Category: Geshe Michael Roach

Mission Implausible: “Coffee Meditation” and the Four-Step Method

Do the four steps really work? Did Geshe Michael Roach’s method bring success to Andin International?

Editor’s note: This article walks readers through traditional teachings on karma including two lesser-known concepts: man-made results that “don’t ripen from karma” (purushakaraphalam in Sanskrit), and planting karmic seeds in a “field of those who suffer” (sdug bngal ba rnams kyi zhing in Tibetan). Comparisons are made between the authentic teachings and Geshe Michael’s method of “karmic management”.

According to Geshe Michael, his “coffee meditation” and 4-step method can help people make money, have good health, and find a perfect spouse or improve the current life partner:

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!” – GMR, 10/2015

If that’s true, would Geshe Michael’s secret marriage to Christie McNally have ended in divorce? During their marriage, he tried to apply his “Diamond Cutter principles” to achieve a very simple goal: having plain cereal for breakfast. McNally unknowingly added strawberries to their cereal and because they ate from the same bowl, he had to endure the strawberries “for years”. By 2005, seven years into their marriage and still unable to get rid of the strawberries, he abandoned planting karmic seeds, and finally communicated to her his displeasure.

Despite the clear failure of his karmic management, more than ten years later Geshe Michael is still promoting his “Seed Success System” as the way to achieve success in life:

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

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

Called by many names, including “Starbucks Four Steps”, the method is based on Geshe Michael’s view of how karma works. In Buddhism, karma refers specifically to intentional acts: “when you do something without intention, such as killing insects without knowing it… you do not accumulate the karma of killing.” Traditionally, how karma works is compared to planting a fruit tree: results (fruits/ripening) come when there are appropriate causes/actions (seeds) and conditions (water, soil, sunlight, etc.), and few or no obstacles (flooding, wild fire, hurricanes, etc.). A traditional teaching is that “karmic results of our actions most frequently do not ripen in the same lifetime in which we commit the actions.” According to the Cula-kammavibhanga Sutta, the effect of being generous in life is “on the dissolution of the body, after death” the person will be “wealthy wherever reborn.” Likewise, Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend advised the practice of generosity because “for the next life, there is no better friend than what one has given.”

However, the results of an action in this lifetime may start taking effect in this present life and possibly continue into future lifetimes if the action is carried out with intense emotion and directed toward “special recipients” such as one’s parents or spiritual teachers, communities of monks or nuns, and enlightened beings:

So for a result to arise in this lifetime, a deed must have great power, and to produce a deed of great power, the person (object) to whom we are doing this deed must be someone special, such as a fully enlightened being. The motivation for doing the deed must be incredibly strong, and the article involved in the deed must be a special object. If either of these elements are not strong enough, then the result will arise in the next lifetime; if they are even less powerful, then the result can only arise after three or more lifetimes. Thus, it is very difficult to obtain a result quickly in this lifetime. – Khenpo Appey Rinpoche

But according to Geshe Michael, it’s quick and easy to get a desired result such as finding a life partner: “What’s the best way for me to steal my neighbor’s beautiful wife? Just respect their relationship. Don’t do the slightest thing with his wife. And within six months the perfect partner will show up. That’s how you create them. It’s very beautiful. And doesn’t it make everyone more happy?” Respecting the marriage of the neighbor, who presumably is a normal human being, is hardly “a deed of great power” so it’s very unlikely that karmic results will ripen in 6 months or even in this life. Typically, Geshe Michael promotes a more active approach: if single, one can “plant” a husband or wife by serving some old lady at a retirement home, and at night reflect on the good deed and rejoice in it while laying in bed or relaxing on a couch, perhaps over a cup of coffee:

How to do coffee meditation? Say you want a partner, you go and find an old lady. You spend time with her. And then when you lay in bed before you go to sleep, feel her happiness, and stay there for 5 minutes.” 12/2014

According to Buddhist teachings, rejoicing in good deeds strengthens the positive karma, while feeling remorse for bad deeds weakens the negative karma. Geshe Thupten Jinpa said: “Even if the karma is not powerful, if you subsequently rejoice, its strength increases. You should therefore, after engaging in any virtuous action, cultivate a special sense of rejoicing, free of any self-importance [without arrogance and expectations].” However, scriptures and commentaries do not suggest that rejoicing would bring results in this lifetime. Therefore, even with coffee meditation, the karmic results of serving the old lady are unlikely to ripen soon because the service was done with mixed motivations (mostly a self-serving intent to find a life partner) and the old lady is not a special recipient (yul yon tan can gyi zhing). Continue reading

Self-delusion: a proof of concept

Why did Geshe Michael Roach’s method not work?

In 2005, when Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally were still married and eating off the same plate, he presented a proof of concept of how his “karmic management” could be applied to solve everyday relationship issues. In a talk titled “Spiritual Partners: the Goddess Code”, Geshe Michael spoke of his daily predicament at breakfast time: he wanted plain Cheerios but she loved adding strawberries to the cereal and because they ate from the same bowl, he had quite a first-world problem. How did he plant karmic seeds so that “the net result is that everyone is happy”? The talk’s transcript reveals that his method didn’t end with a win-win situation. A careful reading instead shows that his method hadn’t worked and he abandoned it for a new strategy: Continue reading

“See the Future”: futures and options

Can Geshe Michael Roach really see the future?

Geshe Michael said this week:

If you meditate, you come out of the closet into a much bigger space, you can see the future. Directly. You can see what the stock market will do. You will know exactly what steps to take in your life. Is meditation boring? No! It’s a very powerful life tool for success.” 1/2016

If that’s true, perhaps he would have known “exactly what steps to take” to prevent the near collapse of his company, the failure of his secret marriage, and the tragedy at Diamond Mountain. And perhaps, he could have traded stocks, futures and options rather than spending “twelve hours a day at this stupid place [Andin International].”

Geshe Michael claims to be an Arya Bodhisattva and so should have seen that:
– his years of planting karmic seeds would fail to get him his breakfast of choice.
– his audition for a TV show and his pitch for a TED talk would be a waste of time.
– his letter to his lamas would not win their approvals, not without providing any proof.
At the very least, he would not have made statements about the future that turned out to be so wrong. Continue reading

California Dreaming: “The Karma Show”

Why did Geshe Michael Roach’s method fail to make his dream come true?

Dreaming of having his own television show, Geshe Michael Roach submitted an online audition video to Oprah Winfrey, the billionaire media mogul who had launched successful television careers for Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz. Out of thousands who auditioned for “Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star,” ten people were selected for the televised competition, and Oprah chose 2 winners and awarded each a talk show on the OWN network. It is regrettable that Geshe Michael, who wrote a book on "karmic management", couldn’t manage to pass the audition round. Ironically, in the synopsis below the audition video, he wrote:

Hi my name is Geshe Michael. When I was young, my mom got breast cancer and just before she died she put me into a Tibetan monastery. I stayed there for 20 years and became the first American geshe, or Buddhist Master. Nowadays a lot of people come to me with their problems and dreams and I help them figure out what karma they need to get things they want; I helped two women in New York start a billion dollar ad company, I help friends find partners, and how to fix their health problems and stay young and strong. I have an idea to have a Karma Show where people come and say what they’re looking for in life, and we figure out the karma or good thing they need to do for others, to make their dreams come true!

Many of the above claims have been challenged on this blog; and as demonstrated, Geshe Michael failed to even make his own dream come true. Oprah, in contrast, lives and breathes the American Dream: born into poverty to a housemaid mother in rural Mississippi, she has managed to become a self-made multi-billionaire. The following is a partial transcript of Geshe Michael’s 3-minute video pitch to her:

… And then people would ask me, “How do you use karma? What do you do with karma?” And I’d say, “What do you want to do in your life? What do you need in your life?” So I have two friends, they’re ladies in New York and they were working for a big advertising agency. They said, “We want to become successful, we want to have our own advertising agency.” So I explained to them what we [in the monastery] learned about karma, and there would be a special karma for making a successful ad agency. So they quit their jobs, they started their own ad agency in their own apartment and now they have a couple hundred people working for them, they have a big skyscraper in New York, they make 1.2 billion dollars per year. And other people came to me and they said, “Oh I have a problem with my health. I have cancer or something like that, what’s the karma? How do you fix that with karma?” So I used to help them, and they haven’t had cancer in 10 years. Some other people said, “I’d like to find a nice boy” or “I’d like to find a nice partner” and I taught them the kind of karma that I was trained in the monastery — what kind of karma you need to find a nice boy? And then they use it and they found a beautiful boy and then they asked me to come and do the marriage ceremony for them. So my idea, Oprah, is that we could have a show called “The Karma Show” and I could explain to people, people can come on the show and say: “I have this problem”, or “I’m looking for this kind of thing to happen in my life,” “I feel too stressed,” or “I need to improve my finances,” or “I’d like to find a nice boy or girl.” And then we can sit there on the show, they can explain to me what they’d like in their lives what they’re looking for and then I can explain to them what karma they need to do to get what they want. And then other people can watch it, they can try the same karma to get everything they want: it could be money, it could be a new job, it could be a nice partner, it could be they have some health problems. But I thought it would be cool to have a show called “The Karma Show” and people can come on the show and we help them get whatever they want, whatever they dream of, and this is a real idea, it really works, I’ve done it with a lot of people. I think it’d be a lot of fun so I hope everyone would like this kind of karma show idea.

It is undeniable that Geshe Michael did not get what he wanted, so why does he travel the world marketing his failed method? Continue reading