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

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

Editor’s update: a rebuttal to the below, by John Stillwell, is offered here. As a reader-created open forum, we welcome all views: [email protected]


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

reporting and opinion by Matthew Remski

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

for their help in the preparation of this article .


Abstract for Media Outlets

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


The Story and My Intention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Background to the Tragedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Stabbing in the Desert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Board of Directors, Blinded by Dogma

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

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

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

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

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


The Veil of Secrecy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


In closing, for now…

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

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



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






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



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

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

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

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

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

Here are the corrections I’ve made so far:

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

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

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


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

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

11th graph: changed

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


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

graph 13: 

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


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

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

graph 19:

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


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

graph 20:

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


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

graph 23:

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


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

 graph 30:

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


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


graph 33: “tent” to “residence”

graph 35:

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

removed: a commenter pointed out this was an unfair generalization

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

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

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

His the knife, and mine the body:

the twofold cause of suffering.

He has grasped the knife,

I my body.
 At which is there anger?

Those who injure me are really impelled by my actions.

For this they will go to the realms of hell.

Surely it is they who are harmed by me?

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

 changed, through dialogue with Phurba and others, to:

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

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

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

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

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anonymous Mar 16, 2015 10:32am

I don't have a dog in this fight, but the author's description of the Armani clad former diamond dealer frequenting the New York clubs with Russian models is so negative it makes me suspect the objectivity of the whole article.

anonymous Feb 4, 2015 4:27am

Today, Lima is actually a big, bustling metropolis of about
8 million individuals and can be a city of contrasts.
Carnival started last night, and it is already proved to be one
giant cluster fuk of a mad time. Zidane is regarded as one of the best
soccer players in this generation.

anonymous Jan 7, 2015 9:12am


anonymous Apr 22, 2014 10:19am

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

what you’re talking about! Thanks

anonymous Jan 23, 2013 1:54pm

[…] 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 […]

anonymous Jan 23, 2013 1:51pm

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

anonymous Dec 29, 2012 11:36am

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

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

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

anonymous Dec 20, 2012 4:41am

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

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

    anonymous Sep 13, 2014 6:27am

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

anonymous Dec 2, 2012 12:11pm

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

anonymous Nov 1, 2012 11:39am

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

anonymous Oct 25, 2012 1:17pm

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

anonymous Oct 25, 2012 1:07pm

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

anonymous Oct 15, 2012 6:03am

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

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

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

anonymous Oct 8, 2012 8:11am

[…] […]

anonymous Oct 4, 2012 11:13am

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

anonymous Sep 7, 2012 9:29pm

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

anonymous Aug 24, 2012 7:17am

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

anonymous Aug 23, 2012 8:17am

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

anonymous Jul 18, 2012 11:21am

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

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

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

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

anonymous Jul 10, 2012 6:01pm

Jiddu Krishnamurti on Authentic Gurus:

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

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

anonymous Jun 30, 2012 4:46pm

[…] […]

anonymous Jun 27, 2012 5:04pm

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

anonymous Jun 15, 2012 4:56am

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

anonymous Jun 14, 2012 4:27pm

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

anonymous Jun 9, 2012 9:03pm

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

anonymous Jun 8, 2012 2:31am

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

anonymous Jun 7, 2012 2:56pm

Dude told the New York Post that they do, in fact have sex. Or something that looks like sex, and 'involves penetration', but isn't actually sex.

His words to that publication:

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

So, in other words, sex.

anonymous Jun 7, 2012 4:33am

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

anonymous Jun 7, 2012 2:03am

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

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 9:50pm

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

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 6:30pm

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

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 6:15pm

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

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 5:29pm

[…] […]

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 3:40pm

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

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 12:56pm

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

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 11:13am

[…] […]

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 10:21am

[…] interview, Matthew Remski, a yoga teacher from Toronto who unleashed a storm online after posting a scathing critique[6] of Mr. Roach after Mr. Thorson’s death, described Mr. Roach as a “charismatic Buddhist […]

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 10:17am

how perfectly human!

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 10:00am

A review of Roach's self-published web page definitively confirms your descriptor: "…narcissistic delusions of grandeur…" Roach is on an unbridled, massive ego trip and is a clear and present danger to others.

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 9:48am

(continued from previous post. . . )
In the intervening 40 years I have worked to become successfully grounded and I have led a very 'normal' life. When I read the report I was not surprised to see my own wounded and vulnerable self, desperate for a charismatic authority such as Mr. Roach, to justify my loose thinking and emotional turmoil as spiritual insight.

Mr. Rimsky's assessment rings very true to me. I applaud him for speaking up so disspasionately and firmly and add my own hope that the paths followed by the members at Diamond Mountain will take them to a better place of spiritual fulfillment than reached by either Christie or Ian.

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 9:47am

As a 62 year old who, as many in my generation, has been involved in studying and practicing many of the tenets of Eastern religions (from primarily a literary / academic perspective) triggered by a trip to India in 1970, as I read Matt Remski's account, I was very struck by the clarity of his reporting and how it resonated with my own past experiences, now so far away.

I reflected back on my various associations with Trungpa Rimpoche, Ram Dass and others and see a self that was very ungrounded and disassociated from many normal experiences and who had at least one breakdown that led to hospitalization and restraints. (to be continued. . . )

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 7:40am

[…] which the couple left in February after participating for a little more than a year, has been painted as a cult led by diamond seller-turned-monk Michael Roach, to whom McNally had secretly been married before […]

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 6:39am

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

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 1:41am

[…] interview, Matthew Remski, a yoga teacher from Toronto who unleashed a storm online after posting a scathing critique[6] of Mr. Roach after Mr. Thorson’s death, described Mr. Roach as a “charismatic Buddhist […]

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 12:36am

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

anonymous Jun 6, 2012 12:04am

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

anonymous Jun 5, 2012 11:22pm

[…] Remski, a yoga teacher fr&#959m Toronto wh&#959 unleashed a storm online &#1072ft&#1077r posting a scathing critique &#959f Mr. Roach &#1072ft&#1077r Mr. Thorson’s death, d&#1077&#1109&#1089r&#1110b&#1077d Mr. […]

anonymous Jun 5, 2012 10:47pm

Thank you. Your observations about authority in cults, and how they absorb abuses by framing it as part of the plan, blurring subject/object, or attributing other spiritual meaning to it, is interesting. At the same time, I see the way a cult functions as a technology that can indeed be transformative, that can release the power of participants as they project onto the cult leader. It is certainly fantastic to be in an altered state where everything seems magical, supra-real and loaded with meaning. I had a teacher whose initiation involved explaining that his role was like that of a mirror. I understood that the power he appeared to have was the power that we gave to him. Still the group dynamic was a struggle for me. I tried to be a quiet observer for a year, but eventually decided to experiment with speaking up in my usual manner, asking a series of critical questions of our teacher publicly and not accepting what did not seem like satisfying or well thought out answers. I was asked privately, later, if I had faith in our teacher, if I was trying to destroy the organization, and to agree to not speak that way again. I took it as a signal to leave the group. It was threatening to followers who perceived it as a breach of etiquette and loss of face for my teacher. I am not sure if the structure of the cult – the belief that the teacher can do no wrong, for example – is an essential part of it's transformative ability. Perhaps this makes Tibetan Buddhism a riskier path than others. I do hope that Tibetan Buddhism has an effective peer review process to prevent abuse, and find hope in the fact that the Dalai Lama seems to be playing a role in this regard.
One can learn a lot by taking a charismatic teacher as sacred and perfect. But teachers of Buddhism are also human, and can also turn around and do or say things in private that seem far from dignified or enlightened. Lose your self, but don't lose yourself.

    anonymous Jun 7, 2012 11:35am

    Enter text right here!so wise and true.. this will also apply to John friend and the yoga scandal.. the power we give to others.. may go against us

anonymous Jun 5, 2012 9:47pm

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

anonymous May 23, 2012 3:16pm

Hello everyone,
I have to say I don't agree with this person and the paranoia in this article, I'm sorry Matthew, I believe that Lama Christie has the most beautiful intentions.
Too much drama for an accident. LOVE to all!

anonymous May 22, 2012 2:00pm

[…] everyone agrees with how Diamond Mountain handled things. Matthew Remski, a former student, wrote a long post on a website called Elephant Journal questioning why, among other things, the group cast the pair […]

anonymous May 22, 2012 10:30am

[…] on that has drawn in very helpful and informative comments (thank you all who have commented), and the original story, broken at Elephant Journal, has even more.The first, and only that I’ve seen, journalistic […]

anonymous May 19, 2012 7:39pm

[…] everyone agrees with how Diamond Mountain handled things. Matthew Remski, a former student, wrote a long post on a website called Elephant Journal questioning why, among other things, the group cast the pair […]

anonymous May 19, 2012 11:20am

I've posted an update to this piece, which attempts to collate and explore issues raised in the 660+ comments so far:

anonymous May 19, 2012 10:30am

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

anonymous May 19, 2012 8:05am

That's weird: I had a comment and Matthew Remski had a response (and a good one), but both seem to be missing (removed?). In any case, I just wanted to say to Matthew thanks–sincerely–for chiding me for my "meta view:" although I may have had a good point or two the message was probably lost in my delivery.

I did chuckle: my meta view was about as elitist as the superhero Buddhist team Matthew mentioned. An empathetic response is much more appropriate here.

    anonymous May 19, 2012 8:10am

    Ah, of course now my comment reappears. 🙂

anonymous May 18, 2012 11:06pm

I did a quick scan two years ago of Roach and McNally's book "The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life" and very quickly came to the conclusion that they were charlatans (the title was a BIG clue).

People follow these types because they want to believe this crap. It isn't that far removed from The Secret crowd. They like it when it "works" (they are making money, having great sex or whatever) but disenchanted when it isn't working.

The funny thing is that Buddha had a diagnosis and a cure for this situation–if you choose to accept this mission–that ran contrary to claims of Buddha's business management skills. It's there and freely available, but most people are just too lazy to pursue the program.

The diagnosis is that most people always pursue the "quick fix" because they seek to avoid the pain of reality. For some DM will be a wake-up call; others will just move on to the next drug, guru, or capitalist circle jerk.

Really, we're all just addicts (our drugs just vary), so don't be too accusatory toward DM. The notion of an elite cadre of legitimate Buddhist teachers descending upon DM and straightening out their shit is about as delusional as the bullshit that preceded it.

Let's save the outrage for clear cases of abuse and intentional harm.

    anonymous May 19, 2012 4:29am

    Great Post!

    anonymous May 19, 2012 4:54am

    Ah: the high-road meta-view charging in at the tail end! Good to hear from you, IH. It always warms my heart to be out-cynic-ed.

    Yes, the Buddhist superhero team swooping in with robe-capes is a goofy stretch, but do you really think the wider Buddhist community has nothing to offer a self-isolated sect under charismatic control?

    Also: "clear cases of abuse and intentional harm" are easy targets. It's when things get really muddy and intentions are ambiguous (and recognizable in ourselves) that our outrage is forced towards greater intelligence, and crosses that line into deep empathy. What I love about this story is that it reflects and interweaves with my own. More on that later.

anonymous May 18, 2012 4:14am

She didn't know the knife could hurt anyone? End of discussion.

anonymous May 18, 2012 12:30am

i remember generally liking his students. they mostly seemed like the kind of cool, slightly new agey but not whacko folks you'd meet in any yoga class. there was a lot of creativity and fun, though i thought they were a bit puritanical sometimes. some seemed pretty far out, and often the most far out claims were either not brought up or left to pass without comment. the impression that i got was that they were trying to be open minded, and that questioning GM doctrine was kind of rude. the instructor of one of the courses i took (british i think, or australian. alistair? maybe he's in retreat) said on different occasions that GM was:


-the next jesus

-the supreme being

as far as the practice of "debate" goes, i can say that at DM it was not in my limited experience a socratic means of arriving at understanding through mutual inquiry, but instead a wholly scripted delivery system for predetermined conclusions. candrakirti's "cup of water" (tho i think it comes from haribhadra originally? non-DM scholars feel free to correct) was brought up a lot, usually to the effect that if you see something bad, it's your own badness. if you see something good, it's your own goodness. this is not the only way to read this philosophical problem, tho i'm sure pangloss would be proud.

i split quick from the scene, mostly because i didn't feel that DM had practices or teachings that dovetailed with what i had learned before i came, and was by that time rather invested in. but there was a kind of group think that has made me deeply uncomfortable over time. every DM student that i knew personally had a nuanced view of the group in private conversation, but on the grounds of DMU in Bowie, or at official programs, there was a right and a wrong way to think and speak about things, and people generally played along. i didn't see much outside reading. i don't think anyone had time! they were a busy bunch.

i guess in a free society people are allowed to think screwy things, but it does make one sad to see people using their freedom to limit it so thoroughly.

best to all, whatever that may be,

    anonymous May 18, 2012 11:59am

    I agree with this description of debate and logic at DM and in the community. I deeply desired philosophic and logical dis course — pithy, unexamined statements were the level of debate.

      anonymous May 19, 2012 9:47am

      and don't even think about mentioning that Je Tsongkhapa instigated the burning of books and the forced conversion of monks….

anonymous May 18, 2012 12:29am

As far as cults go, DM is probably small potatoes, BUT, here's what I saw when I attended a couple of classes at the "university's" first semester (2004? 3?), and had fairly close contact with the organization for about 6 months (and none subsequent to that time):

-obsession with developing 'light bodies', immaterial and made of light. I remember a talk where GM claimed that in the monastery they used to put needles into their arms to check their progress.

-promises of physical immortality as the end of buddhist and yoga practice

-conviction that jesus had travelled to hemis monastery in ladakh and that the mahayana was the eastern form of christianity (those were his literal words- i remember a thai theravada monk in attendance being quite startled at that one!)

-extremely literal teachings on karma that attached significance to literally everything, so that he had all his students go see the da vinci code to show that the world was catching on to his way of thinking, and that a sort of new era was about to dawn. the mood was that enlightenment was imminent for everyone if they would just get the higher teachings (from him). if they didn't, then they would be missing the cosmic boat. a lot of public and semi-public tears from GM and Christie over this one.

-from talking to students, the practice of the higher teachings involved literally hours of 'canned' reflections that came from his textbooks. meditation as i have learned and practiced in other settings was entirely absent, advanced students could barely sit still for a minute. the teachings were extended 'reflections' that involved tracing a line of argument or doctrine in detail. this isn't without precedent in buddhism or necessarily a problem, but does give him a tremendous amount of power over his students' inner lives.

-DM makes a lot of claims that turn out to be sheer hype ("pure view"?) about members' qualifications. the most egregious to me were in regards to the scholarship. i know translators who appreciate ACIP, but DM's tibetan language and buddhist philosophy are so idiosyncratic as to be unintelligible to outsiders. GM and Christie's yoga sutra stuff is especially bad and it hurts me to see it on the bookshelves from a reputable publisher.

-anectdotally, a former student who had also lived with khen rinpoche, GM's teacher, said that the rinpoche asked him not to read GM's commentaries on valid cognition, that they were inaccurate. i don't place a huge amount of value on this one, if it is true, on the basis that i think claims that western buddhists would be better off under asian, 'traditional' authority are misguided. they have their own unique problems and we have ours. remember that dilgo khyenste, a pillar of traditional authority, and spiritual authority as well if indeed such a thing exists, covered up for the vajra regent; from his perspective, that was the best thing to do. from mine? totally wrong.

-i also remember GM once citing elizabeth claire prophet as an authority. her church universal and triumphant? now that was a cult! she stockpiled automatic weapons and thought grizzly bears were created by evil sorcerers. citing her in a talk doesn't implicate GM or DM in any of that, but it shows a real naivete.

-a student told me about having heard GM claim in a talk that bad things had happened to people who spoke out against him

-i didn't witness this, but i remember reading one of the talks from the first long retreat: GM brought up the accidental death of a little desert lizard that shared their tent. he's absolutely inconsolable in the talk. i remember being touched the first time i read that, but now it just seems kind of crazy to me.

-and it was so strange to me that he couldn't just say he had a girlfriend. people have girlfriends, right? why make it so weird, publicly claiming that it's strictly spiritual and all that? must we care what you do or don't in the bedroom?

    anonymous May 18, 2012 1:24am

    LC has claimed many times that she did not age for many years assuming she obtained "light or rainbow body"…

    And, yes, their followers basically only read their own translations…a big problem.

    anonymous May 18, 2012 6:46am

    Regarding your comment about a girlfriend, Yavapai County court documents state GMR and Christie were divorced on December 1, 2010. They were husband and wife.

anonymous May 17, 2012 3:03pm

[…] was heartbreaking to read of the recent tragic events at Diamond Mountain University (DMU), the center run by Michael Roach in Arizona […]

anonymous May 16, 2012 7:38pm

The County is still recovering from the financial downturn and if any DM financial backers are out there please consider making a donation to County Search and Rescue.The near helicopter crash in the difficult surroundings could have been a additional tragedy. We all need to have these peoples backs.

anonymous May 16, 2012 1:42am

Now at Phoenix New Times:

So it seems there was no water, and they stopped eating?

    anonymous May 16, 2012 6:34am

    A few discrepancies emerge.

    The report says that it took 9 days for Ruisinger to report the McNally's speech to the Cochise Sheriff. This contradicts many accounts that the violence was "immediately" reported.

    The report also says that deputies directly questioned the retreat doctor. This is new, and contradicts many accounts in these comments that suggest that the tsam was unbroken. Also it would seem to contradict Roach's statement that "At no time did police enter the campus property or the retreat valley." (Open Letter)

      anonymous May 16, 2012 7:05am

      I live here in Arizona and many people have issues with the accuracy of the Phoenix New Times. It is a free paper considered a sensationalist left wing rag (and I am left wing myself!). The previous news article states that Christie was driven to the hospital by staff members after Ian's body was flown out. There are other discrepancies here too. Great photos though!

        anonymous May 16, 2012 7:15am

        O boy. I hope that a national outfit covers it soon.

anonymous May 15, 2012 9:54pm

Is Mcnally still on the board of directors at Diamond Mountain?

    anonymous May 15, 2012 10:16pm

    From here:

    "Following the teachings, the DMU Board of Directors met to hold its annual elections, voting in Rob Ruisinger as president, Nicole Davis as vice-president, Scott Vacek as secretary, and Charae Sachanandani as treasurer; along with Ven Jigme Palmo (Elly van der Pas), Tim Muehlhausen and Geshe Michael as the remaining board members. The board also voted to re-affirm Geshe Michael Roach as the sole spiritual director of the university."

    anonymous May 16, 2012 12:23am

    DM wiped McNally off their website really fast after the fallout. She is no longer under the "Lineage" part and barely credited as a co-founder anymore…

    anonymous May 16, 2012 11:29am

    It appears that she has also been removed from the lineage page.

        anonymous May 18, 2012 9:05am

        On the day before our arrival in China we received an email from a senior staff member of His Holiness' office expressing this staff member's doubts about our viewpoints and asking us not to attend a previously scheduled program, immediately following our China tour, in the Indian town of Dharamsala, where His Holiness resides.

        We of course respected this request, and then within the same month a different senior staff member made an unannounced appearance at one of our teachings. He publicly presented both of us with the offering of the mandala before our lecture, a great honor for us as Western teachers. We believe that all this reflects a natural concern about the changes we represent, balanced by a respect for our many years of hard work to help Tibetan people and culture.

        what senior staff member of His Holiness offered them a Mandala at the beginning of there teachings??? I'm quite curious…

      anonymous May 16, 2012 5:03pm

      and here…

anonymous May 15, 2012 2:04pm

from the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Coptic, 5th Cen., Berlin Papyrus, acquired 1895:

"The soul found itself in the fourth Climate.
This has seven manifestations:
The first manifestation is Darkness,
The second, Craving,
The third, Ignorance,
The fourth, Lethal Jealousy,
The fifth, Enslavement to the Body,
The sixth,Intoxicated Wisdom,
The seventh, Guileful Wisdom.
These are the seven manifestations of Wrath…

Lama Christie's Wisdom, in her letter, is most Intoxicated.
Geshe Michael's Wisdom, in his letter, is very Guileful."

anonymous May 15, 2012 9:01am

Diamond Mountain website is currently offline with the error message:

"Fatal error: Class 'PDO' not found in /home/diamondm/public_html/includes/database/ on line 184"

I have saved Roach's Open Letter and can post it somewhere for continued study, if I can get advice on any potential copyright issue there might be. An Open Letter is just that, yes? Or no?

      anonymous May 15, 2012 9:30am

      wild. i'm learning a lot here. thanks.

    anonymous May 15, 2012 11:51am

    Matthew, is down as well. I have to wonder, have you been hacked?

      anonymous May 15, 2012 12:10pm

      AV — thanks for the heads-up. i'm looking into it….

      …looks like yes… my ISP confirmed hackers exploited the fact I was using an outdated version of WP, and all of the files are now corrupted. I'll have to rebuild it manually.

        anonymous May 15, 2012 1:47pm

        Oh no. I'm so sorry. This is scary.

          anonymous May 15, 2012 1:55pm

          That could be what happened to the Lady Lamas site as well. They were also on WordPress I believe.

            anonymous May 15, 2012 2:00pm

            I don't think so. They were on wordpress, yes, but the URL now says the site was deleted by the authors. my site is coming up with a straight 403 error message.

              anonymous May 15, 2012 5:50pm

              Diamond Mountain's website is back up.

anonymous May 15, 2012 8:29am

This is a huge tragedy. And it would seem it has been mishandled from the beginning. When an assault occurs in the context of a romantic partnership or familial relationship it is, de facto, domestic violence.

I was one of Michael Roach’s early students – back in the hells kitchen days. I fled at the first whiff of his having a sexual relationship with Christie. I had nothing against it personally, I just believed he should take off his robes, as is commonly done in the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions and become a lay teacher or ngak-pa.

What I did take issue with, in addition to the question of his vows, was the lack of respect for the power differential. There is a reason that professors can’t have relations with students, that therapists cannot engage in sex with their clients and that spiritual teachers have to be ridiculously aware of the potential for exploitation and abuse. With the exception of my closest dharma brothers, I have not in twenty years commented on GMR’s activities. But as a mental health practitioner, I think that the way this was handled demonstrated a profound lack of compassion and wise caregiving and I share the outrage of many.

There is no doubt that GMR is well-read, engaging, provocative and dynamic a speaker. He had a beautiful ability to translate the dharma into the modern age. But at some point his narcissistic grandiosity seemed to take over. Such exploits as the Karma Show are a ridiculous and self-serving distortion of the teachings.

I think this letter is thoughtful. I think it is important. But moreover, I think the letter was very brave.

    anonymous May 19, 2012 6:32pm

    Tsering – I have known Matthew for years, and also studied very briefly with GMR in the late 90's, including organizing teachings for him in Vermont with my partner at that time (though my own lineage was Drikung Kagyu). I very much appreciate your comments, and agree that Matthew has shown a lot of integrity, mindfulness, and courage. We all must be willing to question and to call forth serious analysis. It is all too easy to get lost along the way with any esoteric path, fraught with egos that fall into the delusion of fame, and egos that fall into the delusion of needing an 'other' to save them.

anonymous May 15, 2012 1:43am

"He has grasped the knife,
I my body.
 At which is there anger?
Those who injure me are really impelled by my actions.
For this they will go to the realms of hell.
Surely it is they who are harmed by me?"

Matthew– I just want to say, I think we agree on many points — but I am not so sure about dragging Shantideva into this mess. If Shantideva was to blame, I think you'd see this kind of thing in every three-year retreat that's ever happened. Seriously, it's like blaming The Beatle's "White Album" for Charlie Manson's killing spree. The above quote is in reference to logical analysis to overcome the habitual tendency of getting angry at external objects, -to rather see anger itself as the enemy. Seeing one's own negative emotions as the enemy is not something that is dangerous: indulging our negative emotions is dangerous. It doesn't recommend allowing this poor enemy that you have aroused compassion for to actually stab you– it is clear: that would result in much worse suffering for them! But it also does not recommend retaliation, or anger. So what is there to misunderstand here? You could easily read this to say, in a practical framework: learn defensive martial arts so you can disarm your "enemy" out of compassion, so he doesn't end up in the hell realms! It doesn't mean, stab him three times, to teach him a lesson, or that knives don't cut, or anything else you could relate to this situation. I think bringing Shantideva into this is not really relavent, and makes it sound like the dharma itself is at fault, and not a gross misinterpretation of it. I just don't think that's valid. Just my 2¢, once again. . .

    anonymous May 15, 2012 4:38am

    Phurba: thanks for bringing up a fair point. I referred to the passage in the spirit of "the devil can quote scripture", because at DM, this seems to happen to justify all kinds of stuff. as i said in my revised comment:

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

    In other words, I think the value of this particular Shantideva verse is deconstructive, but that this might be an incomplete philosophical gesture, especially when it can be read to dismiss the ethics of the intersubjective. Especially a line like: "Those who injure me are really impelled by my actions." Put these words into the mouth of a civilian war casualty, and you wind up with a very distorted view.

    But I do realize that we are talking about gross misinterpretations, and my citation may not present this firmly enough. On the other hand, we have no way of measuring how widely the citation is misinterpreted. Pretty sticky stuff.

      anonymous May 15, 2012 11:53am

      I think it could be argued that the fault does not lie with the original text, but with the translation, and the odd way it was excerpted. Also, when you excerpt any quote out of the context of the larger text, where it is intended to be read in order to understand it properly, it can also cause misunderstanding, obviously. You do not site the translation source, and you actually do not even reference the correct chapter: I am certain that the excerpt you give is a translation of one of the verses in chapter six, –the chapter on patience– not chapter three, which is just a tribute to the awakening mind. In chapter 6, there are many "if's" i.e., hypotheticals, to show different ways to view anger as it arises, in order to see it as the true source of harm. From my brief online research it looks like you took a translation from Kate Crosby and Andrew Skilton and conflated line 43 from Chapter 6 with line 47 from Chapter 6. So you are using a not-great translation and then conflating two different verses into one. This could be seen as intentionally manipulative. I don't think that's an honest way to critique Shantideva, and certainly this citation is probably not widely misinterpreted, since it isn't even a valid citation. In Batchelor's translation, which is the one used when HH the DL is teaching this text, verse 43 is "Both the weapon and my body Are the causes of my suffering. Since the other gave rise to the weapon, and I to the body, With whom should I be angry?"
      Then there are three entire contextualizing paragraphs, before verse 47 which reads: "Having been instigated by my own actions, Those who cause me harm come into being. If by those (actions) they should fall into hell, Surely isn't it I who am destroying them?" This is clearly both on it's own and in context, an appeal to karma in the sense of interdependance, not solipsism, and a point of reflection in order to arouse compassion for someone you perceive as trying to harm you… this is a relative method, as most practices in Buddhism are methods, not examples of the ultimate experiential understanding that the philosophical texts point towards. . . It should be read in that light, and in the context of what it trying to communicate in this chapter: ways to examine one's experience in order to accomplish the perfection of patience. Again, I think your point here, especially with a mismanaged quotation, is not convincing. You have many valid points in your article, but since you offered to change things once their corrected I suggest you look at the actual Shantideva text and check against your excerpt.

        anonymous May 15, 2012 3:16pm

        Thank you, Phurba: I concede all of your points. My citation was hasty and clearly grabbed from an unreliable source. It stuck in my mind because I actually worked on a transcript of Roach teaching from this very text 12 years ago, and in his oral commentary he conflated Shantideva's subtlety with his own solipsism.

        Even given your context and erudition, I still think the text requires a grad-level sensitivity for it to evoke a richly intersubjective point, and I wonder if it's what the world needs most at this particular point. I think there are far more palpable arguments for intersubjectivity that do not potentially diminish the true power dynamics visible in oppression.

        But my purpose is not to misrepresent in the same way Roach does, so I'll take a look at how to amend both the quote and my reasons for including it. Thank you again.

          anonymous May 15, 2012 4:24pm

          I would have to agree with Phurba on this one. When I first read the article I was really bothered by the Shantideva quote and thought it was misused especially since you quoted it as an influence on Roach's solipsism.
          Shantideva is revered in Tibetan Buddhism as a saint and a voice of enlightenment. To drag his quote out of context into this whole sordid affair is almost blasphemous. Although I do appreciate the literary metaphor in this case it just didn't work for me.

            anonymous May 15, 2012 4:41pm

            PAX: thanks. I think if it's misinterpreted, it can well influence Roach's solipsism. But as I've said to Phurba, I acknowledge that my commentary should be more subtle.

            One more point of interest your comment brings to mind: it is impossible for non-believers to blaspheme.

              anonymous May 15, 2012 10:15pm

              Good point Matthew but in a non-religious context to blaspheme is equivalent to irreverence. Therefore even non-believers can blaspheme.

          anonymous May 15, 2012 10:02pm

          Matthew, I appreciate you conceding the points and look forward to an amending of the article to reflect that. I purposefully did not raise the issue early on, so you would be clear on my overall stance regarding the main issue, and that this specific critique regarding your article was not frivolous. Certainly, not only does the text require grad-level sensitivity, but according to the tradition it requires quite a bit more: not just a scholarly approach but a path of deep contemplation and deeper meditation, while in collaboration with a skilled guide. Unfortunately, yes you are right: the text can be twisted and manipulated by an unfit guide to suite their agenda. This is the danger of these territories, because especially in deeper waters –tantra specifically– texts are recorded in coded language that is terribly easy to misinterpret. . However, they were coded this way partly as a cautionary measure to keep them protected from those who would misuse them, to keep them dependent on an oral lineage of transmission, from guru to chela, from generation to generation. I find it much more troubling that GM is teaching tantra, apparently without the blessing of his gurus, and making a lot of other students into tantric gurus. . . but I digress. Regarding your thoughts in intersubjectivity and power dynamics of oppression: you can study this within the Tibetan political context itself: HH the DL who generally has tried to embrace a Shantideva and Ghandi style response to the colonization and oppression of Tibet by the Chinese has had plenty of opponents that are not only Tibetan, but who simultaneously revere HH. However, many have found his approach too passive, and who knows how it will unfold, but since HH has stepped back from any overt political role recently– many have risen up to protest in intense and horrifying ways, the upsurge of self-immolations inside and outside of Tibet recently and the hunger-strikers in NYC (one of which was a Gelugpa Tulku). Clearly, to sacrifice one's own life to benefit the situation in one's country, and all the people connected to it is quite an intersubjective sacrifice: there is no end-game benefit to the self. Actually, suicide is frowned upon in Buddhism, not considered such a good thing from a karmic perspective.. but there is a history of Buddhist self-immolation in China that goes quite far back, -one could even call it it's own tradition. But what is interesting is that in one sense the violence is self-contained, the paradigm of not harming others is still held with respect. I can't personally see a downside to this. As history shows, yesterday's oppressed may become tomorrow's oppressor, and vice versa. Just relieving a community from oppression may not solve any larger problems, if they then replicate unfortunate power dynamics once they're on top. A pervasive influence of Shantideva-inspired mind-training can only be of benefit in the long run, in my view, and so in that sense I would argue it is precisely what the world needs. . . a greater sense of our interdependence, and the weight of our personal actions on the entirety of the matrix.. this is necessary right now, while we watch with horror as our planet deteriorates at the whim of a very wealthy and self-serving minority, and most of us trot along because it's what is the easiest to do. . .

          anonymous May 18, 2012 12:51am

          Hoping you haven't forgotten about this! (friendly reminder)

            anonymous May 18, 2012 4:39am

            thanks for the reminder and i apologize for the delay. i've made the edit — finally! what do you think?

              anonymous May 18, 2012 8:59pm

              I think that is much clearer: differentiating Roach's distortion from the intent of the original text is important. I appreciate the effort, as I am sure does Shantideva himself if he is listening in;) Just as a grammatical aside: in the last line of that graph you have an extra now ( "But now now I have to wonder "). .
              Ok, thanks again for considering my points and changing the content to reflect them. . .

anonymous May 14, 2012 4:09pm

I was involved with Michael Roach in the mid to late 90's when he was accessible in New York City's lower east side. Although, I didn't go through the entire program, I did casually attend lectures and meditations either at the outreach bookstore, the center itself or whatever school auditorium was locally rented.

I remember parting with the group around the time they had announced Michael and a few others would be leaving for the three year Arizona retreat.

(On a side note: I remember a contest was held for the naming of the Arizona retreat and always thought it odd that 'Diamond Mountain' coincided with Michael's diamond industry background from which will all know he made his millions. Since he chose the name, no one really 'won'. The official line, was that it had to do with the 'Diamond Cutter Sutra' which could make sense, but somehow, it did play into his mystique- but that's my two cents.)
Prior to his retreat departure, it was understood that those of us left behind in NY would be in the great care of the students handpicked by Michael and that they had gone through 'the program' and were qualified. After attending some of these classes, my intuition flat out said- 'No they weren’t’.

I distinctly remember the disappointment in these new 'teachers'. And it's not that I knew anything more, but I could just tell they were fumbling and unqualified.

Years later when Michael ordained Christie McNally as Lama, she too seemed unqualified. All one has to do is watch any of her videos to see this. Unfortunately, we now have this tragic story.

Aside from the new teachers lacking certain qualities, I also felt that perhaps they lacked that special Geshse charisma? In hindsight, I remember one special quality that Michael was endowed with but they had so lacked.

And that was- Implied Authority.

Many times during a lecture, Michael would describe an enlightened state or certain realizations to be expected on the ever-evolving path. But instead of speaking about the results via certain practices in an objective way, he always inferred that he had direct experience himself.

Although, he never did say- 'I am enlightened'.

He would always preface the experience with a phrase like- 'When you're in it… such and such happens… and then you will feel such and such… etc.'

Harmless statements, but what made them effective was his delivery. Myself having studied method acting, I am very acquainted with something called ‘subtext’. And his subtext was always implying that 'He has been there'… and you can too someday. It's all about the tone of voice and the subtle inflections.

Some of these experiences were pretty extraordinary. I remember it was during one of the 'Wheel of Life' lectures when he said something to the effect that- 'If one's Karma is good enough, the world around that person will literally change, and that to a 'High Level Practitioner', the very auditorium we were sitting in, wouldn't appear the same to this High Level Person, but could in fact, be experiencing the room as brightly illuminated in gold'.

He implied that was most likely the way the Dalia Lama would see things, but also… he himself does.

I remember being fascinated by it (and do think it is possible) but also my inner critic sent up a red flag. And that wasn't the first time either.

In hindsight, it all makes sense given the exchange that promoted the fallout between himself and the Dalai Lama. (His claims of High Level Realization. etc.) The obvious irony is that the Dalai Lama himself only claims to be a simple monk- Quite the 180 from Michael.

In the end, perhaps I have not only to thank my method acting for picking up his subtext without getting glossy eyed about it, but my fallen Catholic background for sending me another red flag. And that was the sense of hierarchy amongst the followers.

I also took my Bodhisattva Vows and was deeply disturbed by the one that said something along the lines of 'not associating too closely with anyone outside the Sangha.' I remember thinking that that was just a little too cultish for me. (Albeit- it is an old oath, it just didn’t sit right within their context.)

There was no doubt, he was in charge, and he was the enlightened pope with secret mysteries to unfold.

But hey… don't all gurus have that quality?

All that said- I do honestly feel that he himself is neither malicious nor dangerous in a direct sense. I do believe he means well and I doubt he would ever set out in a pre-mediated manner to accomplish some evil. But like you, I also feel, he is delusional and with that comes the problem of making a healthy choice when it comes to 'his' world and his followers… especially when there is no longer any outside authority from the ancient tradition he has forgotten about.

    anonymous May 16, 2012 11:16am

    "The obvious irony is that the Dalai Lama himself only claims to be a simple monk- Quite the 180 from Michael."

    Yep — this pretty much says it all ……

anonymous May 14, 2012 1:46pm

Posted by "Ron Starbuck", on the "Rebuttal" blog, this morning:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron Starbuck

Houston, Texas

    anonymous May 21, 2012 4:37pm

    When I see people making claims like this – that "professionals" need to be brought in – I can't help but wonder if they've ever done retreat or at least attended teachings where retreat is discussed in detail. Like I said in an earlier post, I study Buddhism with other lamas, and while I have never done an extensive retreat of any kind, I know many people who have. And I have talked about this situation a bit with other Buddhists who aren't part of the DM sangha – just so I could try to make sense of things.

    The problem with having mental health professionals coming into the retreat is that they most likely aren't Buddhists and therefore don't have the proper framework to understand the practices done in retreat. I don't really see how it would be useful, because, frankly, they're not going to get it. I think it would be more of a hindrance than a help. If anything, the retreatants should only be checked out by someone who has an understanding of the practices and Buddhist worldview.

    And even if some "professionals" were sent in to "examine" the retreatants, it isn't the public's business to know about it. If I was in retreat and someone busted in and started psychoanalyzing me and then put that information online (regardless of whether I "checked out" or not)? That's crossing a line. It's also a breach of doctor/patient confidentiality.

    My concern for DM's retreatants is that they basically lost their lama and now are being guided through the retreat by John Brady. He's their vajra brother, not their lama. And when doing a retreat, it's best to do so with your lama present. Regardless of what you may think of Lama Christie as a teacher, the fact is, these retreatants see her as their lama, and now she is gone. This is my main concern.

      anonymous May 21, 2012 8:11pm

      These are good points. Would you advise that Buddhist psychotherapists be invited? I think the problem I and so many have raised is that this group is not ideally administrated for adequate self-inquiry. What do you suggest?

      No one has suggested that assessments be made public, but that the process of assessing be made public, to restore credibility.

        anonymous May 22, 2012 7:26am

        I'm not sure what I would advise specifically, but I think if anyone is going to check on the retreatants, it needs to be someone who has the proper framework of what happens in deep Buddhist retreat. So, perhaps, Buddhist psychotherapists are the best choice.

        It's a tricky situation though, because this would require people to come into the retreat and essentially disturb it. And the mind can be very sensitive when doing deep meditation for long periods of time, and too much outside stimulus can be overwhelming. So I think that's something that needs to be taken into consideration as well.

        Whatever is done, it needs to be handled with care and compassion.

anonymous May 12, 2012 4:06pm

Matt – What is a neo-buddhist? And what do you mean by it?

    anonymous May 12, 2012 5:32pm

    Neo, in the sense of renewed, reformed, recovered/reconstructed from an idea of the past, but inevitably different.

    anonymous May 13, 2012 6:19am

    The reason I asked is because the only references I could find to neo-buddhism on the internet, relate to the mass conversions of hindus to buddhism for questionable reasons. It relates to caste systems and neo-buddhist is their differentiating title.

      anonymous May 13, 2012 6:29am

      I wasn't aware of that particular usage. I know rather how the prefix is generally used to describe aesthetic and philosophical movements.

anonymous May 12, 2012 12:08pm

Here is a video of Geshe Michae auditioning for a show on Oprah's network called "The Karma Show. He's appears totally affected and unnatural. I mean who would fall for this character?

    anonymous May 12, 2012 12:43pm

    That's how he speaks, so not judging. I am curious by the statement that he's performed marriage ceremonies. I thought that ordained were not supposed to perform weddings?

    anonymous May 13, 2012 2:14am

    What he says in the video is not Buddhism, he didn't learn anything like that in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. He is obviously a liar and a con.

      anonymous May 13, 2012 11:51am

      GM and DM teach people how to use karma to get what they want by planting seeds. Usually to samsaric desires. Do something and give something so that you can get what you really want back. The focus is not on renunciation and selfless acts. Its not Buddhism.

      ‘If you have attachment to the happiness of this life, you are not a Dharma practitioner’

        anonymous May 13, 2012 1:32pm

        Just to contextualize your quote: it is from a concise four lines known as "parting from the four attachments", said by Manjushri to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo– for more details and the whole quote look here:

          anonymous May 13, 2012 1:32pm

          (I meant that for others, I am sure you know what you're quoting Tara!)

        anonymous May 13, 2012 1:39pm

        I liken it to the "Prosperity Churches" in the Christian community which teach that god wants Christians to have material wealth and "faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one's material wealth." (wikipedia)

        Another aspect of the teachings at DM is that if you see something undesirable in your partner, instead of dealing with it with them through discussion or counseling, you plant the karmic seeds to see a perfect partner and they will change. I've pointed out that this totally negates the thoughts, motivations and will of the other person and have been told that, no, the other person still has thoughts, motivations and will but they are all coming from you. It is a nice little solipsistic contrivance. It makes life something which can be easily manipulated and gives the practitioner total control.

          anonymous May 14, 2012 12:31am

          According to this teaching, Lama Christine just had to plant more karmic seeds in order to see Ian's violent outburst as perfect. It doesn't give the practitioner total control to life, it does give the practitioner an illusion of control…

            anonymous May 14, 2012 12:50am

            I just want to point out that while there have been allusions to Ian's being violent there have been no accounts of specific acts or actions by him that have been elucidated on this website or on the Diamond mountain website. How do we no he's not being scapegoated? It would be much more convenient for Roach to blame Ian or point fingers at him than at Christie Mcnalley since he proclaimed her a lama and "consort" and it would really make his judgement look worse if she turned out to be unhinged. On the other hand how convenient would it be to blame the guy who your mistress left you for ,, especially after he's deceased. Again there are these vague allegations of violence without any actual details, dates , acts, people involved witnesses etc. Hasn't anyone else notice this? If people are going to say he was prone toward violent outbursts or there were previous incidents than lets hear some facts. what did he do to whom and when? Otherwise it's just hearsay.

              anonymous May 14, 2012 4:28am

              This is a really good point, surya. The reports should definitely be corroborated, as should everything in the open letter.

              As far as pressuring the Board to remove Roach to restore credibility goes, either scenario is dire. If Ian was violent, he was not a viable candidate for retreat. If he was scapegoated, this is a whole other order of ugly.

              What is most troubling from the mental health perspective is the possibility that both might be true: that his violent outbursts made him an easy scapegoat.

              anonymous May 14, 2012 10:33am

              It is very true surya, no evidence of Ian's violent tendency except in GM's letter. I actually lean more towards to scapegoating after a power struggle between GM and LC gone very wrong. LC's cousin reported that GM's letter is completely not true and LC is being silenced. And, there is report that a "Ben" has a letter in his possession that GM wrote to diss Ian. Ugly indeed…

              anonymous May 14, 2012 11:20am

              I also feel that the specific instances of "violence" by Ian need to be elucidated. There is an unwholesome aspect of character assassination due to lack of specificity.

                anonymous May 14, 2012 11:22am

                And by "instances" I mean those prior to the Great Retreat

              anonymous May 14, 2012 3:03pm

              I know of acts of violence by Ian but I do not intend to get into details here. I also want to clarify that Ian having a history of violence does not speak to whether or not Christie was "unhinged".

              Knowing Ian's history, when I heard he was going into 3 year retreat with Christie, I asked people who also knew of his history if this didn't cause them some concern. I believe the answer I received was that Ian loved Christie greatly and they were sure Christie could handle it.

              My question is why it didn't cause more concern to those in charge at DM. At least enough so Christie could have been prepared to deal with a reemergence of violence by Ian if it occurred. Perhaps they did and she tried to make it some sort of "spiritual practice" instead.

                anonymous May 14, 2012 3:15pm

                I think the main question from the POV of this purportedly being an authentic 3-year drupta run by an 8th-bhumi bodhisattva, is why did this highly realized bodhisattva-in-charge not see this coming a mile away? There are failures in management, all the way to the top, most importantly the top: GM himself, who should have the insight into knowing that this was a disaster waiting to happen. This is yet another example that his grandiose claims to near-enlightenment should be discerned with incredulous skepticism. If even you Ben, who aren't making such incredible claims, sniffed this out before the retreat even began enough to ask other people, –what does it say that you had better judgement than the Lama running the retreat, and the so-called bodhisattva-geshe that made her a Lama?

          anonymous May 14, 2012 4:12am

          I remember this reasoning. What is so tragic about it is that counselling and conscious communication is such a profound path to tread.

          Clinically, it is borderline autistic, insofar as autism-spectrum challenges often involve a failure to develop a "theory of other minds".

          Worst of all: it does not and cannot work.

anonymous May 12, 2012 10:36am

Geshe Michael claimed he is at least on the 8th Bhumi of Bodhisattva path. The Sanskrit term bhūmi literally means "ground" or "foundation", since each stage represents a level of attainment and serves as a basis for the next one. When one reaches the 1st Bhumi, one is already enlightened.

The ten grounds of the bodhisattva are grouped within the three subsequent paths:

Bhūmi 1: The path of seeing
Bhūmi 2-7: The path of meditation
Bhūmi 8-10: The path of no more learning (Here is where Geshe Michael claims he is at least at!!!)

According to Avatamsaka Sutra, attaining bhumis 1-8 means GM rejoices at realizing a partial aspect of the truth (1st bhumi); GM is free from all defilement (2nd bhumi); GM radiates the light of wisdom (3rd bhumi); GM's radiant flame of wisdom burns away earthly desires (4th bhumi); GM surmounts the illusions of darkness, or ignorance as the Middle Way (5th bhumi); GM's supreme wisdom begins to manifest (6th bhumi); GM has rises above the states of the Two vehicles (7th bhumi); GM is Immovable as he dwells firmly in the truth of the Middle Way and cannot be perturbed by anything (8th bhumi).

It is my opinion that GM and DM don't really practice "humbleness" as most Buddhists do. The rest of us just don't have enough "Divine Pride" to admit our level of attainments. This is another example how GM and DM mix up a wonderful way of practice "Divine Pride" to actual philosophy and reality. How can this kind of teaching not lead to magical thinking and delusions?

    anonymous May 12, 2012 10:40am

    when did he claim that?

      anonymous May 12, 2012 10:55am

      Don't have the exact date Phurba. It was after his three year retreat. He "admitted" it to his senior students at the Diamond Mountain.

      anonymous May 12, 2012 11:07am

      he published a poem sometime between 2003 and 2006, addressed to his lineage masters, explaining his consort practice. one of the verses says something like: "I achieved the path of seeing". but i no longer have the poem. someone out there must.

        anonymous May 12, 2012 1:02pm

        yeah, but that's just the first bhumi.. i was aware of that.. hadn't heard he'd claimed to be on the 8th

          anonymous May 12, 2012 2:08pm

          GM did not make a public claim of the 8th Bhumi. Someone leaked it and I inquired about it. He told his closest and senior students.

          anonymous May 12, 2012 5:25pm

          woops. gotta brush up on my bhumis, clearly.

            anonymous May 12, 2012 6:04pm

            In a few years since he last claimed 1st Bhumi, GM advanced really fast on his path…like no others…

    anonymous May 12, 2012 12:23pm

    This at least appears to be a claim to the first bhumi… Someone else can expand the interpretation of my poor knowledge.


    16 January, 2003


    "…I would like to add that I have enclosed some small current, personal news about myself. I feel that it would be best, o highest lama, if You were to read this over before sending us Your letter of endorsement. I have never communicated these details of my personal life in their entirety to anyone in the past, but I feel that now there is some special purpose served by doing so. And at any rate I have reached an age in my life — I have just turned 50 — where I feel less constrained to speak openly about these things."

    "…Offered by the American monk, Geshe Lobsang Chunzin (Michael Roach), and his Dharma colleagues on the 17th day of December, 2002."

    anonymous May 12, 2012 12:27pm



    I was born in America,
    And from the age of sixteen
    Up to the present day
    Have always been under the care
    Of the Diamond Angel, Vajra Yogini.

    At the age of twenty,
    I travelled to India,
    Land of the Aryas, realized beings,
    And first met the sages of Tibet.

    And then at the age of 22,
    Despite the fact that I myself
    Had no good qualities at all,
    A seed inside of me
    Suddenly awakened, a seed
    Which was planted by the many efforts
    Of the me of my past lives,
    And by the infinite blessings
    Of my Lama.

    And so I saw ultimate reality directly,
    And I achieved bodhichitta,
    The Wish for Enlightenment:
    I entered the gate
    To the first level
    Of the bodhisattvas.

    In the hours after this experience,
    I saw that the Four Arya Truths
    Were surely true themselves,
    And I perceived that the teachings of Lord Buddha
    In general, and in particular
    Those of Je Tsongkapa,
    Were perfectly, absolutely correct.

    And so then I became ordained,
    And as a means to keep
    These teachings from ever
    Being lost in our world,
    And to spread them further still,
    I entered the diamond trade.

    What I had seen upon
    The Path of Seeing.
    For of all the objects
    In this lie of reality,
    There is only one highest metaphor
    For the ultimate reality,
    And that is the diamond.

    I labored thus for fifteen years,
    And with the income
    I tried to help preserve
    The physical Dharma
    By printing books
    And storing in computers
    Our sacred texts
    Of the Kangyur, and Tengyur,
    And writings of the Tibetan masters.

    I also did as much as I could
    To help support Tibetan monks
    Of the great monasteries
    Relocated in India.

    During this time I continued
    My studies, and in the end
    I was able to achieve
    A geshe degree of minor rank.
    And then I tried
    To bring that task
    Of the nectar of deathlessness,
    The Five Great Books,
    To people in our foreign lands.

    I completed, as well as I could,
    Many retreats in the tradition
    Of the Diamond Queen;
    And now for three years
    In isolation, in the desert
    Here in America,
    In a small Mongolian yurt,
    With a Lady, who is an emanation
    Of the Angel of Diamond, a Messenger;
    And I’ve undertaken the hardships needed
    To try to complete the two stages
    Of the secret teachings.

    So too nowadays
    To help to trigger
    The final transformation into
    The Diamond Sow herself,
    I wear my hair
    As the Angel Herself does,
    And her bracelet
    And other accoutrement
    Together with my robes.

    I know very well
    That what I have
    Described in these words
    Is very difficult to believe.
    And yet I call upon the power
    Of the truth that emptiness
    And the fact that things still work
    Are in no way contradictory;
    Upon the truth that the teachings
    Of Lord Buddha are true;
    Upon the truth that the Angel
    Herself is true;
    And upon the truth,
    O my Lama
    Of Your kindness —
    Highest Lama, may Your heart not be troubled
    Highest Lama, may this rather cause You to rejoice
    Highest Lama, may You never abandon this yogi/monk;
    May You sustain me
    Deep within Your heart
    Till the very day
    That I can achieve
    The Union of the Two.
    — written 28 years later, on my 50th birthday,
    by the American monk Michael Roach

      anonymous May 12, 2012 1:14pm

      "I know very well
      That what I have
      Described in these words
      Is very difficult to believe."

      Then him and his followers, such as Arly, should not be surprised when we do not. If we disregard these unbelievable claims, we are only left with the very basic actions to form a judgement. And any public teacher who is claiming to be deserving of the status of Vajra Guru is inevitably offering themselves up to be scrutinized and analyzed by the vast numbers of people who are their prospective disciples. So any article, such as this one, should not be cause for some of the hysterical and downright nasty responses it has received.

      anonymous May 12, 2012 5:29pm

      Lobsang. So glad you found that. I haven't seen it in years.

        anonymous May 12, 2012 5:36pm

        Here are the replies from the Lamas and Rinpoches as well…

        anonymous May 12, 2012 5:49pm


        "..Just to clarify I don’t mean you have to be enlightened to do that kind of conduct, it might seem that way from the story but all it means is having high realizations and showing to others through external miracle powers. Of course I don’t mean only external miracle powers, because even Hindus can have that.

        "By showing miracle powers then other people can generate devotion and non heresy by seeing the miracle power, something external, then they can have faith in high realizations seeing that you have control and are free and whatever conduct you dodoes not have the stain of samsara.

        "If one performs those behaviors to develop people’s devotion then it is not just anordinary miracle that is needed, one needs to do a special kind of miracle, for example the 6th Dalai Lama pee-ed from the top of the Potala and just before the urine hit the ground he drew it back again inside his vajra. Also there is the story of the previous incarnation of Gonsar Rinpoche he pulled in mud through his vajra.

        "This is just my suggestion I don’t know what other Lama’s and Guru’s will advise.

        With much love and prayers,

        Lama Zopa [Rinpoche]

          anonymous May 13, 2012 6:17am

          Does anybody have insight into the potential politics going on behind the rest of the letters (Lama Zopa's chiding aside). I find it hard to believe that Roach could win such endorsements based upon his poem of claims.

          The letter from the caretakers says: "All but one of the letters received was in Tibetan; they were translated by Geshe Michael. We have copies of the originals for anyone who knows or is learning Tibetan; they are quite beautiful and range from calligraphy to computer Tibetan to the shorthand Tibetan correspondence scrawl that looks a little like Arabic."

          I wonder if anyone posted the originals somewhere.

            anonymous May 13, 2012 11:38am

            All the endorsements came from people seriously involved with Sera Mey. If there is behind scene politic to reward someone a Geshe degree based on financial contribution then why not endorse him when asked? Wasn't the monk GM sent to pretend endorsement from HHDL from Sera Mey too?

            And in addition, GM loves to "beautify" his translations…

              anonymous May 13, 2012 1:34pm

              Yeah, I wonder what the original Tibetan says filtered through a more objective translator. . .

    anonymous May 12, 2012 2:05pm

    I discussed this "8th Bhumi" claim with one of those senior close student of GM, one of the new Lamas and it was confirmed that GM did make such a claim.

      anonymous May 12, 2012 2:43pm

      wow. ok.. well i hope these new "Lamas" wake up soon. there's just too many obvious contradictions to that claim, not to mention the original one, to not see how absurd it is when examined from the POV of any literature about what the qualities are of anyone on the various bhumis.

        anonymous May 12, 2012 4:53pm

        Phurba, the troubling thing is those who stayed believe in him. Why would you not believe your teacher is on the 8th when you believe yourself to be somewhere on the bhumis too?

        anonymous May 12, 2012 5:02pm

        And it was told to me that admitting his levels of attainment has nothing to do with being humble or not. If I practice "Divine Pride" harder, then I wouldn't be uncomfortable to claim my levels of attainment. Mixing practice with reality…

anonymous May 11, 2012 11:55pm

deana said…
What amazes me is that the letter written by Michael Roach is such that he is trying to cover his a__, and that the board members, his followers, that were hand picked, by Christie (my cousin), are so easily swayed – again, validating that this cultish "spiritual" sanctuary should be investigated.
I spent the days following Ian's death with Christie, and the stories being told in those days are so very different than what is being written by the followers of Michael Roach. I not only talked to Christie, but to her "caretakers", who have evidence that these stories are false.
Sadly, Christie will not speak out, nor is she being allowed to, by her caretakers, because they are still "employees" of Diamond Mountain. This way Michael still has a hand in what will come about.

    anonymous May 12, 2012 12:39am

    woah… well, Jerry, they might not speak out, but why don't you? If you heard these stories, and feel they are an important and compelling reason to investigate DM then it would be negligent to not speak out. I understand if you want to respect your cousins wish to not disclose them publicly, but you are not stuck by the same code of commitment to Roach as they are…if that is what is compelling them to stay silent. They would probably be relieved if you spoke out, and take the burden off them, even if they wouldn't admit it.

    anonymous May 12, 2012 4:44am

    This is a stunning post. jerry, are you the cousin, or is deana? I agree with Phurba that you are not bound by the same group-secrecy. familial privacy is another matter, of course. but perhaps if you publish what you know anonymously it might begin to loosen the official narrative a bit, while preserving familial trust? It is a hard situation to be in: no doubt. My warmest regards go to your family in such a difficult time.

      anonymous May 12, 2012 8:02am

      Sorry it was late..this came from Matt (world weary retreat worker) blog
      comment 4

        anonymous May 16, 2012 6:32pm

        This comment seems to have been removed and I would very much like to hear what Deana has experienced first hand of these events.

        I am not opposed to facts. I am opposed to all this hysterical finger pointing. Facts people. Facts, not hearsay. Even Geshe Michael Roach's letter is hearsay. No one has been diagnosed with mental illness. No legal charges of violent behavior or domestic violence have been witnessed and investigated.

        Remember, this whole domestic violence label was attached to the event by people who were not there, did not hear it, did not treat it. They decided it was domestic violence and reported it to a sheriff's department who said it didn't even warrant an investigation, which means they didn't agree that it was actually domestic violence.

        Again, not saying there was not an incident that the community should look into. I'm just pointing out there are a lot of opinions being thrown around on both sides that are not professional, not timely, and not legally verified.

        Calling for answers by asserting more speculation is fruitless. Calling for an investigation would have been a sound and reasonable action that Matthew could have taken. I'm not against that. I have no vested interest in this group of people nor in defending them. This piece of writing simply has no credibility as a call to action. It's libelous and personally motivated as an attack. There is no critical thinking and does not serve the purpose of opening up an investigation into alleged crimes.

          anonymous May 16, 2012 9:20pm

          i did call for an investigation, based upon available sources and my own personal experience and the opinion I derive from it. Independent investigation is now coming, in the form of national media, in part based upon our exposure here.

          Arly, thank you for returning to the comments, minus the abusive tone. You've written enough from a clear point-of-view that I'd suggest you post your own article on this site — Waylon has invited this — and then your version of a call to responsibility would be available for all to see.

      anonymous May 12, 2012 8:06am

      got it.

    anonymous May 12, 2012 9:42am

    Jerry, do you know this "Ben" person who keep getting mentioned? The one who knows Geshe Michael's true color? And has a letter GM written to trash Ian? I really really wish people who more insider information are not afraid to speak out. Is there a way to be able to talk to him and encourage him to write?

      anonymous May 12, 2012 10:23am

      I am surprised he hasn't spoken out yet…Ben Brewer….He and his family know no first hand information on this retreat but was the on site designer of retreat valley, he tried to set things right years ago then left (200k less in the bank)…..he needs to put out his information.The higher ups at Diamond Mountain all have different pieces of the puzzle… to keep things "in house"

    anonymous May 12, 2012 3:11pm

    It looks like this comment was removed from the blog by Deana. I just checked it. Did she receive pressure to rmove it?

    anonymous May 12, 2012 3:28pm

    Hi Jerry,

    It looks like the comment from Deana was removed from the blog. So the plot thickens! Do you know Deana was she coerced into removing her comment?

      anonymous May 12, 2012 5:18pm

      It may not even have been her that removed it… just because it says so don't make it so. I would hope if there's any investigative reporting actually done on this, the reporter tries to contact this Deana.

        anonymous May 12, 2012 6:26pm

        Yes, I agree. It looks very suspicious like someone did not want to see that put out there.

anonymous May 11, 2012 2:07pm

I'm petty impressed at the diligence that the DM people did regarding the stuff that went on. They contacted the authorities, asked Christie and Ian to leave and gave them an uncommon level of support, which, unfortunately, they chose not to use wisely (that's the great thing about America folks, adults can make choices!). Arly has pretty much said it all. It's so sad. DM isn't a "Cult", unless you want to say that Christianity and most religions are "Cults". The defamatory comments that have been put on this site are alarming (especially the foul play allegation). I'm neither pro nor against DM or GMR. But I respect people's right to do a treat if they wish, unmolested by someone's morbid curiosity about their personal mental health status. The authorities will no doubt do what they do.

Seems to me that Matthew wants some attention. Oh, and that outfit "A Course In Miracles" that Matthew became a devout "follower" of for years after he left DM, now THAT'S a CULT dude! Those are some nutters! I can understand to some degree why he's scarred by his spiritual experimentation and has been waiting for an opportunity to project that stuff on to events that are really not any of his business. And under the guise of being all altruistic. Not so much.

Let those guys heal Dude. This isn't some conspiracy. People have each others best interests at heart. It was a terrible tragedy. Now let them move on.

    anonymous May 11, 2012 4:16pm

    Rugbymurf: thanks for parachuting in. Like many other critics of this post, you present a libertarian position I admire in some ways, but that unfortunately serves the circular and insulated worldview of the group, which is bound by its charitable status to public transparency and democratic governance (i.e., not under the spiritual director's thumb). Do you really believe they should not have been offered or committed to psychiatric evaluation, especially after reading McNally's letter, and after Roach's admission of Thorson's violent outbursts reaching back over the years? Do you really evict a "sensitive" soul without contacting his family or intervening in some way into the relationship that has become obviously dangerous, perhaps through Title 36?

    If I could have published anonymously and responsibly at the same time, I would have done so. It's not about me getting attention. It's about attention finally being paid to a self-authorizing power structure that leads people into the desert under a solipsistic and self-aggrandizing metaphysics, and o, while being tax-exempt, no less.

    I haven't alleged conspiracy. The problem of intentionality is at the heart of the group-dynamic here. Everyone says that they are free: that doesn't make it so. As devotion rises, critical thinking tends to fall.

    And yes, my subsequent experience in yet another cult-like environment gave me a very clear picture of what's going on in venues of social-spiritual control. I'll write about that someday as well.

anonymous May 10, 2012 4:29pm

I watched an interview posted by Wanderlust with Christie McNally last year where she talked about the upcoming 3 year retreat. She had a look about her that struck me as not quite there. I think it was irresponsible after the stabbing to just let these people go with no care for their welfare. Isn't compassion the number one teaching of the Buddha? Thank you for bringing some light into this situation. I wish the best for those remaining in retreat.

anonymous May 10, 2012 10:11am

all you have to do is just look at this to see how ridiculous whatever they were doing or teaching had become:

    anonymous May 11, 2012 5:46am

    I remember this. To be fair: it seems to be a brief initiative, and the site seems abandoned. In my memory, Roach's devotees have given birth to many start-ups that have not gained traction. This one for obvious reasons that I think any Women's Studies profs would have field day with.

      anonymous May 11, 2012 11:07am

      These lady lamas are actively teaching as "Lamas", just not together using that website.

        anonymous May 11, 2012 4:19pm

        I see your point. The title is being used currently.

          anonymous May 11, 2012 7:41pm

          . Lisette Garcia looks like the lady that left the retreat she shared boyfriend …It would be interesting to hear from her…I'm sure we will as this thing works it's way along

            anonymous May 11, 2012 7:55pm

            Jerry – where did you see her? When did she leave? She is such a sweet woman

              anonymous May 11, 2012 11:54pm

              well it sure looked like her…long time ago..If I'm wrong she has a twin in Town at Phils store

            anonymous May 12, 2012 9:30am

            Lisette Garcia is still in retreat.

    anonymous May 12, 2012 9:42am

    what exactly is your problem with the Lady Lamas?
    now you are just making judgments of others who are sincerely trying to pass on the teachings to benefit others. what is your intention?

      anonymous May 12, 2012 6:34pm

      I think the issue is that a bunch of people, ladies or not, are suddenly calling themselves Lamas, –who have hardly any real time or study of authentic dharma under their belts… sincerity aside, if they are not qualified — from the perspective of the holders of the lineage they are purportedly trying to transmit from– then there is a problem there. GMR has completely alienated himself from his own Gurus, and doesn't seem to respect their opinions. I can't judge in any ultimate sense, but from appearances alone that sure makes him look like a samaya-breaker. In which case, anyone associated with him will not be benefiting others, but corrupting the dharma and sacrificing their own precious human births. I truly hope this is not the case, I have no stake in this and only wish that anyone associated with this group does indeed attain enlightenment in this life. However, it truly looks problematic, for so so many reasons, I think this last tragic event and the story around it is just a breaking point, where many of us who have been alarmed and concerned for the last 5 or 10 years are now more worried than ever. And not just for the group, but for the larger transmission of dharma to the west… degenerations create obstacles for all.

    anonymous May 12, 2012 6:13pm

    The site is suddenly taken down now…

    anonymous May 12, 2012 9:31pm

    I wonder who took it down. Was it one of the women on the site or by someone else? What would be the reason if doing so?

      anonymous May 12, 2012 10:16pm

      This is very strange since Deana's comments were just taken of the DM blog today also after they wer posted here..
      deana said…
      What amazes me is that the letter written by Michael Roach is such that he is trying to cover his a__, and that the board members, his followers, that were hand picked, by Christie (my cousin), are so easily swayed – again, validating that this cultish "spiritual" sanctuary should be investigated.
      I spent the days following Ian's death with Christie, and the stories being told in those days are so very different than what is being written by the followers of Michael Roach. I not only talked to Christie, but to her "caretakers", who have evidence that these stories are false.
      Sadly, Christie will not speak out, nor is she being allowed to, by her caretakers, because they are still "employees" of Diamond Mountain. This way Michael still has a hand in what will come about.
      May 11, 2012 12:19 PM

      This is really strange!!! Someone is watching and has gone into serious suppress all info mode!

      anonymous May 12, 2012 10:29pm

      I agree with Cavegirl, someone is monitoring and trying to control info on the internet. How interesting…

anonymous May 9, 2012 9:42pm

The forthwith may be considered a matter of opinion but it is really just an application of basic common sense:

I. Clear motive.

Roach is a megalomaniac. McNally as well; she learned from the best. These are facts obvious to a casual viewer of their online videos. Roach was the odd man out in a love triangle. He saw an opportunity/need to oust McNally and Thorson and wipe his and his organization’s hands of a messy loose end. Christie in turn blamed and resented Thorson for causing her to be stripped of all of her authority and her flock and booted from her career. As she points out in her bizarre letter, she had all the power over Thorson in the relationship. Anyone meeting Thorson over the past years could tell he was long the puppet of Roach and then McNally. She admits to stabbing him. Then, out in the cave, she saw an opportunity to get free of what had become a major liability and a domestic situation no longer particularly agreeable to her. As a megalomaniac with a self-vested “spiritual” authority, she considers herself above the law or the mundane constraints of human affairs.

II. The act.

McNally had an emergency satellite beacon with a panic button and a cell phone. They were well stocked with victuals and water. These are not the accoutrements of a wayward soul. McNally is anything but an honest person- again, simply watch a video of her. In particular notice the affected mannerisms and faked smile. Why did she wait until Ian was dead to call for help? It only took search and rescue two hours to arrive and he was already dead when they arrived. One does not die suddenly from dehydration or intestinal infection. It takes days. She was found hardly in bad shape, good enough to be released from the hospital within a day.

She offed him, or let him die, which is only a matter of fine distinction. This is a plain old classic love triangle / power struggle. A cliched story that plays out many times in many communities and places of business around the world. This one just happened to be in a cult. Roach and DM are negligent- you don’t claim dominion over mentally vulnerable people and then turn them out without major care. Christie is just a spouse murderer.

Sometimes things are not as mysterious as they seem. Just plain old sad.

    anonymous May 10, 2012 7:29am

    They say where there's smoke there's fire. And that's the premise you're working on; where's there's no conclusion drawn, there's you and your reasoning born from a cataclysmic dearth of logic. Consider, however, that sometimes there's smoke without actual fire. Like when I exhale from a drag on a cigar. No fire in my mouth, right? Yet, there's the smoke. Cool magic trick, huh?

    And do you want to know the coolest part? I just insulted you and called you a moron and you didn't even know it.

    And that's why no one cares about your ridiculous opinion based on someone else's slander.

    anonymous May 10, 2012 7:48am

    I read the article and check back for updates and to get clarity for myself. This is the first comment I have seen which essentially accuses murder. has anyone else noticed? This is scary.

      anonymous May 11, 2012 5:48am

      This is the first comment. It is purely speculative. The Sheriff of Cochise is not pursuing foul play. The attention should be focused on the Board, in my opinion.

        anonymous May 11, 2012 7:59am

        he might have just taken a tumble too(in his weakened condition) i heard he showed signs of head trauma. i can't picture that little pumpkin head killing anyone…getting confused and sitting there spaced out yes, Not knowing how to operate the gps beacon yes… keep in mind this isn't CSI country up here

          anonymous May 11, 2012 9:22am

          Christie's got a reputation for wrath, to be sure, but when she made the call she was freaked out. 6 A.M, "He's not breathing!"!

          Arly, you are an 'armchair' lawyer with all your derisive dribble and onslaught of opinions.

anonymous May 9, 2012 9:08pm

It may very well be that there was no foul play, or even perhaps some kind of sexual experimentation going on. Perhaps the board panicked because of pressure. In sensitive psychological states, things can quickly spiral out of control. A good lesson for all, I think, is how dangerous some of these games with high stakes can get.

I'm not sure it's entirely possible to determine the 'right' course of action. After-all, political and academic structure has its own biases to contend with, which may also resemble 'cultishness'. Hopefully we may all grow a little wiser in the wake of these events, and become more mindful of our own assumptions.

    anonymous May 11, 2012 5:50am

    I agree, Peter, about the ability to discern flawlessly. But both political and especially academic structures treasure their built-in checks on power: democracy and peer-review. These two mechanisms are at the heart of my calls to the Board.

anonymous May 9, 2012 7:56pm

9) I have all but monk's or nun's vows. And I know what they are. Not one says I can't speak up if my teacher is harming someone or asking someone or me to do something that's not okay. Maybe you've interpreted your vows that way, but I don't have a vow anywhere that says that. Done.

I can't remember anyone saying they took a ritual vow of silence. Can you tell me where you saw that they did? They seem to be writing family and friends. Done.

10) How do you prove someone doesn't have a history of mental illness? Do you read what you write? Can you prove you don't have a history of mental illness? How would you do that?

Can you explain "potentially provocative meditation practices"?

I agree, the retreat location is very isolated. If there is a student with a known (as in diagnosed by a real doctor, not you) mental health issue, this really should be addressed by the protocol from #11.

11) If any wrong doing is uncovered by local authorities, then certainly the protocol should be made known to health officials and updated as per their recommendations. I'm not convinced that you are entitled to that information.

"This tragedy" has not yet been established as negligence on the part of any organization to treat or care for a mentally ill person, so it has nothing to do with your request for protocols. A protocol should be there regardless.

12) What qualifications are you looking for, Matthew? Is there a CV that will meet some standards of being a retreat leader? Can I take a certificate course in this at a local community college? Can you be more specific? This is too general and I would throw it out of my courtroom. Done.

13) Alleged domestic violence. The organization has the right to publish any or none of its teachings, but it is odd that this is the one teaching that isn't published. The only reasons compelling them to disclose this is 1) they want to or 2) it has been subpoenaed in the investigation regarding the death of Mr. Thorson.

14)This means nothing. You just want them to fall at your feet and say they were wrong. This accomplishes nothing but your own personal satisfaction to have them do everything you say. The document is clearly available to anyone who wants it. Throwing this one out. Done.

15) Is there such a thing as proof that you are towing the lineage line? One gal said his Tibetan teacher in New Jersey told her to go there and study. His teacher's nephew has flown in from India a few times to teach there. Their students have been welcomed at the monastery in India. One of his students has been living with and studying with Prof. Robert Thurman.

I'm backing away from this one. You're dangerously close to calling him an outright liar. I'm not touching this. So done.

Items 2, 6, 8,11, and 13 have some merit but you've applied stupid erroneous reasoning to your badly stated requests.

Here's the deal, Remski. I'm a lawyer. I've been playing here because I have a perverse sense of humor. But you could be sued easily by these people for slander, libel, defamation of character, and attempting to obstruct the public good by casting dispersion on a public institution. You attempts to practice medicine without a license by diagnosing mental illness again and again are dangerous. That's why there are laws against it.

You have points. You are entitled to your opinions. You have a couple of reasonable requests. But you're skating on thin ice here with your allegations which is all you have. Nothing concrete. You have no case. You have no mental health records or diagnoses. In this, you have only hearsay and speculation. You have no proof of what the lady lama said at her teaching. So you are left with suspicions.

Generally, once in retreat, we don't see you for the length of the retreat. Asking someone to make any sense at all while in a state of deep concentration is the moral crime here. Why don't these folks just get to do retreat? No teaching. No show. Let them finish their retreat in peace. If the authorities have questions, they'll investigate.

    anonymous May 9, 2012 8:27pm

    Addendum: I find it fascinating that you will take the word of this madman, this mind-controlling charismatic charlatan when it suits your purposes but otherwise call him a liar. You take every morsel of his open letter that suggests domestic violence, mental illness, and the history of a deceased person who can no longer speak for himself and a woman who will speak to no one at present. This hearsay you will swallow whole to further your own ends. You believe what Geshe Michael Roach has said about these two people in his retreat only because it furthers your damning opinion when in fact, you profess to disbelieve anything he has to say.

    This is not buddhist practice. Nowhere does the Conqueror encourage His students to be buddhist police. Sit down and meditate. Do your own practice. You will NEVER be able to convince anyone EVER that seeking to destroy by lies and groundless allegation is a loving buddhist practice. You will NEVER be able to convince anyone EVER that to protect living beings, you must first plaster the web with allegations and suspicions while taking no useful action that could actually protect those living beings. You NEVER needed to do this. Any of you, all of you, could have contacted the authorities in Arizona, begun a dialogue, watchdogged the very people who could help you help the retreaters. You NEVER had to participate in slanderous and libelous activity.

    And yet you did. And you hid behind your "buddhist compassion" to make it look right.

    F*ing pathetic.

    anonymous May 9, 2012 8:48pm

    Arly you really need to talk with Ben Brewer for a long view of Roach.
    Roach (in the real world we would call him "her Ex") in his letter is the guy trashing Ian. Without the 3 year,3 month,3 day retreat Ian would be alive… right.? George Orwell writes about the effects of isolation in a powerful way. Some people just can't handle it ( like me, like Ian and apparently his Lamas).
    You seem more interested in saving the institution while some of us are interested in the well being of the retreaters(one who have spoken to others about suicide during this retreat).
    Oh ,one more thing…when everyone talks about the Cochise county judge, keep in mind Justice of the Peace Mike Skyles is a non-lawyer in an elected job that spends most his time dealing with long haul trucker issues.He has done tractor work up in the valley for a fellow ex highway patrol officer that bladed the poor mountain to it's present sad state for DM.

      anonymous May 10, 2012 7:16am

      Jerry, I have no idea what your grammatically tortured paragraph is supposed to communicate.

        anonymous May 10, 2012 9:09am

        hey, lawyer Arly, tell ya what, whatever else you may think or be attempting to communicate yourself, Jerry knows a whole lot more about it than you do…….a whole lot more…….

          anonymous May 10, 2012 9:29am

          Warren i have to admit my grammar is pretty bad when i type on my phone! I have met too many Arly types up at DM..The builders,the old timers and fesh faced new comers are great people but there are a group of careerists chasing after spiritual credentials that should look at the facts a bit closer. . Full speed ahead is a great speed until you run onto the rocks.

            anonymous May 10, 2012 10:08am

            all kinds, all persuasions, each is an individual. there are those who have made an investment, not so much in their own personal struggle to obtain enlightenment, as in the continuing success of the lama, both in terms of years of time invested and vast amounts of cash spent or donated……..they don't want to see the ship founder upon the shoals, which is what has just happened……I have my hopes that it will be rescued, even though it is too late for Ian, but there are some egos that need to reconsider what they are up to….now i am up in colorado at the moment but happen to know that a certain resident whom the Board of Directors cannot touch told Geshe Michael at a big community meeting just a couple of days ago that he is passing out the title of 'lama' a bit too freely…..i absolutely echo this….i sent him an e-mail recently, to which he did not respond; permit me to quote myself, "Michael, you need to cut your engines, cool your wings, come back here and sit still for six months."

anonymous May 9, 2012 7:55pm

Matthew, I'm going to suspend all disbelief in you and ask calmly: Can you state your intentions in one or two sentences?

Your article is so long and it has so much information that it's possible to construe a lot of intentions. But the tone is so blaming that it's difficult not to think the main issue is yours alone, some kind of blame or vendetta or something.

Here are my honest assessments of your requests some of which are valid:

1) It seems like someone with authority over me who wanted a cover up would not have allowed me to go to the police and notify them of any alleged problem at the center. I'm not sure this is true because of that fact. Done.

2) a) Until it has been established as domestic violence, I would prefer to call it the alleged incident of domestic violence. There are conflicting stories.

b) It does seem like a medical report from the doctor who treated Ian would be helpful. And if there are statements of concern from retreaters – that are pertinent – then really a local official should be asked to take statements freely offered by concerned retreaters. If there are no statements, Matthew, will you accept that?

3) They basically did by going and reporting the alleged domestic violence as a sure incident of domestic violence. If the county or state doesn't do anything about it, it's their call. And now that someone has died, it's difficult to believe that an inquest won't be opened if anything out of the ordinary has occurred. Done.

4) You really have to stop diagnosing people using your diploma in ayurvedic herbs. They didn't allow them to remain. After they found out, they kicked them out of the retreat. Done.

5) They did when they went to the police once they labeled the alleged sword play as domestic violence. Done.

6) Calling Dr. Remski. Who are you to be writing a scrip for 'residential mental health care'? It's not an eventuality. Can you maybe restate this as "Provide post-retreat financial support (housing, food, medical) for Christie McNally if needed."

See this is the kind of language you use that just turns me off. You make this thing sound like the Inquisition, dude. It's not friendly.

7) Again, where's your medical diploma? They haven't been deemed mentally ill by professionals as far as I can tell. So lose the attitude, please. And domestic violence hasn't been confirmed. They were being driven to a hotel or airport or something, right? I guess the assistant need a driver's license. I assume he had one. Done.

8) You don't "report" a doctor to the medical board because you don't like his buddhist teacher. You could be sued by the doctor. What I would do that would get the same result is ask for a report from the doctor to be submitted to authorities. Then if they think there's been a mistake, that's their job to deal with the doctor on their own terms.

anonymous May 9, 2012 7:05pm


9) I have all but monk's or nun's vows. And I know what they are. Not one says I can't speak up if my teacher is harming someone or asking someone or me to do something that's not okay. Maybe you've interpreted your vows that way, but I don't have a vow anywhere that says that. Done.

I can't remember anyone saying they took a ritual vow of silence. Can you tell me where you saw that they did? They seem to be writing family and friends. Done.

10) How do you prove someone doesn't have a history of mental illness? Do you read what you write? Can you prove you don't have a history of mental illness? How would you do that?

Can you explain "potentially provocative meditation practices"?

I agree, the retreat location is very isolated. If there is a student with a known (as in diagnosed by a real doctor, not you) mental health issue, this really should be addressed by the protocol from #11.

11) If any wrong doing is uncovered by local authorities, then certainly the protocol should be made known to health officials and updated as per their recommendations. I'm not convinced that you are entitled to that information.

"This tragedy" has not yet been established as negligence on the part of any organization to treat or care for a mentally ill person, so it has nothing to do with your request for protocols. A protocol should be there regardless.

12) What qualifications are you looking for, Matthew? Is there a CV that will meet some standards of being a retreat leader? Can I take a certificate course in this at a local community college? Can you be more specific? This is too general and I would throw it out of my courtroom. Done.

13) Alleged domestic violence. The organization has the right to publish any or none of its teachings, but it is odd that this is the one teaching that isn't published. The only reasons compelling them to disclose this is 1) they want to or 2) it has been subpoenaed in the investigation regarding the death of Mr. Thorson.

14)This means nothing. You just want them to fall at your feet and say they were wrong. This accomplishes nothing but your own personal satisfaction to have them do everything you say. The document is clearly available to anyone who wants it. Throwing this one out. Done.

15) Is there such a thing as proof that you are towing the lineage line? One gal said his Tibetan teacher in New Jersey told her to go there and study. His teacher's nephew has flown in from India a few times to teach there. Their students have been welcomed at the monastery in India. One of his students has been living with and studying with Prof. Robert Thurman.

I'm backing away from this one. You're dangerously close to calling him an outright liar. I'm not touching this. So done.

Items 2, 6, 8,11, and 13 have some merit but you've applied stupid erroneous reasoning to your badly stated requests.

Here's the deal, Remski. I'm a lawyer. I've been playing here because I have a perverse sense of humor. But you could be sued easily by these people for slander, libel, defamation of character, and attempting to obstruct the public good by casting dispersion on a public institution. You attempts to practice medicine without a license by diagnosing mental illness again and again are dangerous. That's why there are laws against it.

You have points. You are entitled to your opinions. You have a couple of reasonable requests. But you're skating on thin ice here with your allegations which is all you have. Nothing concrete. You have no case. You have no mental health records or diagnoses. In this, you have only hearsay and speculation. You have no proof of what the lady lama said at her teaching. So you are left with suspicions.

Generally, once in retreat, we don't see that person for the length of the retreat. Asking someone to make any sense at all while in a state of deep concentration is the moral crime here. Why don't these folks just get to do retreat? No teaching. No show. Let them finish their retreat in peace. If the authorities have questions, they'll investigate.

    anonymous May 13, 2012 11:29am

    good for you fo rpointing the potential for libel defamation etc.. it is scary that one can be so intent on exposure and possibly with some validity .. but to go overboard in accusations.. opens another legal ground

    anonymous May 13, 2012 12:02pm

    This just seems like an intimidation tactic to silence Matthew. Again it only serves to cast Michael Roaches followers in a bad light.

      anonymous May 16, 2012 6:19pm

      If you were concerned, you wouldn't be hiding behind your computer. You'd be calling police and local authorities and filing a complaint. It's pretty easy to point fingers from thousands of miles away isn't it? And who says I'm a "follower"?

    anonymous May 13, 2012 1:40pm

    "Why don't these folks just get to do retreat?"

    I guess you missed the part where someone was stabbed 3 times, and then ended up dead a few months later?

      anonymous May 16, 2012 6:15pm

      So why should their retreat be thwarted? If they had done nothing wrong, probably didn't know about the events of March 2011 until the February 2012 teaching, if they were going along nicely not being involved in the drama, why should their retreat end? If this happened in the apartment next to yours, should I be calling for an evacuation of your entire building? Are you part of an incident of which you may know nothing? Leave them alone.

      Why are you people so hell bent on disturbing someone else's retreat. it doesn't sound like these people even knew there was this soap opera going on between these two people. Except for the medical person, who will either explain to the medical establishment that it was nothing or was something and then take the consequences of not reporting.

        anonymous May 17, 2012 7:14am

        After the way the situation with Christie and Ian was handled, people are concerned that DM is more interested in its reputation than the care of those people whose welfare is in their hands. Look how quickly the website was whitewashed of references to Christie. Although she is clearly in need of support and compassion, it seems her community has not done right by her. There are recovering drug addicts in retreat right now. Are they getting the appropriate care and support? If there were more domestic abuse among retreatants, would that be handled better than Christie and Ian were? These are not hypotheticals. A man has died.

    anonymous May 18, 2012 4:44am

    Oooh, you're a lawyer. Scary.

    Mentally ill? Anyone can spot a crazy person. Someone who doesn't know a knife can hurt someone is at best someone with "issues".

    Qualifications to lead a retreat? GMR has said in an interview that there is really no tradition of retreat in his lineage. Tell that to the Gelukpa 3 year retreatants in Wisconsin, who know good and well that there is such a tradition in the Gelukpa lineage. He never did a traditional retreat so he wasn't competent to lead one. End of discussion.

    GMR's and LC's "retreat" had a large component of yoga, ballet, playing music and chanting. Not so much structure. GMR has violated minor vows by retaining long hair and so forth. He gets a letter of reprimand from his teacher and sells it as a vote of confidence. He claims not to enjoy eating. Clearly a liar. Claims not to enjoy sexual activity, but claims to have masturbated since taking his monk's vows. Why masturbate if not for pleasure? Clearly a liar.

    Threatening legal action is the first and last refuge of someone fighting a losing argument on the internet. Hitler would never have done that. That's right, I did NOT compare you to Hitler. I win.

anonymous May 9, 2012 7:03pm


Matthew, I'm going to suspend all disbelief in you and ask calmly: Can you state your intentions in one or two sentences?

Your article is so long and it has so much information that it's possible to construe a lot of intentions. But the tone is so blaming that it's difficult not to think the main issue is yours alone, some kind of blame or vendetta or something.

Here are my honest assessments of your requests some of which are valid:

1) It seems like someone with authority over me who wanted a cover up would not have allowed me to go to the police and notify them of any alleged problem at the center. I'm not sure this is true because of that fact. Done.

2) a) Until it has been established as domestic violence, I would prefer to call it the alleged incident of domestic violence. There are conflicting stories.

b) It does seem like a medical report from the doctor who treated Ian would be helpful. And if there are statements of concern from retreaters – that are pertinent – then really a local official should be asked to take statements freely offered by concerned retreaters. If there are no statements, Matthew, will you accept that?

3) They basically did by going and reporting the alleged domestic violence as a sure incident of domestic violence. If the county or state doesn't do anything about it, it's their call. And now that someone has died, it's difficult to believe that an inquest won't be opened if anything out of the ordinary has occurred. Done.

4) You really have to stop diagnosing people using your diploma in ayurvedic herbs. They didn't allow them to remain. After they found out, they kicked them out of the retreat. Done.

5) They did when they went to the police once they labeled the alleged sword play as domestic violence. Done.

6) Calling Dr. Remski. Who are you to be writing a scrip for 'residential mental health care'? It's not an eventuality. Can you maybe restate this as "Provide post-retreat financial support (housing, food, medical) for Christie McNally if needed."

See this is the kind of language you use that just turns me off. You make this thing sound like the Inquisition, dude. It's not friendly.

7) Again, where's your medical diploma? They haven't been deemed mentally ill by professionals as far as I can tell. So lose the attitude, please. And domestic violence hasn't been confirmed. They were being driven to a hotel or airport or something, right? I guess the assistant need a driver's license. I assume he had one. Done.

8) You don't "report" a doctor to the medical board because you don't like his buddhist teacher. You could be sued by the doctor. What I would do that would get the same result is ask for a report from the doctor to be submitted to authorities. Then if they think there's been a mistake, that's their job to deal with the doctor on their own terms.

anonymous May 9, 2012 3:33pm

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

    anonymous May 9, 2012 3:40pm

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

      anonymous May 9, 2012 3:59pm

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

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

    anonymous May 9, 2012 6:11pm

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

      anonymous May 10, 2012 12:39am

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

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

      For a small background about the ("controversial") bestowing of the Geshe title see:

anonymous May 9, 2012 2:26pm

To Arly.

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

    anonymous May 9, 2012 4:20pm

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

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

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

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

      anonymous May 9, 2012 7:57pm

      How do you get three thumbs up for not being able to count?

anonymous May 9, 2012 1:01pm

noone is questioning its existence. however, it doesnt say what you pretend it says.

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

    anonymous May 10, 2012 12:58am

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

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

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

      anonymous May 13, 2012 12:06pm

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

        anonymous May 13, 2012 1:56pm

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

          anonymous May 14, 2012 12:02am

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

        anonymous May 13, 2012 4:40pm

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

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

          anonymous May 14, 2012 12:10am

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

            anonymous May 14, 2012 2:00am

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

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

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

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

              anonymous May 14, 2012 4:05am

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

          anonymous May 14, 2012 11:14am

          This speaks precisely to my major concern within the community

      anonymous May 13, 2012 8:02pm

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

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

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

      12/01/2010 ORDER: Granting PE1
      11/16/2010 NOTICE: Notice PE1
      11/01/2010 MOTION: Motion PE1
      09/23/2010 INJUNCTION: Preliminary Injunction PE1 0
      9/23/2010 NOTICE: Creditors PE1
      09/23/2010 NOTICE: Health Insurance PE1
      09/23/2010 Petition: Dissolution of Marriage PE1
      09/23/2010 SUMMONS: SUMMONS

        anonymous May 13, 2012 8:48pm

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

        anonymous May 13, 2012 11:40pm

        OMG! I have a wedding photo of Christie on her wedding day in New York when she married Ian. It is dated October 5, 2010. Not sure that was the date of the wedding or the day I downloaded the photo.

          anonymous May 13, 2012 11:59pm

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

        anonymous May 14, 2012 2:06am

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

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

          anonymous May 14, 2012 5:14am

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

          Beautifully stated, tenpel.

          anonymous May 14, 2012 11:00am

          The reason GM gave for not disrobing:

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

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

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

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

        anonymous May 14, 2012 11:10am

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

        anonymous May 14, 2012 1:09pm

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

          anonymous May 14, 2012 1:41pm

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

anonymous May 9, 2012 12:27pm

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

    anonymous May 9, 2012 12:36pm

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

anonymous May 9, 2012 7:42am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    anonymous May 9, 2012 7:59am

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

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

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

      anonymous May 9, 2012 9:06pm

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

    anonymous May 9, 2012 9:06am

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

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

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

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

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

      anonymous May 9, 2012 11:11am

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

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

        anonymous May 9, 2012 12:55pm

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

          anonymous May 9, 2012 1:25pm

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

            anonymous May 9, 2012 11:41pm

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

              anonymous May 10, 2012 10:40am

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

      anonymous May 9, 2012 5:51pm

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

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

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

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

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

      anonymous May 11, 2012 8:37am

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

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

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

      4. not sure what you mean here…

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

    anonymous May 9, 2012 2:44pm

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

      anonymous May 9, 2012 4:56pm

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

      anonymous May 9, 2012 6:05pm

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

        anonymous May 9, 2012 8:48pm

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

        anonymous May 10, 2012 3:05am

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

        anonymous May 10, 2012 9:07pm

        Here is a link to an interview (I think from 2006?) where a lot of these questions are addressed by G. Michael and L. Christie :

          anonymous May 10, 2012 9:36pm

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

            anonymous May 11, 2012 5:42am

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

              anonymous May 12, 2012 1:38pm

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

                anonymous May 12, 2012 1:46pm

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

                anonymous May 13, 2012 11:59am

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

            anonymous May 11, 2012 11:03am


anonymous May 9, 2012 5:40am



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


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


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


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

What's wrong exactly with unconditional love and acceptance?

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

Except parents don't even love their kids unconditionally.

Two points for the cult. Eight points against.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    anonymous May 9, 2012 6:21am

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

anonymous May 9, 2012 5:40am



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

I think we're done with that one.


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


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

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


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


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


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

anonymous May 9, 2012 5:39am


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next episode: Cults – Does DM measure up?

anonymous May 9, 2012 5:39am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


anonymous May 9, 2012 4:26am

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

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

anonymous May 9, 2012 12:11am

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

anonymous May 9, 2012 12:10am

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

    anonymous May 9, 2012 10:55am

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

anonymous May 8, 2012 10:55pm

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

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

    anonymous May 9, 2012 7:41am

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

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

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

      anonymous May 9, 2012 10:01am

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

anonymous May 8, 2012 8:53pm

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

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

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

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

    anonymous May 8, 2012 9:45pm

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

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

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

    Allowing many retreatants to shack up together as couples

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

    Allowing still-recovering drug addicts into retreat

    Allowing martial arts instruction including weapons-play into retreat

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

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

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

      anonymous May 9, 2012 6:12am

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

        anonymous May 11, 2012 12:16am

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

      anonymous May 9, 2012 7:07am

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

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

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

        anonymous May 9, 2012 11:22pm

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

          anonymous May 10, 2012 7:46pm

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

            anonymous May 10, 2012 11:14pm

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

              anonymous May 11, 2012 9:43am

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

                anonymous May 11, 2012 10:30am

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

                anonymous May 11, 2012 1:29pm

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

                  anonymous May 11, 2012 1:34pm

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

                    anonymous May 11, 2012 11:24pm

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

                    anonymous May 12, 2012 12:46am

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

                    anonymous May 12, 2012 7:20am

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

                    anonymous May 12, 2012 10:08am

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

      anonymous May 9, 2012 7:55am

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

    anonymous May 8, 2012 10:35pm

    Hi Jerry,

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

    Thanks for your posts.

    anonymous May 9, 2012 6:57am

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

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

      anonymous May 9, 2012 8:19am

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

        anonymous May 9, 2012 10:28am

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

          anonymous May 9, 2012 11:04am

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

            anonymous May 9, 2012 12:55pm

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

              anonymous May 9, 2012 1:25pm

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

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

                anonymous May 9, 2012 1:52pm

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

                  anonymous May 9, 2012 3:32pm

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

anonymous May 8, 2012 6:23pm

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

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

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

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

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

You have been very irresponsible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    anonymous May 8, 2012 7:27pm

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

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

      anonymous May 9, 2012 6:19am

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

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

        anonymous May 9, 2012 6:44am

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

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

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

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

anonymous May 8, 2012 3:51pm

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

    anonymous May 8, 2012 4:42pm

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

      anonymous May 8, 2012 5:01pm

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

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

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

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

      anonymous May 8, 2012 5:04pm

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

        anonymous May 8, 2012 5:28pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

anonymous May 8, 2012 3:40pm

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

    anonymous May 8, 2012 4:23pm

    No…not many monks practice with a consort.

    anonymous May 8, 2012 4:38pm

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

anonymous May 8, 2012 11:52am

These have been my questions from the beginning:

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

    anonymous May 8, 2012 2:24pm

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

    The story of why she was in charge is crucial.

anonymous May 8, 2012 9:36am

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

    anonymous May 8, 2012 10:46am

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

anonymous May 7, 2012 9:41pm

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

    anonymous May 8, 2012 4:28am

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

      anonymous May 8, 2012 5:11am

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

        anonymous May 8, 2012 9:29am

        thank you Phurba for the considered presentation. and the great story.

      anonymous May 8, 2012 8:49pm

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

        anonymous May 8, 2012 10:33pm

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

anonymous May 7, 2012 4:41pm

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

    anonymous May 7, 2012 4:58pm

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

      anonymous May 7, 2012 5:36pm

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

        anonymous May 7, 2012 7:23pm

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

          anonymous May 8, 2012 12:20am

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

            anonymous May 8, 2012 3:12am

            "Did I miss anything?"

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

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

anonymous May 7, 2012 2:48pm

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

    anonymous May 8, 2012 4:41am

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

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

anonymous May 7, 2012 2:27pm

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

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

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

anonymous May 7, 2012 1:03pm

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

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

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

    anonymous May 8, 2012 10:04am

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

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

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

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

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

      anonymous May 8, 2012 1:08pm

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

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

        anonymous May 8, 2012 2:20pm

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

          anonymous May 8, 2012 5:52pm

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

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

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

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

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

            anonymous May 9, 2012 6:28am

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

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

              anonymous May 10, 2012 8:01pm

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

                anonymous May 11, 2012 5:44am

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

      anonymous May 8, 2012 1:24pm

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

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

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

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

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

        anonymous May 8, 2012 2:21pm

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

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

          anonymous May 8, 2012 9:34pm

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

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

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

            anonymous May 9, 2012 6:02am

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

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

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

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

anonymous May 7, 2012 7:08am

What happened to the picture of Ian?

anonymous May 7, 2012 4:08am

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

    anonymous May 7, 2012 6:19am

    I agree, Chaiwallah. I don't see how credibility can be restored otherwise.

anonymous May 6, 2012 11:32pm

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

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

    anonymous May 7, 2012 3:54am

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

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 9:26pm

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 8:46pm

Hi Matthew,

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

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

    anonymous May 7, 2012 4:26am

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

      anonymous May 7, 2012 10:17pm

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

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

      You can read more about the Ganden Tripa on wikipedia:

        anonymous May 7, 2012 11:04pm

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

        anonymous May 8, 2012 4:25am

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

          anonymous May 8, 2012 4:45am

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

          anonymous May 8, 2012 11:13am

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

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

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

            anonymous May 8, 2012 1:14pm

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

              anonymous May 8, 2012 1:28pm

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

                anonymous May 8, 2012 2:35pm

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

                  anonymous May 8, 2012 10:43pm

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

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

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

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

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

                anonymous May 8, 2012 3:53pm

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

                  anonymous May 8, 2012 8:26pm

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

                    anonymous May 8, 2012 8:37pm

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 8:02pm

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

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

    anonymous May 8, 2012 10:23am

    Student: the minor corrections have been posted.

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

      anonymous May 8, 2012 5:38pm

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

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

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

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

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

        anonymous May 9, 2012 6:13am

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

      anonymous May 13, 2012 6:47pm

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

    anonymous May 12, 2012 2:30pm

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 5:48pm


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

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

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

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

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 6:25pm

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

      anonymous May 6, 2012 11:21pm

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

        anonymous May 7, 2012 3:58am

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 8:08pm

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

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 10:30pm

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

    anonymous May 7, 2012 4:03am

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 5:43pm

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

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

    anonymous May 7, 2012 4:34am

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

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

      anonymous May 8, 2012 5:44pm

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

      Shame on you!

      YELLOW JOURNALISM! Elephant Journal, what were you thinking?

    anonymous May 7, 2012 10:05pm

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

      anonymous May 8, 2012 4:30am

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

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

    anonymous May 9, 2012 6:06am

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

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 5:43pm

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

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 5:56pm

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

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 10:28pm

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

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

    anonymous May 7, 2012 12:44am

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

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

    anonymous May 7, 2012 3:39am

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

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 5:42pm

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

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

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

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

    anonymous May 7, 2012 4:39am

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

      anonymous May 8, 2012 5:54pm

      Like these?

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

        anonymous May 9, 2012 6:17am

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

          anonymous May 9, 2012 6:45am

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

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 11:44am

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 12:55pm

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

      anonymous May 6, 2012 1:49pm

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

        anonymous May 6, 2012 2:12pm

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

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

          anonymous May 6, 2012 2:22pm

          Dr. is a she.

            anonymous May 12, 2012 9:17am

            oops. classic mistake. ouch.

          anonymous May 6, 2012 2:46pm

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

        anonymous May 6, 2012 3:20pm

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

          anonymous May 7, 2012 4:36pm

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

            anonymous May 8, 2012 4:35am

            Thank you for the great report, Warren.

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

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

            … is one of the most telling on this thread.

            anonymous May 19, 2012 10:52pm

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 1:15pm

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

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

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

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

      anonymous May 6, 2012 2:24pm

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

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

        anonymous May 6, 2012 2:33pm

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

          anonymous May 6, 2012 3:05pm

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 10:24am

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 10:22am

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

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

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 11:24am

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

    Below I have typed the translation by Master Hua

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

      anonymous May 6, 2012 11:00pm

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

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

        anonymous May 7, 2012 11:47am

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

          anonymous May 7, 2012 12:35pm

          Thanks for the report, Tara.

        anonymous May 7, 2012 3:22pm

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 10:11am

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 9:22am

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 10:53pm

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

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

      anonymous May 7, 2012 5:39pm

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 11:41pm

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

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

    anonymous May 7, 2012 3:50am

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

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

      anonymous May 7, 2012 8:36am

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

        anonymous May 7, 2012 9:28am

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

          anonymous May 7, 2012 5:49pm

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 9:16am

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 8:41am

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

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

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 10:39am

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

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 5:48am

Dude, You need to relax.

anonymous May 6, 2012 4:36am

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 4:21am

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 3:17am

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

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

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 9:14pm

    Very well said, nfrd.

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 2:30am

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

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 10:18pm

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

    anonymous May 8, 2012 10:17am

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

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 2:12am

Hi Matthew,

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

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 2:17am

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 1:33am

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 1:39am

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

      anonymous May 7, 2012 4:16pm

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

      anonymous May 7, 2012 4:17pm

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

      anonymous May 7, 2012 4:18pm

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 1:33am

“this secretive and autocratic organization”

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

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 1:44am

    I am correcting the housing description.

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

      anonymous May 6, 2012 8:59am

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

        anonymous May 6, 2012 9:21am

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

          anonymous May 6, 2012 10:18pm

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

            anonymous May 8, 2012 10:51am

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

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

      anonymous May 6, 2012 6:43pm

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

        anonymous May 6, 2012 10:11pm

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

          anonymous May 7, 2012 4:15am

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

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

            anonymous May 7, 2012 5:29am

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

              anonymous May 7, 2012 5:52am

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

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

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

            anonymous May 7, 2012 5:30am

            BIO: Lama Christie McNally – PART 1/2

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

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

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

            anonymous May 7, 2012 5:31am

            BIO: Lama Christie McNally – PART 2/2

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

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

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

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

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

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

              anonymous May 7, 2012 11:42am

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

                anonymous May 7, 2012 12:36pm

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

                  anonymous May 7, 2012 1:35pm

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

                  anonymous May 7, 2012 2:02pm

                  Here she said something similar but this is not the one I originally referred to.

                    anonymous May 8, 2012 12:43pm

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

                    anonymous May 9, 2012 7:47am

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

              anonymous May 8, 2012 4:31am

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

            anonymous May 8, 2012 4:17am

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 2:08am

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

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

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

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 1:09am

Matthew Remski : or Jaded Heart

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

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

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

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

gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svah

Aham Prema Namah Shivay

May Truth BE Victorious OM

anonymous May 6, 2012 12:29am

Reading your article, oh wait, it was an op-ed piece, hmm, no wait, you refer to it as an article over and over, but then you say,’ oops, sorry to offend you, but I warned you it was just my opinion’… make up your mind please. Or is that how you try to justify you yellow journalism? Oh, sorry, not intended to offend you, just MY opinion. Fact: you wrote it, it wasted my time and it’s time I will never get back. And if as stated several times, you do anything to disagree with the FACT that my opinion is that you are a sad example of what is wrong with the internet, it will prove you are a wanna-be cult leader and trying to manipulate the opinions of the weak minded.

Your [article] [op-ed piece] is full of errors and now you want the public to do your research for you? Maybe your claims of having done a lot of research for this are opinions from a grandiose, power hungry person trying to become a power figure in the world of social media. I think (notice how I couched that with “I think”?) you are trying to establish yourself as a great writer and are basking in the glory of all the praise by the blind readers that think this is such a great article. It is clear (to me, sneaking my opinion in there again, just in case you missed it) that you are a psychologically troubled individual and need help. I know that these events are taking place in the USA, but freedoms be damned, we need to have you committed for an evaluation, just in case. We would hate to have you hurt yourself, or worse, anyone else with your poison pen. Hay, if you feel it’s ok to demand that the people in the retreat can be dragged out because you say so, just in case, than I think we can ask the same for you.

This is just my opinion and if you find anything wrong with what I have written, you are free to comment and then it will all be ok. But remember, if you say anything against me, it will be proof that you are trying to hide something. (I borrowed that argument from you, I hope you don’t mind.)

Since I was not at the retreat location when this happened I will not comment on the issues, only on your clearly biased writing and poorly veiled attempts to justify your failures at understanding the authentic teachings of Buddhism and set yourself up as an authority on religion. By the way, you still have not actually proven anything that Geshe Michael Roach has said is not accurate according to the original Buddhist scriptures. Nor have you shown that anyone in authority has “unequivocally denounced” Geshe Michael Roach. You seem to put some weigh in the FPMT so perhaps you should disclose what role they played in shutting down, not supporting the web site that was set up a few years back to try and slander and spin yarns that were so clearly a failed attempt to spread lies.

Thanks for the entertainment. If I want to waste my time with gossip again I will read a tabloid.

    anonymous May 6, 2012 5:54pm

    Excellent work "lost time"! A very well balanced insightful response to Matt's Piece.O.S. Honestly, I am so tired from reading the p.o.s. , and I hate when I waste my time, as well. My reply is "DITTO!"

anonymous May 6, 2012 12:06am

Mr. Remski,
Thank you for this article. It is a courageous thing and a necessary document!
Say what you want about Michael Roach. The bottom line is: irresponsible.
My spiritual practice bears the scars of involvement with this group and I continue
to live with the realization that I nearly slipped right over the edge into a full blown
cult (in the worst sense of the word) simply because I wanted to learn more about
buddhism and meditation. When things started to get "weird" it was generally suggested that
"it's just your karma, your projections", etc… if you've been involved you know the script.
I've kept my mouth shut for the most part out of shame and out of insecurity, "maybe it's just me".
Your article is empowering and helps me feel much less alone. I say a prayer for those who are
still involved with this group. It's a hard road back from "self isolation" into the wider western spiritual
community, a road I'm still reluctantly crawling along if I'm honest.
Finally, I say a prayer for all those who have suffered from the misguidance of Michael Roach.
There is simply no excuse for what has gone down out there in the desert. RIP Ian Thorson.
– DC

    anonymous May 6, 2012 9:23pm

    Except that, hundreds of people have stayed and benefitted greatly, and happily. If the food you eat in a full restaurant makes you sick, I'm sorry, there's the door, hope you find what is nourishing to you.

    But do you turn around and throw a brick through the window? It's pretty disturbing to the people inside enjoying their meals.

    You and Matthew seriously need to get over it an move on.

      anonymous May 6, 2012 10:07pm

      Sorry Jim, but many, many people got sick and left the restaurant in question: not just DC here. I was briefly involved, and got as far away as possible once I got a reality-check. I know a slew of others, who thankfully found qualified and traditional Lamas to continue their studies with. I wish that for you and all the rest of the DM crew. A precious human life is a terrible thing to waste.

    anonymous Jun 6, 2012 11:45pm

    Bless your heart. I too find this therapeutic. I've been a practicing buddhist for about 15 years. It's central to my life. But in the beginning of seeking/finding a spiritual tradition, I misunderstood and was led astray many times. I would take on teachings like "take all blame and cause upon yourself, give all credit to others" and it worsened my emotional distress. I only realize now that this was exactly the opposite I needed at the time, which was to have compassion for myself, and to not give in to others (or my own) expectations of me to be a perfect person. I also have the scars, though in the end I think it led me to the growth that was needed.

    This forum is helpful and healing. It turns a tragic moment into an opportunity for light, for many of us who are now sane, or who found our way to the "middle path" to acknowledge that we've been there. It's heartbreaking that someone's life ended because he was seeking happiness, and the (mis)teachings/understanding led him into dangerous distortions. We should take this opportunity to critically examine ourselves, our sanghas/communities, and our practice. The buddha espoused that.

anonymous May 5, 2012 10:53pm

I think the writing is on the wall for Diamond Mountain. As more people read articles like this one and start speaking out, Diamond Mountain's days will begin and are already beginning to draw to a close. As in any cult those who drank the cool aid will begin railing against any one who speaks the truth and fight for dear life to protect their institution while the walls come crumbling down all around them. I think it can be seen already by some of the postings of the Michael Roach and Christie Mcnally defenders in this comments section.

anonymous May 5, 2012 10:40pm

Cult or no cult, the problems started from the beginning of the very first retreat when GM Roach obfuscated (lied, misspoke, misrepresented; pick your preferred verb flavor) and failed to disclose he was actually sharing a yurt with Christie the whole time.

From such shaky foundations, is it hard to believe that there have been continued issues surrounding transparency and truth?

Source: Retreat Teachings, To the Inner Kingdom, Oct 2000

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

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

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

    anonymous May 6, 2012 12:44am

    Thanks for the source, Lobsang. There's so many materials to keep track of…

anonymous May 5, 2012 9:48pm

I am so sorry to hear this incredibly troubling news, and sorry for the loss of your friend in the most terrible way. Whistle blowing in the realm of spiritual communities or cults is mostly absent: thanks for your courage. Any decent spiritual practice MUST encourage us to cultivate our own internal whistle blower on events large and small. To recoil in horror upon realizing trust misplaced must be possible within us. An ocean of bliss must not dull a sharp and keen sense of judgement. My heart breaks to think of the incredible power imbalances of what you describe, may cults end, and may our society take seriously the vulnerabilities of those in our community. I wanted to share this talk by Rex Weyler about journalism and exposure, the theme being that "the status quo protects itself"…

anonymous May 5, 2012 8:57pm

Found some info on the letter from the Dalai Lama , cant verify the source tough. Part 1

Geshe Michael Roach's Claims of Realization
Geshe Michael Roach's Three Year Retreat

Dalai Lama's Private Office Denounces Geshe Michael Roach

Geshe Michael Roach's planned teachings in Dharamsala

In late 2005, Geshe Michael Roach invited one of his teachers, Geshe Thubten Rinchen from Sera Mey, to give teachings to a group of students in Northern India in July 2006. Geshe Michael Roach was to translate the teachings for his students.

Geshe Thubten Rinchen cancelled these teachings in early 2006, citing ill health, and Geshe Michael Roach then decided to give the teachings himself. The venue was changed from the Kulu Valley in Himachal Pradesh, to Dharamsala, the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The teachings were planned to coincide with public teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who was scheduled to teach during the day. Geshe Michael Roach therefore planned to teach in the evenings. This, in itself, breaches the traditional etiquette of not teaching in the same place and time as one's own Lama, without permission.

Although the change of venue to Dharamsala was advertized on the Diamond Mountain web site, the
Private Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama were not aware of the planned teachings at this stage.

Finding a Venue in Secret

Geshe Michael Roach, as well as students helping to organize the event in Dharamsala, understanding that the teachings might not be welcome, and thus reverted to stealth in order to book a venue. They sent an otherwise unknown Tibetan woman to offer a large deposit to the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) for use of their premises. She informed TIPA that that the teachings may be a little controversial, but did not inform them that Geshe Michael Roach would be teaching with his "consort". As nobody in the TIPA administration knew of the Geshe Michael Roach controversy, they accepted the deposit.

Dalai Lama's Private Office tells Roach he is not welcome in Dharamsala

News of the planned teachings then reached the Private Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who immediately cancelled the booking at TIPA.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 8:58pm

    Part 2

    The following correspondence then took place between the Private Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Geshe Michael Roach:

    May 24 2006 – Chhime Rigzin from the Private Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote to Geshe Michael Roach informing of the cancellation of TIPA as a venue, and requesting him to cancel his teachings in Dharamsala.

    May 30, 2006 – Geshe Michael Roach sends a long letter to the Private Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in both Tibetan and English, explaining that his "realisations" qualify him to teach in such a manner and justify his behavior with Christie Mc Nally. The letter was signed Rev. Michael Roach.

    June 5, 2006 – Tenzin Geyche Tethong, Personal Secretary to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, replied to Geshe Michael Roach by email informing him that he was not welcome in Dharamsala, either to teach, or to attend the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. has been forwarded a copy of this letter, which is presented verbatim below. The letter speaks for itself. It is an unequivocal denouncement of Geshe Michael Roach, signed by the personal secretary of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

    Office of H.H. the Dalai Lama
    Thekchen Choeling
    McLeod Ganj – 176 219
    Dharamsala, (H.P.)

      anonymous May 5, 2012 9:00pm

      Part 3

      June 5, 2006

      Dear Rev. Michael Roach,

      This is to thank you for your letter of May 30, addressed to Chhime Rigzin-la both in English as well as Tibetan. Chhime-la is presently away with His Holiness and I am responding to your letter on behalf of our Office here.

      We have gone through your long explanation but still do not support your coming to Dharmsala. If you have reached the path of seeing, as you claim in your letter, you should then be able show extraordinary powers and perform miracles like the Siddhas of the past. Only then will the followers of Tibetan Buddhists be able to believe and accept your claims.

      Otherwise, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the Spiritual and Temporal leader of Tibet having responsibility over the welfare of Tibetan Buddhism many have often complained to Him that He should be strict with those who are not adhering to the general norms of discipline according to our tradition. And your coming to Dharmsala will be seen by many as His Holiness condoning your behavior and practice.

      In view of all these we advise you not to visit Dharmsala in the greater interest of the purity of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition as clearly indicated in the letter of Chhime Rigzin-la dated May 24, 2006. However, as for the other members of your group those who are interested are welcome to attend the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

      Tenzin Geyche Tethong
      Secretary to H.H. the Dalai Lama

        anonymous May 5, 2012 9:06pm

        Part 4

        From: [email protected]
        Subject: Mr. Chhime R. Choekyapa <[email protected]…>
        Date: June 12, 2006 5:22:00 AM CDT
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        Dear Todd Marek,

        Thank you for your email of June 10, 2006. The letter dated June 5,
        2006 addressed to Rev. Michael Roach has indeed been sent by me. I am
        also giving below a copy of the letter that was earlier sent to Rev.
        Michael Roach by my colleague, Mr. Chhime Rigzin Choekuapa.

        Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 11:38:51 +0530
        To: —@…
        From: "Chhime R. Chhoekyapa" <[email protected]…>
        Subject: Teachings in June
        Cc: —@…, —@…, —@…

        Dear Rev. Michael Roach,

        We have recently learnt that you are planning to come to Dharmsala
        during the June teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama with a large
        group of Western Buddhists. We also understand that you plan to give
        separate teachings on the "Essence of Eloquence" to this group in the
        evenings following His Holiness's teachings in the afternoons.

        On your Diamond Mountain website it is stated "that Geshe Thupten
        Rinchen is ill. As you may already know, he has tuberculosis in the
        past, and now he is having a recurrence, which is likely to require
        surgery. Geshe Thupten Rinchen has strongly encouraged Geshe Michael
        to conduct these teachings himself. Geshe Michael, knowing how many
        of you had already made their travel plans, has graciously agreed to
        do so."

        We have made inquiries about what you have said and find that it is
        not strictly true, because Geshe Thupten Rinchen did not ask you to
        give the teachings on his behalf. Moreover, we have become aware that
        there is an unresolved controversy over your current observation of
        the Vinaya vows and your keeping company with women. We have received
        inquiries and letters of concern about your status and conduct from
        many people.

        We have seen a photograph of you wearing long hair, with a female
        companion at your side, apparently giving ordination. This would seem
        to conflict with the rules of Vinaya, and as you know, the Gelug
        tradition makes a point of upholding these very strictly.

        This unconventional behavior does not accord with His Holiness's
        teachings and practice.

        Under the circumstances, keeping the greater interest of the purity
        of Buddhist tradition in mind, we advise you not to come to
        Dharamsala on this occasion.

        Chhime R. Chhoekyapa
        Joint Secretary

        Cc: Department of Religion and Culture, Dharamsala
        Office of Tibet, New York
        Cc: Geshe Thupten Rinchen

        Office of H.H. the Dalai Lama
        Thekchen Choeling
        McLeod Ganj – 176 219
        Dharamsala, H.P.

        Ph.: 91 (1892) 221343, 221879, 221210
        Fax: 91 (1892) 221813
        Email: [email protected]

        With best wishes,

        Tenzin Geyche Tethong
        Secretary to H.H. the Dalai Lama

        Office of H. H. the Dalai Lama
        Thekchen Choeling
        McLeod Ganj – 176 219
        Dharamsala, H.P.

        Tel.: +91 (1892) 221343, 221879, 221210
        Fax: +91 (1892) 221813
        Email: [email protected]

anonymous May 5, 2012 8:35pm


Thanks for sharing. Interestingly enough, I think I "get you" now as a result of this commentary. Initially, Yoga 2.0 seemed like overzealous demythologizing and I find that folks like Kramer and Alstad seem to overstate their case at times, so I found some of your writing hard to warm up to.

Knowing more about your background and your exposure to Roach's teaching makes your work for more "reality" and less "crazy making" more understandable to me.

So thanks for not only sharing your insight and experience with Diamond Mountain Community, but also your personal realization. As a writer, you have become much more interesting to me now–not that you require my validation, of course. 🙂



anonymous May 5, 2012 8:27pm

The yurt thing and the Dalai Lama thing are also mentioned in a 2008 New York Times article:

    anonymous May 6, 2012 6:32pm

    Yes, that three year retreat was accomplished in yurts. This one is not. I fed those building crews for more than a year, 7 nights a week. Pretty much by myself. I cooked for up to 50 people daily in a kitchen yurt. But they all have solid cabins. Walls of straw bale, earth bag, SIPS, or highly insulated stick built. They each have floors and heaters, and kitchens and showers. The country required each cabin to qualify as a "single-family dwelling" because they were being lived in for three years, not just used for a couple of weeks at a time. The are off-grid with solar systems and large household batteries. Most of the fridges are propane as are the heaters. They all have water tanks which are constantly fed by the county approved well. I did a month-long retreat twice in the first cabin built before the long retreat started. And I lived in a yurt next to the Kitchen Yurt for three years. I am definitely qualified to say – they are NOT doing retreats in a yurt! LOL

anonymous May 5, 2012 7:56pm

Matthew. I am happy to see that you are agreeing to amend the article as your inaccuracies and biases are being pointed out. I wish that you were also able to notify everyone who already read the article, or who may not have read the comments, of these inflammatory inaccuracies as well.

anonymous May 5, 2012 7:33pm

"He was thin and wispy, probably vegan, certainly underfed and protein deficient, perhaps anemic, with impeccable lotus posture, and distant, unfocussed, entranced eyes. "

I don't know a lot about the facts of your article, but as a vegan of 16 years who is in amazing physical condition i think taking jabs at (the cult of veganism?) like this is just bad journalism and discredits what you are trying to say. I look forward to reading a well-written article about this series of events. I hope you find your way to a more constant meditation practice and compassionate state of mind.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 7:39pm

    yogiprajna: I'm sorry to offend. that wasn't my intention. i'll remove the offending word — it's not substantial to the article.

anonymous May 5, 2012 6:53pm

Why the retreat should end now:
The retreat cabins are on a major smuggling route……7 man teams of "Mules" transport weed and coke in the area all the time (like much of the border) ..The local smugglers all along the border face pressure to pick a side in the Cartel wars (google El Gilo) and not lose loads.Hiking in a wash could lead a lone person to be in the wrong place at the wrong time…5 years in prison…family member killed for loss of load or kill the guy in the yoga pants?

This retreat is tainted…. everyone that come out will carry this death with them.

The board doesn't really know who among the whole group knew they were still back there….many of the people serving the retreat have mentally and emotionally struggled this year from what we hear in town.( "their all crazy up there" is often heard…just a fact… Someone need to rethink the rights of the workers too.

Legal action could still happen…Ian weighed 90 friggin pounds I heard from a rescue guy.Does that sound like a good job was being done by the board?

The person that led the retreat went crazy in the retreat!!!!! It doesn't work for westerners unless they cheat like Roach did in the first one (Doug… talk to Ben Brewer if you don't believe me)

just out of pure decency it should be stopped.. Why chance another death?.iI you can't see that it looks like you wasted 20 years of your life

anonymous May 5, 2012 6:35pm

For what it’s worth, I give Matthew Remski a lot of credit for closely monitoring these comments and replying thoughtfully and civilly. I don’t doubt his sincerity, and I respect what seems to be an unusual commitment to engaging openly in a lively public dialogue.

I continue to wish that the article would have focussed more on raising questions about the specific series of events leading to the tragedy, and less on flaws in the organization. And, I continue to object to use of the word ‘cult’, which I think is so loaded and devalued that it detracts from meaning. Issues like abuse of power and self-serving secrecy are not unique to religious organizations. And, entering a guru/student relationship is not necessarily, nor in my opinion even usually, a bad thing. But, these are not relationships to be entered lightly or carelessly.

To the degree that the piece serves to make people cautious before engaging with a religious organization or teacher – and encourages students to maintain enough of a positive sense of ‘self’ to know when things aren’t right and be able to help themselves and others – I think it is helpful. What concerns me is that it may also confuse people with little understanding of Tibetan Buddhism, further harden the positions of people with contempt for the Tibetan path, and provide lurid entertainment for others as the “Guru-gone-bad” story du jour.

I’m very sorry that a young man has died, and that his wife and community have been traumatized. I hope ultimately, this can be transformed into a cause for greater wisdom and compassion. A difficult situation.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 6:50pm

    mike: once i correct the facts that seem to be in dispute, i'll have a sleep and then get up and figure out how to make the "cult" moniker a little more flexible and less inflammatory.

    i respect the concerns you raise in your second-last graph. i had hoped that my appeal to community mentors at the end, including western/Tibetan luminaries, would shed light on the possibilities for renewal.

anonymous May 5, 2012 6:08pm

The “neo-Buddhist” label seems even more misplaced when you consider that Geshe Michael used the proceeds of a business he developed in New York to endow the bankrupt monk’s food fund at Sera Monastery in south India, the monastery from which he was the first westerner ever to receive the Geshe diploma.

He also has probably done more than anyone, with the exception of the late Gene Smith, to find rare copies of great scriptures that were lost when the Chinese invaded Tibet. Since 1988 his organization, Asian Classics Input Project, has scanned more than two million pages of texts, and about 250 Tibetan refugees in India are employed by ACIP to type the texts into a searchable data base to be used free of charge by generations of scholars around the world. ACIP has also republished lost monastic textbooks that are again in use in Sera Monastery.

Ian Thorson was a friend of mine and I personally feel the tragedy of his death all the more because it seems that it could easily have been prevented. I know that everyone at Diamond Mountain is carrying a great weight of sorrow about all the events of the past months and a thorough analysis of policies and decision making needs to be and will be done.

Mr. Remski offers a lot of suggestions, some of which should be considered. His analysis, however, became a diatribe, in my view, when he strayed into areas about which he has strong beliefs but insufficient background. His assertion that studying select passages of Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life—perhaps the greatest Mahayana text on the practices for developing great compassion—is “crazy-making” speaks for itself and is symptomatic of much of his polemic.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 7:06pm

    Any one may read "Entering the middle Way", "Bodhicharyavatara", etc…merely listing them and reading them does not make one a mahayana practitioner nor does it qualify authentic practice.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 7:16pm

    Douglas: thank you for weighing in. It is true that I am far away, and I announced at the outset that some details would stand to be corrected. I'll be sure to correct the "tenting" impression that I have conveyed.

    I believe the "neo-Buddhist" moniker would be agreed with, especially by the within-the-pale organizations such as FPMT.

    "The source of his charisma is his ability to inspire" is a circular statement. I'm interested in the usage of charisma as a power currency that inevitably distorts equality and creates dependency issues, and I'd be interested to hear your views on this.

    "Anyone… knows that Geshe Michael's scholarship is deep and penetrating"… perhaps… until, as Frank Boccio points out above, they are exposed to different views. You're not offering anything in this statement that reaches beyond the self-referential.

    I am aware of the claims of philanthropy, but I can't recall them being independently verified. And when they come from a man who also claims openly to have achieved a mystical threshold beyond which he is on the "conveyor belt" to omniscience, I wonder. I would love to see verification for all of your numbers in paragraph 2. Roach has for years spoken about translating tens of thousands of pages of ancient texts. He also speaks of seeing angels. Do you see the difficulty?

    My background in various philosophical systems is not insufficient to allege that Shantideva's subject/object blurring of Chapter 3 could very well lead not to rich states of empathy, but wild states of solipsism.

    It is true that I was rough on old Shantideva, and am considering softening it. But you can't honestly say that such a passage isn't dangerous without more grounding than a retreat cabin built to code, and hundreds of acolytes loose in the world claiming that perception is metaphysically determined.

      anonymous May 5, 2012 9:35pm

      Why don't you ask Geshe Lotar whether or not Geshe Michael paid for buildings at Sera Mey. Why not ask him about Geshe Michael's involvement in the Sera Mey Food Fund? Why speculate?

      Also, what does "perception is metaphysically determined" mean? I've certainly never made such a claim!

        anonymous May 6, 2012 12:48am

        I will try to verify the philanthropic claims some day, or someone else will. Evidence would have to come from more than the reports of a single monk, however.

        But to whom will I turn to verify Roach's claims of realization? Roach?

        "Perception is metaphysically determined" is one of many paraphrases for "Your karma creates your world." But I'll let you debate philosophy with Frank. My main point is, Roach's metaphysics is a perfect fit for an authoritarian group-think.

          anonymous May 6, 2012 9:16am

          You can't verify Geshe Michael's claims of realizations other than by observing his actions and seeing if they are consistent with the realizations he claims to have had. Even then, all you can conclude is either that he doesn't seem to be behaving in a way that's consistent with such realizations, as you understand them, or that he does. This is way too subjective to do anything with. It is generally considered to be improper to even discuss one's realizations; the only reason Geshe Michael has done so is because he and Lama Christie were now allowed to be private, and because his relationship with Lama Christie couldn't be kept confidential, he had to explain it. Whether you believe his explanation or not is up to you.

          I don't think you will have any trouble getting confirmation from more than a single monk about Geshe Michael's philanthropy. But that would be a good start. You have claimed that he made millions and kept them, despite evidence to the contrary. The burden is on you to show that this is the case. If you are going to claim that what you are doing is journalism, you need to act like a journalist and only write what you know to be true at least on the basis of reliable sources. Wikipedia has a pretty good description of what a reliable source is if you are not sure.

      anonymous May 6, 2012 10:44pm

      That passage is not in chapter 3 of the Bodhicaryavatara

anonymous May 5, 2012 6:07pm

Mr. Remski offers some thought provoking ideas and illustrates as well how difficult it is to offer meaningful insights from such a distant vantage. I studied with both Geshe Michael and Christie McNally at Diamond Mountain for the entire seven-year course of instruction leading to the current three-year retreat there, and was also a principle builder and designer of the retreat sector on about 500 acres of quiet, secluded land in the foothills of the Chiricahua mountains in Arizona.

Mr. Remski is well within his scope to comment on the need to discuss and analyze how the therapeutic traditions of the west and the spiritual traditions of the east can and should support each other. But when he characterizes Diamond Mountain as a cult and expresses doubt that the caretaking staff and board of directors there are competent to protect the safety of the retreaters there, he pretends a greater knowledge than he has of the situation.

All of the three-year retreaters are my long-time colleagues and many are among my closest friends. My concern for them on entering the retreat was that the cabins we built for them were too plush for a good retreat rather than too Spartan. All the cabins were built to the standards of the International Residential Code and inspected and approved by Cochise County Building authorities. Because of that, all the cabins have plumbing and septic systems, propane or DC electric refrigerators, solar electric systems with high efficiency lighting, and many other amenities specifically designed to provide as Geshe Michael insisted, “the perfect outer conditions” for long retreat.

The volunteer caretaking staff, which includes the board of directors, works tirelessly to provide organic and wholesome food staples and fresh vegetables and fruit along with exotic special requests that the retreaters order.

There are professional medical people among the group doing retreat, including an M.D., two nurses, a physician’s assistant, and a psychologist. The claim that this group of three-year retreaters is not well looked after is way off base, and any of the many volunteers who visit Diamond Mountain to help with the caretaking will attest to that.

Tarring Diamond Mountain as “neo-Buddhist” and repeatedly terming it a cult is even more misleading. I’m not sure exactly what the minimum requirements to qualify as cult are, but I do know that the term can be used as broadly and with the same demonizing intent as McCarthy’s “reds.” As an award-winning investigative reporter, no one has ever accused me of being easily duped, and I believe that—as Justice Potter Stewart said in trying to define pornography in his Supreme Court opinion—I know it when I see it.

Everyone at Diamond Mountain comes and goes as they please (unless, of course, they have been banned from the property). The Tibetan tradition of debating orthodox views was a requirement of the course work, and numerous outside guests from Blue Angels pilots to Manhattan dance choreographers visited frequently to present programs.

Almost any group that coalesces around a charismatic teacher has probably been branded a cult by someone who becomes disillusioned with them. Geshe Michael is charismatic, and for me the source of his charisma is his ability to inspire his students with the belief that the highest goals described in the Yoga and Mahayana Buddhist texts are actually achievable by modern practitioners using the authentic practices of the Tibetan Buddhist canon.

I’ve been practicing and studying with eminent Gelugpa lamas for more than twenty-one years and in my view Geshe Michael Roach is as far from being a “neo-Buddhist” as anyone teaching in America today. He teaches to wide variety of audiences around the world, and in many settings he deliberately popularizes the arcane concepts of karma and emptiness. However anyone who has sat through the four-years-and-counting series of classes in which he is translating on the spot one of the greatest commentaries on emptiness, Uma Chidun (Entering the Middle Way), or anyone who is attending the ten-year series of courses and retreats on the lamrim knows Geshe Michael’s scholarship is deep and penetrating.

    anonymous May 9, 2012 5:23pm

    How is it that you spent 7 years studying at DM? I only spent 6. The very first university courses began with the fall term of 2004 and we graduated at the end of the spring term of 2010. That is actually 5 years and 9 months.
    If you use the calendar year logic, to say it was seven years, then that would mean someone who attended freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years, took 5 years to graduate. That is ridiculous. It is another example of streeeetching the truth.

anonymous May 5, 2012 5:35pm

We'll do #14 when you Provide the link on your website to expose the clear psychosis at the very heart of Matthew's mind.

anonymous May 5, 2012 5:17pm

outright lie: 'I repeat: there are about 35 people at this moment camping in the Arizona desert under the influence of a woman who appears to have gone insane, and their guardians – the administration of Diamond Mountain – have shown themselves to be, I believe, unequal to the task of protecting and nurturing them.'

    anonymous May 5, 2012 6:41pm

    joe: how is this a lie? "camping"? "insane"?

      anonymous May 5, 2012 9:30pm

      They are living in houses—even if they wanted to camp, the county won't allow it. As far as we know Lama Christie is no longer in Arizona. I don't know where she is, TBH, so I could be wrong, but the very article you quote says that she's no longer in charge of the retreat, and that John Brady is. So saying that 35 people are at this moment camping in the Arizona desert under the influence of a woman who appears to have gone insane is incorrect in every detail.

        anonymous May 6, 2012 12:50am

        Many retreatants have been close personal devotees of McNally for several years. I think this constitutes "influence", whether she is there or not presently.

        I got the houses thing.

anonymous May 5, 2012 5:02pm

This article raises some important questions. Unfortunately, it's also filled with factual errors and so much conjecture that it disrupts and misleads. I can hear the axes grinding, Shame.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 6:40pm

    Brooks: many factual errors have been alluded to, many of which I intend to correct. Do you have anything specific to add?

      anonymous May 6, 2012 5:22pm

      I'm glad the factual corrections are being made. Greatly appreciated. It seems others have jumped in on those, so I won't write out the list. I also appreciate your keeping this an open forum.
      For the purposes of transparency, I should let you know that I've been a student of Geshe Michael's for about 18 years and also act as his subsidiary rights managerof books. I also have a Masters in Sociology of Religion from Drew University and studied religious/intentional communities to complete my thesis. I'm not sure of your educational background but I will assume that if you don't have a formal degree, you have done significant research to use as you write, "my understanding of cult dynamics" to analyze this situation and Geshe Michael's students as a whole. It may be helpful to let the readers know what makes you qualified to analyze and give opinions on religious group dynamics and cults.
      As I mentioned, I appreciate the questions you raise and also agree about the need for more transparency. The more information that is released the better. I agree it would be good for all involved. I also agree that it is a worthy endeavor to review the actions taken to make sure that any further issues are dealt with in a way that is most helpful and compassionate. Frankly, you should have stuck to that.
      The plethora of negative opinions you express about the DMU board, Geshe Michael, and the people around him are deplorable. For example, that Geshe Michael is "whitewashing" the tragic events that have taken place and that he has some sort of unhealthy 'grip" on those who call him their "Lama." Nothing could be further from the truth. The far majority of people I know in this sangha are free thinking, educated, smart and compassionate individuals fighting hard to make the world a better place.
      On a personal note, I didn't ask Geshe Michael to be my Lama until I watched him for 12 years. I looked for ethical behavior, wisdom and compassion in all that time. And I found it.
      I refer to Doug Veenhof's comments below for more on this topic.

        anonymous May 7, 2012 5:13am

        Brooks: I'm glad for the dialogue. I was able to read your post last night and actually sleep on them, which was a sweet relief.

        First I want to reiterate that the corrections are really adjustments/additions to my reporting of the Open Letter, to which I linked in the original. I was not trying to hide or distort anything, with the source documents so widely available.

        I don't have a formal degree in religion or sociology, but I have been personally enmeshed in 2 cult-like environments, and subsequently spent a decade reflecting on the meanings of those experiences, and studying what others have to say about them. I didn't go to school for it.

        My negative opinions will be deplorable to you: no doubt. All I have to do is reason them out as best I can:
        "Whitewashing" is a term I'd apply to many of Roach's movements over the years: his reframing of a love relationship (heterodox) into a spiritual partnership (revelatory). His reframing of his shunning by HHDL as non-existent, or even a "play", as I heard him say once. But most importantly, his reframing of the complexity of Buddhist philosophy with the idiocy of the "pen" example, which whitewashes true self-inquiry with the brush of sophomoric cognitive behaviour therapy. And currently, his whitewashing of Ian's mental instability with the brush of transcendent vocabulary. Or, his whitewashing of DM politics with a Board that he would like to pretend operates independently of his spiritual influence.

        The problem with being within someone's grip for a long time is that you become dependent on the pressure. A neighbour to Diamond Mountain reports seeing a devotee kiss the tire tracks left by Roach's car as it headed to his campus residence. I remember "classes" in a public high school in Manhattan in 98-99 in which he was 45 minutes late for the start time, and then spent 30 minutes coming up the aisle receiving flowers from devotees, leaving 20 minutes left in class for him to rattle off the pen thing. In 18 years, have you not seen this? Or has it become so normalized to you that you do not see its relationship to social control?

        Finally: as rights manager for Roach's books, I would ask you to consider how the Diamond Cutter whitewashes both the diamond industry (one of the most unethical on the planet), and Middle-Way philosophy as some kind of get-rich scheme.

        Or: to read again his "deplorable" "translation" of Patanjali, in which he overwrites an essentially open-source meditation manual with a Vajrayana agenda. This whitewashes, in my opinion, the very difficult existential and open-ended questions that the text really offers.

        Thanks again for your responses.

          anonymous May 8, 2012 1:52am

          Thanks for responding once again.
          I'm sorry to read about your experiences with cults in the past. I can't imagine what that was like but from the accounts I have read and heard about, it seems recovery can be a difficult road. I hope you feel fulfilled and happy despite those past challenges.
          I just wanted to write a quick note about a couple of the various instances of "white washing" you mentioned above.
          As regards his partnership with Christie, I think everyone should be clear about what they feel that relationship "actually" was from their own perspective. I once had a conversation with someone who felt that Geshe-la was out of line (to say the least) in his partnership with her. I asked how he perceived the relationship and he basically said it was a relationship just like other relationships and that their "union" practices were nothing but sex with a spiritual excuse. Although I disagreed with his perspective, I gave the guy points for being blunt. He thought they were just "lovers" who needed an excuse to be together. I wish more of Geshe-la's detractors could just call it as they see it.

            anonymous May 8, 2012 1:53am

            Part 2:
            I have studied Sutra and Tantra with Geshe Michael, other teachers in the sangha and from independent sources. Spiritual partnership has a long and rich history in Buddhism. So the question becomes for me, why is it that some people jumped to a negative view of their relationship? Here I think there are some legitimate questions/concerns to be addressed. But what I think it really comes down to is that people often have sexual, misguided minds; samsaric minds. So they see a case like this and just can't believe it. It's much easier to think dirty (so to speak) than to see two people come together out of love of each other and a desire to take care of others in an ultimate way. Probably because they never did anything like that and because they just had too many shitty relationships in the past. if you have sex on the mind, that is what you will see.
            Regarding the 'idiocy' of the "pen thing" and its relationship to madhyamika philosophy; again here I disagree strongly. I have read several books on the subject and heard other lecturers outside of Geshe Michael's classes and his own translated materials. I see Geshe-la as spot on and absolutely in the classic Geluk tradition.The pen thing is a simple example meant to spark thought, not be the end all of the discussion. It's a masterful way of getting the brain going on a highly difficult subject. Geshe Michael frequently begins with the pen and moves to examining the body, mind and the "self" in the search for the gakja. It is a classic example of logical deduction and analysis unique to this tradition.
            You asked me a few questions above and I want to address them. But first a side note. You write that a "neighbour to Diamond Mountain reports seeing a devotee kiss the tire tracks left by Roach's car…" I have no idea whether this incident actually happened. I CAN imagine it happening but more on that shortly. I just wanted to make the point that you also don't know that it happened. Why did you even mention it? Once again you introduced an example on which you have no first hand knowledge. This is one of the problems you ran into when publishing the original article. I can understand your sensitivity to what APPEAR to be extreme acts of devotion by a devotee because of your background, but goodness Matt, that's just bad reporting. Did the person doing the act say s/he was kissing the tire tracks? Maybe s/he dropped something. Who knows?
            However, more to your point. I can imagine the tire track kissing thing happening because I have seen so many acts of devotion by followers to their teachers. I have seen them in the sangha around Geshe Michael and others including HHDL and Amma for example. A wonderful documentary by Werner Herzog called "The Wheel of Time" is full of them including a monk who traveled several thousand miles, prostrating every three steps, to take initiation and a whole crowd of people who sat in front of an empty seat just because HHDL had been in that seat the day before. Kissing tire tracks (if that even happened) seems much less" crazy" to me by comparison.
            By the way, I was one of those people who liked to give flowers in NY. The relationship between offerings and receiving teachings in the Buddhist tradition is also deep and rich. In fact, all the teachings by HHDL and every other Buddhist teacher that I have seen started with some type of offering.
            Also, I don't recall Geshe Michael's classes being 20 minutes of teachings at all. In fact, when I listen to the recordings ( and I have many, many times) they seem quite a bit longer. But I do remember things starting late and the flower processions. I think you might have exaggerated the procession time though. Geshe Michael was not known for being on time back then, that's for sure. I didn't hold it against him because I knew he was working late and sending the money to feed hungry monks at Sera. Maybe not everyone in the crowd knew that.

              anonymous May 8, 2012 1:53am

              It's easy for acts of devotion to be misjudged by others especially when they break with social norms. Judgements are necessary to get through life but are also what gets us in the most trouble. Now to your question; 'In 18 years. have you not seen this? or has it become so normalized to you that you don't see its relationship to social control? " I think this is an excellent question, and to a certain extent I have to answer "yes" to both of those questions. Because of my education (which goes beyond the schooling I have mentioned above), I have been blessed to analyze religious organizations/movements and their rituals and processes from the inside and out. I understand how for example a ritual can be explained by a religions dogma as a means of invoking a higher power (or something of the like) and AT THE SAME TIME, be seen by a sociologist or psychologist as a means to bring about group cohesion or control or whatever. The way an individual views these things will be dependent on the lenses they're looking through. That is, their worldview. You see flowers being given to Geshe Michael and the kissing of tire tracks as extreme acts of worship by deluded devotees following a false idol. There is a reason that you have that view and it probably is related to your history just like my view of these acts is related to mine. I have been involved with this sangha for so many years because of my experiences. And they have been full of kind, compassionate people working hard to improve themselves for the sake of sentient beings. I don't think this sangha is perfect, and I have been open with my teachers about issues I perceive. You may be shocked to learn that reactions to my criticisms were not met with abuse or attempts to suppress anything (like one might expect a "cult" to react); but instead with kindness and debate and an encouragement to continue to question and analyze.
              It seems that my" quick" note has gotten long. I apologize for the length. I will write more tomorrow or so to get back to some of the other points you brought up.
              I thank you again for keeping this an open forum.

                anonymous May 8, 2012 4:23am

                Brooks: thanks for the discussion.

                Regarding how Roach and McNally saw their relationship, my question for you is: how do you know their view? Through their self-reporting? Everybody knows what they say about it. The question is credibility. You reporting their self-reporting is as much opinion as anything else: in your opinion/from your view you believe them. So while we're in the realm of opinion, I'll add another view. I might be even blunter in my doubt than your communicant, and may write about it in another post: they are lovers who in 2003 found themselves exposed to the criticism of those they had lied to throughout retreat and of the Tibetan hierarchy. They elevate their relationship to a public/professional spiritual union, and begin teaching from this dais, just as the doors of FPMT swing shut behind them. McNally had to ascend to Lama status to justify the appearance.

                I stated clearly in the piece that I have no problem with their lack of chastity. I personally hope they had great sex, and that it was very fulfilling to them. But I suspect that it was wracked with as much guilt and subterfuge and rationalization as your own denigration of sex suggests. Sex isn't the issue, because sex isn't dirty, as you say. Lying is. And using a relationship to craft a public teaching image.

                The Pen Thing might be meant as a initiatory teaching device. But the vast majority of students who learn it rush out and teach it as though it were the Secret. This is an unfortunate diminishment of an existentially stunning contemplation.

                I can withdraw the kissing-tire-tracks report: it is true that I was not there. But it is coherent with 3 years of fanatical devotion that I witnessed firsthand. And here's where you round up your argument: because of your middle-way view, you can "see" social control OR hard-working devotees spreading goodness through the world. This is exactly the vulnerability I wish to expose: an attitude which might allow the DM board to see Thorson's energetic outbursts of violence AS signs of "spiritual sensitivity". Your note suggests your own capacity to see and understand both. You must therefore be choosing what you run with. What I would ask you to take responsibility for is the results of your choice of view. For this is the line between perceptual flexibility and ethical responsibility. Relentlessly trying to improve your internal life by sweetening everything you see can have some therapeutic value. But it is ultimately selfish if it encourages you to overlook the shadows of Eden.

anonymous May 5, 2012 4:49pm

Good read. Power and worship corrupts humans. Common sense would instill the Temple is, indeed, within with much less drama and upkeep then seeking your Spiritual Life outside your self or allowing a charismatic teacher or group consciousness to manipulate you. It defeats the purpose of the evolution of self.

After reading this I am so glad I quit looking for a spiritual leader in my 20s and choose my associates carefully. This was like reading a sordid novel that conveyed a parable of standing in your own light and not following the fragility of the human psyche corrupted by illness and self indulgence…the age old dance and precipice between enlightenment and mental illness. It should be required reading and a warning for any one seeking a spiritual community.

anonymous May 5, 2012 4:31pm

Young people who are in need of mental health evaluations and assistance, fall through the cracks in our society all the time. I have seen it in high schools, in universities, in families, and in religious organizations of all types. There still exists in our culture a great prejudice against people with mental instability and there is a stigma associated with suggesting they get help, committing people for evaluation, apporaching people and suggesting they might have a mental disease, etc. I know this to be a problem throughout our country and perhaps throughout the world. I feel saddened to think this also might have been prevented by the proper medical care. In my experience the general polulace is quite ignorant about these things and about mental disease in general and I have even seen many members of the medical community allow engaging and interesting young people walk away without getting the help they need. I really can't blame anyone here, but I can truly believe that a young person could go many years in many settings without anyone being clear enough and knowledgeable enough to direct them to the mental health support they needed. I think it is an ongoing problem for all of us. I

anonymous May 5, 2012 4:16pm

I am also kind of disappointed and amazed that EJ posted this, at all — and especially with the "help" of Michael Stone. It stinks of self-promotion, self-aggrandizement and a lot of projection.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 4:56pm

    Jack: Michael Stone helped me temper the tone of the article, actually. He has nothing to do with EJ or their editorial standards.

anonymous May 5, 2012 4:01pm

This was an incredible article– beautifully written. Thank you.

    anonymous May 6, 2012 9:28pm

    yeah, this is it – NOT me – Allison D. Waves and hugs from Australia, y'all. <3

anonymous May 5, 2012 3:59pm

I don’t know, as a member of this “cult”, of course I feel a little slighted here.

This article is way too full of personal bias to be regarded as “objective”, although i appreciate that you have linked to Geshe Michael’s letter trying to give a better explanation of the events at Diamond Mountain.

I guess I would say that, having studied intensely now with Geshe Michael for 12 years and having never met you, your criticisms are wide-ranging and seemingly uninformed. Most of your “evidence” comes from things you have found on the internet or personal experiences at least 14 years old. I see Geshe Michael every day, and see no hint in him of lusting after power, or seeking to wantonly control those around him.

I have a job, am well-groomed, and travel all over the world teaching with Geshe Michael and shooting video of his events. What we teach is that if you are kind to others you can reach your wildest dreams. It is Mahayana Buddhism, in it’s highest form, as best as I can discern. Abhidharma/Theravadan Buddhism teaches that there are five “causes”, but that’s the lowest interpretation of the four Indian schools of Buddhist thought. The Madyamika Prasangika view is that the five conditions (mthun rkyen) are not causes (rgyu), and what you perceive in your world is dependently originated, which–depending on which school you follow–means that your experience of the world comes from your mental seeds. I offer you the example from Master Chandrakirti of the preta, the deva, and the hell being experiencing a “cup of water” (chum bab, in Tibetan).

That being said, anyone will agree mistakes were made, which eventually lead to Ian’s tragic death. Changes were and are being made at Diamond Mountain. And his daughter’s name is Thea, and yes she was at the funeral, thanks for asking.

Love, peace, happiness to all,

Eric Brinkman (Lobsang Nyingpo)

    anonymous May 5, 2012 4:53pm

    Eric — thanks for posting.

    I've been transparent about my sources: the available documents and my personal experience from 1998 to 2000. I don't claim objectivity, but I intend for my facts to be true.

    I would ask that other scholars of Tibetan Buddhism evaluate your 4th paragraph, beginning with: "What we teach is that if you are kind to others you can reach your wildest dreams." This is the kind of solipsism that I allege leads to ungrounded behaviours and magical thinking.

    Thea. I think I remember the name now. So glad she's connected.

      anonymous May 5, 2012 6:59pm

      Point well taken Mathew. And i ask, "does gaining your wildest dreams benefit those less fortunate?"

        anonymous May 5, 2012 7:32pm

        If you look at GMR's service projects world-wide, I believe you'll have a resounding YES to that question. He teaches VERY CLEARLY that reaching one's "wildest dreams" comes from helping others having what they need and want, helping others to become happy. It's always about service.

        anonymous May 5, 2012 9:22pm

        There are three motivations for practicing Buddhism: to benefit yourself, to free yourself, and to help others. Each builds on the one before. Gaining your wildest dreams through Buddhist practice does benefit others at each of the three levels:

        If you avoid the ten negative deeds, you stop hurting others, at least as long as you continue to do so. This is clearly of benefit to others.

        If you practice the vows of individual freedom, and reach that freedom, then you eliminate the possibility of ever again falling into a state of mind where you might harm others.

        If you practice the vows of the Bodhisattva, and one day actually reach the matchless state of a totally enlightened Buddha, then you will not only have forever stopped harming others, but you will also have turned yourself into a person who can only help others, and who never stops helping others.

        Now, if you try to gain your wildest dreams through some practice other than Buddhism, that might well not benefit others. But that is not what Geshe Michael teaches. So in the context of your question, the answer is unequivocally "yes."

          anonymous May 6, 2012 10:40pm

          yes….certainly is not the answer…your wildest drems have nothing to do with bodhicitta

            anonymous May 7, 2012 2:29am

            are you telling me bodhichitta, the wish to reach total enlightenment in order to benefit living beings is not my wildest dream? LOL who are you to decide what is or is not someone's wildest dream? you're funny.

            anonymous May 7, 2012 5:05am

            Amen! There's a lot of "special language" being employed by DMU folks that may not translate well into modern English. UrbanDictionary won't help neither will Google Translate. We're left to fend for ourselves in these degenerate times…

      anonymous May 5, 2012 8:58pm

      Great analysis, Matthew. Is this Tibetan Buddhism meets The Secret? Maybe Eric can clarify . . .

    anonymous May 11, 2012 1:55pm

    "What we teach is that if you are kind to others you can reach your wildest dreams."
    That just isn't Buddhism, you should try to get a real teacher.

anonymous May 5, 2012 3:50pm

Also, when the DM board found out about the stabbing, it was reported to the county sheriff.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 4:44pm

    Roach says:

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

    I think we need to see the content of the report to gauge how transparently they conveyed the data of the talk. More clarity would have been brought to bear on the situation with professional investigators.

      anonymous May 5, 2012 5:51pm

      they played the recording for the police , thats pretty darn transparent !! This is a fact that was shared with all living at DM caretaking !
      Also, yes they live in a home not a tent ! and no one would hear domestic violence, it was only through Lama C's talk that this all came out, she shared about the aggression/assaults by ian and about the stabbing freely to everyone truly believing that this was an important teaching to share, she wasnt trying to hide this at all. Because all of this happened approx 3 months into retreat, and then all violence stopped since then, so there had been no violence according to her for close to 8 months. Perhaps this is why the police chose not to intervene??
      Just some more info for you to correct your article.

        anonymous May 5, 2012 6:12pm

        Yes, none of the retreatants are "camping," or "camping out" or are in tents as you repeatedly assert. (Not being much of a camper myself, it does conjure up 'crazy' in my mind… to think of people camping for 3 years!) They all have homes that they are doing their retreats in.

          anonymous May 5, 2012 6:38pm

          I will correct this. In the early days, Roach made many claims about the virtues of austerity at DM. But if there has been full home construction this should be correctly noted.

        anonymous May 5, 2012 6:37pm

        I will correct the yurt statement, as this has been referred to several times. Can you corroborate that they played the recording? I can make the correction to reflect differing points of view, or we can wait for the investigative reporting to discern it, but I'd like a few more confirmations of this if possible.

          anonymous May 5, 2012 9:47pm

          you can ask any of the DM board members or some of the DM community that are serving there. This was communicated to us about the various actions that the Board took right after learning of the stabbing. They have no reason to lie and they have vows against lying and they understand the karmic implications if they do lie !!!! They gave full disclosure to the police. They were as concerned for the safety of everyone, the DM board are very compassionate, caring buddhists !! ANd this is and has been a very difficult time and your article that has so much projection and speculation without facts does not help anyone anywhere. I understand your concern and questions and having open discussions about this is good, but not with so much conjecture, speculation and bias', that can be for a gossip column if you please. So perhaps keeping to the facts would be most beneficial, as you can see from many posts, you have many things wrong, and it would be most helpful to correct them all and or take out the ones that you cant substantiate with facts so as not to mislead so many readers. Again, I do understand your concern and that is well placed but the way you are going about it, may not really be that helpful. I am new to GMR and DM and am feeling much confusion about all of what has transpired, so I am not speaking from having a lot of experience in the community but as someone who spent some time at DM during and after the great retreat teachings and experienced things from a more objective perspective and less emotional since I had never met Lama C or any of the retreatants before. I do have first hand knowledge of what Lama C said in the teachings and from meetings that were held with the board and GMR with the rest of the care takers at DM.
          Your speculation is a dis-service, your personal bias' belong in a gossip column if that is the kind of writing that you wish to do. Please re-write your letter with a purer motivation and intention which would be more helpful to all. thanks

      anonymous May 5, 2012 9:14pm

      So go get a copy of the report. You are supposedly writing an article about what happened. Why are you speculating about what is in the report rather than getting a copy and reading it?

anonymous May 5, 2012 3:49pm

I agree with most of your mentor list, but really?!?! Michael Stone…after that your article lost all credibility for me.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 4:32pm

    I'm quite sure that Michael Stone can speak strongly to the necessity for a strong independent board that is not wrapped around the finger of a spiritual teacher.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 8:56pm

    What's wrong with Michael Stone? Serious question.

anonymous May 5, 2012 3:28pm

Sounds like Waylon is getting pressure behind the scenes again. Seriously, if you don’t like the tone, don’t publish it. This game of offering challenging articles that you know will spike readership and then writing snarky comments undermining the post when things get questioned is exactly why I chose to not write for EJ.

anonymous May 5, 2012 3:16pm

two corrections: McNally and Thorson got together as a couple after McNally and Roach ended their relationship in late 2008 or early 2009. (between 2003 and 2005, McNally and Roach were in a monogamous, committed relationship). McNally and Thorson did not live in a yurt in the retreat–they lived in a large dome-shaped building made of earth-bags. It was very secluded and private and it would have been completely impossible for other retreaters to "hear" domestic violence incidents or anything from their cabin.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 4:26pm

    I remember reading that they claimed to have fallen in love while Ian was serving the first 3-year retreat. Is that not correct?

    I will correct the yurt reference.

      anonymous May 5, 2012 9:13pm

      Ian didn't serve the first three-year retreat. He left pretty soon after the retreat started, although he did do a retreat at DM outside of the three-year retreat tsam (I know because I delivered for him). So whatever may be true, it is definitely not true that this particular sequence of events occurred. I was there at the time, so I can speak from personal experience—the opportunity simply wasn't there. I think you may be thinking of Trisangma and Brian. But this is why it doesn't pay to speculate about this stuff. If Lama Christie wants to clarify at some point, she can certainly do so, but I can't think why she would. It's not really our business.

        anonymous May 6, 2012 12:31am

        Thank you Ted. I'll correct this.

Bob Weisenberg May 5, 2012 2:53pm

Just posted to "Featured Today" on the elephant enlightened society homepage.

Bob W. Associate Publisher
facebook, twitter, linkedIn
Yoga Demystified, Gita in a Nutshell

anonymous May 5, 2012 2:48pm

Amen to this: "I prefer my news without spin – in either direction. Objectivity and compassion is what we need right now. " We welcome other points of view on elephant. The above is opinion, and while important to give an uplifted forum instead of suppressing, the facts of the case are what's important, not any one person's view. ~ Waylon, [email protected]

    anonymous May 9, 2012 5:47am

    What "case" Waylon? There is no "case".

anonymous May 5, 2012 2:33pm

Here is a recording of GMR during the GRT2 (when Christie talked about what was going on between her and Ian.

He talks his problems with what he has heard.

It is 1hr and 56 minutes, I only think the last maybe 10 minutes are relevant.

Understand, I am not defending the issues pointed out in the article. I knew of Ian’s issues and questioned the wisdom of allowing him to go into 3 year retreat with Christie. I also saw problems with the teachings at DM. I saw the delusion and detachment from reality which the teachings instilled in the students there.

    anonymous May 12, 2012 10:23pm

    I just listened to the last 20 minutes or so of this and I do have to say in all fairness Roach does seem to really come down on them . He seems very disturbed and lays down the law. I'm not a fan at all but I think it was quite obvious that he was addressing Christie Mcnally.

      anonymous May 13, 2012 4:56am

      Surya: I agree. I hear the pain and shock of a man who cannot believe that his paradise is threatened, and he wants to make a strong show of force. My argument is that he is not equipped to administrate the situation, for many reasons: lack of supervision, isolation from broader community, etc.

      You should also know Surya if you haven't listened to him that much that Roach is able in public speaking mode to turn the tears on and off like a tap. I don't know that this is consciously manipulative, but it certainly manipulates.

    anonymous May 17, 2012 7:01pm

    thank you for posting this link.

anonymous May 5, 2012 2:21pm

I, too, am concerned about the Sangha of DM, especially those still in retreat, but parts of your story don't line up with information that has previously come out, and your tone at some points in the article make it sound like you have an axe to grind. I prefer my news without spin – in either direction. Objectivity and compassion is what we need right now. I think it's important to have the facts straight and stick to them, which you claim to be trying to achieve, but then your tone belies that sensibility. We shouldn't twist the facts and make them fit into an agenda – this goes for people who are both "pro-DM" and "anti-DM."

"The failure to report the couple’s violence to local authorities, along with the subsequent banishment of the couple from Diamond Mountain property without adequate psychiatric, medical, and community care, all raise stark questions about the competency of this secretive and autocratic organization, and call into doubt whether its Board is qualified to protect the safety of the remaining residents of Diamond Mountain."

From what I understand, the police were notified when the DM Board first learned of the stabbing (back in February, right after Lama Christie's teaching when she talked about it publicly). The authorities made a report, but no charges were pressed. Unfortunately, this is common in cases of spousal abuse. Unless a victim presses charges, nothing is usually done unless someone ends up in a hospital or police witness the abuse. As someone who has watched loved ones in emotionally and physically abusive relationships, I know that it's very difficult to get them out of that situation if they don't want out.

Granted, it does seem like measures could have been taken years ago by folks at DM to prevent things from reaching this point. Things seemingly spiraled out of control, and it got to a point where something had to be done. However, Lama Christie and Ian were adults. If what you are saying is true – that they were mentally ill – really, what else was DM supposed to do? I have dealt with a family member who is mentally ill, and, legally, there is very little you can do once someone is an adult. Unless they pose a serious threat to themselves or others (and even then, it involves going through a legal process – it's not easy, despite what you may think), they have to make a decision to get help. You can't force them to do anything.

The only leverage DM had was to ask them to leave. It wasn't ideal, but, again, Lama Christie and Ian were adults. You can't MAKE them do anything. You seem to think that you can forcibly treat someone's psychosis, and you can't. That's like trying to forcibly treat someone's drug addiction. It cannot be done unless the user wants to get clean.

Sure, things could have been handled differently, but hindsight is always 20/20.

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

Also, not entirely true. While the Office of HHDL barred Geshe Michael from teaching in Dharmasala at the time he did, there was and is nothing keeping his students from attending His Holiness's teachings. I always run into several of them whenever I've attended the Dalai Lama's teachings.

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

This sounds like a sweeping generalization, and I question its accuracy. I've actually met both of Lama Christie's parents. She didn't seem alienated from her family. And most everyone else I've ever talked to in that Sangha seem to have ongoing relationships with their family members. I understand that you're basing this on your own experiences from 12 years ago, but my experience has been different. Maybe it's because I got to know people through the yoga teachings.

This whole situation is unfortunate, and it makes me very sad for all involved. To be honest, it's confusing for me, as I consider Geshe Michael and Lama Christie to be my teachers. It was their teachings on yoga that attracted me – I study Buddhism with other lamas – but seeing all that has happened over the last few years? I won't lie and say it hasn't rocked my spiritual foundation.

But calling DM a cult? I think that's pretty farfetched to be honest. They did contact a local judge, the police, and a lawyer at various points between February 20 and April 22. If they didn't want any outside influence as you claim, they would not have done this. And why would they file a Missing Persons Report if the couple's attendant still had contact with Lama Christie and Ian?

I understand that you are concerned about the remaining retreatants. I am too. But your demands to the DM board in regards to what they should do with them? If carried out, it will greatly disturb them even more than they already have been disturbed.

Still, I think everything that has gone down is something that needs to be talked about, and I hope that we all keep a level head and remain compassionate.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 4:05pm

    Sky —

    Thanks for holding my feet to the fire here. Regarding DM's law enforcement and medical options, please re-read my paragraph on Arizona's Revised Title 36. This refers to involuntary commitment, which, admittedly, does not guarantee treatment or compliance as you point out, but it does present an intervention that counterposes the group mentality with a broader social will.

    While the Office of HHDL did invite Roach's followers to teachings, Roach's virtual excommunication from the lineage most certainly confused many of his followers. This is why I use the word "alienated".

    You are probably right that my characterization of familial alienation is an over-generalization. I will amend this. It was, however, prefatory to the description of how the DM board thought it prudent to not contact the couple's family when they went missing.

    In my opinion, the DM contact with the JP and the local police was under-requested given the gravity of the situation. And according to Roach they only contacted a lawyer to be advised on the protection of their property and institution.

    Read the list of demands carefully — they are directed at the Board, not the retreatants, so that the Board can re-establish credibility after what I feel to be terrible errors of judgment. I don't know what the retreatants should do: but I do think the Board now has to prove that they can take care of them.

    Hindsight is 20/20 if you get some glasses. I think the lenses are being ground right now on this page.

    I'm truly sorry that this is a hard time for you. I hope you find a lot of support, in whatever way you need it to show up.

      anonymous May 7, 2012 1:40am

      The fact that you keep having to correct and revise is increasingly relieving this 'piece' of any credibility. Have you considered lodging a complaint with the authorities? You seem to think there may be criminal negligence at hand.

      Are any of the current members of this group complaining of sexual abuse or mistreatment at the hands of their teachers? Do you have any facts other than the facts you keep revising? Because the rest is definitely your opinion, to which you are entitled, but isn't very interesting. If there's a matter for the police, why don't you let them sort it out.

        anonymous May 7, 2012 3:24am

        Arly: I've only corrected and revised once, as predicted in the post, with amendments that simply clarify data that was in Roach's open letter, to which I originally linked.

        I would have to be an Arizona attorney to proffer a view on whether there is criminal negligence. I imagine that there is not, however. But the DM Board I believe are to be held to a higher standard than the strictly legal. As for my opinions being uninteresting, perhaps they are, as none of my critics have addressed them directly: power imbalance, secrecy, and how ungrounded spirituality is a greenhouse for delusion.

    anonymous May 11, 2012 5:05pm

    I agree that there is to much interaction with family, friends, community within the populations of DM to make labels of a "cult" applicable. I say this as someone who has studied with the community, camped, gone on short silent retreat, and enjoyed their company w.o. accepting that the teachings of GMR are infallible or that he is necessarily an enlightened being.

      anonymous May 11, 2012 5:29pm

      This is a point I take seriously, Kevin. I'm about to follow-up with another post covering the discourse so far, including the difficulty around the usage of this word.

anonymous May 5, 2012 2:19pm

The article, even if well-intentioned is clearly not a "call for investigation", but rather a statement written prior to formal investigation of what the writer believes true. I don't believe the issues are clarified by conjuring up Jonestown using heavily-loaded terms like 'cult' to describe the group at the retreat center. As anyone with real meditation and retreat experience knows, sometimes mental confusion comes up, and sometimes that confusion becomes psychosis. That's not to minimize it, but rather to say that it can be hard to tell someone who's struggling-but-ok from someone who's becoming psychotic. An interpretation of evens that seems obvious to us as we read a prepared account of events may not have been so apparent as they were happening. And, blame for events might not be easily assigned once more facts are known. And, why not wait until more is known before drawing negative conclusions about individuals and an organization that I, at least, know little about. In short, let's think for ourselves. It's not necessarily the best approach for religious practitioners trying to loosen the hold of ego, but likely the best for approaching the harsh conclusions of the partially informed.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 2:49pm

    I agree that "cult" is applied, often, generally, too casually. The above, as Matthew said, is his view and opinion. We welcome others on elephant. ~ Waylon, [email protected]

      anonymous May 5, 2012 3:45pm

      It's my view and opinion, based upon available facts, which I ask anyone with better knowledge to correct.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 3:42pm

    My 15 requests to the Board are most definitely a call for investigation.

    Valuing the objective as you do, it is regrettable in some sense that you came upon this news not from AP but with someone who has a definitely personal and very human perspective. That said, there is nothing to prevent you or anyone else to study the available documents, scan them against personal experience, and render different conclusions.

    When you do so, be as careful as I was to indicate the difference between facts and opinions.

    As I write in paragraph #4:

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

      anonymous May 6, 2012 6:16pm

      Hello, Matthew. I don't recall meeting you and we may never have met. I'm just reaching out as someone who has been studying under GM (among many others outside of DM) for many years. So are you saying, you've written the Board and have not received one response? Did you address each member in your email or just one of two?

      The only thing I can think of is that if you are synonymous with diamondcutter website, then I don't know why you would expect an answer. I'm not trying to be combative, just trying to think of the one reason I can imagine the Board not responding. If you were that person, I mean, if you were someone who was tearing me down, I don't know why I'd bother to engage, you know?

      If you are not that person, then I don't know why they haven't responded.

      Again, I don't know who you are. I am not making any judgments. I'm just reaching here. I'm not the most politically correct person at DM (LOL far from it – ask them!) but they certainly answered my email.

        anonymous May 6, 2012 11:34pm

        He already stated that he had no association with that website.. I wonder why people keep accusing him. Do you really believe there's only one or two ex-students of GMR who disagree with his trajectory, or would find the current situation disturbing to say the least? I know quite a few, but it is true that most choose not to be very public about it , they just choose to move on with their lives and their Dharma studies. Everyone reacts differently, -it seems Matthew feels the compassionate response is to try to publicly inspire the board of DM to examine their conduct and protocol so as to prevent further tragedy. .

          anonymous May 7, 2012 1:30am

          I obviously didn't see that, Phurba, It's quite an encyclopedia to sort through here and I have done my best. I appreciate your telling me. I just can't see a reason for pasting one's opinion like this on the web. He's clearly stated that he is extrapolating his opinions from his limited knowledge of something he has not witnessed. He has made many corrections which further shows the limitations of the info he does have. He has what: 2 scribd articles, something on the DM website, and?????? what else? Panic? Disappointment? Anger? Fear? Compassion for the retreaters? Is this a call to arms? Is this a request for more information? If he is so hell-bent on helping these poor misguided imprisoned and possibly maltreated retreaters, then why doesn't he bring his concerns to the people who can investigate: the police down there. It's not like people who spend all day reading web articles and FB are going to be able to do anything other than vehemently agree or disagree. It's kind of a waste of time.

        anonymous May 7, 2012 3:28am

        Allison: thanks for reaching out. I didn't contact the Board for more information. I scrutinized the Board's public position on events, and then asked what I believe to be salient questions for moving forward with safety and credibility.

        I've had nothing to do with the diamond-cutter website. When it was up for all those years, I didn't even post to it, because my feelings on the period of my life that I spent with Roach were far from clear.

anonymous May 5, 2012 2:05pm

The points and questions you raise are valid. In the East, spiritual teachers taught…spiritual practice. Here we still tend to ask our spiritual teachers who we should marry, what car we should buy, what job we should take, etc etc. And we often use spiritual practice to avoid painful psychological problems-both large and small. All Buddhist teachers should have some training in counseling skills and when to refer to a mental health provider.

That being said, this article sounds to me like you have an idea that Roach is a cult leader, and everyone is a cult follower. Having read the same sources and spoken to people involved, I'm convinced that the board truly tried to intervene to keep everyone, but that Christie and Ian evaded their attempts. I'm also know that-perhaps most importantly- the others on retreat are a) being allowed/encouraged to "process" this event together b) are being well taken care of c) able to contact family members through letters and are also able to visit with family members who come to the retreat site d) feel able to express their questions and dissent g) able to tell friends about the practices they are doing. I've heard directly from family members and friends regarding these correspondences. As a Comparative Religions scholar, these aspects counteract the assertion that Roach is running a cult (one of the first things a cult does is cut off their member's relationships with outside family/friends).

These follow-up discussions are inherently difficult because anyone speaking in favor of Roach and Diamond Mountain will automatically be seen as having been "brain-washed". The author obviously has an axe to grind with Roach, so anyone supporting the article can automatically be seen as joining in a personal attack. So my question: how do we engage in true open, dialogue to benefit all?

    anonymous May 5, 2012 2:08pm

    should have proof read. Corrections:
    Buddhist teachers should have some guideline re: when to refer to mental health professionals
    tried to intervene " to keep everyone safe"

    anonymous May 5, 2012 3:34pm

    Thanks Wendy for the Comp. Rel. angle. It might be that some positive movement towards group processing, transparency, and familial contact is indeed occurring at DM, and this is a good thing, and may invalidate my usage of the word "cult", in a very narrow technical sense.

    As to your request for true open dialogue to benefit all: I think you're seeing it happen on this page. It takes time, and good will, and yes, the burying of all hatchets, as hard as that is. Because my response to the tragedy is personal as well as civic/ethical, my hatchet will show, but perhaps a bit of my heart as well. I'll leave it to the professional press to be as objective — and distanced — as possible.

    anonymous May 11, 2012 4:57pm

    To be honest, I have been studying with GMR and members of the community for the past 4 and a half years. I see good and bad here. He actively encourages people to seek out other teachers and to make sense of things for themselves, but sometimes it is necessary to go outside the community to receive these things. I personally have always found the people working in the kitchen to be the best source of spiritual aid (as opposed to the ones on the teaching chair).

      anonymous May 11, 2012 5:56pm

      The ecumenical encouragement is not new.

      Did you feel, Kevin, that it concealed the caveat that i always heard, which was "if a particular path doesn't express THIS understanding of karma/emptiness, that it is deficient"? That in fact, what made other religions valid was that they were secretly Roach-religions?

      I found it a very strange brand of ecumenism when in 2003 Roach began teaching Jesus as though he were from Sera Mey. It was almost like: "All world religions support my view, whether they acknowledge it or not." It felt like an ongoing act of cultural appropriation and colonization.

        anonymous May 12, 2012 2:02pm

        Yes, that is precisely what I mean Matthew.

Bob Weisenberg May 5, 2012 1:16pm

(Posted on behalf of Cathy Gee:)

I am very saddened to read this. I recall similar groups which allowed total power to leaders whose abilities were no more than any normal man or woman who ultimately became 'super-gods". The spiritual-based groups which taught total compliance and no questioning of leader's actions in cultish fashoion had denounced the outside world. Oregon, possibly Idaho, I recall.

I deeply applaud your efforts to unwind this tragedy to prevent it happening to others in this group and to dismantle the dysfunctionial aspects of this enterprise. for others mental health as well as more appropriate(word choice?) spiritual rights and endeavors. As a professional educator from what I gather of your description of Ian's 'actions' many very nonthreatening to-life diagnoses may have been made as simple as low grade tourettes, add, low grade autism, sugar or gluten allergies, metabloism of some vitamin compound dificulty and more. People who have many envoronmental sensitivities inserted into a controlled or uncomfortable for their body environment combined with restricted thinking or with minimal or rigorous punitive emotional support coupled with potentially nutrition depriving intense diets which vegans, determined controlled yogis mayadopt. in an isolated place.. may exaceberate the symptoms through biological imbalance.

I am truly sorry for your friend.

I am going to ask you to consider.. softly consider.. after some time has passed to consider writing this same message on a slightly 'lower' vocabulary and intellectual level. Right now your emotion, adept writing skills , and intellectual abilities may stretch the reader's ability to grasp some content.

Thank you for your work and contribution to safe spiritual actions and group development.

Please do as you see fit.

–Cathy Gee

    anonymous May 5, 2012 3:19pm

    Thanks Cathy. I can be verbose, for sure. Hopefully the national media follow-up will be a little more straight-shooting.

    But thank you moreover for your diagnostic suggestions. I think we should be paying close attention to the physiology of spiritual-seeking.

anonymous May 5, 2012 11:55am

Thanks for the well-written, timely and insightful analysis Matthew. I appreciate your humility in writing and acknowledging that this is an evolving story. Your tone is inquisitive and demonstrates real concerns for the people who are still involved in this situation.

I can speak from my past experience of being involved in a group that used authoritarian control, verbal and emotional abuse and severe manipulation. I can see several of the warning signs clearly in Michael Roach and his group. It is incredibly important to shine as much light on these situations as early as possible before they get worse. The longer these sorts of groups can continue in secrecy and avoid full transparency the more that can go wrong.

Of course strong supporters of Geshe Michael Roach will attack you and this article, but don’t let that sway you. It is just more evidence that there is something they want to cover up. Anyone who is even remotely objective (as evidenced by those who’ve commented with concerns above) can see that your article raises numerous questions. For his supporters and followers to demonstrate independent thinking they’d have to acknowledge that a full investigation needs to occur as there is still a lot unknown. Anyone who simply dismisses this article as “factually incorrect” or says it is merely an “accusatory tone” obviously has some vested interested in keeping things quiet. This could be of course out of personal attachment to Michael Roach or the community. But I guarantee you that people who read this from afar, will have legitimate concerns and will rightfully acknowledge that more information needs to be gathered. One doesn’t have to convict Michael Roach but if someone resists more disclosure, openness and information gathering – this should be a warning sign.

My hope is that this article will lead to more interest, investigation and analysis. I'm sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks for having the courage to speak up and weather the storm!

Be Scofield
Writer for Tikkun Magazine/Alternet

    anonymous May 5, 2012 3:16pm

    Thanks for acknowledging the evolving nature of the article. I'm happy that the online forum allows for correction where needed, while exposing the agendae of those who would wilfully suppress, distract, or distort.

    anonymous Dec 26, 2015 5:31pm

    No! They do not want to cover up any thing. I believe The Geshe Michael Roach’s intentions are all good,his teachings are good,& he made it possible for more females to learn about Buddhism,He graduated from Sera Mey Monastery,the incident of Lama Christy Mc Nally was sad,but she would want us all to move forward and continue our good bodhisattva vows and practices. She would want us to practice with pure minds. Let us give Lama Christy her own contemplation quietness,Let us all remember the good things the Geshe Michael Roach teaches us. Be grateful also how he has helped many native Tibetans and maintaining their cultures. To those who speak wrongfully of Geshe Michael Roach,I wonder what Karma returns to them.

anonymous May 5, 2012 11:54am

Remski writes:

" What matters is that Roach effectively extracted himself from the cultural oversight of the larger tradition. Over the years he has made many justifications for establishing himself beyond the pale: he’s a realized being, the old schools don’t understand the contemporary zeitgeist, etc., etc. But whatever the justification is, he has found a niche for himself with no supervision. And there is no human organizational structure in existence that remains functional and resists authoritarianism without its highest members being subject to the oversight of peers."

I'm not at all suggesting there is any equivalent malfeasance at the present time, but is is exactly this issue that is a deep concern for me about Shambhala International. Now that the Karma Kagyu lineage has been effectively mothballed within the community for incoming students, and "Shambhala" has been rebranded as both a vajrayana Buddhist lineage and a society, Sakyong Mipham is now pope and king, answerable to no one, and that seems to be the design. With that kind of a setup, it would be surprising if they *aren't* serious problems.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 3:11pm

    I hope that this forum allows many similar circumstances to come to light.

      anonymous Jun 20, 2012 1:21am

      Hello Matthew! This is Mira, the Indian woman in the Manhattan sangha who was heading back to the Himalayas. Well, I am back in India again, and a friend wrote to me this morning to let me know what had happened at Diamond M — i am totally out of the loop, tho not yet completely loopy, haha. So glad I jumped out of the "cult" so very long ago — it was easy enough to see the warning signs of darkness and chaos ahead. Thank you for taking up the sanity cudgels, and so eloquently — you are an amazing writer, never mind what the neo-types say — it seems to me that many in the "new" world don't believe folks have the right to their own opinions. My personal point of view is to leave the "sangha" to work themselves out of the mess they've created. Delusion is insidious. Besides, I will never forget the charisma and style with which Roach pulled so many of us into the jeweled net of the dharma. Love, Mira
      (Are Dennison and Oceana around? Love to them too…)

    anonymous May 5, 2012 8:38pm

    I take it you are equally critical of Pema Chodron? She's certainly an amazing teacher, who also comes from the Shambhala lineage. I've only heard Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche speak once, but he seemed fairly humble at the time. Granted, that was probably ten years ago. I find all these generalizations puzzling. Why don't you just find a lineage you like and go practice there? Who cares what other people are doing?

      anonymous May 5, 2012 10:44pm

      Why are you so defensive Ted? Why do you assume that I am talking about "other people?" I am talking about my concerns about a lineage that I found, that I liked, that I joined, and where I have spent a dozen years of my life "practicing there." And where I still practice. If Pema Chodron was a queen and a pope I would be worried about her too.

      If expressing concerns like this strikes you as being excessively critical, then I am all the more worried about the state of vajrayana Buddhism in the west. It seems to breed a class of sycophants who get hysterical at the slightest suggestion of concern.

        anonymous May 6, 2012 8:57am

        I didn't say you were being excessively critical. You weren't critical at all. Criticism is when you point out some error that has been made, and give clear reasons why you think it was an error, and what ought to be done about it. You didn't do that.

        You just implied that several really excellent teachers are poseurs, precisely because they are so well respected. This is not criticism. It is innuendo of the worst sort.

          anonymous May 6, 2012 9:22am

          Ted: I believe his substantial point is about oversight within a broader organizational context.

          anonymous May 6, 2012 11:14am

          I did not imply that at all. I pointed out that a situation has been created where there is very little oversight, and as we have seen that kind of a structure is always a serious cause for concern regardless of who is involved.

            anonymous May 6, 2012 10:04pm

            It's hard to understand what the substantial point is. Does Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche hold the power of life and death over his followers? Are his followers acting like a cult? Is he keeping people from contacting their families? Is he taking sexual advantage of followers he finds attractive? As far as I know, the answer to this is no.

            So in fact I think this particular example, and Pema Chodron's example as well, are excellent examples to hold up that contradict your claim: that "that kind of a structure is always a serious cause for concern."

              anonymous May 7, 2012 10:28am

              The problem with this kind of set up is that problems don't always become public knowledge, Ted, especially when the close attendants are all sworn to secrecy. That's the point. I wonder how many scandals in the Buddhist world you feel the need to see before you're willing to concede that maybe a different approach is called for.

                anonymous May 8, 2012 4:03am

                Well, to be fair– I don't believe the sangha under Shakyamuni Buddha was a democratic or consensus based organization. People deferred to the Buddha because they had confidence he had deeper insight (the deepest possible) into the nature of reality. SO to see social structures within Buddhist tradition that mirror this is not really shocking or unusual, or 'wrong'. However, if the teacher enthroned in such a position is not as realized as they claim, and does not truly have the best interests of the sangha at heart.. it is a recipe for disaster. Does this mean all organizing structures like this should be abolished? That seems extreme. Perhaps there has to be greater emphasis on approaching teachers with caution, examining them for 10 to 12 years and seeing if their actions correspond with those of the dharma, what their inner qualities are, etc. Most Buddhists in the west do not do this: we are an instant-gratification culture. Also, secrecy is indeed problematic as it becomes an obstacle for people to do their own thorough examination of the teachers in question. But even when things are obvious, people sometimes choose to not talk about them publicly for whatever reason. As Matthew recounts in his article: it was obvious to many that Christie and Roach were lovers long before the shocking revelation that they had done the 3 year retreat together,, yet many students were still shocked by the relationship. I assume because no one who connected the dots really talked about it. This probably doesn't have much to do with dharma dynamics and every thing to do with basic social and psychological tendencies to avoid uncomfortable truths.

                  anonymous May 8, 2012 4:54am

                  Yes, the shock was telling. I remember the strange feeling of wondering why no one but me and a few others had connected the dots. I was shocked at the shock. Still, the social control aspects of the group made me feel unable to speak up plainly at the time. This is something I still regret, but it speaks to the power of group dynamic over someone who had yet to grasp his authenticity.

                    anonymous May 8, 2012 1:58pm

                    There are many built-in mechanisms within Vajrayana that can be misused as simple control mechanisms. The entire system is based on a Bodhisattva with selfless motivation being at the helm. If instead there is someone less qualified acting the part, then all kinds of messes can happen, and certainly have in the past. Unqualified or charlatan Lamas are not an uncommon thing even back in old Tibet, in fact there was a pervasive anxiety about this issue and the recommendations to examine a teacher for 12 years in many texts before committing is not casual advice. In modern times of rapid information sharing, HH the DL, the defacto head of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition in exile, has recommended that students be outspoken if there are clear abuses by those acting as Lamas. Of course, people can sling mud with various motivations from jealousy to financial gain, so any random accusation can not always be trusted. But if claims are researched and corroborated, there should be every reason to expose wrong doing or immoral conduct by anyone in a position of authority.

anonymous May 5, 2012 11:35am

I planned to be in this three-year retreat until two weeks before it began when I discovered I had breast cancer. Since then, I have been naturally returning to myself and coming to my senses.

In February, after learning of the stabbings, I asked questions of other students on Facebook and my questions were removed. They said they would discuss it privately. Personally, I wanted everyone I know to know what happened. Secrets are deadly.

You are right, "dear" 🙂 to note the lack of comments. I did ask questions on the Christie page prior to learning the tragic news about Ian. My comments and questions were removed within a few hours. I was censured.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 3:11pm

    Ekan, I'm sorry to hear that. What's interesting about censure in the online world is that it doesn't seem to work for very long, as we're seeing today.

    The invitation to speak "privately" about the issue is generally a cue for the spiritual bullying to start. But this is much more effective in person than by text.

    All the best in your healing.

      anonymous May 11, 2012 4:47pm

      Ekan, So glad to see your post. I met you briefly in the Fall of 2008 when I was camping on the land. Hope your treatment is progressing well. This tragedy has been an impetus for me to take my question concerning the DM community more seriously. To try and make sense of the good I have experienced and also to acknowledge that while a process of truly questioning the teachings is stated, I have received from the majority of the persons involved with the community a sense of dismissal in regards to my questioning and a use of the concept of "karma" as a reason to not take the concerns of others seriously.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 3:37pm

    wow. thank you for sharing these direct examples.

    and, i hope you were able to catch the cancer early and are moving towards being in the clear.

    anonymous May 6, 2012 6:08pm

    You are always welcome to ask questions on my FB page, Ekan. I would never delete them. I am no longer at DM, I moved away shortly after the retreat started after living there full-time for more than three years. But I am in close contact with a couple of the early 20s kids of two mothers in the retreat and so I have fairly regular contact with on-the-ground (non-political) sources. Any answers I would have for you are second-hand, yes, but open discussion should not be censured. To be honest, I think many of the caretakers are exhausted emotionally by this. They are continuing to serve the retreat and make food and supply deliveries and provide maintenance to cabins, wells, etc. And it was a total surprise to them – from start to finish. I emailed the Board directly and asked if there was any one Board member to whom to refer questions. The response was that all Board members were happy to talk to anyone. It's perfectly normal for a staff member (paid or volunteer) of any non-profit to avoid giving statements. I have worked for non-profits all my life. Staff is seen as representing the org. It is not their place to give statements only personal opinions, yet the media often takes these personal experiences as 'official'. Of course, that's all politics. I don't do politics well. Anyway, I am always available although don't know if that will be helpful. Just sayin'. Peace – a

      anonymous May 7, 2012 4:29am

      Thank you for reporting on the trials of the caretakers. I do imagine they are in a very difficult situation.

anonymous May 5, 2012 11:34am

"It's easy to look back in hindsight and pick apart how things could have been done differently. What happened to Ian is absolutely heartbreaking. But we can't make it un-happen. So what is your point here? Do you think that the retreat should be stopped, just in case? If so, what leads you to think that? Are you aware of some similar situation that you think needs to be addressed? Or is this more a case of just deciding, for yourself, that you think a group of people are on the wrong track, because something bad happened to one of them? "

This is the kind of minimizing and deflection that appears whenever someone steps up to speak out about abuse in a spiritual organization. I have followed every American Buddhist scandal that has appear in recent years, having lived through a power abuse scandal in my own Zen sangha several years back. Those who wish to defend the status quo, or to maintain some sense of protection around the teacher and/or leaders involved, minimize any critical voices as uninformed and unreliable. They fixate on whatever errors of fact can be found in the criticism, using that as grounds for a total dismissal. They say that the critical person is projecting their own problems onto the situation. They argue, like bobo did, for some phony sense of "objectivity," knowing that anyone connected to such a community could never truly demonstrate objectivity, and thus can always be dismissed as biased.

Hell, I've heard all this crap before dozens of times. The woman who outed our former teacher was told she'd been projecting for months on end before she finally decided she had had enough. Those who wanted to protect his image summarily shunned her, and when the board pressed for his resignation, denounced the sangha and left. One former member told me, in response to an e-mail I sent detailing the challenges the community faced in the year following the teachers departure, that "we were a bunch of sensitive whiners who needed to grow up." I could go on and on, providing examples from Eido Shimano's story, or Genpo Merzel's story, or half a dozen others, but the point is that something has been way off about Roach and his community for a long time now, and it impacts the broader American Buddhist community. We need to stop acting like each sangha is totally independent and has no responsibility to the larger Buddhist world.

As an aside, ironically, one of the last books my Zen sangha studied with our former teacher was Roach's Diamond Cutter. Although there were pieces of the book I liked, overall something greatly bothered me about it. The presentation of karma felt entirely too simplistic, and I also felt like the book was an elaborate justification of the millions of dollars Roach made in the diamond trade.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 4:01pm

    You mean the millions of dollars he gave away to Sera monastery? Why would he need to justify that?

anonymous May 5, 2012 11:30am

Thank you for writing this Matthew, and to Elephant for publishing it. Unfortunately, there are dangerous cultish power dynamics all over western Buddhism, particularly the Tibetan variety, I have found in my dozen years of involvement therein. Roach's outfit is probably on the most egregious example.

Unfortunately, these problems are also aided and abetted by what passes for a mainstream media in Western Buddhism – Shambhala Sun, Buddhadharma and Tricycle. Particularly in the case of the first two – their stated policies of ignoring all problems in the Buddhist world is unconscionable and frankly despicable.

    anonymous May 6, 2012 1:56pm

    Amen. Lots of cult psychology in American Tibetan Buddhism but I don't think the leaders care as long as the organizations flourishes.

anonymous May 5, 2012 11:09am

Matthew – thanks for calling my attention to (and writing) this important article. I'm another former GM Roach fan/student and am likewise saddened by this news. I've posted thoughts at… but essentially agree with your assessment and hope your requests are fulfilled both by the folks at DM and the broader Buddhist community.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 3:04pm

    Thanks for reaching out, Justin. For those of you who don't wish to click though, appends the following to my suggestions:

    "I’ll go further to suggest an official global Buddhist oversight organization. A transparent clearing house of information and informed discussion on all aspects of Buddhism in the world today. Until now, especially in the West, students have had little to help them determine whether a Buddhist group they were visiting was legitimate or potentially dangerous. In the groups I mentioned above we have seen suicides, murder, massive sexual impropriety, and now the death of a man in the Arizona desert. Not all of this could necessarily be avoided, but we do have a responsibility to speak up. Right now, many who do speak up, such as those behind the New Kadampa Survivors network, have no legitimate forum to air their grievances. So the internet has become a battle-ground of ‘survivors’ and defenders, which doesn’t bode well for the future of Buddhism in general.

    Part of the problem with Roach and others is that in their breaks from previous traditions they stepped outside of all oversight. A general oversight association couldn’t eliminate the rise of future problems like this, but it could go a long way in terms of simply:

    requesting reports on activities, membership, and activities from Buddhist groups. Those that wish to be secretive would be listed as such. People new to Buddhism and unsure about their group could check it out, expecting fair information.
    encouraging people to report abuses or unsafe conditions and expect such reports to be taken seriously – whether internally or by alerting outside authorities.

anonymous May 5, 2012 10:57am

Three more comments:

> It really sounds to me like this couple was on drugs. From Geshe Michael's open letter:

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

Drugs for him.

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

The Board received a written statement from a professional medical practitioner inside the retreat, stating that they had sewn up wounds sustained by Ian that they had been told were the accidental result of playing with a knife. The medical person described three separate wounds to the torso, one of which was deep enough to threaten vital organs.

Drugs for her.

Again I think it is very important to point out that each individual’s personal spiritual experience is unique, and very possibly valid to themselves. We have no way of judging how these events were viewed spiritually by either Lama Christie or Ian. Knowing both of them for years, knowing them both to be incredibly devoted practitioners, we can only assume that something important for them was occurring.

Drugs for him and her.

> Ketamine.

> Unfortunately, from my experience, they were just crazy. But in such cults, the crazy are elevated in status so they rise to the top. My ex-wife was like this, she even read Roach's books and introduced me to them.

Sorry, but I will stick to the early teachings of Buddha(theravada), thank you.

    anonymous May 7, 2012 5:14pm

    I am with you all the way up to your last line: "Sorry, but I will stick to the early teachings of Buddha(theravada), thank you."

    I hardly think you can use this group, whose philosophy, practice and actions have strayed so far from traditional Vajrayana as to make it unrecognizable– as a point with which to discredit authentic Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist traditions.

    It's akin to discrediting the entire tradition of Christianity because you talked with a really unstable Jehova's Witness once.

anonymous May 5, 2012 10:46am

Wonderfully informative writing and a stunning read. The sociology of cult is truly alarming. Thank you for your insights.

anonymous May 5, 2012 10:31am

Dear writer, I wonder what kind of spiritual authority you have in order to write with such an accusatory tone? Bringing in your own neurosis into this unfortunate set of events is not something that will help readers understand what has happened. Your letter is everything but an attempt to be objective. Taking the moral high ground can only indicate spiritual fundamentalism. Live and let others live!

    anonymous May 7, 2012 6:58am

    I have no spiritual authority. I have, rather, a strong sense of social and civic responsibility, and I am concerned that this tragedy reveals a lack of sensible community leadership. That this lack is rife with the fog of fundamentalism is the very thing that concerns me. And while I cannot approach this from an objective point-of-view, given my experience and personal involvement, I can help to provide a context by which the larger implications of this story might be understood.

      anonymous May 7, 2012 7:12am

      @Matthew — While there may be issues with validating some of the facts in your article (as no independent inquiry is yet available), the Western Buddhist world needs more folks like yourself digging in and asking tough questions. I applaud your efforts!

      As Buddha has stated and HHDL himself often reminds us, we must continue to apply critical thought and inquiry and not just simply accept things on faith. Like any good Buddhist debate, DMU and the leadership should be brought out into the light of day and see if there is real Gold here or just Pyrite.

        anonymous Jul 14, 2012 1:04am

        I knew Christy in high school. She was a cheerleader, happy, fully of life, sweet. She was at our 20 year high school reunion with her husband where she seemed happy but in a trance. Clearly this Roach character had some sort of grasp on her and transformed her into someone she was not. She was clearly mentally ill as was her husband. Roach should be arrested for running a sham of an operation and Christy should get mental help immediately.

anonymous May 5, 2012 10:27am

[…] 5, 2012 By Justin Whitaker Leave a CommentMatthew Remski emailed me today, bringing my attention to an article he has just published at Elephant Journal. In his article he discusses the recent death of Ian Thornson, a Buddhist practitioner in S.E. […]

anonymous May 5, 2012 10:11am

Mathew..i am not finding the excerpt you have quoted from the "Bodhicaryavatara". Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala translated by Stephen Batchelor.

anonymous May 5, 2012 10:11am

Matthew, they did involve the sheriff. If you don't believe what they are saying, why not ask the sheriff's department what they know? I notice that in addition to a variety of factual errors here, you apparently didn't bother to do that. Also, as a person who was present in the group for a year, back in 1998, and who really doesn't know any of the retreaters, your characterization of them as helpless seems like projection rather than personal knowledge. The idea that they are hypnotized by some evil cult master's gaze is simply not consistent with the people I know. I don't live at DM, so I don't know how often Geshe Michael visits them, but I'm not under the impression that it's often, and I know at least some of the retreaters are in deep retreat and don't see anyone.

It's easy to look back in hindsight and pick apart how things could have been done differently. What happened to Ian is absolutely heartbreaking. But we can't make it un-happen. So what is your point here? Do you think that the retreat should be stopped, just in case? If so, what leads you to think that? Are you aware of some similar situation that you think needs to be addressed? Or is this more a case of just deciding, for yourself, that you think a group of people are on the wrong track, because something bad happened to one of them?

Having met you and gotten to know you back in 1998, I know that you have an open heart and want to do right by people you feel some connection to. But much of what you are asking to be done has been done, and was mentioned in Geshe Michael's letter. The vow of silence is something Christie demanded and the board countermanded. Your claims about what the Dalai Lama has said are not factual—they've been raised repeatedly, but no-one has ever produced a statement from the Dala Lama himself on the topic, and typically when someone is denounced by an authority, the very first thing you would expect would be that such a denunciation be produced in some verifiable form. It would be helpful if you could get your facts straight and do a little more research before writing such a detailed denunciation of your own of a group of people you barely know.

Also, I think you will have to look long and hard to find a Buddhist group that things meditating occasionally to revisit experiences you had in the past is a desirable practice. It's better than nothing, though. Generally speaking what you will hear in Buddhist groups far and wide is that it's best to meditate daily. As far as I know, based on my experiences at a Zen center I'm fond of, this advice is not some radical heresy of Geshe Michael's.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 10:13am

    Thnks, not things. Sorry.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 2:20pm

    Ted were a big defender of Roach during the last scandal (you remember when he was having sex with his students..or was it yoga?) Ben Brewer and family left your group then..ask him as he spoke with the Dali Lama and Ken (some big leader in Jersy) who told him it was wrong and he should get away from the group. If you didn't defend him so effectively maybe this retreat would not have happened and Ian would be alive…One other retreat er has thought about suicide this year and 2 others I know from town are basically mentally ill. End the retreat now. Just know that if it continues and someone else dies it is on people like you.

      anonymous May 5, 2012 7:53pm

      If the Dalai Lama said something in an official capacity, we would be able to find it somewhere. The fact that we cannot find it anywhere means that it wasn't an official statement. I never heard that Ben talked to the Dalai Lama; I'm curious to hear what he had to say, but only if it can be shown that he said it. A lot of words are put into His Holiness' mouth by people with axes to grind.

      If you are in communication with a retreater and are aware that he or she is contemplating suicide, it might be good to share that with someone. Are you a psychiatrist? If so, and if you have diagnosed someone as mentally ill and a danger to him- or herself, it's your duty to act. Don't put it on me. I haven't talked to any of the retreaters since they went in, and none of them of whom I am aware are mentally ill in a way that's obvious to a layperson.

      If you think that there is anything I could do to prevent Lama Christie or Ian from following the path that they chose, you don't know them very well.

        anonymous May 6, 2012 12:23pm

        You actually can find somewhere that the Dalai Lama said something in an official capacity. From the New York Times in 2008:

        "But their practice — which even they admit is radical by the standards of the religious community whose ideas they aim to further — has sent shock waves through the Tibetan Buddhist community as far as the Dalai Lama himself, whose office indicated its disapproval of the living arrangement by rebuffing Mr. Roach’s attempt to teach at Dharamsala, India, in 2006. (In a letter, the office said his “unconventional behavior does not accord with His Holiness’s teachings and practices.”)"


          anonymous May 6, 2012 9:41pm

          This article agrees with what I have said about this: that the secretary to the Dalai Lama, not the Dalai Lama himself, appears to have asked Geshe Michael not to appear in Dharamsala in 2006. The New York Times is an American newspaper, not a part of the Tibetan government, so if the Times reports something, but you can't find that thing on the Tibetan government's web site or in any official place where the Tibetan government makes announcements, then it's not a public announcement by the Tibetan government. That's not to say that someone in the Tibetan government didn't send a letter requesting Geshe Michael not to appear, but that's a very different thing indeed from the Tibetan government publicly censuring Geshe Michael, which is what Matthew has claimed.

            anonymous May 25, 2012 10:34pm

            Well Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche taking him off the FPMT teacher's list many years back is good enough for me. Why must folks play with fire after being advised by high leaders to be careful. LZR follows HHDL perfectly. LZR said to Roach in a letter terminating from being a FPMT teacher this, show us a miracle if you are a Mahasiddhi as you claim. Something like that. He even gave him suggestions of miracles to make. Walk with your head in your hand on fire. I can pull exact quote. That's my summary. I have yet to see him make miracles but who am I to judge. What Buddha has ever claimed he is one in this age? On behalf of Roach's students though, the fruits of many of his disciples are good but I do worry about my friends doing the retreat as we speak…
            My dear friend was a caretaker and has left DM recently. HE WILL TELL THE TRUTH. JUST WAIT!!!

        anonymous May 6, 2012 1:51pm

        Sounds like you knew Christie and Ian pretty well… At least well enough to know that it would have been futile to carry out any type of serious intervention. Teachers and leaders are often very strong willed or stubborn. They often do what they want regardless of what anyone says or thinks. Pretty powerful stuff when we put our spiritual path in their hands.

        Do you think Christie warrants that level of trust? Should we assume everyone in retreat with her thoroughly checked out her qualifications?

          anonymous May 6, 2012 9:44pm

          Most of the people in retreat were senior students when Lama Christie showed up in New York. So certainly I think it's reasonable to assume that they have a reasonably mature and thoughtful relationship with her. How much trust do you need to have for someone who's the next valley over? In any case, it's immaterial now, since she's no longer in the retreat and no longer the retreat director.

            anonymous May 7, 2012 6:22am

            It's not immaterial, Ted. She was the Retreat Director. How that came to be so is a central question.

      anonymous May 5, 2012 10:53pm

      Are you talking about the other three people who left the retreat?

    anonymous May 5, 2012 2:49pm

    Ted, it's been a long time. By Roach's account, DMU involved the county police in a back-up capacity only while they executed the eviction. Roach states

    "[The Justice of the Peace] understood that an incident of violence was possible and contacted the county police to have a cruiser available nearby the campus during the day.  One of our board members went to sit in the county police office for the day with the necessary court order which would be required for a response in the event of an incident following a request to leave the campus.  At no time did police enter the campus property or the retreat valley."

    My contention is that this wasn't enough support following reports of multiple incidents of violence, and it exposed those asked to execute the eviction and the community to further danger. More importantly, it's consistent with the culture of secrecy that Frank points out above.

    Please detail all of my factual errors. It is a thinly-veiled ad hominem attack to infer that I have been inaccurate without offering evidence. I intend accuracy, which is why I pledged to make necessary edits.

    You are wrong about my tenure with Roach. 3 to 3.5 years, ending with the beginning of the first 3-year retreat. I remember you when you were green to the group.

    The vow of silence is innate to the retreat. Roach states that during the emergency meetings to re-establish order:

    "We continued afternoon meetings for two more days to give each retreatant a chance to express their opinion, or any question that came up in their mind, or any past grievance concerning the governance of the retreat.  The retreatants were asked to write their questions on slips of paper and strongly encouraged not to break their vow of silence.  I also met individually with all but two of the retreatants, to give them personal assurance and guidance in their continued practice."

    Slips of paper? Seriously? And then to be counselled by Roach himself as to whether there were grievances? There is no psychic room here, Ted, for dissent. To Roach, the vow of silence was more important than freedom to self-express. Of course this has the powerful side-benefit of group cohesion.

    The censure came from the Private Office of HHDL — to claim it didn't come from the man himself is semantic obscuration. He was also disenfranchised by Lama Zopa and numerous other mentors in public statements widely distributed at the time

    Surely you've read the letter in question:

    June 5, 2006

    Dear Rev. Michael Roach,

    This is to thank you for your letter of May 30, addressed to Chhime Rigzin-la both in English as well as Tibetan. Chhime-la is presently away with His Holiness and I am responding to your letter on behalf of our Office here.

    We have gone through your long explanation but still do not support your coming to Dharmsala. If you have reached the path of seeing, as you claim in your letter, you should then be able show extraordinary powers and perform miracles like the Siddhas of the past. Only then will the followers of Tibetan Buddhists be able to believe and accept your claims.

    Otherwise, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the Spiritual and Temporal leader of Tibet having responsibility over the welfare of Tibetan Buddhism many have often complained to Him that He should be strict with those who are not adhering to the general norms of discipline according to our tradition. And your coming to Dharmsala will be seen by many as His Holiness condoning your behavior and practice.

    In view of all these we advise you not to visit Dharmsala in the greater interest of the purity of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition as clearly indicated in the letter of Chhime Rigzin-la dated May 24, 2006. However, as for the other members of your group those who are interested are welcome to attend the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

    Tenzin Geyche Tethong
    Secretary to H.H. the Dalai Lama

      anonymous May 5, 2012 4:59pm

      I actually had conversations to this group's followers about the Holiness's letter posted above. The consensus I received was that it was not written by the Holiness himself hence its does not mean its what he wanted. They actually suggested that the Holiness had lost control of his own private office and been forced to issue this statement/letter against his true will…I have to say the level of delusion among Geshe Michael's followers is extremely high and dangerous.

        anonymous May 5, 2012 8:05pm

        Tara, the reason why I at least claim this was not written by the Dalai Lama is that it wasn't signed by him. It's also never been published anywhere official. As far as I can tell it's a private letter from someone who works for His Holiness to Geshe Michael. If it had been intended to be a public censure of Geshe Michael, it would have been made public. Instead, we have seen various copies of the letter published in various places, but never by the Tibetan Government. So I don't even know if the document is legitimate in the sense of having ever been composed by Tenzin Gyeche Tethong, as attributed.

        Furthermore, the letter itself does not censure Geshe Michael. It simply asks him not to appear in Dharamsala, to avoid giving the appearance that His Holiness is condoning his practice with Lama Christie. This is an entirely reasonable request, whether Geshe Michael's practice is in fact proper or is not. The letter itself admits to the possibility that the practice could be proper, and draws no conclusion that it is improper.

        So this letter can in no way be construed to mean that His Holiness publically censured Geshe Michael. Not only was the letter not public, it was not censure.

          anonymous May 6, 2012 12:02am

          Ted, you clearly don't have much experience with the way Tibetan Buddhist culture and politics work. Explicit public denouncement is just not part of the cultural territory. This letter is the equivalent. To try and raise doubts that HH the DL and his office did not compose this letter or deliver it to GM is just absurd. We all know how the history unfolded: clearly, GM did not go as planned to Dharamsala to give the teachings he scheduled there precisely because of this letter. Otherwise to say that GM was duped by a false letter is then also to admit that he couldn't possibly be on the path of seeing.. you can't have it both ways.. Likewise, we also know about the lies exposed by GM subsequently while teaching in the secondary location, to try to prove HH the DL was secretly supportive.. using a rogue Tibetan monk who had financial ties to GM. It is a fools errand to try to deny documented history like this. I know people who left the cult precisely at this point, who were very close and devoted students, because they could not bear this denouncement or the lies told by GM to pretend it away.

            anonymous May 6, 2012 8:52am

            Two points. First, His Holiness has in fact publicly denounced at least one prominent teacher, and there is a huge controversy surrounding this. So we have an example that contradicts your claim about how Tibetan Buddhist culture and politics work.

            Secondly, His Holiness is no chump. He knows what he is doing when he does something, and he speaks very carefully. He has historically been quite willing to go against both Tibetan cultural tradition and against Tibetan politics when he feels that it is misguided.

            So to suggest that he would hesitate to denounce someone he felt needed to be denounced in terms that would be unequivocal is actually disrespectful to His Holiness, and matches neither his reputation nor his past actions.

            The reality is that His Holiness would be in an awkward position if he were to either approve of or denounce Geshe Michael publicly. He has stated quite clearly in his own writing that the practice Geshe Michael was doing with Lama Christie is proper if the monk doing the practice is qualified. But he can't simply say "what Geshe Michael is doing is okay," because some subset of his monks might misinterpret this to mean that they should follow suit, despite lacking qualification to do so. On the other hand, unless he knows that Geshe Michael is not qualified to do the practice, he can't formally denounce him.

            And this is why we see him doing what he has in fact done: say nothing, but allow his secretary to protect the minds of his disciples by asking Geshe Michael not to appear openly with his partner at his teaching.

              anonymous May 6, 2012 9:38pm

              And who is it that HH has publicly denounced? I don't know what you are referring to. If it is GKG of the NKT then that is not a fitting example: as GKG was publicly denouncing HH the DL, encouraging his students to protest outside DL events, etc. That level of hostility to HH has not manifested from the DM community, so it is a much different scenario and HH would not react the same way.

              In this case, HH, as with Lama Zopa, both expressed the same sentiment: if GMR was qualified to engage in consort practice while still maintaing his monastic vows.. then he must be able to show tangible examples of his realization: siddhis. GMR never did this, he only made big claims, without proof. Not only that, but he manufactured a whole deceptive scenario of "gifts" from HH the DL to try and prove he had his support. (You suspiciously never even responded to this, I am surprised you have no immediate justification prepared).

                anonymous May 7, 2012 4:05am

                Phurba: I'm learning a lot from you. What was the "deceptive scenario of gifts?"

                  anonymous May 7, 2012 3:13pm

                  At the location of the teachings, once they had been scheduled an hour away as opposed to in Dharamsala– but still happening at the same time as HH the DL's teachings– at one point a Tibetan monk appeared bearing gifts, saying they were gifts from HH the DL himself for the sangha of GMR. One was apparently special blessed water from one of HH's own retreats. This was an elaborate scheme to try to deal the fact that Roach was asked to stay away from Dharamsala. If it had worked, then all of GMR's students would have believed HH the DL secretly supported GMR and co., and only had a hard line in public for appearances sake. However, it was exposed that this monk had not been sent by HH the DL, had not been sent by HH the DL's own office, and was acting on his own volition. The office of HH was quite upset about the false claims. Additionally, it was exposed that this same monk had financial ties to GMR, and knew him through Sera monastery. I understand the monk was severly reprimanded for his actions by the Office of HH. This was all documented clearly on the diamond-cutter site which people keep accusing you of being behind. (no, I have no association either). It has also been confirmed by others who were there: people left GMR after this, because of this deception.

          anonymous May 6, 2012 12:08am

          I think you can let this go, Ted. It's pretty clear that there is a rift between Roach and the Tibetan hierarchy, and Tibetan culture on the whole. It arises from Roach's public claims of aryahood following the first retreat, and his rudeness in Dharamsala in trying to rent TIPA to give a heterodox teaching. The point is, he is isolated. By association, this isolates his community from broader perspective.

            anonymous May 6, 2012 1:06am

            1) Geshe Michael Roach was not CENSURED. the note was NOT even made public by the Office, it was a private request sent privately, and at no point is there vehement rebuking. what sort of censure is that? it was simply an appeal for appearance's sake, so as not to make it look as though GMR is being actively endorsed

            2) the letter contradicts His Holiness' own position on the matter:
            "Yogis who have achieved a high level of the path and are fully qualified can engage in sexual activity, and a monastic with this ability can maintain all the precepts."
            -The Essential Dalai Lama: His Important Teachings by The 14th Dalai Lama

            good luck trying to get western scholars to speak negatively against GMR.
            perhaps you will lie and claim to have negative quotes from scholars again, as you have done in the past with Dr Berzin and Dr Thurman regarding GMR and the ACI Courses. of course the downside with that is, just like last time, hours after making the claims you will be CENSURED, which contrary to what you think, does mean being publicly rebuked

              anonymous May 6, 2012 1:17am

              I haven't claimed anything in the past about Berzin and Thurman. I've never written about that at all.

              Do you remember the public letters from Lama Zopa and others regarding Roach's claims to aryahood? I hope someone can dig those up.

                anonymous May 6, 2012 1:49pm

                yes, you did. you are part of the old diamond-cutter website and you are a troll.

                you better drudge up those Lama Zopa letters soon your view count is still under 10,000.

                  anonymous May 6, 2012 1:54pm

                  Where is the Diamond-cutter website? What does it teach us and I don't understand the view count — is this something like Buddhist wrong-view right-view and 10,000 lotuses? Please explain.

                  anonymous May 6, 2012 2:03pm

                  heynow: you are both mistaken and hiding behind anonymity. I have no idea where to find the old diamond-cutter material. I was never involved with that in any way. I followed the postings with interest: that is all.

                  Do you really think I would reveal my identity now, when the diamond-cutter site was completely anonymous?

            anonymous May 6, 2012 8:52am

            How is it rude to rent a facility to give a teaching?

              anonymous May 6, 2012 9:26am

              Did the Private Office not cancel the booking? They found it rude, or inappropriate, or whatever noun expressing disapproval you choose.

                anonymous May 6, 2012 9:47pm

                I don't know, if I were to rent a hall for a teaching, and then some functionary of the Tibetan government in exile canceled the booking, I would find that a bit strange. But you didn't answer my question. I wasn't asking them. I was asking you.

              anonymous May 6, 2012 9:29pm

              It is actually a well known thing in Vajrayana that making arrangements to teach Dharma in the same general location as one's own Guru, without notifying and asking your Guru's permission first, is a awful type of disrespect. Supposedly, GMR considered HH the DL as one of his Gurus at the time he set the teaching schedule to coincide with HH the DL's own public teachings.

                anonymous May 6, 2012 9:53pm

                Yes, this is true, and the Dharamsala trip was originally planned so as not to overlap with His Holiness' teachings, but it didn't work out as planned. And when Geshe Michael was asked not to appear in Dharamsala, we did in fact identify a venue about an hour away in Palampur. We couldn't reschedule because people came at the originally announced time, but in fact a lot of students attended both teachings, and then when His Holiness' teachings ended, the teachings in Palampur continued as scheduled.

                It was indeed an awkward situation, and it's entirely understandable that some people felt it was inappropriate. However, whatever His Holiness' government or Tibetan tradition may hold to be true, the fact is that when a hundred people travel to India from various parts of the globe to hear a teaching, it's also pretty rude not to give it.

                  anonymous May 6, 2012 11:09pm

                  Well. GMR wasn't even the one who was originally supposed to give it, so once the scheduled teacher declined to give it, it actually would not have been rude to cancel it altogether. I heard GMR advertise the teaching, going into great detail about the Geshe who would be teaching, really selling it hard. I believe many people arranged their rather expensive trips to attend a rare teaching with this man.. not to attend a teaching with GMR whom they could easily see in the USA for a fraction of the cost. Once he declined to give the teaching, and HH the DL schedule was known, then GMR and co. could have easily just encouraged everyone to attend HH the DL's teachings instead. No need to disrespect HH by continuing with a teaching that GMR wasn't even supposed to be giving in the first place. But this is all beside the point. I see you still never replied about the deception involving the monk and fake gifts from HH. I am sure because there is no adequate response. I hope you can do as others I know have done and look to a qualified and authentic lineage holder. Best wishes!

      anonymous May 5, 2012 5:25pm

      HI Mathew,
      1 very important point that you should amend in your story asap , because it is not true and you are
      filling other people's minds with erroneous information which is bad news!! You could have waited to get more
      info before writing such a piece to ensure accuracy. Because as you know many will read this and if you amend
      things as you discover the truths , people may not re-read but only remember what you initially wrote, so this is poor
      writing/reporting !!
      Geshe M and DM board DID take this matter to the police after Lama C talk that night on the violence and the stabbing incident. They knew that they had to make full disclosure , they were not being secretive as you say they always are, they played the recording to the police to allow the police to decide if any legal action needed to be taken, the police chose not to take any action at that time. GMR did allude to this point although it was not in detail and I guess you didnt pick it up or chose not to. I am sharing more info as I was at Diamond Mountain at the time for the teachings and for a few weeks afterwards. I want you to have this info and amend your article to the fact that they did not with hold this serious incident from the police. You can ask anyone at diamond mountain board to verify this info. I can understand why they wont talk to you as your reporting is inaccurate, mis-informed, biased and personal. I do believe that this is a serious situation and I agree that there are questions that need to be answered and there are issues within this community and perhaps not enough was dont to protect them after they left retreat. But Lama C refused everything, hid, took off and did not accept any offer of assistance from anyone !! Which made if very difficult for anyone to reach her and help her and Ian!
      I do believe that things have to change and will change and that the other retreatants may need much better support, guidance and assistance if they stay in retreat.
      Please change your article and perhaps take out the projections and bias's and stick to the facts, as this type of reporting which could be useful and helpful to others appears to be hurtful and harmful to others.

        anonymous May 5, 2012 6:44pm

        thank you, ccf. i will amend.

      anonymous May 5, 2012 8:21pm

      Matthew, your letter is rife with speculation. You don't know in detail what help was offered to Lama Christie and Ian, but you assert that the help they were given was essentially a kiss-off. As far as I can tell, you have taken what was written by Lama Christie and by Geshe Michael, woven it together with a bunch of stuff that Jimmy Wales asked you to remove from the Wikipedia article on Geshe Michael, and published it here as fact. You even cite a gossip column.

      I take it from your disgust at the idea of communicating on slips of paper that you have never actually done a group retreat. This is a standard practice in retreat. The notes get long. The situation described there was extraordinary: to interrupt a three-year retreat and call a meeting is extremely unusual. You construe the board's encouragement that the retreaters continue to maintain silence as an edict, but in fact it's the sort of thing that has to be made clear so that people don't feel pressured to break silence to talk about what happened. Nobody is preventing the retreaters from walking out of the tsam tomorrow if they want to go, and in fact several who went in at the beginning already have. Staying in a three-year retreat is hard.

      I have no interest in going through your article point by point and itemizing each error. I have pointed out a few; I think they are indicative of the quality of the whole.

      My main point here is that you are not a central character in this play. The reason for the astonishing lack of anybody else posting a note like yours is that the rest of us are trying to deal with the loss of someone dear to us. Could we have done something differently? Should the board not have asked Lama Christie and Ian to leave? Could we have anticipated that they would go camp in a cave on National Forest land? How will we live without Ian? How will we survive without seeing his smile again? What will happen with Lama Christie?

      We don't know the answers to these questions. We are bereft.

        anonymous May 5, 2012 11:59pm

        Ted: I will publish factual amendments soon, and hope that this draws the attention back to where it's due: the questions of competency and suggestions for full disclosure that I end the piece with. My original text gave me room to do this: I didn't claim that the narrative would be air-tight, and it won't be until there is a full professional investigation.

        Has anyone disputed the truth of the New York Post article?

        Nowhere do I claim that retreatants are being encouraged to stay against their will.

        I am not a central character anymore. But I have an eye and the heart for what is the central story of contemporary radical-idealist spirituality: we are in such pain and trauma that we are all vulnerable to charisma, magical thinking, group narratives, and the wish to disappear into the reassuring paternal gaze of someone who says they know everything.

        Your last questions are good ones: Roach's letter raises many of them on its own. I have shone a public light on them in a terrible time. I do hope that your bereavement is well supported by broad community.

anonymous May 5, 2012 9:39am

Your concern for the existing retreatants should be heard and acted upon immediately. Their families should not waste any time and go there and secure their health and safety. What has transpired has probably not been made available to them at least in a manner which is fair and balanced. There is nothing which resembles Buddhism here, especially in the tradition of this thing we are calling "Tibetan buddhism". To have the greater Buddhist community and "leaders" do something about this is an interesting proposition seeing that a seed of over intellectualizing buddhism has prevailed here in the west with the writings and workshops of some of these "leaders" that you suggest.This brand of buddhism has become the livelihood for the 'leaders" compromising the notion of skilfull means. There has been no "oversight" by legitimate lineage holders, at least in the tibetan tradition which can skillfully administer a safe and fruitful path. There is a lot of shooting from the hip going on. His Holiness the Dalai Lama will do only what he thinks he should do. But this is really not a "buddhist issue" other than in name. A very important issue you have raised.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 2:15pm

    Thank you Padma. I do think that Roach's home monastery of Rashi Gempil Ling in Howell, where Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tharchin taught for 30 years until he died in 2004 might be a place where oversight might be reestablished for this group. There is still a strong by-the-book presence there, which I think can provide ballast to the group. RGL is part of the cultural memory of the Diamond Mountain crowd.

Bob Weisenberg May 5, 2012 9:04am

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    anonymous May 5, 2012 4:14pm

    Thank you for telling us this story.

anonymous May 5, 2012 6:51am

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

"In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful."

I hope the broader Buddhist community of leaders responds to this request for attention and action. Given that Salzberg and Boorstein are on the list, I'd suggest including Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein…and perhaps Noah Levine as well. On the Tibetan side perhaps B. Alan Wallace.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 7:00am

    Thank you oz__ for the cogent analysis of atomization and disconnection. And for suggesting Kornfield and Goldstein and Wallace. I'll edit them in.

anonymous May 5, 2012 5:55am

This is a very sad and disturbing story. Unfortunately, it is not shocking in that it fits a larger pattern of secretive American religious cults. We've seen the same dynamics before and undoubtedly will again.

Eventually, there's usually some journalistic expose and legal intervention after some such tragic meltdown occurs. What we don't see much of, however, is people who are truly knowledgeable about the inside dynamics of these groups speaking out and explaining in clear language why followers are vulnerable to manipulative, charismatic, and lawless leaders, and how dangerous the resulting dynamics can become. Instead there is usually silence at best (accompanied by a lot of evasion and rationalization).

This post provides an important alternative that I hope many others will follow – reasoned, compassionate, clear-sighted, in-depth engagement with the serious issues at hand. I hope that others who have insider knowledge of this world (which I don't) respond to Matthew's call to speak out and take action to protect those who need it.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 6:53am

    "followers are vulnerable to manipulative, charismatic, and lawless leaders, and how dangerous the resulting dynamics can become"

    Could not help but immediately think 'Obama' when I read this…whether it's religious or political ideology, blindly following a leader into whom we have invested ourselves and our egos is always an unwise move…

      anonymous May 5, 2012 9:38am

      In the mddle of tragedy there is always some asshole that tries to put his politics in the mix…

        anonymous May 5, 2012 11:17am

        Edited out my facetious response…

        Sorry you were unable to grasp what my brief comment implied – let me be more explicit:

        The fact is, Jerry, what you apparently see as evidence of assholery is in fact my way of expressing something I expressed more explicitly in my original and more fully elaborated comment below. I see this tragic situation as necessarily a reflection of the broader sociopolitical context. In this case, whether we look to religious or political figures we often place undue faith in them, often leading to lethal consequences in both realms. The question is: why do we do so? Julian Walker has written on this subject, so it's one that seems to me to come up not infrequently here:

        What is interesting to me, though, is the fact that, while we seem able to identify this problem when it comes to would-be spiritual leaders, for some reason most are unable to then make the leap to the political realm, where leaders can do vastly more damage. E.g.

        The fact that we so blindly follow leaders, that we seem so ready to offload what are properly our own responsibilities onto the shoulders of charismatic others, even when they are clearly heading out into the weeds, seems to me to be the core problem. It's not about "putting" politics into the mix – it's about recognizing that this is not an isolated tragedy, but rather is part of a larger, societal picture and that 'charismatic leaders fail followers, leading to tragedy' has resonant overtones and a political dimension.

        You may not see it, but IMO, such tragedies have to be culturally contextualized properly if they are to be learned from. And I think learning from tragedy is crucial, one of our more important responsibilities. And I think that carping, petty responses like yours, instead of helping, actually get in the way of that.

          anonymous May 5, 2012 8:51pm

          This is a much more thoughtful response. Perhaps if you initially said "Could not help but think of 'Obama' or 'Bush' when I read this . . ."

          The glibness did seem like an ideological comment based on the singular name dropping.

    anonymous May 5, 2012 10:55am

    Nicely said, Carol. I worry that so many in our culture are experiencing such an overwhelming sense of incompleteness that they fall prey to self-styled spiritual leaders who offer nothing beyond charisma, unbridled hubris, and made-up esoteric practices. Visualizing angels? Sexual healing rituals? Are we so desperate in our existential isolation that we’ve forgotten how to simply take care of one another?

    I agree that action must be taken with care to avoid shaming or isolating those who might respond by retreating even deeper into this unhealthy community.

      anonymous May 5, 2012 1:42pm

      I really appreciate your last point, Sheryl. What I've seen is a very isolating structure that I hope begins to loosen and broaden. And I do hope that the attention remains positive and productive enough to banish shame.

anonymous May 5, 2012 5:24am

This important article should be widely shared and has broad implications that can be generalized.

    anonymous May 6, 2012 4:06pm

    Interestingly enough, when I went looking for background on the retreat teachings of the past, their site is now "offline" for all audio and transcripts.

    Are these available anywhere else?

    anonymous May 12, 2012 7:02pm

    Knives seem to be part of the narrative at least back as far as this 2003 interview:


    (this is in reference to Lama Zopa Rinpoche's suggest that perhaps Geshe Michael perform a miracle to give faith to those who don't understand his claims of attainment)

    "Q: Many of us understood it to say, “Look if you’re at that level of practice really, put your cards on the table. Let’s see some tricks. Show that you have power, realization, control over the elements. Give your students a little cookie so that they don’t lose their faith.” Can we expect some miracles, flying in the air, walking on water or anything coming?

    GMR: (to Christie) Do you have any idea?

    C: I think he’s reluctant to do miracles openly because for one, it doesn’t really generate true faith in people. People need the logical understanding of emptiness to generate true faith. And if you get this sudden inspiration from a really inspiring teaching or a miracle that you’ve seen, it’s all emotional. And those emotions change so quickly. And even the mind starts to rationalize whatever you saw. Like, “I couldn’t possibly have actually seen that. It’s probably just this.”

    And also of course, secondly, it’s the disciple who makes the miracle happen. You create the miracle, the lama can’t give you a miracle if you don’t have the seeds to see it. I could beg and plead and hold my breath and put a knife to my … do anything. You can’t make it happen unless you create the karma for it to happen. And there are students, many students who I’ve talked to, who’ve already seen them. Some of my guides leading me into the teachings were telling me, “Oh yes, the other day he did this.” Those are the two points I would probably make on this. He will claim he can’t do them, but I have a different experience, and many other people have had different experiences. Of course, he won’t openly say anything that he can do.

    anonymous Jun 7, 2012 8:13pm

    I'm only replying to your comment because it is on top and you seem to have matched the mood of most of the other commentators.

    Maybe this shouldn't be so widely shared and maybe it has no broad implications whatsoever.

    This article starts strong and is very earnest, at least as storytelling — then the self-professed ex-cultist's arguments get pretty weak. I'm as skeptical as the next guy when it comes to anything that even vaguely smells like a cult. Someone close to me once asked me to give the Landmark Forum a try and I practically left the place at a run.

    But the author does nothing to convince me that Roach is a cult leader or that the "board" or he are responsible in any way for this — other than maybe being as obtuse as you and I are and would be in the situation. There are lots of allegations here, none of them that terrifying:

    They asked the couple to leave because they were being violent.

    They lost track of them when they left.

    Nobody called their families. (This is what the author identifies as the most cultish. Ridiculous. Would you call the families of two adults who left a retreat and were hard to find? I wouldn't.)

    They did reach out to leaders of other groups who might know where they were.

    I think before everyone jumps to the conclusion that Roach is manipulating a population and putting people in grave danger, maybe you ought remember the old hackneyed phrase: innocent until proven guilty. Boring, right? But that's how we're supposed to do it so no witches get burned.

    I'm a little grossed out by Roach and the diamond business and the Armani suits and the sex that's not sex. But there is absolutely nothing in this article that even comes close to meriting the call to arms this guy has made and the rest of you (with the best intentions) are magnifying.

anonymous May 5, 2012 2:02pm

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

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

anonymous May 5, 2012 8:59pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

anonymous May 25, 2012 10:18pm

Well said brother

anonymous Jun 7, 2012 8:32pm

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

anonymous May 5, 2012 3:05pm

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

anonymous May 5, 2012 4:28pm

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

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

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

anonymous May 5, 2012 9:07pm

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

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

anonymous May 5, 2012 9:27pm

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

anonymous May 5, 2012 9:55pm

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

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

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

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 12:11am

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 12:54am

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 1:29am


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

anonymous May 6, 2012 1:45am

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 8:05am

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

I agree completely.

anonymous May 6, 2012 8:42am

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 8:55am

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 9:10am

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

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 9:16am

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 9:18am

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 9:25am

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 9:36am

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 12:46pm

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 1:30pm

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 1:55pm

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

your theories and adherence to only abhidharma texts is meaningless.

anonymous May 6, 2012 5:52pm

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Samyutta Nikaya

anonymous May 6, 2012 9:20pm

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 9:23pm

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 9:37pm

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

anonymous Jun 17, 2012 1:54pm

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

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

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

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 9:59pm

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

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

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

anonymous May 6, 2012 10:14pm

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

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

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

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

anonymous May 7, 2012 12:27am

Got another definition for you: "libel"

anonymous May 7, 2012 4:21am

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

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

anonymous May 7, 2012 5:18am

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

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

anonymous May 7, 2012 6:13pm


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

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

anonymous May 8, 2012 3:48am

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

anonymous May 8, 2012 4:33pm

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

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

anonymous May 8, 2012 5:11pm

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

anonymous May 8, 2012 5:12pm

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

anonymous May 8, 2012 6:31pm

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

anonymous May 8, 2012 6:53pm

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

anonymous May 10, 2012 8:56am

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

anonymous May 10, 2012 10:29am

I agree with Phurba,

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

anonymous May 10, 2012 10:32am

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

anonymous May 16, 2012 7:45am

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

anonymous Jun 18, 2012 10:30am

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

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

anonymous Jun 18, 2012 10:32am

"Institutionalizing unquestioned authority is always a terrible idea."

I agree.

anonymous Jun 21, 2012 4:32pm

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

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

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

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