says:

    When the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

  24. tenpel says:

    There is a statement by Geshe Michael Roach's teacher, Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobasang Tarchin, which he gave to close students. It was Khen Rinpoche's last teaching four months before he passed away. There Khen Rinpoche stated unequivocally that his disciple, Michael Roach, had gone astray and why Michael Roach is wrong.

    I am on the way to get the recordings and a transcript of what his own teacher said about him. I will let you know when I have the details.

    • Trying 2understand says:

      If Khen Rinpoche did make such a statement then it should be made known. If you have the transcript and can confirm its authenticity then would you please share it. One criticism of the Tibetan Buddhist establishment that i find valid is that they don't address problematic issues in a transparent and public way. Privately it seems that the Tibetan Buddhists are as opinionated and judgmental as anyone, but publicly they don't say anything. This means that students of teachers who are considered wayward never get a clear statement from the hierarchy that their teacher's ways and/or teachings are not considered in keeping with the tradition. This is a tremendous failing that allows unqualified teachers to go about their teaching without sanction or any formal rebuke.

  25. Dharmawarrior says:

    From the lectures and translations that I have seen, Michael Roach is not a spiritually enlightened person and others should not treat him as a monk. Monks don't have sex and they hold precepts in which they don't dance, go to parties, or twist Buddhist teachings for their own purposes. Monks are even prohibited from keeping close company with women, as in the case of the numerous reports of Christie McNally sleeping in the same room as he. In addition, true Buddhism cuts through delusion. A person who follows this way, stands upright, speaks straight forwardly and does not say they are above the precepts and vows of being a monk. They do not rely on their students for fun,enjoyment and parties. They do not encourage their students to chase pleasure with dancing, singing and social events! This is only to steep someone further into the cycle of desire. It's not that it is wrong to enjoy oneself, but it is not a monks job to help students to do this!

    Some time ago when I heard their lecture on Buddhism that focused on heavenly bliss, it was a deviation of the Buddhist teachings. Little was said, except that when reaching Heaven you have a strong body and your all your dreams come true, or some garbage. They employed the use of attractive phrases to seem as if they knew so many amazing things that the audience did not, luring in unsuspecting people to follow them. Buddhism does not teach people to strive for heavenly benefit only, as this is also impermanent. This is false Buddhism, and people should learn from true monastics and their disciples. This kind of teaching will not last long. Over time, if it is not proper, it will be exposed for what it is.

    I have been the disciple of a proper Buddhist monk for over 15 years, studying, meditating, chanting daily and teaching others. I have no connection with these people whatsoever. But I can say that Buddhism is not in it's purest form at Diamond Mountain and people should be aware.

  26. [...] weeks after breaking this story, I thought it would be helpful to summarize the discourse around the Diamond Mountain tragedy as it [...]

  27. [...] Christy McNally’s letter, April 19th – Michael Roach’s open letter, April 26th – my original post, May 4th – John Stillwell’s rebuttal, May 6th – my followup, May 19th – Michael Roach’s [...]

  28. Ecig News says:

    It’s difficult to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you seem like you know

    what you’re talking about! Thanks

  29. Gunnar says:

    "le le jikten natsok kye" -Abhidharmakosha 350 AD Master Vasubandu, based on sutras spoken by Lord Buddha. "The world and all it's various parts come from Karma."

    Could you provide something to back up your claim that the Buddha "criticized strongly" the idea that EVERYTHING is a result of karma? Just curious. ;)

  30. Ted Lemon says:

    The culture of secrecy you talk about isn't something I really get. When this happened, it was talked about. Nobody had much information, not because of any intention of secrecy, but because we weren't there. As you can see, people do like to speculate, but the fact is that the involved parties did in fact write about their experiences, and that's what Matthew is basing his article on.

    The in-group/out-group thing is something I've experienced too. My experience of it is that some students really feel that they have to be close to the Lama, and they make that their practice, instead of doing what the Lama tells them to do (which is mostly to meditate, and keep their vows). This happens in every spiritual group I know of, and while it's convenient to blame it on the Lama, I think you should blame it on the bell curve. The people who are not in the in group are simply the ones who don't feel the need to be in the in group; I count myself among that number. I live in Vermont, and am happy to see Geshe Michael when it's possible, without trying to force the issue.

    The practice of seeing everything that comes to us as a teaching is a practice. Things are neither "teachings" nor "not teachings." This is true of every experience we have. The advice to turn our experiences into a path is not one that is unique to Geshe Michael—you will find it in His Holiness' teachings, in Lama Zopa Rinpoche's teachings, and in Lama Yeshe's teachings. Like any practice, it is not always used wisely. When someone brandishes a knife at you, it may well be a teaching, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't run.

    The idea that everything is the result of karma is expressed in one of the three turnings of the wheel. The other two turnings of the wheel treat the question differently. Some schools of Buddhism deny the second turning of the wheel, but it is in fact widely accepted. The Buddha said many things that, taken literally, contradict each other. Je Tsongkhapa explains this problem in detail in the Essence of Eloquence. My point being a particular Buddhist sect's explanation of exactly what suchness or emptiness is, and how it relates to karma, is in fact what distinguishes the various sects of Buddhism, so to say that one sect disagrees with another is not to say that either sect is definitively wrong. That is what you are doing in your point 4.

    Guru Yoga means deciding that the Lama is the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. This too is not a teaching unique to Geshe Michael—it's taught by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and was taught by Lama Yeshe, and as far as I know has been taught this way for millenia. And yes, it is absolutely ripe for exploitation by an unscrupulous Lama. This is the source of the advice Lord Atisha followed on how to choose your Lama: observe them for ten years before making any decisions.

    I've heard the "crush the student's ego" thing before, but never from Geshe Michael or Lama Christie. Neither of them adhere to the mistaken translation of "no self" as "eliminating the ego." This is in fact a key point that Geshe Michael teaches essentially every time he teaches, because he considers it so important. So if someone is saying that this is a Diamond Mountain tradition, it's news to me.

  31. Otter says:

    Well said brother

  32. LBS4791 says:

    How about some facts to support the allegations? I'm on your side here. But come on, you're doing the same thing the author did that Ted criticizes.

  33. matthew says:

    Darth, are you my father? How about a good wrestle?

  34. Gunnar says:

    Utu Niyama – physical inorganic order, e.g. seasonal phenomena of winds and rains. The unerring order of seasons, characteristic seasonal changes and events, causes of winds and rains, nature of heat, etc., all belong to this group. (What seasons? What rain? what anything independent of a mind stream forced to witness it from passed thoughts and actions
    ?)

    Dhamma Niyama – order of the norm, e.g., the natural phenomena occurring at the advent of a Bodhisattva in his last birth. Gravitation and other similar laws of nature. The natural reason for being good and so forth, may be included in this group. (The natural reason for being good and so forth"!? Are we arguing here that there is an original cause, without any preceding it, to something which grants it "natural" status, in some sort of self-existent way?)

    I'm in no way a scholar of Buddhism by any stretch of the word…but to claim that these sub-divisions are somehow separate from one's karma perplexes me. I will have to read more perhaps.

  35. integralhack says:

    I agree completely about the sectarian nature of criticizing Theravada as a lower teaching (which is usually a confused misidentification with "Hinayana"), but hopefully you're just criticizing a particular Tibetan Buddhist sect and not all of Tibetan Buddhism. There might be innovation but it ain't all bad. :)

    Besides, just yesterday I found this terma . . . I kid, I kid.

  36. Ted Lemon says:

    Frank, you just essentially said that a school of Buddhism that you don't consider to be a school of Buddhism is not as good as your school of Buddhism. You didn't call it lower, but you might as well have done. I tend to agree that calling different school of Buddhism "higher" and "lower" isn't constructive when you are discussing Buddhism with people who aren't members of your own sect. Unfortunately, it is a useful abbreviation for a much longer concept, and so as the teaching draws out, even the best teacher may resort to such shortcuts so as to avoid putting his or her students to sleep. Nevertheless, your criticism of the way Eric made his point is valid, and I don't mean to say otherwise.

  37. Ted Lemon says:

    Do you know all the ways karma has been taught? That's actually a pretty tall order. I think the point of teaching a practice is to teach a practice that can be followed and that produces some kind of result. Academics are great, but they have their place.

    There are indeed some students who have come out of DM who have been known to say things that I think are inappropriate. I am fairly sure that some of them do indeed believe the "crushing of the ego" thing you mention. But it's not something that Geshe Michael taught, or that Lama Christie taught. It's something they brought in with them.

    Your Lama has a different teaching style than mine, but it's clear that what is being taught is different. I think it's difficult to teach Guru yoga without risking the pedestal thing you're talking about, and without risking some students coming away with the idea that, like their Lama, they are also infallible (when their Lama never claimed to be infallible!). Perhaps for this reason Guru yoga shouldn't be taught. Perhaps for one of the other reasons you give, Guru yoga also shouldn't be taught. But it is a central part of the Tibetan Buddhist teachings, so it's going to get taught, and people who study it will in fact behave differently than people who study what your Lama teaches, which is also valid.

    The point is that it's because the teaching is different that you are seeing these things that bother you. They should bother you. You should speak out against them. But be prepared for debate if you assert that the teaching that is triggering them is wrong, and should not be taught.

  38. matthew says:

    Jim: I have not suggested anything be shut down. I have suggested that the Board can restore its credibility by addressing the 15 requests at the end of the article.

  39. matthew says:

    I don't need to figure it all out. I have raised the questions obvious from Roach's own account.

  40. urya says:

    Matthew,

    The article is a very good one. thes epeople are baiting you. Please stop deferring to them and defending yourself. it's just part of their tactic to discredit you. Stand your ground. again, they are baiting you. Do not bite.

  41. matthew says:

    I'm replying with necessary corrections because I am crucially concerned that the article be as accurate as possible. I don't feel discredited: thank you kindly for your concern.

  42. integralhack says:

    Thanks, Frank. I'm an admirer of your writing, so this was something of "say it ain't so, Frank" type of question. Because Tibetan Buddhism by itself is a huge and varied branch there is plenty to take issue with (and areas where different schools disagree and even contradict each other), so it is fair game.

    I agree completely.

  43. Ted Lemon says:

    There are no Zen stories of students seeking out masters, who beat them with a stick to drive them off? In any case, I think this is a red herring. You would need to show that the guru/disciple relationship was in fact inappropriate before it would make sense to reject it. And you would probably want to explain the sense in which the five ascetics who practiced with the Buddha prior to his enlightenment did not have such a relationship with the him both before and after his enlightenment.

  44. Ted Lemon says:

    You have asked leading questions that imply a conclusion. This is an indirect way of stating what you believe. And this belief is not based on knowledge. That is all I am saying.

  45. Ted Lemon says:

    Geshe Michael gave a lovely teaching on the Uttara Tantra right after the three-year retreat where he explains what the Tathagatagarba is. It's not "Original Mind." Indeed, in an ACI teaching, Proof of Future Lives, Geshe Michael explains the way in which "original mind" fails to accurately describe reality. The teaching on Rigpa that I think you are referring to is the one Sogyal Rinpoche talks about. Geshe Michael has never taught that—it's a Kagyu thing, I think.

    Hanging around with religious nuts is always a weird experience. I certainly found it to be so when I started. Over the years I've learned to see it as a process, though. Yes, sometimes new students act weird and say weird things when they first start learning the teachings. Why should this be surprising? The only difference between this and a physics class in that sense is that we tend not to be quite so impressed with our physics teacher. More's the pity.

  46. matthew says:

    I don't have numbers or names, but she was their retreat leader. Are you implying there are no retreatants who are McNally's students?

  47. matthew says:

    She was their retreat leader. Are you saying at least some of them are not her close students?

  48. matthew says:

    I think what this dialogue is showing is that knowledge emerges in pastiche. Between my presentation, the criticisms, my corrections, I think we're coming to a clearer picture. I do believe that there are dangerous aspects of authoritarian control and spiritual bypassing at work, and have called upon the Board to show otherwise in the wake of the tragedy.

  49. nathangthompson says:

    I am the current president of our zen center's board of directors, and have spent the last 5 years on our board, following the debacle I alluded to above. One thing to note about the board under our former teacher is that the entire group was handpicked by him, and they basically rubber stamped his ideas. Those who challenged him were ostracized, and more than a few prominent members and assistant teachers were forced out or left in the years prior to his downfall. I was part of a team that revised our governing structure a few years after or former teacher's ousting, and it was quite clear that he had stacked the by laws and other governing documents completely in his favor as well. We also had a grievance committee that was handpicked by the teacher. At every turn, the leadership was under his thumb. So, it's really not enough to say things like the board is dealing with these issues. Because they probably are, and yet, if the board's structure is anything like ours was, then the work they are doing is compromised.

  50. matthew says:

    Jim: a "concern troll" hides behind anonymity. I am not. Nor have I ever done anything like this before. Nor is there a shred of malice in my motivation.

  51. Lobsang says:

    As 501c3 are DMUs bylaws a matter of public record?

  52. heynow says:

    standard mind-only tenet system of indian buddhism asserts that all objects are ultimately a result of karmic seeds ripening in the storehouse consciousness.

    your theories and adherence to only abhidharma texts is meaningless.

  53. Allison says:

    With our thoughts we make the world.
    Speak or act with an impure mind
    And trouble will follow you
    As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.
    We are what we think.
    All that we are arises with our thoughts.
    With our thoughts we make the world.
    Speak or act with a pure mind
    And happiness will follow you
    As your shadow, unshakable.

    Dhammapada

    What is the logic of morality if the world does not come from what we say, what we do, and what we think. If it comes from somewhere else, why not do whatever we want?

    Gunnar – the Dalai Lama has also taught these five. I'm not sure what school they are attributed to.

    The Buddha taught karma. We don't have to look at schools that came later.He taught karma in the Agganna Sutta, Lakkhana Sutta, Payasi Sutta among other Pali Canon scriptures.

    How our holy teachers (meaning the heads of our lineages from hundreds of years ago) have selected from which texts to teach and pass down is a sweet mystery to me. The diversity of teachings from the Buddha alone is astounding, and seemingly contradictory. How else could we get such diverse schools of Buddhist thought? However, in the end, it's always going to be up to the individual practitioner to see if the teachings are working in his own life.

    Buddha states: 'Only I or someone like myself can judge another'. Without omniscience , I have no idea how anyone I see in the world sees themselves only how my seeds force me to see them. Death is part of suffering. But the Buddha died. Yet he was called the Conqueror, one beyond suffering. That is contradictory unless I apply karma, that it is because of my karmic seeds that I lose someone in my world. To stop losing people, I have to fix MY seeds.

    The one who gives a residence
    Is the giver of all.
    But the one who teaches the Dhamma
    Is the giver of the Deathless.

    Samyutta Nikaya

  54. Allison says:

    Yes, they are. In Arizona, you apply for your non-profit status through the state. You then send your application and Articles of Incorporation to the feds for tax exempt status (501(c)3 in this case). I believe you also have to include your by-laws in this application, but I can't be sure of that. But it is a state requirement to create by-laws, not federal. You have to be organized as a state recognized non-profit before you are recognized by the feds.

  55. Allison says:

    By 'can't be sure' – I mean – I don't remember and would have to look it up. I've done the paperwork a couple of times for other organizations.

  56. Ted Lemon says:

    I think Zen is fantastic—I'm sorry if you got the impression I was a critic. I'm not a Zen practitioner, but I get a lot of value out of visiting the San Francisco Zen Center and listening to what they say. I really admire how careful they are to avoid voicing statements about things that can't be described. In my lineage, we are pretty shameless about that, and in general I think that's not a bad thing, but it's helpful to follow Suzuki-roshi's approach from time to time as well to avoid falling into a rut.

  57. Girish says:

    Dude, do you actually believe your Politically Correct BS about the classical indic Guru-Shishya dynamic working "in the radically different social and cultural context of India and Tibet"? Or are you just positing it to avoid censure (and possible labeling as a orientalist or racist) in your buddhist community (which probably has Tibetans in leadership positions)?

    Read some Indian newspapers. There is no shortage of reports about cult gurus who use this to abuse their acolytes – financially, emotionally and sexually. The Bhagwan was hardly an aberration.

    Institutionalizing unquestioned authority is always a terrible idea. Charismatic sociopaths will always find their way into these positions with the consequent results that we read in newspapers every now and then. This is just as true in India or Tibet as anywhere else in the world.

    By the way, don't anybody tell the pope that bit about how informing outsiders of cult-leaders' misdeeds is the highest sin. He'll immediately translate it into latin and issue it as a papal bull or something.

  58. Ted Lemon says:

    It's hard to say one way or another whether the situation at DM is similar in the sense of the board having been hand-picked. I know all the members of the board, and I think the sort of unity of purpose in supporting a particular view of Lama Christie is absent, but it's hard as an outsider to really analyze the dynamics. I will say that if the board had been hand-picked by Lama Christie, and basically rubber stamped her ideas, things would have come out very differently than they did.

    When Geshe Michael first proposed to announce that he'd had realizations, he sent a letter to the major supporters of the first three-year retreat asking their opinions on whether he should make the announcement. I was very much against it, and told him so. He still seems to like me, and has never said anything to indicate that he felt that my opinion wasn't welcome.

    So anyway, my point is that while I hear what you are saying, it doesn't really seem like an analogous situation to me.

  59. Ted Lemon says:

    If you don't know, why are you saying it's so? Why would you make a public statement about something without knowing the answer?

    I ask because as a student at DM from the very beginning to the very end, and as a personal friend of every one of the people who is in retreat right now, I couldn't tell you which ones would describe themselves as Lama Christie's students in the sense you are suggesting. Of course they all went to the classes she taught with Geshe Michael, and it's certainly possible that some of them consider themselves to be more her student than his. But I don't know of any specifically. When I run through a list of them in my head, I don't even come up with any definite maybes.

    This is of course a difficult question to tease out, because it's hard to say precisely what you mean by "McNally's students." I certainly consider myself to be her student. But if she told me to walk off a cliff, I'd respectfully decline. I don't know of anyone in the retreat for whom this statement isn't equally true.

    But you said, and I'm quoting here, "Many retreatants have been close personal devotees of McNally for several years." And then you admitted that you didn't know specifically which retreaters that might be. So you made an assertion that you don't know to be true, and for which you have zero supporting evidence. This is not good journalism.

  60. Jim Dey says:

    Got another definition for you: "libel" http://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=1

  61. matthew says:

    Ted. I don't have to know which ones for the statement "Many retreatants have been close personal devotees of McNally for several years" to be reasonable. This is very distracting diversion. I know you need to pound on semantics to discredit the entire piece, but really, this is small.

    And your comment "I certainly consider myself to be her student. But if she told me to walk off a cliff, I'd respectfully decline" raises more questions than it answers. Are you implying that the true teacher is the one you would walk off a cliff for? If you are, I invite you, once again, to consider the 15 requests I make to the board, most of which directly attack the effects of this kind of devotionalism.

  62. Lobsang says:

    @Jim — Please take this in the the most sincere way possible but I think your dismissive "buzz off" tone may just reinforce the view by some of the readers that there is actually something to hide. If you are/were involved with the group, perhaps you can provide a constructive alternative viewpoint that serves to enlighten rather than further obfuscate.

    (I did think your "mother" comment was actually quite funny given the fact that Matthew has been your mother countless times — you're screwed ;-)

  63. Bear says:

    Ted,

    You are putting a lot of effort into defending this group. You know the group well – so a simple question.

    If you had a son or daughter would you be happy for them to be spending their time out at DM?

  64. Phurba says:

    No dude, you misunderstood: when I said "I hardly think you can use this group" I was referring to Diamond Mountain, not to Theravada Buddhism, which is not a group, but an entire religious tradition and lineage. I never would have imagined someone would read it the way you did, but I apologize for the confusion if I should have been more precise with my choice of words.

  65. Phurba says:

    If his students are creating lineage tree posters, hanging and distributing them at his centers, then he has most likely seen them and is aware of them. He could put a stop to it. Similar with advertising initiatives using the catchphrase "the lineage of the Dalai Lamas".

    What's more, it is even more complex and troubling because in actual fact Pabongka broke his commitment to the 13th Dalai Lama, and the living 14th Dalai Lama as well as the entire Tibetan Buddhist community is still dealing with the repercussions and fall-out from that pandora's box. So to pridefully invoke Pabonka as the saint of your lineage tree and call that "lineage of the Dalai Lamas" is really quite misleading. For further reference to this see this link from HH's own website here: http://www.dalailama.com/messages/dolgyal-shugden… and here :http://www.dalailama.com/messages/dolgyal-shugden/speeches-by-his-holiness

  66. ekanthomason says:

    I deleted my post right after posting it. I went back in and read about the posters. Went looking for mine and I guess I threw it away. My comment was unresponsive to full content of everyone's comments so I deleted it. My mistake.

  67. ekanthomason says:

    Phurba
    These posters were sold to students in tantra class and not available to anyone else. They did not hang on the walls. You make some valid points.

  68. Tara Jolie says:

    I saw the poster hanging on the wall of a Three Jewels studio with my own two eyes.

  69. Phurba says:

    I do remember a hanging lineage tree poster there too, I don't remember the details of it but assume it would be the same you two are talking about.

  70. Phurba says:

    Arly, it's not so much your words but how you weave them together, –your tone. You seem to be pretty hysterical about this, and quite aggressive, and insulting. If you are a student of DM it does not reflect very well on them, if indeed you are trying to defend the teachers and the community maybe you would better serve them by acting kinder– since ultimately that is what they say they are trying to teach, right? To be kind to others? Or is it only to be kind to people who agree with you?

  71. surya says:

    I agree with Phurba,

    Arly, You are not achieving anything other than coming off as angry, spiteful and vindictive and quite frankly it seems that your tone and tactics are only bolstering the negative conclusions that others have formed about Diamond Mountain and Roach and Mcnally.

  72. Lobsang says:

    Definitely agreed — I know he(?) has something interesting to say, but can't get through it due to his curses and drama.

  73. matthew says:

    He told me by e-mail that he hasn't been on the Board "for many months" and that when he was on the board he was a "non-voting member".

  74. AnnetteVictoria says:

    Great post, Girish. As a former Catholic, I laughed out loud at your last paragraph!

    To be clear, Poep Sa Frank Jude wrote: " a case *can* be made that in the radically different social and cultural context of India and TIbet it *could* work" (emphasis mine). I think he was taking the position that it's a possibility, not that he knows for sure whether it works or not. But thank you for pointing out that stories of acolyte/chela abuse are common in the Indian press.

  75. AnnetteVictoria says:

    "Institutionalizing unquestioned authority is always a terrible idea."

    I agree.

  76. Girish says:

    Yes, perhaps a case "can" be made. But if you'll excuse my mangled metaphor, it would be an instance of missing the swamp for the lotus. And surely even in greater caucacistan instances are not uncommon where teachers hold immense authority over acolytes, yet use it only in the latter's best interest. Poep Sa Frank Jude has not actually "made" his case that something different would occur in India or Tibet.

    I would suggest instead that the "radically different social and cultural context of India and Tibet", has far too many unquestionable authority figures as it is – whose interests lie in not looking at each other too closely; lest a retaliatory stone smash their own glass house. So a guru who draws upon scripture and tradition to abuse acolytes is less, not more likely to face corrective action.

    And on reconsideration, I withdraw my last paragraph. There have been some nasty-ass popes in the last two millenia. They surely have a bull saying that stuff already

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