"Visser tells a rich story of recent Tibetan history, hope, and hardship:
Much of what is happening now is simply a result of this unique moment in history. Having English speaking teachers of Tibetan Buddhism and having texts translated into English is a very new thing. Remember, we’re only 53 years into post 1959 Tibetan history. Compared to any other religion in the West that’s no time at all.
I have close ties to Sera Mey monastery and I’d like you to know that there was a lot of hope and good intentions at the beginning. Michael Roach is a renegade now and the despair of his teachers at Sera Mey. They parted ways a long time ago but it didn’t start out that way.
It’s important to remember that after walking out of Tibet in 1959 all the monks (the Rinpoches and Geshes too) were physically building monasteries throughout the 60′s and 70′s. They were hauling rocks and bags of cement, they weren’t teaching Westerners. My old lamas tell stories of working so long and hard to rebuild their monastery that they didn’t “untie their belts for 2 months” which means they fell asleep in their robes, under the stars, never having the luxury of relaxing.
Work, pray, sleep. They had almost no food and learned Hindi and Karnataka dialect depending on where their monastery was being rebuilt, not English. They only resumed their studies in the late 80′s and early 90′s. Even then virtually no Tibetans in the monasteries spoke English, only the monks who dealt with the money, donors and suppliers.
That’s why there simply aren’t enough qualified teachers who speak languages other than Tibetan at the moment, because this is all still new. It’s very frustrating for students looking for a teacher but it can’t be rushed – learning English takes some time, and learning Tibetan isn’t easy either.
And so – into this gap rush eager, well intentioned, but unqualified, teachers.
I don’t believe Michael Roach, Christie Mcnally or Ian Thorson ever thought of themselves as unqualified. But they are, they were. A monk friend at Sera Mey told me that the qualifications that Christie and Ian referred to as being “from Tibetan monasteries” consisted of a month-long teaching in 1999 on mind and mental factors or mental cognition.
A month as a guest in a monastery isn’t training, it’s a mini workshop. Without speaking Tibetan, or the more difficult ‘dharma language’ in which teachings are given (which is to Tibetan what Latin is to English) without years of training, without being able to ask questions of the lamas – they are well-intentioned amateur dharma tourists.
I’m sure they love their students. But a surgeon who has only watched surgery for a month is a danger to everyone he or she practices on, whether she loves them or not. There may have been a few more workshops but not enough to make them qualified teachers.
As to their own teacher, Michael Roach, the Tibetans were very naive when he was at Sera. At the time Michael was getting his Geshe degree the monks remembered Robert Thurman, who did so well after studying Tibetan and dharma. It was harder for the Tibetans to read Westerners then: they had no idea initially that anything was wrong.
Michael Roach did try to be a good student in the short time he was there. He couldn’t participate fully in the debates that are an essential and crucial part of Geshe training in the way a Tibetan Geshe student is expected to, but he worked on his translation skills. Everyone in the monastery understood that his language skills wouldn’t allow for him to come up to the tough standards of a Tibetan Geshe but they appreciated that he was doing so much. It was understood that his degree would be an honorary one, given with great joy to a Western student. The monks felt the world was changing. Westerners would come to study at the monasteries, and learn Tibetan. The monks would learn English: dharma would spread throughout the world.
The bitter, heart-wrenching disappointment the Tibetan monastic community felt when Michael Roach was found to be living in a yurt, in his monk’s robes, with a girl who thought she was Vajrayogini, while teaching Tibetan dharma is impossible to describe. His Holiness was said to have dropped his tea cup when he heard the news, it smashed on the floor. Unusual for someone who rarely loses his composure. The abbot of Sera Mey was devastated, absolutely gutted.
To put this into perspective – my very close friend, who walked out of Tibet in the 80′s, is a Lharampa Geshe. He was first in his year at the debates, hand picked by his abbot to come to the West to teach. He had to wait 10 years after graduating to be considered qualified to teach. The Sera Mey Geshes were horrified that Michael Roach went out and taught right away, he didn’t truly understand the stuff he was teaching. He hadn’t asked enough questions, hadn’t done the right retreats. In my own opinion he wasn’t a true Geshe, in the traditional sense, any more that a celebrity is a true Ph.D when they’re given the degree for helping a university.
At present there is absolutely no bond between Michael Roach and Sera Mey. If Michael Roach says there is a connection of any kind he’s drawing on stuff that happened more than a decade ago. He’s caused nothing but pain at Sera, they so regret having ordained him that it is virtually impossible for a Westerner to be given ordination at the Gelug monasteries in South India now.
Sera knows what’s going on, the office of HH knows, but he has defied them all. Short of finding him, holding him down and tickling him until he agrees to take off his monastic robes, it looks like there’s nothing anyone can do. There’s no legal basis nor cultural precedent to track down a Westerner and take the robes back forcibly. Or to ask him to stop teaching. And, frankly, HH and the abbots of Sera Mey have had so many knives in the air that they’ve had to let go of the idea of changing Michael Roach. The Chinese Communists for awhile were sending young men to Sera to take robes, then run wild in town in order to shame the monastery. There are always money problems: just feeding that many monks becomes the first priority.
Michael Roach has been instructed very firmly: “Take off your monk’s robes.” by his abbot and by HHDL, the lineage holder. He sees himself as beyond all that, I suppose. I don’t know what’s in his head. He really did set up a cult, to the despair of everyone who taught him. His former students must feel so disappointed and betrayed, sad probably.
None of this contaminates any of Michael Roach’s or Christie’s students. Those students went with a good heart and good intentions. No one saw this coming. The students are as innocent as the abbot who ordained Michael Roach. It needed everyone’s approval. Everyone made errors in judgment, right up the line."
What more needs to be said.
Buddhism and Eternalism
- How foolish you are,
grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
We have to keep asking ourselves and examining how this nightmere for Ian Thorson came to fruition. How did a young woman from NYU studying photography come to believe that she was a immortal being capable of bringing people to a fully enlightened state of a Buddha. GMR spent years in silent retreats instilling in CM, constantly reaffirming to her over more than a decade that she was Vajrayogini. That she was his Lama that she had the power to save not only himself but the rest of their following. He convinced a completely sane rational young woman that she was immortal and that she had the power to save people on a ultimate level. GMR went so far as to offer his students her vaginal secreations (dutsy) and finger nail clippings. He convinced his following that Cristie Mcnallys bodily fluids were holy and coming from Vajrayogini herself. He encouraged his devotees to take her as their lama whatever she did and said now matter how innappropriate it maybe was to be taken as a supereme teaching. CM could do no wrong according to Roach. He had students paying homage to her and bowing at her feet, making her offerings of high end designer clothing, jewelry and other extravagant gifts. GMR replaced Christie Mcnallys identity with Vajrayogini. And he did it so well, so skillfully manipulating and indoctrinating her on such a deep level, to the point were she now cannot see herself as anyone else but Vajrayogini.Roach gave Cristie Mcnally the rope she needed to hang herself with and she did exactly that. As illustrated in her shift in the matrix. This is how she came to think of herself 13 years later as " the Lama Goddess who plays with swords and didn't mean to stab her husband" And now the same man who propped her up as VY and actually made her think she is a Buddha. Has now declared her a violent mentally ill woman. Ian Thorson came into the scene at diamond mountain and bought it, after years of listening to Roach profess his devotion and the vital importance of devoting himself to Christie Mcnally would lead to enlightenment. In Ians mind his faith in Christie and service were the causes that would bring him into the direct perception of emptiness only because Roach instilled those beliefs in Ians mind . This is how Roach sucked Ian into a nightmere that resulted in his death. By planting thoughts and belief systems into Ians mind over thousands of hours of lectures and personal interactions. Roach taught Ian to Always see her as Vajryogini no matter what she does not matter how violent or out of control she could be keep seeing her as the Buddha at all costs do whatever she says. And Ian did just that he followed Christie into the cave he surrendered his will over to Christie, he let her make decisions for him all due to Roachs indoctrination. Roach created this entire situation by propping Christie Mcnally up as Vajrayogini whom Ian Thorson devoted himself to and died Following her every move. Roach is not taking any responsibility for the mess he created. It's our duty to hold Roach accountable for his actions and for the two lives he destroyed.
JKhedrup wrote:Elephant Journal post by former DM student
GMR spent years in silent retreats instilling in CM, constantly reaffirming to her over more than a decade that she was Vajrayogini. That she was his Lama that she had the power to save not only himself but the rest of their following. He convinced a completely sane rational young woman that she was immortal and that she had the power to save people on a ultimate level. GMR went so far as to offer his students her vaginal secreations (dutsy) and finger nail clippings. He convinced his following that Cristie Mcnallys bodily fluids were holy and coming from Vajrayogini herself.
- 1. What seems to have gone on at Diamond Mountain just seems to get weirder and weirder.
- 2. Ewwwww!!!
This is (possibly) the teaching of Buddha.
"I must finally conclude that this proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind."
- Descartes, 2nd Meditation 25
gad rgyangs wrote:front page of the New York Times:
A couple of freaky yoga practicing Buddhist types get into an argument during a retreat in the desert and the girl stabs the guy with a knife (non-fatally), he gets treated by a doctor who is also at the retreat, they get kicked out of the group, decide to stay it out in the desert together for a little while before leaving, and one dies of exposure. Front page news? Really? The papers are really getting bad...
http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/06/ ... ael-roach/
Lotus108 wrote:Elephant Journal has just put up an essay by Michael Roach describing his geshe training:
http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/06/ ... ael-roach/
I agree with one poster on the above site. Roach seems to be more interested in addressing the damage done to his reputation than the damage he has caused in the lives of his students.
He claims to have studied the Bodhicharyavatara for many years. Clearly, he hasn't understood a word of it.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world ... 21159.html
(The other is the Guardian, in case you wondered)
Benchen and Back digital edition now on Amazon - see http://tinyurl.com/78rdcoy
Puggi wrote:Well, an update from http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/05/ ... an-update/ regarding M. Roach`s qualifications should help to explain the crazy nonsense among M. Roach & his acolytes.
Thank you, Puggi, for this post, which provides a context for this story I haven't found anywhere else online.
I'm a lapsed Buddhist, if there is such a thing--it's been 2 decades since I last sat. Nevertheless, the NYT's article grabbed me and I have been reading everything I can find about Roach and McNally and what went wrong ever since.
Really, I can't imagine how anyone who has been in the presence of a genuine Tibetan Buddhism teacher could possibly have accepted either of these people as legitimate. I well remember my first meeting with a guest Rinpoche. I was so awestruck I fawned over him, or at least, I tried to, but he would have none of it. He dismissed me outright without saying a word or making a gesture.
I have the sense that if I had approached Roach in the same manner he would have welcomed and encouraged such naive and utterly blind devotion.
Knotty Veneer wrote:I agree with one poster on the above site. Roach seems to be more interested in addressing the damage done to his reputation than the damage he has caused in the lives of his students.
Agreed. From the external perspective this is outrageous. From Roaches own internal perspective however this is quite natural.
From our perspective he is indirectly responsible for what has happened - at least partially - because from our point of view he clearly lost contact to reality and has misguided Christie McNally and Ian Thorson into a delusional self-constructed form of pseudo-Buddhist cult, which has made them, too, lose contact to reality and which is the cause for their mental instability which resulted in all this mess.
But Roach himself obviously is convinced that he is a highly advanced practitioner and his cult is an authentic form of Buddhism. From his internal perspective he has done everything right and his ex-students alone are responsible for what they did after being thrown out of the retreat.
I'm not saying this because I want to take Roach's side or defend him against criticism. I just don't think this behaviour necessarily shows a lack of compassion. Imho it's rather that Roach is delusional and relates to a completely different version of reality than we do.
I believe this also partially accounts for why people fall for this guy. He (as many other cult leaders) is not an evil-minded villain who intentionally drives his students insane and then, after they tragically died, says "I don't care". No matter how misguided he is and how far he deviated from the Buddhist path and from our common reality, he acts under the illusion of being an authentic Buddhist master and no matter how weird his behaviour is from the outside, from his internal perspective he's doing everything right and he is probably acting out of positive intentions. I know quite a few people who saw him in Germany maybe two years ago and they all agree that he's a very charismatic and inspiring person. I'm convinced that if one judges a deluded person's intentions one has to interpret that person's intentions against the background of his own definition of reality, not against ours. Otherwise one will not come to an objective understanding of what's going on. Just my 2 cents.
I habve to disagree with you here. If you did that then no behaviour could be judged as ethical or unethical. If I judged (get ready for a hugely exaggerated example) Hitlers action on the basis of his own definition of reality it may help me to understand why he did what he did, but how much does it really matter? I'm sure that Hitler really did believe that Jews were vermin and had to be crushed in order to stop them undermining the German nation, but really, I mean... It is not by chance that the saying: "The path to hell is paved with good intentions" is a common adage!ReasonAndRhyme wrote:I'm convinced that if one judges a deluded person's intentions one has to interpret that person's intentions against the background of his own definition of reality, not against ours. Otherwise one will not come to an objective understanding of what's going on. Just my 2 cents.
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE
One of the comments on that article is interesting:
8:39 PM EDT
Jun 08, 2012
The issue is who is next? i live at the ranch next to DM and believe the remaining retreaters are in danger.If you are a family member of any of them get them out of there.We tried to warn them before this thing started but they seem to know everything.
8:41 PM EDT
Jun 08, 2012
We live at the old Shafer Ranch next door.We have tried to warn individual members of the dangers around here.If you have family members in this retreat get them the hell out before fall.
I am no fan of the teacher involved, in fact he always struck me as a phony. But somewhere in one of the stories here, it says there are 39 people on the 3-year retreat which is the backdrop for this story. Let us hope that they are well, and that their practice is fruitful, and that some good seeds come out of it, as well as this very sad story.
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