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

Via elephant journal
on May 6, 2012
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Rebuttal by John Stillwell.

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

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

“Abstract for Media Outlets

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

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

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

Here is Mr. Stillwell’s rebuttal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ John Stillwell.

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Comments

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

  1. Bear says:

    Sorry, meant this as a reply to Aguse – please delete

  2. Frank Vogt says:

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

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

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

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

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

  3. Frank Vogt says:

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

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

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

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

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

  4. Taking sides says:

    The list of actions stated above was provided by GM's open letter. However, it completely contradicts Lama Christine's letter. She stated that there was no way they could drive, implying she had no idea she had a driver. She stated that they needed time and slow transition coming out of a deep retreat, implying that she had no idea there was this 3 months transition plan…
    Unless she is completely psychotic or lying, how do you explain these different accounts? Or, GM's followers and the board already decided to take GM's version as truth? Is this the reason why Lama Christine is already erased from Diamond Mountain's website? A bit fast and cruel to their once Lama isn't it?

  5. Taking sides says:

    The list of actions stated above was provided by GM's open letter. However, it completely contradicts Lama Christine's letter. She stated that there was no way they could drive, implying she had no idea she had a driver. She stated that they needed time and slow transition coming out of a deep retreat, implying that she had no idea there was this 3 months transition plan…
    Unless she is completely psychotic or lying, how do you explain these different accounts? Or, GM's followers and the board already decided to take GM's version as truth? Is this the reason why Lama Christine is already erased from Diamond Mountain's website? A bit fast and cruel to their once Lama isn't it?

  6. Lies cannot hold says:

    Agree with Bear. DM does not teach all school at ACI/DM. These new lamas barely know anything about other lineages. Many of their followers don't even know the names of other lineages.

  7. matthew says:

    Requoting Roach's letter shows good devotion, but perhaps not critical thinking. I myself quoted these very details of the eviction plan in my piece, and then worked to show that they were inadequate, because, I believe, the administration is either unqualified to deal with psychiatric issues, or because they would rather cover them up, or both.

    In my piece, I also referred to Arizona's Title 36 involuntary commitment law, which DM administration could have made use of if they were not only concerned about the couple's health, but also informed as to what the best protective actions would be, as well as being willing to have their retreat directions subject to outside assessment.

    You also are implicating me in the diamond-cutter website. This is not true. I had nothing to do with it. To prove this I suppose I would have to show that the site emanated from a US ISP. I live in Canada. I don't know how to do this.

    "We will get to judge them by their fruits." Well: you can do that. The rest of the world will simply be interested in whether they are safe, given the apparent lack of supervisory protocol for mental health.

  8. Padma Kadag says:

    "The bottom line is your reporting would have been worthy of consideration if you stuck to the facts and addressed objective concerns about the well being of the retreatants"

    Frank…since you recognize a bottom line…This man, Ian Thorson, was in no shape mentally to enter any kind of retreat whether it be individual or group. He should have been under the scrutiny by either GM or LC or both and knowing full well his issues with abnormal behavior GM should never have let him enter retreat. All of Ian's abberations are listed in GM's letter and admittedly Ian's issues were well known prior to retreat. How do I know this? Because GM's letter tells me so. This is the real problem….No matter how many people try to spin their opinions on this based on their view of buddhist doctrine I fully well know that any legitimate lineage holder with any common sense or wisdom would not have allowed Ian to enter retreat. So…airplane tickets and $3600 dont mean shit when you are dead. Next you will say that you have it on good authority that Ian attained paranirvana

  9. Padma Kadag says:

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

  10. matthew says:

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

    tenpel35p · 40 minutes ago

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

    3 replies · active 8 minutes ago

    matthew73p · 33 minutes ago

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

    tenpel35p · 14 minutes ago

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

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

  11. Frank Vogt says:

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

    This has just gotten a whole new level of ridiculousness.

  12. lydiajaneyoga says:

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

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

  13. lydiajaneyoga says:

    there are plenty of crazy people that would refuse psychiatric evaluation. there are plenty of abused women that refuse to leave their husbands. these are sticky situations, for sure. but i suppose the role of teachers and advisory boards is to evaluate when a student is not capable of assessing their own mental state, or protecting themselves. and then do something about it. and the other role of the teacher is to know when a student needs help that he or she is not capable of providing, either because he or she lacks the skills necessary, or because personal involvement interferes with assessment and provision of care. or all of the above.

  14. Arly says:

    Perfect. Another one who is happy to speak for someone else.

    Hey! Whose hand is that behind me? Where is your hand? Ahhhhhh………

  15. Arly says:

    They don't speak for themselves. They are tiny little bits of a larger story. If they spoke for themselves, you wouldn't have any more questions.

    I don't care if you're glad my bowel movements are regular, you DO need to back up your allegations. And as I have already begun to show on your page, your reasoning is faulty.

  16. @Suri_k8 says:

    Also , from reading Lama Christies letter you can tell that she has some serious issues , she seems to be living in a fantasy world , completely out of touch with reality. It makes you wonder what the hell are they teaching there. How dangerous ….and then if she learned all that bs from roach…well… What can i say …ifeel sorry for those retreatants that are still there , there is good reason to believe their mental health is at risk.

    Christies letter: http://www.scribd.com/doc/90220087/A-Shift-in-the

  17. Web of lies says:

    I think most are aware of Geshe Michael's version of how he obtained his Geshe degree. Whether its true or not that's another story. Here is the man who faked HHDL's approval by sending a monk to present some fake gift…

  18. Student of Dharma says:

    Matthew this here is further proof of what your goal is with this entire article and involvement. It is about a personal issue that you have not resolved. You made it public as some kind of personal outcry. The above is clear to that . STOP your gossip magazines and save it for people and star. How dare you disresepect a Geshe from a Tibetan monastary who has worked for the majority of his life saving texts and disseminating the dharma around the world.

    He does not run a cult. He teaches for Free to anyone interested in Arizona and meets with hundreds of people everytime he teaches to try and help there lives. I completely stand up for Geshe hla and his tens of thousands of students around the world. Im also a student of His Holiness and many other Tibetan Lamas, some from FPMT. This is whole thing is just abusrd, and im speaking about your writing on the issue not the holy great retreat.

  19. matthew says:

    Student: there is no doubt that you and I both have personal issues wrapped up within this community that have been triggered by this tragedy.

    Because the intersection of the personal and the public are inevitable here, what's really important is transparency. I've been clear about my experience and feelings and how they influence my view.

    To some extent, you are being transparent in the same way. And yet you seem to have nothing at all to say about the event in question. Your personal feelings seem to allow you only to praise and defend Roach, as though he were not the bureaucratic head of a sangha in which someone has just died under circumstances of possible neglect.

    Our attitudes towards Roach are clear. Do you care to say anything about the actual issue, as I have done?

  20. Ron Starbuck says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ron Starbuck

    Houston, Texas

  21. Katie Dunn says:

    John Stillwell,
    I am hoping to speak to you about the retreat situation. I believe you know my brother Michael Dunn? I would greatly appreciate some advice and your perspective regarding these events but I am unsure how to contact you.
    Katie Dunn
    [email protected]

  22. tenpel says:

    Well so called "Student of Dharma", IMO, the concern of Matthew is correct and I appreciate very much his courage and determination not to be silent about the events.

  23. tenpel says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  25. matthew says:

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

  26. ENOUGH says:

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

  27. ENOUGH says:

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

  28. enough says:

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

  29. Larry says:

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

  30. Larry says:

    He is your projection; and you're his. Cool down. "He who experiences the unity of life, sees his own self in all beings, and all beings in his own self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye. " -The Buddha

    How easy wars start, people fail to see kindness in one another's motivations, impartial eyes get covered by karmic muck. Your not immune, but. Nor is he. Nor are any of us. Getting lost in projections. Yep, that is how wars start. For all of us. So the choice is: looking inside, or getting lost in projections. Each of our choice. Thee Buddha only points the way. Even the Guru points the way. We choose, moment by moment.

    "I had high hopes. You've dashed them." But another quote might be, "Hope and fear are the twin demons."

    Dualistic thinking, or the path of the nangpa?

  31. […] or endorsement of Geshe Michael Roach. As with the previous articles by Matthew Remski and the rebuttal by John Stillwell, our hope is to encourage a conversation that is elevated beyond gossip in the direction of healing […]

  32. Milton says:

    My goodness.
    You give little respect to individuals reading these posts. Mr. Matthew has told us about his bias and his personal history and we may evaluate his words in that context. As such, his credibility is enhanced.
    You have not told us directly about your bias and history– but it comes through loud and clear. As such, your credibility is discounted. You also offer no information or explanation– instead, you proffer simple denial and blanket rejection and ad hominem dismissal.
    If the letter attributed to Lama Christie is indeed from her, I believe that any rational person reading that letter will be able to judge for themselves whether her explanations, justifications and interpretations of violent acts are reflective of a cogent and healthy mind.

  33. Milton says:

    Suffering people were banished from the only world they knew, they went into a cave and one of them died.
    Sorry if you were offended by Mr. Remski's "tone".

  34. AnnetteVictoria says:

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

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

  35. Xam says:

    Maybe to see this cult exposed for what it is ?

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

  37. […] letter, April 19th – Michael Roach’s open letter, April 26th – my original post, May 4th – John Stillwell’s rebuttal, May 6th – my followup, May 19th – Michael Roach’s essay, June 2nd – NYT article, June […]

  38. Aaron L. Hernandez says:

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

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