So after 25 years in the monastery, my teacher gave me a special second “final examination.” To prove that I understand what I learned, I had to go back to New York and start a diamond business…” – GMR, 8/2015
It’s quite telling that Geshe Michael chooses to start his relationship with the audience on a lie. Showing a disregard for truth, the Diamond Cutter Institute (DCI) — headed by his longtime students Orit and Scott Vacek — posted the dishonest self-introduction on the DCI Facebook page. Perhaps his DCI cheerleaders and enablers are just too blinded by devotion to separate fact from fantasy. A more truthful version is that after about 6 years at the “monastery” — the little Rashi Gempil Ling Temple in Howell, New Jersey — the Princeton-educated Michael Roach asked an immigrant fresh from Israel for a job: “I begged him, ‘I’ll do anything, I’ll wash the windows, I’ll, I’ll clean the floor, I’ll do anything, just teach me the diamonds.’” And so the Princeton graduate started out as an “errand boy …carrying nondescript canvas bags filled with gold and diamonds” for Ofer Azrielant and his wife Aya. Having owned a successful jewelry business in Israel, the Jewish couple founded a jewelry-making company named Andin International Inc., not “Andin International Diamond Corporation” as Geshe Michael calls it. According to Jewish Business News, the enterprising couple quickly built Andin into “one of the three largest jewelry manufacturing companies in the United States.” The same news source recently reported that 17 Israeli businessmen had made the 2016 Forbes Billionaires list which is already crowded with Jews from America, Europe and elsewhere. If Geshe Michael helped his Jewish bosses make money — as he claims — by applying Buddhist principles learned in Tibetan monasteries, it’s not clear why Tibetans still have not made the Forbes list.
Marketing his 12-level DCI seminars and workshops as a “universal training for ultimate success,” Geshe Michael and DCI teachers give paid lectures on “the ancient secrets for having everything in business and life” — with a focus on abundant wealth, good health, and perfect relationships. After the bogus self-introduction, Geshe Michael starts the audience on the dream of having money in abundance, readily available like the air we breathe: “I call it oxygen money,” he told a Japanese audience in 2011. Last year in Vietnam, he told 1000 people in the audience:
Tonight we’re going to talk about oxygen money… In 15 minutes I will teach you how you can make $250 million business, have a beautiful partner, have energy and save the world…just listen! …Oxygen money, beautiful partner, youth, and inner peace — you don’t need to choose, you can have them all.” 7/2015
Geshe Michael frequently assures his audiences of the magic and ease of his four-step method:
We will teach you four steps for creating any result you would like in your life. You can achieve great corporate success and personal success. You can “upgrade” your life partner from Economy class to Business class!… It is the technique I used to help build a $250 million company, and you can use it, easily.” 10/2015
Did his four steps really “help build a $250 million company” and will his audiences succeed easily? In 8 case studies, we examine whether the method has worked in the professional and personal lives of Geshe Michael and 7 of his top students.
Case 1: Could Geshe Michael use his method to solve his own marital and financial problems? When his secret marriage to Christie McNally fell apart in 2009, he wrote a letter to students and supporters asking for donations to buy him a new home: “… I would like to unashamedly ask if any of you would consider helping me to purchase the Rainbow House, with either a gift or a loan.” Having failed to generate oxygen money to pay for his own house, he now owes people a debt of gratitude:
‘Home’ for me means Rainbow House… This place was bought and paid for by a huge group of my friends and students about 5 years ago, and I would like once more to express my grateful thanks to each of you who contributed. This is the first time in my life that I have had my own home, and it means a lot to me.” 12/2014
Since Geshe Michael could not even improve his personal finance on his own, did his method really help his Jewish bosses build a multi-million dollar business?
Cases 2 & 3: Eric Brinkman, who co-founded the Diamond Cutter Institute with Geshe Michael in 2009, is well-versed in explaining oxygen money: “…when you walk into a room, you don’t ask before you go in, ‘Is there oxygen in there?’ In the same way, if you plant the seeds for wealth, you won’t ask, ‘Do we have enough money?’ The money will be there.” But like Geshe Michael, Brinkman simply asked for donations: $6000 to fund his translation of a Tibetan Buddhist text; the translated work will be downloadable for free. His previous book “Easy Logic: Tibetan Wisdom for Happiness and Success” — mirroring Geshe Michael’s promises — did not sell. Like Geshe Michael, Brinkman became a married monk — a violation of their Geluk monastic tradition. In an unorthodox ceremony, Geshe Michael and Christie McNally ordained him as Venerable Lobsang Nyingpo and later arranged his marriage to Mercedes Bahleda. As one of Geshe Michael’s earliest students, Mercedes has received many teachings on “karmic management” and heard too many times how his method will help people “make their dreams come true,” but in reality the 4 steps could not bring in sales for her music or her husband’s book. Does the author of Easy Logic: Tibetan Wisdom for Happiness and Success not know how to plant seeds for happiness and success? Does his wife Mercedes, who served as Geshe Michael’s personal assistant for many years, not know either? Or has Geshe Michael been teaching a mistaken view of how karma works?
Case 4: John Brady is the director of the Asian Classics Input Project (ACIP) which Geshe Michael founded in 1988. When the project started to run low on funds, Geshe Michael simply asked students for donations to ACIP and its dedicated director:
If you have money, okay, help him. Like he’s mortgaged his house, his bank account is gone, we don’t have big corporate sponsors like that. He is surviving, the project is surviving on small individuals who want to help.” – GMR, Spiritual Partners V, 5/2006
Did Brady not know how to plant seeds for oxygen money to fund the project? Did Geshe Michael know? Or didn’t the 4-step method work?
Case 5: Like ACIP, Geshe Michael’s Three Jewels — an outreach center that offers donation-based Buddhist and yoga classes in Manhattan — struggles financially. Thanks to rising revenues in recent years from selling fantasies to large audiences in cities across China, Geshe Michael could now offer to pay half of Three Jewels’ monthly rent, but still asked for donations:
I’ll start whining and begging you for money to keep the Three Jewels open. The landlord doesn’t take smiles as rent, therefore you should help, OK? Help us out… We need money to keep the place open. This is a chronic, unpleasant truth of life that the owner of the building refuses to take yoga classes as payment for the rent.” 12/2014
Does Hector Marcel, who runs the Three Jewels and also teaches at DCI, not know how to plant seeds to make the center financially self-sufficient? Does his “incomparable Geshe Michael Roach” not know either? Or has the oxygen money making method been a breathtaking delusion born of Geshe Michael’s misinterpretation of karmic principles?
According to Geshe Michael, he can advise people on “what karma they need to do to get what they want” and his method will help them “get whatever they want, whatever they dream of.” He says that the teachers from DCI and Three Jewels are “dream fulfillment experts” who can recommend specific karmic solutions for life problems and challenges. But according to scriptures, the precise working out of karma is imponderable: unless Geshe Michael and his crew have the fully-enlightened mind of Buddhas, they couldn’t possibly know. If they know anything of value, perhaps they themselves could have become millionaires and billionaires to fund their projects and centers, or help the world in tangible ways like Bill Gates does through his charitable foundation.
Case 6: Li Yang (name modified) lives in Norway but frequently traveled back to Asia to translate for Geshe Michael’s audiences. With her as translator, he told a Shanghai audience how reading his book helped “two secretaries” started the Kaplan Thaler Group, a billion-dollar advertising agency. In reality, it’s just another phony story and a laughable attempt by Geshe Michael to take credit for yet another enormously successful Jewish business. Couldn’t he find any real success stories from his own students? Teaching donation-based yoga classes in Norway, Li Yang invited him to Oslo to educate Norwegians on his success method: “… $200 million will come, I’m not kidding… Is it difficult? It’s easier than yoga,” he assured the audience. With a PhD from a Norwegian university, the bright Chinese native certainly knows how to follow the four steps, but Li Yang’s business has been struggling for years. Asking for donations last year, she revealed on the Facebook page of her yoga studio: “As many of you know we have always had unstable locations because we cannot ever afford to enter into a long term lease.” Will she have the intellectual courage to face the fact that his 4-step method does not have doctrinal support and has failed him and his brightest students?
Despite the clear failures of his method, Geshe Michael tells the world:
Let’s stop doing things that don’t work. Let’s focus our time and energy on the one thing that works 100% of the time. In this system, our chance of success is: 100%.” 5/2015
We are recommending that you use the only approach that offers 100% guarantee of working to solve problems and achieve goals — to understand the seeds that will bring the result, and then systematically plant them.” 4/2015
Last year was Geshe Michael’s second trip to Vietnam where people struggle on a $160 average monthly income and are desperate to believe in the promise of abundant wealth from a Princeton-educated monk. With tickets priced at $36 (US dollars), Geshe Michael and Co. made a killing on the first night in ’Nam. Back in 2009, one year before their marriage officially ended in divorce, he visited the country with Christie McNally — who is 21 years younger and was one of his earliest students — and lectured the Vietnamese on how to have beautiful and lasting relationships. Continue reading