Fact Check: Top 10 Success Stories

How successful are Geshe Michael Roach’s top students? What is the #1 lesson to learn at his Sedona College of International Management?

Since 2009 when he founded the Diamond Cutter Institute, Geshe Michael Roach and his top students have traveled the world to teach “the ancient secrets for having everything in business and life.” Focusing on wealth, health, and relationships, Geshe Michael starts in each country with a seminar on how to use principles of karma to plant “oxygen money”, and introduces the idea of having money in abundance, readily available like the air we breathe:

This system really works. For us money can become like oxygen… I don’t have to worry about the air, there’s enough air… If I want to breathe, I just {inhale} and the air will come in… When I want money, I just use the Diamond Cutter seed system, and then money comes to me.” 6/2015

In one country after another, he tells the audiences that his seed system can help them achieve financial freedom and much more:

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

He frequently mentions the ease of using four steps in his system to plant karmic seeds for amazing success:

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… It is the technique I used to help build a $250 million company, and you can use it, easily.” 10/2015

Did his four-step method actually “help build a $250 million company”, and will his audiences succeed easily? In 10 cases, we examine how well the method has worked for him and 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 broke down in 2009 and they had “$30,000 in credit card debt and little else”, he wrote a letter to students and supporters asking for money 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 make 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 he could not even improve his personal finance on his own, did his “karmic management” really help his Jewish bosses build a multi-million dollar company?

Despite his secret marriage ending in divorce and the ex-wife calling him a bitter and “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?

Just like in other countries, he told an audience in Vietnam last year:

People ask me: “Can I use this system in my relationships, in my family or can I use it in my business relationships?” Yeah, you can use the same seeds, same principles. Some people ask me: “I have a bad back or I have some stomach problem. Can I use these seeds to solve my health problems?” Yeah, you can use these seeds for everything.” 6/2015

Besides his failed marriage, it’s obvious that the seed system did not work as claimed:

A) On their 2006 trip to India, despite having tried his method and everything that they could think of, Geshe Michael and McNally once again suffered from “Delhi belly”, the gastrointestinal problem that had plagued them in all previous trips:

You can’t get a glass of water in India, you can’t get a glass of water which you can drink [without experiencing diarrhea]. So here is this thing, you are looking at it, will this kill me, you see. And I am talking literal, you know. We were very sick there, and there’s nothing you can do, because the penicillin is bad too, you see, I am not kidding, I am not kidding. Maybe somebody in the factory wanted an extra 50 cents, they threw in some rat poison or something.” —Geshe Michael Roach, 2006

B) During their marriage, he tried to apply his method to get the breakfast cereal that he wanted, but failed and gave up after years of working on that simple goal.

C) In 2010, he entered a competition to be a talk show host but failed the audition round.

D) He next auditioned to give a TED talk (not TEDx) but again failed to get selected.

Despite such undeniable failures, Geshe Michael and the Diamond Cutter Institute (DCI) market his failed system to unsuspecting audiences around the world. Avoiding Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, he and his “DCI global team” go to many non-English speaking countries in Asia, Europe, and Latin America to hold DCI seminars and workshops. Each of 12 DCI levels of training begins with his introductory talk (usually about 30 euros a ticket) and is followed by a pricey 2-day workshop. In Germany, tickets start at almost 700 euros for DCI Level 1 and 1300 euros for DCI Level 9, premium tickets that provide personal attention from Geshe Michael cost 3000 euros.

Cases 2 & 3: Ignoring Geshe Michael’s divorce and “the huge number of break-ups that happened constantly” at Diamond Mountain, Nick Lashaw lavished praise on Geshe Michael’s Karma of Love: “A wonderful reference for all of your relationship needs! This book is a brilliant elucidation on the workings of karma and how to apply it to your life!” Lashaw and his wife Erin teach at DCI workshops and seminars in many countries and according to their GoFundMe page, “work so hard to help others realize their dreams”. Without a hint of irony, the well-educated couple stated that they had found “the house of their dreams”, but would “need a little help to come up with the down payment on the house, and thought to humbly ask” for donations. As DCI teachers and coaches, don’t they know what seeds to plant to make themselves well-off? Or has the seed system failed because it is rooted in Geshe Michael’s misinterpretation of Buddhist teachings?

Regrettably, it’s been over a year and the couple still hasn’t reached half of their fundraising goal. Like Geshe Michael, his top students failed to get results from the four steps, but with irrational exuberance they promote his method and insist that it works.

Case 4: Li Yang (name modified) lives in Norway but frequently traveled back to Asia to translate for Geshe Michael’s audiences. With her as translator, he told a Shanghai audience how reading his book helped “two secretaries” started the Kaplan Thaler Group, a multi-million dollar advertising agency. In reality, it’s just a bogus story and an absurd attempt to take credit for another enormously successful Jewish-run business. Couldn’t he find a real success story from his own students? Teaching donation-based yoga classes in Norway, Li Yang invited her beloved teacher to give a talk to Norwegians about his success method. On his visit to Oslo, Geshe Michael told a roomful of yoga enthusiasts: “$200 million will come, I’m not kidding… Is it difficult? It’s easier than yoga.” With a PhD degree from a Norwegian university, the bright Chinese native certainly knows how to follow “DCI four steps”, but Li Yang’s business has been struggling for years. Appealing for donations on the Facebook page of her yoga studio, she wrote last year: “As many of you know we have always had unstable locations because we cannot ever afford to enter into a long term lease.” Will she have the intellectual courage to face the fact that his method does not have doctrinal support, and has failed him and his brightest students?

*****

Ignoring reality, Geshe Michael told Chinese audiences last year:

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

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

In addition to misleading his audiences about the effectiveness of his method, since at least 2011 Geshe Michael has regularly given them a dishonest self-introduction. Ignoring facts, the Diamond Cutter Institute, headed by his long time students Orit and Scott Vacek, even posted his false narrative to its Facebook page:

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 [Andin International]…” –GMR, 8/2015

Perhaps his DCI cheerleaders and enablers are just too blinded by devotion to separate fact from fantasy. A more credible account is that he became a novice monk at the small Rashi Gempil Ling Temple in Howell, New Jersey right after graduating from Princeton University in 1975, and about 6 years later asked Ofer Azrielant, an immigrant fresh from Israel for a job:

I remember I couldn’t get a job … I went to thirty different companies, they all threw me out. And then finally I met this guy and 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” for the 30-year-old Jew and his wife Aya Azrielant:

And I had to carry things from 33rd street to 47th street and that was my job. And then one day he gave me eight dollars, and then later on he gave me nine dollars, and then he gave me ten dollars, and then he gave me a salary and then I got a position and then it was fifty thousand, and sixty thousand and it kept going, escalating, you know and then finally it reached this point where I’m the vice president and I have to have all these things. You know, at the beginning I didn’t know what to do with the money. I, I just put it in the bank account and I didn’t know what to do with it, you know, I just collected it. And now it seems like I can’t bear, I’m, I’m overspent usually [laughter] and I can’t bear to live without it, you know, and… And, and my mind still wants more, you know your mind wants more.” ACI Course 8, 1996

Having owned a successful jewelry business in Israel, the Azrielants founded a jewelry-making company named Andin International Inc. in 1981, 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 reported last month 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 by applying karmic management principles learned in Tibetan monasteries, it’s not clear why Tibetans have not managed to make the Forbes list.

*****

Cases 5 & 6: Eric Brinkman, a co-founder of the Diamond Cutter Institute, insisted: “… if you plant the seeds for wealth, you won’t ask, ‘Do we have enough money?’ The money will be there.” But like Geshe Michael and other students, Brinkman simply asked for donations: $6000 to fund his translation of a Tibetan Buddhist text, and the translated work will be downloadable for free. His previous book “Easy Logic: Tibetan Wisdom for Happiness and Success” — mirroring Geshe Michael’s promises — did not sell. Why couldn’t he plant seeds to make the book a success, with at least $6000 in sales? Regrettably, like Geshe Michael, Brinkman became a married monk — a violation of their Gelug monastic tradition. In an unorthodox ceremony, Geshe Michael and Christie McNally ordained him as Venerable Lobsang Nyingpo and later arranged his marriage to Mercedes Bahleda. As Geshe Michael’s personal assistant for many years, Mercedes has received many teachings on karmic management and heard too many times how his method would help people “make their dreams come true,” but like her husband, she could not apply the 4 steps to bring in sales for her music. Has Geshe Michael been teaching a distorted view of how karma works?

Case 7: John Brady is the director of the Asian Classics Input Project (ACIP) which Geshe Michael founded in 1988. When the project started to run low on funds, Geshe Michael simply asked students for donations to ACIP and its dedicated director:

If you have money, okay, help him. He’s mortgaged his house, his bank account is gone, we don’t have big corporate sponsors like that. He is surviving, the project is surviving on small individuals who want to help.” –GMR, Spiritual Partners V, 5/2006

Did Brady not know how to plant seeds for oxygen money to fund the project? Didn’t Geshe Michael know? Or did the 4 steps not work?

Case 8: Like ACIP, Geshe Michael’s Three Jewels — an outreach center that offers donation-based Buddhist and yoga classes in Manhattan — struggles financially. Thanks to rising revenues in recent years from selling fantasies to large audiences in cities across China, Geshe Michael could now offer to pay half of Three Jewels’ monthly rent, but still asked for donations:

I’ll start whining and begging you for money to keep the Three Jewels open. The landlord doesn’t take smiles as rent, therefore you should help, OK? Help us out… We need money to keep the place open. This is a chronic, unpleasant truth of life that the owner of the building refuses to take yoga classes as payment for the rent.” 11/2014

Does Hector Marcel, who runs the Three Jewels and has taught for DCI, not know how to use the 4-step method to make the center financially self-sufficient? Does his “incomparable Geshe Michael Roach” not know either? Or has the oxygen money making method been a breathtaking delusion born of Geshe Michael’s misinterpretation of karmic principles? Continue reading

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Self-delusion: a proof of concept

Why did Geshe Michael Roach abandon his method?

In 2005, when Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally were still married and eating off the same plate, he presented a proof of concept of how his “karmic management” method could be applied to solve everyday relationship issues. In a series of talks titled “Spiritual Partners: the Goddess Code,” Geshe Michael spoke of his daily predicament at breakfast time: he wanted plain Cheerios but she loved adding strawberries to the cereal and because they ate from the same bowl, he had quite a first-world problem. How did he plant karmic seeds so that “the net result is that everyone is happy”? The talk’s transcript reveals that his method didn’t end with a win-win situation. A careful reading instead shows that his method hadn’t worked and he abandoned it for a new tactic: Continue reading