Pussy-dripping goddesses with chainsaws

This is my second post about Michael Roach and Christie McNally, who tried to teach Buddhist tantra and made a mess instead.

It is about gender-bending, violence, and black magic in Buddhist tantra. It’s about manic pixie dream girls and eating your shadow—and pussy-dripping goddesses with chainsaws. Understanding how Roach and McNally got these things wrong can help understand how to do tantra right.

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Getting tantra wrong: The Roach/McNally fiasco

Michael Roach and Christie McNally, before they blew up, were trying to make Buddhist tantra work in 21st century America. I think that is terribly important for Buddhism, and for America.

Their blow-up is one of several current Buddhist scandals. If you’ve missed the story so far, Roach is a former Tibetan monk who taught increasingly “unconventionally,” and eventually led what has been described as a “dysfunctional” “cult.” He secretly married his student Christie McNally, then dumped her, but left her in charge of a three-year “tantric” retreat in the Arizona desert. After various goings-on, she was ejected from the retreat with another student, who died of dehydration in a meditation cave a couple months later.

The mainstream media—Rolling Stone and the New York Times for instance—found the death angle, together with Roach and McNally’s seemingly strange ideas and behaviors, sufficiently spectacular to run long articles. They have concentrated on the guru/cult/scandal aspects of Roach’s and McNally’s mistakes. Those are interesting and important, but here I’ll ignore them. They’ve been covered extensively elsewhere, and this case seems fairly typical of the pattern.

Instead, I’ll discuss the religious content of their practice. I suspect I understand what they were groping for—and failed at—better than they did. (Or, I may be confused.)

Continue reading “Getting tantra wrong: The Roach/McNally fiasco”