Later that evening, Mia met up with the 57-year-old monk at Cielo, a hip club in the Meatpacking District known for its house beats and tough velvet rope. He wasn't wearing his usual flowing monastic robes. "It was the strangest thing," recalls Mia. "He was in this Armani suit and with a model, and he was now saying that everyone should dress up"—strange indeed, given that thousands of years of tradition dictate that Buddhist monks live spartan, celibate lives.
With his heavily lined face and thin graying hair brushing his shoulders, the guru didn't quite blend with the Cielo scene, though he did his best, boogying down with a young Chanel-clad Russian girl. Erin Vaughan, another yoga teacher there that night, was shocked. "He was on the dance floor, and there was nothing enlightened about it," she says.
A Princeton grad, Michael Roach came to Buddhism after his mother's death from breast cancer left him devastated. "It sort of destroyed me,'' he remembers. "I kept wondering what the meaning of life was, and I went to India to look for answers. In those days you could go to the Dalai Lama's house and knock on his door." He was ordained as a monk in 1983 and then spent another 12 years studying Tibetan Buddhism to earn the title of geshe, one of only a few Westerners to do so. While studying for the geshe degree, Michael also amassed a personal fortune working in the diamond business, the vast majority of which, he says, he gave away to aid Tibetan refugees. In 1996 he cofounded Three Jewels, a dharma, meditation and yoga center in the East Village. The following year, he met Christie McNally, a young blonde two years out of NYU and 20 years his junior. Geshe Michael recalls their first meeting with a mythic reverence. "A beautiful rainbow came out," he says.
She came to him as a student, but their relationship quickly blossomed into much more. The two became spiritual partners, vowing never to be more than 15 feet apart. They spent three years, from 2000 to 2003, living together in an Arizona yurt on a silent retreat, their relationship a secret. Soon after, they went public, flying in the face of tradition and prompting outcry.
"We are not allowed to have sex, but in yoga there are practices that involve joining with a partner,'' he explains. "They are secret, and you are not allowed to disclose them. You might think of them as sex, but their purpose is to move inner energy. It takes very strict training. There would be penetration, but no release of semen." Sex or no sex, the two developed a unique bond, and their unorthodox message attracted thousands of followers around the world, including in New York and Arizona—where in 2004, they founded an unaccredited Buddhist University and retreat center called Diamond Mountain. When they spoke at St. Bartholomew's Church on the Upper East Side in 2007, some 800 New Yorkers came out to hear their talk on spiritual partnerships. They gave countless lectures, wrote half a dozen books together and helped couple off hundreds of followers into intensely close partnerships like their own. It was a relationship of mythical proportions, but that didn't mean it would last forever.
Last summer Christie left Geshe Michael for another man. Ian Thorson, a young student who had once served as the couple's attendant and delivered them food and robes, had come between them. After nearly a decade of eating off the same plate, reading the same book and never leaving one another's sight, the couple's spiritual partnership came to a dramatic end. Now both Geshe Michael and his followers are devastated and questioning what, and whom, they believe in.
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/pagesixmag/issues/20100211/Monk+y+Business+Controversial+NYC+guru+Michael+Roach#ixzz1zFz9zgcV