From March 3, 2000 to June 6, 2003, Geshe Michael Roach took part in a three-year retreat in Arizona along with some close students including Christie McNally, some young female laypersons and an ordained nun.
When the retreat began, news of Geshe Michael Roach's real relationship with these ladies was not generally known. Later, as some students began to investigate, it became apparent to them that Geshe Michael Roach had spent the entire three years living in the same room as Christie McNally, and had also engaged in sexual activities with four of the ladies whom accompanied him into retreat, including an ordained nun.
In order to protect the ladies concerned, we will not publish their names, apart from that of Christie McNally who now openly in a physical relationship with Geshe Michael Roach.
One young lady left the retreat early, in late 2001, due to emotional problems associated with the sexual relationship between Geshe Michael Roach and the four ladies. It was widely publicized that Geshe Michael Roach had sent her out into the world to perform a "special retreat", however this was nothing more than a lie to cover the real reason for her leaving.
Two of the ladies who had been involved in the four way sexual relationship with Geshe Michael Roach left his circle for some time. Both these ladies spoke to others about their experiences, including at least one well known high lama. At least one of them was emotionally disturbed by their experience. Both claim that Geshe Michael Roach, an ordained monk, had engaged in sexual activity with at least four of his female students both before and during the retreat. Both claim that this sexual activity was mundane, rather than any form of holy consort practice, and included watching pornography, fellatio, and more than one lady at the same time.
Both ladies returned to Diamond Mountain in 2004 where they have been placed on a pedestal and presented as Lamas to the community. It is believed that considerable emotional pressure was exerted on them to return. The ordained nun left Diamond Mountain for an extended period of time in late 2004 for undisclosed reasons.
Information volunteered by these ladies lead to Geshe Michael Roach being barred from teaching in centres of the FPMT while he was still in retreat.
Below is an open letter from a close friend of one of the ladies mentioned above, who spent considerable time with her after she left the retreat early.
From the start I would like to state that my intentions for writing to this letter are simply to protect current and future students of Geshe Michael Roach from any type of harm or possible disillusionment in the path of the Dharma.
I in no way claim to have any direct knowledge of Geshe Michael Roach’s realizations or lack thereof. All I am offering are facts that have been told to me directly by the woman involved.
As Geshe Michael Roach repeatedly taught, it is imperative that a potential student research their Lama thoroughly before committing to them as a disciple. Therefore one has to engage a high degree of critical discernment based on ones own perceptions and the words of others.
I hope that those of you who read this might place it within that context, not taking my words to be true but putting them up against what you yourself have seen and heard regarding Geshe Michael Roach’s behavior and deciding what for you is true or not.
For close to a year I studied and worked while living at Diamond Mountain and attending to the needs of the three year retreatants, whom I had never personally met. The strength of Geshe Michael Roach’s teachings kept me inspired in my activities as well as the close relationships that I had formed with the other members of the community of practitioners. I had a great degree of respect for the nuns and the laity who were so committed in their devotion to the retreatants, sacrificing their own practice and at times their own health to see that the demands and needs of the retreatants were always met.
A few months into my stay I was allowed within the retreat boundary, at first to do some roof and deck repairs, and later to partake in the daily delivery of food. It was during this time that I first realized that Geshe Michael Roach was not alone in his yurt but was spending the duration of his three years in practice with Christie. This was an unspoken secret that was not to be shared with visitors who came through Diamond Mountain.
I really was left to my own imagination as to how exactly Geshe Michael Roach, a fully ordained monk of the Gelugpa order was maintaining his vinaya (vows) whilst sharing a small Mongolian yurt with a female student for three years.
Geshe Michael Roach was always very articulate in his teachings regarding the need to maintain a strict ethical practice, so in my mind there were partitions and the like, and of course I believed he and Christie were always meditating nicely, side by side.
If, perhaps, I slipped into a vision that this was in any way unethical for a monk, and certainly more appealing for a 28 year old man, I quickly marked it down in my little vow book as an infraction of my pure view. The reason I mention this is to address the claims that I left the community because I was uncomfortable with an ordained monk having a consort. This was of course a concern at the time, but eventually paled in comparison to the actual cause of my departure.
Life went on as usual at the center as we prepared for the upcoming Quiet Retreat teachings. It was at these teachings that I was introduced to, and quickly befriended, one of our other “holy lamas” who had been in retreat with Geshe Michael Roach but had been sent out on a sacred pilgrimage to undisclosed locations.
Within two weeks I had rented a home in Tucson and moved in with this remarkable woman, who was indeed beautiful, wise and kind. It was less than a month later that she and I were quickly packing up her van and leaving town. Without too much discussion with the general community we simply up and left. A few close friends I felt obligated to share this information with, one of them was on the Board (of Diamond Mountain), also chose to leave after years of service. Based on the truths that were revealed to us, it was, we believed, the most skillful course of action.
Without the need to get caught up in details or to reveal the names of any of the women involved, I will attempt to tell you as best as I can recollect, what was told directly to me. This from a woman who had just finished a year and a half retreat with her lama, to a man (myself) who was planning on ordaining in a few short years.
Geshe Michael Roach over a period of years had engaged in a series of sexual encounters with at least four of his closest disciples. And possibly also with his old girlfriend. He went to great lengths to keep his activities secret from the community, often times leaving the country or secretly going on retreat.
These sexual activities at times included more than one woman at a time, the viewing of pornography, and the donning of ladies undergarments by himself. One of the women involved was also ordained at the time.
These activities, at least as seen by one of the woman, had not the slightest relationship to anything sacred and felt more like, as she put it “high school sex acts”. I believe that Geshe Michael Roach actually married one of these women while somewhere in the Caribbean, it might be possible to locate the records of this act. These activities with multiple woman lasted for many months until Christie, Geshe Michael Roach’s current consort, demanded that they stop and that she was to be his only partner.
I make no claims as to the whether or not these are the manifestations of enlightened behavior. That is for each of you to research on your own. It is through the encouragement of many teachers of various Buddhist lineages, including the Dalai Lama, that I have shared with you this information. For the sake of the women involved, all of whom are still very active in Geshe Michael Roach’s community, I ask that this information be used merely by each of you as individual practitioners to make the best possible choices as regards your inner lives and whom you choose to study with.
One last note. It is with great sadness that I have had to write this letter. Geshe Michael Roach was a remarkable teacher of the Dharma to myself and thousands of other individuals. He inspired so many beings to pursue the path through study and retreat. These good acts are unmistaken. Whether the personal actions of a teacher enhance or diminish the import of their teachings is a question that each of us must answer on our own. I have made my decision, now I hope that you can more clearly make yours.
Name withheld by request