Re: Mohan Singh/Michael Lions
Date: July 27, 2010 11:03PM
A CULT leader who preyed on vulnerable women has been jailed for 10 years, after being found guilty of raping one and sexually assaulting another.
Michael Lyons, who went by the name of Mohan Singh, posed as spiritual guru to reel his victims in by convincing them he was a healer who could help them.
He was brought to trial following a trans-Atlantic investigation involving Scotland Yard and the FBI.
Lyons claimed to be a disciple of the Dalai Lama and attended meetings in London of the Drukpa Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism. During his trial at Wood Green Crown Court he was said to have enjoyed a luxurious life-style, with a penthouse apartment and chauffeur-driven Bentley and Mercedes cars. Lyons, also known as Mohan Singh, was said to be surrounded with “young, charming women”who recruited new members to his group who were then drawn into estrangement from friends, family and jobs.
Lyons apparently decided that connections with Tibetan Buddhism would enhance his credibility as a “healer” and spiritual guru. In this respect he was not alone. Ever since awareness of Tibetan culture and religion started to percolate into the developed world in the 1960s, accelerating when the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, Tibetan mystique has attracted followers for a variety of reasons.
It is probably true that most enthusiasts are impressed by the Dalai Lama's personality and sincerely interested in Buddhist study and practice – but there are also some who simply love the bells and smells, the colourful robes and exotic rituals. They have Buddha images above the fireplace, but they don't get up early to meditate before they go to work. There are many people politically motivated by the cause of Free Tibet who are not involved in Buddhism. There are university lecturers who teach Tibetan Buddhism and practise as Roman Catholics. And there are the wannabe gurus with dubious reputations who hitch rides on the Tibetan Buddhist bandwagon.
Shoko Asahara from Japan is the most notorious cult leader to bask in reflected Tibetan glory. He set up an apocalyptic group called Aum Shinrikyo and was photographed with the Dalai Lama. His teachings combined elements of Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as millenarian Christianity. In March 1995 some of his followers launched the infamous sarin gas attack during the rush hour on the Tokyo underground. Twelve people died and about 6,000 were injured – some permanently. The men who carried out the atrocity were mostly young, highly qualified scientists.
Steven Seagal is best known for his mega-macho roles in Hollywood movies which include the blockbusters Under Siege and Under Siege 2. Seagal's official web site makes no mention of this, but in 1999 he was recognised as a tulku (incarnate lama) by the late Penor Rinpoche who was briefly head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism. This move aroused considerable scepticism within the Tibtan Buddhist community, to the extent that Penor (dubbed Paymore Rinpoche by the sceptics) felt obliged to issue a statement outlining his reasons for the recognition.
It includes a disclaimer:
“In the case of my student Steven Seagal, I initiated the decision to recognize him as a tulku based on my own feelings about him. Neither I nor any of my monasteries have received or sought any sort of substantial donation from him.”
In April 2010, Seagal's former assistant Kayden Nguyen filed a lawsuit claiming sexual harassment, illegal trafficking of females for sex, failure to prevent sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination and false representation about employment. Nguyen claims that she was asked to join Seagal's harem which included two Russian women. According to Seagal's lawyer "The lawsuit is a ridiculous and absurd claim by a disgruntled ex-employee who was fired.”
Christopher Hansard claims to have been recognised as a tulku by a lama from the Bon (pre-Buddhist) Tibetan tradition when a child in his native New Zealand. Enquiries revealed that at that time there were no Bon lamas resident or visiting New Zealand. Hansard now practises in London as an alternative healer, psycho-therapist and New Age-style guru. Allegations of sexual impropriety have circulated about him on the internet for years – as have testimonies from former clients disputing his qualifications as a healer. Hansard's blog is headlined “Spirituality, Self-Knowledge and the Art of Living. He is the author of books with titles that include The Tibetan Art of Serenity.
Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo nee Alyce Zeoli also known as Catharine Burroughs, started her career as a psychic, but eagerly adopted the status of tulku – also conferred upon her by Penor Rinpoche. Jetsunma was born in New York and is the subject of a book, The Buddha from Brooklyn, by former disciple Martha Sherrill. The book chronicles Sherrill's trajectory from dewy-eyed acolyte to disenchanted fugitive from Jetsunma's lavishly appointed headquarters in Maryland. Along the way Sherrill became aware of her teacher's ferocious temper which escalated into physical violence, how students seemed to be treated like slaves and how Jetsunma had a tax free income around $10,000 a month. In 1997 Jetsunma's excesses became public knowledge in America and she announced that she was moving permanently to Arizona. Little has been heard of her since then.