Tragedy at Diamond Mountain: an Update.

Via yoga 2.0 lab
on May 19, 2012
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the author with Roach in 1999

elephant journal is an open forum. We believe in offering an uplifted forum to elevate important, sometimes difficult issues from gossip into discourse, and learning. We have also published a “rebuttal,” linked below. Matthew, the author below, has his own experience and views. Those views, and the views in the rebuttal, do not constitute an “official” view of elephant. Our official view is that we hope, again, to offer a forum for understanding, and, hopefully, real peace. ~ ed.

reporting and opinion by Matthew Remski

Two weeks after breaking this story, I thought it would be helpful to summarize the discourse around the Diamond Mountain tragedy as it has played out in these pages. In addition to collating the rich commentary and the further inquiry it suggests, I’d also like to disclose a little of my process, and earnestly address the many good and pointed criticisms that have been raised about my approach. Also, I’ll include fascinating input from the numerous personal e-mails I’ve received from around the world.


First Things First: The Law Enforcement Angle

On 5/10, I phoned the Cochise County Sherriff’s Office and spoke to a deputee who was involved with the retrieval of Ian Thorson’s body. Although the coroner’s report may not be released for another two months, the deputee was confident in saying that Thorson’s probable causes of death included dehydration, along with malnourishment, and possibly the drinking of contaminated water melted from the flash snowfall of 4/14. The deputee was also aware of the circumstances of Thorson’s isolation with McNally, but indicated that neither his relationship with Diamond Mountain nor his eviction from the property were the subject of any current investigation. With local authorities having nothing more to say about the death at this point, I believe it falls even more heavily to the Diamond Mountain Board to answer for the series of influences and decisions that form the heart of this tragedy.


Silence Still Reigns on the Mountaintop

In over 600 comments to my post, only one of my critics (Arly, who has not indicated he holds any official position with Roach’s group) has given any consideration to the 15 requests I make to the Diamond Mountain Board of Directors. As of this writing, there has been no public statement made by the organization to resolve the questions raised by their Open Letter of 4/26/12. As far as anyone publicly knows, 35 retreatants are still under the care of this non-profit Board, which is still under the leadership of Roach, and there is no public evidence that any of the power dynamics that have generated this failure in oversight and common sense have been corrected in any way.

As of this writing, the Diamond Mountain website has been periodically off-line for several days. (Roach’s letter will always be accessible through Google’s Cache.) Quickly and perhaps cruelly, McNally’s bio and other signs of her association with Diamond Mountain have been scrubbed from the site. And at least one off-shoot McNally project ( has been deleted, only hours after it became the subject of criticism in this forum. That site is archived here.


The Elephant Journal Discourse on Diamond Mountain

In the two weeks since posting, my original piece has been “viewed” over 23K times. “Read”, I’m not so sure, given the accusations embedded in some of the comments. Of the more than 600 comments, approximately 170 are my own, as I’ve tried my best to remain present to the discourse and dialogue with the many valid points raised by the respondents. Unless people are posting under several pseudonyms, there would seem to be about 99 unique respondents.  (These numbers are from an accounting I made on 5/11.) Of the 99, 24 are outright hostile to my implications and my tone: many of these engage in ad hominem attack. (It might be 25, if we count “Darth Vader”, who calls me a “self-righteous dick”, and challenges me to a fistfight. But I think Darth is joking.) The remaining 75 respondents are either strong supporters of the spirit of critical and independent inquiry that I propose, or they express various similar concerns to my own, along with appeals for greater objectivity and neutrality amongst all who dialogue, including me.

The level of upset from Roach’s students and devotees has been painfully sharp. I was fully expecting this, and this expectation plagued my ethical consideration in publishing as I did. I knew my opinions on the matter would hurt past friends and acquaintances quite deeply, and I didn’t take this lightly: these are relationships I’ll likely never enjoy again.

However. Diamond Mountain is a public institution with 501(c)(3) status, which makes regular public appeals for funding and continuous public claims about the necessity and beneficence of its mission, along with the qualifications of its leadership. Diamond Mountain is led by a man who claims that he is approaching full enlightenment, which in his metaphysics implies omniscience and the capacity to live simultaneously in an infinite number of bodies. (I’m not making this up.) As a public institution with public tax benefits, Diamond Mountain must be subject to public scrutiny, especially for possible religious excesses. Their charitable status comes with public responsibility. The same is true for Roach, who has no doubt become a public person (or perhaps an infinite number of public persons, which might complicate liability). 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 scrutiny.

There was also considerable debate over the genre of the piece I published. Although I tried to be clear that I was reporting from the widely available documents and adding my personal opinions based upon my tenure with the group, many critics, including Stillwell, complained about my lack of objectivity or journalistic neutrality. I claimed neither. I was well aware of my emotional investment in the story throughout its writing. Thankfully, because we can use all of the perspectives available, more inquiry is on its way that will express varying degress of objectivity: I’ve been informed that there will soon be major newspaper coverage of the story.


My Relationship to John Stillwell, and His Rebuttal

I knew John middling-well from 1998 to 2000. He was the closest personal student to Roach with whom I was conversational. He has been an administrative leader for Roach’s teaching work from the mid-90s, although I don’t know how much work he does for Roach now. Back in the day, Roach constantly referred to John as his “right arm.” As I watched Roach unravel before my eyes, I remember asking John frankly over curries in the Lower East Side in 1999 whether he was concerned that his teacher was actually taking a harem of female student/lovers (including McNally) into his upcoming 3-year retreat. John refused to answer directly, but rather turned the question into a quasi-Buddhist teaching on subjectivity. It’s too long ago for me to attribute an exact quote, but I remember him saying something like: We have no idea what’s true. He may well be having sex with all of them. You have to make up your mind as to how best to see it. How you see it says more about you than about him. And so on. It was a deft display of metaphysical damage-control. But I don’ t think he realized that he was confirming my suspicions, patronizing my intelligence, and modeling a shrewdly rationalized secrecy, all at the same time. We split the bill, and never spoke of it again.

True to form, John’s rebuttal focuses more on my ungenerous perceptions of the group dynamics than on any of the action items I suggest, namely: the 15 requests to the Board. Most disappointingly, he actually misquotes me in his catalogue of my errors, which I’ve pointed out in the first comment you’ll see in the thread. I reached out to Waylon Lewis, EJ publisher, to ask him to correct the misquotes. Waylon didn’t get around to it soon enough for my liking, so I contacted John directly by email to ask him to revise. He gave leave for Waylon to revise, and then demanded by email that I change some of the language of my opening paragraph, which he felt made the Board look uncaring in general. I took his complaints to heart, and wrote back with a revised paragraph that addressed some of his concerns. My hope was that a behind-the-scenes dialogue would begin to enrich the discourse towards a more mutually acceptable narrative of events, so that the stark questions that shimmer beyond opinions (How could McNally have ascended to Retreat Leader status? etc.) might be addressed. But John refused to communicate about it. It feels like once again we’re splitting the bill, rising from the table, and surely on the verge of never speaking again.

John’s central complaint seems to be with my harshness with the Board. Many Board members are perhaps his friends, and I’m sure he has first-hand knowledge of their industry and care. My allegations of Board incompetence and negligence do not accord with what he feels, because they imply lack of concern. This is really sticky, because I have no doubt that the Board loved Thorson and McNally and deeply cared for their well-being. But as anyone who has been a member of a family knows, love and care do not always add up to clarity in action, especially when the love and care is obfuscated by power, shame, and emotional indebtedness.

The question of intentionality is the murkiest of all. Did John intend to railroad my probing curry-questions back in 1999, or did he intend to help me develop my own critical faculties? Probably a little of both. Does Roach intend to help people improve their lives, or does he intend to build a self-isolating kingdom of solipsistic bliss? Probably a little of both. Did he intend to help me overcome my clinical depression those many years ago, or to enlist me in his own grandiose dream? Probably a little of both. Does the Board want to justify its authority and competence, or reach for outside help? Probably a little of both.

As a student of literary theory, I’ve understood for a long time that we cannot definitively assess the intentionality of any author of a work. Likewise, I would never definitively attribute intentionality to Roach’s megalomania: the intentions of someone who really believes their own grandiosity are impossible to parse. If any group is going to hold and and help and heal the Diamond Mountain story, or any other story like it, it won’t be through amputating a bad-intentioned limb or extracting a tumour. It will come through an analysis (Greek for “unknotting”) of the vast web of relationships that weave it together: relationships in which intentions change and influence each other, and suffer from gaping blind spots. As much as Roach and his followers would probably like to think it’s all about him, it’s not. It’s about how our traumas, despairs, and wishes all coalesce into a psycho-social Ponzi scheme of tragic distraction.

But if really pressed, I would venture Roach’s intentionality to be more clean than dirty, if “clean” also implies “naïve”. Because while he does show many performative and Machiavellian talents (I’ll list a few select details below), he definitely lacks the shrewdness of a real crook. His Open Letter is certainly well-intentioned. But as the public relations disaster it has become clearly shows, it contains zero realpolitik. He could well have maintained complete silence on the matter, a move that would have likely strengthened his core support from those who crave a show of power more than transparency. If he had, I and tens of thousands of others wouldn’t have heard of Thorson’s death for months, if ever. His letter intended to clarify events for his students, but it plainly exposed his insular worldview to those who do not adulate him. I imagine that if he has retained lawyers since publishing the letter they are certainly wishing he had kept mum. You don’t admit to knowing of Ian’s psychiatric vulnerabilities for years before describing how you evicted him from a desert retreat without professional medical help, unless you truly believe you were doing the right thing. Naive self-disclosure is not a tendency of the malicious.


Addressing the Criticisms of My Post:


Finding the Facts amongst the Trees and Forest

My piece was a mixture of reporting on openly available sources (to which I linked for all to compare), and my interpretation of those sources, based upon my knowledge of the group. It’s important to remember that all sources so far are uncorroborated (including my own memories!), and that Roach’s Open Letter is a group effort made by a corporation under public and possibly legal pressure. I was aware from the outset that given these sources my reporting could not capture the absolute factual truth of the situation, and so I invited refinement via crowdsourcing. I appended corrections within 24 hours.

Most corrections were minor. I got a few dates wrong, and I misrepresented the housing situation for retreatants at Diamond Mountain. The retreatants are actually all living in houses built to county code. I confess here to being in thrall to my memory of Roach describing with great pride the camping austerities of the early days.

The main correction of substance involved including 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. In any case, this omission created the impression that the Board did less than they did, and this was a mistake. My contention had been that the strongest disclosure would have evolved from professional, on-site investigation at that point.

However, this recent story in the Phoenix New Times suggests that that may have actually happened. It reports that Board member Robert Ruisinger disclosed the talk to the Sheriff’s department on 2/13/12 — nine days after McNally’s talk. The article goes on to describe that deputies actually did come to Diamond Mountain property, and even questioned the retreatant-doctor who had sutured Ian’s stab wounds. This is not explicit in Roach’s simplified version:

The Board of course felt a moral and legal obligation to report the contents of the talk to the local county police department, who made a record of the report but decided not to follow up further.

Nor does it seem to accord with Roach’s later assertion that “At no time did police enter the campus property or the retreat valley”, although this assertion might only refer to the sequence of events surrounding the couple’s eviction, and might have been made for the benefit of sponsors wanting reassurance that the retreat boundaries had not been violated.

In any case, between the Open Letter, various news reports, and McNally’s letter (which wildly contradicts everything else), the nature of the trees remains unclear, and will remain so until there is a full investigative report with complete corroboration, which might take many months. The forest, however, is filled with many shadows.


Culture, or Cult?

By far the most heated complaint of my critics was my usage of the word “cult” to describe the group devoted to Roach and McNally. Many felt that it tainted the discourse unfairly from the outset. Commenter Jacob Kyle very astutely relates:

From a young age, I can recall many instances when some community was referred to as a “cult”. I remember there being a community somewhere in the woods near where I grew up in the Northwest, a group of houses surrounded by a tall green wall. I drove by it one day with my family and my mother or some adult pointed out that this was a cult. I had been sufficiently indoctrinated to know that “cult” meant “bad”, meant “insane” and probably had something to do with demons and suicide. My point is that Matthew falls into the habit of so many political ideologues by appealing to a term of generalization so loaded with emotion that its use cannot be analytical, but rhetorical. It is a rhetorical device that does more to foster fear and divisiveness than it does the kind of novel understanding required to be true to the specific contextual conditions of a unique community. It tosses Roach’s community into the irrational bin of “mad cultists”, thereby subverting a more sophisticated understanding of the reasoning behind certain practices.

In a personal e-mail I received from an acquaintance and fellow EJ writer, I was advised:

I do not find it useful to use loaded terms like “cult” in reference to such incidents. It stifles open communication and puts the other side on the defensive. Groups and individuals are complex and it is best to allow the “real story” to reflect that complexity.

I’m really grateful for this feedback. I’m aware of the consequences of the word-usage and the potential for over-simplification. But the reasoning of Kyle and others does not resolve the question for me, which is not a matter of definition so much as one of aesthetics, or, as Kyle would say: rhetoric. “Cult” is jarring and confrontational, and I think it has a balancing potential for the “it’s-all-good” tone of Diamond Mountain defenders. In a way, I use words in the same way I use herbs or food or daily routine changes with my Ayurveda clients: to directly and sensually address a given imbalance. Roach has been presenting his airbrushed and saccharine view of his organization with impunity from his soapbox for years, and has now issued a corporate apologia for Thorson’s death from within the logic of his circular metaphysics. I believe a completely different labeling of the situation can push all of us closer to clarity. My stridency might have therapeutic, if not definitional, value.

What I know for sure is that my own story of self-extraction from cultic environments and fascinations was speedily advanced on the day an outside friend who’d known me for years looked me in the eye and said: “You are in a cult. You know that, don’t you?” I protested, of course. But my friend didn’t back down. He repeated the word several times, spitting out the c and the t, and gripping his tongue around the l. The word broke through a particularly stubborn and neurotic defense, and made me look carefully at my dependency and fear of leaving.

For some scholars of religion and sociology, “cult” has a specific definitional threshold, but the jury is far from settled. Sociologists who argue for value-neutrality and advocate the analysis of groups according to their own terms wish we’d all replace the term with “New Religious Movement”. But others feel they can’t, because “New Religious Movement” is vanishingly vague when we started using it to designate both Heaven’s Gate and Anusara Yoga.

One of the more commonly quoted definitions of “cult” was articulated at an ICSA/UCLA Wingspread Conference on Cultism in 1985:

Cult (totalist type): A group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g. isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it, etc.), designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders, to the actual or possible detriment of members,  their families, or the community. (West & Langone, 1986, pp. 119-120)

How does this all apply to Diamond Mountain? Let’s take a look:

  • Great/excessive devotion to a person or idea? Obviously.
  • Manipulative techniques? Cf: Roach’s constant exaggerations and PR. And, for a future article: his gaze and bullying speech patterns.
  • Isolation from former friends and family? Not overt, although obsessive meditation retreats in the Arizona desert might certainly isolate members from non-members. Then there are the countless awkward conversations over Christmas dinner between believers and non-believers.
  • Debilitation? Not that I’m aware of, but I would be interested to know how many of Roach’s core students are B12 deficient after 15+ years of dietary restriction, and how many, regardless of constitution, might have been encouraged to regularly fast.
  • Special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience? How about the virtual absence of open-ended inquiry meditation from Roach’s curriculum? As JOsh reports in the comments:

…from talking to students, the practice of the higher teachings involved literally hours of ‘canned’ reflections that came from his [Roach’s] textbooks. meditation as i have learned and practiced in other settings was entirely absent… the teachings were extended ‘reflections’ that involved tracing a line of argument or doctrine in detail. this isn’t without precedent in buddhism or necessarily a problem, but does give him a tremendous amount of power over his students’ inner lives.

  • Powerful group pressures? I certainly felt from 1998 to 2000 a powerful and anxiety-ridden pressure to attend all of Roach’s teaching events, wherever they were in the world and regardless of how much they cost to attend, lest I should “miss” something. Roach had a very business-savvy way of leaving almost every topic “unfinished”, to up the ante for future attendance. A manufactured scarcity of knowledge is central to the charismatic economy. The leader’s power rises in conjunction with his inaccessibility, which I believe is one of the hidden purposes and effects of globe-trotting guru-ism.
  • Information management? Insofar as DMU philosophy is self-isolating from other branches of Buddhism, I would say: yes. JOsh comments: “DM’s tibetan language and buddhist philosophy are so idiosyncratic as to be unintelligible to outsiders.”
  • Suspension of individuality or critical judgment? Someday I’ll present a video-diorama of Roach-trained teachers, who down to the last one eerily mimic his jolly-bullying presentation style and even his speech patterns, while presenting what they have learned from him verbatim with zero critical overview.
  • Promotion of total dependency? Obviously, radical forms of guru yoga are both taught and felt.

There are other measures of cultishness. According to the “Group Psychological Abuse Scale”, the current metric sociologists are using to assess cultic dynamics, we are instructed to look for, among other things:

  • Members postponing personal, vocational, and educational goals in order to work for the group.
  • Members being discouraged from displaying negative emotions.
  • Members who feel like they are part of a special elite.
  • Members who learn special exercises (e.g., meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues) to push doubts or negative thoughts out of consciousness.
  • Raising money being the major goal of the group.
  • Members who are incapable of independent critical thinking.
  • Members who believe their leader is divine.
  • Members who proselytize.

Every single one of these descriptions is arguably applicable to the devotees of Roach.

Still, the word is sticky, and I’m sure the argument will continue. I’ll leave the last word here to Herbert L. Rosedale, Esq., and Michael D. Langone, Ph.D. and their essay On Using the Term “Cult”:

Even though the term “cult” has limited utility, it is so embedded in popular culture that those of us concerned about helping people harmed by group involvements or preventing people from being so harmed cannot avoid using it. Whatever the term’s limitations, it points us in a meaningful direction. And no other term relevant to group psychological manipulation (e.g., sociopsychological influence, coercive persuasion, undue influence, exploitive manipulation) has ever been able to capture and sustain public interest, which is the sine qua non of public education. If, however, we cannot realistically avoid the term, let us at least strive to use it judiciously.


Was My Post Malicious?

I have a clear personal grievance against Roach, for which I feel no need to apologize, and for which I take responsibility. I met him when I was profoundly depressed and wayward, and I surrendered to his charisma and messianic exuberance.  In my desperation and loneliness I bought his Pollyanna philosophy with my last intellectual penny, along with his continual assertions that every other therapeutic tool available to us through the hard work of our general culture was bankrupt. “Psychotherapy can’t help you, but Buddhism can”, he would say. And I nodded and wept, not understanding that my pain was interpersonal, not metaphysical. I needed to find authenticity, relationship and intersubjectivity. Roach, through a toxic combination of zeal and narcissism, threw me and many others off the hard trail towards integration. I spun my wheels in his dharma-mud, digging myself deeper, disrupting my home and family life, wasting years I’ll never get back. And not one person in his sangha ever looked me in the eye during all those years and asked: How are you feeling about all of this? Because being part of the group wasn’t about relationship. Being there was about Roach and his fantastical ideas, and, I suppose, eventually gaining enough moxy to mimic his grandiosity.

As many of my critics point out, I am definitely angry. Then they go on to patronizingly suggest that I haven’t done my healing work, or that anger is a sign of immaturity, something to be ashamed of, something unethical. I think they’re angry that I’m angry. But perhaps beneath the indignation they are unconsciously threatened by my freedom to be angry, my freedom to think and express exactly what they may be so painfully repressing.

I am angry about my lost years and Roach’s megalomania. But most of all I am angry at how what duped a younger and more vulnerable me so long ago has now spun itself into a corporate web of solipsism and power and self-justification, resulting in the appointment of an unqualified student/ex-lover as Retreat Director, and the untreated madness of her husband. I hope that being transparent about my anger models for Roach’s students who now teeter on the fence the fact that anger is usually necessary to bring about the rupture of any dysfunctional relationship.

I write with wrath, but not malice. It is my fervent hope that through this discourse Roach’s devotees may be exposed to the various tools of integration: skepticism, shadow work, the recognition of magical thinking. And most of all, I hope they heal their failure to develop ambivalence. As Melanie Klein showed: if we cannot see or accept the simultaneous light and dark within ourselves and others, we will divide our world into perfect Roaches who hold the keys to our salvation, and satanic Remskis out to destroy the good and the true. Neither really exist.


Dirty Jewels on the Comment Thread

In the more than 600 comments on the original post so far, several issues of note have arisen – some old, some new – that I think warrant further attention.  Of course, online sources can’t easily be verified, but I’d like to give these commenters the benefit of the doubt, and collate their input here, along with the further questions that emerge.


Ian Thorson, d. 4/22/2012

Ian’s malnutrition:

Neighbouring rancher Jerry Kelly writes that one of the Emergency Rescue Team workers who found Thorson’s body said that he weighed less than 100 pounds. The Cochise County deputy I spoke to also said that malnourishment was probably a factor in his death. We hear from commenter Warren Clarke (and can presume from the letter of Venerables Chandra and Akasha) that Ven. Chandra was likely a key food supplier for Thorson and McNally as they were hiding in the cave. If he was their source, why was Ven. Chandra unable to procure enough food for the couple? Was there no-one to help him? Was he so bound by secrecy to the couple that he could not ask for help, even as he might have become aware that they were ailing? Was this the assistant assigned to the couple by the Board? Was the assignment of a devotee really the best choice in a situation fraught with dangerous devotion and secrecy? Was he so blinded by devotional perspective and emptiness theory that he may have interpreted the couple’s sickness and malnutrition as the continuation of a retreat with “great success and joy”, as he described it in his joint letter?


A Bomb from Sid Johnson, former Diamond Mountain Board of Directors Member:

I’ll just quote directly from commenter Sid Johnson:

I was involved with this group from 1999 to 2005, and sat on the original board of directors at the beginning of the first 3-year retreat. I could write a book (and maybe someday I will) about the dysfunction and general madness that permeated every aspect of this bizarre organization. It is embarrassing now to admit that I willfully participated, and I sense it is this same embarrassment that keeps other former members from coming forward. At some point I will disclose more, like the details of the “initiation” I witnessed, including the infamous incident in which Mr. Roach stabbed himself in the hand in front of a room full of students, setting the precedent for magical interpretations of violence. I share Matthew’s concern that others may be in danger…

Roach, stabbing himself in public?


Roach Apparently Broke DMU’s Weapon’s Prohibition Himself

Several respondents confirmed Johnson’s report of the self-stabbing, including one to me directly by personal e-mail.

In the comment thread, Greg reports:

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

Phurba comments:

I also thought of this and believe it is a solid reference point for this situation, especially considering Roach’s condemnation of possessing or using a weapon at DM in his public letter.


Scrutiny of Roach’s Metaphysics: Gelukpa or New-Age?

Many respondents to my piece focused on the philosophical teachings of Roach, fuelling the long-running controversy around whether or not what he presents can be held as coherent with Gelukpa orthodoxy. But at many points the discourse also explored whether his radical (I use the word “solipsistic”) interpretation of emptiness theory might play a role in the ungrounded self-referentiality that allows dangerous situations to be interpreted as spiritual opportunities, like Thorson’s violent outbursts as signs of “sensitivity” or McNally’s near-mortal swashbuckling as “divine play”.

Of particular dispute is Roach’s oft-claimed mantra of “everything comes from karma”, his simplified (or simplistic) interpretation of Madhyamika Prasangika theory, which he has claimed for 25 years is the “highest” view of Buddhist philosophy – meaning that the flaws of other views disqualify them as paths to authenticity and full evolution. Frank Jude Boccio, an ordained Zen priest, points out in the comment thread that not only is this rhetoric divisive “sectarian bullshit”, but that the Buddha also seems to have taught against such a narrow view. Referencing the Pali Canon, Boccio describes the five causal orders that comprise experiential reality: the inorganic, the organic, the karmic, the natural, and the psychic. Boccio is a good resource for the discussion of worldview at Diamond Mountain because he has experience of the sangha there as a visiting teacher, and can describe how its knowledge base has significant blinders. He writes:

When I first moved to Tucson, I was amazed at how when I started teaching, it seemed everyone I’d meet with any interest or curiosity in buddhism thought Michael Roach and his group WERE buddhism. As my wife once said, “It seems he has a monopoly on the dharma here in Tucson.” I sat in on a course given on The Diamond Sutra and was quite surprised to find that we’d not be reading the Sutra at all: the text was nothing but “commentary” from Roach! The others were equally surprised when I shared that in my zen training, reading/reciting the Diamond Sutra for myself everyday for almost a year PRECEDED any lectures from my teacher! As I told them, I was encouraged to think for myself and question what I studied.

Sometime last year, I was invited to give monthly talks at Three Jewels, because some of the students, aware that all they knew of buddhism was what they have learned from Roach, and curious to hear of other perspectives thought my non-sectarian style would provide some balance. These talks draw very few people, however. But those who do attend often express surprise at the divergence from what they have been taught. One profound point, I think relevant here, is the notion that EVERYTHING that happens is a result of “karma.” When I shared that the Buddha seems to have taught AGAINST this view, and offered five different forms of causality, only one of which is “karma” (based upon volition) I could see some major cognitive dissonance arising!

Another Diamond Mountain epithet (“Roachism”, as they are coming to be called) that deeply rankles more nuanced interpreters of Buddhist philosophy is first stated in the comment thread by Eric Brinkman, who says that he has been Roach’s student for twelve years and flies around the world to film Roach’s events. He writes: “What we teach is that if you are kind to others you can reach your wildest dreams.” I remember this claim from fourteen years ago, when Roach gave entire courses on the power of virtuous actions in “Creating Your Own Buddha Paradise”, which you could furnish with dancing girls and Crazy Horse jamming in your living room, if that was your thing. In further comments, Brinkman’s critics were clearly disgusted at the jingoism. (Integralhack suggested it sounds like “Buddhism meets The Secret”.) I personally think it’s a profoundly despairing position in the Kierkegaardian sense: a magical-thinking trauma-response lacking existential depth, which punishes good and decent people for “perceiving” the inevitable sorrow life brings.


Scrutiny of Roach’s Vows: Should He Have Disrobed When He and McNally Became Lovers? And What About Us Regular People Who Like Buddhism but Still Enjoy Sex and Want to Have Authentic Relationships?

After Roach and McNally came out of the yurt in 2003 and declared their partnership, their supporters (cued by their public statements) began to claim that spiritual partnership is common within Gelukpa tantric practice, and acceptable for qualified monks, although it normally remains hidden. Some supporters still claim that the Dalai Lama has spoken publicly about his own spiritual consorts, but none provide references to this point. Roach’s liberal interpretation of celibacy has been roundly criticized by the more orthodox, who reference Roach’s censure by the Public Office of the Dalai Lama in 2006 over this precise issue.

What Roach’s followers do with this dispute is a classic study in the resolution of cognitive dissonance: if a pillar of your leader’s credibility (his claimed celibacy) is found to be shaky, it is easier to re-invent the entire culture to accord with his behaviour than to admit that he is an opportunist or a liar. Because if he is a liar, your emotional and financial investments in him are a sunk-cost, and this is intolerable. Thus: Roach must have taken a consort because the Dalai Lama does, although the Dalai Lama of course would keep his own behaviour under wraps. I’ve even heard Roach’s students imply that the Dalai Lama may publicly disapprove of Roach’s consort practice because he is bound by tradition, but that secretly (always secretly!) he has given Roach his assent, and secretly (always secretly!) hopes that Roach’s liberality begins to change the stuffy and misogynistic Gelukpa culture from within. The investment of devotion can compel people to rationalize anything.

But honestly: the sexual intrigue aspect is ridiculous to me, and terribly sad. I for one would have hoped that Roach and McNally had had wildly fulfilling shrieking-out-loud yurt-bouncing sex, but I’m afraid that their own views, along with the spiritual culture they were appropriating, were too sex-conflicted for them to have any real orgiastic release. Whether he should have disrobed is a doctrinal issue of little importance to me as a non-believer, until I see that his refusal to disrobe begins to fit the general pattern of Roach always seeming to want it both ways. Monk but not a monk. Businessman and renunciate. Toe-the-line conservative and crazy wisdom provocateur. Good boy and bad boy. Even this is forgivable to me as one who appreciates a good public chameleon, except that with Roach, one persona is always lying to the other, probably so that the cash can continue to pour in. The most famous example of this outright lying is in Roach’s account, during the Retreat Teachings of 2000 (To the Inner Kingdom, October 2000), of his yurt-bound “aloneness”:

…We were alone, each person. The nights are very dark, and there are many, many strange sounds…

…Every kind of creepy, crawly, desert thing has crawled in people’s yards and yurts, and sometimes very frightening things, but I think, the hardest think is the loneliness, to be alone for month after month.

We see each other for the holidays, like Sojong, confession ceremony, twice a month. When we’re in deep retreat we don’t see each other at all, so for a month or maybe two months. Each person has been very strong, become strong, and they showed a lot of courage, and respected the retreat boundaries. They’ve worked very, very hard. They worked for, some of them years, to learn the meditations and visualizations that they have to do. We don’t allow ourselves any other kind of stimulation, there’s only meditation and some study of what to meditate about, and each person has done it very, very well.

Outsiders should understand that if in 2000 Roach were to have revealed that his solitude actually included a shared bed with McNally, his ambitious fundraising for various projects would have ground to a halt amidst general confusion and dismay. I don’t mind a guy who likes to play both sides of his identity when the purpose is aesthetic. But when the play is political-economic and seeks to colonize people’s enthusiasm and cash with a narcissistic philosophy that provides cold consolation for their despair, I get angry.

And what happens to a community comprised mostly of householders whose primary teachers are engaged in what they describe as non-sexual intimacy, the nature of which is shrouded in a radiant hush? Roach and McNally are intimate, but they don’t have sex. They are too elevated to be “sexual”. They have renounced desire so much that they can stoop to engage in the “dirtiness” of esoteric intercourse, but only to inflate their meditative grandiosity, so that they can end war in the Middle East and stop global warming. What I witnessed back in my day was a lot of couples devoting themselves to Roach, idealizing the celebrity relationship to the diminishment of their own, being confronted by this model of sexless sex, and becoming very confused in the bedroom. Should we or shouldn’t we? Is kissing and cuddling a faster way to enlightenment than woman-on-top? If I’m aroused, can I still be focused on the Tibetan alphabet?

After my tenure with the group, Roach and McNally began traveling the world teaching the spiritual practices they claimed would transform every relationship into a “spiritual partnership”. Forget the Gestalt prayer or intersubjectivity, or even simple presence: spouses now had to be angels to each other, heroes, gods – and the bedroom became a mandala-spaceship of super-sexy no-touchy transcendence.

To give an idea of how knotted up this all was and went on to be, I’ll quote from an old interview given by Roach and McNally back in 2003. Roach confesses:

…it’s completely wrong for an ordained person to have any form of sexual activity. It’s completely forbidden. It’s the first of all monks’ vows. And a monk can never engage in sexual activity at all. And I never have. I mean, I’ve masturbated, and things that are wrong, and I’ve gone to my lama and confessed them, and I think any ordained person who is honest will say it’s a struggle, and then over years of practice you become self- celibate. And if you’re honest, I heard that many great lamas have said that the only disciples they believe are the ones who come and confess things to them. Like, “I looked at a woman.” I never broke any of those vows in a major way. I never had any kind of sexual contact with a woman since I was 21 or 22. And then in very extraordinary rare cases, it’s important, it’s useful, to do special kind of physical yoga with a divine being. And in the vinaya texts, I think even in the Tsotik, which is the basic huge vinaya text for the monasteries, you don’t break your vows if you engage in high yoga with a divine being. It isn’t anything normal at all.

That’s the first part of the answer. The second part of the answer is in the actual practice of higher physical forms of tantric yoga, these are extremely difficult, physically, extremely – they are unpleasant, quite unpleasant for the physical body, and quite … [Christie: exhausting] difficult for the physical body. They are like doing yoga for four hours a day or five hours a day, and it’s not fun. And it’s not a joke, and it’s a life-or-death attempt to become a being who can serve all living creatures before you die, and I don’t perceive it in any other way. And it’s no fun. And people who truly want to learn those practices, unless they are extremely disciplined and dedicated, they would quit within a week.

So kiddies: be together, but don’t have sex. Or: have something like sex, but certainly don’t enjoy it. Because if you do enjoy it, you know it’s not working towards its ultimate purpose of saving the whole wide world. This sex-not-sex business is not fun. Okay? It’s really hard. It’s not fun! Most of you are wimps who would totally give up on this great holy sex-not-sex path on like the first night. Okay? So don’t get any sexy ideas. It’s not fun! Got it?

I can’t think of a more destructive message to share with people who genuinely struggle in their relationships to come towards deeper authenticity and embodied intimacy. It presents an impossible ideal based upon a metaphysics that takes the most common and tender of human interactions as a sign of debauchery. As if we all didn’t already have enough self-doubt and bodily self-hatred to deal with already.

Interestingly, statement  #1 on the “Group Psychological Abuse Scale” (the current working metric sociologists are using to assess cultic dynamics) is “The group does not tell members how to conduct their sex lives.” Respondents are requested to gauge whether this statement matches their group experience on a scale of 1 (not at all characteristic of the group) to 5 (very characteristic of the group).

The sexuality-contortionism is one thing. But as a therapist, I see a deeper relational issue here at work: that of endless romantic projection and magical thinking displacing the will towards presence and communication within the love relationship. In Roach’s economy, the dyad does not relate to each other to mutually embody empathy and growth. Rather: each partner uses the other to improve their karmic bank balance.

Ben reports from the comment thread:

Another aspect of the teachings at DM is that if you see something undesirable in your partner, instead of dealing with it with them through discussion or counseling, you plant the karmic seeds to see a perfect partner and they will change. I’ve pointed out that this totally negates the thoughts, motivations and will of the other person and have been told that, no, the other person still has thoughts, motivations and will but they are all coming from you.

What is tragic about this self-focused approach is that counseling and conscious communication can be such a profound path to walk in our discovery of the other.

There are aspects of Roach’s relationship teaching that seem borderline autistic, insofar as autism-spectrum challenges often involve a failure to develop a “theory of other minds”. Roach and McNally missed the entire gift of relationship, it would seem. Instead of experiencing relationship as a way of truly encountering the insoluble mystery of the other and negotiating difference, they seem to have used it to mirror for each other the iteration of fantastical and desperate wishes.

I’m not surprised they didn’t last together. They were legally divorced December 1st, 2010 in Yavapai County, Arizona. Their legal marriage, of course, had also been a secret. Which is why, perhaps, no eyebrows were raised at McNally’s very public wedding to Thorson in Montauk, New York, on October 4th of that same year. (Two months before the divorce.)


Scrutiny of Roach’s Spiritual Claims

It is an insult to ones fellow humans to claim revelatory knowledge. No matter how it is dressed up, it is the ultimate nyah-nyah. It is particularly insulting within Roach’s appropriated Tibetan tradition. And yet he has done exactly this, continually by implication since at least the mid-90s, and then directly via public announcement in 2003. In recent years he is said to have upped the ante amongst his close personal students by claiming that his revelations have brought him to a state of “No-More-Learning”, an achievement in tantric metaphysics akin to saying: “I am on the verge of full enlightenment.” For those of you out of the loop, Tibetan Buddhist tantric enlightenment is not some chilled-out state of mind. It is divinity itself: omniscience, omnilocality, and immortality. Plus: not needing to eat or defecate, being able to fly anywhere in the universe instantly, and having bones made of diamonds.

Roach has built his brand on the fumes of a mystical experience he had in his early twenties. When I started with him, he would tell his story in the subjunctive mood at almost every gathering. Everyone knew the story wasn’t hypothetical: it was a thinly-veiled autobiographical tale, which the tradition couldn’t allow him to declare openly. He spoke of his meditative epiphany in the second person: “you’ve studied with your lama for many years, and you’re meditating for hours every day, and suddenly you become aware of how you are constructing and naming your world…”. The second person address preserved a veneer of anonymity, but also functioned to possess many of us with the captivating suggestion: this could happen to me.

His spiritual claims were a very sharp hook for his early-adopters. I myself longed for something similar, and was shaken to the core by Roach’s tears when he spoke of his memory so wistfully. It took me years to realize that I and almost everyone around me has had consistently similar epoches while entranced by art or nature or a lover. The difference is that it never occurred to me to mythologize and commodify my most private ecstasies.

But his coming-out with McNally in 2003 was a challenge to the Tibetan cultural orthodoxy that necessitated the dropping of his 90’s subterfuge and required a full-monty declaration of his spiritual powers. In his January 16th 2003 “Letter to My Lamas” he versifies:

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.

Well, the Buddhist world had conniptions over this one. And they’re still upset, if the comment-thread to my post provides a good sample. Not only because it is illegal to announce such realizations (because they are unprovable and therefore pedagogically useless, not to mention culturally embarassing), but because he goes on to directly utilize this claim to justify his heterodox behaviour:

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,
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.

The takeaway here is that Roach claims continuous mystical insight that puts him on the verge of omniscience and allows him to publicly crown McNally not as his lover but as an actual deity.  What is the cost of believing all of this? For many, it costs years of devotional service and millions of dollars in tax-deductible donations. For McNally, it initiates a spiral of seeming self-delusion. (Imagine your powerful lover, 20 years your senior, declaring you to be a goddess!) For some, it entails eventually following McNally into retreat. For Thorson, it entailed following even further, to the very end of his life-blood.


Scrutiny of Roach’s Geshe Degree and Relationship to Sera Mey Monastery

Roach has continually stated orally and in published bio notes since I met him in 1998 that his Geshe degree was granted at the culmination of 20 years of study at Sera Mey Monastery, which is currently located, in exile, in Bylakuppe, Karnataka province, South India. The details of these 20 years are interrogated by the writers of a now-defunct site (but handily web-archived) that was critical of Roach. When pressed for more detail, Roach refines the narrative to say that much of this education occurred in the New Jersey home of his root-teacher, Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tharchin. Roach himself provides an extensive narrative of his education in this interview, in which he describes successfully fulfilling the six rigorous examination requirements, including publicly debating philosophy before the full assembly of doctoral candidates. But some dispute the authenticity of his account, and the degree itself. In the comment thread to my article, Tenpel writes:

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.

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 [sic] 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…

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

I remember studying Gelukpa epistemology at Sera Mey for a month in the fall of 1999 with the scholar Geshe Thubten Rinchen, while Roach simultaneously translated. The monastery was like any bustling Indian city. I remember rising at 4am and walking amongst the barrack-like houses of chanting young men, and coming across the cookhouse where a score of burly monks would be stirring a great vat of bubbling dal with 10-foot-long wooden paddles. There were a thousand feral dogs, and courier-monks speeding by on farting auto-rickshaws, their robes flying. I remember the ragged and unwashed boys, the butter statues, the prayer wheels, the temples, and the clouds of dust rolling on the hot wind. I got deliriously sick there after dropping my room key into an open sewage toilet and having to fish it out with my bare hands – a Jungian moment if there ever was one. I remember vividly feeling that there were countless things I would never understand about this culture, its politics, its language, and its sentiments. It was one of those times in which the impenetrability of otherness provided a perfect mirror for the mystery of my own personhood. In the dust of Karnataka, I felt the exhaustion of my own journey.

Indeed, the inner workings of Sera Mey monastery are exceedingly complex. Financial sponsorship is necessary and pursued from multiple sources, especially as the monastery attempts to provide for its exile community a basic level of literacy and nutrition. The organizational structure is decentralized and nodal, with numerous administrators responsible for securing funding sources from familial and governmental patrons, as well as sympathetic benefactors from abroad. The economy seems to be a patchwork of bursting-at-the-seams and just-getting-by. Roach’s philanthropy did not likely involve handing poster-board-sized checks over to the monastery CEO in public ceremonies, or endowing a publicly-accountable trust or foundation. What is much more likely is that pockets of funding made their way to individual administrators, who through time became Roach supporters and validators.

In January of 2003, when Roach made his public declaration of mystical achievement, he sent his claims directly to his Sera Mey contacts, asking them for spiritual endorsements, which would, of course, attract more funding:

  • Gyalrong Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Ngawang Thekchok
  • Kongpo Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Jampa Donyo
  • Gyume Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Trinley Tobgye
  • Sermey Geshe Thupten Rinchen
  • Sermey Geshe Lobsang Thardo
  • Sermey Geshe Thupten Tenzin

All of these teachers and administrators, except for Sermey Geshe Lobsang Thardo, allegedly wrote back to Roach within a month with their endorsements. (I say “allegedly” because it should be noted that the originals of these letters have never been posted, and that Roach himself has translated them from Tibetan.) Roach also wrote to his root-teacher Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tharchin in New Jersey, and to the Dalai Lama. He received no publicized response from either. He also sent his claims to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the head of FPMT, from which Roach has been banned. Lama Zopa coyly rebuked Roach’s mystical claims with the ironic suggestion that Roach should prove his magic powers with some old-timey miracles, like showing his ability to urinate in reverse, for example. I’ve heard no reports of Roach reverse-urinating, although he does claim other miracles, like the mystical bilocation of a rosary in this interview.

A woman named Karen Visser wrote to me by e-mail last week. Though not an official spokesperson for Sera Mey, she says she is familiar with the monastery through her long-term relationships with two former abbots. In dialogue with her I’ve come to suspect that these florid endorsements (if they are authentic) did not likely emerge from Sera Mey officially, but from individual administrators acting from within the context of their own complex relationships with Roach, and may be obfuscated by layers of etiquette, cross-cultural misunderstanding, and acute financial need.

Visser tells a rich story of recent Tibetan history, hope, and hardship:

Much of what is happening now is simply a result of this unique moment in history. Having English speaking teachers of Tibetan Buddhism and having texts translated into English is a very new thing. Remember, we’re only 53 years into post 1959 Tibetan history. Compared to any other religion in the West that’s no time at all.

I have close ties to Sera Mey monastery and I’d like you to know that there was a lot of hope and good intentions at the beginning. Michael Roach is a renegade now and the despair of his teachers at Sera Mey. They parted ways a long time ago but it didn’t start out that way.

It’s important to remember that after walking out of Tibet in 1959 all the monks (the Rinpoches and Geshes too) were physically building monasteries throughout the 60’s and 70’s. They were hauling rocks and bags of cement, they weren’t teaching Westerners. My old lamas tell stories of working so long and hard to rebuild their monastery that they didn’t “untie their belts for 2 months” which means they fell asleep in their robes, under the stars, never having the luxury of relaxing.

Work, pray, sleep. They had almost no food and learned Hindi and Karnataka dialect depending on where their monastery was being rebuilt, not English. They only resumed their studies in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Even then virtually no Tibetans in the monasteries spoke English, only the monks who dealt with the money, donors and suppliers.

That’s why there simply aren’t enough qualified teachers who speak languages other than Tibetan at the moment, because this is all still new. It’s very frustrating for students looking for a teacher but it can’t be rushed – learning English takes some time, and learning Tibetan isn’t easy either.

And so – into this gap rush eager, well intentioned, but unqualified, teachers.

I don’t believe Michael Roach, Christie Mcnally or Ian Thorson ever thought of themselves as unqualified. But they are, they were. A monk friend at Sera Mey told me that the qualifications that Christie and Ian referred to as being “from Tibetan monasteries” consisted of a month-long teaching in 1999 on mind and mental factors or mental cognition.

A month as a guest in a monastery isn’t training, it’s a mini workshop. Without speaking Tibetan, or the more difficult ‘dharma language’ in which teachings are given (which is to Tibetan what Latin is to English) without years of training, without being able to ask questions of the lamas – they are well-intentioned amateur dharma tourists.

I’m sure they love their students. But a surgeon who has only watched surgery for a month is a danger to everyone he or she practices on, whether she loves them or not. There may have been a few more workshops but not enough to make them qualified teachers.

As to their own teacher, Michael Roach, the Tibetans were very naive when he was at Sera. At the time Michael was getting his Geshe degree the monks remembered Robert Thurman, who did so well after studying Tibetan and dharma. It was harder for the Tibetans to read Westerners then: they had no idea initially that anything was wrong.

Michael Roach did try to be a good student in the short time he was there. He couldn’t participate fully in the debates that are an essential and crucial part of Geshe training in the way a Tibetan Geshe student is expected to, but he worked on his translation skills. Everyone in the monastery understood that his language skills wouldn’t allow for him to come up to the tough standards of a Tibetan Geshe but they appreciated that he was doing so much. It was understood that his degree would be an honorary one, given with great joy to a Western student. The monks felt the world was changing. Westerners would come to study at the monasteries, and learn Tibetan. The monks would learn English: dharma would spread throughout the world.

The bitter, heart-wrenching disappointment the Tibetan monastic community felt when Michael Roach was found to be living in a yurt, in his monk’s robes, with a girl who thought she was Vajrayogini, while teaching Tibetan dharma is impossible to describe. His Holiness was said to have dropped his tea cup when he heard the news, it smashed on the floor. Unusual for someone who rarely loses his composure. The abbot of Sera Mey was devastated, absolutely gutted.

To put this into perspective – my very close friend, who walked out of Tibet in the 80’s, is a Lharampa Geshe. He was first in his year at the debates, hand picked by his abbot to come to the West to teach. He had to wait 10 years after graduating to be considered qualified to teach. The Sera Mey Geshes were horrified that Michael Roach went out and taught right away, he didn’t truly understand the stuff he was teaching. He hadn’t asked enough questions, hadn’t done the right retreats. In my own opinion he wasn’t a true Geshe, in the traditional sense, any more that a celebrity is a true Ph.D when they’re given the degree for helping a university.

At present there is absolutely no bond between Michael Roach and Sera Mey. If Michael Roach says there is a connection of any kind he’s drawing on stuff that happened more than a decade ago. He’s caused nothing but pain at Sera, they so regret having ordained him that it is virtually impossible for a Westerner to be given ordination at the Gelug monasteries in South India now.

Sera knows what’s going on, the office of HH knows, but he has defied them all. Short of finding him, holding him down and tickling him until he agrees to take off his monastic robes, it looks like there’s nothing anyone can do. There’s no legal basis nor cultural precedent to track down a Westerner and take the robes back forcibly. Or to ask him to stop teaching. And, frankly, HH and the abbots of Sera Mey have had so many knives in the air that they’ve had to let go of the idea of changing Michael Roach. The Chinese Communists for awhile were sending young men to Sera to take robes, then run wild in town in order to shame the monastery. There are always money problems: just feeding that many monks becomes the first priority.

Michael Roach has been instructed very firmly: “Take off your monk’s robes.” by his abbot and by HHDL, the lineage holder. He sees himself as beyond all that, I suppose. I don’t know what’s in his head. He really did set up a cult, to the despair of everyone who taught him. His former students must feel so disappointed and betrayed, sad probably.

None of this contaminates any of Michael Roach’s or Christie’s students. Those students went with a good heart and good intentions. No one saw this coming. The students are as innocent as the abbot who ordained Michael Roach. It needed everyone’s approval. Everyone made errors in judgment, right up the line.

If there is indeed a complex quid-pro-quo going on underneath Roach’s educational and cultural-validation narrative, it might signify deeper financial entanglements between a few opportunistic members of his order and his quest for legitimacy. The prolific commenter Phurba and others bring up an incident from Roach’s ill-fated Indian pilgrimage of 2006, during which he was barred from teaching in Dharamsala by the Public Office of the Dalai Lama, not only for appearing to flaunt his celibacy vows, but also for committing the dire cultural faux-pas of scheduling a presentation during the Dalai Lama’s own public teachings without permission. He relocated his teaching an hour away, but then allegedly arranged that a  monk appear bearing certain ritual presents to him, which he pretended came from the Dalai Lama. The alleged show was an effort to paper over the rebuke and re-legitimize his status within the Gelukpa hierarchy. This revelation drove many students away.


Input from Other Buddhist Community Experiences

NathanGThompson writes of the necessity for a Board of Directors that is independent from the spiritual director of any sangha, to prevent the coalescence and abuse of power:

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 [an abuse of power by the spiritual director of his sangha] . 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 our 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.

In a similar vein, Michael Stone told me over the phone: “None of this can happen – the secrecy, the power inequities, and the spiritual obfuscation – if the Board is strong and independent of the teacher.”


The View of the Locals

Reading commenters Jerry Kelly (neighbouring rancher) and Warren Clarke (a recent Great Retreat assistant) banter back and forth about the local geography, characters, illegal migrations, drug gangs and Border Patrol guys is like reading a Zane Grey novel or eavesdropping on an outback CB. For men who know the area, they make it clear that most of the Diamond Mountain administration is “greenhorn”: unfamiliar with the topography, ignorant of the old-timer neighbours and their resources, and overly romantic about the land itself. These are the folks who know the Rescue Unit guys as neighbours, who hike the back-country regularly, and who, had they been enlisted into a search party for Thorson and McNallly, would have had a wealth of information and experience to draw on. One theme that Jerry and Warren consistently bring up is the disparity in power between the staff of assistants (overworked, underpaid) and the Board (aloof and unrealistic).


Lies, Self-Aggrandizement, and Solipsism. Thankfully, Not Oprah’s Cup of Tea

I’ve been grateful for the comment thread, but at the same time a little torn up by it. It has uncovered whole new layers of strangeness.

Like this bit: in 2010, Roach recorded a video audition for the Oprah Network to propose a new show that he would host called “The Karma Show”. Oprah didn’t go for it, despite 11,861 votes. I think this 3-minute clip pretty much sums up Roach’s entire pitch and method. He confabulates his educational story, brags about the commercial bravado of his students, oversells his matchmaking and medical powers, all while bastardizing the crown jewel of Gelukpa metaphysics.  You can watch the video yourself, or skip it and just read the copy he wrote for it, which I reprint below.

Hi my name is Geshe Michael. When I was young, my mom got breast cancer and just before she died she put me into a Tibetan monastery. I stayed there for 20 years and became the first American geshe, or Buddhist Master. Nowadays a lot of people come to me with their problems and dreams and i help them figure out what karma they need to get things they want; I helped 2 women in New York start a billion dollar ad company, I help friends find partners, and how to fix their health problems and stay young and strong. I have an idea to have a Karma Show where people come and say what they’re looking for in life, and we figure out the karma or good thing they need to do for others, to make their dreams come true!

I myself have a dream that I’d really like to come true. I dream that one day Ian Thorson’s corpse rises up from the grave and says to his former guru: It’s time to wake up. What good karma do I need to do to make this happen, Michael? Am I doing it already?


Where the Story is Leading Us Now

I now feel that the Board’s failure to protect Thorson’s life are actually aftershocks at the end of a long row of tumbling dominoes that reach back into the community’s reification of the love relationship between Roach and McNally. Shortcomings in managing the last few months of Thorson’s and McNally’s safety pale in comparison to the slowly-unfolding scandal of nepotistic power dynamics that allowed her to ascend to a position of spiritual and administrative authority. At the deepest level, the Board must now face how it was possible for intelligent and kind people such as themselves to give their power away so completely to someone so tragically unqualified. The Board must face, in essence, the consequences of Roach’s charismatic leadership, and their support of it.

On a theological note, I would like to know why McNally references Kali and not Vajrayogini in her letter. It sounds like she is practicing Kali sadhana. Was she leading a retreat in one lineage while practicing another? Does the Kali mythos of apocalypticism influence the general anxiety the group holds about the attainment of mystical experience?

On the broadest socio-political note, I’ll end by quoting the commenter oz__, who quite succinctly sums up our shared global stakes in the Diamond Mountain incident:

Deeply disturbing, and tragic, but unfortunately, hardly surprising. We participate in and support a set of sociopolitical and economic systems that depend upon atomization and disconnection – from the natural world, other people, even ourselves – and in such a destabilizing environment, the false connection to community that charismatic leaders offer can be sufficiently appealing to override common sense, not to mention mostly non-existent critical thinking skills. This is modern thaumaturgy. Far from failing to teach our fellows how not to fall prey to it, we insist that they in fact do so – because this is what modern systems, from advertising to politics, depend upon to accomplish their objectives of achieving profit and control. I mean, in a world that is dominated by the incessant drumbeat of propaganda issued from hierarchical and authoritarian structures, why should we expect independent thinking to be widespread?

Why indeed. As Ian’s body dissolves, I’m convinced now more than ever that our spirituality must resist the toxic consolations of bypassing, over-certainty, and authoritarianism. It must wake up from the dream of perfection to work diligently, with eyes wide open, in the garden of relationship, drawing upon simple hopes and common tools.


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.


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.


2,675 Responses to “Tragedy at Diamond Mountain: an Update.”

  1. Guru Pedro says:

    I just want to ask, what the hell is that accent he has? It seems totally affected. Some kind of weird pseudo Asian overlay.

    I'm sorry but he really just immediately strikes me as loathsome and creepy – or at best simply ridiculous. And that's before even knowing the rest of it, or listening to what he's actually saying, which as everyone is pointing out is often sheer nonsense.

    Why about every second sentence does he seem to try to mask his obvious sociopathic ego by saying "and then when I got my geshe degree I was asked to this" or "my students have asked me to talk about myself some more" or "when I went to get my geshe degree my students went with me", when he really just is saying "me geshe geshe geshe geshe, me have students students students, gurus gurus gurus gurus, robes robes robes robes, make money money money money."

    It often kind of bums me out I was born with this burdensome sense of integrity and honesty and humility. I would do so much better in this country if I could just get over them.

    He's like Pedro in Napoleon Dynamite – "Vote for (or bow before) me and I will make all of your dreams come true."

  2. kelly rigpa says:

    Speaking with an accent not one's own can be indicative of a narcissistic personality disorder-or so I have read.

  3. ekanthomason says:

    Here is a different take I found:
    "When I was fundraising for Khen Rinpoche’s projects, I used to do grants, I spent many years on grants, I had all these different projects. And then at some point I just thought the best way to give him money is just go work. I just went and got a job."
    Makes it sound like it was his idea to get a job not Khen Rinpoche.

  4. sweetpea says:

    It is sad to read all of this, but I appreciate the information getting out there. I was never a student/disciple of GMR, but I lived at a retreat center in Santa Cruz for several years when he was becoming more and more popular. At the time he was still allowed to come to FPMT centers, and several close friends of mine became devotees. Something about him always creeped me out, even though he had the ivy league way of presenting teachings down pat. He totally got the Western style of teaching, and had charisma (even if he looked creepy!). Interestingly, after meeting many many high lamas from Tibetan Buddhism (in the Gelug tradition, and others: HH Sakya Trizin, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, HH Dalai Lama, Jhado Rinpoche, Tsokyni Rinpoche, Khandro Rinpoche, etc etc), GMR had this strange thing where he would NEVER meet my eyes! All the other lamas emanated warmth, compassion, connection, but GMR (and obviously this is subjective) would not even meet my eyes even though several dear friends of mine became part of his innermost circle. It’s as if he could tell I wasn’t buying it….

    At one point I had lunch with a dear friend, who is now in the retreat out in Arizona, around the time when HH Dalai Lama’s office had censured Geshe Michael’s totally tact-less (and obviously against Tibetan protocol) move to give teachings at the same time as HHDL. (This is a big, rude no-no….no teacher would think of giving a teaching in the same town while His Holiness is, at the same time! It’s crazy.). Gelugpas are pretty traditional, so it was quite a commotion. I asked my friend about it, sensitively, wondering how she justified a letter from HHDL’s office asking him not to give teachings. She explained that “Well a letter came from the OFFICE of His Holiness, but we don’t actually know that His Holiness really feels that way.” I thought to myself, “Uh oh. She is gone hook line and sinker.”

    I have grappled with this whole scenario for years, because to this day I have close vajra sisters and brothers who are both part of the traditional Gelugpa school with whom I study (HHDL, LZR, Jhado Rinpoche), and yet they follow GMR. One friend “escaped” if you could call it that, but that student went through ‘the dark night of the soul’ to get out. It was very, very difficult for her, so I respect the author’s inclusion of comments from others who went through a similar difficult period breaking out of it.

    One interesting thing too, is that unlike ALL the other Gelugpa lamas I’ve ever been to, GMR never insisted on the traditional paths of practice (ngon-dro, or preliminary practices) that most students are invited/sometimes required to do to obtain higher teachings (especially on tantra). 100,000 prostrations, water bowls, tsa tsas, refuge prayers, guru yoga — these are normal things you do if you really enter into the practice path. It is NOT this simplistic, magical thinking of “it’s your karma of how you see things that makes them so.” As Lama Zopa Rinpoche once taught, it’s not enough to think something and then it happens. “If that were the case,” he said, “then anyone who wanted to become president could become president. There would be no one left who was not president.” GMR was so popular for people who want to practice with a partner/lover because if you just started seeing people as an angel/deity, then they would become that, apparently! And if you didn’t see them that way, then it’s your own damn fault! This really was a magical way of thinking about Buddhism and karma. It is so much more complicated and LOGICAL than that. It is almost depressing how wrong his views on tantra are….they are supposed to be kept completely secret!!! It’s outrageous, really.

    Like another writer above said, if you want to study Buddhism, go elsewhere! This is NOT correct Gelugpa Mahayana Buddhism. Go to a qualified lama (except for Geshe Kelsang Gyatso!), someone who knows the lineage all the way back through their lamas and their lamas’ lamas to the Buddha. We are in the degenerate times, the Kali yuga, and false teachers will appear and win people over with charisma and charm. HHDL said you should check a teacher out for 10 years before taking them as your guru. If not 10, then 5. If not five, then ideally 2. It is not a joke…this is your precious life you’re dealing with, and there should not be this level of controversy around a lama (although I’m sure GMR’s students would say that “it’s your negative karma to see it as something negative…he is teaching using crazy wisdom.”). With this karma argument from GMR’s quarters, you can’t win. It’s a TRAP!

  5. Sam says:

    Although I sometimes feel like this is gossip, I keep reading silently since I don't have any direct knowledge
    to add, but it is important the TRUTH comes out, so that ABUSES, either physical, spiritual, deceit and so forth
    STOP. I want to know the Truth, I am looking forward to hear more from those who have been somehow involved with MR and

    I do believe that many take for granted the messages the cult leaders try to brainwash.
    Precisely because they are gullible, they are the target audience for perverted leaders.

  6. OnceABuddhist says:

    It seems to me one bottom-line question is- -what, if anything, can be done to hold Michael Roach and Diamond Mountain accountable? This is America, and so one answer is, use the legal system.

    1. As Remski points out, Roach and Diamond Mountain's Board are in business as a public non-profit, not private individuals, which means they can in fact be held legally accountable.

    2. Here is a list of those who can sue individual Board members and/or Roach:

    1.Insiders — The current and former staff of a nonprofit may bring actions alleging a host of wrongful acts, including wrongful termination, discrimination, sexual harassment, and Americans with Disabilities Act violations.

    2.Outsiders — Third parties that have a relationship with the nonprofit may allege harm caused by the nonprofit and/or its directors, officers or employees. Outside sources can be vendors, funders, or another nonprofit.

    3.The Entity — The nonprofit may bring an action against its directors and officers. Examples include claims by current management against a former trustee. In some states, derivative suits are permitted. In a derivative suit, members of a nonprofit may bring a claim on the nonprofit's behalf against a director and officer. (Note: Claims by the entity against its directors and officers will likely be excluded under most nonprofit D&O policies).

    4.Directors — A nonprofit director may sue another board member alleging violation of a duty owed to the nonprofit. Under certain circumstances such an action may be compelled.

    5.Beneficiaries — The people you are in business to help — your service recipients — may bring claims against directors and officers alleging wrongdoing.

    6.Members — Directors and officers of membership associations are vulnerable to claims brought by members alleging harm to the interests of the member.

    7.Donors — A nonprofit's contributors may sue directors and officers alleging misuse of a restricted gift.

    8.State Attorney General — In most states, the state attorney general represents the interests of the general public in assuring the proper management of public benefit corporations. As such, the Attorney General may bring a claim against nonprofit directors and officers alleging wrongdoing.

    9.Other Government Officials — Other government officials, including representatives of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Labor, may bring actions against nonprofit directors alleging violation of state or federal laws.
    I'm sure the Board members are very nice people with the best intentions. Nevertheless, they share direct responsibility–both moral and legal– for the decisions which led to Ian's death. As Board members of a non-profit they are also legally obligated to disclose to the public ALL relevant information relating to the circumstances that led to Ian's expulsion and death.

    American law rightfully cannot and will not make determinations about the validity of Roach's religious teachings, but it sure can help hold him accountable for keeping his followers safe and alive.

  7. OnceABuddhist says:

    Quotes relating to ethical and legal responsibilities of non-profit board members :

    • No founder may be treated as if he/she 'owns' the organization.
    • Non-profits exist to provide a public benefit. It must change some aspect of the human condition. It needs to solve a problem, provide education or build a monument.
    • Each board member has equal voting rights and equal liability for making sure the charity is run according to proper standards. All board members will be held accountable for the governance of the organization.
    • No board member should participate in a board decision that benefits himself or his family.
    • The organization should maintain a Board Book – a notebook that contains Articles of Incorporation, By-Laws, minutes to board meetings, past 3 years tax returns and annual financials.
    • Non-profits do not have owners like for-profit organizations do. A board of directors guides and oversees the organization.
    • A board's primary responsibility is 'to uphold the public trust' and make sure the rights and priviliges of the organization are not abused.
    *Care: Be a prudent board member and pay attention to what is going on and make decision based on good information.
    • Paid staff should not serve on the Board of Directors. This is a conflict of interest and poses potential problems.

  8. Sid says:

    I guess it comes down to having the energy to do all of these things, call out the board, pursue legal channels etc. I would like to see websites, books, documentaries, but you know, we all have lives, and it really is a big drain to be taking part in something that feels pretty negative, as necessary as that may be. I am fine with dropping in here occasionally and dropping a telling anecdote or two, in hopes that it will eventually plant at least a seed of doubt in the minds of those who can't refuse the GM marketing machine. I fell for him when I was at a particular level of development and "spiritual maturity", and I was warned by a few people, but couldn't resist, I had to find out what was behind the door for myself, which turned out to be absolutely nothing.

  9. Zirconia says:

    Geshe Michael and Lama Christie are literally in this movie trailer about a fake guru.
    <a href="” target=”_blank”> 2 minutes of hilarity

  10. […] The recent tragic death of Ian Thorson involving Geshe Michael Roach‘s Diamond […]

  11. corvid says:

    A Cochise Country politico type suggested a campaign to renamed the road to the retreat Ian Thorson Memorial Trail would be a way to keep the DM flacks from forgetting that they are all partially to blame for this tradgedy every time they turn on the dirt road that meanders toward the death cave.

  12. matthew says:

    I believe it's possible that Gelek Rimpoche is indirectly addressing the tragedy in this video:

  13. ebwally says:

    Matthew – Aren't we do for another update? I'm still very worried but you can call me ebwally.

  14. OnceABuddhist says:

    In response to Sid-

    We are all busy, all have lives to lead and responsibilities demanding tending. Unlike most of you posting here, I have nothing at stake. I had never heard of Roach before the NYT's article, nor of Ms. Ms. McNally or of Ian. I followed the story because once upon a time I considered myself a Buddhist of the Tibetan tradition, and because Ian's death seemed so preventable.

    I've read every comment-literally-posted here, and have been genuinely fascinated by the discussion of how far and in what specific ways Roach deviated from orthodoxy. But, when all else is said and done, it is the the senseless death of our fellow human being Ian that is most disturbing.

    The Buddhism I practiced held compassion as a highest value. IMO, it is not a negative action to pursue truth and hold folks accountable– it is a compassionate act, both in Ian's memory and to help others in Roach's and this Board's future who might also be incapable of surviving Roach's twisted demands.

    I love debating as much as anyone else here, but I really hope that others more closely involved are ACTING to hold Roach and Diamond Mountain's board legally accountable. Everything else is sound and fury.

  15. Jane says:

    Lama Surya Das commented on Diamond Mountain and cults in the Huffington Post.

  16. Cyn says:


    Regarding ACI's work being unique; other Tibetan Buddhist monks have also recorded and preserved texts that would have been lost had they not done so:

    "Among the last generation of lamas educated in Drepung Monastery before the Communist Chinese invasion of Tibet, Gelek Rimpoche was forced to flee to India in 1959. He later edited and printed over 170 volumes of rare Tibetan manuscripts that would have otherwise been lost to humanity."

    Also, in terms of lineage, when it is broken, etc., I found this parallel situation quite fascinating:

    Its founder was a Tibetan monk, also trained at Sera Je monastery. He streamlined and westernized the teachings. Eventually there was a rift with Gelugka over some practice called Dorje Shogden and his monastery disowned him. It's a pretty large sect still, however.

    As to GM himself, both insiders and observers can certainly be rightly confused as to claims of lineage and consistency. There's Eric's statement, and also similar statements I've read and heard from GM himself about mix-and-matching teachings from various traditions. On the other hand, the mantle of his legitimacy, referred to all the time, even in the very appellate "Geshe Michael" comes from his oft-cited 20-plus years of study of Gelugka.

    On the retreat website, there is a page "An Unbroken Lineage' that makes the claim absolutely unequivocally that this is the real deal, sanctioned and certified.

    To those for whom this is important, to study with a Lama in this lineage, it does in fact matter very much whether the teachings accord with those of this lineage or in fact have morphed into a new tradition.

  17. Sid says:

    There has been some very interesting conversation here over the last few days, thanks to everyone taking part. In addition to fielding more media inquiries over the last week, I have also been re-connecting with a few former members and sharing experiences. The level of dysfunction and abuse within this organization is astounding. Michael Roach is, in my opinion, a sociopath, plain and simple. This will become clear as more people tell their stories. Am I feeling malice? After what I heard today the answer is probably yes. Unfortunately I can only speak about my own experiences, others will have to tell their own stories, but it will happen. This is far from over.

  18. svan says:

    Here is a transcript of MR's teaching titled "Tantra in America", given in 1999. He had been secretly married to Christie for a year at this time, and was just about to enter 3 year retreat with her and 3 other women in Arizona:

    Under "Authenticity of Lineage" (p. 5), he says:

    "Although I am hesitant personally to state my qualifications for granting tantric initiations and teachings, I would like to list them here, only for the benefit of those who have asked me to; that is, for those who are seriously interested in the possibility of receiving them from myself. I encourage each student of the Institute to be very careful in the selection of their tantric teacher, and tell you quite frankly that I may not be the proper teacher for your own personal needs. It is crucial though that you do seek this teacher out, to find them and to lean with them, as quickly as you are properly able.
    My training in the theory of tantra in this life has been accomplished as follows. Over the last 20 years I have received group tantric initiations from: His Holiness the Dalai Lama; from the late Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, senior tutor of the Dalai Lama and holder of the throne of Je Tsongkapa; from Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin, former abbot of Sera Mey Tibetan Monastery; and from the late Zong Rinpoche, tantric master of Ganden Tibetan Monastery.
    I have received extensive group teachings on tantra over the last 20 years from Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin, and more specialized teachings from Geshe Trinley Topgye, abbot of Gyume Tibetan Tantric Monastery. I have received brief tantric retreat instructions from the esteemed third incarnation of Pabongka Rinpoche.
    Whatever I have been able to do correctly in my tantric practice is due to the blessings of these eminent Lamas; and whatever mistakes I have made, or setbacks I have encountered, have been due to my own failure to follow their instructions. We really are like ants in their hands, and the most common error we can make I think is to react to their words or actions on face value—to misinterpret things when they seem to criticize us unfairly or act in ways that might even seem wrong.
    We must rather, to the best of our ant-like capacity, try to discern their higher purposes in guiding us up the tree. It is essential in the practice of tantra, as Je Tsongkapa has so eloquently taught us in the art of interpreting the Buddha's teachings on emptiness, that we rely not on the actual statements of a Lama, but rather on what we determine their true meaning to be, by taking as our ultimate authority our own careful reasoning and direct experience in deciding what is right or wrong for our practice.
    I have further received private initiations and practice instructions from some six perfect Tantric Masters over more than 20 years, and it is with their sole sanction and guidance that I undertake my current tantric practice.
    How do you meet an authentic Tantric Master? You reel them in with your good deeds, you attract them with your attempts to live a good life, like a bee to honey. This fact, that you must have collected immense amounts of good karma to meet them, can be an important barometer in determining whether you are ready for these teachings, and whether a potential tantric teacher is "for real."
    In judging my own heart, I have tried to examine whether I have the necessary amount of good karma to practice and teach these subjects. Again, I list my thoughts on this here only to help those who may be interested in learning with me.
    I have memorized an extensive amount of tantric ritual and have translated several hundred pages of tantric commentaries. I've also undertaken over ten full tantric retreats, and practiced tantra daily for more than 20 years. I have spent over 5,000 hours in this lifetime—here in America and at each of the major monasteries of the Gelukpa Tibetan tradition—in classes and debate of the open teachings, under some 12 major Tibetan teachers. I have spent over 30,000 hours in the personal service of my Lamas, in such tasks as cooking, building, or working a corporate job to raise funds for Tibetan monks and monasteries. I have helped save over 100,000 pages of sacred scripture; translated and taught 3,000 pages of open teachings to others in more than a thousand hours of classes, and so on.
    I think that whatever qualifications I have to teach and practice tantra, and whatever goals I have ever been able to reach spiritually, are due to these sincere efforts to study, practice, and serve my Lamas and others. If I see the world in a way which is different from the way that others may, it is precisely because of these efforts—it is the expected result of the Buddhist path itself.
    I don't believe that persons who have not expended similar efforts will or could appreciate all the views I am expressing here on the subject of tantra. I offer them only in the hopes that some exceptional disciples with seeds of true faith may be attracted to this path, and with a prayer that—by the power of the truth of these words—others as well may at some future time come under the loving guidance of their own Tantric Master."

  19. ekanthomason says:

    I must confess that all along, even through this latest controversy, I have reserved a small space in my mind for the possibility that Michael Roach and Christie McNally were engaging in a Gelupa sanctioned consort practice. The area of doubt has been getting smaller and smaller as this controversy has progressed. But I continued to think, perhaps under special circumstances it is permitted and if it is secret then they really cannot talk about it. Today that space evaporated into thin air.

    Deep in another thread, Sea mentioned Serkong Dorjechang, a well-known and very respected monk who engaged in partner practice. Not being familiar with him, I did some research. Serkong Dorjechang lived during the lifetime of the 13th Dalai Lama, who recognized him as a very advanced practitioner. His Holiness advised him to give back his robes so he could take up consort practice in order to accelerate his advancement on the path.

    Yes. Serkong Dorjechang was a monk.
    Yes. Serkong Dorjechang engaged in consort practice.
    However, he was not a monk during the time he had a consort. He gave his robes back at the request of HHDL.

    “And in the history of the Gelug lineage, he is the only Lama that the Dalai Lama has ever advised to give his robes back.” The message is very clear to me for the first time. Monks of the Gelugpa tradition are not to engage with a physical consort. Michael Roach's robes and consort practice are completely incompatible with one another.

  20. ConcernedCitizen says:

    Not sure if this has been posted here yet but it’s from 2006:

  21. ekanthomason says:

    Yesterday, I called the office of Gyumed Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Jampa. He was appointed by the Dalai Lama on November 12, 1996, as the honorable Abbot of the Gyumed Tantric College, where he served for three years. Khensur means retired abbot. It is one of the highest titles one can earn in the Tibetan system. I had heard rumors that Khensur Rinpoche had spoken to Geshe Michael regarding his vows and robes. I called his office to see if it was true. They asked who I was and what my motivation was. I told them I had studied tantra at Diamond Mountain University. My motivation was to know the truth and share it with anyone who might benefit from it, so they could make informed decisions. I spoke with two geshes and then they said they would call me right back. These are my recollections of our conversation.

    1. Did Jetsongkapa engage in consort practice?

    Jetsongkapa never engaged in consort practice. His biography is clear that he was ABSOLUTELY CELIBATE. There are two ideas about when Jetsongkapa became enlightened. One is, he was enlightened before he took his human birth in 1357. The other says that he waited until he was in the bardo before attaining enlightenment. There is no one that says he became enlightened during his lifetime. Therefore, there was no need for this practice.

    2. Was Geshe Michael asked to give up his robes?

    In 2005, Kenshur Rinpoche came to Arizona and said to Michael Roach, “If you take a wife, you don’t have vows and you should not wear robes.” “If you still have vows, you should cut your hair.” We know now that Michael Roach had a wife and we also know that he has not cut his hair.

    3. So, if we can turn substances into nectar in ritual, can sex be transformed into a divine act…(I was cut off before finishing the sentence). NO! (very strong). Sex is a root downfall and cannot be repaired. Substances are a lesser vow and can be mended.

    So if a monk partakes of alcohol that has been transformed into nectar as part of a sacred ritual, then the monk must confess this. A minor vow has been broken but the vows can be restored. If a monk engages in sexual/consort activities, then a root downfall vow has been broken. It cannot be repaired. I remember hearing MR say in tantra class, “Practicing with a partner not sex, it is something else because it is transformed.” A monk or nun in the Gelukpa tradition engaging in such acts no longer has the right to wear robes no matter how "good their concentration is."

    Everywhere I turn, except one place, I hear the same things from the ordained of the Gelugpa tradition, regardless of their ranking. It is very amazing to me that they are so united. The checks and balances in this tradition really seem to work.

  22. A Nonny Mouse says:

    What I want to know is why this has taken so long to come out. I guess it must have been the "charisma" that snagged people. The massive hype that this group kicked up everywhere it went that promised the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and world messiah-hood for its leader. That, and the fact that few it seems checked out the goods with a Vajrayana 101 survey. This is understandable considering the appropriation of his Teacher's name and lineage, as well as significant advertising of his "Geshe" as tools for authentication. Let me add here that a Geshe degree legitimately earned or not is not necessarily a guarantee of Guru-or Buddhahood.

    Plenty of well-informed and serious people saw this coming from the early 90s and perhaps before, Tibetans and non-Tibetans alike. Some of them even tried to gently or fiercely question him and his students, but were instantly dismissed, silenced, spiritually bullied, or flattened by the newly converted (or re-connected) and by MR himself. Those people, often deeply concerned, committed practitioners themselves, were often seen as being jealous of MR's seeming overnight success. And that success was the main criterion for dismissing their concerns. But any good Buddhist knows: everything changes.

    There is no question that there was great promise there, and perhaps great expectations, and there is no question that MR has done many wonderful things (many of them, however, eroded by a manifest lack of quality control due to moving ahead at breakneck speed, as with ACIP data), but there were subtle and not-so-subtle early warning signs that those with enough discernment were able to detect easily. Those people of course would be relegated to the realm of not having the pure enough karma to be at MRs feet and/or to being jealous, or mere babies on the Dharma path. From another perspective some people say that something (in the realm of proliferating Dharma idea) is better than nothing. I have no way of verifying that.

    There also might be an element of racism in this whole story. Some westerners being modern or post-modern think they know more than the products of an ostensibly premodern society. The thing is westerners know more about some things and less about others. Too bad that the cultural divide was not taken seriously by either westerners or Tibetans in the transmission of Dharma to the west and was swept under the rug, as though ignoring it could make it vanish.

    This is partly attributable to the fact that since some Tibetans in positions of immense influence don't regard other modes of knowledge than those that are exclusively related to their understanding of the Dharma as relevant (His Holiness the Dalai Lama has tried to address that with his interest in and dialogue with science and scientists), their students, western or otherwise, adopt similar attitudes. Such has been the wholesale importation of Tibetan cultural biases alongside the truly liberative Dharma teachings of which the Tibetans naturally consider themselves the supreme and sanctioned purveyors.

  23. A Nonny Mouse says:

    There are some posters here who speak in an informed way about the authentic Tibetan traditions with an appropriate sense of gravity and decorum. What they don't seem to understand though is why even that authenticity that they are speaking on behalf of sometimes is based on or includes elements within the Tibetan traditions themselves that remain, unconsciously or consciously, questionable at best to many thoughtful westerners, such as, for example, the protector controversy, which is always brought up along with accusations of sectarianism. But counter-sectarianism can become sectarian too, and does. There are plenty of stories about a center of one lineage forbidding a member of another lineage from setting foot there to teach. This in the USA, mind you. And this sort of behavior has been rationalized and muffled in many Dharma centers for many years now. That's Dharma?

    What a menacing cloud to have to be subtly or overtly referent to; who's propitiating who for what; who's doing rituals against who or what; who's on which side, who's funding who, etc. It's no wonder that so many people are running to the Pali Canon to learn what the earliest extant texts say that the Buddha taught.

    All of that sort of talk and interlineal controversy (some call it Dharma combat; you can read more technical treatments about violence and Vajrayana in Stephen Jenkins' work) that no one here seems to want to dip into very deeply creates incredible suspicion, distrust; a palpable film of distasteful residue within and among so-called authentic Dharma practitioners/groups (and produces an allergy or fear toward Tibetan Buddhism in seekers not yet involved but very much inclined toward the universalist bodhicitta ethic) and raises serious questions about a number of issues.

    For example, seeing the vitriol among Tibetans themselves toward some Dalai Lama protesters, the spitting, cursing, and throwing things that was witnessed by many in NYC a few years ago, and likewise the untethered aggression and bullying on both sides that continues in India over that issue makes one wonder how any of that behavior fits with any of what the Buddha taught.

    What we see is a grotesque display of tribalism. Meanwhile, many monastics both Tibetan and western maintain startling attitudes of entitlement that make humility and real discipleship a long lost artifact in their trajectories. Instead of serving others, they expect to be served, like aristocrats in robes. The authentic masters of which I have met a few, are becoming more and more rare.

    And frankly, for most thinking, sensitive people, many of whom were first drawn to Tibetan Buddhism because they were inspired by the embodied and truly exemplary masters of bodhicitta and wisdom, all of this nonsense can be crazy-making.

    But people put allegiance ahead of what's true in many cases, often out of fear, or a need for belonging, or power. And once you are very far in you may see no way out for fear of Avici hell or out of fear of losing rank and status questionably acquired.

    This is truly sad, as evidenced by the hundreds of people who have left, or at least distanced themselves from a colorful variety of Dharma movements and been faced with picking up the pieces of their broken hearts and terrified minds, having groped for safe refuge in a burning world and found an insidious and often covert type of spiritual bullying that claims to be upholding nothing but the highest spiritual ideals.

  24. A Nonny Mouse says:

    More liberal Dharma groups that made a bigger effort to assimilate to the west and to the make-up of the western psyche have seemed to do better, in general, in spite of bumps along their own roads to expansion.

    People who adhere to many dysfunctional Dharma organizations are often guided by legitimate devotion to legitimate teachers and transformative practices, and also by the power of the teacher and the power they begin to feel when doing intense practices, and are told to "shelf it" until such time as their wisdom is sufficiently developed to better understand all the messier, disturbing, or less rational elements. Kim Knott's work on insider/outsider perspectives in religion, is worth noting, as well as many of the interviews on Buddhist Geeks that explore some of these themes and questions.


    Meanwhile, making references to heady literature and elaborate enlightenment maps presented in mythic terms seem ridiculous and disconnected from our current existential situation. Is this what the Buddha wanted for us?

    It seems a necessary consequence that the mission of really seeking the truth for oneself, based on one's carefully observed experience, which is what the Buddha invited us to do, often precludes the interests of maintaining any lineage, view, or doctrine, high and pure as all those may truly and legitimately be. But it takes immense courage, patience, and honesty to do that. We are often not willing to live by that degree of honesty. And we also do not need to throw the baby out with the bathwater do we? Nowhere have I seen more compelling literature on training the mind in compassion, for example. And yet it seems that access to these pure traditions is being restricted by a barbed-wire fence of increasing controversy, shamanic or ritual power struggles, and abuse, as well as by our own lack of interest in educating ourselves carefully, preferring instead the quick fix and the shallow and the unquestioning feel good of practicing to feel good.

    Without realizers forget about maintaining a tradition purely.

    The Triple Gem is supposed to be a safe refuge. Yet so many people in so many groups are feeling subtly ill at ease all the way to fundamentally unsafe because of so much madness held out as authentic Dharma.

    Once you belong to a group there is an implicit expectation to translate your involvement into unquestioning allegiance. Questioning outside of accepted parameters is implicitly regarded as a lack of faith. So there are in my view, cult-like elements in many "authentic" and "pure" Dharma groups. This raises very important questions about what it means to maintain the integrity and purity of a lineage.

    If we as individual practitioners confuse a pure practice with dogmatic, constricted, defensive, messianic, and/or fundamentalist attitudes (on top of whatever psychological wounding we bring to it from the start such as narcissistic tendencies, abandonment issues, etc), we are harming the very lineages we hope to maintain. If on the other hand people see us wherever we go and think of us: what a good, kind, respectful, ethical, responsible, easy going, unpretentious, person–then we are doing our job in upholding the purity of any authentic lineage. There is nothing sectarian in that. But my I have seen some incredible behavior among those who claim to be living according to lofty Mahayana values. What I have noticed also is that Vajrayana practices can exponentially magnify unconscious complexes in unseasoned practitioners, manifesting as grossly distorted behavior, such as emotional, verbal, and physical volatility, etc. Thankfully that is a developmental phase that qualified masters alone know how to help navigate, but it can wreak untold damage on oneself and others. A whole area that should be studied, carefully.

  25. A Nonny Mouse says:

    I once witnessed a senior western Dharma practitioner with much knowledge of Tibetan ream out a young man who had shown up at the Temple with a yellow shawl with red Sanskrit non-Buddhist mantras printed on it (that many yoga people wear). It was completely shocking. If this is the way a recognized senior western teacher believes the pure Dharma is to be upheld, all I can do is shake my head. No wonder there continues to be interreligious strife at all levels.

    People who ask questions about how things are done or understood within these traditions are often viewed with distrust, and relegated to the outside in one way or another, whether by shunning (yes some Tibetans and Tibetan imitators still like this one a lot; preferring it to the "negative karma" of discussions that could arouse more mental afflictions) or in other ways.

    If Buddhist followers cannot function reasonably in relation to the epistemic standards of the society within which they function, I don't see how that is going to help these lineages survive in the west, unless they become entirely closed systems, and whoever has taken a science 101 class knows that all closed systems die.

    The extremely precious and profound teachings of bodhicitta and emptiness need to be extricated from polarized attitudes if they are to yield the benefit that they promise practitioners and all sentient beings. I am therefore suspicious of teachers who, regardless of the accepted histories/stories, pathologize other lineages or their leaders or an individual's need to deeply question, regardless of the exalted and /or recognized spiritual status of the teacher.

    My most inspiring teachers have been decidedly practical, down to earth, broad-minded, curious, deeply sensitive to individuals' personal situations/problems/resources (profoundly considerate), unpretentious, devoid of self-aggrandizement, extremely respectful, entirely uninterested in commodifying themselves or the Dharma, or in superstitious interpretations of anything. They do exist, dear people. But they are indeed rare. If the Tony Robbins style you find to be a more skillful means, then first check the results. But in Tony Robbins defense, he has never used religion or spiritual technologies, or claims to enlightenment to market himself or his ideas.

    Once you are polarized strongly in any direction, you have lost the very foundation of Buddhist practice everywhere mentioned in the early canonical (Pali) literature: mindfulness. Mindfulness is intended to develop a very stable experiential, embodied equanimity (not a belief) which forms a proper foundation for the development of authentic conventional and ultimate bodhicitta.

    If the mindfulness lineages belonging to the southern schools etc. had been practiced to perfection in Tibet I don't see how we could be witnessing many of these issues today. Equanimity is not an intellectual game. It has to be viscerally realized, that is, one has to understand the relationship among the 5 heaps and understand deeply the 12 links. Without first establishing equanimity experientially within the body-mind complex of a practitioner, advocating for renunciation, bodhicitta, and correct view amounts to mere doctrinal allegiance, to say nothing of attempting a Vajrayana practice without it.

  26. ConcernedCitizen says:

    Rumors of sexual misconduct and other crazy drama from a Diamon Mountain student in 2006:

  27. Sam says:

    As a complete outsider … I do feel sorry for those who were or still are duped by MR…
    I don't like to talk bad about any one, but I do feel that if people with authority and credibility in the West and East Buddhist ¨scene¨ don't take care of this ¨scandal¨properly, if they just remain silent, it will damaged the Dharma as a whole.
    The Truth must be spoken loudly.

  28. Jane says:

    I think what aguse is trying to say is that what you read on these kinds of forums should be taken with a grain (shaker?) of salt–especially on sites like e-sangha, phalyul (which would make Penor Rinpoche vomit), and elephantjournal, which don't seem to have moderators. does have a moderator who sometimes warns people to tone it down or else…

  29. Khedrup says:

    The Secret Biography of Lama Tsongkhapa
    Is available at this link…/59-song-of-the-mystic-experiences-of-lama-..
    If you have trouble finding it just google Tsongkhapa Secret Biography. It was written by Jamyang Tashi Palden.
    I read through it. It talks about LTK's practice of the 35 Confession Buddhas, his direct visions of various tantric deities, and dakinis singing vajra songs to him. Also his visions of various Nalanda scholars, and great Siddhas such as Tilopa etc.
    Nowhere does it mention entering into union with a consort.
    I also asked my teacher, a Lharampa geshe and graduate of the tantric college, and he has never heard of Lama Tsongkhapa entering into union with an actual consort. Like many great teachers, he generated as a deity with a visualized consort when he did his sadhanas. Not living female being. A visualized being.
    Perhaps in one of his previous lives, when he was not a monk? Honestly I have looked in many places, Tibetan and English texts, and asked me teachers. No one has heard of this.

  30. aguse says:

    you and Fleurine are the disgrace.

  31. Zirconia says:

    Same video at 1:59 … and those teachers sometimes contradict each other which drives you crazy your head splits open and stuff starts to leak out, you know? you go to one teacher in the monastery and he says you should never do this and then you go to the other teacher and he says you must do this, you know. And then you go like crazy you feel like your head is going to explode.

    2 of your dearest teachers are telling you to do opposite things, then in our tradition, the student is required to decide which is correct by examining which is more helpful for other beings. This lama told me I should do yoga, this other lama told me I should never do yoga. This lama ordered me to have a spiritual partner, this other lama told me I can't have a spirtual partner, what am I sup… [end of recording]

    Under every video at now has "Note: this broadcast will be deleted tonight."

  32. Tummo says:

    To Repeat Aguse without having it lost in a thread.
    Lama Thubten Yeshe (Introduction to Tantra, 147) wrote:
    "There is a certain point in the mastery of the completion stage where physically embracing a consort is necessary…"

    Je Tsong Khapa who founded the Gelugpas, agreed that to attain Buddha-hood in one lifetime, it is necessary to use an actual consort (karma mudra) saying,
    "A female companion is the basis of accomplishment of liberation."

    That is, in order to generate an illusory body as that of a particular deity with all the qualities of existence, another person must interact with it.

    The Dalai Lama said he would not reach enlightenment in this lifetime because he did not have a consort.

    The Dalai Lama also said that many within Buddhist schools believe that the Shakyamuni became enlightenment with a consort under the Bodhi Tree and that his was edited out in many iconographies and written accounts.

    It is generally understood in the tantric tradition, that it is not possible to bring all five winds into the central channel at the same time unless one performs karmamudra. The yogi will do the practice at an advanced stage. Milarepa did karmamudra with dakinis. The source for the oral instructions on the completion stage of the Kalachakra Tantra by Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey of the Gelugpa. I've also heard this from the Drikung Kagyu lamas. In some lineages an advanced yogi who is a monk will take a consort and it is not seen as violating vows, because this is what the Buddha said to do as part of the tantric method.

    In Dzogchen and essence mahamudra, karmamudra is not important, and works with different channels.

    From The Essential Dalai Lama: His Important Teachings by Dalai Lama:
    "Yogis who have achieved a high level of the path and are fully qualified can engage in sexual activity, and a monastic with this ability can maintain all the precepts."

  33. ekanthomason says:

    Aguse said, "you can be married and still keep your ordination vows, you dope. a marriage is just a legal agreement and an additional set of vows."

    If "you can be married and still keep your ordination vows", why did MR/C lie and deceive so many people for so many years about their marital status?
    Why did Christie plead with us at the end of their relationship to understand that she did not want to be perceived as a consort any more? It was so unfair to her.

  34. Tenor says:

    Now for some sweet news about a genuine American Geshe and Rato Monastery [where Roach is so proud to have debated]:

    Dalai Lama Appoints Ven. Nicholas Vreeland as Abbot of Rato Monastery in India —
    First Time Westerner Becomes Head of a Tibetan Monastery

    New York City — The Tibet Center is proud to announce that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has appointed its Director, the Venerable Nicholas (“Nicky”) Vreeland, as the new Abbot of Rato Monastery, which is based in India. This is a historic moment; this is the first time that a Westerner has been appointed as abbot of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery.
    During the investiture in Long Beach California on April 20, 2012, the Dalai La-ma stated, “Your special duty (is) to bridge Tibetan tradition and Western world.” The Dalai Lama was in California giving teachings and public lectures.
    On May 10, The Tibet Center will host a reception in New York City to celebrate this appointment. On July 6, Vreeland will be officially enthroned at Rato Monastery in India as the new abbot.

    As he has done for many years, Vreeland will continue to split his time between The Tibet Center in New York and the monastery in India. The original Rato Monastery, located on the outskirts of Lhasa, Tibet, was established by Je Tong Khapa in the 14th Century to preserve the teachings on Buddhist logic. By 1959, Rato had over 500 monks in residence, with scholars from all the great monastic universities of Tibet converging there every year for a month of intense philosophical and logical study and debate.

    In 1983, Rato was reestablished in a Tibetan refugee settlement in the south Indian state of Karnataka, where two years later Vreeland became a monk and began his monastic studies. He sat for his Geshe degree (Doctorate of Philosophy) in 1998, after which he returned to New York to assume duties as the Director of The Tibet Center —Kunkhyab Thardo Ling — where he had first begun his studies of Buddhism with the Center’s founder, the Reverend Khyongla Rato Rinpoche in 1977.
    The Tibet Center has been a co-host with the Gere Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visits to New York a number of times, including two public talks in Central Park and teachings at Radio City Music Hall. Vreeland has edited the New York Times bestseller, An Open Heart, and the recent, A Profound Mind, both authored by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
    Though there are well over a thousand Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, Rato Mon-astery is one of only a dozen important Tibetan Government monasteries under the Dalai Lama’s patronage. Today there are approximately 100 monks at Rato ranging from the age of 6 to 90.

    Vreeland has been a photographer since he was 13 years old, and assisted Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. A recent exhibition of Vreeland’s work, Photos for Rato, toured major cities around the world, raising most of the funds needed for the construction of Rato Monastery’s new campus and temple, which was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama on January 31, 2011.

  35. anonymous snake says:

    I think we should all give aguse a break, since s/he is obviously suffering from a severe case of DMentia.

  36. Osel Torres says:

    At the risk of sticking my head above water

    I plead with everyone who is contributing here. Please ask yourself before posting…

    "Is this truly going to help anyone. Am I right. Am I speaking from emotion or wisdom."

    Sid, matthew, Ecan, ABC, Snakes and shouters. "Am I sure that I am not Making a mistake in posting again"?

    everything posted on the net will effect someone.

    I certainly hope that none of my friends are posting or reading this page

  37. ekanthomason says:

    In the 1999 transcript "Tantra in America" MR lists his six tantric masters.
    He mentions six perfect Tantric Masters, but unfortunately, does not list their names.

    1. Initiation – His Holiness the Dalai Lama (1936 – )
    2. Initiation – Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, 1903 – 1983
    3. Initiation & Teachings – Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin 1921 – 2004
    4. Initiation – Zong Rinpoche, 1905 – 1984
    5. Teachings – Geshe Trinley Topgye (1937 – )
    6. Retreat Instructions – Pabongka Rinpoche (?)

    “Venerable Emeritus Abbot Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Jampa (known as Geshe Trinley Topgye) was born in 1937.” This is tantric master #5 in MR's list.

    In 2005, when Khensur Rinpoche came to Arizona and talked to MR about his robes and vows, it was in the capacity of being his tantric master.

    See complete conversation in yesterdays post:
    In 2005, Khensur Rinpoche came to Arizona and said to Michael Roach, “If you take a wife, you don’t have vows and you should not wear robes.” “If you still have vows, you should cut your hair.” We know now that Michael Roach had a wife and we also know that he has not cut his hair.

  38. Osel Torres says:

    My comments have been deleted from this site twice.

    I ask again. Please consider anythng hat any of you post here before posting. These internet conversations effect so many more people than you could possibly imagine. Please ask yourselves bfore posting… "is this going help people." " is this fact or am I venting in public" Do not damage the dharma.

    I truly hope that none of my friends are posting or reading this page.

  39. aguse says:


  40. Karen Visser says:

    Osel-la, I've been talking to someone who knows you, there's a little confusion about the writing style in your posts here. Are you still in Ibiza? You can post on your facebook page, as you usually do. Many thanks.

  41. question for aguse says:

    Hi aguse, I was wondering what your take on Lama Christie is?

  42. namarupa says:

    The Emperor's Tantric Robes: An Interview with June Campbell on Codes of Secrecy and Silence

    "An idealistic young Scottish woman goes East to study Buddhism. Twenty-five years later she delivers a radical and unsparing critique of religious structures in Tibet. How much of this system is taking root in West? And how much of it do we really want?"

  43. Jhampa Chodzen says:

    I find the tone of some posters here is similar to a lynch mob. Some of you would like to have a Buddhist Inquisition, overseen by orthodox Gelugpas, where any teacher deemed offensive can be forced to appear to be interrogated, stripped of their robes, and burned at the stake (symbolically, I hope).
    Before you pick up the poison pen again, you might want to check up and ask yourself how pure your own motivation is. Is there anger, jealousy, envy or frustration lurking there, just waiting for a suitable, familiar and easy target? When you consider Michael Roach, do you feel sanctimonious? Be honest! I would echo what Osel has said… please thoughtfully consider the impact of what you say on forums like this. Will your words bring people together, or split them apart? Will they sow dissension, doubt and strife, or will they result in harmony, understanding and compassion?

  44. concerned says:

    Aguse (Kelly Morris). I am so sorry that you are so hurt. You seem really upset by all of this. We are all upset, shocked and disturbed. That all being said you are being really vicious. Please try to be compassionate. We are all suffering from this tragedy.

  45. Sid says:

    Osel and Jhampa, thanks for the reminder to think carefully about what we say here. There are definitely times when I could have said things with more compassion, and yes sometimes there is some anger behind this, which I feel is warranted and necessary to some degree. I personally abandoned a promising career and lost several years of my life following a man who I now see as a very dangerous sociopath. In a addition to Ian's death and Christie's descent into mental illness, I have watched recent videos' of people I used to know at DM, and it is shocking to see how deranged they appear to have become. I have also been contacted by dozens of people since this story broke who have thanked me for speaking up and encouraged me to continue.
    I personally don't feel that it is very compassionate to let someone fall into danger without at least trying to warn them.
    And as I have stated before, I believe that this is actually a very positive forum, secrecy and silence just breed more rot, we are putting what we have experienced on the table, to see how it stands up in the light.
    The Michael Roach trainwreck is one that needs to be studied very carefully, we need to know what went so horribly wrong, which will inevitably lead to some very uncomfortable questions regarding the Tibetan culture that helped create it.
    Evolution, as they say,is beautiful, but it is not pretty.

  46. Karen Visser says:

    Osel-la, Tandah, kabah yo-rey? Kerang US la chin-peh?

  47. kelly rigpa says:

    The "context" was this: During the taping of the 'Cinco de Mayo' promo, GMR kept referring to the holiday as 'Mexican Independence Day.' (September 16th.) I explained that C de M is a celebration commemorating a battle won by an army of Mexican Nationals out-numbered (2-1) by French Army regulars.
    Regardless of context, it was my horrible karma (I guess?) to hear the realized being and the internationally-acknowledged teacher of many sincere practitioners quoting a senior member of the Nazi Government….Three weeks to the day before Ian died.

  48. matthew says:

    I've published an update, with analysis of how Roach and others have handled the Diamond Mountain tragedy so far:

  49. Tenor says:

    The "Lama Christie McNally" Facebook page has been scrubbed – no longer has any info (like Vajrapani FPMT 2010 videos). Only "recent activity": "Lama Christie and Jeff Brown are now friends"

    Mr. Brown is the author of SOULSHAPING and "Heartmaster in Process." His Educational & Work profile includes: "Enrealment Collegiate – Class of 1998. Clan of the Heart Bare: We were a clan of goofballs seeking enheartenment. Although we graduated with honors, we go back now and then when we forget what we learnt." Etc.

    He's currently in Ontario.

    According to his web page ( he has "an unforgettable spiritual documentary film – Karmageddon"

    CM's Info page:

    Education: the world is our classroom
    Tibetan Heart Yoga, Yoga Sutras, Hatha Yoga Pradipikawith Jan Henrikson

    Activities: Yoga and Buddhism with Christopher Real – [Santa Cruz]

  50. Jacky says:

    Tenor can't stay on topic. She/he wants to attack any group not up to her/his extremist orthodox standards. Buddhism started a hell of a long time ago. Time has marched on, and so should Buddhism.

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