Geshe Michael Roach grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and was awarded the National Merit Scholarship. He attended Princeton University, and in 1975 was accepted as a novitiate at Rashi Gempil Ling, a small monastery in the American-Mongolian community of Howell, New Jersey, USA. He began 25 years of study under Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin, one of the greatest scholars of 20th-century Buddhism, who in 1991 was appointed abbot of Sera Mey Tibetan Monastery. In 1983, Geshe Michael became the first westerner ever accepted for studies at Sera Mey; he was enrolled in Gyalrong College and ordained as a full Buddhist monk. He began intensive studies under ten different masters of the monastery, including most importantly over a decade of private studies with Geshe Thupten Rinchen, who is one of the greatest living textual scholars of Tibet. With great difficulty, Geshe Michael mastered the Tibetan art of rapid-fire monastic debate, and had the honor of participating in four of the Jang Gunchu Winter Debates, an inter-monastic competition similar to a monastic Olympics. In 1995, after a grueling 3-week public examination by hundreds of monks, he was awarded the Geshe degree. His studies in ancient Sanskrit were also completed during this period, under the private tutelage of Dr. Samuel D. Atkins, a noted linguist of Greek and Vedic Sanskrit who was chairman of the Department of Classics at Princeton.
In 1993, near the end of his Geshe studies, Geshe Michael determined that he would try to make the entire Geshe program available to westerners in their own language. Geshe Michael divided the Geshe program into 18 courses and gave the first transmission of these in New York during the 6-year period from 1993-1999, all without any charge to the students. Each course is accompanied by an original translation of about 250 pages of the ancient Tibetan source material, along with homework assignments, quizzes, and a final examination. A high emphasis is placed upon authenticity of the sources: of the many thousands of pages of course materials, there is not a single page which does not include the original Tibetan or Sanskrit text along with its translation. This Foundation Series of courses is now taught around the world, and is available online for free download at theknowledgebase.com. More than 300,000 people download the materials for these courses annually, and they have been translated into many languages.
In 1981, Geshe Michael helped to found Andin Internationa Diamond Corp. Andin started with a $50,000 loan and only two or three employees. By the time Geshe Michael retired from the firm in 1999 as Vice President in charge of the Gemstone Division, sales had grown in excess of $100 million per year. He was one of the earliest researchers of laboratory-grown diamond and is a proponent of its use in jewelry, to prevent the ecological destruction and political violence stemming from the mining of natural diamond. In 1975 Geshe Michael began a lifetime of service for Tibetan refugees, collecting contributions and clothing in the Princeton area and shipping them to the refugee camps. In 1978 he assisted his teacher Khen Rinpoche in founding a formal charity to help refugee monks. Due in part to the help of income generated by the Andin Diamond Corporation, this expanded into the Sera Mey Food Fund, which for years has provided food and clothing for thousands of monks. Over the past 25 years, in cooperation with western charities such as the United Church Board for World Ministries, the Fund has contributed numerous buildings and dormitories, an elementary school, textbooks, optometrist services, teacher salaries and student scholarships, a major water system, vocational and agricultural training, an infirmary, a fully equipped computer center, a complete library, a solar-run kitchen facility, and cottage industries to the refugee monks of Sera Mey Tibetan Monastery.
Books written by Geshe Michael include The Diamond Cutter: the Buddha on Strategies for Managing Your Business and Your Life (this book has been translated into 20 languages); The Garden; The Eastern Path to Bliss; How Yoga Works; The Essential Yoga Sutra, and most recently, The Karma of Love. Geshe Michael has conducted thousands of hours of Buddhist teachings, and business and success seminars, over the last 32 years in more than 20 countries worldwide–in recent years speaking to more than 10,000 people annually about how serving others is the surest path to success. In 2009 he joined with senior graduates of ACI and DMU to form the Diamond Cutter Institute, in order to bring these seminars to an even greater audience globally.
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As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears. Rumi