Fact check

Did Geshe Michael’s 4-step method work for him and 7 of his top students? How did they make “oxygen money”?

According to Geshe Michael Roach, he graduated from Princeton University in 1975 and immediately became a novice monk at a small Buddhist temple in New Jersey, and then went to work for a New York jewelry company called Andin International in 1981 at age 28. But since at least 2011, when speaking to audiences around the world Geshe Michael has frequently introduced himself with a false narrative:

So after 25 years in the monastery, my teacher gave me a special second “final examination.” To prove that I understand what I learned, I had to go back to New York and start a diamond business…” – GMR, 8/2015

Why does Geshe Michael choose to start his relationship with the audiences on a lie? Showing a disregard for truth, the Diamond Cutter Institute (DCI) — headed by his longtime students Orit and Scott Vacekposted the dishonest self-introduction on the DCI Facebook page. Perhaps his DCI cheerleaders and enablers are just too blinded by devotion to separate fact from fantasy. A more truthful version is that after about 6 years at the “monastery” — the little Rashi Gempil Ling Temple in Howell, New Jersey — the Princeton-educated Michael Roach asked an immigrant fresh from Israel for a job: “I begged him, ‘I’ll do anything, I’ll wash the windows, I’ll, I’ll clean the floor, I’ll do anything, just teach me the diamonds.’” And so the Princeton graduate started out as an “errand boy …carrying nondescript canvas bags filled with gold and diamonds” for Ofer Azrielant and his wife Aya. Having owned a successful jewelry business in Israel, the Jewish immigrant couple founded a jewelry-making company named Andin International Inc., not “Andin International Diamond Corporation” as Geshe Michael calls it. According to Jewish Business News, the enterprising couple quickly built Andin into “one of the three largest jewelry manufacturing companies in the United States.” The same news source recently reported that 17 Israeli businessmen had made the 2016 Forbes Billionaires list which is already crowded with Jews from America, Europe and elsewhere. If Geshe Michael could help his Jewish bosses make money — as he claims — by applying “karmic management” principles learned in Tibetan monasteries, it’s not clear why Tibetans have not managed to make the Forbes list.

Marketing his 12-level DCI seminars and workshops as a “universal training for ultimate success,” Geshe Michael and DCI teachers give paid lectures on “the ancient secrets for having everything in business and life” — with a focus on abundant wealth, excellent health, and perfect relationships. After the bogus self-introduction, Geshe Michael starts the audience on the dream of having money in abundance, readily available like the air we breathe: “I call it oxygen money,” he told a Japanese audience in 2011. Last year in Vietnam, he told 1000 people in the audience:

Tonight we’re going to talk about oxygen money… In 15 minutes I will teach you how you can make $250 million business, have a beautiful partner, have energy and save the world…just listen! …Oxygen money, beautiful partner, youth, and inner peace — you don’t need to choose, you can have them all.” 7/2015

Geshe Michael frequently assures his audiences of the magic and ease of his four-step method:

We will teach you four steps for creating any result you would like in your life. You can achieve great corporate success and personal success. You can “upgrade” your life partner from Economy class to Business class!… It is the technique I used to help build a $250 million company, and you can use it, easily.” 10/2015

Did his four steps really “help build a $250 million company” and will his audiences succeed easily? In 8 case studies, we examine whether the method has worked in the professional and personal lives of Geshe Michael and 7 of his top students.

Case 1: Could Geshe Michael use his method to solve his own marital and financial problems? When his secret marriage to Christie McNally fell apart in 2009, he wrote a letter to students and supporters asking for donations to buy him a new home: “… I would like to unashamedly ask if any of you would consider helping me to purchase the Rainbow House, with either a gift or a loan.” Having failed to generate oxygen money to pay for his own house, he now owes people a debt of gratitude:

‘Home’ for me means Rainbow House… This place was bought and paid for by a huge group of my friends and students about 5 years ago, and I would like once more to express my grateful thanks to each of you who contributed. This is the first time in my life that I have had my own home, and it means a lot to me.” 12/2014

Since Geshe Michael could not even improve his personal finance on his own, did his method really help his Jewish bosses build a multi-million dollar company?

With his secret marriage ended in divorce and the ex-wife calling him a “formidable enemy,” Geshe Michael had the chutzpah to write The Karma of Love and give talks titled “Perfect Relationships” and “Relationships Never End.” If his method really works, why did it not save his marriage or prevent “a huge number of break ups” among his most advanced students?

Cases 2 & 3: Eric Brinkman, who co-founded the Diamond Cutter Institute with Geshe Michael in 2009, is well-versed in explaining oxygen money: Continue reading

Mission Implausible: “Coffee Meditation” and the Four-Step Method

Can the four steps possibly work? Does Geshe Michael Roach simply misunderstand or deliberately misrepresent a key Buddhist doctrine?

According to Geshe Michael, his “coffee meditation” and 4-step method can help people make money, have good health, and find a perfect spouse or improve the current life partner:

We will teach you four steps for creating any result you would like in your life. You can achieve great corporate success and personal success. You can “upgrade” your life partner from Economy class to Business class!” – GMR, 10/2015

If that’s true, would Geshe Michael’s secret marriage to Christie McNally have ended in divorce? During their marriage, he tried to apply his “Diamond Cutter principles” to achieve a very simple goal: having plain cereal for breakfast. McNally unknowingly added strawberries to their cereal and because they ate from the same bowl, he had to endure the strawberries “for years.” By 2005, seven years into their marriage and still unable to get rid of the strawberries, he gave up on his seed planting method, and finally communicated to her his displeasure.

Despite the clear failure of his karmic management, more than ten years later Geshe Michael is still promoting his “Seed Success System” as the way to achieve success in life:

We are recommending that you use the only approach that offers 100% guarantee of working to solve problems and achieve goals — to understand the seeds that will bring the result, and then systematically plant them.” 4/2015

Let’s stop doing things that don’t work. Let’s focus our time and energy on the one thing that works 100% of the time. In this system, our chance of success is: 100%.5/2015

Called by many names, including “Starbucks Four Steps”, the method is based on Geshe Michael’s view of how karma works. In Buddhism, karma refers specifically to intentional acts: “when you do something without intention, such as killing insects without knowing it… you do not accumulate the karma of killing.” Traditionally, how karma works is compared to planting a fruit tree: results (fruits/ripening) come when there are appropriate causes/actions (seeds) and conditions (water, soil, sunlight, etc.), and few or no obstacles (flooding, wild fire, hurricanes, etc.). A traditional teaching is that “karmic results of our actions most frequently do not ripen in the same lifetime in which we commit the actions.” According to the Cula-kammavibhanga Sutta, the effect of being generous in life is “on the dissolution of the body, after death” the person will be “wealthy wherever reborn.” Likewise, Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend advised the practice of generosity because “for the next life, there is no better friend than what one has given.”

However, the results of an action in this lifetime may start taking effect in this present life and possibly continue into future lifetimes if the action is carried out with intense emotion and directed toward “special recipients” such as one’s parents or spiritual teachers, communities of monks or nuns, and enlightened beings:

So for a result to arise in this lifetime, a deed must have great power, and to produce a deed of great power, the person (object) to whom we are doing this deed must be someone special, such as a fully enlightened being. The motivation for doing the deed must be incredibly strong, and the article involved in the deed must be a special object. If either of these elements are not strong enough, then the result will arise in the next lifetime; if they are even less powerful, then the result can only arise after three or more lifetimes. Thus, it is very difficult to obtain a result quickly in this lifetime. – Khenpo Appey Rinpoche

But according to Geshe Michael, it’s quick and easy to get a desired result such as finding a life partner: “What’s the best way for me to steal my neighbor’s beautiful wife? Just respect their relationship. Don’t do the slightest thing with his wife. And within six months the perfect partner will show up. That’s how you create them. It’s very beautiful. And doesn’t it make everyone more happy?” Respecting the marriage of the neighbor, who presumably is a normal human being, is hardly “a deed of great power” so it’s very unlikely that karmic results will ripen in 6 months or even in this lifetime. Typically, Geshe Michael promotes a more active approach: if single, one can “plant” a husband or wife by serving some old lady at a retirement home, and at night reflect on the good deed and rejoice in it while laying in bed or relaxing on a couch, perhaps over a cup of coffee: Continue reading