From March 3, 2000 to June 6, 2003, Geshe Michael Roach took part in a three-year silent retreat in Arizona. It was during this retreat that he started to integrate Buddhist teachings with yoga lineages from the Indian tradition.
Geshe Michael Roach emerged from that retreat a changed man. His appearance, behavior and teachings immediately rang alarm bells within the wider Buddhist community and he was barred from teaching at centers belonging to the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT).
Before, and during this retreat, Geshe Michael Roach continually stated that it would be a solitary retreat, that each person would be alone in their retreat house, with no contact at all with other human beings.
Money was raised to support this retreat on these grounds, and volunteers built separate retreat houses for both Christie McNally and Geshe Michael Roach, on their own time, with their own hands and often with their own funds.
At intervals during this 3 year retreat, Geshe Michael Roach came out to give the “Quiet Retreat teachings”. During these he, and all retreat participants were blindfolded so as not to have visual contact with other people. At this point, Geshe Michael Roach still emphasized that all the retreatants, including himself and Christie McNally, were alone and in isolation in their houses.
Below is an excerpt from the “To the Inner Kingdom” transcript of Geshe Michael Roach (Oct 2000) available on the Diamond Mountain web site:
Page 8 ” …We were alone, each person. The nights are very dark, and there are many, many strange sounds……Every kind of creepy, crawly, desert thing has crawled in people’s yards and yurts, and sometimes very frightening things, but I think, the hardest think is the loneliness, to be alone for month after month.
We see each other for the holidays, like Sojong, confession ceremony, twice a month. When we’re in deep retreat we don’t see each other at all, so for a month or maybe two months. Each person has been very strong, become strong, and they showed a lot of courage, and respected the retreat boundaries. They’ve worked very, very hard. They worked for, some of them years, to lean the meditations and visualizations that they have to do. We don’t allow ourselves any other kind of stimulation, there’s only meditation and some study of what to meditate about, and each person has done it very, very well.”
As it turns out, Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally spent the entire 3 years together in the same retreat house, night and day. To this day they sleep together in the same bed and eat off the same plate.
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.
— Geshe Michael Roach, Letter to Lamas, 16 January, 2003
Before the retreat?
Geshe Michael Roach, in fact, had his “consort practice” planned well before his retreat. Over Christmas 1999 when Geshe Michael Roach taught at an FPMT center in Bodhgaya, India, Christie McNally was seen quietly slipping out of Geshe Michael Roach’s room each morning. This was clearly against the rules at the center, and the center director and staff were never officially informed.
“I became aware that Geshe Michael Roach was taking Christie McNally into his room each night towards the end of his stay at Root Institute. As he was an invited teacher, and his behavior broke the rules of the center, it placed us in a very difficult situation. I believe that it was this type of bahavior that led to his later ban from teaching in FPMT centers.”
— A. Simmons, Former Director, Root Institute for Wisdom Culture
Post Retreat Claims
Geshe Michael Roach write to his Lamas during the last months of his retreat, on his 50th birthday. with very controversial claims.