A Death on Diamond Mountain
Bargain Book Copy
How much should people strive to know their own souls?
When a thirty-eight-year-old Stanford graduate named Ian Thorson died from dehydration and dysentery on a remote Arizona mountaintop in 2012, The New York Times reported the story under the headline: 'Mysterious Buddhist Retreat in the Desert Ends in a Grisly Death.' Scott Carney, a journalist and anthropologist who lived in India for six years and studied Tibetan Buddhism there, was struck by how Thorson's demise resembled the suicide of a young woman he knew on a silent meditation retreat half a decade earlier. Was there a connection between intensive meditation and mental instability?
Using these tragedies as a springboard, Carney explores how the promise of 'enlightenment' pushes some people to forsake the world around them. He delves deeply into a popular unorthodox interpretation of Tibetan Buddhism promoted by the supreme spiritual leader of Diamond Mountain University, Geshe Michael Roach, who promised wealth and good fortune to people who faithfully adhere to his brand of Karmic purity. When Thorson died just outside the university's grounds in the arms of his former guru's ex-wife, Lama Christie McNally, the bizarre teachings took on a grim reality.
Carney unravels how the questionable circumstances surrounding Thorson's death illuminate a uniquely American tendency to mix and match Eastern religious traditions like LEGO pieces and thoughtfully weighs the psychic costs of this obsessive for spiritual transcendence. With insights from Thorson's private papers and first-person reports of miracles and black magic, sexualized rituals and tantric rites, from former Diamond Mountain acolytes, A Death on Diamond Mountainis an absorbing investigative narrative that reveals how the path to enlightenment can be riddled with danger.
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