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 is he traveling the world marketing his failed method as the way to success?
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.” – Geshe Michael, 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, your chance of success is: 100%.” – Geshe Michael, Beijing, 5/2015
➟ 2 examples which show his method is doctrinally unsound: “state of mind” and “four steps” (coming up)
… After some years, I thought I would like to do some kind of project to help Tibetan refugees, and I didn’t know how to raise the money, and then I asked my lamas and they taught me some special principles of karma which I could use to apply in business to help the refugees, so I did start a business which is now earning $250 million in sales a year. I’ve been using that money for 25 years to help the refugees, and I would like to help other NGOs and other charitable organizations to learn these principles that I used to raise money for their projects.
Given that Geshe Michael failed to get selected, it’s questionable whether those “special principles of karma” actually helped make millions for Andin International Inc. — where he was first hired as “an errand boy” by the two Israeli entrepreneurs who founded the company.
It is not clear how Geshe Michael, with degrees from Princeton and Sera Mey, managed to fail while many have given talks at TED, including at least five Buddhists: Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard was invited to speak in 2008, Buddhist author Robert Thurman — who had reminded Geshe Michael to follow monastic rules — spoke in 2007, Buddhist master Ogyen Trinley Dorje spoke in 2010, Zen teacher Joan Halifax spoke in 2011, and meditation teacher Andy Puddicombe spoke in 2013.
According to the pitch, it was Geshe Michael who came up with the idea of helping Tibetan refugees, but at other times he gave different and contradictory accounts:
– It was his root lama who asked him to help the Tibetans and insisted on the diamond business(!) and he reluctantly agreed to go to work at Andin in 1981.
– It was multiple lamas who requested him to start a diamond business after he had passed the geshe exam in 1995, and he reluctantly complied.
– It was his idea and he willingly and deliberately chose to work at Andin, not necessarily to help the Tibetans, but to be near diamonds and be reminded of the spiritual experience of seeing emptiness (“that’s the only reason that I did it” and “for no other reason”).
It is not clear which version is true or somewhat true, and which invented.
Editor’s note: Geshe Michael’s pitch was uploaded to his Youtube channel at least 3 years ago, but was removed probably in the past year. Some of his other videos have also disappeared after his statements were challenged on this blog. If his claims were true, why was it necessary to remove the videos? But as Geshe Michael said back in 1994: "Once it’s on the Internet, how can you stop it?" Some of our readers had the foresight to save the videos and have made them available in accordance with fair dealing and fair use principles. Continue reading
So we just got back from India. We try to go every year to get recharged and learn new things…. And then every year we say, we are not going to get sick this time, you know. We’re definitely not going to get diarrhoea this time, you know…. So this time, … we took one suitcase full of Cheerios, like eight boxes of Cheerios in this suitcase and then we had our own olives and we had our own coco and we have somebody in India went and set up an ultraviolet water purification system and then we boiled that afterwards it was purified. And we didn’t eat anywhere and we cooked everything ourselves and we boiled everything twice. And then the first day we got diarrhoea.
So all the things which you think would be healthy to eat, right, so you look at a glass of milk, somebody hands you a glass of milk in India. Or they just hand you a glass of water, right, you can’t get a glass of water in India, you can’t get a glass of water which you can drink. So here is this thing, you are looking at it, will this kill me, you see. And I am talking literal, you know. Like we were very sick there and there is nothing you can do, because the penicillin is bad too, you see, I am not kidding, I am not kidding. Maybe somebody in the factory wanted an extra 50 cents, they threw in some rat poison or something, you see. So you look at all the objects in the store, you go in a store and you look around and you say, everything in here, in this store that I could buy to make myself strong and healthy, or just to eat today, any one of them could kill me. And you start to get paranoid, you get really paranoid. You buy these bottles of water, right, very expensive. You buy bottled water, people open it, they pour out the bottled water, they pour in the dirty water. They glue it back shut. And they sell it to the foreigners, you know. So you got this bottle of water and you don’t know. Maybe this bottle of water will kill me, maybe I won’t get back to Tucson, you know. It’s a real thought go through your mind like the fifth week you have diarrhoea, you can’t eat, you can’t … you lose like 20 lbs and you are like, I don’t know if I’ll make it back, you know.”
It is not clear how millions of tourists who visit India every year and tens of thousands of expats who live there manage to be in good health, but not the holy couple — Geshe Michael had proclaimed McNally a goddess and himself an Arya Bodhisattva, but it’s questionable if an Arya would have viewed the local populace with such prejudice and paranoia. Continue reading
There was one lady and she raised her hand and she said, “That’s sounds a little selfish or self-serving, you know… So it sounds like you are just helping other people because you want to get something for yourself. That doesn’t sound very Christian in a way.” And I said, “Let’s say I want a candy bar, okay, so I am a Buddhist monk, I’ve studied for many years, I know how to get a candy bar. How? I have to give one away. I have to, you see, and not just one. If you give away one, you get like seven back. I know the odds, I know how it works. [laughter] No, I built a $250 million company, I know how it goes. How? I just kept giving the money, you see. So I know how it works… So if I give you a candy bar, one person has a candy bar. Because I gave you a candy bar, that echo bounces off you, comes back to me, echos are always bigger… And I know that and I play the odds, I play that, very consciously. You get the things you are looking for. So you give the candy bar, you know you are going to get it back. So if I give you candy bar, then how many candy bars are the people in this room enjoying it, so far? It’s one, right. And then I get seven candy bars back. Then how many people are enjoying candy? Two. I have doubled the amount of candy bar in the room, you see. Why did I do it? Does it matter? Does it really matter? Yeah, of course I wanted seven candy bars back but to get that I have to give you a candy bar. So now I doubled the happiness in the room. I doubled the candy bar eating in the room, which is ultimate goal in mind, you see. And you see, if you keep this up, lets say you keep it up with money, right. To get my company to grow, I had to give money to the Tibetan refugees, I had to, no choice. So they got money and I got money. So I just doubled the amount of money, you see. That’s good that’s the goodness.”
If Geshe Michael’s “karmic management” — which he supposedly learned from Tibetan lamas — could quickly and easily bring results in this life, the Tibetans would have used it themselves to become perhaps the wealthiest people in the world. How karma works is not so simplistic as Geshe Michael presents, and the type of calculated giving that he promotes is not compatible with Christianity or Buddhism. The first and foremost Buddhist practice is the “perfection of giving” (dana paramita) and its purpose is not to acquire material possessions, but to let go of our habitual possessiveness.
Expecting a high return on investment, Geshe Michael plays the odds “very consciously,” but Buddhist teachers throughout history have emphasized a selfless generosity which is free of any self-serving motivation:
The practice of all the Bodhisattvas is to give out of generosity, with no hopes of karmic recompense or expectation of reward.” – Gyalse Tokme Zangpo (1297-1371)
Also you must practice giving without expecting anything in return, or any [karmic] ripening effects.” – Pabongka Rinpoche