You want financial success – you want to build a quarter billion dollar company in your spare time, while you’re doing the geshe degree in India. Could you plant [karmic] seeds to create a quarter billion dollar company in your free time?… basically seeds for money — if you want to make the fastest growing manufacturing company in the history of New York City, you develop a charity by which you can give money to Tibetan refugees.
…And if you understand it [emptiness], … you can make a quarter billion dollar company in your spare time, to help refugees…
Emptiness: A Deep Dive, 2010
It is not clear why “spare time” in reality may have been “16-hour days for 15 years”:
We often worked past midnight, and I would have a long trip back to my little room at a small monastery in the Asian Buddhist community of Howell, in New Jersey. In a few hours I would be up again and back on the bus to Manhattan.
… On the other hand they [Andin bosses] couldn’t understand why anyone would want to go home before 11 P.M., and more often than not we worked until that hour and sometimes even later. My commute back to the monastery was nearly two hours each way, and so I would get home about 1 A.M., and be up again at 6 for the ride back into the city.
… a diamond is the most important object in the regular world that can remind you of what you saw…. And to spend twelve hours a day at this stupid place would be worth it if you only remembered once a week what you saw, you see what I mean…to get up every morning at six, come home at eight, but to be there, and to touch them and to be around them would be worth it, just to remember the twenty minutes…
I worked in the diamond business for fifteen years only because I had seen emptiness and I wanted to remember what I had seen. So sixteen-hour days for fifteen years. I made a lot of money for the monasteries, and I did a lot of good with the money, but it was only to remember that twenty minutes. Fifteen years in a corporation just to remember what had happened to me, and that’s the only reason that I did it.
Geshe Michael now claims that he worked at Andin to raise money for Tibetan refugees, but before the three-year retreat, his reason was more self-serving: “you’d be willing to spend the next fifteen years, you know, working in some office to be around diamonds, just to be close to a diamond so you could remember…for no other reason”, and “you’d wanna be near them, touch them, see them, just…and it’d be worth it to go get a job and work there for fifteen-twenty years just to be close to them, and for no other reason, you know…even if they didn’t pay you anything.” It is not clear how he could have helped his monastery and financed various projects if he didn’t get paid for his long work hours.
Defending his dedication to an industry that was often linked to blood diamonds, Geshe Michael said, “I wanted to do good in the world, so I worked in one of the hardest and most unethical environments.” It is not clear how dedicating so much time to an industry that sells illusion of romance and wealth would help the world. It is not clear how working in what he called a “dirty business” where he lied to diamond dealers could benefit his spiritual growth.
Geshe Michael claims to have become a Bodhisattva at the age of 22, so it is not clear why he would not just look in a mirror if he ever needed a reminder or inspiration. A new Bodhisattva, according to scriptures and commentaries, starts out with twelve sets of special abilities, and “at will” can emanate 100 versions of himself and surround each with 100 fellow Bodhisattvas, can travel to 100 Buddha realms, and can “see 100 Buddhas face to face, and receive their blessings.”
From Geshe Michael’s account of seeing emptiness and the experience afterwards, it is not clear why he did not mention traveling to 100 pure lands or having seen 100 Buddhas and received their blessings:
You go into an experience where faces appear in your mind. You see faces in your mind. And this is very difficult to explain, okay? In those few minutes, you see the face of every living creature in this world. In the minute, at the same time, you see the whole face of billions of creatures. And I’m not talking just people — animals, insects, birds, worms, whales — all of them, you can see in the same moment, but separately. Okay? In the same moment, but separately, you can see the face of every living creature in this world. And get this, on every world. Okay? On every world at the same time. Separately and distinctly, you see the face of every living creature in this universe — and they have no number. There is no number. ‘Cause they are infinite. The sky is… space is infinite. There is no end to worlds — there’s no end to the number of living creatures. And you see them all at the same time. Within a few minutes time, you see all of their faces. And you love them …. And you are loving that many living creatures … at the same time. You are having an experience of love for every one of those beings at the same time.
When an interviewer asked the Dalai Lama: “what would be your explanation or understanding of, or insight into, mystical experience in the Buddhist tradition?” His Holiness replied:
Even a genuine practitioner can experience different kinds of mystical experiences. At the initial stage, these experiences are not at all reliable. So if he or she is too attached or considers these as important or a great experience, it is absolutely wrong. There is great danger in doing so.
Once you further your own mental development through practice, what for you is merely a manifestation or reflection of your deeper experience, looks like a mystical experience to ordinary people. But it is normal to you. So I think we have to make this distinction.
According to Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, “once you come to the realization of emptiness, then you never fall back. You never lose that experience. That is the advantage of the true realization of emptiness. If this were not so, we could think that enlightened beings who have come to the full realization of emptiness may sometimes lose it and fall back. They never fall back. That is the true realization of emptiness. Once you realize it, you never lose that experience whatsoever.”
From the Sutra of Kumaraprahba, quoted in Lady Niguma’s Stages in the Path of Illusion: the Buddha replied, “… these are the signs of one who dwells on the first ground of a bodhisattva: The [bodhisattva] in a fraction of a second, at will can … see one hundred buddhas, … travel to one hundred buddha realms, … fully display one hundred bodies, each body completely surrounded by an entourage of one hundred bodhisattvas who are each perfectly teaching.”
From Patrul Rinpoche's A Brief Guide to the Stages and Paths of the Bodhisattvas: level one Boddhisattvas “are able to see one hundred buddhas face to face, and receive their blessings, travel to one hundred buddha realms, …manifest one hundred emanations, and for each of these bodies, manifest one hundred attendants.”
From Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche's commentary of Chandrakirti’s Madhyamakavatara, which is based on the Avatamsaka Sutra:
1. In one moment, the first bhumi bodhisattva can see 100 buddhas from the ten directions.
9. In one moment, he can enter or travel within 100 different buddha realms, the universes of the buddha. Remember, we are not talking about him doing this within his life span, but within one moment.
11. In one moment, manifest 100 manifestations of himself, particularly his body.
12. For each of the 100 bodies that he manifests, he will have a retinue of 100 retinue bodhisattvas, who will follow his bodhisattva activity.
From Kyabje Pabongka's Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand: Bodhisattvas on the first level emanate hundreds of bodies, each of which is surrounded by hundreds of other Bodhisattvas. These first-level Bodhisattvas see into hundreds of eons, they can make hundreds of worlds tremble, they enter the doors of hundreds of single-pointed concentrations, see hundreds of Buddhas, receive these Buddha’s blessings, emanate hundreds of Buddhafields, travel to hundreds of these fields, open the doors to hundreds of Dharmas, ripen hundreds of sentient beings, and live for hundreds of eons. Every single moment, these first-level Bodhisattvas manage hundreds [of examples] of these twelve kinds of qualities.
From Priceonomics, “Americans exchange diamond rings as part of the engagement process, because in 1938 De Beers decided that they would like us to. Prior to a stunningly successful marketing campaign, Americans occasionally exchanged engagement rings, but wasn’t a pervasive occurrence. Not only is the demand for diamonds a marketing invention, but diamonds aren’t actually that rare. Only by carefully restricting the supply has De Beers kept the price of a diamond high…. Diamonds are not actually scarce, make a terrible investment, and are purely valuable as a status symbol.”