The Cross in the Lotus?

Did Buddhism almost die out? Does having faith in your lama wipe out bad karma?

According to Geshe Michael Roach, he was an altar boy for 15 years and in choir for twelve. One year out of retreat (2000-2003), he stated in an interview: “I was signed up for Christian seminary… I didn’t reject Christianity. In fact, I still consider myself a Christian.” In 2008, just two years before their secret marriage fell apart, Geshe Michael and Christie McNally co-authored “The Eastern Path to Heaven: A Guide to Happiness from the Teachings of Jesus in Tibet”:

Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally have, for the last ten years, explored together the ancient cities, rare manuscripts, and oral traditions of India and Tibet which bear witness to teachings of Thomas – the disciple that Jesus sent to the east. The Eastern Path to Heaven presents the great ideas that came to those lands through Thomas, and describes how we can use authentic Christian teachings of ancient Asia to achieve six goals of life: physical health; financial security; love; happiness; freedom from aging and death; and fulfilment in the service of others.

Geshe Michael and two students founded Star in the East to teach “the wisdom of the Eastern side of the Christian family.”

And it’s a very beautiful course for people who is, are on a Christian path and it emphasizes the techniques that grew up around the teachings of the disciples of Thomas, in India and Tibet.
So when we go to hear the Dalai Lama’s speak, some of what he says has come through a very ancient Christian tradition, which started in northwest India then went to northeast India and then came into Tibet. And they are very, very beautiful ancient Christian teachings on, that survived in Asia, that didn’t survive in Rome or Athens, you know, and there are very beautiful and very helpful if you are on a Christian path or you’re attracted to that path. And a lot of great meditation techniques and things that survived since the time of Christ in India.
So if you are interested in those, it’s once a week, free meditation. There is flyer called the Christian Path to Nirvana.

Spiritual Partners, 2006

In his book, Geshe Michael cited The Acts of Thomas in retelling how Christ sent the apostle to India (by selling Thomas into slavery for twenty pieces of silver) but provided no historical sources that link the teachings of Thomas with Buddhism in India or Tibet. Similarly, at his talks, Geshe Michael made claims that are of questionable scholarship:

And there was a very noticeable drop in the quality of Buddhism. Buddhism almost died out. Then, I don’t know, a hundred years after Christ, 150 years after Christ, you see the extraordinary revival of Buddhism, it’s called Mahayana or the greater way. It’s this unbelievable, unexpected sudden resurgence of power and clarity in Buddhism. Happened right after the time of Christ, like within a 100 years after Christ, this is Nagarjuna [2nd century Buddhist master]. This is the time of Nagarjuna.
… it appears that there was a big shot in the arm from Jerusalem and Greece in Indian painting, I mean, the Greeks showed up in India, Alexander the Great, 300 years before Christ, invaded the Kashmir part of India. And then ideas started to flow from Greece. You can see ideas in Buddhism that seem to be that you could trace them back to Plato or Aristotle who was Alexander’s teacher. And then you begin to see a Christian influence, Thomas the disciple of Jesus, doubting Thomas, was sent to India by Christ and spend his life there. After Christ died, he arrived in India and we have beauty scripture about his work in India but it appears if you look at it that there was a huge change in Buddhism right after the Greeks and Thomas, the Christians and also the Jewish settlements opened up in India. So there is this powerful influx of new ideas and strength and the clarity of Aristotle kind of thinking… So you feel this tremendous wave of power coming into India and Buddhism which had gotten sort of stuck, suddenly flowers again and Nagarjuna is the one who started it. Nagarjuna touched it off.
And then when you meet the Dalai Lama now, when you go hear the Dalai Lama speak in Tucson [2005], I was … we were there at the stadium here and you feel this power and, you know, 5000, 10,000, 15,000 people show up to hear this Tibetan guy talk, that’s all directly from Nagarjuna and a lot of it is coming from Thomas and from the West, from the Greeks. So it’s very beautiful to see it come around full circle.

Spiritual Partners, 2006

The current Dalai Lama is said to be the 14th incarnation, but such reincarnation and the doctrine of rebirth are incompatible with Christian beliefs.

According to Buddhism, human beings have experienced countless lives and rebirths including in various hells and heavens — all of which are not eternal. In Christianity, the afterlife is final and eternal, and heaven is exclusively through Christ:

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John, 14:6
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans, 6:23

According to Christianity, non-believers, including Buddhists like the Dalai Lama, even if they have been moral and kind, are destined to experience for eternity a hellish heat that is not unlike summer in Tucson. Such an unpleasant outcome for billions of people would be contrary to the Buddha’s teachings on karma.

At Saint Philip’s Episcopal Church and elsewhere, Geshe Michael made statements that defy traditional understanding of karmic principles:

Is there any easy way, can you sort of get everything cancelled?… We say belief…. If you believe enough that this being is divine, if you take them as your true teacher, for us it would be our heart lama, for a Christian, it would be Jesus. If you accept them as your heart teacher, the karma of that is enough to transform this stuff [sacramental bread and wine]. The karma of that is enough to wipe out the sins. See, if you totally believe they are, if you really believe they are divine, if you believe they are like an angel, we’d say an angel, if you believe enough, the karma of that, the effect on your mind would be to remove your bad karma, forgive your sins. Just believe in your heart lama, or Jesus in your case, with enough emotion, enough faith in the power of your heart lama, is enough to make the bread and wine work, OK?… If your faith is enough, if your belief is enough as you partake it, yeah, it could clean your, it could clean away all the bad seeds in your mind. What happens the next day your life is beautiful, more beautiful than it was before, OK, it doesn’t all happen on Monday, OK? Buddhism says you don’t get all your negative seeds forgiven in one sip of wine/blood, you have to keep coming back and you have to keep on building your faith, but if you have enough belief in your heart teacher, in Jesus, and you take something that you see as part of them, it’s enough, that’s enough.

A Buddhist perspective on the Eucharist, 2010

With teachings that deviate from Buddhism and Christianity, Geshe Michael’s path to heaven may lead to unexpected detours. To his followers: Caution Ahead.

“If the spiritual master is following a wrong path, which is contrary to mainline teachings, the student should be able to take a stand and not blindly follow that path.” –The Dalai Lama

Author’s note: A year ago, we challenged Geshe Michael, as Super Jesus, to free Tibet. We now call upon Geshe Michael — a Princeton graduate and Sera Mey geshe — to cite sources that support his historical and philosophical presentations of Buddhism and Christianity.


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