In the category of tragic and troublesome comes a story of creepy cult stuff and death, this time out of the supposed sanctum of a Buddhist retreat center. The April 22nd death of Ian Thornson, a 38-year-old Buddhist practitioner at Geshe Michael Roach’s Diamond Mountain in Arizona, has been much cause for concern, investigation and unanswered questions.
In December 2010 Ian and 39 others an had set off on the “Great Retreat,” 3 years, 3 months and 3 days. On April 22, 2012 he was found dead in a cave of apparent dehydration.
We were first alerted to something fishy by YogaCityNYC’s post. Though not entirely yoga related, this story brings to light a disturbing chain of events revealing, as Matthew Remski pointed out, alignment with cult-like “spirituality-induced delusions of grandeur, magical thinking, denial, and Stockholm Syndrome symptoms.” That sounds vaguely familiar.
This is some crazy shit if Remski’s research and personal experience check out.
He writes via elephant journal:
Ian Thorson, 38, died on the morning of 4/22/12 of apparent dehydration in a cave in southeastern Arizona, after having been banished by the administration of nearby Diamond Mountain University, which is under the leadership of “Geshe” Michael Roach. Thorson’s wife, “Lama” Christie McNally, was rescued from the death scene by helicopter. Thorson had for years exhibited signs of mental illness and violence towards others, including McNally, who had recently stabbed him, presumably in self-defence.
Remski goes way in-depth about the underground connections and seediness and yes, sexual relations, guru worship and the alleged shady ethics of Geshe Michael Roach. Remski is calling for Geshe Michael to step down and for the board to step in and protect the safety of the remaining retreat goers.
Read the whole tale in all its disturbing glory here.
Letter from Geshe Michael posted April 26th on the Diamond Mountain website.
When all signs say…. ‘cult’ by Justin Whitaker (patheos.com)
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I have been reading about wacky stuff and Roach for years. Once again, something like this proves, just like with John Friend, that there are plenty of willing people who are willing to prop these guys up and look the other way.
Me too, Linda. Michael Roach is hella shady. So sad for Ian Thorson’s family.
Thanks for picking up this story; just heard of it yesterday, and am surprised at how little coverage it’s gotten in mainstream media. I have a dear friend there, and am very worried for her safety. Please keep us posted as news develops —
He may be shady (and so might she), but the book How Yoga Works by him is *great* very well done.
I guess that’s like saying that Anusara method is great, who gives a flip about JF? 😉
Jenifer, I’m in the middle of reading How Yoga Works. We read The Diamond Cutter in my ytt. A teacher once told me “take the teachings, not the teacher.” However, I’m having a hard time digesting this.
Knew of Roach from reading The Diamond Cutter and when How Yoga Works came out I began using it as a text for a yoga discussion group. It worked very well. So I got more interested in Roach and looked for writings/clips. What I found was unintelligible. At least I thought so. I really wanted to hear what the guy had to say and what I found was just empty. I am mindful that a master may have a practice that I can’t understand. But as a student I won’t align myself with a teacher who sits at such a great distance from me. In my view, the work of the teacher is the student. And I hold that a good and honest teacher engages the student on a humane basis that the student can understand and find relevant. How Yoga Works not withstanding, and maybe it’s my failing, but I just couldn’t see that in Roach.
Spiritual partnership and controversy
Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally
In 1996, Christie McNally, then a recent college graduate, became Roach’s student. In time, they began what they referred to as an intimate yet celibate “spiritual partnership” in which they took vows that included never being 15 feet apart. Though kept secret for a number of years, they went public with their relationship in 2003. This disclosure led to controversy in the Tibetan Buddhist community. Famed Tibetan scholar, former monk and friend of Roach, Robert Thurman, urged him to renounce his monastic vows, and when he refused, stopped speaking to him; the Dalai Lama stated Roach’s “unconventional behavior does not accord with His Holiness’s teachings and practices” and forbade him from teaching in Dharamsala in 2006.
Roach and McNally’s partnership ended in 2009 when McNally began a relationship with one of their students, Ian Thorson, whom she later married, though Roach and McNally continued to teach together. McNally and Thorson also began to teach yoga together, and authored a book.
Here’s a bit on that retreat which it seems, if the writer is correct, was also led by McNally – “… Lama Christie and Geshe Michael plan to undertake their second Three-Year Retreat starting in 10/10/10. ”
The McNally and Thorson Two as One website: http://www.twoasoneyoga.com/lama-christie-mcnally-and-ian-thorson-bios
And some familiar bullshit:
Despite their personal drama, Geshe Michael says he and Christie will still teach together at Diamond Mountain in the spring, though post-breakup, they’ll surely bring a different message to their followers. “I will tell them that whenever something difficult happens, you have to try to use it as a path,” he says. “You should see your partner as an angel who came to teach you. I look at Christie that way—the education is finished and now she is teaching a new person. If you try to see it that way, it helps your heart to hurt less.”
Meanwhile, Geshe Michael laughs off questions about the clubbing and the Russian girl, saying, “If we don’t make it fun and healthy, Buddhism will die out.” (*Mia’s name has been changed.)
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/pagesixmag/issues/20100211/Monk+y+Business+Controversial+NYC+guru+Michael+Roach#ixzz1uNKWLjvr
“Forgive me for I have sinned (Now let’s move on).” Where have we heard that lately?
i just published a follow-up that delves a little more deeply into the issues raised by the 660+ comments on teh original… http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/05/tragedy-at-diamond-mountain-an-update/