Michael Roach

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Geshe Michael Roach
School Gelugpa (Reformed)
Education Princeton University
Sera Monastery
Nationality American
Born (1952-12-17) December 17, 1952 (age 64)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Partner Christie McNally (2003–2009)
Senior posting
Based in Phoenix, Arizona
Title Geshe
Religious career
Website aciphx.org

Michael Roach (born December 17, 1952) is an American non-traditional teacher of Tibetan Buddhism. Ordained as a Gelugpa monk, he was the first American to receive the Geshe degree at Sera Monastery in Tibet.[1] He has started a number of businesses and organizations, written books about Buddhism, and translated Tibetan Buddhist teachings.

Roach has written and lectured that yoga, meditation, and a practice of helping others—even competitors—leads to financial prosperity.[2] He has at times been the center of controversy for his views, teachings, activities, and behavior.[3][4][5][2][6]


Michael Roach was born in Los Angeles, California in 1952 to Episcopalian parents, and grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. After his high school graduation, he received the Presidential Scholars Medallion from U.S. President Richard Nixon [reference?], then attended Princeton University in 1972[reference?]. He traveled to India in 1973 to seek Buddhist instruction, while still in college. He returned to the United States and received a scholarship to return to study in India in 1974. While in India, Roach learned about a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in New Jersey led by a Mongolian-born lama, Sermey Khensur Lobsang Tharchin. Roach returned to Princeton, living at the monastery from 1975 to 1981.[7] In the year before his graduation in 1975, both of his parents died due to cancer and then his brother committed suicide.[8] In 1983 he was ordained as a Gelugpa Buddhist monk at Sera Monastery in South India, where he would periodically travel and study.[9] In 1995, he became the first American to qualify for the Geshe degree.[10]

Beginning in 1981, Roach helped found and run Andin International, a jewelry manufacturer based in New York. He used proceeds from his work to set up financial endowments to fund various projects, in particular the Sera Mey Food Fund.[11]

Roach used these experiences as the basis for a book, The Diamond Cutter, in which he explains how to apply the lessons of the Diamond Cutter Sutra in the context of business.[12]

In 1987, Roach founded the Asian Classics Input Project (ACIP). He founded ACIP with the goal of producing a complete and electronically searchable version of the Kangyur and Tengyur, together with related philosophical commentaries and dictionaries.[13] ACIP has input over 8,500 texts—nearly half a million pages—which it has made available for free. ACIP also provides a means of earning income for many Tibetan refugees.[14]

From 1993 to 1999, Roach developed and taught 18 courses on Tibetan Buddhism in New York City. These courses were based on the training monks receive in Tibetan monasteries, but organized to be taught in a conventional western setting.[15][16][17]

From 2000 to 2003, Roach organized and led a three-year silent retreat in the Arizona desert with five other participants including another American Buddhist, Christie McNally, with whom Roach had a complex and controversial relationship. The retreat was run along guidelines modified for modern times from ancient Tibetan traditions.[11][18]

In 2004, Roach established Diamond Mountain Center, a Buddhist retreat center and seminary in Arizona.[19]


Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally

In 1996, Christie McNally became Roach's student and they began a "spiritual partnership" in which they took vows that included never being more than 15 feet apart, eating from the same plate, reading the same books together.[19] They were married in a Christian ceremony in Rhode Island in 1998. The marriage was kept secret. When news of the marriage emerged in 2003, Roach explained to the New York Times that they had wished to honor their Christian heritage and that he wanted McNally to be entitled to his possessions if something happened to him. [20]

Marriage is a breach of Gelug monastic vows.[3][19][21][6] Professor Robert Thurman urged Roach to "renounce his monastic vows and to stop wearing the robes that mark him as a member of a monastic order." Lama Surya Das has also questioned the wisdom of the partnership.[19]

When Roach proposed to teach in Dharamshala in 2006, the Office of the Dalai Lama rebuffed his plan, stating that Roach's "unconventional behavior does not accord with His Holiness’s teachings and practices";[19] the teaching took place in nearby Palampur instead.

McNally and Roach separated in the middle of 2009.[20][22]

Death of Ian Thorson[edit]

Ian Thorson was a close student of Roach and McNally and served as their attendant. In 2010, one year after the dissolution of her marriage to Roach, McNally married Thorson.[19] A few weeks later, they entered a three-year retreat at the Diamond Mountain Center; McNally was appointed as the retreat director and guiding teacher.[23] After reports emerged of a series of erratic and even violent episodes between Thorson and McNally, and bizarre behavior by McNally in talks to the community, the Diamond Mountain board of directors asked McNally and her husband to leave the retreat, giving them a few hundred dollars and offering them airfare to any desired destination.[24] Thorson and McNally left the Diamond Mountain property, setting up camp in a cave on Bureau of Land Management property within the retreat boundaries, secretly supplied by a number of retreat participants who felt themselves loyal to the pair. Thorson, aged 38, died in April 2012 of dehydration and exposure while McNally, then 39, would recover from dehydration and exposure.[2][3][4][5][25][26][23] The incident was reported in the media and a number of former students of Roach voiced criticisms.[19]


  • The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life, Three Leaves, 2000. ISBN 0-385-49791-1
  • The Essential Yoga Sutra: Ancient Wisdom for Your Yoga, with Christie McNally, Three Leaves, 2005. ISBN 0-385-51536-7
  • The Garden: A Parable, Image, 2000. ISBN 0-385-49789-X
  • How Yoga Works: Healing Yourself and Others With The Yoga Sutra, with Christie McNally. Diamond Cutter Press, 2005. ISBN 0-9765469-0-6
  • The Tibetan Book of Yoga: Ancient Buddhist Teachings on the Philosophy and Practice of Yoga, Doubleday, 2004. ISBN 0-385-50837-9


  1. ^ Seager, Richard Hughes (2000). Buddhism in America. Columbia University Press. pp. 122, 160. ISBN 0-231-10868-0. 
  2. ^ a b c Adams, Guy (7 June 2012). "The death of yoga student Ian Thorson – and the 'wall of meditative silence' that met police". The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, London. Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Santos, Fernanda (2012-06-05). "Mysterious Buddhist Retreat Ends in a Grisly Death". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ a b Page 2: Buddhist Yoga Retreat Death Raises Questions on Ariz. Monk's 'Enlightenment' Preaching - ABC News
  5. ^ a b Buddhist partnership ends in divorce, remarriage, and now death: What happens when a couple never strays more than 15 feet from each other? - Slate Magazine
  6. ^ a b Burleigh, Nina (6 June 2013). "Sex and Death on the Road to Nirvana". Rolling Stone. Jann S. Wenner, New York. Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  7. ^ Essays to Answer Questions from my Friends. ~ Geshe Michael Roach | elephant journal
  8. ^ Paine, Jeffrey (2005). Adventures With The Buddha. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 369–373. ISBN 0-393-05906-5. 
  9. ^ "Geshe Michael Roach". Diamond Mountain. Retrieved 2012-06-09. 
  10. ^ Seager, Richard (1999). Buddhism in America. Columbia University Press. pp. 259–260. ISBN 0-231-10869-9. 
  11. ^ a b Furber, Matt (2004-04-09). "Yoga and meditation mix to improve business acumen". Idaho Mountain Express. Retrieved 2008-01-02. 
  12. ^ "Kindle Book Review: The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life". Business Insider. June 2011. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 
  13. ^ Seager, Richard (1999). Buddhism in America. Columbia University Press. pp. 122–123. ISBN 0-231-10869-9. 
  14. ^ "Overview—Asian Classics Input Project". Retrieved 2011-06-02. 
  15. ^ "The Principal Teachings of Buddhism". 1993. Retrieved 2011-06-02. 
  16. ^ "The Great Ideas of Buddhism, Part 3". 1999. Retrieved 2011-06-02. 
  17. ^ "Asian Classics Institute". Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  18. ^ Wilson, Jeff (2000). The Buddhist Guide to New York. St. Martin's Press. p. 85. ISBN 0-312-26715-0. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Leslie Kaufman (May 15, 2008). "Making Their Own Limits in a Spiritual Partnership". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  20. ^ a b Fernanda Santos, "Mysterious Yoga Retreat in the Desert Ends in a Grisly Death", New York Times, 6 June 2012.
  21. ^ Harris, Dan; Przygoda, Dan (8 June 2012). "Buddhist Yoga Retreat Death Raises Questions on Ariz. Monk's 'Enlightenment' Preaching". ABC News. ABC News Internet Ventures. Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  22. ^ Beth Landman (Feb 11, 2010). "Monk-y Business: Controversial NYC guru Michael Roach". Page Six Magazine. Retrieved 2010-06-24. 
  23. ^ a b Roach, Michael (April 26, 2012). "An Open Letter from Geshe Michael". Diamond Mountain Center. 
  24. ^ http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/sex-and-death-on-the-road-to-nirvana-20130606
  25. ^ "Mysterious desert yoga retreat where they'd pledged not to speak for three years ends in grisly death of love rival who married head monk's secret wife". Daily Mail. London. 
  26. ^ Case closed in death of former participant at Buddhist retreat - Arizona Range News: News

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