The Michael Roach Bubble.

Via yoga 2.0 lab
on Jun 29, 2012
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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 analysis by matthew remski

Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful! — Lorca

important background:

— Christy McNally’s letter, April 19th
— Michael Roach’s open letter, April 26th
— my original post, May 4th
— John Stillwell’s rebuttal, May 6th
— my followup, May 19th
— Michael Roach’s essay, June 2nd
— NYT article, June 5th


since I last posted: a brief synopsis…

There are reports that Christie McNally was last seen in Kathmandu, trying to secure a private audience with her first teacher, Lama Zopa Rinpoche. She couldn’t. There is a report that Christie’s mother has quoted Christie as saying: “Michael Roach murdered my love.” The Thorson family is starting to talk to the media. The claim that Roach’s sexual partner practices are a legitimate aspect of Gelukpa tradition has been thoroughly savaged by several knowledgeable commentators. A Facebook page has been organized to croudsource letters of concern to the Dalai Lama, and to request that Sera Mey monastery – Roach’s putative alma mater – formally distances itself from Roach. Dozens of followers and ex-followers of Roach are beginning to come forward with their memories.

No one knows where this story is leading. But a close look at how it’s unfolding, and how Roach and others have chosen to respond so far, gives a dizzying view on how deep this rabbit hole goes.

There are now almost 48K views of my original May 4th piece about the circumstances under which Ian Thorson died after being expelled from Diamond Mountain by Michael Roach and the Diamond University Board. There are over 28K views of the follow-up. There are over 3200 comments between them in which over 200 supporters and critics of Michael Roach slug out the issues of his responsibility for McNally’s mental health and Thorson’s death, as well as his qualifications as a monk, his virtues as a philanthropist and cultural translator of Tibetan philosophy, and his credibility as a scholar and “realizer” of Buddhist attainments. The threads read like a collective doctoral study of Tibetan metaphysics and cross-cultural anthropology, as well as the twisting saga of present and ex-students navigating a swamp of devotion and trauma. Huffpo picked up the story on May 22nd.

When the New York Times reported on June 5th, the floodgates of global media opened. Fernanda Santos’ story – an account brief and elliptical enough to provoke many new questions – was broadcast throughout the English-speaking world, reinvigorating the source-threads with a slew of new commentary, and prompting an immediate followup by Nightline, in which Ian Thorson’s grieving mother called out Roach’s group point-blank as a cult. Lama Surya Das warned the world about him in HuffPo. Since June 6th, I’ve fielded calls from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Newsweek, CNN, and People Magazine. The story is getting louder. But on Diamond Mountain there is the silence of continued retreat, and tight lips.

Except for Roach, who has had plenty to say – mainly about himself. He’s published a 26-page self-report of his academic history. In recent public appearances he has compared himself to Jesus and Abraham Lincoln. He has bragged about his well-attended appearances all over the world, and about his book sales doubling on Amazon despite negative publicity. He has joked that “We need more scandals.” He has compared his critics to demons. And at the opening of his first public appearance on the American soil in which Ian Thorson’s flesh is dissolving, he held down the rhythm on double bass as a devotee sang “What a Wonderful World”.

The disjunction between Michael Roach’s bubble of obliviousness and consensus reality is being laid bare before our eyes, in real time. Thousands want to know why a frail young man meditated to death in the arms of his wife, in a cave without food or water. They want to know how his wife came to believe she was a goddess. They want to know what paroxysms of religious delusion and/or domestic violence led her to stab him months before he died. They want to know why her former lover and guru exiled them both from their home and community. Despite Roach’s claims to kindness and empathy and selfless service, it appears as though he is happy to laugh about a tragedy in his wake, and ignore these now-global questions that cut to the very heart of modern spiritual integrity. Perhaps we can chalk it up to his decades-long meditative rehearsal of a neo-Tantric mirage in which every calamity is a divine teaching moment, every criticism is proof of his virtue, and every call for transparency is an invitation to greater secrecy.

On a broader scale, Roach’s snubbing of consensus reality is a powerful display of irreconcilable worldviews: the collision of premodern tribal magicality with postmodern skepticism and inquiry. The public discourse around his intentions is a powerful display of the hostile barrier of mutual misunderstanding and distrust between religious insiders and outsiders. In an age in which progressive religiosity is at least attempting a dialogue between premodern faith and postmodern reason, the Diamond Mountain story shows what happens when this dialogue crashes and burns, or perhaps never gets started.


the endless Roach monologue that answers nothing

Roach’s public relations strategy is, as they say in the theatre, to “mark, park and bark”: hit your stage mark, stand your ground head-on, and deliver your lines to the nosebleeds. His first public “response” to the tragedy of Thorson’s death and the embarrassment of McNally’s delusions consists of a 26-page essay in which he self-reports his educational achievements. Of course, it’s not a response at all, but a massive deflection to counter a far less meaningful accusation that recent events have resurrected: that his monastic degree was less-than-honestly procured. Numerous sources both now and dating back to the old website have charged that Roach’s academic credentials are honorary, and that his account contains gross exaggerations that play upon the cultural naiveté of his western students. Karen Visser reports that one of her current Sera Mey contacts, who remembers Roach’s visits in the 80s, describes Michael as a “cushion geshe”, someone who donated money to have his cushion reserved in the debate hall when he wasn’t there. This allegation has been supported by several commentators, but their anonymity cannot provide corroboration. Which is why some critics are seeking clarification from Sera Mey directly in a letter-writing campaign.

That Roach self-reports his achievements also does nothing to address his central credibility issue: he changes his story almost as often as he tells it. Honestly, I find this tragic, because buried somewhere within his look-at-me bluster is a story of amazing adventurousness, persistence, cross-cultural intelligence, devotion, and philanthropy. Even Roach’s harshest critics praise his work on the ACIP project and his considerable charitable contributions to Tibetan monasteries-in-exile. If he could simply restrain himself from exaggerating his educational story (time spent in Tibetan monasteries vs. time spent in Howell NJ) or his tenure with Andin International (implying he was still part of the company when Warren Buffett recently bought it), the uniqueness of his educational achievements (he is not, as he has claimed publicly for many years “the first Western geshe” – Georges Dreyfus was, as of 1985), his medical talent (“I’ve helped people with their health problems”), his singular insight into the historical Buddha (“On the night of his enlightenment he meditated all night with his consort”), his engineering skills (claiming to have “designed” and “built” the first wells and water lines for Sera Mey monastery), his self-portraits might inspire the broader sympathy he seems to desperately need. But such restraint is unlikely: his essay has to be read, after all, in light of his repeated claim to be on the verge of omniscience (self-reporting that he’s on the “Path of Seeing”). Michael Roach is not content to be a good guy. He really wants to be seen as a god as well, even as his fantastically twisted humanity is denuded before the world.

Beyond being utterly tone-deaf to the gravity of the Ian’s death, a number of structural aspects of this autobiogushical performance are worthy of note. Roach begins the essay with the faux-self-deprecating preamble common among the autobiographies of Tibetan saints:

Friends of mine have asked me to write some details about my life, partly to clarify information which appears online or in the press about me as my teachings become more prominent around the world, and partly because one of my Tibetan lamas has asked some of my students to write a biography about myself. These friends have been pestering me for some years—but I felt hesitant to respond, since it seemed a pretty self-centered thing to do. But as it may be helpful to my students and friends, I have decided to relent.

He “relents” with the device of question-and-answer, lending a teacherly “Ask the Expert” rhythm to his description, but ignoring the fact that these aren’t the questions that anyone is asking right now. Finally, the very title of the essay announces it’s written “for my friends”, indicating no intention of directly engaging outsider scrutiny, or anyone who would peal back the mask of his authority. Roach’s primary audience for his defensive screed consists of his own followers: at this dangerous juncture he must retain as many current devotees and sponsors for his expensive projects as possible, and to gain new adherents to replace those who are surely leaving. He seems to forget that as the director of a 501(c)(3) organization, we are all his sponsors.


story time for the clean-up crew

On the videos of his June 8 to 17th teachings in his new Phoenix meditation-and-media centre, you can watch Roach start out on the sound-stage in band formation, with double bass or sitar or guitar in hand, and then step aside faux-meekly for a scene change, as devotees build a teaching throne for him, complete with silks, flowers, and icons. Then he mounts the throne to read and give the oral commentary on sections from Pabongka Rinpoche’s Liberation in the Palm of Your Hands, the thick slab of a beginner’s practice manual for the Gelukpa tradition that so many feel he’s dragging through the mud.

The subject matter of these teachings was chosen long ago. But the timing of the subject provided an uncanny opportunity for Roach to kill several birds with one stone: launder his orthodox mantel, rally the faithful in the wake of the tragedy (never to be mentioned directly) with some “back-to-basics” pep, demean critical thinking and healthy skepticism, and reinforce the walls he has built between the 21st century and his pre-modern fiefdom. Pabongka Rinpoche’s book may be philosophically rich, but it is also culturally impenetrable, laced with the kind of monastic ephemera and medieval folklore that Roach constantly weaves into his discourse to romanticize his adopted tradition and amplify his other-worldly authority. In teaching this particular book at this particular time, Roach announces unambiguously: Daddy’s back in town.

The obviously hurt and confused students lap it up. Ani Chukyi (who I remember as Anne Lindsay back in 1998), spoke in her parallel teaching about what a relief it was to hear her lama (Roach) “start at the beginning” again, given the stress and scandal of Ian’s death. It would seem that the most effective rear-guard action a tottering authority figure can perform would be to remind his followers how good it felt to gambol in the age of innocence, before his ex-girlfriend went mad, before his most naïve protégé died in a cave, and to regress everyone to a warm and knowing place, untroubled by independent thought.

On the first night in Phoenix, during a section that describes the process for preparing for the ideal meditation session, Roach related Pabongka’s encouragement to clean your room prior to sitting down through a story that seems quaint enough, but which, given present circumstances, carries an ugly message. I’ll paraphrase:

Once there was very stupid monk. He was so stupid he couldn’t memorize a single sutra. So the Buddha told him to clean the temple with a broom. He said: when you sweep, recite: “Clean the dirt. Sweep the dirt”. Try as he might, the extremely stupid monk couldn’t even remember the two phrases together, or in order. Nonetheless, his faith in Lord Buddha was so great and his sweeping so ardent that he quickly attained levels of meditative equipoise and insight that rivaled those of the greatest scholars.

The moral is: you don’t have to think. You just have to believe. And sweep up the temple dirt. So the idiot monk sweeps himself right into heaven: a story that might give all of us idiots hope, until we realize that it’s also an ideal story for the reassertion of paternal (anal, in psychoanalytical terms) control amidst chaos.

Two suggestions hover beneath this story. Firstly, Roach is reminding students that he was the stupid temple-sweeping monk for his teacher, Khen Rinpoche Lobsang Tharchin (as per the anecdotes at the end of his blovathon). Secondly, he is implying that continued devotion in his students will obviate their cognitive failures. This suggestion is already an easy sell with most western adherents of Tibetan Buddhism, who will commonly say: “The Tibetans have been studying the truths of Lord Buddha for a thousand years: we shouldn’t presume to be able to understand anything”.

It is this tendency towards self-imposed ignorance that keeps Roach’s temple-soiling swept clean by insider brooms. The guru’s history is an incomprehensible hagiography: don’t scrutinize it too closely. Sweep, sweep. If you are troubled by his behaviours, the problem is your perception. Sweep, sweep. Roach and McNally’s relationship was a divine mystery: don’t interrogate its power/gender dynamics. Sweep, sweep. McNally’s delusions of grandeur are a display of karma that only a Buddha can understand. Sweep. We can’t really know why or how Ian Thorson died. Sweep. Given the possible confusion that recent events might provoke, it’s best to scrub McNally from all Roach-related websites. Sweep. “Don’t take it too seriously”, Roach reassures his crowd on the second night in Phoenix. Sweep, sweep.


“I’m not comparing myself to Jesus, but…”

The idiot-monk story is perhaps too subtle. Let’s skip right ahead to where Roach compares himself to Jesus. The transcript (6/9/12) is as follows:

In the last week there’s been a lot of crazy publicity about myself and Diamond Mountain. I haven’t actually seen that much of it. But I was in Guadalajara a few weeks ago,  right?– who was there? [receives acknowledgement from students] yeah, and it was weird, because the last time I was in Guadalajara 20 people came, or something, not many people came, and then this last time a thousand people showed up, and it was one of the largest places you could have in Guadalajara to fit people. And that happened several times on this last tour, right? In… where was that? [looks to devotees again] Colombia, and then again in Mexico city, sold out in the museum of the wealthiest man in the world — Carlos Slim. It was strange. the tour was pretty strange. I don’t know about you, if you were in Guadalajara that night, it felt like the Mexican revolution was going to happen again. I actually got nervous. I felt very — especially when our friend got up [a student in the crowd apparently mimics the Mexican friend’s fist-pumping actions], I just felt this energy run through the crowd and thought: this could get out of hand, you know.  Where do you go from here? To a soccer stadium or something? What’s going to happen next, you know. And I thought “Very powerful forces were being unleashed.” I felt like that. And it felt a little bit unsettling. I was a little nervous about it. And so then I thought “Something strong is going to happen.” In Buddhism they say when good forces are happening very strong, then there will be opposite forces will come. And you have to expect it. and I think personally, this is just my own opinion, we’ve done… many of you have done 20 years of  work, 25 years of hard work, free classes, 25 years of free classes, the university is free, the classes have been free, and 20K pages of traditional scripture have been unleashed into the modern world in a modern way. And people are starting to respond: even in Moscow before that, 850 people came to the talks. First time I’ve ever been there. Things are happening, things are moving, great forces are being unleashed, I feel. And I just want you not to be nervous or afraid or like that, okay, it makes me a little, it’s overwhelming for me and stressful for me, all the attention, and a lot of the negativity. But I think it’s natural, when good forces get very strong, and it’s happened throughout history. Read the story of — I’m not comparing myself to Jesus — but there’s a story: he healed Lazarus, he brought Lazarus back from the dead, which I cannot do, and I don’t claim to be able to do. But then he got in trouble. Beginning from that day, he got targeted by the authorities. They said that he was wrong to bring back people to life without asking the authorities: something like that, you know. And then they said, “O we have to go to Jerusalem now.” And Peter said “I don’t think you should go, you know, stuff might happen.” and he went anyway you know, oh-wey [slight tearing in voice, touches face]. So just, I feel that powerful good forces are being released, and there will be a reaction. and don’t be disturbed, don’t be sad, and don’t take it too seriously. Bigger things are coming. Much much greater things are coming. And beautiful things, global things, globally-changing things, and naturally there will be some reaction in the world. The more we do, the more reaction there will be. And that’s just natural, in the whole world. So embrace it and ride it, and don’t be nervous, and don’t be, especially don’t be unkind to other people, okay. Be friendly, be kind, be understanding of their needs. Respond to them with kindness and grace, elegance. That’s your training, that’s what you do. So whatever comes, our job is to practice, to be kind to people, be good to people, do our daily meditation, do our daily yoga, study. Show that you are well-trained, by being kind and forgiving, and serve people. That would make me most proud. Okay?

Okay indeed. Let’s analyze the rhetoric a little:

— To Roach, the breaking news is “crazy publicity”. It’s not the report of a death of his long-term spiritual student in his care under conditions of religious delusion.

— In the same breath, Roach veers from the content of the publicity, and diverts to stories about his recent global renown.

— From his throne, he quizzically asks his students to remind him where he has been and where he is going. This pretends to dilute his personal agency, creating the impression of plural group-think. The interchange affects a modest tone of someone “just swept up” in something bigger than him. This is consistent with his general practice of affecting charming foreignness and naiveté, as though he were native neither to English speech nor to the postmodern world of horseless carriages, flying machines, and the interwebs. Repeatedly asking students to find simple words for him is a powerful rhetorical device that keeps the class engaged and gives an artificial sense of solidarity in shared discovery, as the commentator Cyn points out.

— Throughout, Roach uses two rhetorical keys to the obfuscation of responsibility: plural address and the passive voice.

— Roach also often uses the 2nd person address to allude to himself. The collusion of 1st and 2nd person addresses creates a powerful boundary porosity between charismatic leader and devotional follower, such that who is doing what becomes obscured. This makes it very easy for underlings to feel a false sense of equality with him, empowerment from him, and participation in his plan.

— Roach name-drops Carlos Slim (the world’s richest man!!!), as though he were the sponsor/endorser of his Mexico appearance. Really, Roach just rented a venue from the guy.

— Only the Dalai Lama could ever teach in soccer stadiums. An indirect comparison.

— Multiple elliptical references to “powerful forces being released”. Again, the passive voice detaches Roach from responsibility. When credit is due, this rhetorical gesture affects modesty. When blame is near, it affects disengagement.

— “We’ve done, many of you have done”: he colludes his own narrative with that of the group. In fact, nobody in the room has “done” what he has done, but this fits the pattern of Roach handing off his own grandiosity to others. Later, he says, quoting Jesus (in plural): “O we have to go to Jerusalem now.” The suggestion of collective movement is vague and apocalyptic.

— As per usual, Roach uses the word “free” to describe his teaching products. Access through the front door may be free, but it’s certainly not free inside. The organization floats on a pre-modern sponsorship model in which donors are continually pressured for major contributions. “Free” is a way of obfuscating/romanticizing the real costs of a megalomaniac vision.

— “I’m not comparing myself to Jesus” – and then he does, alluding especially to Jesus’ heterodox actions. Then comes a terrible irony that makes me throw up a little in my mouth: Roach reminds us that Jesus’ troubles began over raising Lazarus from the dead, but of course his own troubles have sparked global interest because he is administratively and perhaps spiritually responsible for a man’s death. Roach is colluding Lazarus with Ian. But Ian’s corpse is not rising, except perhaps in the imagination of those who believe that he died in ecstasy. “[Jesus] brought Lazarus back from the dead, which I cannot do…” says Roach. Is this helpless Jesus somehow even more sympathetic?

— Roach tears up as he alludes to Calvary, preprogramming pathos amongst his devotees for whatever storms of persecution may come. I find this particularly dangerous.

— “Greater things are coming” echoes John 14:12, in which Jesus says– “Truly, I tell all of you with certainty, the one who believes in me will also do what I am doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (International Standard Version) Faith is presented as the prime consolation and route to self-empowerment. Keep calm and carry on.

— Bring it home with an appeal to forgiveness, kindness, and service. Position universally unassailable sentiments at the end of outrageous deflections and narcissistic allusions, to make the “main message” seem sane.

— “Okay?” This transcript reveals a comparatively sparing use of this particular Roachian rhetorical interrogative. He’s given teachings in which almost every sentence is followed by a hasty bark of “Okay?”, which instigates a regular head-nodding rhythm amongst the crowd, making it more and more difficult to any individual to feel, much less express, dissent. It’s a pretense at dialogue that can bully the crowd into group assent. I believe the head-nodding itself is a kinetic cue for physical kriyas. (He might have to alter this rhetorical device as he becomes more popular in Latin America. “Okay?” can become “Olé!”, leaving even less room for doubt. Buenos dias, Geshe Olé.)

the anxious shaman-charismatic-nowhere-man

I’ve spoken with many who knew Roach in the early days of his ministry.  One remembered that Roach quite obviously had an issue with regarding women as equal fellow students. Also: that it was impossible to have an adult conversation with him, because he couldn’t seem to temper his internal mystical reverie for long enough to see and feel another’s humanity, perspective, otherness. I remember this as well: a kind of conviction that impressed the doubtful at first, but slowly revealed itself as a lack of interpersonal skills and general failure of empathy. From a postmodern perspective, his neo-Tibetan world seemed simple to an infantile degree. From a psychoanalytic perspective, he was a narcissist who had failed to develop healthy ambivalence with regard to the complexity of the world.

But from his own markedly pre-modern perspective, he was simply walking the walk. By his lights, Khen Rinpoche was a Buddha, Manhattan was swarming with tantric deities, every good thing that happened to him was a divine blessing, every bad thing that happened to him was a divine teaching, and anyone who doubted any of this was obviously perverted by contemporary delusions or perhaps even demons, and couldn’t call themselves a real Buddhist.

To begin to read Michael Roach, one has to contemplate the extraordinary clash of pre-modern and postmodern cultures that constitutes much of the Tibetan-Buddhism-Comes-West experience. We might call it an “epistemic collision”, in which two descriptions of the world and existence are mutually exclusive, leading both to mutual distortion and/or romanticization. The Tibetans have not generationally waded through the scientific or humanistic revolutions that form the groundwork for postmodern life.  How do we meet them? How do we understand their world of deity yoga and oracular possession? How can they understand our general democracy of thought? What do we create out of our mutual projections onto each other?

In my experience, Tibetan religions can speak powerfully to a wounded place in pomo folk that yearns for pre-modern simplicity, or perhaps even a renewed clarity of childhood power dynamics. This is not to demean the soaring complexity of Tibetan metaphysics, nor the therapeutic jewels in its meditation technology, but to suggest that its hierarchical and faith-soaked method of transmission runs counter to the secular-liberal-humanist neurology that most western acolytes bring to it. To take it on fully, we have to partition off about four centuries of culture in our brains. Like every split, there is price to a pay.

It is not surprising that someone with as much manic devotion to this otherness as Roach will refuse to engage in dialogue with postmodern consensus reality. Perhaps this is the root of his power over the postmodern-wounded. He is quite literally not like the rest of us. Not just because he thinks he is almost omniscient: this should simply land him in the psych ward. He is different because, in addition to his outrageous self-certainty, he lives in a neo-Tantric world in which thinking one is almost omniscient is an utterly rational possibility, and, in fact, the most intelligent thing that anyone can accomplish – perhaps because it is a world that predates dialecticism, phenomenology, psychoanalysis, intersubjectivity, and neuroscience. At the root of Michael Roach’s leadership power is his adamantine refusal to participate in the complex, unresolvable, and evolutionary conversation of contemporary human adulthood. He trail-blazes a path out of the twisting and thorny garden of historical growth. He offers simplicity, and claims it is free of charge. But adherents must pay for it with the only coin of real value today – the very foundation of empathy and positive collective change in the postmodern era – the capacity to hold multiple complex perspectives in an uncertain, passionate, humble, loving heart.

Roach’s persona is haloed with his astounding transformation from someone we might have recognized as one of our own into someone out of a myth. He is not an inscrutable old Tibetan like his teacher Khen Rinpoche, who lived and died in relative obscurity except for those few New Jersey students who served him for decades, trying to catch a glimpse into his arcane world. Roach not only peered into Khen Rinpoche’s world; he seems to have died into whatever he imagined it to be, and then rebirthed himself out of it, back into postmodern life, as a transcultural, ahistorical shaman.

I remember thinking within the first few months of meeting Roach: “Here’s someone who is like me, who came from my culture and people, and then became someone entirely different. He excised every ambiguity I could not tolerate. He got rid of his cynicism: he hears god in Neil Young.” This was a profoundly consoling thought for someone as alienated from his culture, time and people as I was. I thought: “He’s really done it. He went there, and did it.”

But where did he go, really? He crawled back into the pre-modern womb he thought Khen Rinpoche lived in. And what did he do, really? He regressed himself not only backwards into our psychohistory, but energetically into the form of a doubtless child. Sometimes he even looks like a weird baby – a disproportionately large head tufted with thin strands of fine hair, a puffy neonatal face, and those mesmerizing, moist, unfocused eyes. And the constant crying of toddler-like separation anxiety, which always triggered an irrepressible fountain of my own tears. (My mirror neurons were particularly sensitive to his gestures, manner, eyes, and face. I responded to Roach in a way that I never responded to a Tibetan teacher. Are we simply more responsive to the apparently familiar?) My devotion to Roach fell apart when I realized that what I really wanted was to be a baby again, held once more in powerful arms I could trust. But because I saw, thankfully, that he was too wounded to hold me, I had to become my own father.

The shaman: Roach skinwalks many worlds. His terrain is not only flush with mandalas and deities, but with media kits and databases. He floats with ease between laptop and ritual implements. He is neither monk nor businessman, but can play both. Neither man nor woman, but can embody either. We love the shaman, even if we doubt his sanity. He can do anything: be everyone, be no-one, live everywhere, and be of no fixed abode. We allow the shaman to sing, dance, weep, lie, cross-dress, sleep with whomever he chooses or withdraw into self-satisfied celibate meditation, and generally perform all the actions that we ourselves suppress or cannot find strength to do. More importantly, we allow the shaman to do the one thing we know we can never really do ourselves: avoid the absolute confrontation we each face with our limitations, our smallness, the fact of being here, in this mess, now. The shaman carries the existential hall-pass, and we want it, badly. To get it, we leave our language, our homes, our families, our historical moment. Or so we think.

A commenter calling him/herself JOsh had a slightly different take on Roach’s skinwalking, from the perspective of his relationship to “traditional” or “renegade” Buddhism. S/he pointed out that the comment thread to my second piece displayed the political calculus of Roach’s indefinability. As apologists for Gelukpa orthodoxy attack his credentials, Roach claims revolutionary virtue: he is translating and modernizing, he is empowering women, he is healing the Sino-Tibetan cultural rift by teaching in China. As secular humanists attack how he is running a public institution or abusing his power over women, he can claim the impenetrability of his lineage tradition, enshrouding it in a foreign language and episteme. He is, of course, preserving pristine ancient knowledge and rebuilding the secret technologies of transcendence, which our postmodern alienation has thrown into the dustbin of the “archaic”. Roach squirts nimbly between these two attacks, and boards his plane to the next public talk, his suitcase folded with maroon robes and Armani.

Robes and suits are both disguises for the shaman-charismatic: his real power comes from the capacity to change between them and alter the meanings of both. The same holds true for his juggling of ancient and modern texts and cultures in general. The ability of the shaman-charismatic to shape-shift on a dime makes others feel that he is in contact with a greater sense of presence. He holds purchase on the “now”. In a very eerie way, Roach really does perform (if not practice) the instant-karma schtick he teaches: humans can be anything they desire in the present moment. And they should change, right now, for his version of the better. And they must change immediately: time is running out. Roach has insisted for decades that the only purpose we all should have in life is to experience the same meditative reverie that he did in his early 20s. This is a massive projection, worthy of a top-shelf narcissist. Roach is consciously telling his students: “You must be like me: my experience is the only worthwhile experience out there.” Perhaps unconsciously: “I need you to confirm that experience to sooth my anxiety over its meaning.”

Why all the pressure? Isn’t daily life filled with enough tension? Or is the threat of an ultimate anxiety (“I might not become fully enlightened in this lifetime”) the very distraction some of us need? In an early draft of my first article I characterized this pressure as “apocalyptic”, but Diana Alstad persuaded me to withdraw the word, in the absence of technical evidence. But I’ll bring it back here in limited form: Roach’s take on Buddhism promotes an intense personal apocalypticism, in which the follower feels as though his world is limited to a single choice while death stares him down.

“Personal apocalypticism” gives insight into the agonized pursuit of higher and higher meditative states. It gives insight into why Roach will not compromise in the face of public scrutiny: there are much greater things coming – don’t be distracted by Ian’s death. It gives insight into black-and-white and magical thinking, failures of ambivalence and existential immaturity. Personal apocalypticism outwardly projects all-consuming private desires motivated by an intense fear of irrelevance or death. Ironically, all of these tensions are the targets of a certain brilliant Axial age philosopher named Siddhartha Gautama, aka the Buddha, who challenged his fellow humans to face old-age, sickness, and death without flinching, to recognize that everything changes, and to understand that personal identity is a vanishingly small element of our grander shared story, and only has worth to the extent that it works for others.

Who is Michael Roach? Saint, charlatan, scholar, bullshitter, philanthropist, sociopath? Perhaps the most sophisticated answer is actually the one that funnels down through the Diamond Mountain talking points: Roach is the hallowed object of his own dumbed-down version of subjectivist Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, i.e.: an empty screen upon which we project our hopes and fears, and more ominously, the texture of our past behaviours. According to Roach’s own reasoning, his critics can’t help themselves: I myself am forever stuck in the samsaric loop of criticism, clearly. I am being manipulated like a puppet by the numberless cynical puppeteers of my past selves. Meanwhile, his supporters are simply enjoying the results of their past support. We revolve in mutually exclusive karmic bubbles. A part of me wants to endorse this empty-screen line of reasoning, if only to have it remove attention from Roach himself, so that we can look more clearly at the behaviour that surrounds him. Who is Michael Roach? might be exactly the wrong question, because what a narcissist really wants you to do is to puzzle endlessly over who he is, and to spend more time and money in his dream than in your life.


charisma as an autism-spectrum affectation

In 1922, sociologist Max Weber defined charisma as a “certain quality of an individual’s personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities.” What is this quality?

You could feel it rippling through the room. Roach built expectation masterfully, starting almost every public appearance woefully late, especially for those with babysitters. We sat and waited and meditated and prayed and studied. Then a murmur passed over the crowd and we stood in silence, turning to his looming frame, the extra-devout surging closer with flowers. His face was radiant, and he was flanked by floating seraphic women, like a transfigured saint in a Renaissance painting. (Christie, Ora, Elizabeth. Why wouldn’t he float into retreat with these women? They seemed bound to him in a gossamer web.) He stopped to accept every flower, but also randomly chose students to share a tender word, giving everyone the impression that personal and intimate attention from the guru was possible. But he never met anyone’s eyes for more than an instant.

The vata-types visibly trembled as he passed. I myself felt an upward rush of longing and fulfillment along my spine. I remember my face flushing and the swirl of rich and nameless emotions, feelings that I associated with every moment in my own Catholic childhood when absolute otherness was revealed in a ritual that brought me as close to god as it set me apart from people.

What’s strange about the shaman-charismatic is that you think you’re responding to his magical body, but this is only marginally true. To a far greater degree, you are actually responding to other’s responses to him in a snowballing feedback loop of shared expectation and wish-fulfillment.  This became clear to me when I saw that the kundalini jolting through those beside me did far more to rattle my internal space than Roach ever did. I think that often what the charismatic does in a performance setting may be vanishingly small. His inaction in fact might be the source of his power: he might be doing nothing at all except showcasing his withdrawal into smiling internality, a radiant autism that stimulates the wishes of those around him for their own perfectly happy solitude. With all attention flowing towards him, he seems to functionally embody a vampiric lack of empathy. Showing the pretense of giving everything and empowering everyone, he doesn’t actually have to give anything or interact with anyone He merely has to affect the glowing receipt of adulation. He is removed from human concern, sanctified and smug, untouchably serene. He is not there to submit to the difficulty of interacting with people, except in the most abstract sense. He is there to be seen being better than others.

It comes down to this: the crowd sees a blissfully self-absorbed human, and they feel within themselves the intense wish to join him, all alone at the top of his invisible diamond mountain. Psychic and sensory data flow inward for the devotee: the kundalini shiver feels like light flashing through internal mirrors of infinite regress. And the most disconcerting thing of all in this kind of darshan is that while everyone is gazing at the guru, no-one is looking at each other. This explains the strange sight of devotees literally shoving each other out of the way in reception lines. He invites many to gather together to have an intensely private and isolating experience, which mirrors his own.

The charismatic draws his followers into his own absence of intersubjectivity while playing their emotions like a violin. Stimulating intense emotion is essential: without it, he has no power. As many sociologists of religion have pointed out, the charismatic attains his position through an overt challenge to tradition or law, creating a one-man vortex of attention, centered upon his body. Roach becomes Roach by challenging the boundaries, norms, and social structures of both Tibetan monastic culture on one hand, and the postmodern western episteme on the other. This is why he can no sooner give up his robes than his laptop. The double rebellion creates an inherently unstable structure: if Roach tumbles, neither world will have his back. There’s no desk job to fall back to, no farm team to coach.

The lack of institutional or traditional stability in Roach’s corporation demands from his students complete emotional investment in his persona. His position is dependent upon the kind of heart-devotion we see in Roach’s current personal assistant Mercedes Bahleda (among so many others). This emotional allegiance must actually strengthen in the wake of institutional or humanistic attacks upon his authority. Many followers find themselves in a zero-sum game of emotional dependence: the ring around Roach will get stronger, until it breaks. I also believe that the intensity of these conflictual, split, and isolating emotions is in turn a kind of fuel for the internal friction that causes kundalini to seem to rise.

many followers, leading themselves back

The shamanic-charismatic leader can hold power, but if his followers get in too deep, they lose their social place within consensus reality, and eventually have nothing to fall back on except the worn platitudes of libertarian freedom and individual responsibility. They will define their own bondage in terms of choice. This is painfully clear from some of the comments from Roach’s supporters in this forum and elsewhere. In response to criticism leveled at their guru, his worldview, and his administration, we’ve seen supporters argue self-reliance (Ian was an adult who made his own choices in a free country); marginally relevant facticity (The retreatants aren’t living in huts, but real houses, with real appliances!); diminishment (Sure, the Kali initiation of 2010 featured weapons and bloodletting, but it was really just theatrical); compensation (Don’t you recognize how much good this man has done in the world?); and retreat (Why can’t you all just leave us alone?).

But no true supporter can earnestly engage with any of the substantive criticism of Roach, precisely because it comes from the complex world they so much wanted to reject, in which he cannot be all things to all people, but is in fact a social and political leader like any other whose rise to prominence must attract requisite scrutiny. The scrutiny is intolerable because it presents an ambivalent picture that violates the radiance of the teacher-student bond. To acknowledge Roach’s many sides would require an act of integration and accomplishment of ambivalence (cf. Melanie Klein) greater than most true supporters would be able to bear. For many have split out their own capacity for certainty and all-goodness, and projected it onto Roach. The extent to which Roach Knows is the extent to which They Are Ignorant. There are many who don’t just live in his shadow. They are his shadow.

But how many true supporters are there, really? Not a lot, I suspect. One thing about even a pre-modern sangha in a postmodern world: no-one in Roach’s sphere of influence can remain unexposed to criticism for long. I have emails in my inbox forwarded to me from DMU insiders originally sent to DMU board members that link to my 5/4 piece. I’m sure this current post will itself be sent to other insiders from well-meaning outsiders. And through these links, the vast online discussion about Roach’s fitness for service will be turned over and over like steaming compost for the integrity garden.

One difficulty in gauging the level to which consensus reality has penetrated the true-support network is that true-supporter arguments will linger in form and content even as those who make them feel themselves fall away from Roach. They will continue to espouse self-reliance arguments (among others) but they will gradually shift away from defending Roach towards defending themselves. Because at a certain point upon leaving the thrall of a charismatic leader it is less important to defend his honour than it is to justify the time and money and emotional/familial capital you spent on him. What I hear beneath the arguments of many threshold-supporters is the pain of the sunk-cost: how can I have spent so much on a fraud? For some, the sunk-cost feeling becomes the sunk-cost fallacy. Turning back on their devotion would be intolerable. Many may feel their only option is to double-down.

The most tenacious self-justifying argument of the devotee backing his way out through the temple door (sweeping up all traces of his presence as he goes) is the libertarian argument, which unfolds in two stages. The first is hostile towards outside critics, or earlier-exiters who are casting blame: “It was always up to you, you know. Everyone was/is free to make their own choices. Geshe Michael isn’t doing anything from his own side. This is a free country. No-one forced you to be here. Don’t blame Roach for your vulnerability. Nobody made you believe anything you didn’t want to believe.” This stage is a basic abdication of responsibility for the social fabric, and attempts to quell the guilt of having watched fellow devotees being abused in one way or another.

The second stage softens, and turns inward: “Well – I really can’t say how other people experienced the man, but I got some good things out of my time with him, and I’m grateful for that. It might not have been right for everybody, but what can we say? Life is mysterious.” This stage takes what it can from a bad situation, and rationalizes the individual benefit. It gives a wistful air to the general narcissism of new-age spirituality.

This second stage is what I smelled in a personal email from Winston McCullough, the first old-timey Roach-devotee and colleague I reached out to back in late April, before I published anything. I remembered Winston from 1998-2000, not as a personal friend, but as a community leader, disciplined student, and all-round dharma-optimist with whom I’d play-debated our beginner’s understanding of emptiness theory on the debate ground when we were both dharma-tourists at Sera Mey in South India. I’d heard that he’d resigned as the first director of Diamond Mountain in 2004, and had moved with his family to the Northwest. Because his current online bio fails to reference his six (and perhaps more) years of intensive student-and-working relations with Roach (an omission increasingly common among former prominent Roach students, though none have come forward with the kind of public criticism that some standards of integrity might demand), I assumed that his move implied a window of philosophical and perhaps social space between himself and the guru.

I reached out to Winston to see if a prominent former student of Roach such as himself might be interested in providing a public mentoring voice to his former foundering community, perhaps by contributing to or tempering the content of my post. Looking back on this, I don’t exactly know what I imagined he could do, but I suppose I at least expected him to indicate that he wanted to do something. But he declined to involve himself. And in classic second-stage-withdrawal style, he wrote via e-mail that he was “sorry about whatever challenges people may be experiencing”. As in: they may be real challenges, or perhaps not (too hard to say, it seems, with psychosis and stabbing and death – it’s all a matter of perspective, no?), but in either case they were issues that he couldn’t comment on, because he has moved on.

For the first six or seven years after I parted ways with Roach I felt like I too had moved on.  I pretended that I could frame my “lost years” in the most beneficial personal light, and be done with it. Psychologically, it was much easier to focus on “I got what I needed from the experience; if it wasn’t ideal for others, well, that’s unfortunate”. (June Campbell, author of Travellers in Space, describes this very well in this 1996 Tricycle interview, which also has much to offer to the discussion of the role of women in Tibetan tantric culture.) Faced with social trauma, we are, above all else, compelled to make things make sense. We will compromise our empathy to resolve cognitive dissonance. The rationalization of self-benefit often comes through turning a blind eye to those around us. After all, if it was bad for others, how good could it really have been for me? What makes me so special and so lucky that my life has generally come together, while Ian’s has been ripped apart?

What I would like Roach devotees and almost-ex-devotees to know is that withdrawing from charismatic control into renewed personal integrity is a long process with many stages. First you may feel hurt and disillusioned. You may suppress this in order to begin the rationalization process. You may be confused about how it was possible for so many people to have such different experiences. You may begin to doubt your doubt. You may feel some are being hysterical in their criticism – those guys like Remski who were always haters anyway. You may feel humiliated that others aren’t listening to your legitimate complaints. In my experience, all of these feelings will interweave without resolution until you finally allow yourself to be truly angry at the lost time and your vulnerability and not standing up for people you saw bullied and your guru’s incredible presumption and the general shortness of life, and in that anger begin to find yourself by resisting the river of power that has continually swept you downstream, and out to sea.


squeezing out of the bubble: dialogue with lama marut

Winston might have made a clean-ish break from Roach’s sphere, but others will find it much more difficult, because their professional lives and public personae are enmeshed in Roach-related endeavours. And some of them are burdened by the additional complication that their personal behaviour has mirrored key aspects of the Roach shadow-play. Consider Lama Marut, also known as Brian K. Smith, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at UC Riverside, and a protégé of Wendy Doniger and Mircea Eliade himself.

I knew Brian in 1999-2000. He’d been a surfer, biker dude, smoker and drinker, a rather footloose and roguish divorced father with a beautiful daughter of eight or nine years old. But by the time we were sitting across from each other in a Bodhgaya hotel restaurant between teachings by the Dalai Lama and commentaries by Roach, he’d seemed to have accepted Je Tsongkhapa as his personal lord and saviour. He went vegetarian and alcohol-free, softened his intellectual bravado and skepticism, and started talking about taking ordination.

I can’t say I knew Smith well at the time, but his desire for ordination puzzled me. There seemed to be something penitential about it. (Smith rejected this presumption in his email response to an earlier draft of this section, preferring to use the word “complex”.) But his path made more sense to me when he told me over rice and dahl that he was the son of a Baptist minister, and that his relationship with both his father and his birth religion was fraught with tension. I have since wondered – and still do – whether the oscillation between sin and redemption, as it is for many bred-in-the-bone Christians such as myself, is a key self-soothing rhythm of Smith’s psyche, as it was in my own.

I’m not sure what Smith did while Roach was in his first retreat from 2000 to 2003 – we fell out of touch – but I remember hearing that he was amongst the first students of the Diamond Mountain neo-Tantra programme beginning in 2004, and that he received novice ordination from Roach (and McNally) in 2005, and then full ordination in 2009 from the pair, who were then in the process of separating. Gelukpa traditionalists discount these ordinations, saying that Roach cannot give the monastic vows he has so clearly broken. And certainly for such vows to be co-administered with McNally, they say, who herself held no ordination office, surely invalidates the entire ritual. In a personal email, Smith defends his ordination as a private matter: “Taking these vows was an extraordinarily powerful and personal experience.  As far as I’m concerned, no one can “invalidate” the vows I took.”

Ordained or not in the eyes of Tibetan tradition and culture, and clearly inspired by his teacher’s heterodox gumption, Smith put on his robes with gusto, and began teaching publicly as a neo Tibetan Buddhist monk. A catalogue of his work is available here. A good example of his recent teaching is this video, which he sent me directly during our correspondence. I’m not sure whether he sent it as an example of recent teaching qua teaching, or as a passive-aggressive suggestion to me: that I am presumably unhappy with Roach et al. because I take a “victim’s perspective”.

In either case, it confirmed for me Roach’s influence over his general message. In Smith’s hyper-subjectivist message of “You are not a victim of anything or anybody, and you are the creator of your own world”, he reifies the “adhyatmika bubble”, as Hart deFouw calls it: a particularly new-age devolution of karmic theory, more in tune with The Secret than the Pali canon or the Bhagavad Gita – a wholesale rejection of adhibautika (the actions of others) and adhidaivika (the general ecology). (Adhyatmika refers to self-generated willful actions, said to account for roughly 1/3 of the total action of which experience is made.) This criticism applies to Roachian metaphysics in general. Perception is far more complex than can be understood by the dichotomy of “coming from other” vs. “coming from self”.

In both Smith’s revised bio-note and his personal emails to me, he asserts he is not Roach’s puppet:

In the academic world, it is assumed that while you learn from your teachers and respect them for what they taught you, you also are to integrate what you’ve learned and then take it in your own new and independent direction.  A good teacher teaches a student to think for themselves.  I have tried to honor all my teachers by doing just this.  In my spiritual teachings over the past several years I have drawn on my own material – mostly from my own original translations of Sanskrit texts – and taught them from my own perspective.  I am not simply parroting GMR or anyone else… (personal email, 6/25)

But for someone so interested in intellectually distancing himself from Roach it is odd that he recycles Roach’s own myopic interpretation of Patanjali 1.2, positing vritti as “turning inside out”, instead of the accepted “fluctuations”. “Turning” can work as a translation if it refers to simple repetitive movement (of the gunas, etc), but not if it begins to imply cognitive reversal at the heart of Roach’s “Think-Method” version of emptiness theory. Patanjali isn’t asking for a reversal of perception, but for an end to it, such that the isolation (kaivalya) of purusha and prakriti can be re-established. Roach’s interpretation simply reifies cognition (pramana). For both Roach and Smith to use this text to suggest a kind of cognitive-behavioural-therapy fix for general human suffering is a gross simplification of Yoga and Buddhism. I’m not a Sanskrit scholar like Smith, but I am widely read enough to know that he is squeezing vritti through a Roach-sized window into a teleological agenda that the text will not support. As an academic, Smith well knows the broader interpretation of the term. Bending it for his purposes is as intellectually dishonest as his teaching beside a picture of the Dalai Lama – after claiming that lineage doesn’t matter.

Simplification can have its value. In general, we come to resolve our birth trauma with an overly-objectivist cognitive stance. To at least consider the absolute opposite — that experience is subjective alone — can have therapeutic value, in the sense of pattern-disruption. But it is a transitional teaching at most, and one which unfortunately steers seekers away from the intersubjective, from which empathy proceeds and to which it returns, in my experience. Experience is an ineffable weave of objective presentations and subjective stances: feeling the rich uncertainty of this condition is a dear treasure of the heart.

Philosophy aside, what gets really interesting about Smith is that he seems to have wrapped himself not only in maroon and in Roachesque “Buddhism-As-The-Secret” talking points, but also in key aspects of Roach’s performance as well. Within a short period of time, “Lama Marut”, as he is now known (the misappropriation of the “Lama” honorific by someone considered to be unqualified is deeply insulting to Tibetan culture, by the way) was attracting his own students and “fast-tracking” them into advanced practices through initiations that he had only recently received himself from Roach. One commenter on my second piece likened this to practicing surgery on the general public following a weekend “healthy lifestyles” seminar.  He also took a spiritual partner, with whom he began teaching a pastiche of Mahayana Buddhism, Hindu devotionalism, and Indo-Tibetan Tantra, all under the philosophical umbrella of Roach. In other words, Smith seems to have mimicked many of his mentor’s choices that have drawn fire from both traditionalist and humanist critics.

Most strange of all, both his rhetoric and his Tiblish (Tibetan-English vocal rhythm, tone, and syntax) began to mirror that of Roach directly. Both affect a neo-oral-tradition teaching style of constant content repetition with minor variations, peppy filler, and pop-culture digression. Even his speaking posture seems to have merged with that of his teacher. Like Roach, Smith is a large man, and key staples of his performance are to loom forward with beneficent menace as he speaks, gesture emphatically with his large hands, and use the full force of his resonant voice almost constantly. It is not the communicational stance of the intersubjectively aware, or the therapeutically sensitive. The stances can make both Roach and Smith come off as self-certain bullies seemingly unconcerned with the intimate dialogue at the heart of evolution. They have the truth, and they’re going to mark it, park it, and bark it.

Smith’s imitation of Roach ends, however, at public relations and crisis management. Since the scandal broke, Smith has radically altered his public teaching persona in ways that sharply distinguish him from his free-falling guru. He announced that he was going to start teaching in civilian clothes. He wasn’t formally giving back his monk’s robes, but would now reserve them for those teaching circumstances in which they wouldn’t set him apart from the householder culture he primarily serves. This gesture was announced with a catchy tagline, which quickly went viral (Smith has a large social media following for his dharma tweets): “The purpose of a spiritual life is not to become better THAN others, but to learn how to be better FOR others.” Soon after, he published a clarification of his views on the issue of lineage purity, taking an essentially postmodern and deconstructive position of how power comes to be formed in spiritual cultures. In it, he foregrounds all of his academic influences, glosses over his Roach-affiliation, and erases what had been a cornerstone of his marketing as a dharma teacher through past years: that he is a “fully-ordained Buddhist monk in the lineage of the Dalai Lamas”. Both shifts happened to coincide with the release of his new book and its dedicated world tour: A Spiritual Renegade’s Guide to the Good Life. These are all very deft self-protective moves, and if his core students have enough gravol on hand to stomach the rolling, Smith may survive his self-extraction from the Roach bubble for long enough to attract new students who have never heard of his disgraced mentor. Brian Smith is like Michael Roach’s postmodern doppelganger, minus the premodern episteme: a mirror of form, content, and behaviour, but savvy enough to know when to take a new tack.

Smith’s ace in the credentials-hole is his academic background, although the disjunction between his professorial career and his Lamahood poses an interesting challenge. His titles are a keystone of his public credibility, but their professional meaning within his current role are strained. Scholarship in Comparative Religion demands either a strict non-sectarian viewpoint, or at the very least a refined sensitivity to the problems of insiders being able to theorize with transparency. Smith made his career in a field in which it is virtually impossible to be taken seriously as a scholar while making overt displays of religious faith. His credentials are in a discipline that specifically demands the opposite of what his allegiance to Roach displays. So: he is making an interesting and messy public epistemic shift, and using the academic paradigm to support the religious, when it does not. More accuracy in his self-representation would require more nuance, as in: “I’ve retired from academic life and culture to pursue the spiritual teachings that are closer to my heart…” followed by a statement about the clear difference between the two, and the value of each. His position here is not dissimilar to Roach’s with regard to being liminal to two traditions, yet claiming the authority of both. I’m sure he wants to do a better job than Roach does of navigating this thicket.

Luckily, Smith isn’t in as tight a corner as Roach is. He has never publicly claimed mystical realizations or powers. His own claims of Buddhist lineage reach back only to Roach, a known eclectic. Unlike Roach, he hasn’t bet the farm on asking people to believe he’s the only person in the world authentically blessed and trained to be somebody special. And an entire career spent in peer-review culture has evidently given him the capacity to respond to criticism, rather than to pretend it doesn’t exist. By displaying the capacity to change, Smith might be performing what he is teaching: liberality and adventurousness in spiritual life. The real test of his ability to avoid the Roach undertow will be to see whether it becomes clear that during those crucial seven years of his teacherly formation he only parroted Roach’s teaching style and content, and not Roach’s willingness to feed off of age and gender power imbalances, certify unqualified teachers, abuse his students’ emotions or trust, socially shun students who don’t defer to him, or put them at psychological risk through bizarre initiation practices.

One thing is clear: in direct statements at least, Smith is standing by his man. Here is our interchange about how he is relating to Roach in the wake of the scandal.

Me: Regarding having taken vows with Roach and McNally: is it not true that there are more than enough insider Gelukpas who assert that MR has broken samaya significantly enough to invalidate the ritual of his ordinations?

Smith: How Many “Insider Gelukpas” have asserted this? How many would be “more than enough”, and who would decide this?

Me: Is claiming ordination from someone who has been excommunicated and then going on to benefit from the authority of the robes conscionable within the broader context of Gelukpa monastic culture?

Smith: I am unaware of any such “excommunication”, or what “excommunication” would mean in the context of Tibetan Buddhism, or even which individual or institutional body within Tibetan Buddhism would have the power and authority to do such a thing.”

Me: Have your robes and lineage-clarification decisions been at all influenced by the tragedy at Diamond Mountain, and the controversy surrounding Roach’s continuing insistence on wearing robes, and his clear overstatement of Gelukpa adherence?

Smith: I have posted video and audio in which my reasons for not wearing robes while teaching are stated, and the purposes for putting up the lineage and influences statement on my website may be found within that very document.

In reading these semantic parsings of simple questions, it must be remembered that Roach is Smith’s Tantric Master, and to publicly or even mentally question him in any way carries an enormous religious penalty — countless lives in hell, for starters. The bonds between Tantric vow-givers and vow-takers will be psychologically overwhelming for some, and I imagine that we will see many similar responses, ranging from the uncomfortable to the downright tortured, from Roach’s students as they revision their identities and allegiances.

In my opinion, I think the smartest, most genuine, and truly “renegade” thing that Smith could do when the time is right would be to make his strange association with Roach an utterly transparent part of his spiritual autobiography. I heard the first part of it years ago, over dinner. Perhaps the fuller version would sound something like this:

I am the son of a Baptist minister. I became a scholar of religion to understand the nameless pressures and ecstasies of my childhood. But after many years I realized that my scholarship had stripped me of faith and wonder. I wandered through my middle years chasing empty consolations. And then I met a man my age, from my culture, who truly believed all of the things I remembered from childhood, but had since merely studied in books. I fell in love with his strange passion: I felt it rejuvenate a buried vitality and hopefulness. But gradually, I saw that like myself he was wounded, perhaps beyond repair, and that mirroring his life was not getting me any closer to the truth of my own. I realized that I had followed someone else’s dream in order to wake myself up. My entanglement with him showed me the necessity of finding my own path.

Now this would be a teacher I would listen to.


I don’t know how to love him

I’m asking for a lot transparency from Roach and Smith: far more than their public personae or personal pride – or in Roach’s case, grasp of reality – can likely bear. What transparency do I have to offer in return? A little more every day, I hope.

These past two months have provoked a rich stream of contemplation for me. I’ve had to revisit a strange and often dark time in my life and continue to uncover its meaning. I’ve wrestled with the ethics of outraging old friends and emotionally distressing thousands of people I’ve never met. I’ve been sleepless with the consideration that my reporting and opinions may contribute to profound changes in the paths of people I don’t know. I’ve wondered if these articles might cause damage far beyond my intentions: that not only will Roach’s halo tarnish and teeter, but that his charitable efforts will also be threatened, and that the Tibetan culture he has appropriated will suffer further by spotlighting this tragedy.

And yet I’ve felt compelled to pursue it. Not for fame or money, as some have accused. In this field, the former is of dubious value, and the latter is non-existent, except for a few professional journalists for whom I’ve provided a shitload of legwork. So: why? Not only because it’s my story as much as it’s anyone else’s who has crossed paths with Michael Roach, but also for a much deeper reason that I am just beginning to own. I loved him. In his apparent mystical ecstasy I felt the answer to my own terrible longing. I was obsessed with him, and in some ways I still am. There’s something about Michael Roach that pulls on all of my unintegrated threads at once, something that shows me where I am a scared and petulant child longing for comfort, where I demand certainty where none exists, where I am lost between cultures and millennia, and how easy it was to console myself by withdrawing into masturbatory religious sentiment.

Before Roach went into retreat in 2000, I sealed a strange bond with him in a public performance of a book he had just published and for which I had been an editorial assistant. It was called The Garden, and it consisted of a young seeker’s narration of encounters with Buddhist saints in a meditation garden on successive summer nights, co-ordinated by a suspiciously McNally-like high school girlfriend/angel. It was, like everything Michael did, quasi-autobiographical. He enlisted myself and my ex-wife to create a script of the book, and rehearse it for the launch. We wrote, memorized, blocked, and rehearsed for a month as a duet, with myself playing the young Michael Roach, and my ex playing the parade of teachers, from the saturnine logician Dharmakirti to the young prince Gautama himself. The launch was early in 2000: we had all just returned from the roll-over of the millennium in India, broke and feverish. It felt like the end of something big, both socially and personally: an entire community was about to lose their teacher for years, the book summed up many of his basic messages, the first great Roach diaspora was about to occur, and my ex and I, vagabonds since we met, were about to rebuild yet again our entire social and professional lives.

Even the performance venue was suggestive of an ending world. Harper Collins, Roach’s publisher, rented out an old Barney’s store that had gone bankrupt in the recent recession. We built our makeshift set around empty shelving emblazoned with the brand names of haute couture. Someone brought a few can lights with gels, someone else set up the video, and someone else brought vegan catering to set up beside the artful pyramid of new books. I don’t know how many people came; it felt like two hundred or so. We used the grand marble staircase in the centre of the main floor for the entrances and exits of the saints.

We began: I closed my eyes under the lights and listened for my ex’s step on the stairs. I molded my posture and mental space into what I imagined my teacher’s internality felt like: an upward pulse, a buoyancy, a radiant loneliness. I felt an ecstatic merging into the presence of a man I wanted to be. I felt my name and story vanish under the gaze of those who wanted to see their teacher’s life laid out before them, projected onto an empty screen. I’d been in music and theatre for years, but never had the form and content of performance intertwined so deeply with my own secret longing.

It was over before it began. Michael rushed towards me with tears streaming down his flushed face. He took me in his arms, and embraced me with crushing force. His body trembled with emotion and radiated intense heat. I began to weep as well, overcome by an abject wordlessness. I felt him love me in perhaps the only way he knew how: manically, desperately. I went limp in his arms, surrendering to him, having become him.  It took years for me to shake the feeling of being gripped and held. Years to rekindle my own heat.


new rumours, which, if corroborated by the crowdsource, may continue to provoke therapeutic anger

Many ex-devotees of Roach are recovering from a merging similar to my own. They are coming forward, tentatively. Many have been silent and withdrawn for years, trying to make sense of having given their power away to a dream. In addition to the dozens brave enough to post their experiences online (though perhaps still too wounded to use their full names), about a dozen more, who have all expressed a wish to remain anonymous, have sent me heartbreaking e-mails recounting their psychological suffering and marginalization in the shadow of Diamond Mountain. I’ve been told that students have been pressured into sexual consort practice, that Roach-affiliate organizations have failed to pay administrative workers promised wages for over two years, that Roach’s senior students have spiritually terrorized newer initiates, that marriages have ruptured in the wake of bizarrely sexualized initiation rituals, and that other intimate relationships have crumbled under the weight of philosophically-provoked emotional abandonment.

I can’t corroborate these accounts by myself. Presenting them prematurely exposes me to the accusation of fabrication. How can I protect the anonymity of my sources while showing that I’m not rumour-mongering? I can’t. But I’m willing to take a risk. My experience so far with Roach-related stories is that they begin as frayed threads that dangle until pulled upon by the crowdsource, and are drawn out and woven together on a collective loom of resurrecting dignity. Prior to the publication of my second piece, an anonymous e-mail appeared in my inbox: “If people start talking about the Kali initiations of 2010, Diamond Mountain will implode.” I referenced this “rumour” in my post in the form of a leading question, and it led to several hundred comments exposing a nightmare of spiritual chicanery, psychological bullying and sexual harassment. So far in this story, smoke has definitely signaled fire. And the smoke keeps billowing.

The vast majority of Roach’s students have taken a set of vows – as I once did – associated with the Bodhisattva ideal, a rigorous code of compassionate ethics. One of these vows is the vow to “dispel rumours” that threaten the integrity of Buddhist teachings or teachers, or threaten the ardour of the faithful. By not responding to the many questions raised by the Thorson tragedy (and its Diamond Mountain context) that remain unanswered by his open letter, Roach and the entire DM board seem to be breaking this vow on an hourly basis. If the rumours are untrue, perhaps other students will show more courage, and address them directly.

Why do my correspondents wish to remain anonymous? Because uttering the story of trauma can be as painful as experiencing the trauma itself. It is not surprising that ex-members speak in layers of disclosure. They will only speak at first in the silence of their hearts, and then in whispers, from behind a scrim. Finally: encouraged by the voices of others, a more confident sound may emerge.


following Christie McNally back to where it all started

The voice we all want to hear most is that of Christy McNally. Not from behind a retreat blindfold, nor from a teaching stage, nor in an hallucinatory letter posted online from the middle of nowhere, trying to console confused devotees. With more than fifteen years at Roach’s side, she will know, more than anyone, how it all happened, how it all works, and exactly what he has done. But her authentic knowledge will be wrapped in the thick shadow of her complex self-perception. I imagine she is far more deeply split than anyone I see in therapy, with an unconscious part feeling she has been a slave to another’s dream, and a more conscious part actively rationalizing that slavery by assuming a false mastership role.

This is why I found it so moving to read of her travelling to Kathmandu and trying to meet Lama Zopa. It’s a classic story of a person returning to the site of her original trauma: the place where she began to change and split, to think she was becoming someone other than an East Coast photography and literature student with a bright and uncertain world before her. Perhaps a regular job, a family.

It was also very moving to read that she had to stand in the reception line like every other beginning student, that she received no special acknowledgement from this strangely luminous little monk she met in this very place in the mid-90s, at the beginning of her journey – before all the grandiosity, the thousand airplanes, the knives, and Ian’s malnourished eyes gleaming in the dark of the cave.

And perhaps most moving of all: to read that she offered a white silk kathak scarf to the old man, now so frail and sick, and that, as per the custom, he gave it back to her. Christie spent close to a decade wearing white silk “angel clothes” as she stood demurely beside her maroon-robed master. It is as though she offered Lama Zopa the rags of an old disguise. And the old Tibetan gave it back to her, placing it tenderly around her neck, as if to say: Own your life. Own your past, your path, your culture. It’s never too late. Start now, from the beginning.


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.



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.


2,952 Responses to “The Michael Roach Bubble.”

  1. ekanthomason says:

    I received an email from a friend. I am creating a new post because of its importance even though there is already a discussion about claims of being an arya. I post it with confidence knowing more details than I can reveal here.

    "My friend in California showed a Geshe at one of the temples there People magazine. The Geshe said, "Oh, I went to school with Geshe Michael at the Monastery. We went around together with Geshe Tharchin [not yet the abbot, he would become Khen Rhinpoche Tharchin] to visit houses.

    Geshe Michael grew his hair, Geshe Tharchin told him to cut it. Geshe Michael went around with women, Geshe Tharchin told him not to. Big thing was – Geshe Michael told Geshe Tharchin, "I have perceived Emptiness directly."

    Geshe Tharchin said, "That's interesting. If you have perceived Emptiness directly you have Power, see that brick over there? Turn that brick into gold."
    My friend asked the California Geshe if Geshe Michael was able to turn the brick into gold, the answer was, "No."

    The meaning of turning a brick into gold is that a Buddha has moved beyond the laws of time and space. Physics does not apply. The bonds of the ordinary world are broken. The mind has moved into another realm. The laws of Matter and everything that binds one to the Physical World are broken when a Buddha perceives Emptiness. It's a huge event. Being in Nirvana is like being in Heaven, there is no hatred, jealousy, anger or ignorance in the mind of a Buddha who has perceived Emptiness directly. The mind goes first to Nirvana, then the body dies and the Buddha has left the cycle of rebirth.

    My friend said a monk will never say anything bad about another monk but this Geshe was saying that Geshe Michael committed a root downfall by lying about his attainment."

    In other places on this forum, I have repeated MIchael Roach as saying Khen Rinpoche told him to grow out his hair and go to work. Evidently it is a LIE.

    Speaking as a student of a wonderful Japanese Master, I can say from my own experience that there is a beautiful relationship between the student and teacher. The student loves to please the teacher and the teacher loves to see the progress of the student. Michael Roach speaks of his love and devotion to Khen Rinpoche. His failure to turn the brick into gold, at the request of his teacher, evidently demonstrates that Michael Roach's claims of having had the direct perception of emptiness are a LIE. The first person a student wants to have support them, in their claims, is their very own teacher.

    A monk in the Tibetan tradition takes many vows. There are four vows that are considered so serious that when broken, the right to be a monk is severed at the root. These are referred to as root downfalls. One of these four is lying about spiritual attainments.

    • corvid says:

      Diamond Mountain University is sort of a out-of-Utah type Multi Level Marketing scam and a church rolled into one.Roach has turned a broken down ranch and a cut and paste theology into a scheme followers can make a buck out of and get some respect in a disrespectful world…in a way he has made gold out of dirt…fools gold i wish we could get a Spanish speaker to summarize Roach Inc. for the people in mexico so they can make informed choices oas religious consumers..

    • T.S says:

      Michael Roachs level of realization aside, I find the notion that a direct perception of emptiness should render one omnipotent and omnidextrous and all that a bit of a fantastical notion. There may be a certain kind of omniscience in perceiving emptiness but I don't expect an enlightened person, someone like a Karmapa or Khunu Lama to go around literally transmuting bricks into gold like some kind of Q from Star Trek. I find it a weak argument to try to discredit someone's level of attainment on those grounds.

      • Zirconia says:

        Roach himself admitted that ,“When you achieve the path of seeing, when you see emptiness directly, I think a minor realization is that you could control the elements.” Gelug lamas asked Roach to perform miracles, not to verify his claim of having seen emptiness per se, but to prove his qualification to engage in actual consort practice while in Gelug robes.

        More to come in a separate post.

        • T.S says:

          It appears fairly evident that Michael Roach has little interest in following the directives of his claimed Lamas and the Gelukpa orthodoxy in general. It's interesting that the lineage most dedicated to the pure and literal observance of monks vows also seems most insistent on claiming the impossibility of complete enlightenment without a consort while still living. I wonder if Gelukpas picture Siddhartha in union with his "milk maid" when he attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree. Anyway Zirconia, perhaps public forms aren't really the place to be posting about HYT topics.

          • malcolm says:

            They would had they read the Candamaharoshana tantra…

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            In Buddhism, “Secrecy is often a cornerstone of tantric Buddhism, simply to avoid harm to oneself and to others by practicing without proper guidance. Full explanation of tantric symbolism and the psychology of the practice is forbidden to the uninitiated, which can easily lead to misunderstanding and dismissal by those who have not been initiated: Tantra is limited to persons whose compassion is so great that they cannot bear to spend unnecessary time in attaining Buddhahood, as they want to be a supreme source of help and happiness for others quickly.”

            <a href="http://(” target=”_blank”>(

            In Scientology, “The Church of Scientology has argued that unauthorized distribution of information about Scientology practices will endanger mankind. The Religious Technology Center has prosecuted individual breakaway groups that have practiced Scientology outside the official Church without authorization. The act of using Scientology techniques in a form different than originally described by Hubbard is referred to within Scientology as ‘squirreling’, and is said by Scientologists to be ‘high treason’.”

            <a href="http://(” target=”_blank”>(

            Is the motivation for the secrecy protection—paternalism? Or is something other than that at work here? Power? Money?

            Information wants to be free (as in, freely available). And it will find a way to be free. The Internet is a great start.

            The answers are out there.

          • Zirconia says:

            Many tantric texts are kept secret because of a great potential for misuse and abuse, due to misunderstanding of the texts. The words in tantric texts are not meant to be taken literally. Without reading commentaries AND having guidance from a qualified lama, one would *definitely* misunderstand them.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            "Many tantric texts are kept secret because of a great potential for misuse and abuse, due to misunderstanding of the texts. The words in tantric texts are not meant to be taken literally. Without reading commentaries AND having guidance from a qualified lama, one would *definitely* misunderstand them."

            Yes, that's the paternalistic justification that I mentioned—the same one used to justify why slaves should be prevented from learning to read. And it's also the one used to keep women out of politics, sports, and higher learning institutions i.e. you're too ignorant, delicate, fragile, emotional, irrational, dumb, black etc. to be privy to these intense, powerful, sacred teachings. In other words, in the wrong hands they are dangerous to said persons and society as a whole. Only qualified persons should have access. Wow, who gets to decide who is qualified? The people in power. A great number, perhaps almost all, secret societies and religions function like this. Buddhism is no different.

            Another theory to consider as a possible explanation for keeping advanced teachings a secret is that these teachings are so outrageous that only one who has much to lose will buy the kool-aid, due to "irrational escalation of commitment," i.e. making irrational decisions based upon rational decisions in the past or to justify actions already taken. ( <a href="http://_” target=”_blank”>_ This is also commonly known as sunk-cost theory and the Concorde Fallacy.

            After investing large amounts of time, money, and energy, one hesitates to throw in the towel. It seems better to just keep going—drinking the kool-aid—then face the perceived loss head on. After all, one is so close to becoming a Buddha or a Cleared Theta Clear.

            In Buddhism, one strives for Buddhahood where one perceives Emptiness: "… is beyond the laws of time and space. Physics does not apply. The bonds of the ordinary world are broken. The mind has moved into another realm. The laws of Matter and everything that binds one to the Physical World are broken… ." It's a huge event. Being in Nirvana is like being in Heaven, there is no hatred, jealousy, anger or ignorance in the mind of a Buddha who has perceived Emptiness directly. The mind goes first to Nirvana, then the body dies and the Buddha has left the cycle of rebirth." <a href="http://(” target=”_blank”>(

            In Scientology, the goal is to become Cleared Theta Clear: "A thetan who is completely rehabilitated and can do everything a thetan should do, such as move MEST and control others from a distance, or create his own universe; a person who is able to create his own universe or, living in the MEST universe is able to create illusions perceivable by others at will, to handle MEST universe objects without mechanical means and to have and feel no need of bodies or even the MEST universe to keep himself and his friends interested in existence." <a href="http://(” target=”_blank”>(

            Both of these are lofty goals. It is understandable why so many stick with the programs despite coming across outlandish and implausible claims and statements.

            But, there are practitioners who do give up their religions after being exposed to the final secret teachings. Some say, wtf? Others say, is that all there is? Some just can't rationalize the claims to themselves any longer. And the rest, upon realizing that they can’t in fact turn a stone into gold or control others from a distance, say to themselves, “Dang, I’ve been had.”

            But a first day practitioner to Buddhism or Scientology who is allowed access the the secret, advanced teachings may just decide, right then and there, to not invest any more time or effort in the religion. Isn't this basic marketing strategy?

          • T.S says:

            You make some great points Jehne, I think some of the secrecy in tantra is not all that sinister, it's more like a warning that if you start to play around with tantra or with energy you might have a spiritual atomic bomb explode in your face. In that sense it's a bit of a disclaimer. One might ask what's so secret about self-awareness or that fire is hot or water is wet. It's a bit of a big joke. The awareness-holders aren't all that concerned with converting anybody, it's a completely open and free situation, everyone is free to experience basic openness or things simply as they are.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Thanks for your insight T.S.

          • T.S says:

            I can understand your scepticism Jehne about the secrecy thing, ideally the secrecy is for the reasons Zirconia just stated and not something ulterior like control. There is a hugh amount of information on tantra readily available already, but without a proper environment and context tantric practices lose there power and can lead to distortions and potential harm. To a casual reader stories of 10th level Bodhisattvas, final births, the desire realm, Akanistha, wrathful deities, and what you might sound as cooked up as stories about Xenu sound to me. But your right, the answers are out there, even if inner dimensions of tantra remain somewhat inaccessible.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            The Xenu story is precisely what I was referring to in my previous post as being an outlandish and implausible claim and/or statement made by a religion. It is difficult for me to understand how Scientologists can actually believe this stuff. But can't it be argued that Buddhism is not devoid of such grandiose claims as well? Shouldn't they both be subject to scrutiny? Why should any religion be exempt? What's good for the goose should be good for the gander, no?

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            Sure, the claims of Buddhism should be scrutinized, like anything else. As with any investigation, you'll need the right set of tools. If you're specifically interested in investigating Buddhist tantra, then the tools aren't so easy to come by. By way of analogy, it's as if I decide to investigate some of the outlandish claims of quantum physics (i.e. that objects don't actually have a location or that physically separated objects can interact with other over arbitrarily long distances). It's obvious to me that if I touch the object on my table, it can't affect the object on your table in Sedona. But some of these crazy scientists say that's not the case.

            Now, I have a decent education in science–I've studied Newton's physics and the calculus that underlies it. I know the math–and I've replicated experiments to demonstrate and derive the relationships between force, mass and acceleration. So action at a distance is a grandiose claim. Denying that objects have any local reality, per the Copenhagen interpretation, is equally grandiose.

            What tools do I need to investigate these claims? Either I need unquestioned faith in other people (the same kinds of scientists making these grandiose claims) or I need to find out for myself. If the latter, I'll need about four to six years of specialized education. At some point in that process, I'll have to qualify for higher education, for the next steps. Towards the end (ie if I'm in PhD or post-doctoral land), then a significant part of what I learn will come from personal interactions with teachers and colleagues. Oral communication.

            Now quantum physics wants to be free, like all other information. So it's available to me, now, in my library, or with a subscription to any of the specialized refereed journals. And over the Internet, including some amazing classes streamed from MIT. But I have to put in the work.

            Advanced physics is hidden from me until I do the work. It's not hidden by patriarchy, by an institutional priesthood, by a scam. It's hidden by its nature. Tantra is the same way. It's often referred to as "self-secret".

            So go ahead and investigate, the door is open, and you are invited in.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Excellent reply. Thank you. 🙂

          • Karen Visser says:

            Jehne, this might interest you, it's a straightforward place to start:

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Thanks Karen. I wonder if those studies were continued. The article was written in 2002. It sounded like further research was needed. I couldn't find any info.

            I do believe in the health benefits of meditation. And, meditation does not have to be connected to religion. Here is a great essay by atheist author and neuroscientist, Sam Harris, who is a proponent of meditation:

          • Karen Visser says:

            Those experiments were so expensive, I was wondering if they were still going on too, Jehne, or if that researcher had run out of money. The results still stand, much like Pasteur's work, time doesn't diminish the truth.

            For those who didn't go to the link, that practice, Tummo, is a yogic practice that allows a practitioner to raise the body's temperature from 98.6' F to roughly 106.9', 107' or 108' or to direct the heat into the hands and achieve a higher temperature. Tummo isn't always a spiritual attainment, it can be a yogic tool for meditating in a cold climate. The spiritual attainments of many lamas do go beyond this physical achievement.

            I had a lama come to my house who had been in retreat in Tibet for years, he used Tummo partially as a practical aid for meditating in the cold. He was allowed to come to North America for a month to teach and was required to return to Tibet. I think he hoped that Western students would come and study with him for a few years.

            In the course of teaching a group of us he heated up my bronze bell – many Buddhists own a heavy, solid, bronze bell the size of a man's fist. The lama invited the sceptics in the room to touch the bell. I'm embarrassed to say that every single one of us touched that bell, I did too out of curiosity, and every single one of us got a full thickness burn on our finger.

            The lama was mortified that we would all doubt him and be hurt, we were shocked that the metal was so hot and he was still holding it in his hands. It was frying pan hot.

            None of it made the slightest sense to either side. We were all trained Buddhists, yet we had enough doubt and curiosity to burn ourselves, so doubt is part of learning. But there comes a time when you need to stand on the shoulders of others, as it's taught in science. Otherwise, every single person is forced to reinvent the wheel.

            Believe me the neuroscience behind this is something I have an interest in, Harvard and MIT have very good studies. However, just so you know, much of what's discussed in this forum goes beyond simple meditation.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            "However, just so you know, much of what's discussed in this forum goes beyond simple meditation."

            Of course, I realize this.

            Unfortunately, I am hesitant to put my money on the results of the monks studies until those results can be duplicated in controlled experiments. This goes the same for your experience with the fire-hot bell. Sorry.

            "But there comes a time when you need to stand on the shoulders of others, as it's taught in science."

            The key word being "science." Standing on the shoulders of scientists–not monks–who have conducted scientific research that has been published in reputable scientific journals with peer review. This is knowledge that we can build upon–objective knowledge.

            Your experience with the monk and the bell is a subjective experience. Until it can be repeated in controlled studies, it cannot be regarded as being a part of the scientific canon–the canon that we look to when we "stand on the shoulders of giants."

            Your lama may be a giant in your mind. And religious leaders and practitioners can surely contribute to a body of knowledge. But it isn't a scientific body of knowledge. This doesn't negate its value to you, personally, or to society as a whole.

            Religions run into problems when they cherry pick from science–adopting scientific terms when it suits there purposes i.e. quantum physics–yet, at the same time, refusing to submit to scientific scrutiny for their supernatural claims i.e. reincarnation.

            I appreciate and value your dedication to Buddhism. You are an intelligent, educated, and compassionate woman with much to offer this community and our world as a whole. Just because I am not religious/spiritual, doesn't mean I can't recognize the value of religion/spirituality when I see it being showcased in the most positive light possible. 🙂

          • Karen Visser says:

            Jehne, I do love having this discussion. I respect you for writing here, especially since we all come from different directions – and controlled experiments are the only ones that matter to me. But the bell thing wasn't an experiment, so let's talk about direct observation and inference as it relates to the Harvrd findings.

            As you know, in science sometimes an event is directly observed, at other times one makes an unambiguous inference that it has occurred.

            If you have heart surgery done, you can't know if the surgeon who does your surgery actually did what she says she did, or if she just cut your skin and sterum. You didn't observe it directly. You must infer that she did more than cut skin and bone, you base this on her reputation for honesty, competence, the peer review system that makes sure sham surgeries are not done in the hospital you're checked into, and the fact that other people's health has improved after her surgeries.

            You can't rely only on direct observation, you can't be everywhere on earth at once and you won't live long enough to check everything out for yourself. Not to mention the impossible amount of specialized training required. No one in science moves forward without inference.

            A good controlled study out of Harvard is accepted by the scientific community.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            But it wasn't a controlled study out of Harvard. The research was funded in February 2001 with a $1.25 million grant from Loel Guinness, via the beer magnate's Kalpa Foundation, established to study extraordinary human capacities.

            <a href="http://(” target=”_blank”>(
            <a href="http://(” target=”_blank”>( <a href="http://(…)” target=”_blank”>(…)

            Although Benson teaches at Harvard, this research was not associated with the University. It was associated with his Mind/Body Institute in Boston. <a href="http://(” target=”_blank”>(

            Also, there were only two monks in the study. "The funds enabled researchers to bring three monks experienced in g Tum-mo to a Guinness estate in Normandy, France, last July. The monks then practiced for 100 days to reach their full meditative capacity. An eye infection sidelined one of the monks, but the other two proved able to dry frigid, wet sheets while wearing sensors that recorded changes in heat production and metabolism.

            Although the team obtained valuable data, Benson concludes that 'the room was not cold enough to do the tests properly.' His team will try again this coming winter with six monks. They will start practice in late summer and should be ready during the coldest part of winter. "

            <a href="http://(” target=”_blank”>(

            The study was too small and was inconclusive. This was back in 2001. What has happened since? This seems like it is old news.

          • Karen Visser says:

            Are you kidding me? You really doubt that Dr Herbert Benson, Director Emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute, and Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School is going to do an uncontrolled experiment? That he's going to ignore basic scientific method? That an experiment with no control (so basic to research the controls are listed in the first journal publication and rarely after that) would be accepted by a peer reviewed journal?

            And you really believe that time diminishes truth? The Sambala Sun article was published in 2006, not very recent, either, by the way.

            The original basis of Dr Benson's research was in published in the May 15, 2000, issue of the journal NeuroReport, a superb peer revieved journal that would never accept bad methodology.

            I have to say, if this is the close-minded way sceptics think, I'm really disappointed.

          • Karen Visser says:

            should read: You really doubt that Dr Herbert Benson….is going to do a controlled experiment? : )

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            That is not the same study Karen. You are not reading your own articles that you are posting. Or at least not very carefully. One study on meditation in 2000, is not the same study done in 2001, nor the one conducted in 1985.

            Perhaps you are committed to your beliefs and anything that contradicts them is conveniently ignored.

            I feel this discussion is going nowhere. So I'd like to wave my white flag before it escalates into bitterness.

            "I have to say, if this is the close-minded way sceptics think, I'm really disappointed."

            Please, don't resort to an ad hominem attack to silence me. That's so lazy. I am not a representative of the skeptic community. I'm just me. You would not take too kindly to me saying this to you, "If this is the way flighty Buddhists think, I'm really disappointed."

          • Khedrup says:

            I don't think this is a fair criticism Jehne. Karen provided you with lots of information and you simply try to poke holes in it as quickly as possible. Maybe this is your personality, but I have met plenty of skeptics in my time who it is possible to have a conversation with without getting frustrated. This starts with a basic wish from both sides to understand the other side's beliefs, rather than one side trying to prove the other is wrong.
            Cold skeptic, Pentecostal Christian, "my guru says it's true therefore it must be so" Buddhist, Islamist- with hardened views the heart cannot be open to trying to understand how another person thinks.
            Dialogue is the key to understanding another person's point of view, and that should override our wish to be right.
            Even in the scientific community, there has to be a willingness to accept the unknown in order to be objective.
            Life experience has tempered my skepticism. Living in environments with people who are close to the land – as a monk in Thailand,refugee communities of Tibetans in India, and Chinese communities, I have seen things that I did not think were possible. Now, do I feel the need to convince others that things are true? Not necessarily. But my experience should be respected. Because I am of stable mind and witnessed these things with my own eyes.
            Can people be tricked? Absolutely, think of Sai Baba with the watches. But the cases I witnessed, were sudden, and the person involved had nothing to gain from what happened.

          • corvid says:

            this forum is for people with info on Roach.You don't seem to have anything to add.Why not just sit back and keep out of the way?

          • corvid says:

            Sorry that post is aimed at Jehne not you Khedrup.

          • Khedrup says:

            It's okay Corvid. I mean, I am all up for discussion but I agree. If Jehne wants to write an article for ej about a skeptic's view of Buddhism according to the Scientific method, it would be great and I would be interested to read it.
            But these sorts of posts, while interesting in the beginning, are beginning to veer us away from the topic and perhaps alienate some of the Buddhists from Diamond Mountain who are trying to post here..

          • Khedrup says:

            I should add that perhaps I should speak for my own feelings, that I feel alienated. I found the comparison between Vajrayana Buddhism and Scientology pretty offensive.
            Scientology is geared towards only making money, with courses running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for most. Many Buddhist lamas teach tantra with only a fee enough to cover costs (like HHDL in Kalachakra, the fee goes for the stadium venues, he donates any extra to charity and the accounts are put up on a screen).
            I recently helped with my teacher to organize three tantric initiations here at Sera Monastery with a Gyumey Khensur. Over 250 monks and nuns came, and due to the kindness of some sponsors, not one paid a penny. In fact, we made offerings to the monks!
            Many Tibetans teach the entire path to enlightenment, including tantra, in an open way that allows for free inquiry. HHDL for example organized brain scans of meditators.
            Scientology is a highly secretive organization that copyrights its teachings (again, not done in Buddhist Tantra- there is a project to translate the root tantras for free and make them available) and hides the Xenu story until people have shelled out huge money.
            Books on the philosophy of tantra are widely available and secret is a relative term. HH Dalai Lama has pushed for this as he said the partial lifting of secrecy is worth it if it helps to dispel damaging misconceptions.
            For me it took a long time to develop faith in tantra, actually, and my lamas never pushed me. While deities like Tara always appealed, the ritual side of things was at times alienating.
            Through studying in Theravada tradition and getting a basis in samatha, then learning Tibetan and studying the Sutra side of the path, I was able to come to an understanding and appreciation of the methods of tantra.
            But really, one has to be willing to put in the time and research. And this takes interest.
            Astro-physics, I cannot offer an opinion because I haven't done the years of study necessary to offer a qualified one.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            I apologize for bulldozing the place. I lost my way. I acted selfishly. I am sorry if I hurt anyone's feelings or insulted their beliefs.

            I came here because I had a genuine concern for Ian and the other retretants. I got off track.

            I'm gonna re-think my outlook. Am I too closed-minded? Maybe.

          • kevin says:

            I've been reading along, and the comments are still appropriate to the issue of how we can know. This is an underlying issue of the discussion in general as people determine what or who is a valid source.

          • Khedrup says:

            Dear Jehne,
            Thanks for your comment. I mean, everyone's views should be respected, including yours. It is all in how we express ourselves.
            I have learned alot about these type of dialogues from living in India. I cannot think of a more diverse country in terms of language, ethnic origins, religious belief- and add on top of that the sheer mass of humanity that lives here.
            While there are trouble spots, if we look at the population and poverty the place functions remarkably well. This is because the country was founded on people giving eachother space for different ideas. (When I speak of founding I am talking after the colonial period). THey have to a great degree decreased the importance of caste, elevated the position of women, and reduced poverty all while staying true to being Indian. People here don't wish to become Western.
            When riots and the like happen here, it makes me very ad. But for the most part I see huge harmony and tolerance. And in my discussions with Indians (I always wear my monastic robes) I find them to be a deeply spiritual people- whether Hindu, Muslim., Buddhist or Christian.
            THe spiritual ones are happy despite a lack of material resources. Despite all our technology and science in the West, we are getting more depressed, more isolated from eachother, and the family unit is breaking down.
            Indians by and large still live in extended family units, and place a deep importance on the connectedness of the community. I feel this comes from the spiritual atmosphere of the country.

          • Karen Visser says:

            Thank you for your very graceful post, Jehne, I was feeling pretty alienated and attacked and snapped back at you in my last post. I apologize, I should have waited to write.

            I do understand what's happened. Everyone writing here has had to reexamine a lot of long held beliefs at some point, I have, and it's not comfortable.

            We usually don't interact so openly with people who hold such different views. Out in the world I never talk about being a Buddhist, I don't think people know, but in a forum like this we talk about very private beliefs.

            I think it's been toughest on anyone who studied at DM, everything has been sliced and put under a microscope.

            There are a few people who, I think, have given up on everything, I've spoken to some who are heartbroken, others are just angry. I don't blame any of them, these beliefs are part of identity, it's painful. But there's a huge benefit to all of us shining a light on everything. No one owns the truth, that's for certain.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Thanks Karen. I too should have taken a time out before posting several of my replies. Message forums are a difficult medium to communicate through; I'm certain you'd agree.

            If I appear completely closed-minded then I am not presenting myself accurately. I am actually a very curious person who has always been eager to learn. And I am learning a great deal by interacting with everyone here. The information provided, opinions expressed, and links posted have been very educational for me.

            For the most part, this group is above average intelligence and is not hostile. If you really want to witness some closed-minded, aggressive skeptics, they are out there. I don't peruse those forums as I feel they are just huge shouting grounds with egos battling one another. I am quite affable in comparison. Yes, I may come off as arrogant sometimes. But I really am a sensitive, gentle person.

          • AnnetteVictoria says:

            "If you really want to witness some closed-minded, aggressive skeptics, they are out there. I don't peruse those forums as I feel they are just huge shouting grounds with egos battling one another."

            Thank you for pointing this out. I felt like our conversation about astrology had turned into an ego battle and was not actually about exchanging information anymore.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            It is easy to forget that we all come from different backgrounds and educational experiences. I may know a great deal about art for example and you may be an expert on fashion trends. We can have discussions and disagreements in these areas. And we may not agree on everything. You may believe that modern art is losing its influence in fashion. I may disagree. We can debate this on end. But we will probably still remain cordial towards one another once we are through. But when it comes to very personal beliefs such as religion, metaphysics, and philosophy etc. we lose our objectivity. We all tend to argue through a very subjective filter. We take others' remarks to heart. And because our opinions are not always verifiable it becomes a no win situation. One of my favorite quotes is by Christopher Hitchens, "You are entitled to your own opinions but you are not entitled to your own facts." That is kind of the motto I live by. And it can come off as harsh sometimes. While I value subjective experience, I don't believe a claim unless it is plausible. If it seems unlikely, I ask for evidence. If no evidence can be provided, I don't consider it to be true or a fact. We don't all have to live this way. Though I sometimes think the world would be better off if we would.

          • AnnetteVictoria says:

            "We"? You make a lot of assumptions about me.

          • svan says:

            Jehne, have a look at Matthieu Ricard's "The Quantum and the Lotus", his dialogue with an astrophysicist. Ricard held a doctorate in molecular biology before becoming a TB monk. You can read his remarkable bio here:

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            I will. Thank you.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Love this: "Yes. If you shout an insult in a canyon, like, 'You are a bastard,' then when it echoes back, you will be amused. But if the person next to you says the same thing, you say, 'How dare you say that?' because you feel you are the target. If you are taking a nap in a boat in the middle of a lake on a Sunday afternoon and someone runs into your boat and wakes you up, you think, 'Who’s that crazy guy interrupting my peace and quiet?' When you see that the boat was empty and just drifted into you, you laugh."

            This was from a interview with Matthieu Ricard and Richard Gere:

            What a beautiful explanation for what is otherwise abstract and difficult to comprehend.

            This is the stuff that makes Buddhist philosophy interesting to me. You don't need to be religious in order derive value from that wisdom.

            Some other things I liked from that interview:

            "If that is the case, then the afflictive emotions are simply tied to causes and conditions. By training the mind, using the right antidotes, replacing hatred with loving-kindness or greed with inner freedom, you could change your mental landscape. That’s meditation. Meditation is a very exotic word, but in fact, it simply means to become familiar with a way of being, to cultivate inner qualities."

            "The whole point of mind training and meditation is not just to have a pleasant relaxation for a few moments and a little bit better day. Whew! I’m so relaxed. I’m at the beach. It’s beautiful. That’s not the point. The point is rather to change the baseline you come back to. The point is to make that baseline more peaceful, more altruistic, and more emotionally balanced."

          • AnnetteVictoria says:

            Thank you, Jehne. I stopped responding to your other posts because it seemed pointless to continue the discussion. Also, it was way off-topic.

          • AnnetteVictoria says:

            Thank you, Jerry.

          • T.S says:

            With regard to a claim like reincarnation, im not sure if buddhism can be said to be guilty of refusing to submit to scientific scrutiny just for the reason that it's hard to see how science could either prove, disprove or objectively test for or measure reincarnation at this point in time. Perhaps it's a little like string theory in that sense. From within a materialistic-reductionistic paradigm im not sure where you would even start to look for any kind of direct evidence of such a claim that could be viewed as valid. Teachings like The Tibetan Book of the Dead for example are said to originate in the vast expanse of reality and manifest through the visionary experiences of adepts. How do you confirm or measure that in a laboratory scientifically, why would you care to. Without direct experience people can make up their own minds if the Bardo or rebirth has any validity, or whether this is all just amounts to delusion. Everyone will die eventually and then what happens happens (or doesn't happen).

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Karen, this is an article written by the author Sam Harris, who I named-dropped in my previous post. I hope you take the time to read it. It was published in 2006 in Shambhala Sun. Killing the Buddha:

          • Karen Visser says:

            Very good article, Jehne, I like Sam Harris's writing, I wouldn't have known about him if you hadn't introduced me to his thinking, thank you.

            This is a very good opinion piece, it's in total agreement with my own beliefs and with HH's stance of a non-religious approach to morality and ethics, that would truly be the ideal.

            But it isn't the reality now, unfortunately, and I'm going to bring you back to your own point about subjective opinion. With all respect to both you and to Shambala Sun, Harvard Unversity's Gazette is a peer reviewed scientific research journal, Shambala Sun is subjective opinion. : )

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Yes, Sam's article is an opinion piece. He writes for many different magazines and publications. His article about Buddhism was appropriate for the audience who read Shambala Sun. But it would also appeal to those interested in neuroscience and could have just as easily been published in a neuroscience theme publication. Besides having a PhD in neuroscience, Sam also has a background in philosophy and a life-long interest in religion.

            The monk study was published in the The Harvard Gazette, the official newspaper of Harvard University. It publishes articles about faculty research, student life, sports, and arts and culture. It also is not a scientific journal. (

          • Karen Visser says:

            Perfectly, brilliantly said, mi mthun dpe.

          • Karen Visser says:

            By the way, mi mthun dpe, the dpe part – direct perception (of) emptiness?

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            no, dpe is a Tibetan word

          • Karen Visser says:

            Ah le. Peh yakpo-du – discordant example?

          • Zirconia says:

            According to Roach, not with Sujata, who brought rice milk, but with Tilottama. a little bit after 0:37

            Roach neglected to say that Siddharta was a 10th bhumi Boddhisattva and in his last lifetime before Buddhahood, and the event was in the heavenly realm Akanistha. If Roach’s students are not already Boddhisatvas, good luck.

  2. Karen Visser says:

    Hi Zirconia, here's a post about Karma's 4 factors, I hope it's clear. There's a lot to talk about with Karma, that most difficult and complex of topics, and it's usually taught in the context of The Second Noble Truth, The Cause of Suffering. Again, it is the combination of Karma and Delusion that are the cause of our suffering here in Samsara.

    Karma is often spoken of as being heavy or light, you could call heavy Karma bad and light Karma good. Actually, it's good-ish, because just being here in Samsara and not in Nirvana makes even fantastically good Karma a relative thing. You may not think you're suffering now as you read this, but if you were suddenly transported to Nirvana you'd realize that everything is relative.

    No one here is all bad or all good, we try our best, we make mistakes. Because of that, it is said that there are 3 types of Karma – completely good (which is rare), completely bad (which is also rare), and mixed good and bad. This mixed, or middle, kind is what most of us incur. Most actions, thoughts and words have a mixed motivation and so a mixed result.

    To illustrate how the full weight of Karma is acquired the example of a terrible deed is often used – usually killing someone. So, we'll talk about shooting someone. Here are the 4 factors needed to be present for the full weight of this heavy Karma to be acquired:

    1. The Basis. You choose the object of your intention – in this case, a person.
    2. Form the Intention. You will kill the evil Drakulator with a gun. You buy a gun, ammunition and you make a plan.
    3. Take the Action. You shoot and kill Drakulator.
    4. Rejoice in the action, feel Satisfaction, complete the full sequence. 'Ha! serves you right Drakulator.' you think.

    Result: very, very heavy Karma.

    The most efficient way I can think of to illustrate how these factors work with light Karma is to give an example I mentioned in the last forum. When the Communists invaded Tibet they put guns in the hands of young Tibetan monks, pointed the guns at the heads of the young monk's Lamas, wrapped their own trained soldier's hands around the hands of the unwilling monks and pulled the trigger – killing many old teachers.

    How much of the Karma for these actions did those young monks acquire?


    1. The monks did not choose the Basis of this act, they would rather have died themselves than kill their teachers.
    2. They had no Intention to kill, they were full of agony and dread, their hearts were against every part of it.
    3. That intentional Action, so necessary to create Karma, was taken by the Communist soldiers.
    4. There was no Satisfaction, only remorse.

    If you decide to kill a mosquito and feel remorse afterwards you lighten the already minor Karma incurred by that action. If you decide to kill a mosquito, make a plan, then don't, lighter still. Only think about it and there is only the imprint of that thought on your consciousness: "kill". If you try hard not to think about killing anything you are changing your habitual tendencies and motivation.

    So, why is the way you think important? What does it matter if you imagine something awful, as long as you never act on it? Why change your thinking? It's because when you die only your consciousness will go to the next life. In your next life you won't remember anything from this life that came in through your five senses. You won't carry across your money, cool stuff, friends or family, no one piles a little wagon high with stuff and transfers it.

    Only your consciousness can be carried across. Your fundamental, innate mind of clear light will go – and with it what has been imprinted on your consciousness, the karmic imprints. That's why it's so important to insure the purity of your motivation.

    The mind you have right now, your own vast consciousness, has the nature of light. The nature of your mind is luminous clear light. This ultimate expanse of mind, present in all of us since beginingless time, is also present in all conscious sentient beings. We all possess Buddhanature – within the minds of all sentient beings exists the potential, or seed, of the Buddha's enlightened mind.

    Which is why all beings deserve to be treated with respect, loving kindness and compassion. All are potential future Buddhas.

  3. Khedrup says:

    People who are interested in the interaction between Buddhism and Science should check out some of the work of the Mind and Life Institute.
    This is an excellent institution that facilitates dialogue between some of the top Scientists in their fields and well as Psychologists, with spiritual leaders, most notable His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
    One of the most interesting ventures was this one from 2010. Check out the participants. If cold, hard science is your interest, these people are pretty qualified:
    Everything from Buddhist Geshes, to philosophy specialists, to the editor of the international Journal of Theoretical physics, a geneticist from Salk Institute and the director of the Mayo clinic. These people flew to India to have a discussion with Buddhist monks

  4. zer0 says:

    It's wonderful to be able to heat up a bell. Wonderful. But what's more miraculous in my view is when people master their conduct in relation to one another and their environment. What good is it to be able to heat up a bell when we can't even be good to one another, much less, as a result, ourselves? What happens when we can heat up a bell and not control our lust for power, or our need for instant gratification, for example? Is a hot bell what most inspires faith to become a Buddhist? Is it what the Buddha emphasized? It's like being able to bend a spoon without touching it. Nice, really, wow, but does it make me an authentically good, kind, considerate, loving person? It seems that before the tummo practice most people need so much more of something else. Otherwise, they really will be playing with fire.

    • Karen Visser says:

      Thanks zero, don't be distracted by the bell. That was in the context of a discussion about whether Tummo exists, or can be proven, or not. We were discussing things that science has studied that seem outlandish, yet exist.

      Very few monks practice Tummo, it's simply a yogic practice used, in part, in the Himalayas for warmth. It's always taught in the context of a meditation on Bodhichitta.

      • Karen Visser says:

        hi again zero, just an afterthought, I believe Buddha did practice a form of Tummo as part of completion stage. I forgot about that until this moment. It's my understanding that the practice predates Buddha.

        • zer0 says:

          Thanks, Karen, that was sort of not the point of what I was trying to express. And I understand in which context the discussion was taking place and in which context tummo is practiced and even what its purpose is within that context. My main point was to try to look at what the essential and foundational teachings of the Buddha are trying to address since indeed the esoteric vehicle (Vajrayana) cannot particularly be appropriately addressed in this context. And unfortunately some people are indeed distracted by the magical (or scientifically unverifiable) elements of these practices without having much interest in what the essential teachings of the Buddha are. First things first no?

          • Karen Visser says:

            You're absolutely right, zero, and I did miss your point, sorry. Wisdom, loving kindness, and a warm, compassionate heart always come first.

          • zer0 says:

            But sadly the truth is those very often do not come first, thanks in part to a human weakness for power over empathy, and ego interests over selfless ones. And then add to that claims that highlight unverifiable aspects of the phenomenal matrix in which we live which should not be the main concern anyway… Buddhism in fact is a very difficult path regardless of the vehicle you choose to focus on. When practiced close to the way it is taught by qualified realizers it is anything but cute and trendy, consoling and blissy. It is tough and demanding because looking within with some measure of honesty is the hardest job in the world.

          • Karen Visser says:

            I hear what you're saying. Really looking within, being totally honest with oneself, is the hardest thing there is. It's not just in Buddhism – to choose not to seek recognition or power, to love when others don't love you, and to be selfless when there's no gratitude in return, is the hardest road. Whether you're guided by religious beliefs or not, I personally believe these are part of the heart of all ethics.

            I think this may be why all religions teach that the most ordinary looking person, a pilgrim, a wanderer, a solitary monk, someone who has turned away from the quest for worldly power and material things, might be someone who has transcended everything. We can't tell by outward appearances.

            It's not comfortable, it takes so long to peel back all of our justifications and wishes, all that comforting stuff that feeds the ego. But trying to love everyone, feeling true compassion, not seeking to harm anyone or feel better at anyone's expense brings a great reward.

            There are always difficult times – but the rich, the powerful, the famous and adored have the same difficult times. Their hearts get broken, they lose parts of themselves when someone dies, they grow old (if they're lucky), they die too. But power, money and fame slip away from people and leave nothing. When you emerge from a difficult period you will have transformed your mind and heart, nothing can take that away. That goes with you forever.

          • Karen Visser says:

            By the way, the most extraordinary, loving, deep teachers I've been lucky enough to meet, the ones with the highest attainments, never even bent a broom straw. It's just not important.

      • ekanthomason says:

        In the Japanese tradition something similar, if not the same, exists. Koyasan (Shingon headquarters) is high on a mountain plateau surrounded by seven mountain peaks. Many tourists come during the good weather, so it is in the wintertime that students do their discipline training. My teacher's master took his students out into the snow, then took off all of his clothes and sat in the snow. He instructed his students to do the same. While he continued to sit in the snow with no problem, the students were able to sit for only seconds. Over time, one develops some mastery over the elements. I think the ability to develop the mind/body is limitless. I myself have had moments that are inexplicable. A person that does not allow for possibilities beyond the established limits will never be able to go outside that limit.

        The temple, where I lived at Koyasan, has paper shoji screen windows. In the winter it was freezing inside. My teacher told me a story once. One of his fellow students was sleeping under such a window and the wind blew snow in during the night. It landed on the students head and his body heat turned the snow into an ice cap.

        It is also common for Shingon priests to do mantra practice while standing in ice cold waterfalls. Mastering the elements seems to be part of the tantric path. I have even heard MR/C say the same thing during Lady Niguma's yoga teacher training. These abilities come from going deep in meditation. The abilities are not the goal. The depth of meditation and transformation of the mind is the goal.

  5. Jehne_Lunden says:

    In the post prior to this one, Michael Remski asks, is Michael Roach's Diamond Mountain a "Culture, or Cult?" I stated previously that I believe it is not in fact a cult, as defined by sociologists. There is a really good essay describing cults in The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience. If you care to read it, it is available in my online storage box:

    It is located on page 96 of the PDF file.

    The rest of the content in this book is worth checking out as well.

    • AnnetteVictoria says:

      I'm not sure what cults and sociology have to do with pseudoscience.

      • Jehne_Lunden says:

        Well, sociology is the study of society. So by definition, anything can be and usually is of interest to sociologists. Sociologists are very interested in cults. Much research in this area has been done by sociologists. Because unlike psychologists who tend to focus on the mind and the individual, sociologists focus on groups. They study a groups dynamics, structure, members, power, leaders–you name it. And cults are groups. Diamond Mountain is considered to by cult-like by many of its ex-members and by the larger Buddhist community as well.

        Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status. <a href="http://(” target=”_blank”>(

        A cult has to do with pseudoscience because many of the things taking place in a cult are unscientifically verifiable claims made by the leaders and members such the ability to levitate or fly, increased sexual potency, mystical powers and communication with spirits. Claims can vary from cult to cult.

        • AnnetteVictoria says:

          That makes sense. But from this perspective, a more accurate critique would be a peer-reviewed sociological study, not an encyclopedia of pseudoscience.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Are you interested in learning more about cults? You can check out the references provided at the end of the essay. You may be able to find many of the articles and books listed online or at your library.

            Have you ever read a scientific study in a scientific journal? I have. And they can be quite boring, dry, full of data and charts, and loaded will jargon. Scientific journals are published for scientists. They are not written for the average person. This doesn't mean you are denied access to them if you should choose too read them. Many are available at the library or online. And most, if not all, can be purchased.

            But, unlike a scientific journal, the skeptic encyclopedia was produced to be a handy reference guide for skeptics and others. The essays are brief overviews of the latest definitions/understandings/ research done on the subjects. Like all encyclopedias–including Wikipedia–a list of references is provided at the end of each essay. This list often includes peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals.

            I found this online:
            It is the course overview for a class being taught on cults/new religious movements. The books mentioned might be of interest to you. The class is taught by Dr. Lorne Dawson, a sociologist at the University of Waterloo–a leading public research university whose main campus is located in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

          • AnnetteVictoria says:

            "Are you interested in learning more about cults?"
            I was in one.

            "Have you ever read a scientific study in a scientific journal?"

  6. Jehne_Lunden says:

    Charismatic Authority ~

    Before I tell you a little story, I just want to say that I believe Michael Remski is an amazing writer. Perhaps more discussion should be paid to the points he addresses in his three articles. Almost every single paragraph of his works could be a topic for debate/discussion. His writing is very layered and demonstrates a highly developed understanding of Buddhist principles, the history of Diamond Mountain, and also the repercussions that ex-devotees experience once leaving this type of group. However, he definitely writes with an intelligent reader in mind. This is not stuff for the daily newspaper. This is scholarly and niche content. Admittedly, there are moments when reading that I felt like a study guide would come in handy. But I am not his target audience. That is why some of this is going over my head. In time, once I gain a better understanding and vocabulary, I will be able to reread all three pieces and see things that I was unable to see upon the first and second read.

    Onto the point I want to make. When I first read Remski's comment about his feelings for Roach, I didn't absorb his words in an emotional way. I intellectualized them. I really was not relating to what he said because I did not feel his experience on a personal level. This is what he wrote: "I loved him. In his apparent mystical ecstasy I felt the answer to my own terrible longing. I was obsessed with him, and in some ways I still am. There’s something about Michael Roach that pulls on all of my unintegrated threads at once, something that shows me where I am a scared and petulant child longing for comfort, where I demand certainty where none exists, where I am lost between cultures and millennia, and how easy it was to console myself by withdrawing into masturbatory religious sentiment."

    But tonight, a light went on. I was reminded of my own experience with a charismatic authority figure. I was in my second year of college. He was my moral philosophy professor. I will never forget his name. It still rolls off the tongue effortlessly. I was young, but not at all naive. I had many romantic relationships already, was fairly well read, and had done a significant amount of traveling. And I was of sound mind and emotionally balanced. Meaning, I wasn't what you would consider a vulnerable and gullible person. And Yet, I fell under this man's spell with my body and soul. I was obsessed with his charm, intelligence, and striking good looks. I absorbed every word he said and became enamored with philosophy. I aimed to please him. I wanted his approval. I became his star student, setting the curve for the grades. This infatuation went on past the sixteen week semester. I longed to run into him in the hallway. I thought about him outside of school. All the while, I was in a committed relationship. But, if he were to have asked me to runaway with him, I would have. I would have gone off into the desert with him to live in a yurt for three years. And, I was not the only female that felt this way. His classes had a waiting list. He had groupies. But fortunately, in retrospect, he never abused his power. He never once crossed the line with any of of us. The other professors thought very highly of him. He truly was a man of his words–a moral philosopher indeed. My professor was not a religious leader. But he could have been. And remembering my story, makes me realize that it is not absurd to think that any of us could fall prey to such a charismatic force. Lucky for me, my force was not a predator.

    But from what it sounds like, Roach was/is.

    Was/is he aware of his power? Did/does he abuse it?

    After thinking about my own experience, I wonder if this group is more cult-like than I had previously thought. Perhaps Roach is acting like a cult leader. And perhaps real people are feeling like cult victims. It does sound like Remski feels that he was in fact a cult victim. Another thing that came to mind is whether or not there is a sexual attraction/dynamic to Roach's appeal? That was a big factor for me. Is it for the DM folks as well?

    Bottom line is, if my college professor had been the leader of a moral philosophy cult, I would have joined.

    • Jehne_Lunden says:

      Excerpts from The Guru Papers by Joel Kramer and Diana
      Alstad (

      Recognizing Authoritarian Control ~

      "Surrendering to a guru brings instant intimacy with all who share the same
      values…Acceptance by and identification with the group induce a loosening
      of personal boundaries [which] increase the emotional content of ones life,
      bringing purpose, meaning and hope. It is no wonder that who join such
      groups rave about how much better they feel previously.

      Surrender is the glue that binds guru and disciple. Being a disciple
      offers the closest approximation (outside of mental institutions) to the
      special configuration of infancy.

      Once again, one experiences being at the center of the universe–if not
      directly (the guru occupies that space), at least closer to the center than
      one could have thought possible.

      Surrendering to an authority who dictates what's right is a quick route to
      feeling more virtuous.

      That act of surrender itself can feel like a giving up or a diminishing of
      one's ego, which is presented as a sign of spiritual progress.

      No matter how much better one initially feels, in the long run anything
      that undermines self-trust is detrimental to becoming an adult.

      Many who are involved in authoritarian surrender adamantly deny that they
      are. Those who see the dissembling in other gurus or leaders an find
      countless ways to believe that their guru is different.

      It is not at all unusual to be in an authoritarian relationship and not
      know it."

      Guru Ploys ~

      "People whose power is based on the surrender of others develop a repertoire
      of techniques for deflecting and undermining anything that questions or
      challenges their status, behavior, or beliefs.

      The deceit underlying most ploys is that the guru has no self interest at
      all. The traditional ideal of enlightenment allows this deceit free reign,
      because the guru is placed in a category beyond the knowledge and judgement
      of others. From here, gurus can rationalize any contradictory behavior.

      Though some gurus say that doubts are healthy, they subtly punish them.
      Doubt is not the way to get into the inner circle.

      Another ploy is calling whatever seems problematic "a test of faith."

      Since those without self-trust look for certainty in others, power is just
      there for the taking by anyone who puts out a message, with certitude, that
      tells people what they want to hear.

      To maintain control, it is necessary to undermine self-trust. This is
      insidiously done by removing the ways in which people can build trust in
      themselves–by utilizing one's personal, firsthand experience as feedback.

      Gurus undercut reason as a path to understanding. When they do allow
      inquiry, they often place the highest value on paradox. Paradox easily
      lends itself to mental manipulation: no matter what position you take, you
      are always shown to be missing the point, the point being the guru knows
      something you do not.

      What appears to be a strong bond between guru and disciple is illusory, as
      it depends solely upon the disciple's acknowledging the guru's authority.
      Should that break, little remains.

      Even those on the lowest rung can feel superior to those who have not had
      the intelligence to become members.

      To those observing such authoritarian groups on the outside, it appears
      members give up their power to the leader. But most disciples did not have
      very much personal power to begin with.

      Although many gurus they do not need any special treatment and would be as
      happy in cave, the power an adulation at their disposal are more seductive
      than any drug.

      Looking carefully at a guru's inner circle is extremely revealing. Those
      closest to him, his most dedicated students, display better than anything
      else where his teaching leads after years of exposure.

      What is also displayed is who he prefers to have around him. Do disciples
      ever "graduate" and become self-defining adults, or do they remain obedient
      and tied to the guru? Are they strong and interesting in their own right,
      or are they boring sycophants who continually feed his ego? It is also very
      enlightening to observe how gurus treat and refer to those who leave their

      The last two paragraphs speak volumes. Look what became of Ian and Christie.

      • Karina says:

        Personal experience with some of GM's inner circle is that they are full of a loser emotion…PRIDE…way too much of it…

        • Jehne_Lunden says:

          Pride ~ One of the Seven Deadly Sins. Wait… that's Christian ethics. What does Buddhism say about pride?

          • zer0 says:

            a whole lot: for a taste:… but then there are the categorizations of it.

            What needs to be understood is how it functions within a Vajrayana context.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Thanks for the link.

            Pride is one of the Six Root Disturbing Emotions and Attitudes. This is fundamental stuff, right? This should be mastered before moving on to more advanced practice such as tantra? And yet, look at how often that very attitude has been on display here i.e. name dropping, boasting of titles and credentials. I have been prideful. But I am not a Buddhist. Is it bad form for a Buddhist to be boastful? Is it insecurity that drives this? Do they feel they need to remind us how important they are, who they know, and who they study under in order for us to value them as a person? But isn't Buddhism all about not having a permanent self–identity? If there is no self (Anatta), why the constant need to prove themselves worthy to others and reinforce to themselves that they have a self concept that is favorably regarded?

            If hubris and humility are two extremes, one falling on each end of a spectrum. And the Dalai Lama is on one end–humility. I wonder where Roach falls? Where would the average Buddhist sit?

          • Khedrup says:

            In the Tibetan Buddhist presentations of Buddha nature, our inner potential, it talks about that nature, which is pure and blissful, as being obscured by the afflictive emotions, one of which is pride.
            The process of rooting out the afflictions is one that is believed to take lifetimes. When the afflictions have been abandoned one is already a holy being!
            So it is unrealistic to expect Buddhists not to display these attitudes mentioned as the afflictive emotions/disturbing attitudes.
            The preparation for tantra should be stability in the paths of renunciation, bodhicitta and emptiness as explained by Gelug founder Tsongkhapa. That does not mean that these things need to be realized, mind you.
            The Buddhist doctrine of no-self needs to be understood and meditated on continuously in order to be realized. We have been grasping at the false sense of a stable, abiding self for countless lifetimes. So of course it is going to take lifetimes of dedicated practice to remove those stains of false thinking and their imprints.
            HH Dalai Lama always mentions practice for the long haul. As ordinary beings we have to think of it in baby steps.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Thank you Khedrup. I have a better understanding now.

          • Karina says:

            I believe all the name dropping and boasting of titles and credentials stemmed from them being FAKES! You do not keep telling people you are the lineage holder of HHDL's lineage if you are really one…

  7. corvid says:

    Roach,Eric B (in robes..oh brother) know the priest class were all up at DM the day before yesterday.Roach met with the retreaters and the question comes to mind why he doesn't stay with them until this thing fizzles out? He knows some of the retreaters are not doing well…why not stay and be a leader 24 7?

    • ekanthomason says:

      Wonder what the chances are they will call the rose garden they are planting, The Ian Thorson Memorial Garden?

      • corvid says:

        Wow outsiders like us that pushed for short retreats,better working conditions for the caretakers and increased efforts to ensure the retreaters safety seem to have forced all this stuff to happen…we have frog marched them into a better,safer place…now with friggin flowers…oh one thing more needs to happen DUMP Roach!

        • corvid says:

          A gisgusted worker bee told me they have a table in the Temple with flowers and offerings around pictures of Roach and the Yuppie Goddess..they are just tone deaf up there…Attention pr flack Scott..don't you know how that looks? Are you missing a photo of someone on the offering?

  8. Karina says:

    Anderson Cooper CNN just reported on this tonight!

  9. ego patrol says:

    Jehne Lunden, you have managed to do what even aguse could not do. you have shut down or bulldozed as you said the best forum online. I was getting a lot out of it. You alternately insult and flatter people. Are you always looking for a fight? Why are you here? Self promotion?

    • AnnetteVictoria says:

      My thoughts exactly.

      I've been starting to miss aguse.

    • corvid says:

      Easy Ego patrol don't you know she has a degree (just like the DMers) She really needs to shut up for a while as there is stuff happening on the ground.
      Lets start with last weekend. Roach banned a dissident long time dedicated Diamond Mountain member from attending his visit.This member has demanded Roach step down.I think a blue collar, long time student that walks the walk like this guy would be a good choice as an intern leader.No fancy robes but a quiet integrity in excess…just what DM needs. The Roach grasp on power is slipping as many members (most in private at this time) have come to realize DM is in a better position to grow without the Roach and Christie baggage.
      Speaking of getting rid of baggage I watched as Ian's last possessions on earth (sleeping bag/camping gear/stuff from cave) were crushed at the Bowie dump in the compactor this morning. it pissed me off all over again….Look for the Ian Memorial Street sign soon Roach. Some of your ex-followers are making it and I will put it up on my property so you can think of his life,his botched rescue and his death every time you pop up for a ring kissing…"..Ian..don't recall the name…hey I'm big in China " For Tibet,for the remaining retreaters,for your own pride you remaining board members need to get rid of your Roach problem…

      • AnnetteVictoria says:

        Thanks for this info, Jerry.

      • ekanthomason says:

        Hey Jerry, I was told, for my financial donations to DM, that I could name something, a rock or a mountain or a road or something. Maybe it is time to do that.

      • Kevin says:

        I would support DM if Michael Roach was no longer involved.

        • Karen Visser says:

          What an interesting thought. I wonder if we could arrange for visiting Tibetan teachers to come – lamas, Geshes, I wonder if DM students would be interested in that. It wouldn't happen overnight, it's just a thought right now.

          • Karen Visser says:

            Just to be absolutely clear, I'm in no way proposing a coup. Everyone would have to feel happy with the idea of visiting teachers, there has to be harmony.

            I am saying it's possible, though. Monks tours, visiting Lamas and Geshes are just a matter of logistics and invitations. Diamond Mountain's students are all dharma family with the all rest of us, without exception.

          • Kevin says:

            Absolutely no coup. Students from DM already go to Sera Mey to study. If there is concern on the Sera side about DM, perhaps a way to bring visiting teacher/scholar/monks would be beneficial to the overall situation. When I expressed concern about GMR to a couple of long-time students at DM, there was no problem with my expression of that concern (with the people I'm thinking about) but rather the hope that I would connect with the right teacher for me.

          • Kevin says:

            And as you said — it is family. In the area of philosophy, it sounds to me like some of the same discussions concerning the specifics of karma and emptiness (including differing points of view on the topic) are part of the discussion at Sera and that GMR's perspective is part of an interpretation that has been much discussed there (this thought is just what I glean from some of the postings of those of you who have more knowledge of the Tibetan monastic community).

          • Zirconia says:

            You can consult/debate about karma, emptiness, projection, etc with 2 geshes in Phoenix:

            Geshe Jampa Khechok … has made himself available to anyone, whether new to Buddhism or a long-time practitioner, who has questions that need to be answered.

            Za Rinpoche is a Geshe Lharampa and graduated first of his class. He speaks very good English… and

        • ekanthomason says:

          Hi Kevin, I don't think Diamond Mountain can survive without a teacher.

          1. Diamond Mountain is about two and a half hours from a minor airport (Tucson). It's closest town (Bowie) has a population of about 200 people. Last week I drove my 8-year old grandson to Bowie and he said, "This place looks like a bomb exploded." Not much more than a handful of DM students who live there. Not much more than a handful of students live on the land. They are mostly there to support the retreat.

          2. There are no facilities for spending the night other than a tent or a few yurts. I have spent many nights sleeping in my car, driving 1 hour to the closest motel in Willcox, and even rented a house in Bowie so I would always have a place to stay when I visited.

          3. There are no restaurants in Bowie so speak of. I hear there is a 'roach coach' that shows up sometimes. There is a convenience store but who knows how long they will remain open.

          4. The conditions at Diamond Mountain are very harsh. Just walking through the gravel parking lot to the temple takes more energy than one should have to expend.

          There is no base of students, so it would require people traveling to attend. For a person to fly in for teachings from locations around the world, drive two and a half hours each way and not have a place to stay requires a cult-like devotion. Why would anyone go to Diamond Mountain if there were no teacher? Why would they go to listen to a visiting teacher when visiting teachers visit other centers that are more convenient? Maybe I am missing something.

          • Karen Visser says:

            Hi Ekan and Kevin, well this gives me pause. It's not for the old lamas, that's for sure. I guess I didn't realize DM was as much of a camping experience as it is.

            I think when I read 'lama dome' I pictured a very, very small sports area, : ) or at least a building with seating. This says a lot about the willingness of the students to make a major effort to get Buddhist teachings, it's quite touching, actually. I had no idea it was so harsh.

            I have spoken to someone in India who thought it might be an excellent adventure, I'd better have him read your description, Ekan.

          • Karen Visser says:

            a small sports arena

          • ekanthomason says:

            The lama dome is on top of a mountain. The first time I went up there, for part of an initiation, I sat down and cried because I did not think I could make it. The path was so rugged and difficult. They have a better path now, but it is still hard for anyone not in good shape. It has seating on the floor. I would say less than 100 people can get in there. I came late for a tsok and had to stand outside.

            It is an unfinished cobb building. The plans I first saw for the lama dome in 2004 were for it to be a residence. If they had built it back then, they could have got by with it. Cochise County started a building department a few years ago and rescinded the building permit for the dome as a residence and it become an accessory building. They then had to build a residence.

            The temple can seat about 150 people on the floor, which would be very tight. However, the parking lot is not large enough unless there is a lot of car pooling.

          • Karen Visser says:

            hmmm, thanks Ekan. I see what you're saying, I had a different picture in my mind. It's a real retreat from the world.

            I think I read 'lama dome' and though Astrodome, but small and yurt-like …and in the desert. I guess the photos in the NY Times article were the main structures. I thought they were outbuildings.

          • Kevin says:

            Karen, Perhaps being a child of the desert, I don't see so many problems here. There are also homes on and next to the property, and bring some food there is a place to cook. Bowie is a town decimated by the fact that the Interstate bypassed the town and took away the income resource derived from people driving through on the old highway system. It is rural, poor Arizona and anyone going will need the spirit of adventure — but isn't that what the spiritual path is?

          • Karen Visser says:

            Hi Kevin, I love the sound of 'a child of the desert'. The translator I contacted thought it sounded like a great adventure. The desert is very, very beautiful and a lot of people managed to get there in the past. Let's leave the door open and see what happens down the road. A year ago no one would have thought we'd be having this discussion (this forum), who knows where everything will be a year from now. At least we know that it suites a somewhat younger Geshe or Lama.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            If I understand correctly, you're contacting "geshes" in India who you think might be suitable teachers for the students at DMU, whom you don't know.

            Is that right?

          • Karen Visser says:

            I contacted a translator to ask if this would even be possible, yup.

            The only way teachers would ever go anywhere is if they were invited – no need to worry that I'm going to be flying people in. And, to reassure you, the Geshes are Geshes, not "geshes". I promise.

          • Karen Visser says:

            Just to be clear, when people ask I check this out all the time.

          • Karen Visser says:

            By the way, 'mi mthun dpe' is a Tibetan debate term used by Geshes.

            Anything you'd like to tell us? I would very happily read and genuinely respond to anything you might say.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            It's a term used by anyone who studies logic, not just Geshes. For example, it's in the glossary of Anne Klein's book on svatantrika (Knowledge and Liberation), which is where I learned it.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            I put "geshe" in quotes, because you have said that Sera issues honorific titles. So no one but you, or someone similarly connected, has any idea if a "geshe" is a Geshe. I guess people could just ask you who deserves the title but that creates its own set of problems.

          • Karen Visser says:

            I leave all that stuff up to the abbots.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            How will this be funded? Isn't part of the appeal of Diamond Mountain its low to virtual no cost for classes and accommodations. Does DM have the resources to bring the Geshes and Lamas in? Even if monies were raised, is this even possible without the board's and/or Roach's approval?

          • ekanthomason says:

            mi mthun dpe,
            Are you suggesting that students at the so-called Diamond Mountain University would either not find geshes from Sera Mey Monastery beneficial or worth the effort to attend? Or is it fear that perhaps the teachings from a Sera Mey geshe would create too much cognitive dissonance? It seems to me that a well respected geshe who responded to a request to teach a particular subject would not be a problem. In my opinion, that does not require knowing the students.
            Just go ahead and officially separate DM. Declare officially that this is a new lineage: sooner rather than later.

          • Ben says:

            IMHO, it wasn't Buddhism that attracted people to DM. It was GMR and his particular take on Buddhism. I've talked with people who studied with other teachers before GMR and they would say it didn't make sense until GMR. I've talked to DM students who studied with other teachers after GMR and they told me the other teachers were dry and pedantic. GMR knows how to set a mood and, as he has stated several times, he promises to deliver exactly what the person wants.

            I really don't know what function DM will play after the 3 year retreat, but my guess is, if GMR isn't involved, not many people are going to put up with the long drive and the hardships. Even at it's height, how many people actually went to DM? I would say normally about 200. Maybe during a special ceremony there would be more but nothing over 500. It's really small potatoes when you see what other people are doing.

            And as far as the waning of support for GMR, I'm not seeing it in the students to whom I talk nor the facebook wall posts I see. It also seems like he is doing pretty good attracting new students but all that could be spin by him and those close to him.

          • Corvid says:

            Ben when the rest of the stories,the movie etc. Comes out anyone tied to Roach will be laughed at or treated like abused animals…a combination of pity and fear It is going to get worse

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            I'm not suggesting anything about how those on retreat or other DMU students would react to hypothetical teachings from hypothetical Geshes. It seems like at least one Geshe from Sera has taught there without major problems, so I imagine another might be well-received. As you say, " a well respected geshe who responded to a request to teach" would be welcome.

            But no one at DMU has made this request. It's just Karen's idea that it would be good for them. Basically it's an appeal to orthodoxy, to hew to the party line. I certainly understand it–I tend to be rather conservative myself about certain things (In fact, one could make a strong argument that the DMU teachings are extremely conservative, from the point of view of the intent. There are numerous interesting examples of almost-literal readings). So while I often incline towards orthodoxy in my spiritual life, I usually frown when an outside party selects an orthodoxy for me or for others.

            I'm very confident that Karen's intentions are good but that kind of in loco parentis thinking is a bit too colonial for me. Imagine it the other way around: say Jehne Lunden began looking for a good materialist to speak at Karen's Buddhist group to set them straight. Maybe an atheist. Maybe Stephen Batchelor. Enough of this prasangika stuff–back to the Detailists. Even better (or worse): Daniel Dennett, who barely believes in mental states. Anyway, someone who has the ideas that they *really* need in Karen's group. Jehne could say, "I'm just making discreet inquiries". If Karen has concerns about the qualifications of these atheists and materialists, Jehne could assure her that she "leaves all that up the PhDs at the university." Of course, no one in Karen''s Buddhist group has asked for any of these teachings….

            There is a Buddhist no-no against evangelism: we're not supposed to do it and I think there are good reasons. It seems presumptuous unless we would be willing to have someone else determine what teachings we need.

            Apologies to Karen and Jehne if I've offended.

          • Khedrup says:

            Mi thun dpe,

            I don't think that Karen completely went out on a limb to say this. Many DM people have been looking for other teachings, other alternatives, seeking to "re-connect" with the broader Tibetan Buddhist tradition- this includes Christy McNally.

            So I don't think your hypothetical comparison to Jehne sending a materialist to a Buddhist group applies here. It seems DM is at a crossroadsoach, Michael Roach is barely there, has moved to an urban area and teaches at worldwide venues, and the main resident teacher, Christy McNally, was expelled.

            So the natural question is, what next, how to move forward? I don't think anyone was saying a geshe should be invited tomorrow, or even next year. I think that it was just a possibility that was put out there. One of many that should be considered.

            The real future direction of the community lies in the hands of the board and broader students. Only they can decide who should be the resident teacher, what guest teachers to invite, and whether they wish to seek a path towards greater integration with the Tibetan Buddhist community or forge ahead with something different.

            No one suggested this decision was anyone's other than theirs.

          • Karen Visser says:

            I'm just catching up now – a lot to read and no time. mi mthun dpe, I'm not offended at all, debate is good.

            You raise good points and I'm sure you and Jehne know that I was curious about all possibilities. Kevin raised an interesting point. I spend time booking Lamas and Geshes, so this stuff is always of interest to me. I'l try to get back here in a bit.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            No offense taken. But if I were to send in the troops, I would choose Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens. Though Sam Harris could do a fine job as well. But atheists don't evangelize either. We debate and discuss but we don't knock on doors or hold conversion seminars at Buddhist centers.

            I can't begin to know what the people at DM need. They are adults and I hope that they can figure this out for themselves. Part of the problem in this discussion has been paternalism running through it. It is assumed that the DM students are like children who are incapable of making rational decisions; i. e. we must protect them tell them and tell them what is best for them. This is insulting. By this point, I think the information is out there. Different paths have been presented. It is now up to the students to decide where they go from here. They are not being held captive or coerced into staying with the group. If others want to argue that they are under some kind of mind control then they also must affirm that every Buddhist monk is as well. Just because the DM group operates slightly different from the dominant religion doesn't mean they are a cult. They are a sect. If the group becomes large enough, they will become legitimate. And the orthodoxy will be able to bitch and moan, but they will have little power to shut them down. Looks like this is what is happening now. I personally don't see the difference between Michael Roach's group and the larger Buddhist community. It's like Protestantism–you have Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists. And those denominations have smaller offshoot groups called sects. When these groups initially broke away from the main denominations, they too were considered to be cults. But once they became large enough they were regarded as sects.

            There are different sects in Buddhism as well. When different groups first formed they were also deemed as cult-like groups until their numbers grew. Perhaps Roach's accessible style and prosperity elements are simply a new type of Buddhism. And one day, DM will be seen as a legitimate group/sect within Buddhism. Or maybe DM will dissolve but Roach will continue on and become centralized in Phoenix. Who knows? But it doesn't look like his larger community of believers have lost faith in his teachings. I think he's here to stay. Of course the orthodoxy doesn't like this. Roach is a threat to the status quo.

          • Poo-Stir Patrol says:


          • Zirconia says:

            Who's assuming that "DM students are like children who are incapable of making rational decisions"? DMers can speak for themselves, and a few have on this forum. Why do you feel the need speak on their behalf? Mother Jehne is defending helpless DMers from Big Bad Wolf Karen and her geshes. Let DMers decide if they're on board with Karen's idea. Your paternalism is insulting to them, don't you know?

          • corvid says:

            Isolation makes sane people do crazy shit.Add to that Roach's twisted theology and just look what happens.The people in retreat are not "free to go" many are just stuck in a group think bog

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Zirconia said:

            " Why do you feel the need speak on their behalf?" "Your paternalism is insulting to them, don't you know?"

            My Response:

            "Oho!" said the pot to the kettle;
            "You are dirty and ugly and black!
            Sure no one would think you were metal,
            Except when you're given a crack."

            "Not so! not so!" kettle said to the pot;
            "'Tis your own dirty image you see;
            For I am so clean – without blemish or blot –
            That your blackness is mirrored in me."

          • Zirconia says:

            Right, the pot calling the kettle black perfectly describes how you accused people of being paternalistic towards DMers, then turned around and spoke on their behalf.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            There's a difference between saying "I'll protect DMU students because by asking the authorities what teachings those folk need " and saying "I'll protect DMU students by defending their right to choose for themselves".

            You can call both statements paternal, I suppose, but I prefer the second approach.

          • Zirconia says:

            "I'll protect DMU students because by asking the authorities what teachings those folk need " That's not Karen Visser's offer.

            Karen's got connection with some wise guy at Sera, if DMers needs such, she can hook 'em up.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Upon reflection, you are correct. Defending their right to choose is also acting like a protector or a parent. But you are doing the same by taking on some role as a spokesperson for them, defending the motion to bring in outsiders. And corvid is guilty as well. Actually, aren't most of us assuming we know what is best? All three of Remski's articles read that way. He even lists things he thinks the board needs to do. When we feel powerless in a situation we reach for measures of control–this includes finding/offering solutions. Would it be better if they spoke for themselves? Yes. But where are they?

          • Zirconia says:

            Why is there a need for "defending their right to choose"? Was Karen Visser taking away such right, or was she stepping up for a sister sangha? No, most of us aren't "assuming we know what is best", we're just crowdsoucing info and ideas to understand what happened/is happening to a desert sangha. Some of us are grieving for Ian, for Christie, and perhaps even for Roach, who could have been a truly great dharma heir and teacher.

            People own up to their citizenship by voting, or writing op-ed articles about the economy, gun violence, or other issues that affect the community. That’s what Remski did, shining a light on a troubling event in the sangha, and making suggestions to his former community. That’s what Karen is trying to do, extending a helping hand to an isolated sangha. That’s what I call taking social responsibility. It’s not paternalism, baby.

          • Karen Visser says:

            Thank you so much, Zirconia. You said it better than I could have, this really was the spirit of my suggestion.

            We're all family, all equals, we're a community.

          • Ben says:

            IMO, when I read what Karen wrote about bringing geshes to teach at DM, I found it fairly presumptuous. I also feel the same way when I read people writing about DM w/o GMR. I agree that it seems that GMR has abondoned DM but it doesn't seem that way to the DM students I know. It doesn't seem that they are desiring other geshes to come teach them in lieu of or addition to GMR. I would guess that if a geshe would come and teach things differently than what GMR has taught, the DM students would find it interesting and be very respectful but "know" that the geshe has it wrong and GMR is correct because of the experiences he has had in meditation.

            I see no clamor for change at DM by the students except for the clamor for internal change which they believe will then cause the external changes they might be seeking. I believe they feel they have been taught what they need to bring these changes about.

          • Ben says:

            I wanted to clarify. I believe Karen has good intentions and her heart is in the right place. I think that many on this board see problems at DM which many DM students do not see. The presumption is that there are problems at DM that need fixing. You can make arguments that there are problems to me but you would be preaching to the choir. What I see is that many DM students don't believe things need fixing at DM. Trying to help someone with problems they themselves don't acknowledge can be a fairly futile exercise.

          • Karina says:

            Just like addicts and alcoholics… Until they hit rock bottom…

          • Khedrup says:

            IMO, it is not presumptuous for suggesting the invitation of another teacher. Indeed, it was a couple of former DM students who indicated to Karen that it would be an attractive proposition. One person said they would be willing to support DM without the former teachers involved, right here on ej, though of course, this is just one opinion.
            How can the DM students "Know" what experiences GMR has had in meditation? These types of inner experiences are something intensely personal, and in Lama Tzonkhapa's tradition they are rarely shared. Just think of HH Dalai Lama, who mentions at the most, very vaguely, "some new understanding" or "some signs". His Holiness would sometimes indicate undersanding something, but never does he explicate on intensely private, inner meditation experiences.
            Even the songs of realization of great masters are said to describe something that cannot be tasted unless one has the realization oneself. So it seems strange to use GMR's meditative experiences as "proving" a Geshe wrong in my opinion. It certainly wouldn't fly on the debate yard of Sera, Ganden or Drepung.

            For me, I have always been attracted to communities that are not afraid to invite teachers with different perspectives. One monastery in Europe invites lamas, monks from Sri Lanka, and Thich Nhat Hanh. The ensuing discussions are lively and interesting.

            I am not suggesting this is the road for DM, but I think, from what I have read, that all options should be offered up. Whether they are chosen, or not, of course depends on the board.

          • Ben says:

            Were these students or former students who indicated that it would be an attractive proposition? Like I said before, the DM students I know don't feel like there is anything wrong at DM. They deride what is happening on forums like this as people who don't know what their talking about trying to make something out of nothing. Please don't defend what is being done here. I am here. I believe there are problems at DM.

            "Holy men" from many traditions and religions have been welcomed to speak at DM. There is a difference between the staff and students and DM inviting speakers to teach there and something that might be seen by the "faithful" as outsiders trying to meddle and perhaps trying to supplant the main reason many of them ever went to DM in the first place.

            In my comment "know" was placed in quotes to signify exactly what you are pointing out. They can't know what he has experienced in meditation. But I would venture to say that many of them believe they have a good idea.

            "all options should be offered up"

            Yes. And I am giving my opinion to that option. Would you prefer this forum become an echo chamber?

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            First off, when did I ever mention Karen? My post was not about her per se. It was a response to a statement made by mi mthun dpe, addressing a hypothetical situation that I might engage in: "Imagine it the other way around: say Jehne Lunden began looking for a good materialist to speak at Karen's Buddhist group to set them straight. Maybe an atheist. Maybe Stephen Batchelor. Enough of this prasangika stuff–back to the Detailists. Even better (or worse): Daniel Dennett, who barely believes in mental states. Anyway, someone who has the ideas that they *really* need in Karen's group. Jehne could say, "I'm just making discreet inquiries". If Karen has concerns about the qualifications of these atheists and materialists, Jehne could assure her that she "leaves all that up the PhDs at the university." Of course, no one in Karen''s Buddhist group has asked for any of these teachings…. "

            He also addressed Karen. But I was replying to him, not anything Karen had wrote. You are reading something in my post that isn't there. We were not posting as a team. His comments/views are separate from my own.

            No need to be a smart arse by addressing me as baby. I am not an idiot. Writing is good, as is networking as you mentioned. And voting is a privilege we should all exercise.

            I think it is wonderful that Karen has contacts and resources that may be helpful. We all have something to offer, even if it is just an opinion that may lead to further investigation or insight.

            I don't know if you posted that message as Ego Patrol at the top of this thread. My gut feeling tells me it was you. But I am not accusing you, as I have no evidence to prove that my belief is valid. If it was you, I'd rather you just ignore my posts than be a bully. Thanks. And if it was not you, well then, sorry about that.

          • Karen Visser says:

            Hi Jehne, I actually thought Ego Patrol was a new voice, there were anonymous posters on the other forum who would do this, read but rarely post.

            Ben and Zirconia are very straight forward, this guy doesn't sound like either of them. Ben and Zirconia are very honorable, not bullies. I don't think they see you that way (sorry, I wasn't sure which one you were talking to).

            Everyone feels a bit stepped on at times here. When you think about it anyone reading can write anything, but the regular contributors are respectful of the other people posting – and of you.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Thank you Karen. That makes me feel better. Being bullied and trolled on the Internet is no fun and a losing battle. I hope that Zirconia understands why I thought it could be him or her.

          • Karen Visser says:

            I know, Jehne, it's so easy for people to be hurtful without thinking about it, especially anonymously.

            What you may not know about Zirconia is that he has a very mischievous sense of humor. Once you recognize it you can read his posts differently. He has a good heart.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            "…he has a very mischievous sense of humor."

            I will keep that in mind. Thanks again Karen.

          • Zirconia says:

            mi mthun dpe asserted that Karen was acting "in loco parentis", you replied in apparent agreement with a paragraph about paternalism, and then accused me, corvid, and Remski of being paternalistic. Did I misread your posts? I think not. I went to an American high school for 6 years, so I’m pretty sure I know how to read.

            Trusting your gut feeling, rather than employing a little reasoning and logic, works/fails half of the time. Ego patrol wasn’t me. I'd venture a guess that ego patrol is the same person who has been using different topic titles as his/her names. The ego patrol name has been used before in response to aguse's posts.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            I guess you got me. I've been hoisted with my own petard.

            Glad you are not Ego Patrol. What a thankless and futile occupation that must be.

          • Ben says:

            Here are a couple things of which current and prospective DM students need to be aware.

            The claim that GMR is teaching Buddhism in the tradition of the Dalai Lama is suspect. I've found substantial differences in what is taught at DM and what is taught by the Dalai lama particularly in regards to the nature of karma. The issue of whether GMR was been disowned by his own teacher or by the Dalai Lama also has an impact of whether GMR can claim pure lineage.

            The problems with the claim that you can get anything you want by planting the right karmic seeds. To me, this seemed to be the main teaching at DM. As I've written elsewhere, I believe if a layman, not in robes and without the title of geshe made these claims, many would reject them out of hand. I believe that many (as I did) believe that this claim is a part of traditional Buddhism in the lineage of the Dalai Lama. Because of this and the GMR instruction to place anything that we don't fully accept on the backburner, I know I stayed "in the fold" much longer than I would have.

            I think the information that many practicing this worldview (which has been promised by GMR to ensure long happy relationships, material abundance, and good health) have seen their relationships dissolve should be important to those who wish to compare the claims with the reality. This is especially significant when talking about the GMR/LC split.

            I'm not assuming DM students are like children, I am assuming they are making certain assumptions (as I was) and ignoring certain facts (as I was). Not long after getting involved in DM, I stumbled on the diamond-cutter website. When I asked some DM students about it, I was told that it was run by someone who had a grudge against GMR. I was also told it was run by someone who was trying to get money from GMR and the reason it went away is that either the money was given or it was obvious the money was never going to be given.

            The information on the website didn't cause me to turn away from DM immediately, but the knowledge that people had problems with GMR and his teachings, I believe helped me to stop ignoring all the issues I had with what was being taught and move on.

          • ekanthomason says:

            Hi Ben. I think the matter of the lineage of the Dalai Lama is pretty clear. The Dalai Lama is simply not a lineage lama.

            Although the chart produced during the first year at Diamond Mountain does show Michael Roach in the lineage of the Dalai Lama, this has the possible impression of being an error with hand drawn arrows rather than an intentional misrepresentation.

            I have personally heard Roach drill us with the lineage over and over and he has always explained the lineage in this way:
            1. Pabongka Rinpoche was the teacher of
            2. Trijang Rinpoche who was the junior teacher of HHDL and teacher of
            3. Khensur Tharchin Rinpoche who taught
            4. Roach.

            The use of HHDL is used only to show the status of Trijang Rinpoche.

            Even the current Diamond Mountain Lineage web page does not list the Dalai Lama as a lineage lama. Other than seeing it used as a marketing technique by him and his students, (including me out of ignorance) I am unaware of any lineage website that has made this claim. The tracing of a lineage is very specific like a family tree.

          • Ben says:

            I was responding to Jehne's post about what DM students need. I know when I was there I was taught that we were learning TB in the tradition of the DL. At least a few DM students make that claim and some (as one video posted here showed) state that they are a "lineage holder in the lineage of the DL".

          • ekanthomason says:

            I was just clarifying for the archived version and the newer people to the forum.

          • Zirconia says:

            Ben, would you please write a separate post about the "substantial differences in what is taught at DM and what is taught by the Dalai lama particularly in regards to the nature of karma."? I'm checking out ACI materials, perhaps we can compare notes. Thanks.

          • Ben says:

            I've already posted it a few times on here. The notion that "everything comes from you" and karm is the mechanism by which everything comes into existence are ideas I've heard HHDL and other well known TB scholars like Alexander Berzin directly contradict. "Everything comes from you" is important if you want to believe that you can change everything and get everything you want by changing your karma unless you make karma a thing outside of you which controls everything similar to a "god". If everything doesn't come from you then there are things you don't control which could interfere with you getting what you want.

            I'm very familiar with the GMR model of karma and can see when it is being contradicted by HHDL and others. I am not familiar with the tradiational TB view of karma.

          • Karen Visser says:

            Thank you Ben, all of your posts above really sum up something important that sometimes gets lost here. You're absolutely right – if Michael Roach wore white yogi robes, for example, the teachings would appear quite different. There's an implied authority and lineage in which people place their trust.

            The differences that you mention are crucial because the results of practice end up being different. The fruit is different, I guess you could say.

          • status quo says:

            Roach is in NO WAY "a threat to the status quo." He is a sorry embarrassment to the status quo. And it isn't a matter of our "like" or dislike for another human being, no. What is both regrettable and the cause for our quiet sorrow is that a potentially excellent monk/teacher broke Buddha's root ordination precepts a long time ago.
            Roach may be "here to stay", but not as a geshe with any standing or credibility within the geluk/Tibetan Buddhist mainstream, since he has effectively alienated that culture with his tout and material embrace of all things Chinese. He may for a time still attract the more naive (Eastern Europe and Communist China) with his glib delivery and personable anecdotes. And he still commands a loyal following with those who suffer from nagging self-esteem protocols with his, 'I am just like you' high-school-ish, romantic fantasy-life. Ironically, Roach may find that he has even more relative privacy in Eastern bloc/Communistic societies, since he clearly desires to control the message/narrative for his target audience as much as those governments desire the same measures of information-control over their own citizens. (As long as MR can tolerate the 'non-spiritual' spies in attendance at his every public event, of course.)

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Thanks for mentioning the author Steven Batchelor. I have now added his book "Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening" to my reading list.

          • Kevin says:

            I was just responding to Corvid. For me, the camping out was one of the best parts about DM. While harsh, spring and fall are lovely and not that extreme in temperature, in my opinion. The isolation, for me was a benefit and drawing point — for those willing to camp, it was less expensive than many of the teachings I see posted in other places and led to people interacting in ways that are not supported by settings where one goes to a teaching and then heads off by themselves.

          • Corvid says:

            Bowie is on way back and evenif it does look like a Road Warrior movie set I like living on it's outskirts.The Pistacio/Pecan business is being expanded big time. I work near Miraval in Tucson and it is surrounded by trailers and frame and stucco shitboxes…still the desert makes it a great place to go to recharge. if DM would have bought the old motel and refurbed it they would have made a good investment and helped the students….instead Roach gets a new house 300 miles away…..go figure
            I have a better memorial stone for Ian on the hill North of Dm and my ranch…feel free to hike up and make it better.

    • Jehne_Lunden says:

      "Are you always looking for a fight? Why are you here? Self promotion?"

      None of those reasons. Just planting seeds. 🙂

      • Khedrup says:

        Planting seeds for?

      • Jehne_Lunden says:

        Not karmic seeds. But little seeds of information–a different perspective for anyone in need of a fresh voice. My opinions go against the grain here. That doesn't make me an evil person out to destroy this community. I have been less hostile than corvid. If he had his way, I fear that Roach would be burnt at the stake. He has even suggested that I shut up two times. This is mean spirited aggression. I wish no one harm.

        I may have planted seeds, but I also gathered roses. Since coming here, I have learned so much about Buddhism–particularly Tibetan Buddhism. And not just from asking questions. But also because I was inspired to learn more outside this forum. I have read many articles, countless blogs, and am halfway through watching the FPMT's Understanding Buddhism series on DVD. I had a basic understanding from the courses I took in college. But it was more of a theoretical understanding. By interacting with Buddhists I have gotten closer to the heart of what it is all about. And I don't regret being true to myself and my beliefs here. The expression of my beliefs has been met with openness, by you and others. And also with hostility. This is so be expected. All forums operate this way. This is what discussion is about–sharing different ways of knowing.

        Am I really closing down this forum? That seems so silly to me. I don't have that kind of power. And I am not a troll. I have always been honest and transparent. I use my real name and have a link to my facebook page and blog. If I were here to stir up trouble surely I would post anonymously or with a fake name. If my posts are offensive or boring they can be ignored. I don't read everything. If it is irrelevant, I skip it. Can we not all self-censor? Am I really such a threat? Am I really hurting anyone? Porch stairs are more dangerous than me. I am not flooding this forum with posts or hogging the discussion. If one doesn't like the topic I am discussing, ignore it and carry on. What is the big deal?

        But if even one person is inspired by my words or learns something new by reading information I have linked to then I think my voice is welcome here. There may be silent readers who think I am a-okay.

        • cloverleaf says:


          I appreciate your voice here. I think it's important to keep this board diverse.

          Just ignore Ego Patrol– I think he has his own reasons for wanting to shut you down. You're not a threat to anyone here. I'm not sure how it's even possible to threaten someone on an online forum, but ok. I think some of what you are saying is being misunderstood and taken as insults because many of the people here aren't used to such directness and diversity of opinion. It's ok; it's normal. No big deal.

          I appreciate the fact that you are a stated Atheist learning about Buddhism. I'm agnostic and doing the same. I also appreciate science and general standards of knowledge, so I think I understand where you are coming from in many of your posts.

          You don't have to listen to those that wish to silence your opinions. You are welcome here. If people are not posting as a result, that's on them not on you. We all make our choices.

          • corvid says:

            No my bet is both of you argue with stop signs when the opportunity exists.
            This thing is simple for the Board (if they have any power and a bit of nerve)
            Remove Roach and set things right (improve caretaker living conditions,short retreats,disavow the Kali black magic stuff and separate your project from a man who has a history of abusing students (Lama Christie ring a bell)
            More stuff is coming and the window may be closing.

          • corvid says:

            Also end this China groveling while Tibet is under attack from the same people Roach is teaching to be better Businessmen….Eric needs to have a talk with Roach in the Business class airport Lounge about the ethics of this operation.It is a slap in the face to Monks forced out of Tibet and the Tibetan people. I have never heard a defense of it that makes one bit of sense.

          • Blue says:

            Roach only cares about one person on this planet and that is himself! The Hip Yoga & Dharma crowd in the U.S. is well aware that Roach is a phony. We can only hope his being exposed as a Con Man reaches mainstream U.S.A. and the rest of the world as soon as possible!

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Thank you cloverleaf. I think Ego Patrol is not a first time poster here but a regular using but another name. I understand the need for anonymous posting. But posting under a name created solely for the purpose of attacking someone, is acting cowardly, imo. At least corvid takes ownership of his comments.

            What brought you to this forum? Are you taking ACI courses?

          • cloverleaf says:

            I wrote out a reply to this yesterday, Jehne, but it seems to have been lost in the aether.

            I agree with your assessment of Ego Patrol. Obviously, I understand the need for anonymity, but it doesn't give one license to bully– or shouldn't. It's childish.

            I come to this forum via Ian Thornson's death. I originally began reading, and later posting, in an effort to understand the circumstances surrounding his death and the eviction of CM. I know some people very close to all of this and my heart is wrenching with it all. I've learned quite a bit about Buddhism and MR and DM along the way, searching out other sources for ideas expressed here. I'm still reading/posting because I have a great concern for the remaining retreatants and I'm still learning. I feel like I have a firm grasp on what happened, why, and what should happen now, though it does no one any good as I have no power to help anyone involved other than with my practice.

            I'm a yogini. I do the Tibetan Heart Yoga, though not exclusively. I went through the YSI program a while ago. I don't take ACI courses, but I'm told the program I did attend is much like going through them in a condensed way. I find the yoga and meditations incredibly valuable for my own practice.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Thanks for your reply cloverleaf. I'm sorry that you are personally grieving for Ian's loss and those at DM. But I am also happy to learn that you "have a firm grasp on what happened." I think this perspective helps lead us towards acceptance. When we don't have any answers, we are only plagued with the whys? I suffered through a very traumatic loss several years ago. Gathering as much information about the reasons for the death helped me to finally get out of a state of desperation.

            The notion of relieving the mind of suffering is the most appealing aspect of Buddhism to me. If it can help us to ease our psychic pain, then I believe this is reason enough to explore this philosophy. I am slowly opening up to the idea that meditation may be something that would benefit me personally. Yoga may be something I will be exploring soon as well.

          • corvid says:

            "firm grasp about what happened" really? No one knows what happened because the split between the Lama Christie people and the Roach patrol have fogged the windshield.The board,the cops and the retreaters either can't or won't say shit because everyone screwed up the rescue.Ian could have been saved.First by never kicking them out (this was Roach's doing..anger about Christi's new power and the younger man).second by a intervention from the retreaters that knew they were there (including one board member),third by Christie's team,fourth by Christie herself who just sat there in a cult infused fog while the life drained out of a pretty damn good guy ,fith by the board member that pointed the rescue team in the wrong direction and 6th by the leader of the rescue team not contacting Larry at the Fort who knows this place like the back of his hand…hell…. When i met the woman at the Summit Hut she used the same "I'm not a member but am very close to" story line.You most likely know way more about at least one side of this Shakespearean rerun than most posters. 105 up here today..tick tick tick..who is the next death on? ifany readers are giving money to the retreat your putting the weakest retreaters in danger..end it now.

          • cloverleaf says:


            You seem to talk as if you have a 'firm grasp' on what you believed to have happen, do you not? The whole post above reads like you have decided what happened for yourself. Not that I agree, but you are entitled to your opinion.

            I wasn't in the cave, so of course I don't know exactly how it went down….but from actually listening to a variety of sources I do believe I can gather the gist and have laid to rest the 'why's' for myself.

            Ian might have been saved in time– we don't really know that, do we? Because bottom line is he wasn't. The 'what if' game can go on forever; I prefer the facts.

            You keep saying that CM 'just sat back'– I think it's wild to make such accusations. By saying so, you are accusing the woman of (minimally) homicide. You're talking about this woman's husband! I believe that she was too ill to do much otherwise, even too ill to push a button. It fits. The authorities are satisfied, quit witch-hunting. If the family of Ian brings a civil suit- go testify to your first-hand knowledge, but simply throwing out such a far-fetched accusation on a public forum is irresponsible. I think the self-righteousness of your claims needs closer inspection– you really do have ulterior motives here, don't you?

            I think you are only looking at all of this in a way that suits your own mind, rather than seeing it in the way that they did. That's fine; you're entitled to such….but I can't figure out how/why all this happened without putting myself in their shoes.

            I also think it's shameful of you to post here all the time about impending doom on the DM facility and yet be right next door and be doing nothing about it. It's like seeing a baby on a train track and not scooping her up before it hits. If you truly believe people to be in danger- do something about it.

          • corvid says:

            Well I think someone else (maybe 5) are in over their heads and could die. if you saw my email to Gawande from 2010 you will see i was worried something bad was going to happen.All you holy beings thought everything was just fine when a knucklehead like me could see this thing was rushed.I tried to dissuade some people from going into the retreat and i just stopped the trail that brings danger into the valley from existing…sort of good…I am also taking a bit of credit for pushing the idea of better working conditions up there.It cracked me up to see Roach take the worker bees to some overpriced 1%er hang out near Sedona to quash the revolt (look little umbrellas in your Bazil lemonade!) and talk about shorter retreats and better working conditions.Where the hell has he been for the last two years? Oh that's right he has been back stabbing the Tibetans.
            Listen Clover the Goddess was an abused student pushed into a leadership position that was way over her magically thinking filled head…she screwed up and Ian died.I think the finger of blame is mainly pointed at Roach…he friggin cut and ran after she escaped from him.Then he comes back and makes things worse. I am saying someone else may die in this bush league,overly long retreat and it should be stopped. Who are you…really?

          • cloverleaf says:

            "Listen Clover the Goddess was an abused student pushed into a leadership position that was way over her magically thinking filled head…she screwed up and Ian died.I think the finger of blame is mainly pointed at Roach…he friggin cut and ran after she escaped from him.Then he comes back and makes things worse."

            Seems MR is damned if he does or if he doesn't by your account. What exactly would you like him to do in the here-and-now to help? Step down– bow out again? You accuse him of cutting and running and now, you hang him for taking people out for nice drink and trying to modify the retreat terms and improve things in light of the tragedy, you want him to do just that? This guy can't win.

            You go on to say MR 'abused' CM and she got in over her head. Maybe- I see abuse of power, but no evidence of intent to do so. But according to you, she's the reason for Ian's death (Ian didn't make choices?) and because MR originally 'brainwashed' her (over a decade ago, I might add) he is ultimately at fault? Did she hold Ian at gunpoint toward the cave or deny him food/water? Did she break his legs? Did she in turn 'brainwash' Ian– and did she do it because MR told her to or expected it? At what point are her actions no longer MR's responsibility? She did divorce him and remarry. According to some unverified sources, she was actively speaking out against MR. When does she become solely responsible for her own actions as an adult US citizen? Is she now? When does Ian get credit for his decisions? Is everyone involved under the spell of MR or CM for life? Are you? Doesn't it stand to reason that if you could resist the temptation maybe so could others? That maybe, just maybe, following MR and his teachings could be a reasoned decision even if it's not one you would make yourself? By you, MR must be the most powerful dictator ever to walk the Earth! I think you give him too much power by such thinking; people do what they want to do, sometimes without due consideration of practical matters.

            Seems you admit Christie played a role Ian's death and don't allow for any personal autoimmunity. Then you go on to say that Roach is primarily to blame because he bowed out after they split, but also contend that when he did come back he made things worse by trying to lead (quash the revolt I believe you put it). Which is it? Is it Christie's fault? Ian's? Roach's? The Board's? The fellow retreatants? The human fallibility? The next door neighbor? The police? God? Shiva?

            Everyone played a role in Ian's death, with no one person solely accountable. Clusterfu*k indeed. My heart breaks over it because in hindsight (and maybe foresight to some), there were things that could have been done differently. But Ian doesn't have the leisure of hindsight, does he? So what now?

            Going on a retreat of this length IS dangerous, by all accounts. The people there worked for years to be there doing that, sometimes giving up everything to do so. I don't see how they would think that it isn't a dangerous thing to do– in fact, that 'testing' of the self is part of the draw, don't you think? I think we should have respect for their choice to live (or die) the way they wish or the way their religious beliefs dictate. They knew what they were getting into and if they didn't……well, isn't it their responsibility to check out a place to spend 3 years in isolation?!?!

            Do you think it's feasible that anyone there would now, after Ian, still not know that it's dangerous?
            Is anyone else in danger of being evicted due to assault and battery with a deadly weapon after being held up as a Goddess?
            Is it likely anyone who might be evicted now would think that they could survive the Arizona desert in a cave with little supplies for the rest of the retreat?
            Do you believe that, in the event of need of another emergency rescue, they would again fail to involve the locals?
            Do you think people always keep a clear head and act rightly in the face of death?
            Is it presumable that any of the events that lead to Ian's death are still on-going?
            Have the leaders there now failed to bring in outside help?

            You proclaim they get their heads on and really look into all of this, but it seems rational thinking eludes you at times too, Corvid. You are not omnipotent and neither is anyone else. I understand your frustration and the need to hold one person at fault. But doing that doesn't solve anything, isn't productive and won't bring Ian back.

          • corvid says:

            DM debate ground 101 zzzzz
            Roach needs to go.It is the best bet for the retreat to flourish,my property values and the safety of future students.I can tell you where I was sitting the day Ritesh told me the senior nuns had Roach on a short leash and everything was cool.At that time I was hearing a different story.I believed him and think he believed it too.What happens then…it all gets worse,breaking up families,hitting up people for money they don't have,teaching a hidden theology that is just crazy to insiders,picking life partners like the Reverand Moon,sending unprepared or mentally ill people into retreat and it goes on and on Roach once said a time would come when he just walked away (like the guy in Pulp Fiction) now is that time Roach..get a pack and find a cave

          • Bingo! says:

            "my property values"

            There it is folks…the real reason Corvid is obsessed with ousting Geshe Michael.

          • corvid says:

            well that was a Joke…believe me keeping quiet was a way better way to go if money was the issue…Roach trashed Ian and now he's getting a little back…you won't believe the anger building locally…

          • cloverleaf says:

            "DM debate ground 101 zzzzz"

            How would you know Corvid? I thought you were going on and on about it being a black-magic cult just a while ago? What exactly IS your history with DM, other than neighbor and apparent confidant of all retreatants? You must have a way with a smile to be getting the scoop from all sides all the time.

            What does it look like to you without Roach there? Aren't the retreatants looking to him– or anyone– for guidance? How is taking Roach out of the picture going to actually change the living conditions, working conditions, the fact it is in a valley prime for fire– any of it, really? Are you under the faulty assumption that without Roach the philosophy of the place would change that drastically? Really? Your illustrious reasons seem to say that people aren't responsible for themselves– a fallacy.

            Where exactly were you:
            "I can tell you where I was sitting the day Ritesh told me the senior nuns had Roach on a short leash and everything was cool.At that time I was hearing a different story"

            What was the story exactly? Why is it that you, a supposed rancher next door, has such intimate knowledge of the inner workings of DM? Are the retreatants still telling you their deepest fears, knowing you post them here? How do you have so much time on your hands with the ranch and all?

            I could go on and on picking apart your doomsday accusations, but it's really off-topic. You want Roach out– no, not just gone, but harmed, right? He should go 'find a cave' like Ian, huh? Got it.

          • Kevin says:

            Corvid, got to agree, more details please.

          • Corvid says:

            think I know who Cloverleaf is…it will crack some of you up….but to answerKevin a good guy with a bit of the old magic thinking powder in his eyes I can't say more because in some cases it would let the Roach Motel crew know who these people are.People have talked to me and my friends in Bowie and we basically share info…Ritesh rented my house and is one among many followers of the great one I have Met while doing repairs.I also live next door and saw how bad the working conditions have become.Hey it also isn't my fault people worried about loved ones in this bullshit cult reach out to their neighbor of 10 years who predicted trouble was coming as the the theology became more nuts.

          • Corvid says:

            The good news is pressure on the cult has forced them to end the deep retreat in many cases.It is a bit safer for some of the people on the edge up there.This result is good news for families of these people and people like Ben,Kevin,Evan etc. need to take a bow.Christie family members and friends who have much more info that will help are starting to talk to reporters.I

          • Blue says:

            I believe Corvid is interested in preventing further harm. If you go back and the read all the posts since day one you find out Roach has lied so many times about his realizations, his Monks vows, etc. Roach’s letters from his own pen that state he saw emptiness directly and that Christy was Vajrayogini, Being denounced by office of the Dalai Lama, Ian’s preventable Death etc. etc. etc. . How much more do Ekan and the others have to reveal about Roach before you realize the guy is bad news and has to go.

          • corvid says:

            Blue, they know more is out there…a board members ex boss just contacted me…people are really worried…this guy was afraid of a mass suicide,,I told him no way..these guys will at least wait to see who plays them in the movie….

          • Blue says:

            Corvid let’s hope Christy doesn’t come crawling back to Roach because it’s the only thing she knows and really comes clean with the inner workings of Roach’s Spider Web of B.S. I bet you any amount of Money Roach is trying to get Christy from revealing the Goods on his Deceptions and Con Games. God knows what sweet talk and promises Roach will try to pull on Christy to keep her mouth shut. What a P.T. Barnum Huckster!!!

          • Zirconia says:

            It's a been a while, Sorry Charlie.

          • corvid says:

            i worry about that too…it must be hard being an ex goddess. She should confront him in public…that would do some good,,,the movie writes itself

          • cloverleaf says:

            Who is writing this movie, Corvid? Made for TV or film?

            Why do you keep bringing up mass suicide if you don't think it's an issue?

            ……The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!

          • A Graceful Exit says:

            "Who is writing this movie, Corvid? Made for TV or film?"

            Not sure. But Nancy Grace is producing it. Haha!

          • anon says:

            Cloverleaf. It will be a documentary film, already two years in the making. With hundreds of hours of film in the can already…

          • another anon says:

            2 or 3 in-depth articles in major publications on the way.

          • yet another anon says:

            Plus Cara Perlman's documentary with actors playing the central characters.

          • cloverleaf says:

            Thanks anon. And another anon, yet another anon, et. al.

          • Corvid says:

            funny dooming from a person that has used Dm tactics to shut down the discussion while not being truthful about who is behind the screen name

          • Corvid says:

            That is coming not dooming…damn kidlefire

          • Khedrup says:

            I agree. If he was only interested in his property values he would not spend so much time here. Nor would he have constructed the memorial shrine to Ian. Corvid had a real concern for the human element of the story, and has met many of the people from DM who were troubled by their experiences.

          • corvid says:

            khedrup…if you met the Brewers,Winstons wife and the string of people worried sick about friends,family and loved ones sucked into this cult that have crossed our path not to mention the string of regular people with little outdoor skill just being dragged down by this ordeal while Roach and the Godess play around in the big house on the hill you would be yelling at us for not doing more…we just hoped it would go away…we sort of suck as our brothers keepers i

          • AnnetteVictoria says:

            It's hard to know what to do in these situations, Jerry. You're doing good now!

    • AnnetteVictoria says:

      Just read this and thought it was germane to the discussion:

      "Don't chuck the ball – Emails to a thread are like comments at a meeting; think of both like your time possessing the basketball. Don't just chuck at the net every chance you get. Hang back and watch for how you can be most useful. Minimize noise."

  10. svan says:

    Is it my imagination, or have some comments and threads "disappeared"? For instance, I can't find the thread where Ekan posted a link to a recent DM pdf/newsletter that spoke of rose gardens and beautification after "the recent difficulties", and it looks like a few comments are missing under one of Rectification's posts…

    • AnnetteVictoria says:

      I have noticed some "disappearances," too.

      Here are some of mine (along with Ben's now-missing replies) that I can no longer find on the forum:

      1. My first missing post:
      "So if his lama is some Christian woman, he's clearly no longer Buddhist, right?"

      2. Ben's missing reply to my first missing post:
      "No. Another thing you will hear at DM (and elsewhere) is that "all religions are basically the same". There is an offshoot program for Christians called "A Star in the East" which ignores about 98% of the Christian bible and then reinterprets the other 2% to mean that "everything comes from you and you can control everything by planting the right Karmic seeds. Sound familiar? "You shall reap what you sow". Clearly that is saying that the only way to get money is to give money away.

      I haven't looked at that material in a while so I may be getting things wrong or confused with other talks, anyone please correct me if you know better, but I believe there is this idea that one of Jesus's disciples, I believe Thomas, was told by Jesus after the cruxifiction to travel to India. Thomas then took the teachings of Jesus (which is the compassion side of compassion and wisdom) and made Buddhism whole again (the compassion part somehow fell away from Buddhism).

      It has been a long time since I read "The Garden" and I don't intend to read it again but you might find some answers in there. It would be interesting to find out the whole true story of how GMR came to see this woman as his lama."

      3. My second missing post:
      "I have a feeling the Buddhists who gave Michael his robes and title might disagree that he is still a Buddhist if he takes a Christian "lama."

      ""You shall reap what you sow". Clearly that is saying that the only way to get money is to give money away."

      Which makes no sense for people who don't have any money to give away in the first place. How do those people get money, according to this teaching?

      "Thomas then took the teachings of Jesus (which is the compassion side of compassion and wisdom) and made Buddhism whole again (the compassion part somehow fell away from Buddhism)."

      Someone on one of these threads has already pointed out that this is insulting to Buddhism to say that it was incomplete without Jesus' teachings.

      It seems the story thus far is that Michael came to see this woman as his lama after knowing her from high school (ex-girlfriend?), and after his other lama (Christie) left him. That is, at any rate, the order of events."

      4. Ben's missing reply to my second missing post:
      "I get confused on this but I believe the Christian woman was his lama before, during and after Christie.

      From what I understand of the teachings at DM, anyone or anything can be your lama. Your partner, coworkers, movies, books, the wind in the trees, the beggar on the street. There is a difference between a lama and a heart lama though.

      If you believe the Buddha (or I suppose VY) can manifest in many forms at the same time, seeing many women as VY at the same time is reasonable."

    • cloverleaf says:

      It's not your imagination, Svan. It's been happening since the first article. Also, when viewing, I load the page to the 'last activity'……but the times of posts seems to be changing. As in, one time it will say a post happened 2 hours ago, I look again in an hour and it says the post happened 1 day ago. I can't list specific examples, but it's happening.

      What reason might someone have for removing posts? For changing the timeline?

    • Zirconia says:

      Ekan's post about the rose garden is still there. It's her reply to a corvid's post which started with "Roach,Eric B (in robes..oh brother)" from 1 week ago.

  11. Zirconia says:

    mi mthun dpe, you wrote "one could make a strong argument that the DMU teachings are extremely conservative, from the point of view of the intent. There are numerous interesting examples of almost-literal readings". Would you provide a few examples? Thanks.

    • mi mthun dpe says:

      Sure, here's an example: the Kadampa geshes apparently had a practice where they'd track their good and bad thoughts, over the course of a day, using white and black stones (make a pile of white stones for each good thought, etc.). A lot of Lamas tell this story–I think it may be from Atisha originally. The DMU/ACI students implement this practice via the six-times book. It's an extremely conservative approach to vows–actually learning and trying to keep them–at least compared to other Buddhist groups I've encountered. (I'm not talking about whose interpretation of vows is correct, only the effort to keep them). It's a modern equivalent of the original practice–so it follows the conservative intent of the Kadampas in this matter of guarding the thoughts closely and doing so by tracking one's thoughts on a daily basis

      • ekanthomason says:

        Literal reading – yes.
        I set up three nice glass containers near my door at work. One contained black glass stones and one contained white glass stones. During the day stones would mix into the third jar. Some of my co-workers even started observing their thoughts. Sometimes they would come in and grab a whole handful of black stones and throw them in the jar.

        mi listed one example of the 'numerous interesting examples" and Zirconia asked for a "few examples". Can you share more?

        • Zirconia says:

          Very visual and cute way of tracking one's thoughts. I'm going to implement modified versions of this practice.

        • mi mthun dpe says:

          There are examples in the ACI teachings: how to apply the LoJong for each day of the week; his teaching on the literal interpretation of the "rga shi med"/ no death…no suffering part of the Heart Sutra. I've listened to GMR's last great retreat teachings, on Vinaya, and noted how often he'll take an "old" vow, like how monks are supposed to behave in a layperson's house, and update it to something practical like restocking the fridge, doing the dishes or not overstaying one's welcome. He's not replacing the vow in any way or saying it's not relevant to our age; instead he's saying that the vow has to be followed exactly and the method of doing it is thus and so.
          Some of the public partner teachings he gave with Lama Christie contain interesting takes on the hidden vows, which, from what I know, also follow this style of a literal/conservative reading coupled with a modernized interpretation.

          So, in many ways, I see the ACI/DMU teachings as containing extremely conservative or fundamental glosses on the teachings.

          • Zirconia says:

            Thanks for giving more examples. Are you hinting that Geshe Michael didn't/wouldn't break major vows, since his Vinaya teaching was "literal/conservative" towards even rather minor and seemingly quaint rules?

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            No I'm not hinting that at all. From my understanding of how vows work, it's difficult for any person to know when another person has actually broken a vow completely–and that's because some non-trivial part of breaking/keeping a vow has to with intending-to-do-it and being-happy-about-having-done-it. Those are mental factors, not physical acts, and most of us can't see what other people are thinking. Or see what they were thinking two years ago or last week. We're stuck with our ignorance so we have to make a judgement according to our best abilities, while recognizing our limitations. That's why I feel that some of the discussion about who has whom as a guru, who has broken samaya, etc are futile.

            So no, I try not to assert anything about another person's mental state. Even when people seem to be acting like complete idiots or complete saints, I try to remember that I don't know why they're doing it.

        • Jehne_Lunden says:

          "I set up three nice glass containers near my door at work. One contained black glass stones and one contained white glass stones. During the day stones would mix into the third jar. Some of my co-workers even started observing their thoughts. Sometimes they would come in and grab a whole handful of black stones and throw them in the jar."

          Love this. You have inspired me to adopt a modified version of this i.e. using rocks instead of glass stones. I just got back home from a little scavenger hunt. I found a bunch of dark rocks and a bunch of light colored ones. I'm good to go–and sweating like crazy. It's 102 F out there.

  12. Zirconia says:

    Wow, another insightful post from Sorry Charlie.

    • Karen Visser says:

      No one should forget that corvid was the only person to build a memorial for Ian. He's had personal experience with solitary confinement's long term effects, I think he genuinely cares about the people he's met who are now in retreat next door to him.

  13. mi mthun dpe says:

    On another note entirely, but tangentially related to several threads and comments here and there: some of us, Jehne in particular, might be interested in the writings of Michel Bitbol, a French philosopher. And scientist–he has a PhD in physics. And doctor–he's an MD. For several years now he has focused on epistemology and the philosophy of science. He participated in the Mind & Life Conferences, organized by the HH Dalai Lama, where Western scientists and philosophers engaged with Middle Way wisdom types.

    Why is this relevant? There's a current running through several threads that raises and purports to critique the dread notion of Idealism: some say that GMR's teaching is a flavor of solipsism–the idea that only mind exists; in fact that only "I" exist. Jenhe and others have engaged in some discussion about science and methodological tools of discovery. Our host, M. Remski, employs the rhetorically useful but content-free notion of "consensus reality". Some of the Buddhists in the house think that karma, while true, isn't *that* real. (Maybe it makes our experience of stuff happen, but not the stuff itself) So there's a couple active questions about ontology–what does it mean to say a thing is real, it exists? And related questions about knowledge–how do we know what's true? What's the relationship between my mental state and the "world".

    Michel Bitbol provides some very interesting approaches to these questions. Dense but useful. He decapitates some materialists, and injures some "emergent property" types trying to slip in the side door. The objectivists barely make it onto the property. The short version is that consciousness must be, in his phrase, "existentially primary"–it comes first, but not as a cause of matter nor emerging from it.

    Here's a link to one of his essays:

    I hope it's useful

    • corvid says:

      Headed to Desemboque via Saric today.This route has many shrines put up by magic thinkers to protect them and their drug loads…It doesn't seem to work but they keep doing blood sacrifices never the less.In mi mthum dpe everyday life not living in the moment might be just fine but out hear if say you believe you can take a bunny out of a rattlesnakes mouth,you can delay evacuation from a fire till the last minute because holy beings are praying the fire turns away or maybe you think Karma seeds will cure your partners dehydration or maybe even it is a gift to get both of you to another place…well bad shit happens

      • Corvid says:

        it was a good trip to the beach but it is sad to see Ben join the Manson girls in derailing the forum.Ben Brewers open letter is coming soon.It wrecks the first retreat story all you newcomers to Roach world believes…The New Jersey story is really good..Allison will be spitting up Vegimite when she reads it down under

        • BeyondBoredOfJehne says:

          The Manson girls. You hit the nail on the head corvid. Not sure how long the forum is going to stay derailed but looking forward to the letter.

        • Ben says:

          I don't see how making comments on a thread can derail the forum. It doesn't stop other threads from being added to or started. There have been threads I have not been interested in and I did not think had much to do with DM or GMR except in a very tangential way. I read them to see if there wasn't anything of interest to me or anything I could add then moved on. Maybe I missed the posts that caused people to have problems with Jehne and Cloverleaf. I hope it isn't just because they have different opinions.

          I honestly think there isn't much new info coming out right now and so there isn't much to post about.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Nope, Ben, you have missed nothing. And I am not responsible for any posts being deleted. I think I have demonstrated that I am a fan of the free expression of ideas. Obviously if I wanted posts removed they would be ones made by my lost puppy, BoredofJehne and Ego Patrol, who is following me around the forum. Not sure what his obsession with me is. I think he actually must be Boredwithhislife for him—I’m assuming it is a he as most trolls are—to putting so much energy into worrying about others—their actions and thoughts which he has no control over, yet seems to be under some illusion that he does—such futility. And quite sad really. I feel no anger, just pity. Hopefully he'll get really bored and leave. If you don't feed the troll—my puppy—he'll starve for attention and move on.

            I find it offensive that Corvid has referred to us as Manson girls. This is inappropriate on so many levels. The fact that he is unable to see this makes me think that his moral compass needs tweaking.

            A saying that we are all familiar with in the west is, “Acting like a good Christian." This is generally taken to mean loving one’s neighbor, turning the other cheek, being kind and tolerant. But are these not the same values that ethical, compassionate Buddhists also espouse?

            The self-appointed forum police officers here are claiming that they are concerned how outsiders will see this forum. They want to control content. But they have no problem with a person making insulting remarks about me, you… or referring to us as Manson girls, ya know, killers who followed Charles Manson. Do they think these kinds of comments make this place look good? I mean really? What is that saying, "Physician heal thyself?"

    • ekanthomason says:

      Personally, I do not think this is the proper forum to discuss this topic. We all know there are many opinions of the world and karma. It is a distraction and will not be solved here.

    • Jehne_Lunden says:

      Thanks for sharing this. You must have a strong philosophical understanding in order to grasp such abstract concepts. This is not easy reading. Kudos to you.

      I don’t see a problem with discussing metaphysics this on this forum. This is, after all, just one string thread that can easily be ignored by those not interested in this topic.

      Can an atheist entertain the notion of karma?

      I am an atheist, which simply means that I deny that a god or gods exist. This label says nothing about my metaphysical beliefs. Therefore, I sometimes state that I am also an existentialist. I believe existence precedes essence. This of course is the materialist position. To existentialists, human beings—through their consciousness—create their own values and determine a meaning for their life because, in the beginning, a human being does not possess any inherent identity or value. Therefore karma, as defined by Buddhists, is not accepted as being real. In other words, we are not born with a preexisting set of past actions, energy, etc. We are born baggage free. Genetics are the only thing that predetermines our life’s course. Our environments and experiences shape the rest. Our essence comes after we are born. And when we die, our essence dies. Every part of our being, including our consciousness, is extinguished for good. Nothing continues on and we are never reborn into another body. Reincarnation is not possible. There is no such thing as rebirth.

      Michel Bitbol argues for the opposite position—that consciousness is existentially primary. In other words, consciousness precedes essence. In this position, Buddhism’s idea of karma makes sense and is very possible. Karma is connected to consciousness, and is united with a physical body at birth/rebirth.

      After reading the entire article, I'm sticking with my original position.

      As a materialist/existentialist, I believe that consciousness is awareness. It is everything that makes us a sentient being—our thoughts, feelings, and memories. This is what makes us who we are… rational, thinking persons—individuals.

      If we become comatose and have lost awareness through brain damage, we are no longer conscious. We have lost access to our thoughts, feelings, and memories. We are no longer sentient. We are just material. Life has no meaning any longer. If we were to die, our body would dissolve and decay. But our consciousness would have already been gone long before. And we are never reborn. There is no such thing as reincarnation. We get one change and that's it.

      But karma—or the idea of cause and effect—is something I don't wholly reject. I may not believe that my actions will affect me in a future life, but I do believe that my present actions have a direct bearing on my future in this lifetime. If I do something that I feel ashamed about, I will implant a negative seed in my mind. This will affect how I act and relate to others. My negative past action, thus, causes me to have a negative experience in my near future. And my actions in this lifetime survive my physical death. Think about the shooter in Colorado. His actions will cause pain, fear, anguish etc. for decades to come—possibly forever—in the collective conscious. Or, one's actions can create a meme that will shape culture in the future. For example, Einstein’s actions—his scientific discoveries— have changed the course of history—literally—for all humanity. His actions have influenced science, religion, philosophy, psychology, sociology, art etc.

      Does karma necessitate belief in reincarnation?

      I don't think you have to throw out the baby with the bathwater i.e. reject karma along with reincarnation. Because our actions do affect one another, they will affect not only your own future—even if it is just this short, one time here on earth—but all the future lifetimes of all others who are yet to be born. This is a wonderful notion—that we do in fact count. Our life has meaning and continues to have meaning after we die. It is an awareness of this connectedness that makes one realize that our lives matter. And there is great value to be found in our relationships with one another. Life is not futile and meaningless just because it is short and ends. Existentialism isn’t nihilistic after all.

      We don't know if consciousness survives death or precedes life. We may one day have the scientific tools to answer these questions. Until then, Buddhism’s karma is an article of faith. That is why it is a belief within a religious context and not a scientific law. I don't think philosophy is going to settle this debate. Michel Bitbol makes some great philosophical arguments. He raises a lot of questions. But does he successfully answer any of them with any degree of certainty? He does give more weight to the idea that Buddhism’s karma could be possible, if we accept the idea of consciousness preceding essence. But his scientific arguments seem a bit weak. I wonder if he has read “A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing” by physicist Lawrence M. Krauss first published in 2012. If so, has it changed his position or understanding in any way?

      I want to mention again that I am grateful that you turned me on to Stephen Batchelor. He talks about the Buddha and karma very eloquently in this article:

      • Zirconia says:

        Not proofs, just cool stories from Alex Berzin, PhD:

        Do You Believe in Rebirth?
        Becoming Convinced of Rebirth: A Personal Story

        • Jehne_Lunden says:

          I think Berzin has a very nice way of explaining difficult to understand concepts. He writes with the reader in mind. So many writers don't, strangely. They seem to write to impress their peers or themselves. Anyhow, he probably makes a fine teacher as well.

      • Ben says:

        "Genetics are the only thing that predetermines our life’s course."
        Really? The circumstance in which you were born, you family's socio-economic position, how many siblings you have, the political state of your birth country….

        Maybe you are being terse because it wasn't relevant to the main point you were trying to make?

        Also, I think saying "karma, as defined by Buddhists" is fairly meaningless unless you are using some broad definition of karma which may be what non buddhists believe to be "karma, as defined by Buddhists". What I'm trying to say is that there are many definitions of karma by the various groups which call themselves "Buddhists" and "what "karma" means" can get really complicated very quickly.

        • Zirconia says:

          Not sure where you’re going with this, Ben. Karma has different meanings in various Indic religions, but karma/kamma is defined/understood as “intentional actions” in all Buddhist traditions. People often say "karma" when they meant "vipaka" (fruition/result of action).

          • Ben says:

            First, do you believe that is the definition with which Jenhe is working? I don't and I don't think it is the common understanding of karma (which I think is the understanding with which she is working).
            Second, Are telling me that there are no differences in the definition of karma between the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism let alone the different sects of Buddhism? Yes, you can simplify the concept to something perhaps all schools will agree upon but that doesn't take away the differences which exist once you start looking at the idea in more depth.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Hey, I am developing my own religion here. Give me a break. Just kidding. Hope you have a sense of humor.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            That's it. Where were you when I was writing my post? Hehe. Can you stick around? I may need your help editing my essay "An Atheist in a Buddhist Sandbox."

        • Jehne_Lunden says:

          Read the next sentence… "Genetics are the only thing that predetermines our life’s course. Our environments and experiences shape the rest. Our essence comes after we are born." I was making the claim that only genetics are "predetermined" i.e hardwired into our physical being, before we are born. The rest comes late via our environments and experiences.

          Yes, I was using karma to mean a general principle of cause and effect–not the one as described by Buddhists. But, even withing Buddhism–as we have discussed a bit here–there are variations. Roach's prosperity Buddhism is an example.

          • Ben says:

            Ok. I may be being picky or maybe I don't understand what you mean when you use certain words or maybe my ideas are just very different from your that I am not understanding.

            I think I am what is called a "fatalist" or a "determinist". I believe in strict cause and effect and the previous state of the universe determines the next state of the universe. There is nothing outside the unvierse nor outside the bounds of cause and effect which can avert the "unfolding of the universe". Because of this, I think everything can be said to be predetermined (depending on your definition of predetermined). I don't think most people belive this though. I am trying to understand what you think.

            My problem might be that I don't know what you mean by "life's course", "the rest" and "our essence". I took "the rest" to mean something like "our personalities". But if that's the case then genetics definitely plays a part and it (our personalities) plays a part in shaping our life's course as well as our life's course shaping our personalities.

            As far as "our essence", at first I thought you meant like a life essence which comes at conception and leaves at death. But "Our essence comes after we are born." blows that theory. Maybe it is my time at DM which makes me suspicious of "essences". Is this something that, if I lose I will no longer be me? Does an essence change over one's life?

            It seems your interested in feedback so I will give it. I really like talking about these things and my cats aren't realy interested (they're nihilists). It was great being at DM because so many people enjoyed talking about such things.

            And as far as helping you with the notion of karma. I probably know enough to be dangerous. I think I know the DM concept which is fairly simplistic (and doesn't accurately describe the nature of reality IMO). It seems there are quite a few people who are much more knowledgeable about some of the different takes on karma here though.

          • Ben says:

            And "Does karma necessitate belief in reincarnation?"
            I've had a few talks with my DM friends about this and also about what one must believe to be a "Buddhist". If one believes any genetic defect is caused by karma, and the circumstances of one's birth family are caused by one's karma, then I think a belief in past lives is necessary.

            A lot of eveidence against karma is dispelled by a belief in past and future lives. Why do good things happen to bad people? They did bad things in their past lives. What am I not seeing the fruits of my karmic seed planting? or Why did the man who gave away so much to so many die in poverty? I and he will see the fruits of are good deeds in our next life.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            I just started reading a book by Stephen Batchelor titled "Buddhism Without Beliefs." You can read it in PDf format from my online box here:

            He claims "The Buddha found the prevailing Indian view of rebirth sufficient as a basis for his ethical and liberating teaching. Subsequently, religious Buddhism emphasized that denial of rebirth would undermine the basis of ethical responsibility and the need for morality in society. It is often claimed that you cannot be a Buddhist if you do not accept the doctrine of rebirth. From a traditional point of view, it is indeed problematic to suspend belief in the idea of rebirth, since many basic notions then have to be rethought. But if we follow the Buddha's injunction not to accept things blindly, then orthodoxy should not stand in the way of forming our own understanding.

            The idea of rebirth is meaningful in religious Buddhism only insofar as it provides a vehicle for the key Indian metaphysical doctrine of actions and their results known as "karma." While the Buddha accepted the idea of karma as he accepted that of rebirth, when questioned on the issue he tended to emphasize its psychological rather than its cosmological implications. "Karma," he often said, "is intention": i.e., a movement of the mind that occurs each time we think, speak, or act. By being mindful of this process, we come to understand how intentions lead to habitual patterns of behavior, which in turn affect the quality of our experience.”

            If you believe that your baby has a birth defect due to karma, then you believe in determinism. Karma has predetermined the defect to manifest. I on the other hand reject karmic determinism and believe that the defect has to do with genetics or injury during gestation or delivery.

            How do we explain why bad things happen to good people and why good things happen to bad people? My answer is chance. It is all random. There is no predetermined fate or destiny ascribed to us. We carve out our paths with the tools available to us and hope for the best.

            Karma was around before Buddhism in Hindu India. India has a caste system that is grossly unfair. Karma, in this system, can be viewed as a means of social control. If you are born in a low caste, it is your fault. You must accept this position. It is due to karma. Be good in this life and hopefully you will be born into a higher caste in the next. It's a way to rationalize inequality and to keep people from revolting.

            We use a varied form of this in the west i.e. it is God's will.

          • Ben says:

            "If you believe that your baby has a birth defect due to karma, then you believe in determinism"
            I agree and would add that believing in determinism does not mean that you believe in Karma (unless you want to define karma in a non-traditional way).

            You said:
            "How do we explain why bad things happen to good people and why good things happen to bad people? My answer is chance. It is all random."

            You also said:
            "I on the other hand reject karmic determinism and believe that the defect has to do with genetics or injury during gestation or delivery."

            To me "random" implies that cause and effect is not in play and there is no predictability. I assume this is not what you meant.

            I think some people say "random" when the mean to say that we don't have the methods and knowledge to predict many things because of the complexity of all the factors involved.
            Could this be what you meant by "random"?

            Do you believe that some things are regulated by physical laws (cause and effect) while others are not?

            "There is no predetermined fate or destiny ascribed to us."
            So you believe there are things other than the natural laws which science seeks to find that cause things to come into existence, move and change?

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            What I mean by random: Having no definite aim or purpose; not sent or guided in a particular direction; made, done, occurring, etc., without method or conscious choice; haphazard.

            Why? Why not?

            There is no puppet master pulling the strings, whether it be a god or karma.

            "Do you believe that some things are regulated by physical laws (cause and effect) while others are not?"

            Of course many things are regulated by cause and effect. I heat the liquid. The temperature of the liquid rises. Heat applied to liquid caused liquid's temperature to rise (effect.)

            But the Buddhist's notion of karma is not this type of cause and effect, as you know.

            "So you believe there are things other than the natural laws which science seeks to find that cause things to come into existence, move and change?"

            No, I don't.

            I have developed a clearer, more cohesive explanation of my views here:

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            "I don't know what you mean by "life's course", "the rest" and "our essence". I took "the rest" to mean something like "our personalities". But if that's the case then genetics definitely plays a part and it (our personalities) plays a part in shaping our life's course as well as our life's course shaping our personalities."

            Life's course: the path our life takes. Is it predetermined by karma?

            The rest: all the things we are i.e. temperament, personality etc. Genetics influence who we become but the "rest" of us is shaped by our environments and experiences. Environments and experiences are not predetermined–a prior–like genes are.

            Essence: who we are as sentient beings i.e self concept, personality, temperament. The essence is made from material–matter. Atoms, molecules, etc. are the building blocks of our essence. We are organic material first, (existence) then develop a form (essence.) I think one's essence is dynamic–it does change over the lifetime. This fits in with the Buddha's idea of impermanence. We are not static, unchanging beings. We change, we grow. Our essence is like a river. It moves, it flows. Nothing stays the same. Our changing environments and experiences constantly shape who we are. But all this essence came after we were born–after we came into existence. There was no essence that preceded our birth. Am I making any sense?

            I like talking about these things too.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            "Genetics are the only thing that predetermines our life’s course. Our environments and experiences shape the rest. Our essence comes after we are born."

            This is poorly written and unintelligible. Thanks for pointing it out.

            Is this better?: Genes are the only predetermined, a priori, variables that influence who we become. Our essence comes after we are born. And is shaped and nurtured by our environments and experiences.

          • Ben says:

            I think your misusing "a priori". Maybe your trying to salvage a idea that doesn't make sense.

          • Ben says:


          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Yes, I see my error now. Thank you. I will fix it.

          • cloverleaf says:

            "Genes are the only predetermined"

            I feel the need to point out that genes, or the activation and expression of such, is in absolutely no way predetermined.

            Sure, we all inherit certain genes. But the trick is in how, when and why those genes get expressed– it's not the genes themselves that make us who we are, it's how and if they get 'turned on' and in what particular, individual combination that happens. The same genes in one person do not act the same way in another. Science does not have all of this figured out.

            Check out this website and the links if you want more info on this:

            "Several steps in the gene expression process may be modulated, including the transcription, RNA splicing, translation, and post-translational modification of a protein. Gene regulation gives the cell control over structure and function, and is the basis for cellular differentiation, morphogenesis and the versatility and adaptability of any organism. Gene regulation may also serve as a substrate for evolutionary change, since control of the timing, location, and amount of gene expression can have a profound effect on the functions (actions) of the gene in a cell or in a multicellular organism.

            In genetics gene expression is the most fundamental level at which genotype gives rise to the phenotype. The genetic code is "interpreted" by gene expression, and the properties of the expression products give rise to the organism's phenotype."

            Genes and genetic susceptibility is part of our 'essence'; I don't think the two are separate. We are born with our genes, but they change over time in response to stimuli like our environment or– some say– the thoughts we repeatedly hold.

            Everything changes, even our genes, and all of it is interdependent/ interconnected.

          • Ben says:

            I would argue that, if it follows natural law (as the activation and expression of genes do) then it can be said to be predetermined. By "predetermined" I mean that one state must naturally, unavoidably, deterministically follow another. If you believe the everything is governed by natural laws (as I do) I don't understand what mechanism introduces "chance" or any other possible deviation in the strict mechanistic unfolding of the universe.

          • cloverleaf says:

            I think you are confusing 'natural law' with "Laws of Nature", two separate concepts.

            I do believe that all we know and see and measure is determined by the Laws of Nature…. but I don't believe it's quite as strict as you suggest. I also don't believe that we as humans have determined all of the Laws of Nature, a fact supported with science and philosophy. If we had, there would be no confusion here. There are many possibilities. I'm just trying to point that out to argue that our genes are not 'predetermined'. I'm not suggesting chance, really, just that 'if x gene occurs, then y expressions occurs' is a logical and scientific fallacy. I don't believe the course is predetermined, just more or less likely. I think you are suggesting a necessity of events that just isn't demonstrable in the genetic code we know thus far.

            To suggest that our genes are solely governed by Laws of Nature and therefore predetermined suggests that if a certain gene is present, it will always express in the same manner– a demonstrably false assumption. At the very least, one can factually say that if it is indeed determined by Laws of Nature, we don't know them yet (what I believe). It's why there is a lot of debate in genetic testing– just because a woman has the gene isolated for breast cancer does not indeed mean she will definitely get breast cancer; there are many, many, many other factors at play (which I believe still fall under the Laws of Nature) which determine the course. It is just likely, not predetermined. It also would be false to say that if a woman does not have the 'gene for breast cancer' that she couldn't possibly get breast cancer– we know this to be false as well. It is now thought that no one gene effects anything; that it is the expression of a particular in conjunction with other genes– a symphony, if you will– that as a whole make up the picture.

            Check out this site:

            The reason this is germane to this forum at large has to do with Karma and cause and effect, subjects we discuss here in relation to the tragedy and the future of DM, as well as religion and philosophy.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            "The reason this is germane to this forum at large has to do with Karma and cause and effect, subjects we discuss here in relation to the tragedy and the future of DM, as well as religion and philosophy."

            We know this. But the self-appointed forum watchdogs don't agree. They don't want to discuss ideas and possibilities. They want gossip and drama. It's kind of sad.

            I've been cracked with the whip numerous times today alone. Get in line. Get in line. Ouch!

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            I too was wondering if Ben meant natural law as opposed to physical laws. I was always talking about physical laws. Now I understand why there is misunderstanding.

          • Ben says:

            I just started reading the article you linked to but it seems the "Laws of Nature" are the laws which govern all natural things (as opposed to supernatural which haven't been shown to exist). These are laws we try to discover through science and may imprecisely get close enough to in our scientific theories to then allow us a certain amount of predictive capabilities.

            If I am getting that right then I assume you agree our genes are governed by the laws of nature. That doesn't suggest that if a certain gene is present, it will always express in the same manner. What it does mean that given a set of genes and a set of pertinent factors (of which we may not be currently aware) it will always express in the same manner.

            It almost like saying "so long as you have gas in the tank, the car will run. No, but if all the pertinent factors are in place (one of them being gas in the tank), then the car will run. There are no supernatural factors nor is chance involved. And the presence of all the factors depend on other factors which came before, all governed by the Laws of Nature.

            It could be that the term "predetermined" suggest an agent at work and that isn't what I mean at all. I mean that if everything is governed by the laws of nature then, given a set of circumstances a new set of circumstances will arises based on the Laws of Nature.

            "I think you are suggesting a necessity of events that just isn't demonstrable in the genetic code we know thus far." I didn't say we can predict the outcome, what I am saying is there is a set of factors that, if we knew, we could predict the outcome 100% of the time. The outcome has to be predicated on physical factors.

          • cloverleaf says:

            Ok. I think we are saying essentially the same thing, Ben. I think I was just getting hung up on the language and the term 'predetermined'. I'm not a believer in chance, just ignorance of all the factors at play. It irks me when people think genes are the sole determiner of 'fate' or outcomes, but I see now that's not what you were saying.

            Thanks for your reply. Always good to hear your voice on this forum.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            "I feel the need to point out that genes, or the activation and expression of such, is in absolutely no way predetermined."

            Predetermined as in nature versus nurture. Some sociologists argue that we are born as blank slates. I argue that we are not blank, we are born will genes that will influence personality, intelligence, and temperament. The nurture part is the environments and experiences that shape us. It is a combination of nurture and nature. Predetermined as in determined at conception, but not before then. Predetermined as in we have no control after conception. Nature has determined our genetic makeup. But true, genes can mutate randomly or through environmental stimulation etc.

            I think we are using the term predetermined a bit differently. I don't mean to suggest that we are static beings. No, we change over time, both physically and psychologically and this due to both genetic and other factors. I just don't believe in fate, destiny, grace, karma, astrology, or God's will as being the cause for who I am or become. My essence is not preordained by some supernatural force or entity. It can be explained within the realm of natural laws.

          • cloverleaf says:

            Jehne, I think you are also confusing 'natural law' with 'Laws of Nature"– see my post to Ben above.

            You seem to contradict yourself several times in the above post. And before, you stated that things were 'predetermined' at birth, not conception. So yeah, I may be confused as to some of your beliefs. Predetermined has only one definition:
            1. To determine, decide, or establish in advance: "These factors predetermine to a large extent the outcome" (Jessica Mitford).
            2. To influence or sway toward an action or opinion; predispose.
            To determine or decide something in advance.

            How can we be predetermined at birth if genes can 'mutate randomly or through environmental stimulation, etc."? If it's determined in advance, by default nothing can change the course. And yes, this is the old 'nature vs. nurture' debate; I'm simply trying to point out that our genes don't determine who we are, just what options are available. If I'm born with the genetic predisposition it doesn't necessitate the outcome.

            "we change over time, both physically and psychologically and this due to both genetic and other factors. I just don't believe in fate, destiny, grace, karma, astrology, or God's will as being the cause for who I am or become. My essence is not preordained by some supernatural force or entity. It can be explained within the realm of natural laws."

            In your view, who or what determines the 'natural laws'?

            I'm not suggesting a 'supernatural force'; my post was simply talking about the facts of genetics. But since you mention it… may call it 'natural law' and others may call it 'God' and you both could be right. Language for stuff like 'essence' is woefully lacking and I think in this case has more to do with societal influences (like how we were raised) than actual fact. Two sides of the same coin, for some.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            I see where my usage of the word predetermined was incorrect. Perhaps a better statement would read: We are born baggage free. Our essence begins at conception then continues to be shaped throughout our lives by our genes, environments, and experiences.

            No need to even use predetermined, as that was not what I meant anyhow.

            I did not mean natural law as understood by philosophers. But I am also not well read when it come to physics and cosmology. So although I believe that the laws of nature govern our universe, I don't have the answer as to how they came about themselves. Physicists have theories to explain these things. Generally I state that I believe in the big bang and nebular theories to explain how our universe was created and how our planets lined up. I think I understand how gravity works but I can't say how it got started in the first place. But I don't think some designer created gravity and the other laws. Because that just begs the question who created the designer?

          • cloverleaf says:

            "We are born baggage free. Our essence begins at conception then continues to be shaped throughout our lives by our genes, environments, and experiences."

            We're on the same page now- as in I now understand what you are trying to say. Personally, I think there is reason enough to believe in a sort of collective consciousness….but that's really off topic. Thanks for talking all this out with me.

            Rhetorical question and really off topic, Jehne, maybe, but still:
            "Because that just begs the question who created the designer?"

            Why does there have to be a 'beginning'? Or an original 'creator'? We think of everything in terms of a linear time frame– past, present, future……but it's entirely possible that this is just a human way of explaining things to ourselves, our perception. There is an argument to be made that time does not exist, at least not in the way we now think it does.

            Just a thought, since you seem to be thinking about your views from a variety of perspectives. Thought I'd throw it in the mix.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            "Why does there have to be a 'beginning'? Or an original 'creator'? We think of everything in terms of a linear time frame– past, present, future……but it's entirely possible that this is just a human way of explaining things to ourselves, our perception. There is an argument to be made that time does not exist, at least not in the way we now think it does."

            I actually agree with you that thinking there must be a beginning and that time must be linear is a poverty of our own imagination. Have you read Lawrence Krauss' book "A Universe From Nothing?" "Krauss reveals that modern science is addressing the question of why there is something rather than nothing, with surprising and fascinating results. The staggeringly beautiful experimental observations and mind-bending new theories are all described accessibly in "A Universe from Nothing," and they suggest that not only can something arise from nothing, something will always arise from nothing." Here is an ePub version of the book, available from my online storage Box:

            I think Krauss has developed the most plausible theories thus far. My bet's with him. 🙂

          • cloverleaf says:

            I haven't read Krauss' work, Jehne. Thanks for the suggestion and the links. Like you, I'm finding myself a bit overwhelmed at the sheer amount of books I want to read. I'm soaking it all up, but I wish I'd started on this leg of my journey 10 years ago! I'll check into Krauss.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            You're welcome. 🙂

            I know that I am supposed to enjoy the process of learning. And I mostly I do. But often I wish that I could plug into my computer via a USB cord and download all the info into my brain– a la high speed broadband, hehe. As it is, my old-fashioned method of actually having to read and research is so slow. I wish I had been born in the future.

            Update ~ 8/16/12 ~ You might enjoy a book I just started reading titled, "Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story"

            I think it is even better than Krauss' book.

      • mi mthun dpe says:

        Sorry I haven't been able to reply in the last few days, but I've been caught up with other things.

        One comment I want to make about why I think Bitbol is relevant: in order to "do" science, it's important to make a certain set of assumptions about phenomena–mostly that external phenomena are objective, substantial, obey certain rules, etc. And, critically, that my mere gaze doesn't "make" the phenomena or inffluence. In other words, there's some common material world that we all live in and it is the "same" for each of us and discoveralbe by each of us. That's sort of the epistemological ground for Western science. Most working scientists don't think too much about this, which is the sphere of philosophy of science, not the methodological tools of science. Physics might be the exception–and then quantum physics only, simply because the field is so focused on what exists and how it exists.

        Anyway, Bitbol is pointing out a serious issue–what's sometimes called "the hard problem of consciousness". As he says, quoting Wittgenstein, "it's not a something but it's not a nothing". Often, studies of consciousness do a kind of sleight of hand–skipping over the part where the phenomena under study is rigoroulsy defined. So it's bit like, "let's assume that blood flow in the brain and consciousness are very closely related. Now let's fire up the MRIs…." So if we assume that all thinking takes place in the brain, then yes one becomes a materialist rather quickly. But it's a rather short voyage from the starting point to the conclusion.

        This isn't to say that materialism must be wrong, but rather that there's a serious issue here, which is worth addressing. Materialism and Idealism both rest upon assumptions about awareness and consciousness-, which bear exploring. Maybe it's materialists or idealists "all the way down", but it's worth taking a look.

        • Jehne_Lunden says:

          I really appreciate you posting that article. It is humbling to realize that I don't know as much as I thought. And some of my assumptions were incorrect. I have been doing a lot of reading the last few days and have put a great deal of thought into the idea of cause and effect and free will and consciousness.

          I most definitely don't understand everything in Bitbol's article. I think one needs to be a philosopher in order to grasp all the concepts and terminology. But I did understand the general idea. That we need a paradigm shift. Or at least be open to exploring new ways of knowing. This I agree with. Social scientists have been having the same debates from the get go i.e. qualitative research versus quantitative.

          Are you a philosopher?

    • Khedrup says:

      I think another perspective that should be included in this discussion is that of Rajiv Malhotra, who says that in fact Western academic methods are ill-suited to the analysis of the Indian "Dharmic" traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism).
      Malhotra argues that Western empirical methods, with a focus on historicity that comes from Abrahamic religious beliefs, have done a disservice the study of Indian Philosophy and religion. While his views are rather strong, I applaud his unapologetic approach which goes against the dominating force of neo-Orientalism that pervades the Western analysis of Indic traditions.
      His book Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism is a must-read, I am having an interesting discussion about it with western Buddhists at the moment.
      Malhotra argues that we have foreced the Indian traditions to be examined through the lens of Western culture and this is already starting out in a biased way, and harkens back to a colonial attitude. In this book, he turns the method around and examines Western traditions through the lens of the Indian Dharmic ones.

      • Jehne_Lunden says:

        Thanks for sharing this. Another book to read. I feel overwhelmed. The more I learn, the more I realize I know nothing at all. Lot's of questions; no answers.

    • Jehne_Lunden says:

      I was just reading Bitbol's article again. In his summary he states:

      "Clearly, this program made of a set of prescriptions rather than theoretical statements (i.e.
      made of “ought” rather than “is”) does not solve the “hard problem” of the physical origin of
      conscious experience. However, the reason for this non-solution is not that the problem is too
      difficult, but that in the proper stance it does not even arise. It does not arise because the
      physical world is no longer the standard of being, and objectivity is no longer the ultimate
      standard of method. In the alternative stance, the standard of being is underpinned by a
      standard of self-evidence, and the methodological standard of objectivity is expanded into a
      more general standard of intersubjectivity. Then, in the same way as, according to
      Wittgenstein, “The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem”
      (Wittgenstein, 1994), according to Varela, the solution of the hard problem of consciousness
      is found in a certain stance and research program wherein the problem vanishes."

      Basically he is saying that the "hard problem" is proving that consciousness is not a material substance–that it is independent of the brain and a physical being–it is made up of something other than carbon etc. Christians would call this consciousness a soul.

      So, after all the philosophical arguments he presents, he concludes that we CANNOT prove consciousness is primary using the scientific method: "…objectivity is no longer the ultimate standard of method. In the alternative stance, the standard of being is underpinned by a standard of self-evidence, and the methodological standard of objectivity is expanded into a more general standard of intersubjectivity."

      But, one cannot conduct scientific research on the natural world using qualitative research methods (inter-subjectivity). Social scientists often use qualitative methods. This is why they are sometimes referred to–pejoratively–as soft scientists. Physical scientists and biological scientists use the scientific method (quantitative research, objectivity, empirical data.)

      Basically what Bibtol is arguing for is a new science–a new way of knowing–a new epistemological model for ontological questions.

      It is an admission that the question: is consciousness primary?, cannot be answered using today's scientific methods and tools.

      Isn't that exactly the position he was in before he started with his research? Back to square one, so to speak. It is an admission that we cannot prove rebirth is possible using the scientific method.

      One day we may have a better model for doing scientific research and answering questions about the natural world. But for now, subjective experiences and philosophical arguments are not going to qualify as "evidence/proof."

      • Jehne_Lunden says:

        I'm working on a journal post, "An Atheist in a Buddhist Sandbox" here:….

        It is a work in progress, inspired by Bitbol's article, posted here by mi mthun dpe. Hopefully my final journal entry will successfully unite my posts in this thread into one cohesive essay.

        • mi mthun dpe says:

          from your essay:
          >Bitbol is making an ontological claim about the nature of reality: consciousness is primary.

          I don't think that is his claim. He says that consciousness is *methodologically* primary, not ontologically so. In fact he makes no assertion about the mode of existence of consciousness. I think his postion is that the mode of existence of consciousness is analogous to that of quantum particles. which have no existence in any traditional scientific notion of objective substantiality. The idea of "matter", in the colloquial sense of the word, doesn't hold any longer. Consequently, to say that consciousness emerges from matter, is the same as matter, or similar statements is rather problematic.

  14. Kevin says:


    • Zirconia says:

      Someone chided Sorry Charlie for calling Roach supporters "zombies", so now Blue/Sorry Charlie calls them robots.

  15. Jehne_Lunden says:

    Wow, you have given me much to think about here. You stated that you are a determinist. I consider myself to be an indeterminist. This is usually associated with the concept free will. But author, Sam Harris, has just written a book titled "Free Will," wherein he calls into question our assumptions of free will. He claims that we aren't as free as we think. A random misfiring in the brain can cause us to have a thought such as "I think I'll call my mother." And we mistakenly assume that we chose to have the thought–that we caused it. But in fact, the misfiring was the cause–the catalyst. It's an interesting theory.

    But I still reject your idea of karma. And I most definitely reject the notion of a god, gods, or any supernatural force to be causing anything to happen. This doesn't mean I am any kind of authority on the natural laws that govern cause and effect. I am not a physicist–obviously. Therefore, some of your inquiries fall outside of my limited understanding.

    • Ben says:

      I have no idea what you mean by "your idea of karma". I know the DM version of karma. It is probably the main thing which made me think that what was being taught at DM was bullshit. It is logically and demonstrably false.

      If by "free will" you mean the ability to make decisions, I think I would decide to say I believe in that. But if you are saying that anything involved in the decision making process lies outside the constraints of natural laws, I would disagree.

      If it interests you, here is a good book about the decision making process and how much of it is actually hidden from our conscious mind: "Incognito:The Secret Lives of the Brain" by David Eagleman.

      • Jehne_Lunden says:

        I should have said Buddhism's idea of karma–that our fate is determined by our past actions in past lives. And that our actions in this life influence our stations in future lives. I am in no way saying your personal version or understanding of karma is flawed.

        I was just wondering how Harris's theory fits in with karma? If my brain misfiring causes me to have a thought, then a random misfiring is responsible for planting a karmic seed. I had no choice–no free will–in creating it. Am I still then accountable? Am I really in control of my karma? Or could it be explained that my karma cause the brain misfiring? What do you think?

        From the description of Eagleman's book on Amazon, I gather that he and Harris are on the same wavelength. Both are neuroscientists and seem to saying much of the same thing. I'll investigate further.

        • Ben says:

          I believe that at least DM's version of karma is deterministic. I can't speak for other Buddhist's ideas of karma.

          I should also clarify that while I find a lot of useful things in Buddhism, I don't know if I would consider myself a Buddhist.

          Daniel Dennet also has a good book on free will vs determinism but I can't remember the name of it at the moment.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Is the book "Elbow Room?"

            I thought you were a practicing Buddhist.

            I don't know about you, but the more I am reading and learning the dumber I am feeling. There is so much information out there. I can't even begin to grasp it all.

          • Ben says:

            Dan Dennett, Sam Harris, David Eagleman I can handle and enjoy reading. I typically listen to, not read, Alexander Berzin and when I do, my head can get to spinning pretty quickly.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Have you read anything by Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins? My favorite book that I have read so far this year is "The Magic of Reality" by Dawkins. Both the illustrated print version and the audiobook are well worth checking out.

            I have read a few articles by Berzin. I'll check out some of his podcasts tomorrow.

          • another anon says:

            My guess is the only practicing Buddhists on this forum in the last few weeks are: ekanthomason, Karen Visser, mi mthun dpe and Khedrup.

          • another anon says:

            Jehne if you really want to be in the Buddhist sandbox go to:

            All Buddhists, all looking for a debate.

          • another anon says:

            What do you think Jehne? Now that you have talked to some nice Buddhist-curious people care to try the big leagues?

        • Ben says:

          Thanks, these were really good.It appears my use of "fatalist" earlier was in error.

          "You are not the author of your thoughts and action in the way that people generally suppose."
          I believe this is something which can be seen more clearly with the right type of meditation.

          Let me ask, if it was proven to you that people's actions arose strictly from physical causes and free will was shown to be an illusion, would it changed anything about the way you behaved towards others?

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            "Let me ask, if it was proven to you that people's actions arose strictly from physical causes and free will was shown to be an illusion, would it changed anything about the way you behaved towards others?"

            If intention arises from my brain–seemingly out of nowhere, then I may not be the author of that intention. But I do exercise choice whether or not to act upon it. For example, you and I are dating. We are middle-aged. My daughter comes home from college. I introduce you two. Holy cow, you think, “She is hot. I wish she was my girlfriend instead of her mother." Those thoughts seem to spontaneously appear in your mind as if you were not their author. But, it is now up to you whether or not to act upon these feelings and thoughts. You have a choice to ask my daughter out and break it off with me. Or you could decide that doing so would be morally wrong because too many people would be hurt and it would also not be in your best interest in the long run.

            So, say I learn that you had these thoughts–felt intentions, but you chose not to take a voluntary action. I can hold you accountable for your actions but not your thoughts. In the book "1984," the thought police do hold people accountable for their thoughts. The assumption is that they are in absolute control of all their thoughts regardless or not if they were intending to act upon them. Thought crimes. The same theme can be found in the film “Minority Report.” The police arrest people based on the intention to act even before they have acted. The Precogs predict that they will act. But as the movie shows, there is a flaw in the system. Thoughts don’t always lead to actions.

            But, to answer your question, I believe that we should not judge people on their thoughts, as they can be demonstrated to arise spontaneously–not free will. (But honestly, I still don’t believe that people should be legally sanctioned for their thoughts even if they were derived by free will.) But we should and do hold people to be responsible for their voluntary actions. So, I would continue to behave the same towards others even once I had accepted that free will is an illusion.

          • Ben says:

            "But I do exercise choice whether or not to act upon it."

            I think you are still holding on to a concept of free will that is fallacious. A decision is made but to say it is "you" who make it really requires an examination of what this "who" thing is.

            If we were smart (and twisted) enough, do you think we (you and I) could raise a child to believe that sex between and adult and child is not only morally correct but preferred? If that child then grows up to be someone who molests children, isn't he still using his free will to determine whether or not to act on intentions? Would the fact the we intentionally instilled preferences and beliefs ( I would argue, two of the most relevant factors in our decision making) which would (cause?) (force?) him to act on those intentions, reduce his culpability? And if it wasn't 2 adults who instilled these beliefs and preferences in him but genetics and the circumstances of his life (as it must be, what else would it be, Satan?) is he "free" to choose?

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            "I think you are still holding on to a concept of free will that is fallacious. A decision is made but to say it is "you" who make it really requires an examination of what this "who" thing is."

            Human agency from wikipedia: Human agency is the capacity for human beings to make choices. It is normally contrasted to natural forces, which are causes involving only unthinking deterministic processes. In this respect, agency is subtly distinct from the concept of free will, the philosophical doctrine that our choices are not the product of causal chains, but are significantly free or undetermined. Human agency entails the claim that humans do in fact make decisions and enact them on the world. How humans come to make decisions, by free choice or other processes, is another big issue.

            I do believe we are individuals who are capable of acting and making choices. This does not mean there are not forces that act upon us. I reject the idea that self does not exist.

            Stephen Batchelor claims that our understanding of Buddhism's concept of no-self may not in fact be a correct interpretation of what the Buddha actually taught:

          • Ben says:

            I wasn't implying that a self doesn't exist, but that the "I" in "I made a decision" can get a little murky.

            Do you believe that "choices are not the product of causal chains, but are significantly free or undetermined"?

            Do you wish to amend this previous statement?
            ""So you believe there are things other than the natural laws which science seeks to find that cause things to come into existence, move and change?"

            No, I don't."

            Can you give me an idea of what forces (other than natural forces) come into play when decisions are being made?

            It's possible I should just leave you alone and let you read and study before asking more opinions.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            I define natural laws to be the natural, physical laws such as gravity etc. that govern our universe.

            Do you wish to amend this previous statement?
            ""So you believe there are things other than the natural laws which science seeks to find that cause things to come into existence, move and change?"

            Science can seek to find laws outside of the ones we know to exist. I''m sure there are scientists doing so right now. Perhaps in other universes there are different laws doing the regulating. I don't know. If someone presents evidence for such, I will get on board.

          • Jehne_Lunden says:

            Just stumbled upon this. I think you will find interesting and resourceful. Buddhism Vs. Neuroscience:

            The author mentions Eagleman's book as well as Harris's, plus gives some links to podcasts.

  16. BeyondBoredOfJehne says:

    I'd like to ask everyone to please screen capture or copy comments. Here are posts of jehne's, ekanthomason and mine from Sunday Aug 12, all deleted within 24 hours. I will repost this as many times as necessary, as often as it is deleted.

    Jehne_Lunden: [to Concerned]
    Are you recycling old news? Wasn't this posted weeks ago and basically addressed already? Or am I missing something?

    Reply was meant to be in response to what Concerned wrote. A troll? Probably. I should have just ignore his post. Sorry.

    So, funny calling this person a troll who suggests we get back on topic. At least what Concerned posted was regarding news! Most of what I am readying these days has nothing to do with the tragedy that these three Remski pieces are drawing attention to. It just seems like noise.

    I think Concerned is reading all of this for the first time and had a genuine response. Concerned, please feel post and there are people who will support you. There are trolls on this forum.

    "In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion."

    [missing post from BoredOfJehne – deleted within 1 hour]

    I posted the troll comment about concerned. Note where the arrows fall into position. And the anon post was made later. Concerned had posted almost the same exact message weeks ago.

    "In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion."

    Yes, Ego Patrol and BoredofJehne come to mind.

    No one is halting the discussion of Roach and Diamond Mountain. New information and discussions will continue organically. There are no real barriers here, only artificial ones that you are experiencing in your mind. Why can't you ignore that string thread that Ben and I are posting on? Why is it annoying you so much. I don't get it.

    Where did BoredofJehne's reply go??? It's gone. What is happening to our forum?

    Are you going to delete or report every reply that you don't like Jehne?

    Yes. I know you posted "the troll comment about Concerned"."

    It appears that you are correct that Concerned made a comment in response to AnnetteVictoria's post. Concerned's comment occurred five weeks later after reading part way through the volumes of written comments.

    I was here when AnnetteVictoria pulled that comment from another comment to draw attention to it. All of us who were reading at the time remember it clearly.

    There was a 'concerned' posting at the time, but that Concerned was not capitalized. There is no reason to think it is the same person judging by what they have said. I think we are all concerned.

    There is nothing wrong with commenting on an old post and no one should be accused of being a troll because they did.

    OK. If Concerned genuinely was a new poster, fine. But I read it as if they were just trying to reignite a settled issue. Look how many anonymous posts we get here. And mean ones too–aimed at insulting others or trying to provoke a response. I assumed that this was the case when Concerned replied to a post that was five weeks old. And I too recall a post made by concerned in the past. I assumed it was the same person. Also, I was here at the time that the comment about death threats was originally posted. I thought it was resolved then–that the comment did not offer proof and thus could possibly be regarded as hearsay–a rumor. It was also suggested at that time that the person should contact the police. Five weeks have gone by without a peep from that poster. Don't you think that either it was a false claim or that the person had indeed taken steps outside the forum to deal with the death threat?

    Who made you judge and jury of which issues can or can't be re-ignited on this forum? Nothing has been settled. Everything is up for discussion. New people are welcome here. You are not the moderator. Many posters call themselves 'concerned' or Concerned'.

    • concerned says:

      Hi – I was concerned once and I still am. I'm not the new Concerned with the capital. I am still concerned for all of those still caught under the empty gaze of Roach.

    • AnnetteVictoria says:

      FYI, from Kate Bartolotta:

      "We are checking up on comments that may have been flagged erroneously (or by someone who doesn't agree) and will reinstate any we find. So sorry for any inconvenience!"

  17. BeyondBoredOfJehne says:

    I believe posts made as comments rather than replies are more difficult to delete.

  18. ekanthomason says:

    One more person out of retreat boundaries. Two boots gate is the boundary.

    "I decided to spend the second half of my three year retreat on the other side of two boots I'm "volunteer coordinator" and resident nun at DM."

    • corvid says:

      Adult management pulled off the bench…good news!!!! she needs to pull the plug

      • Human says:

        who needs to pull the plug? This particular thread is like trying to read code….explain to us outsiders 🙂

        • corvid says:

          The retreat still holds danger for some subjects of the isolation experiment called ironically "The Retreat For Peace"

    • cloverleaf says:

      Where is the quote from, Ekan? Were they a retreatant or a caretaker to begin with?

      Like Human, I'd love more info. Whatever can be shared while maintaining anonymity, of course.

      • ekanthomason says:

        Chukyi is one of the nuns who was in retreat. She posted the above comment on Facebook, so I don't think it is confidential information.

        A retreat is defined by its boundaries. Chukyi stated that she has left the retreat boundaries and is not returning. As resident nun and volunteer coordinator, it sounds like she is making herself available to everyone.

        Before the retreat, I heard Christy discussing that one of the first things they would be doing was setting up the energetic boundaries around the perimeter of the retreat. It is done by using old ritual texts and everyone who was physically able walking to the four directions and setting up retreat boundary markers, making offerings to certain deities and requesting their assistance in protecting the boundaries from the inside and the outside. My own experience is that those boundaries are very effective. This serves two purposes: to keep outside energies from entering the boundary and keeping onself physically and mentally inside that boundary.

        Many DMers use the Tibetan word 'tsam' rather than the english translation of boundary. Christie stated that the only way someone would be readmitted after leaving the boundaries was in the case of a medical emergency. Christie wanted the boundaries extend to public lands adjoining DM so that retreaters could take walks if they wanted to. That is why she and Ian were able to go on public land and still be within the retreat boundaries.

        The road that leads to the retreat valley stops at a locked gate, historically called two boots gate. This gate has been shown in some of the television coverage. It is called two boots gate because before the land was purchased by Diamond Mountain, someone had taken two old cowboy boots and stuck them upside down on a couple poles. (I once saw a whole fence lined with upside down boots. I think it is some sort of an old west custom.)

        • corvid says:

          They were Kristie Graham's boots the ex-owner and force for good.

          I just can't picture the cave being in the border.It is way the hell up there.If the trail didn't make it so easy to move around back there the confused leader and Ian most likely wouldn't have been up there. No way she could have done it all the time.Her dad told me when the report of the knife attack came out she was just to non athletic to be doing martial arts…never was into sports at all. i still am annoyed the leadership flat out lied to me about the existance of the trail.We find out latter it was some sort of group effort by the retreaters done as a gift to DM…unclear thinking and look what happened

  19. fact check says:

    Jehne didn't delete those comments.

  20. Concerned says:

    Hello everyone…I am new to posting on forums like this so please forgive me as it seems I've broken some rules and already have been called a troll. I am not a troll, I assure you, but I am currently involved in the ACI community, which is one of GMRs off shoot organizations. I would prefer to remain anonymous for now because I am beyond concerned…I'm afraid for the people at Diamond Mountain and sad for the ACI people who I care for, people who have become dear friends. We all have been deceived out of time and money (and we are the lucky ones). Before I continue I would like you all to know I'm not a "Roach-head", and I'm not stupid either. ACI provided me with an introduction to Buddhism, and not having a background in other schools, I put my faith into those 18 classes.

    I am new here because as you all rightly guessed we were told back in FEBRUARY not to speak of Lama Christie to anyone outside of the ACI/DM world, at least until things were sorted out. Following Ian's death the same warning went out, and we were asked to reflect on what this meant, what kind of teaching this provided us with. Now, I don't like to think of myself as someone that swallowed the Kool-Aid, but I kept mum in good faith, truly believing that some changes were coming in terms of how these organizations were going to be run. Rumors are swirling that Lama Marut is going to make a break, maybe take ACI with him. But so far, I've heard nothing but silence. I've emailed the person I consider my Lama asking questions, and I get no response to anything related to DM. I can only assume that the higher ups have re-issued the gag order, under the pretense of not breaking our bodhisattva vows.

    I am frustrated that nothing is happening, and decided to read these articles, really read them, instead of the superficial glances given when they were first published. I am horrified to find myself involved in this mess. I send money to the retreat every month. I am afraid I am bankrolling an endeavor that is hurting people, deeply. Not exactly what I intended when I took vows. What is the outcome of training at ACI? Or DM? Is the point of these programs to get everyone delusional, to get us to think we're angels? Form is empty, yes. Things are a projection, yep. BUT FORM ALSO EXISTS…the point that is always glossed over. Shit is out there, and just pretending to be a Buddha or an angel does not make it so. Is that what I'm studying?

    I will end with this. Matthew's original article had several objectives that he wished to see carried out by the DM governing board, and from where I sit, it appears not a thing has changed. So what is anyone to do about it? It seems like the media coverage has dried up, this discussion board is the only thing I can find that is current, and a lot of the posts aren't even about helping those in retreat. I want some answers. I am furious that DM's "wait till it blows over" approach is working. This is not right. I guess I didn't manage my karma correctly, because this projection sucks.

    • ekanthomason says:

      Hi Concerned. Thank you for joining our discussion. I have been wondering how the gag order was send out. Can you please tell us a little more about the process of keeping people quiet?

      • Concerned says:

        Its so simple its ridiculous. I was told not to discuss it with anyone outside of ACI. And I didn't. I can't speak for all the centers; not sure if it was handled differently at other locations. But no one is talking now even inside of ACI. I assume there is a fear of breaking vows.

        • ekanthomason says:

          Thanks. So was it said during a teaching?

          • Concerned says:

            I'd rather not say because it would be easy then to figure out who I am. The fact that I'm scared of getting caught for speaking up speaks volumes, doesn't it. But I was with a group of students and we were all told at the same time.

          • ekanthomason says:

            Thanks. I understand how hard it can be to come forward. So much is invested. Social, spiritual and financial investments are made. It is impossible to stay around Michael Roach's group without making great investments of time and energy. I did not mean to pry. I was just curious to know how blatant it was.

          • Concerned says:

            Oh no offense taken. It was very blatant. In retrospect I can't believe I didn't question it. I remember just being in shock, everyone was. You're absolutely right about the amounts of money invested. At the time I thought it was a good thing. Now, well, that's a totally different story. But this isn't about me. There is a Sangha in a real bad way, and I wonder if there's any way to save it without endangering others.

          • Karen Visser says:

            Hi Concerned – thank you so much for posting again.

          • Kevin says:

            "The fact that I'm scared…speaks volumes, doesn't it." Yes it does. Just underscoring. Thanks for posting.

          • cloverleaf says:


            If you don't mind my asking….when you say you are 'scared of getting caught for speaking up', do you fear that you would be ostracized or that you would be physically harmed or something else entirely?

            A poster on this forum has expressed fear of actual bodily harm. I'm asking if you fear the same and if you have ever been threatened in such a way?

            Was there ever a spoken threat made to you or in front of you, or was it simply understood?

            I find it abhorrent that any one of these scenarios has taken place and I again applaud your voice here.

        • Anon says:

          Such a directive seems to conflict the worldview and ethical principles that are taught at ACI, no? According to ACI worldview, how is something good supposed to come from not being open and honest?

    • Kevin says:

      What about the idea of withholding donations from the retreat while informing the DM Board, Treasurer, etc. that you will support the Retreat financially again if/when questions are answered. Of course you would need to outline those questions. Tally up the amount of money you have donated already, and also tally the amount of funds they will not receive from you. I know this might seem like a small thing, but … So that is one idea. I keep thinking about the Prescott Retreat that is happening August 17-24 and wondering what it will be like.

      • corvid says:

        Kevin where does that take place at? .

        • Kevin says:

          The retreats in Prescott are held at one of the children's summer camps in the area — Friendly Pines.

        • Anonymous says:

          Search youtube for MR and you can even see the advertising …….
          he also imagines a Stupa… where we only see a mountain…go figure what else he sees that we don't ?

          you can see MR stoping his bike to tell the audience with a … how to describe it ? … "sweet angelic" voice and smile … I can see how some people fall into this crap, because he definitely he knows how to communicate.

      • Jehne_Lunden says:

        I too have been thinking about the Prescott retreat. It is only about an hour's drive from where I live. Roach is scheduled to be there. The retreat itself is only a week long and is taking place inside a building–no yurts. I'm tempted to see if I could sit in on one of the teachings–if only to get a glimpse of Roach in person.

        Retreat info:

      • Concerned says:

        Kevin, I think that is a good idea not just for me but for everyone who is concerned about the fact this organization appears to have lost its way. I don't make huge donations just because I have a regular job, but if many people did that we could have some impact. I haven't thought about going to the Prescott Retreat…its really the last place I think I'd want to be right now. I do hope reporters or something get in and ask questions and/or raise some eyebrows. Get people thinking. Because I'd bet they're ignoring this site.

        • Kevin says:

          Concerned, thanks for posting, it reminds me that I could write something to DM about why I am not contributing anymore — the little that I did. I had planned on volunteering at DM for the Retreat this summer when I heard of Ian's death and the previous ousting of LC and Ian. The Prescott Retreat is really on my mind right now as that 10 year project is kind of analogous to the Tantra group that prepared for the current Great Retreat.

          • Anonymous says:

            Concerned: thanks for showing up here.
            I think you are asking the right question: What can we do to help those whose inner wisdom and discrimination is obscured by MR and DM?

            It seems Mr and DM are in total denial, ignoring the ongoing struggle of all those affected by that behaviour.
            It seems his magnetism is able to attract new students all over the world… do they really know who MR is ?

            at the same time, it clearly appears that this behaviour is hurting people, while it should be helping people, so
            we also have a responsability to help those affected and prevent further damage.

            I don't like to talk bad about anybody, as a buddhist, specially not about a "spiritual teacher", and I am not a follower of MR, so I can only imagine for those who have a connection with MR, how difficult it must be even to pronounce a word…. BUT

            but closing your eyes , ears, and heart… just ignoring it… is that "buddhist" ?

            Occupy DM! Occupy Prescott! Occupy ACI Phoenix! ?
            Further pressure the DM board to make some necessary changes?
            Spread the truth online in a greater way? Twitter, Facebook, youtube, websites like diamond cutter,
            more organized testimonials from people who felt deceived by MR and DM, like Matthew and a few brave
            people who have posted here.

            Request Sera Me to make an official statement on MR' s " geshe " degree and behaviour ?
            Publish some advertisements in mainstream buddhist magazines, and maybe Arizona local newspapers ( or international ones wherever MR is having workshops..Mexico, Singapore) explaining why MR is misleading people? I know all this…. doesn't seem " buddhist"…

            These are just ideas, feel free to give yours.

            A group action will be much more effective than individual ones.
            Matthew are you still there ?

            Ideas ? Action !

    • AnnetteVictoria says:

      Hi Concerned. Thanks for posting. You're not a troll, that was a pot/kettle comment that's best ignored. You are welcome here.

      Being asked to keep secrets is never a good sign, is it? Secrets are used to cover up abuse. In addition, they are using spiritual blackmail to get you to keep the secret by saying if you don't you'll be breaking a vow. What a mess.

      None of the DM/THY people I'm in contact with have mentioned this secret business, perhaps because it's so obviously wrong, or because they weren't told that, but they have mentioned their vow that prevents them from criticizing their teacher.

      I'm so glad you have been able to see through this.

    • Khedrup says:

      Dear Concerned,
      Thanks so much for posting, I realize it probably was not an easy thing to do.
      For me, that adults are "told" about what they are allowed to speak and who they are
      allowed to speak about it with, is very disturbing.
      DM is in damage control mode but the funny thing is if they just opened the box to fresh
      air in the long run the community would benefit, and people would respect them more for it.
      Secrecy and gag orders may seem to help in the short term but actually what it does is
      further damage their credibility in the eyes of the public.
      It's also a bit funny that they think these gag orders are of any use, since the story has already
      been carried by CNN, the New York Times and People Magazine.
      Who do they think they're protecting?
      Also thank you for bringing this forum back to what should be the central topic, the welfare of
      present, former and future members of DM/ACI

      • corvid says:

        Khedrup, they are mum because the actions before, during and after the cave dead of a loyal student will put them in legal jeopardy. Same goes for the first retreat.When it comes out how many women had "special"teachings one might sue Roach. Same goes when the partners of students pushed to breakup with a non-believer learn they are not alone.Same goes when family members learn of conditions in those sweat boxes this summer (rained last night finally!!) and most important they want to keep the "Christie coming up from the depths and surfacing" (to late for Ian) story under wraps until they can shut her up….she could be in danger..but then again what other members aren't Vincent..time to help!!!!

        • corvid says:

          Oh also to the guy that threatens me occasionally (must work the night shift) I have thought Roach was bullshit from the beginning (think radio playing in retreat yurt) but have not been a bad neighbor.Loaned tools,let Kat's horses stay here for a year (Roach made her get rid of I have noted before that Mule would have had Ian down the hill in 40 minutes),shared info,didn't complain when the trailer numbers exceeded the permit,warned Scott about the the Fire,passed on beefs other locals had with them so trouble didn't happen,warned Scott about the narco car chase by my place,the retreat trail and the threat to Bliss (he claimed no knowledge of the trail..yeah right) after all this shit went down advised him twice to get it taken care of because they were going to be billed if the BLM did it. I think the idea of a safe environmental/meditation community that takes care of it's worker members is cool.Roach is the problem.

        • Anonymous says:

          it seems to an outsider like me that CM was an easy prey, an "innocent", gullible person full of good intentions, but also prone to wishful thinking, confusion, self-deception, manipulated and manipulating maybe even without her knowledge, anyway not a balanced person IMO. Definitely some abusing/abused tendencies.

          I hope she finds some clarity and peace within and get some rest from all this madness. It would also be interesting to hear a fresh perspective of what she has to said about all this.

          She definitely could help those affected by MR and DM, but she needs to do her own healing process first.

    • svan says:

      Hi Concerned, thank you for diving in here.
      "Rumors are swirling that Lama Marut is going to make a break, maybe take ACI with him." I thought ACI was the umbrella for MR's pre-retreat teachings, the "sutra" teachings. Do you mean he would take YSI with him? Or do you mean he would take his ACI-named spiritual centres with him? Can you tell us more (without giving yourself away)?

      • cloverleaf says:


        I think Lama Marut has already taken over YSI.

        "The Classics of Yoga Intensive is a one of a kind teacher training focused on developing masters of Yoga philosophy. The curriculum for this unique program is developed by world renowned Sanskrit professor and translator, Brian K. Smith, Ph.d (Lama Sumati Marut). During this training students study in-depth reviews of several major scriptures of the Tibetan and Indian Yoga traditions compiled by Lama Marut"

        • svan says:

          Thanks, Cloverleaf.
          It looks like he's in charge of the classics curriculum, but the connection to MR is still very strong. I guess my interpretation of "making a break" would involve setting up his own school where he was the actual head, claiming the extended "lineage" of all the influences he lists on his website. I'm not sure if this was what Concerned meant in his/her reference to taking ACI with him and that's why I was asking for more info.

          The organizations around MR have been in constant flux over the years – their "evolution" has been fascinating to watch. They try something and if it doesn't work, they change it. As you note elsewhere, they are responding in various ways at DM to the tragedy and the criticism.

          Looking at the YSI website, it seems they've figured out that making claims to the Gelug lineage of the Dalai Lamas and Buddhist Monk-hood may now be a liability… I notice the bios of MR and Marut from the YSI website are stripped of those references:

          "YSI's founder, and a principal translator and teacher of this lineage, Geshe Michael Roach, is the first American Geshe. Geshe is the highest degree conferred after 20 years of study in a Tibetan Monastery. Geshe Michael has spent the last 20 years learning Yoga from many renowned Tibetan Buddhist and Indian Yoga teachers in America and India. He recently completed a three-year retreat, has published numerous books, and now teaches Yoga, Spirituality, and Enlightened Business around the world.

          Venerable Brian K. Smith, (Lama Sumati Marut), is a founding Director of the Yoga Studies Institute. He has been teaching religion for 25 years. As a Sanskrit scholar and Professor of Comparative Religions, he taught at Columbia University and the University of California, Riverside, where he is Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies. For the past decade, he has been as a popular teacher of Buddhist and yoga philosophy, spirituality, and meditation."

          I would like to assume it's an attempt to be more accurate, but under the circumstances, it just feels like damage control. Ian's death follows MR silently, like a shadow. Christie remains the elephant in the room no one will talk about. She's still listed as founder, with her hyperbolic bio intact, but is not otherwise featured. It will be interesting to see what her re-emergence looks like and whether it happens inside the DM conglomeration or outside. And what will become of these poor retreatants?

          (by the way, the shadow I'm speaking of isn't a criminal/legal shadow, but the shadow cast by the outcome/result/fruit of the teachings, practices and student/teacher relationship model of this DM/MR "lineage")

          • cloverleaf says:


            I agree with all you just posted.

            "I would like to assume it's an attempt to be more accurate, but under the circumstances, it just feels like damage control."

            This is the part that breaks my heart for YSI and the staff there (people I truly love and respect). I was under the impression after Ian that there was a loud call for greater transparency…..but I'm just not seeing that manifested, at least not in a way that is reaching me. Or maybe I just don't understand their definition of 'transparency', I dunno.

            Yep, CM is the elephant in the room. I wish more insiders would now talk about what they feel/ how her eviction and Ian's death is effecting them. I very sincerely wish CM herself would speak up. I think maybe she did earlier in this very forum…..but that's just a guess on my part. I would love to hear her voice in all of these discussion, yet I still have the utmost respect for her privacy and her time to mourn. I can hardly blame here for silence as I'm sure she needs time to heal.

            "And what will become of these poor retreatants?"
            Indeed. That is paramount now in my view.

          • sky says:

            I too was under the impression that there was a call for complete transparency at DM. However, it seems that isn't going to happen. No one wants to talk about it anymore.

            I wouldn't be surprised if there is a legal reason no one close to the situation is willing to talk about it anymore. Yeah, the case is closed from a criminal standpoint, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was a civil suit of some kind coming from Ian's family. That would explain the silence. Please keep in mind that this just just pure speculation on my part.

            My concern for the retreatants remains. The most recent newsletter was really vague and didn't address the concerns people have. I still can't tell what's being done for the retreatants in a way that actually gives me any sort of peace of mind.

            As for LC, I think about her often and hope she is healing. I am eager to hear her side of things when she is ready.

          • cloverleaf says:


            I agree that the silence may in large part be due to fear surrounding a possible civil suit, though I also have no information on if that is even happening. I also think, though, that if there is nothing to hide, transparency and honesty should be paramount. And if there is indeed something to hide…..I don't know. If my actions had lead to a death I would be honest about them even if it meant jail time for me. My conscious wouldn't allow otherwise. Also though….I can be naive. I know even facts/truth that would absolve people from wrongdoing can be spun fantastically in the hands of a skilled lawyer.

            Do you have access to the newsletters? Is there a way for anyone to sign up for them? Could you post a link to the most recent one here?

          • Kevin says:

  … There is a sign-up link on this page as well as back newsletters

          • cloverleaf says:

            Thank you Kevin

          • ekanthomason says:

            I just visited the Yoga Studies Institute website. At the bottom of Christie's bio is a link to 'visit website'. I was surprised to find this link took me to Michael Roach's Open Letter on the Diamond Mountain site.

            I expected to be sent to a page promoting her not demonizing her.

          • svan says:

            I just noticed a new set of guidelines and code of ethics for YSI teachers, posted August 16:

            Christie is largely responsible for Tibetan Heart Yoga, so there is a fairly glowing reference to her under Yoga Courses, but I notice a number of teachers no longer refer to their precious holy lamas MR and CM on their own websites (Mira Shani, Kimberly Theresa and Kelly Morris, for instance).

            (What's with the YSI link to Ken Wilbur, I wonder…)

            The Three Jewels Vancouver's "Lineage" tab no longer works. Only local teachers are listed.

            MR has tidied up his bio on his own site to read:

            "Geshe Michael Roach (born December 17, 1952) is the first American to have been awarded the degree of Geshe, or Master of Buddhism, after more than 20 years of study in Tibetan monasteries. He has used this training to become a prominent international teacher, businessman, philanthropist, author, educator, public speaker, textual scholar, and musician. Geshe Michael graduated with honors from Princeton University and has received the Presidential Scholar Medal from the President of the United States at the White House.

            In 1981 he helped found Andin International Diamond Corporation and bring it to annual sales of over $100 million, donating his profits to international aid projects. His book about achieving business and personal success through generosity, The Diamond Cutter, has become a global bestseller in 20 languages. He is the founder of the Asian Classics Institute, Diamond Mountain University, the Asian Classics Input Project, Worldview, the Yoga Studies Institute, Star in the East, Global Family Refugee Aid, Three Jewels Community Outreach Centers, and the Diamond Cutter Institute."

            An improvement, although the link to his hagiography is still included. No trace of Christie anywhere…
            the rebranding and reinvention begins. Similar to what's happening in the Anusara world, I suppose, except no one had to die for John Friend to lose all credibility. In this case, Christie is, in absentia, taking the fall for it all, while the man who taught her everything she knows, carries on as if she never existed.

          • ekanthomason says:

            When I noticed that Kimberley Theresa did not show up for the last courses of tantra, I asked where she was. Rumor was that she had gone off to study with Ken Wilbur.

          • svan says:

            Ah. Fascinating… So much for "guru devotion" and "an unbroken lineage back to the Buddha" then.

    • cloverleaf says:


      Thank you so much for having the courage to speak out from your unique vantage point. I applaud your voice. It is sorely needed in this forum– in fact, any insight from people involved in the DM/ ACI community is greatly welcomed by me. I'm saddened that you feel deceived, hurt and angry and I very sincerely hope that you find peace with all of this some day.

      You ask some questions. I'm not sure I have the answers, but I have asked and answered these questions for myself. Maybe sharing my views will help you? I don't know, but here goes:

      "What is the outcome of training at ACI? Or DM? Is the point of these programs to get everyone delusional, to get us to think we're angels? Form is empty, yes. Things are a projection, yep. BUT FORM ALSO EXISTS…the point that is always glossed over. Shit is out there, and just pretending to be a Buddha or an angel does not make it so. Is that what I'm studying?"

      I don't believe the point is to make everyone delusional, though I'm afraid that is the unintended result for some people. Whenever you get a group of people expanding and exploring the nature of reality…..well, of course it's a dangerous thing to do. But I still believe such Awakening has extreme value, at least for me. As you know, thinking of everyone as angels is just one Worldview– there are others 'above' that view. In my own reckoning, I think it's just another way to eliminate the 'me' and 'them' dichotomy. In other words, it's just an exercise to help people develop extreme empathy and see that all of us humans are capable of any emotion or action, given the circumstances. I think it serves to separate the boundaries between 'me' and 'other' and thereby allow a person to come from a place of compassion and empathy rather than judgement and fear. Also, rather than wallow in self-pity when faced with someone I might have seen as a jerk before, I can now look for the ways in which encountering this person's rudeness or ignorance or downright meanness can help me to grow as a person. You know? To develop patience or kindness in the face of antagonism or simply think to myself, "maybe they are just having a bad day without tools to handle it more effectively" rather than taking their rudeness quite so personally. That's not to say that there are people and situations in this world that no amount of angel-thinking would help– any form of physical or emotional abuse comes to mind and in such cases, for the sake of the person being abused I strongly advocate a complete distancing from any source of that abuse and if the case warrants, a contact to the authorities.

      This Worldview has actually really helped me be happier, on the whole. And I'm not delusional.

      I think this Worldview is easily misunderstood and can easily lead to delusional thinking if taken too literally.

      But I also think it's just an exercise for the brain– a way to flip our default ways of thinking so as to see that 'me vs. them' is not the only perspective a critically thinking adult can decide to make. Equanimity and empathy at the root- of course coming from a place of the Bodhisattva.

      Form is empty, yes. There are projections, yes. Form also exists, yes. It is 'glossed over'– at least in my teachings it was……but not entirely. The Relative world was not denied in my teachings, though the Ultimate view was definitely stressed. Berzin has some nice articles on all of this that can explain it much more articulately than I.

      I wish you all the best, Concerned. I hope you don't take this post (and the ones that follow) as criticism– it's not. Just a view from a person that once felt much like you seem to. I wish for you peace and happiness despite what harm ACI has caused you and your friends.

      • cloverleaf says:

        "I want some answers. I am furious that DM's "wait till it blows over" approach is working."

        I'm confused… is my understanding that there are many changes going on at DM. Including allowing an outside psychologist/psychiatrist? (Marianna Caplan?) in to allow the retreatants a safe way to discuss things. Also, that many retreatants are now going through a shorter silence/isolation, rotating out to teach or simply take a breather much more frequently. Recently we heard one person has left the Tsam and it's my understanding anyone is free to do the same. There is talk that any future retreats would have better initial screening of applicants and that they would be shorter on the whole. And that the Board and other leaders are improving the living conditions, though in what ways taking place I don't know. My point I suppose is, short of stopping the retreat (which I understand most of those in retreat do not actually want to happen), there are many improvements/changes taking place. Do you have information to the contrary?

        I suppose I think that just because they are not openly sharing this with say this forum or Newsweek does not negate the fact that it is happening (slowly) on the ground of DM. Is this inaccurate?

        "I am afraid I am bankrolling an endeavor that is hurting people, deeply."

        I highly echo the thoughts of others here that if you feel your money is hurting people, please have the courage to stop the funding as well as let them know exactly why you are discontinuing your support. And by all means, let your voice and your opinions ring loud so that others who feel the same way but might be afraid to take action can follow in your footsteps. But I wonder……I don't know. I suppose I think the only people who can really say that they are being hurt, deeply, by this retreat are the retreatants themselves. I believe everyone has a right and a responsibility to do what is best– physically, emotionally, spiritually- to decide for themselves. I guess I simply feel that I don't have the right to 'save' people from what might indeed be a profoundly positive experience to them. Until a retreatant comes forward to tell me otherwise, I for one will continue to support their right to choose the path that suits them. That doesn't include, for me, sending money. I support their right to find their own way toward Enlightenment or happiness, but I believe my own money is best served elsewhere.

        You seem hurt and angry, and for that I can not fault you one iota. I felt much as you are speaking when I first read these articles in totality……but I've had some time to step back from my initial reaction and see things a bit differently now. Please don't misunderstand– you are entitled to any and all feelings you have concerning all of this. I would urge you, however, to take a step back for just a minute and really examine your intentions and your actions. Are you simply reacting? Are you actually trying to look out for the interest of your friends within the community? Do you simply want retribution for faults/harm done to you? I, of course, can't answer any of these questions– only you can. But I do know that when in a state of anger……rational thinking sometimes falls by the wayside.

        You may not agree with any of the above post; that's fine. I just thought some of your questions were worth exploring, maybe from a different perspective. Again, I truly admire you for speaking out. I know how hard that can be to do. If you have– or anyone has- any insight to the questions I'm raising I would be most grateful.

        Peace to you, Concerned

        • corvid says:

          It's hot and dangerous up there unlike the Pay to play sweet little retreat next to Goldwater lake in Prescott. Most likely it is taking years off retreaters lives. You come out of it thinking you will be a teacher people want to listen too but end up being the car equivalent of a Yugo in the theology realm (people basically laugh at DM teaches as it is now…wait till the rest of the stuff comes out) ,people at home miss and most likely need you in the real is not all about you. hey basically Roach is going to go down.Why the hell go down with him?

          • Ben says:

            You come out of it thinking you will be a teacher people want to listen too but end up being the car equivalent of a Yugo in the theology realm (people basically laugh at DM teaches as it is now…wait till the rest of the stuff comes out)

            I have to disagree with this. People who have studied Buddhism or have an certain level of understanding of logic and philosophy may discount DM teachers and teachings, but it seems a lot of people, especialy in the yoga community are eating this stuff up. To be fair, I've stopped going to events and am basing this largely on how it was and what it now looks like in the videos and FB posts I see. It could, of course, be just a lot of spin

          • corvid says:

            they believe a sexually abused student is a Goddess,eat her toe nails mixed with vaginal secretions,believe (secretly) Roach is Jesus (Alister),think they can cure cancer with karma,insist Roach and the Goddess completed a 3 year retreat (more like a 5 person party with special guests),think it's ok to lie and worse of all give red China cover in the ethnic cleansing of Tibet…what the hell Ben quit dancing around the Tibet thing.Roach should be captured and tried in Tibet as a war criminal if it ever wins it's freedom.,

          • Ben says:

            I don't know what you mean by this "what the hell Ben quit dancing around the Tibet thing" but I will agree the many of the things you listed should be cause enough for people to discount GMR and the DM teachings. What I am saying is, it seems a lot of people aren't discounting GMR and the DM teachings either because they don't know about the things you listed or don't see the problems with the things you listed.

          • corvid says:

            The teaching in China by Roach while Tibet is literally under siege is immoral.

    • Guest says:

      The premise that it is all just your "projection" is questionable. I know that's what they teach in ACI but is it correct?

    • Guest says:

      Hi Concerned… sorry if this has already been said, but the best thing you can do is to go study with another teacher and sangha so you can see for yourself the differences between what GMR says and pretty much 100% of what all other Tibetan Buddhist schools and teachers… it will take a while to detangle yourself but worth the effort… as someone who was in the DM group for two years I can say it won't be easy at first… and there's no reason to attack or be resentful… be thankful for the exposure and now go and study and practice with a proper teacher…

  21. Anonymous says:

    What can be done to help DM'ers who want help ?
    What can be done to prevent further damage to new students ?
    What can be done to reduce the impact of MR misguidance?
    What can insiders do ? How can outsiders help?

    • Anonymous says:

      Some Ideas :

      1) Occupy DM! Occupy Prescott! Occupy ACI Phoenix!
      2) Further pressure the DM board to make some necessary changes
      3) Spread the truth about this story offline and online in a greater way.
      (Twitter, Facebook, youtube, websites like diamond cutter)
      4) More organized, documented, and accesible testimonials from people who felt
      deceived by MR and DM, like Matthew and a few brave people who have posted here.
      5) Petition Sera Me to make an official statement on MR' s " geshe " degree and behaviour?
      6) Publish some advertisements, opeds, letter to the editor in mainstream buddhist magazines, and maybe Arizona local newspapers ( or international ones wherever MR is having workshops..Mexico, Singapore) explaining why MR is misleading people

      These are just ideas, feel free to give yours.

      • corvid says:

        Get Roach to walk away….

      • Concerned says:

        These are all great ideas. I think in addition to pressuring/petitioning the DM and Sera Mey, we need to get this story back in the media. We need a Martin Luther like figure to step up and post our version of the 95 theses and demand some answers. Spread the word via social outlets, but don't expect any help from anyone within these organizations, at least at first. If we could come up with a nifty graphic outlining our grievances we might get more shares than if its just a plain old list or a long article that people will be more likely to dismiss. And while a lot of people want to see GMR crucified, I don't think that is helpful. Our approach should be to the point, but also compassionate. He is a fellow sentient being.

        • Kevin says:

          Social media sounds like a good way to go as the community of dissenters is so spread. Graphics. Some brainstorming of major issues and then perhaps choosing to develop each as a graphic might have impact and would make for a series of postings rather than a one shot.

  22. anonymous says:

    If any DM insider would like to get in touch with the media, please post here. We'll figure out a way. Things are in the works.

  23. suekrag says:

    Hi, Im new to this forum and after reading matthew's excellent pieces and many of the comments, i would love to hear some thoughts on two issues:
    1) Isn't a 'geshe's' involvement in the diamond/mining industry problematic? How does one reconcile engagement in such a brutal/exploitative industry with Buddhist ethics, especially if one expounds the ideas of karmic seeds? Was this ever discussed in the DM community or addressed by Roach? Has anyone looked into Andin's business practices?

    2) So many of the comments i've read are written by people who are clearly really smart and knowledgable about buddhism. How did Christie McNally establish authority within such a group? Is it because she was festishized? Were some in the community critical of her authority as a lama?

    • Ben says:

      It seemed to me that a few people left when GMR and Christie got together. I believe this was simply because they felt a monk being with a woman wasn't right. A few more left when it was announced that Christie (and the other "Dakinis") were to be considered and treated as lamas. I have heard that some just flat out said that they could not see her as a lama. If you've watched some of her videos, it is possible you understand why. Some have posted on here criticizing her "promotion" to lama and naming it as one of the more serious (if not most serious) mistakes commited by GMR.

      As far as how Christie established authority, I would suppose that is different for different people. I think simply having completed a 3 year retreat was part of it. Being the "consort" of GMR was part of it. But GMR telling people she was to be seen and treated as a lama was the lion's share of it and I'm fairly certain there were people who never saw her as anything but GMR's squeeze.

      It is probably a lot more complicated than you might think. There were personalities and hopes and jealousies all wrapped in everything going on up there. For some students, the terms at DM were the hardest parts of their year and not just because of the extreme desert conditions. Also, for many, they were also the most special times of the year as well.

    • Hells' Janitor says:

      Yes, she was "fetishized." Christie's "authority" stemmed from her husband's opinion of her, naturally enough. And yes, there was criticism, but not much. Not much out-loud criticism, anyway. The greater majority of the sangha either took Michael Roach and Christie at their word upon the matter, or kept their reservations to themselves. Why rock the boat? They encouraged their students to see all beings as deities, and they threw outrageous parties. Magical thinking was all fantastic fun for many, up until insanity and starvation started winnowing the retreat field.

    • cloverleaf says:

      "1) Isn't a 'geshe's' involvement in the diamond/mining industry problematic? How does one reconcile engagement in such a brutal/exploitative industry with Buddhist ethics, especially if one expounds the ideas of karmic seeds? Was this ever discussed in the DM community or addressed by Roach? Has anyone looked into Andin's business practices?"

      This has been disturbing to me since learning who MR is– since my first intro into all of this, before Ian.

      I don't see how Buddhist ethics and Karma are in any way in line with the diamond industry. For the record, he is no longer part of Andin. I was told when I questioned this that he traded in diamonds in Mongolia, supposedly a more ethical branch of the industry than the blood diamonds in say Africa. However, in my mind, I don't see how anywhere there are precious, rare, valuable stones there is not some sort of greed and when there is extreme greed….well, people get blinded by it.

      Maybe someone with more insight into this aspect can speak up in this thread?

      My understanding is he justifies his business within the diamond industry as a way to make money to support his projects (some really altruistic ones, I might add) while exploring and teaching the Diamond Sutra:

      (from Wikipedia)
      "The Diamond Sūtra is a short and well-known Mahāyāna sūtra from the Prajñāpāramitā, or "Perfection of Wisdom" genre, and emphasizes the practice of non-abiding and non-attachment."

      It seems a blatant conflict of interest to me.

      • Karen Visser says:

        I agree with you cloverleaf. This cannot be considered 'right livelihood', a very important consideration for any Buddhist, but especially for a monk who has chosen to work. Even in Mongolia, the probability of people being exploited and suffering in the mines is very high. Being involved in a business, or a community, that buys and sells 'blood diamonds' transgresses the spirit of 'right livelihood' in Buddhism.

        There's something more – monks are not allowed to handle precious stones. Perhaps, in thinking he's getting off on a technicality, Michael Roach hasn't actually touched a diamond (is this possible?). He may not feel that he's betrayed his monk status. But being a monk isn't like being in a court of law, you shouldn't be looking for technicalities and loopholes, you should live with honor and honesty.

        • cloverleaf says:

          "But being a monk isn't like being in a court of law, you shouldn't be looking for technicalities and loopholes, you should live with honor and honesty."

          I very much agree with this statement, Karen. I thought it deserved highlighting.

          "monks are not allowed to handle precious stones"

          Could you expound on this? I was not aware that the handling of precious stones by monks was not allowed. Does the tradition/ sect of the monk play a role? Or their level of realization? What is the history of this taboo, if you can share?

          And where have you heard that MR has not touched a stone? I know for a fact he has one on him at all times. I never thought anything about it before you mention this. I thought it was just a reminder of Emptiness, like a talisman of sorts.

          • ekanthomason says:

            Just a reminder? Like an 8th level bodhisattva needs a souvenir? I can't believe I ever fell for that one!

          • Karen says:

            Hi cloverleaf and Ekan, there are quite a few vows that seem to be disregarded from what we hear. These vows are from the vinaya, the rules of conduct for those in the monastic community. So, touching precious stones is not a taboo, it's a vow monks and nuns take. I believe this is across the board for all Buddhist monks and nuns, in all cultures.

            I don't know the origin of this one, I imagine it relates to monastic poverty and training the mind to turn away from attachment to wealth.

            Remember, all of these rules are people in robes – ordinary people can pile on the jewelry and generally have a wonderful time. There seems to be a bit of cross pollination with some of the monastic rules and lay conduct at Diamond Mountain. Here we're talking about monastics in robes only.

            For Michael Roach, having bhikshu or full monastic vows and wearing robes, the vows include (amongst other things) prohibitions against: touching jewels, dancing, wearing ornaments, playing musical instruments, touching any part of a woman (skin, hair, etc) with any attachment, openly talking about sex, travelling or living with a woman, knowingly lying, encouraging a female to engage in sexual contact with oneself as a form of offering, personally making arrangements to unite a male and female that lead to a sexual encounter (consorts), and more…

            By the way, all of these vows have been published openly since the 1500's in a text called 'Ascertaining the Three Vows'. I know there was some talk about the vows being secret at Diamond Mountain but the intent of the original text was to make both lay people and monastics familiar with the vinaya.

            In fact, in Thailand these are taught to kids in school so that everyone will know what proper conduct is for monks and for those who interact with them. In general, a monk who continuously, wilfully breaks vows is not the best choice as a teacher or role model.

          • ekanthomason says:

            It appears MIchael Roach kept the vows secret for his own self-interest. How do you lead Kirtan for 6 years if everyone knows you have taken a vow not to do it? etc.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            "…with any attachment"

            Karen, what methods do you recommend for determining whether a monk or nun is engaging in an action "with attachment"?

          • ekanthomason says:

            Personally, I think following the advice from His Holiness the Dalai Lama provides as much information as needed.

            "’Even though one’s realization may be higher than the high beings,’ His Holiness said, ‘one’s behavior should conform to the human way of life.’"

            If you are a monk is a monk…act like a monk.

          • Karen says:

            With all respect, mi mthun dpe – and I do respect you, you've shown yourself to have a deep knowledge of dharma – it's funny that of all those possible broken vows you could only take issue with the state of mind during one action.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            We have two choices: either "with attachment" applies only to the vow about touching women or it's a more generally applicable principle with respect to any set of vows. That is, one's understanding and intent have some importance in determining whether a vow was broken. If it's the first case–ie we should read the translation of Ngari Panchen's text literally, then we have the problem of ritual dance and ritual music, Regarding money and wealth, we will have the problem of the monastic bursars. A literal interpretation isn't skillful, and it will create a world of where lay people will be forever judging the other two communities because of nitpicky interprations of dul wa: "see, he's wearing his lower robes 'in the manner of an elephant' " "See, I saw a monk counting–actually touching–the money we donated to Rinpoche."

            So I think it's the second understanding, in general. In fact, the Mahayana instruction is that, with the right boddhisattva motivation, then the Mahayana vows trump the Pratimoksha vows. There may be even be something similar with the higher vows.

            And, as it turns out, there are monks like Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso who teach that one should understand and practice Dharma via singing and dancing. (Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso is Kagyu, but he has a geshe lharampa degree, awarded by HHDL, for his defense of shen tong at Buxador.)

          • Karen says:

            mi mthun dpe, if I may scramble the order of your points – all very good points – I believe Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso's teachings about using singing and dancing to understand and practice Dharma were directed specifically to his lay, Western students in Seattle. Some of the texts (dohas) were sounding a little monotone in English and he felt they needed to be livened up a bit. He is a wonderful monk but the students who are singing and dancing are all lay people.

            This is a very astute point about the remainders of the vinaya creating aversion in lay people, and there are Mahayana Lamas who feel lay people shouldn't know the remainders for the very reasons you point out. But the cat's been out of the bag for a long time now and Theravada Buddhism teaches the vinaya even to girls in school, who will never take ordination. Buddha spoke the vows openly, there's a story of misconduct for each one. As lay people saw monks misbehaving, the vinaya was created to correct this.

            I think we agree that Mahayana vows trump Pratimoksha vows. But if the right boddhisattva motivation trumps all vows and one can do what one wishes if only the motivation is right, why would Buddha have given vows at all? Why not teach only boddhisattva motivation? Buddha said (I really should look this up, sorry if I don't remember it exactly), "Wherever there are 4 fully ordained people, without a downfall [in their vows], my doctrine abides in that place." The core of ordained people to give instruction is the basis of Mahayana Buddhism.

            If motivation trumped everything why would HHDL keep vows himself or transmit lay or monastic precepts every year? He would just give instruction in boddhisattva motivation. Without the monastic community keeping the vinaya there is no Mahayana. The vows being kept purely are the basis.

          • Hells' Janitor says:

            If the mahayana series of vows "trumped" the pratimoksha commitments, why would a bodhisattva ever ordain? What could be further added by such kinds of spiritual 'back-pedaling'?

          • Karen says:

            I agree, why would anyone ever ordain if all you need is boddhisattva motivation?

            And thinking about it, I guess I should have shifted the language – saying one set of vows "trumps" another isn't right. Pratimoksha vows are perfect for lay practitioners, we were using mi mthun dpe's term for the sake of debate.

            Robes signify vows. When you see them you assume the person wearing them holds and keeps monastic vows. They're a uniform, a symbol, of an ethical spiritual life.

          • Karen says:

            On further reflection I think I may know what's being hinted at by mi mthun dpe – the idea that an Arya, or a practitioner of crazy wisdom, may be considered above the ordinary obligations of the vows.

            If there was a monk anywhere who was an Arya, perhaps the greatest since Nagarjuna, His Holiness the Dali Lama would be in constant contact with him. That monk would be invited to live in, or regularly visit, HH's residence in Dharamsala, rather than being barred from coming close to HH's residence or asked not to visit or teach in Dharamsala.

            I want to address something else – the mistaken belief held at Diamond Mountain that HH has a secret wife or consort – he does not. This is considered blasphemy pretty much everywhere outside of DM. Crazy wisdom is not something HH practices, he is a celibate monk practicing in the Gelug tradition. All the lineages consider him to be their spiritual leader but he fully follows the celibate vows of a Gelug monk.

          • Karen says:

            Just to clarify, being an Arya and practising crazy wisdom are different. Having a secret consort is also a different practice, I squished everything together in my post.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            That (crazy wisdom) is not what I'm hinting at, in any way. I'm addressing an issue in your post where you seem to suggest that we evaluate whether GMR is keeping or breaking his vows. the first issue is that we Mahayana practitioners don't have the same relationship to the Pratimoksha vows as, say, the monks in Thailand who follow a different Vinaya lineage and who do not recognize the Mahayana scriptures and teachings as legitimate. So Bodhisattva vow holders have several specific vows that deal with the Pratimoksha: on the one hand, we are never to think or teach that the lower vows and the lower vehicle are not needed, that's a violation of at least two of the Bodhisattva root vows. But, we are required to break the lower vows when love and compassion require it. Which lower vows? Well, the physical ones (which others can see)–stuff like stealing, lying, killing, etc. So when there's a choice between two good deeds, we have the guidance of how to behave. So that's the first issue: the relatinship of higher to lower vows.

            It's ok for a nun to touch money if the motivation is to help others (ie by building a hospital). The intent –the Boddhisattva wish–is more important than the letter of the Pratimoksha vows. So when I see a nun who is touching money, how do I know whether she's breaking a vow or not? Even if she tells me it's for a temple, that's not good enough–could be she want's to build a temple out of pride or avarice.

            So that's the issue and we're back to my original question: what's the best way for us to know when an ordained person is doing something "with attachment"? I think I know the answer but I'm curious what you recommend.

          • corvid says:

            maybe if that picture of him dancing around in panyhose comes out while partying in the first retreat you can tell us why that was cool too

          • Karen says:

            I'm out of time for today, I'm sorry, more later… but to clarify I was talking about Bhikshuni vows: full ordination, monks and nuns in robes, not Pratimoksha (lay, householder) vows.

            The vows I was discussing were the full Bhikshu ordination vows taken at Sera Mey, given by the abbot.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            There are eight kinds of pratimoksha vows, which include the lay vows and the five kinds of ordination vows. So the general principles of how Mahayana vows take precedence (or don't) over Pratimoksha vows applies equally to Bhikshu and Uppasika vows. (and to nuns if they existed in the Tibetan vinaya and to laywomen).

            This understanding that the eight kinds of vows are all Pratimoksha is in several soures, including the book you mentioned, Ascertaining the Three Vows.

            So I think that monks and nuns, who also have Mahayana vows, have to confront the same kinds of issues laypeople do: how do these two (or three) vows work together in different circumstances. What methods do I use to determine which ones to follow?

          • Human says:

            The sad thing is that people might actually think you are just being sarcastic, when in truth, you are being dead serious.

            Once again, the truth of what really happened in the first retreat needs to come out.

          • Human says:

            My comment was directed at Jerry.

          • Zirconia says:

            Monks aren't supposed to dance, but it's a rather minor rule.

            "I just see ballet as very good for the alignment of the channels. I see it as a… It happened during retreat that we realized it"

          • ekanthomason says:

            Who has that photo? Is that the one they were searching for in Christie and Ian's cabin?

          • ekanthomason says:

            mi mthun dpe – Perhaps the controversy over the term attachment can be solved by another translation of the term. The Dalai Lama's official website translates the word regarding physical contact differently. It uses the word lustfully. "Lustfully making physical contact." I think that makes it very clear. Attachment seems to be a rather vague mental state that is probably cannot be ascertained by anther person. Lustfully makes much more obvious.

            I. Fist Class: 4 Defeats
            1. Unchaste;
            2. stealing;
            3. homicide;
            4. lying speech

            II. Second Class: 13 Remainders
            1. Emission of semen
            2. lustfully making a physical contact
            3. speaking words to do with sex

            Instructions in tantra class from Michael Roach said not to hold the semen back. He did not think that was a healthy practice. Someone might say well, perhaps he held it back because he was a monk. Well, the facts are, there were ordained people among our tantra class and no special instructions were given to them and since this was "a teacher's college", no such instruction was given to the "teachers."

            Based on his words, I think we can make certain assumptions regarding Roach and 1. unchaste, 1. emission of semen, 2. lustfully making a physical contact, and 3. speaking words to do with sex.

          • Zirconia says:

            mi mthun dpe, most of us aren't mind readers, so we can only make inferences. Since Geshe Michael apparently lied on a few occasions about even trivial matters, aren't his grand claims suspect?

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            To be honest, I'm not following very closely the "he said, he said" parts of these threads. I got lost during the discussion about whether "monastery" could refer to Sera Mey, to Rashi Gempil Ling, or to both.

            But I understand why it's important to dig into this for some of us. If that's the case for you, then that's the right approach: "this person is inconsistent in his speech, and appears to be saying things that aren't true, so I'm going to doubt his other claims."

            That's a little bit different that the recent posts in this thread, which are about the method for determining whether GMR broke his vows. My contention is that for any vow where there's some kind of mental factor that determines whether the vow was broken (e.g. "with attachment"), then it's impossible to know without mind reading.

          • Zirconia says:

            When it comes to actual consort practice, it seems very likely, and almost unavoidable, that feelings of attachment would arise sooner or later, so like it or not, “with attachment” seems to be the default assumption, perhaps it’s one reason that monastics are asked to give back their vows, or to perform miracles, before getting permission for the practice.

            My Western idea of “with attachment” starts at arousal, but I think for Tibetan yogis, “with attachment” more or less means orgasmic emission, or when the emission is intentionally unguarded. I was surprised and somewhat disappointed to read what Ekan had reported: “Instructions in tantra class from Michael Roach said not to hold the semen back. He did not think that was a healthy practice.” That teaching doesn’t sound “literal/conservative” to me, in fact, it seems to be the complete opposite of tantric teachings.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            >it seems very likely…that moments of attachment would
            >arise now and then in the practitioner

            You have to decide if that's your metric for all practitioners or not. More or less, it's what Karen suggested earlier: she couldn't imagine that she could remain without attachment in a yurt, so therefore others also could not.

            That's not the right standard to use for me, but I understand it. It's useful to think about another example: let's say we see a monk collecting money–counting it, handling it, etc. It's a violation of his vows (at least if we reasonably think that the vow covering gold, jewels and silver applies to money also). Our monk says it's for the temple. From a Mahayana pov, it's ok but only if he does it without greed, ego, grasping etc. We Westerners know the strong hold that money has on us, so it's unlikely that anyone can handle it, especially large sums, without attachment. So do we assume such-and-such monk violated his vows because it's unlikely he could have the right attitude?

            The rest of your post, about vows, retention, etc. I don't think it's appropriate to discuss that here–except to say, I think your interpretation re: orgasmic emission is incorrect. If you're curious, you can track down Namdrol's posts on re: certain physical aspects of consort practice and the stuff that actually should be retained and the stuff that shouldn't.

          • Zirconia says:

            The metric was already set, not by me, Karen or Westerners with filthy minds, but by Tibetans themselves: the default assumption is that attachment could and would arise, so a monastic needs to return his vows, unless he can perform miracles. That may not be the "right standard" for you, but that's the standard operating procedures for Gelugs.

            Gelug sources like Berzin and the Dalai Lama say no emission. If that's not authoritative enough for you, Geshe Michael himself spake, "There would be penetration, but no release of semen."… So it appears that he acknowledged the Gelugpa teaching to the general public, but among his students, he overrode the Gelug teaching with a don't-hold-back message. Perhaps he prefers teachings by other Tibetan schools, or because he has the superior understanding of an Arya?

            If Lama Christie believed that he's an Arya, she would have held on to him and never let go. She would have planted seeds to stay with him forever and ever: this life and future ones.

            Sadly, Geshe Michael's expertise in seed-planting/karmic management failed to keep her: "You should see your partner as an angel who came to teach you. I look at Christie that way–the education is finished and now she is teaching a new person. If you try to see it that way, it helps your heart to hurt less." Attachment, no?

            Did he truly overcome attachment? "It's difficult to keep it spiritual," he admits. "We were trained since childhood to think of a partner as romantic, and I don't think anyone truly overcomes that." [hat tip to anonymous]

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            >If you try to see it that way, it helps your heart to hurt less." >Attachment, no?

            No. At least, not necessarily so: we Westerners sometimes think that our constructs about mental states are used by others. But what we call "emotion' doesn't map easily to the labels used in Buddhism–and it varies, within Buddhism, from school to school.

            The word "attachment", in its colloquial sense in North America, can carry an emotional context : "I was attached to it/him/her/my lunch/the dog". But attachment can have a technical meaning in Buddhism, which is different than our colloquial use. Sometimes "sred pa"–the 8th link in the Wheel of Dependent Origination–is translated as "attachment". But I've seen the 9th link, "len pa", translated that way also. The basis problem seems to be grasping to a false mode of existence in objects. My own take is that desire is ok, it's ignorant desire that is faulty–that is desire with an attachment to an object's false mode of existence. The higher teachings may depend to some extent on this distinction between ignorant desire and desire. Perhaps it's what is meant by "liberate desire on arising".

            But I also don't know if these are the same "attachment" which has been translated from the Vinaya. So if we want to make an inference about GMR's mental state to determine whether he acted "with attachment" and therefore broke one or more vows, we have to know what "attachment" means in the Vinaya sense of the word, and then determine if the quote in the NY Post is good enought to infer something about his mental state. And, knowing the Tibetans, my guess is that there's several possible interpretations; it's debatable etc. I don't think this is an easy inference problem.

          • ekanthomason says:

            The complications around the word attachment may be why the Dalai Lama has used the word 'lustful'. To me that is pretty clear.

          • Tenor says:

            "The basis problem seems to be grasping to a false mode of existence in objects. My own take is that desire is ok, it's ignorant desire that is faulty–that is desire with an attachment to an object's false mode of existence."

            The problem is that even 9th ground Arya Bodhisattvas are only free of the appearance of the 'false mode of existence' when they are in a meditative session of direct realization of emptiness. When they get off the cushion, they have the dualistic appearance of inherent existence. Buddhas are distinguished from highest Arya Bodhisattvas because all of their perceptions are direct perceptions that include the direct realization of Emptiness.

            On the other hand 'attachment' or 'desire' is useful for sentient beings on the Path – e.g., desire for enlightenment — while aversion towards beings is not.

          • ekanthomason says:

            Well said Zirconia and anonymous.

            Khensur Rinpoche Tharchin, his teacher, did not ask for just any random miracle. He asked for a specific miracle according to his classmate:

            "My friend in California showed a Geshe at one of the temples there People magazine. The Geshe said, "Oh, I went to school with Geshe Michael at the Monastery. We went around together with Geshe Tharchin [not yet the abbot, he would become Khen Rhinpoche Tharchin] to visit houses.

            Geshe Michael grew his hair, Geshe Tharchin told him to cut it. Geshe Michael went around with women, Geshe Tharchin told him not to. Big thing was – Geshe Michael told Geshe Tharchin, "I have perceived Emptiness directly."

            Geshe Tharchin said, "That's interesting. If you have perceived Emptiness directly you have Power, see that brick over there? Turn that brick into gold."

            My friend asked the California Geshe if Geshe Michael was able to turn the brick into gold, the answer was, "No."

            mi mthun dpe, it seems like every angle has been covered on this forum using authoritative sources: Geshe Michael's own words, Khensur Rinpoche (his teacher), a fellow geshe classmate, and the Dalai Lama.

          • Tenor says:

            Maybe I've not read the thread carefully enough, so my apologies if this is a repetitive comment.

            A monk, fully ordained or a novice, breaks the monastic vow re chastity 'at the root' (and is therefore no long a monk) if he penetrates an orifice (with or without emission). Emission can be purified through confession, etc., else it would be very hard for anyone to remain a monk. Emission breaks tantric vows but my understanding that doing so does not break those vows 'at the root' in the sense that penetration breaks monastic vows. Furthermore, tantra vows can be taken over and over or purified in self-initiation.

          • Karen says:

            Tenor – you're back! Nice to hear from you, this must mean that summer is really over.

            So, how does this work? Is the person still a monk? Or are they now a former monk with ongoing purified, retaken tantric vows and self-initiations?

          • Karen says:

            Would you mind clarifying the differences in the vows and what that means in relation to being a monk, rather than being a lay practitioner of tantra? Thanks.

          • Tenor says:

            If one is a monk, one may not take a human 'mudra', i.e., human consort. Because monastics are completely prohibited from engaging in sexual penetration: Period. No debate.

            Monastics are not prohibited from training for or engaging in far more advanced tantric practices (than human consort practice), however, Two of my pure monastic teachers have engaged in over two-weeks of post-death tantric meditation in recent years! In fact, training for post-death clear light tantric meditation (not human consort meditation) is stressed over and over in Geluk Geluk sadhana practice. In this life, advanced Geluk monastic tantric practitioners also train in dream yoga as preparation for the Olympic event, post-death meditation.

            The whole purpose Higher Yoga Tantra and any its 'mudra' practices is to access or generate the Clear Light Mind for a sufficiently long period of time that one can engaged in a controlled, focused meditation on the ultimate nature of reality. That Clear Light Mind can be aroused and then maintained (for a relatively short period) in sexual union and arises naturally (and can be maintained for a longer period) in sleep and at death (when it can be extended for the longest period).

            Buddhist Tantric Yogis, having trained to develop control of their directly perceiving Mental Consciousness (when then becomes a "Yogic Direct Perceiver") advance to gain control over the most subtle levels of consciousness, the Clear Light Mind.

          • Karen says:

            Thank you Tenor, this is very helpful and takes the discussion to a higher level.

          • Tenor says:

            Thank you, Karen.

          • swan says:

            How do nocturnal emissions fit in here?

          • Tenor says:

            One cannot "break" any of the classes of Buddhist vows while dreaming. So even if one kills a human being in a dream, one does not break one's vows. Although, if one is keeping one's vows purely (in one's mind and conduct), then one will not ;break them even in dreams.

            Novice monastics take far fewer vows related to sexual behavior than fully ordained monks and nuns as traditionally most novices were adolescents or young adults.

          • swan says:

            Thank you for clarifying that.

          • anonymous says:

            I think the only reading necessary is this:

            'Though Geshe Michael talks with only diplomatic grace about his former partner and maintains the relationship wasn't romantic, he is clearly heartbroken. "It's difficult to keep it spiritual," he admits. "We were trained since childhood to think of a partner as romantic, and I don't think anyone truly overcomes that. There's still a little high school stuff going on, but it's a good lesson."'


          • ekanthomason says:

            It is a forfeiting downfall for a monk to retaining cloth for 10 days. If someone who has taken bodhisattva vows was involved in some project to take cloth to some village for the benefit of its inhabitants, my understanding is, this is an example of how a lower vow would be 'trumped' because of the bodhisattva ideal and motivation.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            >But if the right boddhisattva motivation trumps all vows and one can do
            >what one wishes if only the motivation is right,
            >why would Buddha have given vows at all?

            To tame beings in this Saha world

          • Karen says:

            Hi mi mthun dpe, again, just to be clear I'm not talking about Pratimoksha vows, rather about full Bhikshu monastic ordination, given by an abbot at Sera Mey.

            I think I take issue with your basic point (way above by now), which seems to be – it doesn't matter if all the vows regarding prohibitions against (amongst others things): touching jewels, dancing, wearing ornaments, playing musical instruments, touching any part of a woman (skin, hair, etc) with any attachment, openly talking about sex, travelling or living with a woman, knowingly lying, encouraging a female to engage in sexual contact with oneself as a form of offering, and personally making arrangements to unite a male and female that lead to a sexual encounter (consorts) ….are broken as long as the woman is touched with a mind free of attachment.

            Those broken vows are still broken.

            But let's talk about the woman touched without attachment. We both know that only the monk knows what was in his mind. However, common sense suggests that a husband living in a yurt for three years with his wife might possibly have a moment of attachment, don't you think?

            I'm married, do you really expect me to believe that this is possible? How long did this marriage go on? There was a lot of travelling together – not more than 15 ft apart, was that the distance (sounds like attachment right there)? Not a single moment of attachment? Really?

            If you imply that the monk in question was so superhuman that he was above all human appetites and attachments, then why are there so many inconsistencies everywhere, a lie of omission regarding the marriage, a changing bio, changing stories?

            I would say that being honest with oneself is essential in order to be honest with the world. If someone is less than honest with the world, I suspect he may be deceiving himself. At best.

            The monks I know who have given back their robes almost universally did so because they were thinking about women. Just thinking about women. Not living with them, travelling with or being married to one. They were very honest with themselves about their attachment.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            >Those broken vows are still broken

            Have you ever met GMR?

          • Karen says:

            Sorry, I've been away from my computer. You're absolutely right, I've never met GMR, we would probably get along, we have a lot in common. I have read quite a bit written by him and by people who know him, however, and I do have questions.

            I never met Ian Thorson, a brother in Dharma, either, yet I'll be doing Prayers for the Dead for him tomorrow because the 49 Day prayers were not done at Diamond Mountain, as far as I can discover.

            If there was no attachmen or jealosy at Diamond Mountain why were the 49 Day Prayers not done for Ian?

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            >the 49 Day prayers were not done at Diamond Mountain, as far as I can >discover.

            How did you discover that?

          • Karen says:

            Over the past few months I've been in and out of contact with various good hearted people who I have no intention of betraying. Diamond Mountain's students are a good crew. That's the last I'll say about that.

          • ekanthomason says:

            mi mthun dpe – Karen answered your question, but you have not answered hers yet. "If there was no attachmen or jealosy at Diamond Mountain why were the 49 Day Prayers not done for Ian?"

            I never learned the 49 day prayers as part of my studies at DM. My experience is that we only had moments of silence for the departed ones. I don't have any idea of what was done or not done for Ian's benefit. I do know that Roach made no reference to Ian during his teaching in Phoenix and day 49 was during that teaching. Sometimes it is what is missing that tells the story.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            >"If there was no attachmen or jealosy at Diamond Mountain
            >why were the 49 Day Prayers not done for Ian?"

            If I understand the question correctly, it's not about GMR being jealous/attached (and not DMU or "all the people at DMU"). So I guess the theory is this: GMR is jealous of Ian, and because of that, he doesn't do any prayers for him. Out of jealousy, he wants Ian to have a lower birth. Or he's just indifferent to Ian's death. Or maybe he's happy about it. Is that it? Of course, it could be true–people have all kinds of crazy emotions–but I think this scenario is unlikely.

            So what did GMR personally do or not do in the way of prayers and ritual? Well someone should ask him because that's better than speculating here. but I personally have no idea what the answer to this question is.

          • Eirene says:

            I have been following your post here. And I have to commend you on being the only poster here who does NOT rate his or her own posts. Everyone else does. That is why your posts sometimes still have a zero rating when I come across them. Everyone, and I mean everyone, gives the thumbs up to his or her own posts immediately after hitting the submit button. People may see you as slightly arrogant. But truly you are the "only" person here who cares less what others think. I gives you two thumbs up for that.

          • Ben says:

            You are mistaken.

          • Eirene says:

            Please explain.

          • ekanthomason says:

            For one thing, when a person is logged in, as many of us are, there is an automatic thumbs up, over which we have no control. I also see many people who are not logged in that do not give themselves a thumbs up.
            Try logging in.
            If you are going to speculate, best ought to know how things work.

          • Eirene says:

            Do you ever rate your own posts…not by default, but by scoring them on purpose? Be honest. mi mthun dpe never does. Ever.

          • ekanthomason says:

            It is impossible to do when you are logged in. Like I say, try it.

          • Eirene says:

            I believe you. But, have you ever logged out to rate one of your posts? I'm not trying to be mean. I'm just saying mthun dpe is the only person whose posts go without being rated. When I see them, I rate them, cause I hate to see them as zeros. He is very humble when it comes to keeping score.

          • Zirconia says:

            I'd think most people are not so concerned about thumb counts as you are. That's not why people make comments here. I'd hate to think you have nothing else to add other than discussing thumbs.

          • ekanthomason says:

            I logged out once about 3 months ago to make an anonymous comment and not since.

          • anonymous2 says:

            There's a camaraderie here that leads to a lot of thumbing up. mi mthun dpe represents an unpopular point of view and was less than compassionate at times, s/he has become an integral part of the discussion lately. Probably more thumbs up will follow.

          • Karen says:

            I just recently found out that the yellow blob next to some names is a counter, as well. Honestly, I don't think thumb counts are the currency here.

          • Akira says:

            Agree. Especially when anyone with half a brain can vote.

          • Karen says:

            I've been told that the yellow blob comes with officially signing in (with an icon), apparently you can't get rid of it.

            Akira, which half of the brain do you think votes? ; )

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            >If you are going to speculate, best ought to know how >things work.

            this is very good advice

          • Reader says:

            And if you don't know how things really work, you can always ask mi mthun dpe because he/she knows everything.

          • anonymous says:

            Did you rate your own post?

          • Pfffft! says:

            Not every poster 'thumbs' their commenting, is what Ben means. And Ben is right. What makes you so knowledgeable, Eirene, to claim the opposite?

          • anonymous says:

            She was a high school psychologist for twenty-five years. Experience. Observation.

          • ekanthomason says:

            This is not high school!
            We are discussing important issues that seriously impact people's lives. Observing thumb counts rather than the glaring issues brought forward seems like one more attempt to create division and derail the discussion. I hope this is the end of it. I don't think anyone is really interested in such juvenile things and engaging with antagonists accomplishes nothing.

          • Human says:

            I couldn't help myself Ekan, I gave you a thumbs up 😉

          • Khedrup says:

            You hit the nail on the head. Let's practice what the Buddhists call "appropriate attention". To the discussion.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            thank you for the two thumbs up. and I'll try to be less arrogant; that's a helpful comment also.

          • Karen says:

            Hi mi mthun dpe, I'm going to pop in here because I'm not sure where this is going to show up on the thread above. I'm responding to your reply about attachment and jealousy.

            But first – I think it's just writing style that had been getting in people's way before. I don't think you're arrogant, it was sort of a pointiness that I don't see in your posts anymore.

            Yes, it had been in my mind that there was aversion on Michael's part, quite a few of his students here mentioned that Michael said he struggles with jealosy. It would be a very normal feeling for anyone.

            But, honestly, it had not been in my mind to think that he would have wished for Ian to have a lower rebirth. I don't think that way and I don't believe Michael Roach or anyone here or at DM would think that way.

            What I was asking was – why there wasn't an organized 49 day prayer at DM with everyone participating? As would have been done at most of the temples and dharma centers when one of the students who's been there for a long time dies.

            There was less implied than you might think, it was a genuine question of concern. What happened? Was it shock?

            It just doesn't make sense to me, I want to be clear that my question isn't a loaded message. It really is a straight forward question.

          • Kevin says:

            I guess this is an appropriate place to add this publicly as I have relayed to Karen privately that, according to one of my friends who lives at DM, there was a service for Ian that people did with the structure derived from the suggestions of everyone present. This is the only description that I have heard.

          • Corvid says:

            roach's little self serving note gives the company live…Ian was crazy and Chisty wanted to be saved from this dangerous madman…Roach saw it in her eyes…..Roach and his upper level apologists have tried to write Ian's obituary (just a dead stray). It sickens me….

          • Ben says:

            For honesty's sake, I think it is important to reiterate the Ian did have an issue with violence especially towards his partners. One of my criticisms was that Ian was allowed into the retreat with Christie, even though people knew of this issue.

            IMO. what should have ben done was a thorough screening of retreatants to ensure their ability to deal with the isolation. It seemed the priorities were to get as many people into retreat as possible and to have the retreat start in 2010.

            Once it was known that violence did occur (through Christies "Great Retreat Teachings") GMR and the board had both a legal and moral obligation to do somethine. Could you imagine how it would be if they did nothing, allowed Ian and Christie to continue the retreat and one of them ended up dead?

            There may have been things said which aren't true and truths left unrevealed but based on what is known (including what Christie writes in "A Shift in the Matrix"), the board tried to find out if Ian and Christie should be allowed to continue the retreat, they were rebuffed and had no other option but to expell the couple.

          • corvid says:

            Ben, there were at least 5 couples that should never been allowed in retreat (.two still remain) the negative picture of Ian painted by Roach backers and some neutral observers like you may have some factual basis but this is all on Roach.If the first retreat wasn't such a fraud followed by this goddess BS he put out to save his robes this rushed fiasco might have been run by senior nuns rather than the confused Lama Christie .Roach didn't step in until Christie started to talk about the first retreat in a negative way 10 months after the knife incident. Outsiders like me and Dave the miner laughed at the idea of Christine and Daniel being in a cabin without boxing gloves…they were given the task of build the peace garden….jeez

          • Ben says:

            "Roach didn't step in until Christie started to talk about the first retreat in a negative way 10 months after the knife incident. '

            If you have more details about what Christie said negatively about the first retreat, please share. As far as I recall, the only thing that brought on the "investigation" was Christie taking about the violence which happened during the current retreat.

            And, for the record, I don't consider myself a "neutral observer". I think there are legitimate complaints to be lodged about how the retreat was carried out, the claims of unbroken lineage, the "lamaship" of Christie and others, the abuse of the student/disciple relationship, and the claims of the efficacy of "Karmic Management".

          • corvid says:

            After Ians death in response to something I posted in the Range news i heard from 2 McNally family members and one friend..The friend,who was very angry about the whole "Christie-on-a-15' Rope" deal for years said Christie was coming out from under Roach's spell and was giving out hints she wasn't going to keep the private deal struck with Roach after she hooked up with Ian (not to speak about past questionable practices) Roach saw the writing on the wall and struck first (hey, being a bit paranoid with a 180 IQ does come in handy sometimes) the knife ritual therapy-rite was just the excuse to rid him of this turbulent priestess.Being next door to these guys I too worry about this knife stuff and think one yuppies "bad performance art" might be a crazy true believers path to my place…yikes!
            A new guy looking into the rescue day commented that Christie not pushing the red button on the spot (911) but never dreaming it would take 10 hours for help to arrive was sort of a Romeo and Juliet moment (Romeo not getting the note until it was too late for him) and if Ian would have lived might have led to a retreat showdown over who to follow Christie or Roach by the people in retreat. What a trial that would have been on the debate ground!

          • ekanthomason says:

            No mi mthun dpe. I think Karen's question is, why weren't the 49 day prayers done at DM?

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            Kevin indicated that there was a service. It's hearsay–he wasn't there, like most of the info about DMU that gets posted here.

            So there are three possibilities, at least:
            1. the service Kevin mentioned included the "49 day prayers"
            2. it didn't include those prayers
            3. other people at DMU did 49 day prayers, solely or in groups (ie retreatants) and Kevin's and Karent's friends don't know about it

            So we know that at least one ritual was done for Ian and we don't know what it was. Maybe the 49 day prayer would have been better than whatever was done–more effective, more powerful–but who knows what really works after people die?

            I don't want to belabor this with fine-pointed scrutiny, but from my seat in the gallery, this kind of questioning won't yield good results until we clarify the purpose of the question: is the goal to understand the death practices at DMU? to make some assessment about how loving or indifferent DMU is to Ian's death? Is it to understand if they are doing the right practices/the most powerful ones?

            I don't understand the purpose of the question any more

          • mi fan says:

            You "are" the sharpest knife in the drawer. I feel your frustration, man.

          • Kevin says:

            You are absolutely right, it is hearsay — which is why I clearly indicated it as such by saying that I was quoting someone else. Hearsay does not mean untrue, but rather not verifiable via that source. And so according to my source, #2 of your options would be true and #3 is an open question. I believe the purpose of the original question was to find out if that particular set of prayers had been done which is why I asked someone who was there.

          • Tenor says:

            Hearsay refers to 'evidence' that you can not testify to based upon your own experience but only based upon what someone else has said or reported to you. 99.9% (just a round estimate) of our knowledge base derives from hearsay.

          • Zirconia says:

            Thus have I heard.

          • Kevin says:

            Yes to that.

          • also concerned says:

            Didn't Karen make arrangements for a monk to go to Diamond Mountain to conduct a fire puja? Did that fall through?

          • Kevin says:

            The prayers were not at DM. They were part of a puja Karen was participating in on 8/26. Karen offered to do prayers for any deceased loved ones of people participating in this discussion, she included Ian, and for me she said prayers for my mother. Karen emailed me that the puja did happen.

          • also concerned says:

            Thanks Kevin.

          • Karen says:

            Hi Kevin, hi also concerned, yes, the puja happened, it was quite beautiful.

          • also concerned says:

            That's great to hear. Thank you Karen.

          • best stay low says:

            9 of us, as I've posted months ago, from the campground and town got together at Matt G's place in Bowie about 3 days after the failed-rescue, had a very quiet, personal, intense puja for Ian in the backyard, then went inside, consumed whatever we wanted and rocked out. The members of the board were invited. None of them showed.

          • Karen says:

            Thanks, best stay low, I guess I never saw your post. Lots of love to all of you.

          • Kevin says:

            You seem very well versed in buddhist teachings — don't use knowledge to make yourself less intelligent, in other words, finding loopholes for GMR's bad behavior. I have met GMR, many times

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            Kevin, I'm not trying to find loopholes for bad behavior–I'm focused, mostly, on whether 1) certain behaviors are ever permissible, ) under what conditions they are permitted 3) given 1 and 2, what reasoned judgements can we make about the behavior of teachers and fellow students

            At the end of the day, each of us has make an individual assessment. And some of this hinges on our understanding of the three sets of vows.–both what they mean and how they interact with each other

          • Kevin says:

            I apologize for using the wording "less intelligent". That was rude of me.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            thanks but I didn't take any offense

          • Tenor says:

            I have. He was invited by a center related to mine to teach on Vinaya for the weekend. Our mutual hosts sat me next to him at the Sunday luncheon and informed me that he had spent the entire night with Christie and Ora in his room. So I asked him two questions: (1) Why as a gelong did you spend the entire night in a room alone with the two lovely ladies? He replied that they were doing puja 'all night long.' (2) [He had gotten quite irate at the thought of people stepping on Roaches and angrily announced that they were going to go to Hell and have their 'backs broken.' I asked why a poor mother, living in ghetto housing where the landlords didn't spray for insects should have to go to Hell for trying to protect her child from disease while rich people whose landlords routinely handle pest extermination as part of the lease payments would not? He actually did not answer the question.

          • best kept low says:

            mi mthun dpe (for those of you who don't know) is gmr sneaking in to this thread.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            I'm not GMR, sorry.

          • anonymous says:

            Jerry, you forgot to change your name after you posted this thread:

            >> best stay low · 1 day ago

            Last week in the Jamyang House Ven. Lobsang Chukyi said, and I quote, having heard her say it, "We only teach Geshe Michael's lineage here." To which 'Hell's Kitchen' or whatever he calls himself on this here thread, when i repeated this to him verbatim, responded, "What lineage?" Hey, kids, what time is it?

          • corvid says:

            not me,,hey ,more members and caretakers are sick of having to take Roach's side in this thing than you want to admit..speak up you get shunned like the Mormons

          • Tenor says:

            In the context of Monastic Vinaya vows relating to conduct with the opposite sex, 'with attachment' is polite for 'with sexual lust' or as President Carter put it, 'with lust in the heart'. Not in frequently in other context, 'with attachment' specifically means with sexual feelings rather than the general spectrum of attachment-neutrality-aversion that characterizes every single thought and behavior of samsaric beings.

          • Khedrup says:

            Ascertaining the Three Vows is an excellent guidebook for laypeople who want to better understand the Vinaya as well as bodhisattva and tantric vows. It was written by a great Nyingma lay yogi, Dudjom Rinpoche.
            The aim of many of these monastic vows mentioned is to prevent the accumulation of wealth. This activity is considered a huge obstacle on the path to liberation as one's finances demand a large amount of time and effort. Monks and nuns vows protect them from becoming too immersed in such pursuits. I believe that this is the spirit of the vows such as not touching precious metals etc.

            When Tibetan monks gild statues, for example, they recite a special verse to request permission to touch precious metals for the sake of the doctrine and sentient beings. These recitations help one retain a mindfulness about the vows and that the wealth is being touched to make offerings to the Buddhas, not to enrich oneself.

            In the Tibetan tradition, the Bodhisattva precepts indicate that any wealth should be used for the benefit of sentient beings. So great teachers do not raise money to build houses for themselves alone, etc. Most of the lamas I know give away with the other hand what they receive for the maintenance of the monasteries. This allows the monks here to study , debate and practice full-time, unhindered by worrying about making a living. This precious privilege has allowed many monks in the history of the great monasteries to practice to the point of realization.

            The Buddhist precept of Ahimsa, or non-harmfulness, is one of the core principles of the doctrine and the precept most emphasized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Certainly the diamond industry does not seem to be one which abides by this precept. The mining situation in Mongolia is actually quite terrible. The type of mining being done there is ravaging the once pristine environment and poisoning the water.

            Ironically, some of the beliefs that were dismissed as "superstitious" in this forum were an integral part of protecting the environment. Because of the Buddhist belief in unseen beings – nagas etc. living in trees and under the ground, mining was largely seen as an undesireable practice in Tibet. This helped to preserve the environment. Unfortunately, this has changed since China's invasion.

          • cloverlear says:

            Thank you Khedrup

          • Karen says:

            Thank you, Khedrup-la. I just want to mention something – with all respect, as a Gelug monk you couldn't know that Ascertaining the Three Vows was actually written by a Nyingma Maha Pandita: Ngari Panchen Pema Wangyi Gyalpo b. 1487 – d. 1542. It's now close to 500 years old, it was commented on by the great Nyingma yogi Dudjom Rinpoche. It's been in circulation for a long time.

          • Khedrup says:

            Hello Karen!
            Thanks so much for the correction! Indeed I stand corrected. I wonder why I connected Dudjom Rinpoche with the text, maybe he wrote a commentary or introduction to it?

            It shows I really need to brush up on my knowledge of the Nyingma tradition again. I had the book years ago but never gave it the full attention it deserved.

          • Khedrup says:

            Sorry, in transit and not fully focused!. Reading your comment more carefully, I see you mention the commentary by Dudjom Rinpoche!

          • Karen says:

            I think knowing Gelug is enough. You're a translator, as well – right?

          • cloverleaf says:

            Thank you Karen

          • Karen says:

            Hi cloverleaf, thanks for sparking this thread.

          • Karen says:

            suekrag, thank you, I mean to make that to both of you.

          • suekrag says:

            Thanks for the response, Karen. Through my yoga studio I know people who are Roach/Marut devotees and I was always confused as to why they weren't critical of Roach's business practices. I guess it's a case of cognitive dissonance. Thanks for clarifying the point.

          • cloverleaf says:

            "I guess it's a case of cognitive dissonance"

            I believe it was Mark Twain who said:
            "It is easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled"

            Thanks for this thread, Suekrag.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            GMR joined Andin in the early 80's; the first documented information about the roles diamonds played in African conflicts weren't widespread until the late 90s. GMR has said that the issues weren't known in his early days in the diamond business. He has also said that there were issue of corruption, but mostly shady practices–I think things like tax evasion and kickbacks were common practices.

            Anyway, cognitive dissonance is one possible reason: another is that the students in your yoga class have heard his explanation and accept it.

          • Zirconia says:

            Please explain why you choose to believe that “GMR joined Andin in the early 80's” and not after getting the geshe degree in 1995, as Geshe-la spake here:

          • Kevin says:

            He can't seem to keep any of his stories straight. If we look at his "Essays to Answer Questions from …" EJ. he states that he was able to attend lectures because, "I worked it out pretty well because, luckily, the diamonds that my firm in New York needed to buy came mostly from Mumbai—I could take off on a buying trip and be on the debate ground in less than a day after any program was announced." This comes right before the sub-heading Examinations for the Geshe Degree.

          • suekrag says:

            "the first documented information about the roles diamonds played in African conflicts weren't widespread until the late 90sGMR has said that the issues weren't known in his early days in the diamond business."

            Is one to think that Michel Roach believed that the metals and gems coming out of Africa were procured under ethical labor conditions, i.e. fair wages, reasonable hours, safety protections? I can't see how any educated adult at any point in the 20th century could have thought this and certainly not a very intelligent, highly educated person doing business in Africa. It's absurd.

            After searching for three minutes I found this 1978 article published in the New York Times that describes the abject misery of diamond miners in Africa.
            Diamond Mines Fear Future; Africa Politics Cause Worry:

            I'm sure I could find much more evidence that the conditions of the diamond workers was available to any person who cared to find out.

            But that aside, let's say Roach didn't know. Shouldn't the fact that he built a fortune on the backs of brutalized wage slaves be addressed more intricately than oops, I didn't know? Other than cognitive dissonance, I don't understand how people buy his line of reasoning on this issue.

          • corvid says:

            I have heard the "built a fortune" story is just that ,a story to impress new members.

          • ain't gonna cut it says:

            "Is one to think that Michel Roach believed that the metals and gems coming out of Africa were procured under ethical labor conditions, i.e. fair wages, reasonable hours, safety protections? I can't see how any educated adult at any point in the 20th century could have thought this and certainly not a very intelligent, highly educated person doing business in Africa. It's absurd."

            I agree. I knew about 'blood' diamonds before then and I am not in the business.

            His excuse sounds like a textile owner who claims to not know about about labor abuses in India or china

            I thought he knew everything about the diamond business. Isn't that what he claimed…that he was an apprentice then became a master. Sorry, he knew.

          • ekanthomason says:

            mi mthun dpe – It is interesting choice of words to say 'joined Andin' rather than founded Andin as Roach claims. Did you by any chance know him back then?

      • suekrag says:

        Thanks for the responses, Hell's Janitor, Ben and cloverleaf.

    • Zirconia says:

      suekrag, thanks for the questions.

      1) "Andin International Diamond Corporation" never existed. Andin International Inc was never a diamond business. Does that tell you something? I'll write a separate post.
      2) I don't know what you meant by "festishized".

  24. ekanthomason says:

    The Diamond Cutter Institute webpage says,
    "The Diamond Cutter Institute offers one important new idea to make all these things happen….If we receive careful training on how to plant and nurture the right seeds, then we have the power to make any dream we want come true in our life, right now."
    This is what Michael Roach is teaching in his business seminars.

    It is interesting that this 'new idea' on karmic management is in sharp contrast to what he taught in the Asian Classic Institute classes Course 5 on karma. An excerpt from 'class notes' is below.

    "Two things that will make karma ripen in this life:
    1.) SHING GI KYEPAR object distinctive
    A powerful object is one that can benefit many beings, or beings who have just come out of various high states.

    2.) SAMPAY KYEPAR thought distinctive
    Doing a deed toward a "distinctive" (powerful) object.
    Deed done with an extraordinary motivation or thought.
    The object or thought must be powerful enough to cause the karma to ripen in this life. Tantra is based upon this."

    "Examples of powerful objects which will cause karmic results to ripen in this life:
    1.) Someone who has just come out of cessation meditation for the first time. Anything you do toward them at that moment becomes very powerful.
    2.) Someone who just came out of immeasurable love or no-mind meditation for the first time. They are very close to liberation.
    3.) Someone who has just come out of seeing emptiness for the first time.
    4.) Someone who just became an Arhant."

    The odds of running into someone like this are pretty rare.

    Roach used to market his ideas as time tested 'ancient ideas' and now he is marketing them as 'new ideas'. I wonder where this idea of instant karma for business owners came from. It is interesting to watch the evolution.

    • svan says:

      Anybody remember est? now known as "The Landmark Forum"

    • Ben says:

      "The odds of running into someone like this are pretty rare."

      And yet the most common reason DM students give when I ask them why they believe that this karmic management works is that they have done it. They've planted the seeds and received what they wanted. Christie used to talk about how something will happen and she will be able to recall what she did a few weeks ago to make it happen.

      It's always been hokum but GMR changing things makes it more obvious that he knows it's hokum.

  25. corvid says:

    Michael Roach and fellow Western China lackeys just keep helping China

    • corvid says:

      Shenzhen, China
      September 4, 2012
      DCI Public Talk

      i was thinking about Roach this morning as i walked with a friend of Ian's up to the little monument for him at my goofy little Boot Hill..This guy and I talked about Tibet and the young monks lighting themselves on fire to protest China's brutal rule.and the insult to Tibet Roach speaking at a public talk. does to the people of Tibet.
      This platform would give him a great opportunity to turn this scandal aside if he would give a speech demanding withdrawal from Tibet..followed up(after he got out of prison) by a PR effort to free Tibet (Think Brad Pitt……drum circles..Kali dancing knife shit you name it) If he would do that i will kiss his tire tracks the next time he visits the Prisoners of dharma up hear in Bowie.

      • Khedrup says:

        I would love for MR to publicly make a statement for Tibet during his tour. Don't forget that Richard Gere had the courage to do it as part of his Academy Award acceptance speech! Now that is courage worthy of respect.

    • corvid says:

      Exiled Tibetans monks chant prayers during a rally for Tamdin Thar, who burned himself to death in India in June.
      A Tibetan monk who set himself on fire this week in a southwestern town that has become a flashpoint for protests against Chinese rule has died, an exile group said on Thursday.
      The man, named as Tashi and in his 20s, died of his injuries a day after he and another monk set light to themselves on Monday, according to the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.
      The other monk, named as Langtag, died on Monday after the protest in southwestern Sichaun province's Aba county, which prompted clashes between residents and police.

      The two monks were from Aba's Kirti monastery, which has been under extremely tight security since a monk self-immolated in March 2011, kicking off the recent wave of such protests.
      Since then nearly 50 ethnic Tibetans, many of them monks and nuns, have set themselves on fire to protest at what they say is religious repression.

      Read more:

  26. WhenWhyWhere says:

    Exactly when and where was Geshe Michael ordained? In Howell NJ in the 1970's? 1980's? At Sera Mey Monastery in the 1970's, 1980's 1990's? Who ordained him?

    Didn't someone on the last forum say they saw him in robes in the library at Dharmsala smiling from ear to ear in the 70's?

    • ekanthomason says:

      What an interesting thought! I remember the eye-witness account that you are speaking about of someone stating they saw Roach in robes in the 1970's in India. I wish I had thought to ask for more details. If you are still reading, please provide us with more information.

      mi mthun dpe brought up an important point. There are 8 types of pratimoksha vows. Two of those apply to a monk: 1. Novice Monk Vows and 2. Full-ordination Monk Vows (253 vows). It is my understanding that novice vows are always given before full-ordination, which gives the monk a chance to try it out before taking on the additional vows. Please correct me if I am wrong.

      I have read through Michael Roach's "Essays to Answer Questions from my Friends" and can only find one reference to his ordination, which was in 1983. Roach claims in his most recent biography that in "1983 he granted me monk’s vows", speaking of Khensur Rinpoche Tharchin. In addition, his Wikipedia page only gives one ordination date.

      He also says of his time in India, "Rinpoche insisted that I wear a business suit until my ordination day, which was pretty incongruous in the mud and heat of what was at that time a refugee camp." If Michael Roach were a novice monk, it seems logical that he would have had a right to wear robes. I conclude from his statements that he received novice monk's vows in 1983.

      Why did someone see him in robes in the 1970's, when his own teacher said he had to wear his business suit until 1983? Why doesn't he mention his full-ordination ceremony? Is it possible he never took more than novice monk vows?

      It is very sad when you have to question such basic things because so much information out there is a smoke screen.

      • ekanthomason says:

        I just found his comment:

        Jhampa Chodzin · 7 weeks ago

        How do you honestly feel about MR?

        Hmmm… maybe I should first say that I was a classmate of MR in ‘74 & ‘75 at the Library in Dharamsala. We weren’t close, and I remember him as being slightly spaced-out (though maybe we all were) but a very dedicated and hard working Dharma student. I did see him in robes once, not sure who he received them from. I only became aware of this whole controversy when surfing the NY Times website a few weeks ago.

        To be honest, and at risk of pissing off some of the more conservative folks on this site, I’m not particularly offended that MR continues to wear robes. The robes are simply a prop, a team uniform, a costume. They facilitate assuming the role as ‘teacher’. Whether he should be wearing robes or not is really between MR and whoever gave him those robes.

      • Zirconia says:

        “Under an additional scholarship from Princeton, he undertook a semester of studies abroad at Tibetan institutes of higher learning and completed his senior thesis on the subject of the perfection of giving in Tibetan Buddhism. Immediately after graduation from Princeton in 1975, Geshe Michael was accepted as a novitiate at Rashi Gempil Ling, a small monastery in the American-Mongolian community of Howell, New Jersey …. In 1983, Geshe Michael became the first westerner ever accepted for studies at Sera Mey; he was enrolled in Gyalrong College and ordained as a full Buddhist monk.”

        • ekanthomason says:

          So, if he was already a monk, why didn't Khen Rinpoche let him wear his robes before his full-ordination?
          Why didn't he mention his 'novitiate' status in his very very lengthily exhaustive bio? That seems like the place to start. That is where I would start.
          This seems very odd to me. Perhaps some ordained person can comment on this.

          • Khedrup says:

            Hi Ekan,
            This is indeed very odd. Actually, one of the vows involves abandoning the signs of a layperson, this means wearing the robes.
            In exceptional circumstances like if if it not safe to wear them in one's community a lama might make an exception, and one can confess and purify the vow (it is not a root vow, it is one of the minor ones).
            But if Geshe Michael had the novice or even pre-novice/postulant (Tib. rabjung) ordination, he would have been permitted to wear robes. (rabjungs can wear the red upper and lower robe but not the yellow chogu/dharma robe).
            It seems very weird that his teacher would give him this instruction – especially at Sera, where everyone wears robes and there would have been no reason not to.

          • ekanthomason says:

            Khedrup – Is it possible for someone to receive both novice and full ordination at the same time? Is it possible that novice is all Roach ever had?

          • Khedrup says:

            They cannot be received at the same time. There are two separate ceremonies. But I know of at least one monk who took the novice ordination and in the same day the full ordination. He just went through both the ceremonies, this is totally possible.
            In Theravada countries like Thailand for men 21 and over they give the full ordination right away, with elements of the novice ordination incorporated. This is because their view is that if one is of age it is better to take the full ordination as novice is a training for the younger.

          • Khedrup says:

            Even the rabjungs (postulant monks without actual vows, who have made promise to ordain) wear part of the robes. The rabjung ordination is the only ordination that a geshe or lama can give by themselves, without a quorum of monks. But to give the rabjung/"going forth", one's own continuum of vows should be pure.

          • Zirconia says:

            He started working at Andin in 1981, 2 years before full ordination, and was wearing regular clothes at work. “One rule my Tibetan Lama had given me about going to work in a normal business office was that I keep quiet about being a Buddhist. I was to wear my hair at normal length (rather than shaved), and dress in normal clothes.

            Perhaps Khen Rinpoche wanted to emphasize a transformation from within and without? “Rinpoche insisted that I wear a business suit until my ordination day, which was pretty incongruous in the mud and heat of what was at that time a refugee camp.”

          • ekanthomason says:

            Thanks Khedrup – I went looking for old photos of Michael Roach and I found a newspaper clipping from May 30, 1979. Michael Roach is shown debating with his master, but he is not wearing robes. I have taken a screen capture of the newspaper photo.

            I found a second photo of Michael Roach teaching children debate in 1978. Again, he is not wearing robes and his hair is normal. I have screen captured it.

            In both cases, Roach does not have the short hair of a monk and he is NOT in robes. This is huge! If he had taken novice vows, he would have "abandoned the signs of a layperson".

            Why does it matter? Zirconia quoted directly from Michael, "Immediately after graduation from Princeton in 1975, Geshe Michael was accepted as a novitiate at Rashi Gempil Ling."

            Roach stated in his lengthly bio, "1983 he granted me monk’s vows." If he had novice vows in 1975 as he claims in his webpage bio, he would not have stated it like that. Those words have the tone of appreciation one uses to refer to the first vows one is given.

            It was during this time, from 1975 to 1981 that Roach claims to have lived full time at the temple serving his lama. Why wasn't he in robes if he was a novice?

            If Michael Roach got both novice and full-ordination on the same day, I am sure he would have loved telling that story. So what is up with all of this?

          • Khedrup says:

            This is very strange. That he would be in the Temple, with his master dressed in monks robes, and be wearing lay clothes. It just seems very very odd that during dharma teachings and activities he would be wearing layclothes inside a temple.
            I guess the only way to find out what happened would be to see if there is someone who was around that time in Howell/Gepheling.

          • ekanthomason says:

            Right. It is very very odd. Both photos look like they were taken in the temple.

            Perhaps an investigative journalist can do the research and find out what this all means.

            I don't know why I am still shocked when I discover new misrepresentations in his stories. I guess it testifies to how much faith I had in the man and his claims at one time. With every discovery, I am able to let a little bit more go.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            >It was during this time, from 1975 to 1981 that Roach claims
            > to have lived full time at the temple serving his lama.
            >Why wasn't he in robes if he was a novice?

            He has said, if I recall correctly, that Khen Rinpoche, his lama, asked him to follow the vows of a monk for several years before he would agree to ordain him. HHDL does something similar, I think: before giving getsul/ma vows, he requires that applicants have genyen vows for three years and have kept rabjung vows for at least two. So someone might be genyen in year one, rabjung in year two and three, with the whole period understood as prep for getsul. We don't have a word in English, and maybe not in Tibetan, for that first year (in this example)–which is "preparing for rabjung". Maybe that's what the GMR site copy means by novitiate.

            Best way is for you to ask GMR, not to ask here. Honestly, I doubt that Khen Rinpoche did anything except by the book.

          • ekanthomason says:

            At the time, it would have been Geshe Tharchin, his lama…

            Roach does not answer my emails. Anyway, I prefer to get an answer independent from him, because I have lost all faith in his ability to say anything other than that which is self-serving and self-preserving in the moment.

            So, following what you have said here, Geshe Tharchin possibly granted Roach novice vows in 1983. Then he would have to wait 3 years to get full monk vows? So, you are guessing it would be after 1986 that he got full monk vows? Why does he not mention it anywhere? Some big piece is missing. It seems that he has said so many flowery things about himself that he can't get the basics down. Truthfully, mi, doesn't that make you wonder a little bit?

            By the way, most people on this forum speak English. For their benefit, please speak english. It is hard enough for some to understand some of this.

          • aha moment says:

            I think mi mthun dpe is Geshe Michael.

          • ekanthomason says:

            Also, mi, I assume you meant getsul/pa (male novice monk) instead of getsul/ma (female novice monk).

            Also, even the young boys at Sera who make the promise to take vows in the future wear the bottom half of the robes. If you are saying Geshe Tharchin did things by the book, then Roach would have at least been in half robes. That would be doing it by the book. The photos show clearly, Roach is in regular street pants.

      • Khedrup says:

        The ordination of monks is a very serious matter and the procedure and requirements were set forth by the Buddha. The ordination procedure and vows are something that are shared in common by all Buddhist countries with only a few minor variations.

        For the full ordination of a bhikshu/gelong, the procedure is detailed and complex. But I asked Geshe la today about the ordination of a novice monk (getsul) with 10 vows (sometimes expanded with minor vows to 36). Geshe la said that it is not appropriate for a Geshe even to grant the novice/getsul ordination by himself. There should be 4 or 5 other bhikshus present, they should have been ordained a minimum of 10 years. I remember this from my own getsul ordination at Sera in 2004.

        The ordination of gelongs/bhikshus requires at least 6 people with very clear roles. I will outline the requirements briefly according to the text of Vinaya by Kunkyen Tsonawa, which is the one most frequently used in the Gelug but also Kagyu and Nyingma traditions. There are two abbots – 1. The abbot of "going forth" (rabjung)
        2. the abbot of "complete ordination" (these can be the same person as far as I understand), then there are 5 masters or acharyas: 1.Getsul acharya 2.Questioning Acharya 3.Ceremonial Acharya 4.Acharya of the Place 5.Reading Acharya. They all have very specific functions.

        It is important that the proper number of monks are in place. Those who know about Tibetan history will know that monastic ordination almost died out, and they could not find a quorum of 5 monks to bestow the vows, so they invited a Chinese bhikshu to help with the ceremony. That is why you notice the blue strings sewn to the side of the monastic vest of Tibetan monks – it is an acknowledgement of the help of that Chinese bhikshu.

        • ekanthomason says:

          Khedrup – I was at the ordination of Brian Smith (Marut) in New York in Feb of 2005. Christie and Roach shared in the ordination together. There were a few ordained people there, five as I recall.
          David Sykes (who is ordained) and Brian left the room so David could check to see that Marut was not a female.
          There was a nun whose name I don't know that was the first person Roach ordained.
          There were three long-time nuns but I don't know if any of them had 10 years at the time.

          • Khedrup says:

            Yes I am not sure if I can comment, you'd have to ask someone who was at the ceremony and knows about vinaya. Was this ordination the rabjung (postulant), novice or full ordination?

            Christie as a layperson is completely unqualified to participate in the ritual and by even the loosest of Vinaya standards this would invalidate the ordination. Actually, during the important parts of the ceremony laypeople are not even allowed in the room. On this I am pretty confident if you ask any Geshe/lama/Chinese Dharma master/Theravada bhikkhu they will share the same view.

            How did David "check"? All that has to be done is ask a series of questions outlined in the ritual, of which this is one. If David did this he would be filling the role of the "Questioning Acharya| mentioned in my post above.

          • ekanthomason says:

            This was a novice ceremony. The room was packed for the entire ceremony. No one was asked to leave.

            I assume David took a peek. He was pretty stunned when he was given the task.

          • Khedrup says:

            So this is more DM "innovation". The part that does not sit well with me is that MR from his studies at Sera would have a good knowledge of the Vinaya Sutra and Kunkyen Tsonawa's text. Why does he always feel the need to change things?
            The "taking a peek" it too funny. I am glad I was only asked the question! I would have been mortified.

        • Khedrup says:

          So we know the people that we need during the ordination ceremony. What are the qualifications of the ordaining master? Kunkyen Tsonawa mentions the most important one: The should be endowed with pure gelong vows. So no root downfalls, and all minor ones should have been repaired through confession. This should actually hold for the 5 gelongs/bhikshus performing the ceremony as well.

          So it is clear that there was not the quorum for MR's ordinations, and also the ceremony itself seems odd. (The office of HH Dalai Lama expressed ire in its letter about a photo of MR "apparently giving ordination with a lady")Why does this matter? Why should we care?

          Well, it is a disservice to the monks and nuns at DM. If their ceremony was not proper then their ordination will not be recognized in the broader Buddhist world- they will not be able to share requisites or sit with the ordained etc. It is a disservice because it is very isolating and could create problems for them later on.

          What is the purpose of ordination? What does a qualified ordination allow one to do? Kunkyen Tsonawa also explains this. It is good for laypeople to know so they can understand the value of the vinaya:

          1.attainment of enlightenment
          2.attainment of higher rebirth
          3.if one receives vows, they are generated
 is permitted dharma resources
 is permitted material resources
 can confess (i.e. can partake in Sojong)

          • cloverleaf says:


            "What is the purpose of ordination? What does a qualified ordination allow one to do?……………1.attainment of enlightenment ……"

            Am I understanding you correctly to assume that within Buddhism, it is only the monastics that are able to attain Enlightenment? As in, anyone who does not wish to become ordained has no chance at understanding/ achieving Enlightenment? Or a higher rebirth?

            Is this correct?

          • femme fatale says:

            If that is true, and women can't be ordained, then they can't achieve higher rebirth or enlightenment?

          • ekanthomason says:

            Women can be ordained. I am ordained in a Japanese esoteric tradition.

          • femme fatale says:

            Do you take the same vows as a monk? Do you have the same privileges? I hope they didn't "take a peek" to make sure you were female. Or did they "only ask the question?" If neither of those, then why not? Is it because the male is the default status. A man must prove he is a man. But a woman does not need to prove she is a woman before ordination? Is the assumption that no man in his right mind would fake being a woman, when he is the preferred sex, male? Do you find this sexist?

          • ekanthomason says:

            I consider myself a monk and that is the term often used or female monk. My title is actually reverend. I have a bit of an aversion to the term 'nun', which seems a little subservient. They don't have to take a peek for women. I think the rule is in place because women impersonated men to get the privilege that comes with being a male.

            My novice ceremony was very sweet. Three of us were ordained that day in the Sacramento Temple. Women have equal opportunity in the Japanese Shingon system and can have temples etc…there is no reason to ask which sex one is. This non-sexist attitude is what drew me in. I saw a woman in Japan who was leading her temple members on a pilgrimage. My teacher said she was their priest. That was a very powerful moment for me.

          • femme fatale says:

            Thank you ekanthomason for sharing that.

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            There are different ordination lineages in Buddhism, with different sets of vows. So what "monk" or "nun" means in one lineage might be different in another. One of the reasons it's so important–I think Khedrup-la might agree–is that there's a tradition of pure transmission that goes back to Lord Buddha. So there's a lineage that came from India to Thailand, Burma, etc and a different lineage that went into Tibet; yet another that went into China. This is in part why there is no extant lineage of ordination of nuns in Tibet–way back when, the nuns died/left/were killed and there weren't enough nuns to ordain new ones. So no more nuns in that lineage. It didn't happen in China so they still have the lineage of full nun's ordination–but it's not the same lineage as the one in Tibet, so it's not clear how a Tibetan lineage can recognize a nun ordained in the Chinese-lineage. Some of it is practical–they have different ceremonies, with different texts (for sojong); somewhat different vows, etc. It might seem trivial from the outside, but it isn't at all from the inside. And it's certainly not trivial for nuns and those who want full nun's ordination. Anyway, a complicated issue. The Tibetan and Chinese lineages are a bit like half sister; the Theravadin lineage (in Thailand, Burma, etc) is like a distant cousin. Different rules, somewhat different vows, etc. All three of these are however variations on Vinaya, which usually means the rules for the monks and nuns set forth by Lord Buddha

            So the Shingon ordination, in Japan, is yet another tradition. Complicating it further: it's not Vinaya but a tantric lineage. There was a Vinaya lineage which came to Japan early on–and may have been Shingon, Risshu or Shingon Risshu, I'm not sure. But I am reasonably sure that the meaning of "ordained as a monk" is different for Tibetan monastics and Shingon monastics. It's easy enough to see: there are a couple hundred vows in the Tibetan vinaya, that cover all kinds of things, as we've been discussing. The Shingon vows, which are secret (I think) correspond more closely to the Boddhisattva vows and the lower Tantric vows.

            This isn't especially important except it might be good to ward off some confusion: ordained/monk/nun/etc have very different meanings in different lineages so we shouldn't use them interchangably. By way of somewhat tortured example, Baptist ministers, Catholic priests, rabbis and Greek Orthodox priests can arguably be viewed as participants in the Order of Melchizedek, with a "lineage" going back to Abraham. And maybe rabbi, priest, minister and orthodox are all translated by the same word in, say, Tibetan. So we could call them all "inji lamas" but they're quite different. Same here.

          • cloverleaf says:

            I'll grant you that the individual designations of all the various lineages and traditions is indeed quite complex. But my question to Khedrup remains unanswered– in Buddhism, is it only the monastic (or whatever you want to call it; no disrespect, I just don't know the differences) class that has the possibility of achieving Enlightenment? Is it possible for a layperson to earn better reincarnations? Is it possible within Buddhism for a layperson– a householder I believe it's termed– to achieve Enlightenment, assuming they can be a householder without forming that mental state of attachment?

            And mi mthun dpe…'ve spoken extensively on the possibility that MR is indeed keeping his vows. Or at least made the point that there is no way for anyone but MR to know the truth of that. But…

            What is your honest opinion of MR and the appearance of impropriety concerning his vows and even his Geshe status? His career in such an ethically challenged industry? Have you met him personally? Heard his teachings? Are you a follower? Be blunt; I'm wanting the raw truth of your opinion if you please, since you seem to be so qualified to answer such questions. I'd really appreciate honest answers to those of my questions you don't mind sharing.

          • Zirconia says:

            mi mthun dpe, would you give cloverleaf some love?

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            Honestly, I've been thinking through the best way to answer these questions….I wrote one lengthy reply but killed it for pedantic overload. I'll work on it.

            thanks for the reminder

          • Khedrup says:

            I would say that you make some good points here. However, I would say that the Theravadin lineage and Tibetan lineage of ordination are the sisters- because in fact the Mulasarvastivada was one of the 18 Hinayana Schools of ancient India. So in fact, the ordination lineage of Tibetan Buddhism is a Hinayana ordination lineage.
            I would say that the Chinese ordination lineage is like the cousin because the ceremony to transmit the precepts is a little different- and there is a "triple platform ordination". Also the Chinese tradition upholds a different set of bodhisattva vows for laypeople and monk/nuns, while in the Tibetan tradition the same bodhisattvas vows are transmitted to both.
            If you look at the Theravada and Tibetan ordinations (those are the ones I'm familiar with) you will see that the vows are almost exactly the same. It is just that the Theravada lineage sometimes has two rules included as one vow, whereas the Tibetan lists them separately. This is the reason for the difference in the numbers.

            The most important vows, the roots and the remainders, are the same in all three traditions. (Tibetan: Mulasarvastivada, Chinese:Dharmagupta, Theravada)

          • Khedrup says:

            There is full (bhikshuni ordination) of nuns available in Chinese and Viet Namese Buddhism. You can read about this on the internet. There are efforts from HH Dalai Lama and HH Karmapa to re-introduce bhikshuni ordination into Tibetan Buddhism. All of this information is available on the web.

            AND- HH Dalai Lama's website has released a list of the vows!
            So I think we can put to rest the dated notion that laypeople should not know what they are:

          • femme fatale says:

            Thank you for that information.

          • Tenor says:

            The full ordination of women that came to China and then to Vietnam, Korea, in the Dharmagupta Vinaya lineage came from nuns who fled Islamic invasions of Sri Lanka. Or so it is written. An insufficient number (for performing requisite ordination ceremonies) of fully ordained nuns made it to Tibet for full ordination in the Mulasarvastivada tradition to be established in Tibet.

            In anticipation of the future rise of different sects and lineages, one of the early Tibetan Dharma kings decreed that all Tibetan monastics should share the same Vinaya lineage, Mulasarvastivada. That way all Tibetan monastics share the same bi-monthly confession and other ritual liturgies.

            This is one reason that Tibetan Buddhists cannot simply invite a sufficient number of fully ordained nuns from Taiwan, etc., all of whom are Dharmagupta lineage, to give full ordination to Tibetan nuns.

          • Khedrup says:

            HHDL on full ordination for women :

            I have felt that the re-institution of the Bhikkshuni ordination is very important. After all, the Buddha confirmed that both women and men have equal opportunity and potential to practise the Dharma and to achieve its goals. We have an obligation to uphold this view.

            Now, as to how the re-institution of the Bhikkshuni ordination should be done, this is a matter for the Sangha to decide. No single person has any authority to take such a decision. Some of my friends and colleagues have suggested that as the Dalai Lama I could issue a decree or make a decision, but this is not a matter on which any individual, whoever he or she is, can decide. It is a matter for the Sangha community.

            It would be helpful if this matter were discussed at an international assembly of the Sangha. Representatives of all the major Vinaya traditions should be present. The issue should be dealt with on the basis of thorough research and discussion. If we can assemble some genuine scholars as well as good practitioners, who have more open minds and are respected, to discuss this issue thoroughly, I believe we can achieve a positive result.

          • Zirconia says:

            Last year, Ven. Kelsang Wangmo became the first female geshe!… "The degree is entitled Rime Geshe [i.e., Non-Sectarian Geshe] because the curriculum includes study with Nyingma, Sakya and Kagyu masters of their respective presentations of philosophy."

            "Under His Holiness’ direction, the prerequisite to be a gelong (fully-ordained monk) before becoming a Geshe has been abolished. Put in layman’s terms, a nun can now follow the full study program offered in the great Gelugpa tradition, take the exam, and become a Geshe ….. At the inception of this program, the nuns were too embarrassed to debate if a monk walked past. Now, such as at the most recent Monlam prayer festival at the Kopan gompa, the nuns actually participated in the debate with the monks. How times have changed."

            Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!… (don't know the Tibetan equivalent.)

          • femme fatale says:


          • Khedrup says:

            No, you are not understanding correctly. One of the benefits of ordination is the attainment of enlightenment. But that doesn't mean that laypeople cannot be enlightened. Look at Milarepa, Dromtonpa, Yeshe Tsogyal etc.

            These are benefits of ordination. I should have stated this more explicitly. This is the implication of the text, but it is over 500 years old so the language is quite difficult to translate. I did my best.

            Morality is the basis of a perfect human rebirth. So this in chief for laypeople is the morality of abandoning the 10 non-virtues, from what I have been taught. If laypeople do that – higher rebirth and even liberation!

          • cloverleaf says:

            Thank you for answer my question, Khedrup. I do appreciate it.

            I'm glad that is the case– morality/ethics as the basis rather than anything else.

          • Khedrup says:

            It makes sense, doesn't it? Without our ethics, what do we have left really?

          • cloverleaf says:

            Yes, it makes complete sense. It did not make sense that even an ethical individual who chooses to have a family or you know, volunteer or work or something, couldn't receive Enlightenment because it was on the list of thing only Monastics "get".

            I didn't know Milarepa, Dromtonpa or Yeshe Tsogyal– I'm unfamiliar with the names.

            And to answer your question…..we– I– have nothing without Ethic. Nothing I want to live for anyways. Thank you for clarifying…..I'm still trying to learn about Buddhism. It's not easy with different branches proclaiming one thing or another……I do appreciate your help, Khedrup

        • ekanthomason says:

          Khedrup – I was also reminded by a friend that there was an ordination ceremony that took place last February in the retreat valley. At the time, I guess there were 5 nuns in retreat but not all of them meet the 10 year requirement.

          • Khedrup says:

            Interesting. These are very technical issues. If it was a rabjung/postulant ordination it might be okay. Otherwise, it is a point for contention according to Vinaya.

  27. Zirconia says:

    A call for simple truths (part I)

    Geshe Michael worked for "seventeen years from 1981 to 1998" at Andin.… He was "ordained as a full Buddhist monk" in 1983 and "awarded the Geshe degree" in 1995.

    In recent years, Geshe Michael has shifted the narrative, and repeatedly claimed that going into business was an extra exam after having received the geshe degree. "And when you do the geshe, a thousand people examine you in Tibetan language, and then if you pass, you get one of these big yellow hats. Then my teacher told me you have one more examination. And I said 'what’s that?' And he said 'you’ve to go to New York' and I said 'why?', and he said 'you have to make a business', and I said 'why a business? I don’t like business.' He said 'I want to see if you can make one million dollars in one year using the knowledge we gave you in the monastery, using the knowledge of the special book we called Diamond Cutter.' So I didn’t want to do it, but I went and then last year, after many years we sold that company it has reached 250 million dollars per year in sales of diamonds."… and

    An extra exam? Didn’t he start at Andin long before receiving the geshe degree? Why did the good geshe repeatedly lie about such trivial matters? A helpful definition: "lying means giving someone else an impression about things that you yourself know not to be true." (Karmic Management, Michael Roach et al.)

    In those promotional videos that targeted foreign audiences, was the deception to make his story more impressive/sellable, or was it some act of "skillful means" for the benefit of his potential audience?

    The traditional teaching has been: "Unless there is an urgent need to transgress them in order to benefit others, and there is no alternative, we safeguard our vows at all times. "… Let's put aside such and such interpretations of vows, isn't it just simple human decency not to lie to people? As seminar speaker, is it good business ethics to to lie to the paying audience of his business retreats?

    If we can't rely on Geshe Michael for simple truths/facts about his own biography, could we count on him to speak the Truths of the Dharma?

    • ekanthomason says:

      Thank you for putting it so clearly.

      In his "Essays to Answer Questions from my Friends" he tells another story about going to work:
      "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."

      His other story, of course, is that Geshe Tharcin (his title at the time) told him to go to work. That one I have heard over and over. Three different stories.

      Then Zirconia you bring up the question, so can we trust him to tell us the truth about the dharma? That is why I have set everything aside. If you are thirsty and someone tells you there is a water cooler over there with pure, cool, clear water in it. We only mixed a few drops of poison in it. Are you going to feel good about drinking it? How do you separate the poison (the lie) from the pure water?

      One more inconsistency:
      "Easter 2003 Quiet Retreat Interview:

      GMR: …Sometimes people ask me, “How did you pull off the Geshe thing?” Like how did you do that? Total, it took me eighteen years.
      GMR: I worked in the diamond business for fifteen years only because I had seen emptiness and I wanted to remember what I had seen. So sixteen-hour days for fifteen years. I made a lot of money for the monasteries, and I did a lot of good with the money, but it was only to remember that twenty minutes. Fifteen years in a corporation just to remember what had happened to me."

      It seems to be consistent that he started working in 1981. This interview says he worked 15 years which means he quit in 1996 but the above account says 1998.

      • Zirconia says:

        "Geshe Michael retired from the firm in 1999 as Vice President in charge of the Gemstone Division"

        He did rise to VP. From 1991 NYT article: "He also is a vice president of a gem company in the diamond district of Manhattan"

        • ekanthomason says:

          The NYT article is interesting. It supports a theory. Khen Rinpoche was initially going to serve his full term as abbot. The article says he planned to visit 'next summer' which was about 15 or 16 months away. In actuality, he only served for about one year. Thanks for that.

          Regarding when he quit working: I think he would know if he quit working before he got married or after he got married. That marriage in 1998 was a major marker from which to create a timeline. In 2003 he said he quit in 1996 two years before the wedding. In 2012 he says he quit in 1999, one year after the wedding. Interesting.

      • Pfffft! says:

        "I had seen emptiness and I wanted to remember what I had seen." How the horse-puckey could a person not "remember" their seeing emptiness directly? ('Oops! Where's that 'path of meditation'? It was here just a second ago!')…I guess there's no way to verify this-since they only make aryas every 2000 years or so-according to MR. What a lucky son-of-a-gun to be that winner, huh? Better still!: He should have "remembered" his monk's vows when he was having numerous hard-ons for his more nubile and juicy acolytes. He might've enjoyed the esteem and credibility of his lineage; instead of being reduced to scouring the globe for willing naifs who have just fallen-off the turnip-truck to have the "good karma" to 'believe' in him.

  28. Stellanyc says:

    Does anyone have any information on Christie at all.

    • Tara says:

      Stella, an excellent question. Her support network must have shrunk massively since her expulsion from the retreat and Ian's death. Does she have friends beyond her DM cohort who could help her engage with a very different world from the one that she has been inhabiting these past 20 or so years? Besides the reports of her being in Kathmandu, there have been no other indications of where she might be or who is accompanying her on this particularly lonely part of her journey. I hope she is safe and with people who can help her heal.

  29. chris says:

    Christie was in NYC recently

    • Clarity says:

      How do you know that?

    • ekanthomason says:

      Can you please tell us a little more. How recently?

      • NYC says:

        Christie is in NYC RIGHT NOW. She has been to the three jewels and parties with other dharma people in the NYC sangha. She is not talking about anything that has happened supposedly. She is being served and treated like lama christie. The whole thing is really disturbing to me on so many levels. I am extremely surprised that she is in NY hanging out with the highest 'lamas' in the sangha being served by them. I guess nothing has really changed.

        • Human says:

          I don't know….I think things have changed, we just haven't seen them manifest yet. I have no insider info or anything,….just an educated guess. How it will all unfold will be interesting.

        • Ben says:

          From the people I've talked to and the things I read, I wouldn't have expected differently from the sangha. The only unknown was whether Christie still believed the hype. (I wanted to use a word other than "hype" but I believe EJ deletes comments with profanity)

        • cloverleaf says:


          Maybe people are still acting differential toward CM because they fear for her mental state? As in, maybe it is really tough on her to come back to the NY Sangha after having been evicted from 'her' retreat– validly or no– and the sangha is just unsure how to act compassionately?

          It guess this news just seems to me like no one knows how else to treat her and maybe they feel sorry for her loss. I suppose, like Ben, I didn't expect otherwise.

          Have you seen her? Does she seem stable or ok to you? Are there rumblings amongst the sangha as to what comes next in regards to CM?

        • Khedrup says:

          People can be blinded by habituation. A sad situation for all.

          • ekanthomason says:

            For those tantric students from Diamond Mountain, Christie is their vajra master and they took an oath devoting their very lives to her and Roach. She has never been shy about reminding people of it. Those senior students who have unquestioning devotion will probably 'tweak reality' to try and 'help' those with questioning minds.

            I was very fortunate to have received advice from my Japanese teacher when I started at Diamond Mountain. He said I would be fine studying there as long as the point did not ever become about Michael Roach and Christie. If it ever becomes more about the teachers than the teachings, it is a problem and I should beware.

        • Human says:

          I have a question. Not sure who to ask…………but is there a divide going on between those who are more supportive of Christie and those more supportive of MR? Seems from what I have read, Christie has been on the ground at DM, while MR took off to do business seminars in China. He basically washed his hands of the 3 year retreatants from the moment it started. Had lost interest, etc. I am not sure if I am correct in the assumption, and it is an assumption…..but wouldn't those who were on the ground at DM the last two years or so have more feelings, alliance etc. for Christie? Any thoughts?

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            Yes, let's all speculate about what people we don't know might be thinking.

          • hollyhobby says:

            That is one of my favorite pastimes.

          • best stay low says:

            yes, mi mthun dpe, let us speculate. I'll do mine from the air-conditioned splendor of Community Services in Bowie, ten miles down the road from let's-speculate-where. May I speculate (all i want) as to your whereabouts? Camp Verde?

        • Jane says:

          Happy to hear she has some support. No one needs to be completely abandoned.

  30. best stay low says:

    Last week in the Jamyang House Ven. Lobsang Chukyi said, and I quote, having heard her say it, "We only teach Geshe Michael's lineage here." To which 'Hell's Kitchen' or whatever he calls himself on this here thread, when i repeated this to him verbatim, responded, "What lineage?" Hey, kids, what time is it?

    • anonymous says:

      I don't understand this.

      • anonymous2 says:

        Apologies from the contributors. Some of this forum has to be written in code.

        • ekanthomason says:

          Where do we get out decoder rings?

          • anonymous2 says:

            hmmm. You were supposed to be one of the people with a ring. Maybe best stay low could decode that post then?

          • Corvid says:

            christie is not coming back into the flock….so watch the the level of attacks on her get ramped up…another big writer is on this thing…think he's with her now or has been in the last month,but it sounds like he thinks she's half way in Patty Heasrt brainwashed mode. This guy is doing a screen play

          • Karen says:

            Hi Corvid, nice to see you back. I'm taking a stab at the original post above by 'best stay low'.

            Maybe this means that Diamond Mountain doesn't teach the traditional Gelug lineage, but Michael Roach's own lineage? That would be a very honest, fair thing for Ven Lobsang Chukyi to say.

          • corvid says:

            Karen, my bet is they are going to make this the Roach Show…no co-stars

          • mi mthun dpe says:

            "Lineage" isn't exactly a fixed thing: every one takes a set of texts and instructions/teachings and interprets them in one way or another. There is definitely a DMU-specific interpretation of texts and practices but they don't think that the lineage starts with GMR. Like others, they trace their lineage back–to Je Naropa, to the Protector Nagarjuna, to Je Tsong Khapa, etc.

            So from your point-ov-view, DMU may not be in a certain lineage, but from theirs, they would say they're right in the middle of it. We see this everywhere in Tibetan Buddhism: for the Gelugpa, the true lineage of Madhyamkika is the rangtong view/empty of self. But in the Jonang/(+ some Kagyu) tradition, the highest view of Madhyamika is shentong/empty of other–which is a lower view to the Gelugpa. Yet both views are based on common texts–but not the same interpretation.

            Similarly, the NKT think they are teaching the "traditional Gelugpa lineage" while the followers of HHDL think they are teaching the traditional practices–with respect to that protector issue. And the result is, as I believe you first pointed out, one of the Gelugpa temples is split physically into two sections.

          • corvid says:

            Sorry bad info ..the writer isn't with her but trying to talk with her like all of them…she is being followed by a P.I. wonder who is paying that bill?

          • best stay low says:

            Captain Midnight. amigo.

        • anonymous says:

          Or written by people who can't write very well?