Rolling Stone magazine had a recent long article about the Michael Roach & Co’s Buddhistic carnival of dysfunction and the fiasco involving one participant’s death in Sex and Death on the Road to Nirvana.
The article brings up a lot of questions but doesn’t necessarily answer too many. It’s a bit of a downer to read. It covers the entire rise and fall of the Roach spiritual empire. Or at least the fall in America, as it seems he’s moved on to advise Russian and Chinese billionaires.
Roach is particularly proud of a new client he has engaged, a Russian banking conglomerate. "The owner is worth $8 billion," Roach says. "He was a colonel in Afghanistan, and when the Soviet Union fell, he got his hands on some oil, became an oligarch and then became spiritual." He also says that his Diamond Cutter seminars are very popular in China, Tibetan Buddhism’s greatest foe. ("When I ask the Chinese about Tibetans," he says, "they say, ‘Geshe Michael, you live on Navajo land. When you give the land back, we will.’ ") His assistants say they need to hire bodyguards to keep at bay the adoring audiences who want to touch him. His picture is on public buses. In the Chinese industrial city of Guangzhou (population 8.4 million), Roach’s program is advertised as "King Kong Rules of Success."
What he preaches is his own form of Prosperity Gospel.
Traditional Buddhism preaches that it can take a lifetime, if not longer, to attain what one desires. But Roach teaches his followers that these desires can be fulfilled almost immediately – you can be rich and beloved as early as next week.
In the article he says:
"I dream of this thing…Judeo-Christianity in its secular form has become democracy. I want to do the same with Buddhism. I want it to become the golden rule, where corporations understand that making money comes from serving other people and helping the poor make their own money. That’s my dream."
WTF is the “secular form” of Judeo-Christianity? I have no idea. And Judeo-Christianity (secular or otherwise) isn’t really the origin of democracy. Democracy began in Greece when they were still worshipping the Greek pantheon. It began well before Christianity. We’re talking 500-600 BC and even earlier. See Athenian Democracy for one form of it. Judeo-Christianity is tied to the development of feudalism BTW. Not exactly democratic. See European history. All of it. So I guess if Judeo-Christian history can be wrapped up and distorted to serve the purposes of the present day capitalist ideology of Michael Roach so can Buddhism.
Corporations exist to make money for already well-off share-holders, not for the poor. That is not their function and their structure is based on that accumulative function. Only a radical restructuring wherein the corporation ceases to be a corporation and becomes an institute for social benefit would such a goal even have a possibility of seeing daylight. Buddhist mindful capitalism is an oxymoron—not only as far as Roach is involved but anywhere.
So Roach was, is, and apparently will continue to be just another capitalist tool.
But it goes further than that since that describes just about everything in North American (and increasingly in global) society.
Roach & Co, along with their multi-national subsidiaries, behave exactly as corporations do. Consider the damage they are responsible for, yet barely acknowledge. That includes the death of at least one person. Despite that, it’s still business as usual.
"I will talk about Diamond Mountain if you want, but in three months nobody will care about what happened there. In a year, everyone will have forgotten about it." He spoke with the certainty of a man who believes he can make his own reality.
That is appalling.
What of the lesser damages done I wonder?
If they are so unaware of what was happening around them and amongst them that people actually die, what does that say of their Buddhist practice?
Beyond Roach & Co. I would ask that question of every sangha.
To say "We didn’t realize" for years and years, is the height of ignorance.
[Can somebody please translate that whole article into Chinese and Russian so I can post it to Chinese and Russian social media sites? I’m serious. Let me know when it’s done.]