May 11, 2012
On April 22nd, Ian Thorson, a 38-year-old Buddhist practitioner, died in a cave near Geshe Michael Roach’s Diamond Mountain University and Retreat Center in Arizona. Thorson's body was found attended by his wife, Christie McNally, Roach's former student and partner, known to the Diamond Mountain Community, and globally, as “Lama Christie.” While there hasn't yet been any major media coverage of Thorson's death and the circumstances surrounding it, the Buddhist blogosphere is commenting on it extensively.
In the past, when serious problems have beset Buddhist communities, isolation and lack of transparency have been a common thread. Some bloggers have called for an international Buddhist advisory board of sorts to provide ethical overview of the Buddhist communities worldwide. In this case, the Geluk school, to which Roach initially belonged, had distanced themselves from Roach to some extent.
For those unfamiliar with the story, what follows is a roundup of blog posts covering it. We include a rebuttal defending the Diamond Mountain Community, which Roach leads, as well as an open letter by Roach himself. If you know of more information worth sharing, please do so in the comments of this post.
Keep in mind this is a developing story and no doubt, as some of the bloggers we list point out, the circumstances surrounding the event are not entirely clear. A lot of questions remain to be answered and we can expect more reports in the coming days.
"Psychosis, Stabbing, Secrecy & Death at a Neo-Buddhist University in Arizona" by Matthew Remski (Elephant Journal)
"Rebuttal: Psychosis, Stabbing, Secrecy & Death at a Neo-Buddhist University in Arizona" by John Stillwell (Elephant Journal)
"Death in the Desert in an American Buddhist Cult" by Justin Whitaker (American Buddhist Perspective)
Statement by Lama Christie’s attendant
Open Letter by Michael Roach
Statement from Christie McNally
"Sad News From Arizona" by Barbara O’Brien (About.com)
Background on Michael Roach and Christie McNally’s spiritual relationship:
"Making Their Own Limits in a Spiritual Partnership" by Leslie Kaufman (New York Times)
Image: By Connie Hansen, from Christie McNally and Ian Thorson's book Two as One: A Journey to Yoga.