Is Geshe Michael Roach a Monk?

A monks vows are included in the Pratimoksha or Individual Liberation vows. These vows stand independent of any other vows or higher ordinations, and also stand independent of motivation. A fully ordained Buddhist Monk (253 vows) has a root vow to never engage in any manner of physical union with another. Breaking this vow renders the ordination nullified.

Geshe Michael Roach has taken the vows of a fully ordained monk. At the same time, Geshe Michael Roach openly admits to performing an otherwise legitimate physical spiritual practice which would break this root vow. Such practices are almost exclusively reserved for laypersons. In fact, it is the accepted tradition that monks disrobe before doing this practice.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama explains

From the Life as a Western Buddhist Nun conference:

” According to our tradition, we are monastics and are celibate, and we practice the Tantrayana simultaneously. But the way of practice is through visualization. For example, we visualize the consort, but we never touch.”
— His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Geshe Michael Roach claims, by his actions in taking a consort and remaining in robes, to have achieved the 8th Bodhisattva Bhumi. If this is indeed the case, then it would be true that he would have the spiritual capability to enter into physical union with another and not break his root vow. It must be stressed however, that the 8th Bodhisattva Bhumi is an incredibly highly attained state, very close to full Buddhahood itself, and thus extremely rare amongst living beings.

Geshe Michael Roach’s Reasons

The reason which Geshe Michael Roach gives for remaining in robes is:

“And I think that if I were crazy and I disrobed, I think that I would lose my vision  of Vajra Yogini. You see? It’s the foundation of that experience, and not in any way a problem with that experience. The goal of becoming ordained is to have this experience.”
— Interview of Geshe Michael Roach by T. Monkyi for publication in a Buddhist magazine a few days after Geshe Michael’s Easter 2003 three year retreat teachings.

One comment

  1. Deirdre

    Re: “…the 8th Bodhisattva Bhumi is an incredibly highly attained state, very close to full Buddhahood itself, and thus extremely rare amongst living beings.”

    I think indeed this stage is “extremely rare amongst living beings” but I also think one should expect it to be less rare among Buddhist practitioners, who comprise a relatively small proportion of living beings.

    In terms of liberative insight into the illusory nature of a ‘self’ imputed upon the ‘I’-concept and the skandhas, the first eight bodhisattva grounds parallel the sequence of path and fruit sub-stages of each of the four stages to arhatship (i.e eight sub-stages, from the “path” sub-stage of stream-entry to the “fruit” sub-stage of an arhat). An individual’s entry to these stages is not necessarily accompanied by flowering of mundane superknowledges and superskills.

    An arhat realises something that has been there all along, and that people may get stuck or confused in the process of awakening to this does not mean that it is something far away from them (i.e those people) or not already true and here for them.

    I think it would be true to say that any stage of liberative insight accompanied by proficiency in mundane superknowledges is extremely rare, the emphasis here being on “accompanied”; but absence of such proficiency does not invalidate the liberative insight. Believing that one would automatically have proficiency in mundane superknowledges to show for it is liable to be a source of many problems.


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