Michael Roach

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Michael Roach
Michael Roach

(1952-12-17) December 17, 1952 (age 70)
SchoolGelugpa (Reformed)
LineageRashi Gempil Ling Temple
EducationPrinceton University
Sera Monastery
Gemological Institute of America Inc.
Senior posting
Based inPhoenix, Arizona

Michael Roach (born December 17, 1952) is am American who has started a number of businesses and organizations, written books inspired by Buddhism, and translated Tibetan Buddhist teachings. He has at times been the center of controversy for his views, teachings, activities, and behavior.[1][2][3][4][5]

Life and career

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,[6] then attended Princeton University in 1972.[6] 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 largely due to financially supporting monasteries as an honorary degree.[10]

From 1993 to 1999, Roach developed and taught 18 courses loosely inspired by Tibetan Buddhism in New York City. These courses were based on the training monks receive in Tibetan monasteries, but organized to be taught by laypeople in a few months or less.[11][12][13]

From 2000 to 2003, Roach organized and led a three-year silent retreat in the Arizona desert with five other participants, including Christie McNally with whom Roach had a complex and controversial relationship and shared a room with during this time. The retreat was run along guidelines that fall outside of Tibetan traditions.[14][15]

In 2004, Roach established Diamond Mountain Center, a retreat center in Arizona.[16]

Business career

In 1981, Khen Rinpoche, the teacher of Roach, instructed him to set up a business in Manhattan to help Tibetan refugees.[17] Since then, Roach has helped to found and develop the corporation Andin International, a jewelry manufacturer based in New York. The activities of Andin International started with a loan of $50,000 and three employees. By the time Roach left the firm in 1999 as vice president, the company's annual turnover was $100 million per year.[17] In 2009, Andin achieved a turnover of more than 200 million dollars, and was acquired by Richline Group Warren Buffett. He used the money from his work to create funds to finance various projects, such as food fund Sera Mey.[18]

In 1999, the publishing house Doubleday Corporation, which is now part of Penguin Random House, invited Roach to write a book about the style of management for. He used his life experience as the basis for the book "Diamond Cutter", in which he explains how to apply the lessons of the Sutra of the Diamond Cutter (Diamond Sutra) in the context of business.[19]

Charity work

In 1987, Roach founded the Asian Classics Input Project (ACIP).[20] He founded this project in order to create a complete and accessible version of Kangyur and Tanjur in electronic form along with related philosophical commentaries and dictionaries. ACIP contains more than 8500 texts - almost half a million pages, which he provided for free, and has digitized 15286 books over the course of 31 years. It is one of many non-profits that sell Roach's teachings to the public.[21][22]

ACIP donates to many causes.[23]


Blood diamonds

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.[14]

Roach had selected Surat, known as the Diamond City of India, in the Indian state of Gujarat, one of the top zones in the trade of blood diamonds, as his primary source for diamonds. As the chief diamond procurer of Andin International, nearly every diamond the company sold went through Roach's hands for inspection.[24]


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.[16] 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.[25]

Marriage is a breach of Gelug monastic vows.[1][16][26][5] 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.[16]

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";[16] the teaching took place in nearby Palampur instead.

McNally and Roach separated in the middle of 2009.[25][27]

Sexual misconduct

In 2005, during a tantric initiation practice, retreatant Sid Johnson, a musician who was briefly on the board of directors of Roach's organization Diamond Mountain, recalls that Roach invited him to lie down in his and Christie McNally's bed. She then began to massage him from his head down to his penis before finishing with a kiss on the lips.[28] Roach was part of a handful of Western Tibetan Buddhist teachers facing such allegations in the 2000s including Surya Das and Ken McLeod.[29] He was said to have multiple sexually promiscuous relationships while still donning monk's robes.[30]

Death of Ian Thorson

Ian Thorson was a close student of Roach and McNally and served as their attendant after he began attending lectures at Three Jewels Outreach Center in New York City in 1997.[31] In 2000, Thorson's mother hired anti-cult investigators to stage an intervention after her suspicions grew.[28] In 2010, one year after the dissolution of her marriage to Roach, McNally married Thorson.[16] 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.[32] 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.[33] 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.[4][1][2][3][34][32] Authorities said that there was no suspected foul play in his death, and that there was no criminal responsibility on behalf of Roach.[35] However, several journalists have noted that Roach's unorthodox teachings through ACI fostered dangerous outcomes.[36][37] The whereabouts of McNally have been unknown since this deadly incident.


Roach has fielded critiques of cult like behavior after his many controversies. In an interview with NBC News, Robert Thurman, Columbia University Professor of Buddhism, says Roach's organizations have "become a kind of cult although there is a lot of good learning in it".[38] Roach has been uninvited to teach at FPMT centers across the globe in addition to being publicly rebuked by the office of the Dalai Lama.[39] When asked in an interview about his admission of realizing emptiness, generally looked down upon in Buddhist circles, Roach says, "if a lot of people thought I was being a bad person or a bad monk or even a corrupt person, that was less important than doing what I felt a divine being wanted me to do, even if everyone thought it was crazy. And I’ve never had a doubt about that. I think that it's more important for me to get enlightened and to follow what I perceive to be direct divine instructions than to be thought of as a bad person."[40]


  • 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
  • China Love You: The Death of Global Competition, Diamond Cutter Press, 2017. ISBN 978-0692794272
  • Karmic Management: What Goes Around Comes Around in Your Business and Your Life, Doubleday Publishing, 2009. ISBN 978-0385528740
  • The Karma of Love: 100 Answers for Your Relationship, Diamond Cutter Press, 2013. ISBN 978-1937114060
  • The 5 Books of the Diamond Cutter Institute Teacher Training Course, Diamond Cutter Institute, 2017. Multiple ISBN's
  • The 9 Books of the Diamond Cutter Institute Management Training Course, Diamond Cutter Institute, 2010–2016. Multiple ISBN's
  • The Garden: A Parable, Doubleday Publishing, 2000 / 210 pages. ISBN 978-0385497893
  • The Eastern Path to Heaven: A Guide to Happiness from the Teachings of Jesus in Tibet, Seabury Books, 2008. ISBN 978-1596270978
  • The Logic & Debate Tradition of India, Tibet, & Mongolia (co-translator), MSTP Press, 1979 / 281 pages. ISBN 0918753007
  • King of the Dharma: The Illustrated Life of Je Tsongkapa (1357—1419), Diamond Cutter Press, 2008. ISBN 1937114015
  • King Udrayana & The Wheel of Life (co-translator), MSTP Press, 1985. ISBN 0918753058
  • The Principal Teachings of Buddhism, by Je Tsongkapa (1357—1419) (co-translator), Classics of Middle Asia Series, MSTP Press, 1989. ISBN 978-8120817128
  • The 18 Books of the Foundation Course in Buddhism (translator), Asian Classics Institute; 1993–1999. multiple ISBN's
  • Preparing for Tantra: The Mountain of Blessings, by Je Tsongkapa (1357—1419) (co-translator), Classics of Middle Asia Series, MSTP Press, 1995. ISBN 9780918753113
  • The 18 Books of the Advanced Course in Buddhism (translator), Asian Classics Institute & Diamond Mountain Retreat Center; 2003–2010. multiple ISBNs


  1. ^ a b c Santos, Fernanda (2012-06-05). "Mysterious Buddhist Retreat Ends in a Grisly Death". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b "Buddhist Yoga Retreat Death Raises Questions on Ariz. Monk's 'Enlightenment' Preaching". ABC News.
  3. ^ a b Plotz, Hanna Rosin, David (June 6, 2012). "Plotz and Rosin: We Decided to Imitate the Buddhist Couple Who're Never More Than 15 Feet Apart. Here's What Happened". Slate Magazine.
  4. ^ a b 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. Archived from the original on 2022-05-14. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ a b United States. Commission on Presidential Scholars. Presidential scholars. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Washington : U.S. Commission on Presidential Scholars.
  7. ^ "Essays to Answer Questions from my Friends. ~ Geshe Michael Roach | elephant journal". June 6, 2012.
  8. ^ Paine, Jeffrey (2005). Adventures With The Buddha. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 369–373. ISBN 978-0-393-05906-9.
  9. ^ "Geshe Michael Roach". Diamond Mountain. Archived from the original on 2012-06-06. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
  10. ^ Seager, Richard (1999). Buddhism in America. Columbia University Press. pp. 259–260. ISBN 978-0-231-10869-0.
  11. ^ "The Principal Teachings of Buddhism". 1993. Archived from the original on 2010-11-11. Retrieved 2011-06-02.
  12. ^ "The Great Ideas of Buddhism, Part 3". 1999. Archived from the original on 2010-11-11. Retrieved 2011-06-02.
  13. ^ "Asian Classics Institute". Retrieved June 22, 2012.
  14. ^ a b Furber, Matt (2004-04-09). "Yoga and meditation mix to improve business acumen". Idaho Mountain Express. Archived from the original on 2013-01-03. Retrieved 2008-01-02.
  15. ^ Wilson, Jeff (2000). The Buddhist Guide to New York. St. Martin's Press. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-312-26715-5.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Leslie Kaufman (May 15, 2008). "Making Their Own Limits in a Spiritual Partnership". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
  17. ^ a b "Geshe Michael Roach". www.geshemichaelroach.com. Archived from the original on 2018-04-26. Retrieved 2018-07-12.
  18. ^ "idaho mountain express : Yoga and meditation mix to improve business …". archive.is. 2013-01-03. Archived from the original on 2013-01-03. Retrieved 2018-07-12.
  19. ^ "Kindle Book Review: The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your B…". archive.is. 2013-01-18. Archived from the original on 2013-01-18. Retrieved 2018-07-12.
  20. ^ "Asian Classics Input Project". Asian Classics Input Project. Retrieved 2018-07-12.
  21. ^ Hughes., Seager, Richard (1999). Buddhism in America. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0231108683. OCLC 40481142.
  22. ^ Baird, Forrest (2017-10-03). Philosophic Classics: Asian Philosophy, Volume VI. doi:10.4324/9781351217460. ISBN 9781351217460.
  23. ^ Барысюк, Таццяна (2013). "Мая Танкiяна". Białorutenistyka Białostocka. 5: 441–451. doi:10.15290/bb.2013.05.29. ISSN 2081-2515.
  24. ^ Carney, Scott (2017). The Enlightenment Trap: Obsession, Madness and Death on Diamond Mountain. pp. 113–114. ISBN 978-1945604621.
  25. ^ a b Fernanda Santos, "Mysterious Yoga Retreat in the Desert Ends in a Grisly Death", New York Times, 6 June 2012.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ Beth Landman (Feb 11, 2010). "Monk-y Business: Controversial NYC guru Michael Roach". Page Six Magazine. Archived from the original on August 20, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-24.
  28. ^ a b "Death and Madness at Diamond Mountain".
  29. ^ "Popular American Buddhist Teacher Lama Surya Das Admits to Sexual Relationships with Students".
  30. ^ "My Brief Rendez-vous with the Guru".
  31. ^ Carney, Scott (July 31, 2017). The Enlightenment Trap: Obsession, Madness and Death on Diamond Mountain. p. 530. ISBN 978-1945604621.
  32. ^ a b Roach, Michael (April 26, 2012). "An Open Letter from Geshe Michael". Diamond Mountain Center. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  33. ^ "Sex and Death on the Road to Nirvana". 2013-06-06.
  34. ^ news, Ainslee S. Wittig Arizona range. "Case closed in death of former participant at Buddhist retreat". Herald/Review Media. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  35. ^ "The death of yoga student Ian Thorson – and the 'wall of meditative". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2022-05-14. Retrieved 2018-07-18.
  36. ^ "Obsession and Madness on the Path to Enlightenment".
  37. ^ "Sex and Death on the Road to Nirvana - Nina Burleigh". www.ninaburleigh.com.
  38. ^ "WEB EXTRA: Reflections on Geshe Michael Roach: Professor Robert Thurman". NBC News. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  39. ^ "Jivamukti and Geshe Michael Roach: The Cross-Marketing Tangle of Magic Teachers". Decolonizing Yoga. 2016-07-01. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  40. ^ Monkyi, T. (2003). "Interview with Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally" (PDF). Retrieved 2021-07-29.

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