Geshe Michael Roach has always been an unconventional but charismatic teacher. He cries, debates and pushes his audience to the limits during his teachings. This, in itself, can be seen as a good quality, as it enables him to get his point across in an entertaining and memorable way. During the Tantra Course at Diamond Mountain in the fall term of 2005, however, Geshe Michael began to display disturbing behavior during his teachings.
Self Harm at Diamond Mountain
It was 1 1/2 hours into the filth class of the Tantra Series (IV), and Christie McNally was giving a discourse of the qualities of a student ready for Tantra. She mentioned that if your Tantric lama asked for your pinkie finger that you should be prepared to give it, “If you see someone you are teaching who starts to feel like they are willing to do that, then you know they are ready to do tantra”, she said.
At this point Geshe Michael started to look around in his bag, and removed a sharp pointed ritual implement. He then went on to begin to stab himself in the hand in the area of the little (pinkie) finger.
Christie looked genuinely shocked and screamed at him “No, Stop it, Stop it, Stop it, Don’t do it“. After this there was several minutes of stunned silence and Christie continued, almost tearfully “you have to be careful what you say to your tantric students or you might get a lot of pinkies“.
Geshe Michael Roach’s hand was cut and bleeding after the incident. Both he and Christie had blood on their clothing, and Geshe Michael Roach wore a bandage on the wound for several days.
Listen to the MP3 Audio of this Incident (11min 3sec, 2,594kb)
Points to Consider
- Geshe Michael is a strong man and if he really wanted to cut off his pinkie finger, he could have done so in one stroke.The stabbing was calculated to be hard enough to cause harm and draw blood, but not to cause permanent damage to his hand.
- Geshe Michael Roach brought the implement with him to a teaching, which would appear to be premeditated, as ritual daggers are not the type of article that people, even lamas, usually carry around in their bags.
- Christie McNally never asked him for his pinkie. All she said was that if a teacher “were” to ask, and the student did it, then it might be a sign that this student was ready for tantra.
- If Geshe Michael is who he claims to be (an eighth level Bodhisattva), he would have the clairvoyance to know that Christie was not asking for his finger, and would be upset by his act.
We must remember His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama who has said on many occasions that any form of self mutilation should not be engaged in by Buddhist practitioners.