Thursday, May 03, 2012

A Dirty Shame

Ian Thorson, newly-wed husband of Christie McNally -- the well known one-time spiritual companion of  Michael Roach -- has died in a cave in Arizona, following a bizarre series of events.

The statement of Ms. McNally (written immediately before Thorson's death) is given here.

A statement by Michael Roach (written after Thorson's death) is given here.

I leave it to you to read the above two statements, and figure out the story for yourselves. I cannot bring myself to do our usual reporting on the matter because it is a low-down, dirty shame. Here was a young man come to needless grief from all the bullshit that surrounds franchise Buddhism in America.

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18 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

It's so sad but I think blaming supernatural agents here is not useful. Christie McNally is not a lama except by convention and - from what I read on the links you provide - clearly not in any position to lead a retreat. Three year retreats are serious business - you cannot play at them and not expect there to be serious - alas, in this case, fatal - consequences. I think Diamond Mountain needs to assess whether is competent to run such retreats again.

Cliff said...

Dis-aster. So sad to read of this collapse.

Alastair said...

Power ,control ,greed ,arrogance under the banner of vajra sanity ?????....To quote the illustrious Trungpa Rinpoche ..buddha said that his teachings ,like a lion ,would never be destroyed by outsiders ,it could only be destroyed from within like a lions corpse consumed by maggots .This is the perversion of the sangha .It is the dark age of spirituality ,the operation of spiritual materialism ...

Nemo said...

Dharma in the West must look like a cruel joke to real Lamas. Personally I don't think Dharma will flourish here. People are too self absorbed and kooky. Dharma needs to be much more working class and less exotic.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm.... if dharma in the west was ''working class and less exotic'' perhaps it wouldn't attract the large amounts of dollars that some of the ''real lamas'' are used to receiving to support themselves and their monasteries. Just sayin'.

Overall, this particular situation is tremendously sad for all involved.

Drums of Dharma said...

This is very unfortunate. I hope things are resolved for everyone involved. It looks like the natural forces in Arizona are a little harder to tame, considering the scandals involving 'gurus' in the past few years--most notably the sweatlodge deaths near Sedona.

To me it seems there are more than a few Westerners who are incapable of handling the samayas and karmic responsibilities associated with taking on students. The Guru-Disciple relationship is very serious business and not to be looked upon lightly. Misleading students for one's own comfort and material gain is a sure way to collect massive amounts of negative karma. If Western teachers really understood the causes and conditions and the results of non-dharmic actions, they wouldn't be exploiting people, spiritually or financially.

Didn't anyone contemplate The 50 Verses of Guru Devotion?
Didn't anyone really take to heart Guru Rinpoche's advice given on samaya in the termas?
Didn't these people study the 12 Links of Dependent Origination?

You have UNSHAKABLE BODHICITTA and the full realization of NON-DUAL WISDOM and EMPTINESS to be an effective teacher. I'm not talking some intellectual gnosis of those phenomenon but FULL AWARENESS and REALIZATION, which results in true ATTAINMENTS.

Settle yourself first.

Authentic realizations by Western Masters will be the sign that the Dharma has truly taken root in the West. When the Dharma migrated to Tibet and beyond, a sign of transmission was the appearance of the mahasiddhas and yogis.

For now.... we wait...

Jin B. said...

I heard you Nemo. I read all of that,Sandoval,and it contains some technical terms I am uneducated about, but the flow and gist of it seemed to go right. I'm suspicious of people whose writing makes no sense to me or leaves me uninformed. I was unable to read all of Ms.McNally's notes. Geshe Roach by contrast, managed to relay both a sequence of events and allege various points of view in a simple manner. Neither of them told us why Ian Thorson died at the comparatively young age of 39.
Don't give up on Buddhism in the west, anyone. The teaching I heard through the grapevine, or the subway stations, is that our desires cause phenomena to happen in the world and half the time or more, depending on what moment it is, the phenomena comes back to bite us.
And owing to the animal-like construction of our central nervous system, we tend to cling to a dualistic perception of "I" and everything else.
If you're thinking about "I", Desire can't be that far behind. If you conceive of and execute a course of action beginning with the thought "I Want..." the outcome just tends to have a nastier aftertaste than when the action just flows out of other action that was adjusted for diminution of greed and maximization of sharing WHILE it was being executed.
Some would say I think too much, yet they are as fools while I hold to a lyric of that most lyrical religious songwriter, Bob Dylan: "The preacher was talkin', there's a sermon he gave, every man's conscious is vile and depraved, you cannot depend on it to be your guide, when it's You who must keep It satisfied"

Warren Clarke said...

one technical error: Lama Christie's letter appeared on Facebook only 2 weeks ago, but she had written it over a month and a half prior to its presentation.

snakespeak said...

I am reminded of the words of HH the Dalai Lama:
"Reflecting on the dependent latticework at the heart of the dependent arising of cause and effect confirms the understanding that phenomena are merely nominal, merely imputed, and no more than that."

I am also reminded of William Burroughs: "Nothing is true and everything is permitted."

Anonymous said...

She is doing as her teacher did. Banging her student. Generally this ends badly.

In the months preceding she stabbed Ian three times and he needed stitches. She has given multiple conflicting accounts of the event in question. I really have to wonder if she called the police after he was dead. She is the 2nd in command of a rather culty group. Perhaps this needs to be investigated

Anonymous said...

This tragic event is unfortunately another alarm call. Buddhists from the Tibetan tradition should remember that the vajrayana practices are not to be taken lightly. In their immense egotism, a lot of westerners think that they can handle these without a full understanding of the core Buddhist principles. Lots of fake lamas/gurus abound either in the US or in Europe, most of them using tantric practices and imagery as an advertisement for their organisation/cults.
In my opinion, you cannot cut corners with Buddhism, there is no fast track.
Buddhism "light" doesn't exist, and this is particularly true for the Tibetan tradition.

deborah said...

I'm struck by the inability to take action in the face of clearly harmful behaviour that required immediate response.

page after page of emotional display, when all Geshe Michael had to do was walk into the retreat cabin *take the knife away* and remove her from the land. The how we got to this point discussion can occur after the safety of all persons is secure.

There really is no excuse here.
What a tragedy.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I am wrong, but do Buddhists take Kali as a Yidam?

Anonymous said...

Kali? Parvati is angered at Shiva refusing her permission to attend her father's sacrifice as they were not invited.

So the ten wrathful mahavidyas emanate from her third eye and surround him into submission. One of them is Kali, well known for coming out of the third eye of raging goddesses and being used by the gods to kill and conqueror their demons.

She goes to the sacrifice where Shiva is maligned and suicides herself in the fire; he appears and maliciously murders the entire party. He then carries her corpse and there is nothing but war and famine upon the earth until another god cuts her into 24 parts with his chakra.

Maybe it was after this that Shiva sat in a cave for 1000 years smoking marijuana and growing dreds?

Divine play? More like divine madness. What to discard? What to adopt?

Anonymous said...

I m wandering where are your meditation cushions? come on!!! any of us have not meditate even a day seriously like Lama christie or Ian. shut up!!! we are so ignorants... what is the karmic result of critizism? are all of you pure beens...

Drago said...

I suggest that you send Christie one of your books, it may turn out handy one day. In particular I am thinking here of your The complete book of knife fighting: the history of knife fighting techniques and development of fighting knives, together with a practical method of instruction (Boulder, Col.: Paladin Press, 1975).

I like your blog, one of very few (perhaps the only) impartial and universalistic dharma blogs in the truest ris med fashion.

With metta,

Editor said...

You jest, but the issues these people faced are issues I faced many years ago. Whenever I see something like this, I have this irrational thought, "Why have they failed to profit from my mistakes?" So, then, I keep writing a little more.

Anonymous said...

If Roach had kept his vows and not played dakas and dakinis, this would not have happened. This man is a danger to the future of the Dharma, an ego maniac bent on gathering disciples, building up his bank account snd having as many of his followers as possible. Wake up America, youve only just started on the journey and youre already lost