And it’s completely wrong for an ordained person to have any form of sexual activity. It’s completely forbidden. It’s the first of all monks’ vows. And a monk can never engage in sexual activity at all. And I never have…. I never broke any of those vows in a major way. I never had any kind of sexual contact with a woman since I was 21 or 22. And then in very extraordinary rare cases, it’s important, it’s useful, to do special kind of physical yoga with a divine being. And in the vinaya texts, I think even in the Tsotik, which is the basic huge vinaya text for the monasteries, you don’t break your vows if you engage in high yoga with a divine being. It isn’t anything normal at all.
Not normal at all was when Geshe Michael and Christie McNally ordained their student Eric Brinkman as Ven. Lobsang Nyingpo in 2006, and arranged the marriage of this monk to Mercedes Bahleda — the personal assistant of Geshe Michael. This marriage was revealed in a recently published book A Death on Diamond Mountain: “Mercedes Bahleda and Eric Brinkman (Nyingpo) gave me a lengthy interview together while we were in Phoenix but neglected to mention that they were married. I learned of the story of their arranged marriage from several people who attended the ceremony.” A DCI document about travel and lodging arrangements for staff in 2013 confirms their marital status: “Eric and Mercedes are married and can share a double bed.” In a video, Bahleda called it “an arranged marriage” because it was neither her idea nor the monk’s. Let’s hope Bahleda, who can sing like an angel, is a divine being and Ven. Nyingpo can perform miracles.
In old Tibet, to have permission to practice sexual yoga, a monk of the Gelug tradition needed to perform a miracle to “demonstrate that he had control over the elements, which obviously meant he also had control over all his inner winds, and so on, and energies, so that he could practice in this way without violating any of his vows.” During the time of the previous Dalai Lama when each large Gelug monastery housed thousands, only two monks were deemed qualified for the practice, one was a monk from Ganden monastery:
[Serkong Dorjey-chang] had attained the stage of anuttarayoga tantra at which he could practice special yoga techniques with a consort to reach the deepest level of mind. This advanced point on the complete stage requires full mastery of the subtle energy system, with total control over both internal and external matter and energy. His vows of celibacy would normally prohibit him from such practice. When His Holiness the Thirteenth Dalai Lama asked for proof of his attainment, Serkong Dorjey-chang tied a yak horn into a knot and presented it. Convinced, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama permitted Serkong Dorjey-chang to keep his monastic holdings while practicing at this level.
That was the standard of the 13th Dalai Lama (1876-1933). The current 14th Dalai Lama “said he didn’t know how to do this practice” and explained: “… I’m a monk, so it is never appropriate. Truthfully, you can only do such practice if there is no sexual desire whatsoever.” He further explained that an extraordinary equanimity of mind is the minimal requirement to practice sexual yoga:
[A student] asked, “How many lamas or teachers can do this [practice]?” The Dalai Lama replied, “Very few.” One intrepid woman pursued this further, “Well, who?” And he thought for a while and then he looked up and said, “Zero. Nobody that I can think of.”
Given that the Dalai Lama did not know how to practice sexual yoga and Geshe Michael failed to perform miracles when asked three times by lineage lamas, it is not known why Geshe Michael practiced it and imposed such an advanced practice on a junior monk. This line of married monks is utterly against the Gelug tradition whose founder was Je Tsongkhapa (1357–1419): “Tsong Khapa was a reformer whose writings and biography indicate he was deeply concerned with the rising popularity of sexual yogas and practices that he considered to be problematic….and he denounced monks who violated their vows by engaging in sexual practices.” Continue reading
When you achieve the path of seeing, when you see emptiness directly, I think a minor realization is that you could control the elements. And it happened that my lama asked me to turn a brick into gold, just after that. And it was a funny statement, because I knew that if I trained further I could do it. You know what I mean? But I couldn’t do it then. He just said that right after the experience. He pointed to a brick and said that, and so I understand that it can be done, and I see how it could be done, but I’m not at that level, and I can’t do those kinds of things.
As of 2003, despite almost three decades of further training, Geshe Michael still failed the challenge, even with three years spent in retreat. Nevertheless, near the end of the retreat (2000-2003), Geshe Michael wrote to highly respected lamas a letter seemingly to request a few endorsing words for his upcoming Tibetan Book of Yoga, but actually to inform them of his spiritual attainment back in 1975 and thus to seek their support for his practicing sexual yoga while still in monk’s robes. For the well-qualified and thoroughly-prepared, the esoteric and highly-advanced practice is said to be capable of bringing full enlightenment in this lifetime; but in the Dalai Lama’s monastic tradition, a monk is celibate, and unless he could demonstrate extraordinary attainment, he would need to return monastic vows to take up the practice as a lay yogi.
A few lamas replied with endorsing statements for the book as had been requested, but their endorsements were left out when the book was published. The lamas who had lived in the West were alarmed and disapproving. His root lama, usually addressed as Khen Rinpoche (“the Abbot”), declined to write any endorsement; as did the Dalai Lama who has written forewords for many books by various authors. According to Geshe Michael’s former student Matthew Remski: “His Holiness was said to have dropped his tea cup when he heard the news [of Geshe Michael’s sexual yoga practice].” Lama Zopa Rinpoche, who had met Christie McNally but was unaware of Geshe Michael’s secret marriage to her, wrote a few prayers for the book and:
1) expressed concerns about Geshe Michael’s practice of sexual yoga: “If your conduct will be the way you explained in the letter, then it will not be normal from the monasteries point of view…”
2) suggested Geshe Michael to support his claim of attainment: “one should be able to perform miracle powers, show control or freedom like Milarepa or like any of those yogis such as Dukpa Kunleg…”
3) hinted at a mythic control over the genital organ for a monk to engage in sexual yoga: “it is not just an ordinary miracle that is needed, one needs to do a special kind of miracle, for example the 6th Dalai Lama pee-ed from the top of the Potala [palace] and just before the urine hit the ground he drew it back again inside his vajra [male organ]. Also there is the story of the previous incarnation of Gonsar Rinpoche, he pulled in mud through his vajra.”
Geshe Michael failed to step up to the challenge, and was no longer welcome to teach at Lama Zopa’s FPMT centers. It is unclear why his “karmic management” failed to earn him approvals from lineage lamas.
Three years later, in 2006, Geshe Michael restated his qualifications in email exchanges with the Office of the Dalai Lama, but the Office replied twice expressing concerns over his “observation of the Vinaya [monastic] vows” and his claim of realization: “If you have reached the path of seeing, as you claim in your letter, you should then be able show extraordinary powers and perform miracles like the Siddhas of the past. Only then will the followers of Tibetan Buddhis[m] be able to believe and accept your claims.” Geshe Michael again failed to step up, and was no longer welcome in the town of Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama lives. In addition to not welcoming his presence, the Office also refused $2000 which was Geshe Michael’s idea of a birthday gift to the Dalai Lama. It is unclear why his seed planting failed to work on the Dalai Lama and his officials. Continue reading
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?” Continue reading