Rebuttal: “Psychosis, Stabbing, Secrecy & Death at a Neo-Buddhist University in Arizona.”

Via on May 6, 2012

Rebuttal by John Stillwell.

The below article is a rebuttal that is intended to provide a different point of view, and context, around a recent tragedy in a Buddhist community.

The original story, by Matthew Remski, was summed up by Matthew thusly:

“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.”

For the rest of Matthew’s article, click here.

It is our aim, of course, not to engage in the extremes of character assassination, nor of suppressing truth—but rather, simply to get at the facts and further uplifted, kind dialogue (rude comments will be deleted) in the interests of furthering enlightened, compassionate, sane society. ~ ed.

Here is Mr. Stillwell’s rebuttal.

Mr. Matthew Remski’s article uses inaccurate reporting of a sad human loss as an opportunity to engage in sensationalism and personal attack. An open letter describing events around Ian Thorson’s death is available at Diamond Mountain.

Mr. Remski begins by listing multiple questionable “facts” in his opening paragraph, which then become a basis for his extensive historical review and disapproval of how his former teacher lived his life. Professing that he is writing an article without malice does not make it true.

His statements are the basis for a scathing article, including: failure to report violence to local authorities; banishment of a married couple without adequate psychiatric, medical and community care; and a secretive autocratic organization.

An official letter openly describing the events around Ian Thorson’s death is used by Mr. Remski with incredible selective omission and bias. Facts are clearly established contradicting his yellow journalism accusations:  a report was made to the county police upon discovery that a wife had stabbed her husband while in isolated retreat; the retreat center board sought the opinion of a professional psychologist, and there is a nurse, two physicians assistants and a doctor in residence; anyone may visit Diamond Mountain at any time and all finances are openly posted on that web site. It is easy to verify that the opening statements in this article are false—ask the police, look on the web site, and read the open letter.

Mr. Remski uses the following adjectives in his “agenda-free, malice-free” opinion piece:  fanaticism, psychosis, gross negligence, incompetence, obstructionism, danger, whitewashing, delusions of grandeur, tragically, authoritarian power, considerable thrall, secrecy, cult, buck-passing, power imbalance, mesmerize acolytes, dysfunction, insufferable person, romantic violence, terrible amputation, confused, disappointed, shoddy scholar, manipulative, tawdry, forcing devotees, rebellion, beyond the pale, rupture, catatonic, tragically self-absorbed, underfed and protein deficient, zealous, insecure, crafty, histrionic, profoundly disturbed, grandiose, strange and austere, shadow suppression, subliminal scapegoating, authoritarian control, deranged, psychosis, arcane, neo-colonial, fragile, trauma, critically troubled, ladder of power, dogma, disturbing, banished, mentally ill, terrifying isolation, cult leader, stormy sea, metastasized, criminalize, public humiliation, alienation, physical coercion, power, and Stalinist bureaucrats. Wow, how’s that for being objective and without any agenda?

Further questionable statements by Mr. Remski, which contradict the open letter source he used, include the following, which are followed by accurate openly published details that are easily documented and verified.

“Ian Thorson and his wife were asked to leave retreat within the hour.” Untrue: they were given five days to depart the retreat.

“Retreatants are sworn to silence.”  Untrue: they routinely send and receive letters from family and friends if they wish, and there is no restriction on their communications.  Choosing not to speak is normal for long retreat, and this does not prevent free written communications.

“35 people are camping in the Arizona desert.” Untrue: they are not camping but living in retreat cabins built at great personal expense, and fully permitted by county authorities as permanent dwellings.

“Not one single piece of help was offered to the couple, and there was not assessment, support, or chaperoning of the couple as ‘they were banished into the terrifying isolation of the surrounding desert’.”  Untrue: There is a 3-month transition program for all retreatants who leave retreat.  The Justice of the Peace was consulted on their history, along with a psychiatrist.  Their closest friends were enrolled to assist them and stay close as constantly as possible.  They were offered a place to stay, transportation, support, financial resources, and communication with their friends, parents, and teachers.  The couple left the retreat property with their assistant and strictly wished no contact, or for anyone to have knowledge of their whereabouts.   Her father called and was put in touch with her assistant to try and locate her.

“Retreatants are in retreat under direction of an insane woman.” Untrue: the former retreat director was asked to leave upon discovery of her violence with her spouse.

All of this information is in the same letter that Mr. Remski quotes from so inaccurately and selectively to create a hyped-up tale of horrible, terrible, nefarious abuse.  The truth is that many, many people are working without pay, while on vacation from their jobs, to help and support 35 courageous retreatants who are doing the hard work of being in isolation with themselves to touch the deep recesses of their mind in an effort to heal themselves and their world by becoming more virtuous, loving and compassionate people.

It is deeply saddening that a former student of 12 years ago who says he is over his issues goes so far out of his way to attack a former teacher  and disrupt the hard work of sincere, dedicated practitioners who have in some cases spent ten years preparing for their present retreat.  Of course facts must be evaluated and appropriate action taken to care for everyone.

Hyperbole, selective omission, and distortion of public information do not help anyone.

~ John Stillwell.

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140 Responses to “Rebuttal: “Psychosis, Stabbing, Secrecy & Death at a Neo-Buddhist University in Arizona.””

  1. […] Psychosis, Stabbing, Secrecy & Death at a Neo-Buddhist University in Arizona Update: a rebuttal to the below, by John Stillwell, is offered here. […]

  2. matthew says:

    John: it is important to note that corrections to some of the factual issues in my original piece were edited into the original text and appended at 4am this morning. They are visible here:
    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/05/psychosis-….

    I don't know if you had time to review these corrections. I did this as I promised to do in the 5th graph of the original:

    "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."

    I thank all respondents for their help with accuracy, and wait for an earnest discussion of the 15 requests made to the board.

  3. matthew says:

    Points to consider, after the corrections are accounted for:

    The official letter from Roach does not constitute an independent review. It raises questions best resolved by professional investigation.

    I do not have malice, but concern. My personal experience justifies the use of all of the terms you list in graph #5. As I was up front about my personal involvement and the usage of my experience, I cannot be accused of claiming objectivity. My agenda is framed in my intention paragraph, and by the requests I suggest to the Board.

    From Roach's account, the couple were initially given an hour, and then five days, after the intervention of John Brady.

    Retreatants are sworn to verbal silence, which I believe can suppress open communication, and can contributes to the general ethos of secrecy that is a powerful player in this dynamic.

    You are not directly quoting me in graph 10: I wrote: "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."

    You misquote me plainly in graph 11. I did not write:

    “Retreatants are in retreat under direction of an insane woman.”

    but:

    "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."

    I don't claim to be over my issues, but to have grown up, a little bit. You and I are both burdened by perspective and agenda, John. You make this clear when you directly misquote me in your indignation. In fairness, and to mirror the corrections I have made, please amend your text for greater accuracy.

    Finally, hard work and good intentions may not be enough to provide real safety. It's going to take outside help.

  4. Jon Underwood says:

    Sorry, this is not convincing. I have no connection with this organisation and it really feels like something is very wrong here. I hope Diamond Mountain have the courage to question themselves properly and transparently. There is no good alternative.

  5. Tobye Hillier yogi tobye says:

    "It is our aim, of course, not to engage in the extremes of character assassination, nor of suppressing truth—but rather, simply to get at the facts and further uplifted, kind dialogue (rude comments will be deleted) in the interests of furthering enlightened, compassionate, sane society. ~ ed."

    This blog seems to be attacking Remski, so what happened there Ed?

    Elephant journal is for the most part, an opinionated blog that doesn't stick to the formula of resourceful journalism in a large proportion of cases. So why the rebuttal of Remski's well written blog?

    Write the other side of the coin for sure, but if we are respecting opinions and views, why the attack on Remski?

  6. UpstateYogi says:

    Instead of attacking the reporter, perhaps DM should spend some more time explaining how this Lama, spiritual leader to so many, ended up with such a loose grip on reality, in an abusive situation, STABBING her husband and later with him dead.

    Remski linked directly to GM's open letter right up front so everyone is able to read his clear articulation of the events and draw their own conclusions. He also offered to correct any factual errors. His piece was obviously written very carefully because I'm sure he knew he'd be subject to attacks just like this one that attempt to draw attention away from the facts at hand.

    There are a lot of people out there/here trying to sort through and understand what all this means. I can't even imagine what the people in retreat are going through. I'm struggling with the hours/days/years I've spent listening to GM's teachings and the impact it has had on my thinking and life. And I was just on the periphery. The people that have spent the past 10 years of their lives preparing for this silent retreat…then to have this happen with one of their leaders. I think Remski has every right to be concerned about them.

  7. @Suri_k8 says:

    From reading the open letter , what i  think is most disturbing is the fact that the board members were aware that Ian was a dangerous person and they didnt remove him before , not even when there were reports about him mistreating staff members and other retreatants . Ian was clearly a sick person , some psychiatric help could have changed the outcome but his teachers thought he was just  being spiritual and poetic ….

    Also a person that stabs another for "spiritual" reasons  or whatever reason , is clearly disturbed and in need of psychiatric help .

    Mr Roach seems to be justifiyng some of the behaviors of both of them  with the " it is their spiritual perspective" pretext which shows just  how deluded is Mr Roach himself .

    Angels in disguise ? Really ?? This man is completely deluded…
    "A very good practice to do when someone that we love dies is the following.  Every day in the evening, write down in a journal one single memory of them that we have which is beautiful, especially something that might reveal that they were an angel in disguise, meant to help us while we knew them in this world.
    In Ian’s case, this is not difficult.  For me, I remember one incident when another student came to me and said that he had heard a divine being singing off in the desert behind some trees.  He was extremely thrilled that his practice was finally paying off, and ran to meet the Being.  And then he found Ian in a small tent, singing to the gods."

  8. David says:

    thank you john, for a breath of fresh air amidst a rather tumultous, albeit agenda-less, 'stirring up' of this tragedy.

  9. Student of Dharma says:

    Thank you John for writing this. I felt that if Matthew was "so concerned " for the retreat ants he would actually take that concern into action. Perhaps by actually supporting the retreat instead of spending countless hours on the internet bashing the retreat, the retreants, and the teacher of the Dharma center.

    His article was gossip aimed with a personal agenda and an insensitivity not only to Ian who recently passed, but also to 35 people who are , like you said John,, trying to heal themselves, their world and become more virtuos.

  10. Paul says:

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

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

  11. anon says:

    matthew's piece revealed a lot of important points at a tragic time when people who have previously been involved with the community are surely regretting not having raised these points themselves.

    this "rebuttal" does not strike at the heart of any of the main issues in matthew's piece. anyone with a mind noticed that matthew isn't free of malice for michael and co. (obviated by the amount of comments saying so).

    also, anybody who read the piece saw that matthew was forthcoming from the start, that while the facts may need correcting (which he invited people to help him with) the core thrust, and salient points of the article would not need amending.

    it is nice that as someone close to michael and co. you have helped matthew correct some of the facts, but that is ALL you have done. the main issues are still very much standing.

    this response of yours really doesn't seem to deserve the title "rebuttal".

  12. truth dog says:

    amen.

  13. tenmo says:

    Both of these articles have used emotionally charged language and concepts to promote the author's personal view of events. In lobbying for their views to be accepted as "the one that is right," both authors fall into the same contaminated current that is so troubling for all of us who wish authentic Dharma to flourish: in this situation, are the teachings of the Buddha being honored and embodied in ways that are authentically aligned with them? Do the people involved recognize reality as it is, and react with clarity, compassion and wisdom, according to standards genrally accepted in authentic Buddhist communities? Have the teachings been tweaked in ways that are motivated by personal ego, desire for power and fame, and satisfaction of coarse desires? Does following the path promoted by these students lead to abiding happiness and freedom from suffering?

    From this point of analysis, setting aside the noisy egos of those trying the be "the one that is right," it still seems that there is deep and abiding cause for concern here. Monks cannot both abide by their vows and have sexual partners. Truly realized beings do not promote themselves as such. Isolation is a sign of danger, as is marching lock-step with someone's views.

    May what is most beneficial to all involved come about through an open and transparent investigation, as Matthew suggested. While he is clearly invested in personal aspects of his crusade, it sounds as if he would really like to bring about corrections in a potentially abusive situation, and I hope that happens.

  14. curiousone says:

    Thank you Matthew for the time and effort you put into writing this. I've been following the events since I heard of Ian's passing.
    I was very surprised that it was being kept so quiet. I was hoping and waiting for someone like yourself to shine some light on this organization and their practices. As an outsider, this looks like another example of the dangers of the teacher/student relationship gone wrong! Especially when lines are crossed. And since GMR was the first to cross these lines in his justification of a 3 yr 3 month 3 day silent retreat with his then assistant Christie -later to be crowned Lama Christe – I do hold him partially responsible for this terrible tragedy.

  15. agape says:

    Now I know why the "Diamond Mountain Cinco de Mayo Great Retreat Teaching" was so suddenly cancelled. What I cannot understand is why such an event would even be planned under the circumstances detailed in GM's open letter. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7i9IqWTj-U&fe

  16. dismayed says:

    I viewed the youtube above-dismaying-false gayety-quite frightening

  17. Padma Kadag says:

    The Geshe admits in his statement an awareness of Ian's behaviors prior to the retreat. I know of no Tibetan Master Yogi Ngakpa Khenpo who would allow such a person to enter ant kind of retreat.

  18. Lionness says:

    John, All you have to do is read Christy delusional open letter written on scribed. She didn't know a knife could actually cut someone? Children know this. This is a "Lama" leading a retreat? DM is a farce. It screams cult and lack of due diligence. It reeks of negligence. I commend Matthew Remski for putting himself out on the line to reveal the truth. Thank you Matthew.

  19. Valerie Carruthers ValCarruthers says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Valerie Carruthers
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  20. Ben says:

    These have been my questions from the beginning:

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

  21. Frank Vogt says:

    Mathew,

    It is unfortunate that you have taken so much effort to discredit a teacher who has given so much to the world. I understand that you are saying your intention is about justice and accountability, but who’s version? I can tell you that you have exhibited through this process no trace of the qualities I would look for in a respectable source-patience, accuracy, and balance. I can also say that your vision of DM is nothing I can relate to.

    My two personal teachers are in the retreat at diamond mountain at this time. And I was at the great retreat teachings in February to support them and hear the teachings. I can tell you that care and responsibility were at the foremost concern from both Geshe Micheal and the board. I have also received letters from my teachers from within the retreat and am happy to inform you that they have communicated that they are well and are experiencing deep practice.

    I am sure you can retort that I am unqualified to assess such states and experiences. That may be true, but then I will have to trust the two people who have already given me more wisdom then anything I have come across, and who have already experienced things in retreat that most likely you and I will not see anytime soon. The worst thing to come out of this would be for the retreat to be interfered with further. Geshe Micheal already did what he felt he was required to do to keep the retreatants safe. (if you feel he should have done more to keep them safe outside if the grounds I would firmly disagree. What more could he have done then what was already offered?) But outside of that they have to experience this alone.

    As we can see on these board pages, the

  22. jra says:

    Thank You, John Stillwell. I'm very grateful for the time you spent to rebut the Remski blog.

  23. Arly says:

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

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

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

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

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

    You have been very irresponsible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  24. Bear says:

    This was actually a response to Brook Cosby's comment above but I decided to post it as a new comment.

    The DM teachings such as Christie's Matrix note are in no way representative of a Gelugpa presentation of emptiness or karma for that matter. I would be surprised if some of those defending the DM presentation such as John, Eric, Ted et al. would even make such a claim.

    I think if DM students had more exposure to standard Gelug teachings then they would appreciate the difference between the two distinct sets of teachings.

    For example, if they were to attend a standard Gelug presentation on the three types of dependent arising, (the three types being causes and conditions (including karma), parts, and merely labeled by mind). Then they might stop conflating the first and the third.

    They also might see the irony of using an Abhidharmakośa quote that presents an essentialist position as their go to scriptural reference for their claim that "everything is a karmic projection."

    I think it is important that people know that the DM/ACI teachings are often very divergent from standard Gelug presentation. Then people can make informed decisions.

  25. Bear says:

    Aguse,

    It is not the case …

    They don't teach all schools at ACI/DM. They teach a simplified and distorted presentation of the four Indian philosophical schools. Which is based on a standard Gelug Tenets teaching.

    Even if you studying the Abhidharmakośa for 10 years you won't find the three types of dependent arisings in it. By the way I am well aware of Michael's huge translation efforts and have benefited greatly from the input work of ACIP.

    The explanation of "karmic projection" simply misses the intention of Nāgārjuna. By the way I am unsure what the Tibetan or Sanskrit for karmic projection would be. I would love to know. Even reading classic Yogācara (mind only) texts in Sanskrit and Tibetan such as Trisvabhāvanirdeśa and the Madhyāntavibhāga, I have not come across a such a term.

  26. Frank Vogt says:

    1)We asked one of the couple’s closest outside friends and assistants to be on campus, and to assist the couple in their departure.
    2) We had already put in place a 3-month “transition” program for all retreatants, to kick in whenever they chose to leave the retreat. This included a total of $3,600 in cash for the couple. We confirmed with their assistant (who was keeping their bank accounts) that another, large sum was available in their account, partly through regular donations of royalties which I have made for them over the last five years.
    3) We provided a rental car, with the assistant to drive, for several weeks.
    4) We approved airplane flights for the couple and assistant to any destination in the US, and also reserved a hotel room near the closest airport, with an adjoining door to a room for the assistant. We reviewed with the assistant the need to be both gentle and watchful for any signs of domestic violence.
    5) We purchased two prepaid cell phones, and loaded them with the telephone numbers of the couple’s parents, friends, and personal teachers.
    6) We carefully reviewed with the assistant the need to try to get the couple to seek the guidance and comfort of these friends, parents, and teachers. We felt that the decision of contacting relatives about the recent events and situation was only the couple’s to make. We reviewed with the assistant other retreat facilities in this part of the country that the couple might be interested in.

    Do these sound like negligent actions? It is clear from the statement by Lama Christie that she would not have met with any psychiatric counsel under any circumstances. Taking that into consideration, Geshe Micheal made enormous attempts to find people that she would be willing to meet with, like teachers she had taken on outside the retreat and outside the sangha. . He preloaded her phone with contacts and support. This is not a dictatorship, at the point where the sheriff stepped back and Lama Christie was asked to leave DM, there were no further actions possible. It was clear that after she left DM she and her Husband wanted to be left alone. The report WAS made to the police, who felt no further inquiry was needed.

    And your idea about "allowing" them to leave together is ridiculous. Did you want them to hold Ian down and have Lama Christie run away from the retreat? Or have Ian run first and hold Lama Christie captive until he is far gone?

    The bottom line is your reporting would have been worthy of consideration if you stuck to the facts and addressed objective concerns about the well being of the retreatants. Instead you made the piece an aggressive, climactic personal attack of a former teacher and of a spiritual community at large. It got you a lot of attention and at first glance gave a bad impression to DM and Geshe Micheal. That is a shame. The same way devoting a whole web site to discrediting Geshe Micheal was a shame. Until someone was asked to take it down by their teacher.

    The Dalai Lama once told Khen Rinpoche, Geshe Micheals teacher, to give this message to GM: Wisdom looks crazy to a crazy world. Anyway the retreatants will be out of retreat in less than two years and we will get to judge them by the fruits.

  27. matthew says:

    Here's an interesting comment-thread that has just emerged on my original piece. I hope several of the concerned who have the appropriate contacts can follow up on it.

    tenpel35p · 40 minutes ago

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

    3 replies · active 8 minutes ago

    matthew73p · 33 minutes ago

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

    tenpel35p · 14 minutes ago

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

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

  28. Frank Vogt says:

    If Geshe MIcheal was absent from Sera it was because he was studying with his Lama, Khen Rinpoche in New Jersey. He did everything with Khen Rinpoche, one of the greatest monks to ever come out of Tibet. He lived with his Lama. They were either studying in New Jersey or in India.
    And when he started working in the Diamond business it was at his Lama's request.

    This has just gotten a whole new level of ridiculousness.

  29. lydiajaneyoga says:

    I knew nothing of this situation coming into it. After reading this post, i went back and read the original post, as well as the open letters posted by Michael Roach and Lama Christie. I also read some background info on Michael Roach and his past relationship with Lama Christie and the controversy it created within the Tibetan buddhist hierarchy. After all this amateur research I can say that there are some SERIOUS ISSUES going on out there at Diamond Mountain. I was very concerned with the way Michael wrote about the incidents, and his actions and reactions. Lama Christie's letter is really beyond comment. Just obviously delusional. Any spiritual teacher should know better than to talk about their lover as their "world". My conclusion? Obviously both bloggers have personal involvement in the issue, but I would not trust MR as a teacher (one who slept with his student and promoted her to teacher and then when she left him for another student he continued to teach alongside her). Here in arkansas we had a similar occurrence. Some of you may have heard of Bobby Petrino, our beloved Razorback coach, sleeping with a much younger woman. He then hired her as on as a close staff member and gave her substantial financial gifts. He was fired. I see a lot of parallels here.

    P.S. If you think that 2 people, who have been on retreat for a year, need so much care as 1) you buying prepaid cell phones and loading it with their personal numbers 2) you putting thousands of dollars of your own personal/professional money into their personal bank accounts 3) buying them plane tickets and hotel rooms 4) arranging personal assistants and friends to be there with them as they leave the retreat…..why would you think its okay to completely stop communicating with them for months after they leave? why would you respect their rights to privacy? people who need so much supervision and care just to leave a place….are still going to need that supervision and care once they're gone. i agree with the first blogger that they should've been evaluated by outside professionals, and given the same amount of supervision, support and care once they left the retreat site.

  30. Ron Starbuck says:

    I'm so sorry for all involved, everyone; , Christie, Ian, their families, and everyone still involved in the Retreat for Peace.

    I'm sorry too, but this feels like something is very very wrong here, and that things in general were greatly mismanaged by the DMU leadership at many different levels.

    Hind sight is always 20/20 as they say, but I hope the leadership is moving forward with a better plan and response. DMU may may be a non-profit, but the board members are all legally bound and libel for the management of the retreat. Do they know or realize this?

    At the very least, the board members should now (immediately) hire medical and mental health professionals to be on site in a constant monitoring and evaluation of each person participating in the retreat. Required check ups should be the norm and done on a regular basis, once a month perhaps, not just once a year or every few months.

    Especially now, counseling should be offered to both the people in retreat and their caregivers. I hope that is happening, but I did not see it in any of the communications or responses I've gone through. It should be standard protocol and policy in the by-laws of the non-profit organization and general retreat rules, and management of the DMU Retreat for Peace. A lessons learned review should take place immediately and such policies, procedures, and protocol put into place immediately.

    If I were a family member of anyone participating in the three year retreat, I would be insisting on this immediately. I'm glad they can communicate with family via email, but more needs to happen I think.

    Christie and Ian should never have been allowed to go off on their own without any medical/mental professional service at hand. Especially if Ian was known to be mentally ill, unstable or unbalanced at times, or in any psychologically stress at all. Any domestic violence should have been dealt with immediately and by a professional team. It does not sound like that happened. More one thing fell through the cracks and it led to tragedy.

    When Christie and Ian went off on their own, steps should have been taken immediately, local/state/federal authorities should have been brought in to find them and bring them back into the community for proper care and transition before leaving DMU, under such medical/mental psychological team help. Saying that you are honoring their wish or did not wish to intervene in a spousal relationship/situation or their personal decision to live in a cave in the desert is unacceptable and negligent.

    Their attendants, as the primary caregivers, should have escalated this back to the Retreat for Peace Spiritual Director and he should have insisted on an intervention. It should have happened, the board should have insisted that it happen. The fact that it did not, and that it resulted in a great tragedy speaks volumes. And one wonders what communication and contact was taking place between the attendants and with Christie & Ian after they left DMU and were living in a cave. A cave? A cave without proper food, water, and sanitation. Someone was simply not thinking to allow this to happen.

    There should be a very clear cut policy and protocol, approved by a neutral medical-mental health professionals, who will monitoring a person's or couples progress through a transition back into the real world, as well as in retreat. Asking them to leave within a day or even 5 days, without them being monitored by a professional team is not only unacceptable, it's just plain wrong. Perhaps that happened, perhaps I don't have all the facts. I would of thought that someone would have mentioned it in the article and rebuttal though. Did I miss something?

    There are so many questions still. The board needs to addressed and answer those questions, assurances need to be made to families and friends of the people in retreat, and comprehensive policy/protocols need to be established immediately and posted for anyone to see. A report by a team of (neutral-third party) Medical/Mental Health Professionals need to be happen as well, it should all be completely transparent and open.

    Ron Starbuck

    Houston, Texas

  31. tenpel says:

    Well, the site linked above is blurring a fact. I just checked briefly the site linked above. It states:

    »When asked about any inner achievements and realizations, he prefers the Tibetan approach of not talking about things which cannot be proven to others, saying only that he has been “very fortunate.” He does like to say that his personal practice has made him “the happiest person I know.”«

    Lets look a bit into the history, Michael Roach claimed:

    I was born in America,
    And from the age of sixteen
    Up to the present day
    Have always been under the care
    Of the Diamond Angel, Vajra Yogini.
    At the age of twenty,
    I travelled to India,
    Land of the Aryas, realized beings,
    And first met the sages of Tibet.
    And then at the age of 22,
    Despite the fact that I myself
    Had no good qualities at all,
    A seed inside of me
    Suddenly awakened, a seed
    Which was planted by the many efforts
    Of the me of my past lives,
    And by the infinite blessings
    Of my Lama.
    And so I saw ultimate reality directly,
    And I achieved bodhichitta,
    The Wish for Enlightenment:
    I entered the gate
    To the first level
    Of the bodhisattvas.
    In the hours after this experience,
    I saw that the Four Arya Truths
    Were surely true themselves,
    And I perceived that the teachings of Lord Buddha
    In general, and in particular
    Those of Je Tsongkapa,
    Were perfectly, absolutely correct.
    And so then I became ordained,
    And as a means to keep
    These teachings from ever
    Being lost in our world,
    And to spread them further still,
    I entered the diamond trade.
    But I did so because
    It would be a way
    Never to forget
    What I had seen upon
    The Path of Seeing.
    For of all the objects
    In this lie of reality,
    There is only one highest metaphor
    For the ultimate reality,
    And that is the diamond.
    I labored thus for fifteen years,
    And with the income
    I tried to help preserve
    The physical Dharma
    By printing books
    And storing in computers
    Our sacred texts
    Of the Kangyur, and Tengyur,
    And writings of the Tibetan masters.
    I also did as much as I could
    To help support Tibetan monks
    Of the great monasteries
    Relocated in India.
    During this time I continued
    My studies, and in the end
    I was able to achieve
    A geshe degree of minor rank.
    And then I tried
    To bring that task
    Of the nectar of deathlessness,
    The Five Great Books,
    To people in our foreign lands.
    I completed, as well as I could,
    Many retreats in the tradition
    Of the Diamond Queen;
    And now for three years
    In isolation, in the desert
    Here in America,
    In a small Mongolian yurt,
    I have stayed together
    In the great retreat, in the proper way,
    With a Lady, who is an emanation
    Of the Angel of Diamond, a Messenger;
    And I’ve undertaken the hardships needed
    To try to complete the two stages
    Of the secret teachings.
    So too nowadays
    To help to trigger
    The final transformation into
    The Diamond Sow herself,
    I wear my hair
    As the Angel Herself does,
    And her bracelet
    And other accoutrement
    Together with my robes.
    I know very well
    That what I have
    Described in these words
    Is very difficult to believe.
    And yet I call upon the power
    Of the truth that emptiness
    And the fact that things still work
    Are in no way contradictory;
    Upon the truth that the teachings
    Of Lord Buddha are true;
    Upon the truth that the Angel
    Herself is true;
    And upon the truth,
    O my Lama
    Of Your kindness —
    Highest Lama, may Your heart not be troubled
    Highest Lama, may this rather cause You to rejoice
    Highest Lama, may You never abandon this yogi/monk;
    May You sustain me
    Deep within Your heart
    Till the very day
    That I can achieve
    The Union of the Two.

    — written 28 years later, on my 50th birthday,
    by the American monk Michael Roach
    http://thedorjeshugdengroup.files.wordpress.com/2

  32. […] My stance is not some petty matter of disapproving “of how [my] former teacher lived his life”, as John Stillwell accuses me in his rebuttal. Roach’s life is not a private bubble: he has influenced too many other lives to be shielded from […]

  33. matthew says:

    I've published an update to the original piece, which discusses the more than 660 comments made to it, as well as this rebuttal: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/05/tragedy-at

  34. ENOUGH says:

    It is time these Tibetan Lamas took responsibility for "empowering" young women who are really nothing more that ordinary girls with some good physical karma. I have been the victim or power crazy young women who have been told by lamas they are this and that, given empowerments etc. These women are the most ordinary women of very average intelligence …but of course of good physical appearance like Chiristie MacNally. ENOUGH BUDDHIST LAMAS! ENOUGH OF THIS INSULT TO WOMEN AND THE WEST! It is time women – real women showed some leadership, women with intelligence, maturity and strenght and stop letting these lams makes whores and fools of women by giving power to the likes of MacNally and her type. I feel for her – she has been mislead about her own spiriutal level, but these women in teh west are a dime a dozen – always trying to take control, always favoured and given two much by the men they seduce or who seduce them… they are the Britteny Spears and Kylie Minogues of the Buddhist world! ENOUGH – intelligent kind strong women of ANY appearance and age should be leading buddhism NOT the banal and ordinary just because men find them more physically appealing!

  35. ENOUGH says:

    Michael Roach deserves all he gets for seducing the likes of someone like this MacNally women – who seems to be completely deluded about herself. I know these women and I feel for Ian Thorson – they seem sweet and nice on the outside but have to dominate and control others – they are frustrating and not what they seem – that have hugh egos and low intelligence but often their physical and personal appeals fools people into getting dependant on them. Surely the Buddhist Lamas that seem to have invested so much in this women see this – then why use this poor average ordinary girl as some sort of Buddhist Icon. LAMAS – give the west some credit – we as women of the west do not need the likes of MacNally to be our lama – train some decent women with intelligence humbleness and kindness or F- off and stop insulting the women of the West!

  36. enough says:

    Michael Roach – you should be ashamed of yourself for seducing this girl 20 years or so your junior – it seems she has been used by men and brainwashed and told she is something special and now believes it – because men who find this pathetic creature attractive project this onto her. Michael Roach need to think with something above his waist before he ruins the lives of anymore ordinary banal young women and filling their pathetic empty heads with delusion and fantasies they are "special". Intelligence, kindness, goodness and strenght does not always "have a nice arse and tits" so learn to respect women as people and empower them for their qualities not their bodies and youth an din future these awful hurtful and tragic situations will not occur!

  37. Larry says:

    We will all have interpretations of events and one another's opinions based upon our own karmic distortions. And if we were totally purified, we wouldn't have any karmic imprints left. But I convinced we all have plenty of such imprints. There are so many different ways to view things – and each of us will have our own filter. Is that surprising? We do, however, need to be careful about assuming we understand the motivations of those who disagree, or cognize things differently whatever side of this issue we are on. We all have our delusional systems, unless anyone one on this board cares to assert that he/she has completely uprooted his/her ego (in which case most if not all of the remainder of us will most likely be unconvinced). Remember, we have countless eons of collected imprints, and we have all been in countless relations with one another over these countless eons, that is, if we believe in the dharma. So I have a request. Can we avoid jumping to conclusions about one another's motivations, or the presumption that our own karmic filters are more pure or less distorted than the other guys? I know it is natural for our egos to believe "i know see clearly what is involved here." But let's not any of us forget about what we are striving to purify. Nor should we forget our responsibility to one another, or take the position of a victim by someone else's expression of their viewpoint.

  38. […] 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 gossip in the direction of healing […]

  39. AnnetteVictoria says:

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

    That's quite a list. John, what do you think Matthew's motivation was/is?

  40. Xam says:

    Maybe to see this cult exposed for what it is ?

  41. […] My stance is not some petty matter of disapproving “of how [my] former teacher lived his life”, as John Stillwell accuses me in his rebuttal. Roach’s life is not a private bubble: he has influenced too many other lives to be shielded from […]

  42. […] 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 essay, June 2nd – NYT article, June […]

  43. Aaron L. Hernandez says:

    I would like to know where is Christy now and what is she doing?

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