Unforgiven

In 2010, the year his secret marriage ended in divorce, Geshe Michael Roach said at a talk: “We forgive on two levels, one on forgivable things and one on unforgivable things: you’ve done a forgivable thing to me, you insulted my cheesecake the other day, and I forgive you. But you broke up with me last month, and that’s unforgivable.”

As he was going through the divorce, Geshe Michael appeared to be talking about his ex Christie McNally who had taught by his side: “I can’t forgive everybody. Personally, I can’t do it. People hurt me, and I keep it for a long time. There’s a separate word in Tibetan called tshig pa [spite] which means slow burning. I have tshig pa, someone hurt me, I’ve got tshig pa. I don’t say anything, I still get up and give nice talks, and I’m very reasonable in class, and I can sit there and pretend to meditate, everybody thinks I am. But inside I have tshig pa. How can they do this to me? How can they do this to me? I’ll never forgive them.

Often a divorced couple could manage to be friendly, but Geshe Michael did not appear very magnanimous toward his ex-wife and her new husband Ian Thorson. As McNally disclosed in a letter: “[We were] uninvited to join Geshe Michael and whatever group he had gathered around him. He made it clear that these were his gatherings, and his students, and that we should stay away.”

Although Geshe Michael published a relationship book in 2013, and continues to travel the world to give lectures on how to “plant” and keep a “perfect partner,” he was unable to do so for himself; but he seems to lack the integrity to disclose to his audiences that his method of planting seeds failed to prevent, and perhaps even led to, his divorce and “a huge number of break-ups” among more advanced tantra students. Since Geshe Michael has now declined to endorse his ex-wife and former protégé McNally, it appears that he was mistaken to identify her as “an emanation of the Angel of Diamond.”

Given that “to err is human, to forgive is divine”, forgiveness should have come natural for Geshe Michael who claimed divinity in 2003. His ex-wife, however, seems to no longer have faith in such claim: “I did not realize the intensity of GM’s bitterness toward me. He is a formidable enemy, especially when you do not even realize you have one.”

It is not clear why Geshe Michael’s seed planting yielded a bitter harvest, but rather than feeling tshig pa, he would do well to follow the Dalai Lama’s teaching:

Forgiveness is an essential part of compassionate attitude…. Another truth to keep in mind is that forgiving others has an enormously liberating effect on oneself. When you dwell on the harm someone has done to you, there is an inevitable tendency to become angry and resentful at the thought. Yet clinging to painful memories and harboring ill will do nothing to rectify the wrong committed and will have no positive effect on you…. If, on the other hand, you are able to overcome your feelings of hostility toward wrongdoers and forgive them, there is an immediate and perceptible benefit to you. By leaving past actions in the past and restoring your concern for the well-being of those who have done you wrong, you gain a tremendous feeling of inner confidence and freedom, which allows you to move on as your negative thoughts and emotions tend to dissipate.

In addition to holding a grudge, Geshe Michael readily admitted to harboring jealousy toward Dharma teachers. Such ignoble characteristics seem unbefitting an Arya whom Geshe Michael claimed to have become since he was 22 years old. He explained the term to mean a highly-evolved noble being: “Arya means you are a different level of evolution. You are a whole different level of evolution. You are as different from a normal human being as a normal human being is different from an ant, okay?”

Given that jealousy (irshya) is one of the five poisons, Geshe Michael would be well advised to meditate on Amoghasiddhi Buddha to conquer it. Given that truthfulness (sacca) is one of the ten perfections, he is called on to practice it.

—–
'Tshig pa is usually translated as spite (pradasa), and is one of the twenty secondary mental afflictions (unwholesome mental factors). Geshe Michael defined pradasa as “malice or spite” in his ACI course.

Buddhist master Tokmé Zangpo (1297-1371) wrote in 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva:

For bodhisattvas who want to be rich in virtue
A person who hurts you is a precious treasure.
Cultivate patience for everyone,
Completely free of irritation or resentment
— this is the practice of a bodhisattva.

—–
Related posts:
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. Super Jesus?

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9 comments

  1. Jerry kelly

    My bet is Roach is getting the retreat setup for independent groups as a precursor to cashing it out…..because he is all about the diamonds after all …….After 5 months of nothing,construction has begun.Imagine yourself perched in the once pristine mountain valley in a meditative state when ex -Guatemalian special forces lead Burreros stop by……courtesy of the isolation induced wrong headed group think of the DM retreaters….creating a path for stranger danger and it looks like a path Ian used to get in way over his head……

    • mrf

      Hi Jerry, I understand your concern about drug smugglers using the path that was created by the retreatants. For those who don’t know Jerry Kelly, he lives next door to Diamond Mountain. In such a desolate area, a good relationship with neighbors is priceless. It appears that Geshe Michael failed to plant seeds for a happy neighbor.

      • Jerry kelly

        Seeds were planted…with lots of fertilizer.If Roach wanted to do one thing nice for a start he would return the woman RETREATER who developed breast cancer and pulled out of the three year retreats gifts to DM. basically her life savings…..

  2. devora

    Get past the scandal and evaluate his words and teachings.Check his skills and credentials. What kind of American accent does he have? What languages does he know? What wisdom does he impart? I know of innocent people giving their last dime and failing in the world. GMR must be exposed in the present. It is now 2015.

  3. Joe Sonne

    Actually I found a lot of ‘real teaching’ in his words (taking as criterion the accordance of these words with the teachings of other lamas and commonly accepted buddhist scripture). I am no disciple of him, I have never met him, and I belong to another lineage (Kagyu, which btw. is not always best friend of Vinaya-oriented Gelug).
    But following his lectures I have to admit that Roach has a deep understanding of the inner core of tibetan buddhist teachings. I have studied in India in a buddhist monastery as well (Kagyu-tradition) some 15 years ago. I thought I had understood a lot. But watching his youtube videos gave me a series of ‘aha’ effects and surprising moments of insight. As if I was desperately trying to solve a puzzle for a long time already and suddenly someone came and explained, where one or two pieces belong. I thought ‘Damn, yes, why didn’t I see this before?’. The same holds true for his knowledge of Tibetan and Sanskrit languages. I don’t agree with him in all points, especially how he managed this to keep this Karmamudra relation secret. But I was looking for answers to subtle buddhist questions. He helped me with some of these. Based on my academic knowledge and personal practice it is my assessment that Roach is an excellent scholar and teacher for advanced followers of the Buddhapath, in the way the ancient scripture describes the requirements to a good teacher (in my lineage e.g. Gampopa).

    • mrf

      What’s troubling about his karmamudra practice is not the secrecy but his refusal to demonstrate his qualification for the practice, as is required by his Gelug tradition. Yet, against standard practices of the celibate lineage, he and his then-wife ordained a student and then arranged the marriage of this monk in violation of vinaya.

      Gampopa cited 8 qualities of a spiritual teacher, the very first quality is “they must first of all follow the precepts and vows”, yet he lied about being “alone, each person” during retreat and lied about the fruit of his retreat. Even now, he continues to lie about when he started at Andin. These are just the more obvious examples. Another quality of the guru is “their understanding must be deep”, yet his view of how karma works is so mistaken, and his teaching and practice of generosity are not in accord with teachings by Buddhist masters. Feel free to share the specific insights that you’ve found in his videos, we’d love to know what subtle questions he helped answer. Please note that we rejoice in whatever he says that are in agreement with Gampopa and other masters, in fact we wish that he would just teach in accordance with Buddhadharma rather than marketing his failed method to people around the world.

      • Brian

        I never met the man… in 2004 I studied from a group of his led by one of GMR’s students and moved on a year later. I really didn’t have a problem with the group per se, I just had a hard time in my personal life and it distracted me from Buddhism at that time.

        I have since been in dozens of spiritual groups and/or religions (some that people have called cults.) Currently I don’t hold any specific doctrine. But in coming here to your site, I would like to suggest something. You have devoted too much energy to this person. I think you have strong valid points in some of your posts, but many of your points are nit picky and suggest you are wounded and lashing out at anything that isn’t in proper order. I’ve been like you in my own past, when I left groups that I felt took advantage of me. In the end however I came to realize something: Despite what I think or experienced, there are those who have gain in said organization (whether it be GMR, or Scientology.) Lashing out like this, won’t change people’s minds and it lowers your own spiritual practice and peace of mind.

        Regarding one of your posts on GMR’s view of karmic return within 6 months… I think any book called coffee meditation is probably junk, however, GMR’s idea of karma ripening within 6 months… that may not be Buddhist (I can’t say), but it is quite true. At one time I studied with a lama of GMR’s in Los Angeles (who no longer is associated with the org. I believe), and he taught his students a similar idea – rapid karmic change by understanding the concepts of Emptiness and Karma, the change would occur more rapidly. Indeed I saw complete changes in my life by adjusting my karma within months… giving what I had to the poor, to get out of debt. I don’t expect you to believe, but the change was rapid, within a very short amount of time… I think Buddhists get too hung up on time. time is meaningless from a spiritual paradigm. It is a calculation based on the earth rotating on an axis. What has time to do with karma? What has time to do with the Bardo? Why is the bardo limited to 7 days? This type of thinking is too rigid and time, if you let it, will control you – but if you think outside of the concept of time, it has no barriers. But regardless of who says it’s not possible – I witnessed it with my own eyes and I know it’s not only possible but real and taught as such in many spiritual groups. You have to be open to the idea (enthusiastic) and with understanding of emptiness, apply karmic antitodes to problems.

        However, the thing of it is… what we gain in this life karmically, that all is part of the diminishing returns. We can get more money, a spouse, etc. None of it is free of suffering in itself. It will all be on the path of suffering and the path out of suffering isn’t found in these things. Yet, if you need to pay off bills, etc., there is a spiritual way to do so.

        Regardless if GMR taught it, or Ernest Holmes… if it works, it works. But if you don’t want it to work, or your karma isn’t ready, or your knowledge of emptiness isn’t refined – it wont.

        • mrf

          His method of giving and his four steps are central to his teaching, so pointing out what he got wrong is hardly nitpicking. Being wounded and lashing out are just your own projections. There’s no book called “coffee meditation”, please take the time to read the article before commenting. Whatever worked for you may have been coincidences, otherwise there’s no stopping you from repeating the method over and over to become ultra-wealthy by now; if “karmic management” work quickly and easily, the Tibetan refugees would have been wealthy, healthy and happy, or wouldn’t have lost their country in the first place. If you read the articles, you wouldn’t have missed the main point: his method doesn’t work for him or his students. Explain why his method didn’t help 7 of his top students.

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