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Geshe Michael Roach's Biography

Geshe Michael Roach
Geshe Michael Roach

Geshe Michael Roach is an American teacher of Buddhism and Yoga. He is a published author, is flamboyant, charismatic, and is currently gaining increased popularity in the USA and other countries.

Meeting Buddhism

Geshe Michael Roach was born in Los Angeles in 1952 and spent his childhood in Phoenix, Arizona. He attended Princeton University where he studied religion as well as Sanskrit and Russian languages.

Geshe Michael Roach was drawn to Buddhism after his mother, father, and brother died in rapid succession. "I wanted to know why that happened, and where they all went," he says. He traveled to Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama's residence-in-exile in India and then returned to the USA.

Buddhism, Business and Study

Geshe Michael Roach in Howell, NJ, circa 1973
Michael Roach in
Howell, NJ, circa 1973
In 1972, he met Tibetan Lama Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tarchin in the U.S. and studied with him after that time.

It is the period from the early 70's to the early 90's where Geshe Michael Roach's life story becomes hazy. He regularly claims to have spent these 20 years in the following ways:

  1. Living and studying with Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tarchin in Howell, New Jersey, USA
  2. Living and studying for his Geshe Degree in South India
  3. Building a multi million dollar business, Andin International Diamond Corporation, in New York City

Historical proof shows that Geshe Michael Roach did spend time in all 3 activities, however his alternating claims of spending the entire period performing one or the other of these activities must by definition be an exaggeration. In fact, truth be known, Geshe Michael Roach spent limited time in each, alternating between the 3 activities.

Geshe Michael Roach was ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1983 and became fluent in spoken and written Tibetan.

Geshe Michael Roach Becomes a Lama

Geshe Michael Roach in the 90's
Geshe Michael Roach
in the 90's

Geshe Michael Roach began teaching Buddhism in New York in the early 1980s. From these teachings, the Asian Classics Institute was born, and their curriculum to this day comprise of his New York teachings over a period of some years.

Geshe Michael Roach received his Geshe degree in 1995 from his home monastery, Sera Mey, in South India. A Geshe degree is similar to a PHD in Buddhism, and usually takes 20 years full time study.

Geshe Michael Roach's Three Year Retreat

Geshe Michael Roach after retreat in 2003
Geshe Michael Roach
after retreat in 2003

From March 3, 2000 to June 6, 2003, Geshe Michael Roach took part in a three-year silent retreat in Arizona. At intervals during the retreat, he taught six "Quiet Retreat Teachings" to some of his students.

Geshe Michael Roach emerged from that retreat a changed man. The difference is striking. His appearance, behavior and teachings immediately rang alarm bells within the wider Buddhist community and he was barred from teaching at centers belonging to the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT).

The Controversy Begins

When Geshe Michael Roach came out of this retreat, it became public knowledge that he was no longer alone. He had taken Christie McNally, who accompanied him in retreat, as his "consort" and this is where the controversy began. Monks have strict vows about their behavior with women and Geshe Michael Roach now displayed behavior which would appear to break one of his root vows and render his monks ordination invalid. To this day he wears the robes of a monk and claims that he is still ordained.

Geshe Michael Roach with Christie McNally
Geshe Michael Roach
with Christie McNally

Upon further investigation it became clear that Geshe Michael Roach had taken Christie as a "consort" well before his three year retreat. In late 1999 he stayed at Root Institute for Wisdom Culture, and FPMT center in Bodhgaya, India. During this stay he secretly took Christie into his room every night, against the center's policy and the center director's knowledge.

"I became aware that Geshe Michael Roach was taking Christie McNally into his room each night towards the end of his stay at Root Institute. As he was an invited teacher, and his behavior broke the rules of the center, it placed us in a very difficult situation. I believe that it was this type of bahavior that led to his later ban from teaching in FPMT centers."
— A. Simmons, Former Director, Root Institute for Wisdom Culture

During his 3 year retreat, he continuously lied during his quiet retreat teachings, stating that he was alone, when in fact the two spent the entire 3 years in the same room.

Today, Geshe Michael Roach is concentrating on building Diamond Mountain, his center in Arizona, and teaching Yoga in locations around America.

The following points must be considered:

  • The Office of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has informed Geshe Michael Roach in writing that he is no longer welcome to visit Dharamsala (the home of the Dalai Lama).
    Read the Full Letter from the Dalai Lama's Office to Geshe Michael Roach...
  • Geshe Michael Roach, by his own admission, is no longer welcome to visit his home monastery, Sera Mey, and has not visited there for some years, despite travelling regularly to India.
  • Learned tantra and sutra master, Gyumed Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Jampa, from Sera Mey, told Geshe Michael Roach that he should disrobe.
    Read the full story of Gyumed Khensur Rinpoche's advice to Geshe Michael Roach...
  • Geshe Michael Roach has been blacklisted from teaching in the over 140 centers of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), whereas before his 3 year retreat he was welcome to teach. The FPMT is a well respected organization both within and without the Buddhist world community.
"When teachers break the precepts, behaving in ways that are clearly damaging to themselves and others, students must face the situation, even though this can be challenging, criticize openly, that's the only way." — His Holiness the Dalai Lama

May all beings instantly achieve every happiness, be free from any suffering, never be separated from a perfectly qualified Mahayana teacher and quickly achieve perfect, pure enlightenment in order to benefit others.

May all beings be happy!