Grant-Making Activity 2003-2008
Since inception of its grant-making activity, the Foundation has funded or is committed to funding approximately $3,811,000 in grants, and is discussing the funding of an additional $1,274,000. The Foundation is pleased to report on its historical, current and prospective grant-making programs as follows:
1. Friends of Zen, Inc.
P.O. Box 326
East Brookfield, MA 01515
Telephone: (508) 333-6099
Attn: Jun Po Denis Kelly, Rev. Dai En Hi Fu George Burch
The Foundation provided an initial grant in the amount of $78,000 for the purpose of establishing a pilot project ("Peace on the Street") to open a combination martial arts and community Zen meditation center aimed at disadvantaged youths in New York's Manhattan area of Spanish Harlem. This program is directed by Rev. Hui Neng Stan Koehler (www.peaceonthestreet.com; 1950 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10029; telephone (212) 978-8776). A major goal of the program is to work with inner city youth to reduce violence and anger in their lives and in that of their community, using Frederick Lenz' approach to meditation and life success. Friends of Zen provides formal weeklong Zen retreats which have been attended by a large number of Peace on the Street students. Since launching the pilot project, Peace on the Street has received support from other foundations and the encouragement of Congressman Charles Rangel. Peace on the Street was featured as the cover story in the Winter 2008 edition of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. With its ongoing success, expansion plans are under consideration.
During 2006, the Foundation made a further grant to Friends of Zen in the sum of $85,000 to construct and furnish a Zendo on the campus of the United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado. As part of the Academy’s religious diversity efforts, the Zendo was dedicated on October 29, 2007. One of the founders and a director of the Friends of Zen, Rev. Dai En Hi Fu George Burch, was part of the Academy’s first graduating class, and has organized this important effort through the Air Force Academy’s alumni support group, the Association of Graduates.
The Foundation has also funded a Friends of Zen training center for Zen Buddhist teachers and programs designed to inspire business leaders to incorporate into their corporate culture, Buddhist values and principles. Part of the mission is to utilize this center for the benefit of inner city youth, following the example of Peace on the Street. Friends of Zen has been granted $300,000 to create a model center as a basis for expansion into American cities.
2. Big Mind, Inc./Kanzeon Zen Center
1274 E. South Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84102
Telephone: (801) 593-1771
Website: www.bigmind.org; www.kzci.org
Attn: Dennis Genpo Merzel Roshi
In the 2003-2004 period, the Foundation funded a $165,000 grant to support Kanzeon’s "Big Mind" program. This was supplemented in 2005-2006 with another grant of $200,000, and a further grant of $100,000 in 2008. These grants have been used to jump start an expansion of the "Big Mind" program, including the publishing of the book, "Big Mind-Big Heart/Finding your Way" along with DVD teaching devices on the same subject – both available on the Foundation’s Storefront. The "Big Mind Process" is an innovative technique developed by Genpo Merzel Roshi, who heads the Salt Lake City Zen Center. The process is designed to fast track participants towards achieving self-realization. The innovative and accessible approach taught through this process allows participants to awaken to a universal mind consciousness, creating a major shift in perspective: from a self-centered view of the world to one where all beings are seen as connected with one another. The Foundation’s grant has permitted Big Mind to train teachers and to offer the program in ever-expanding parts of the United States via "Big Mind-Big Heart" and the creation of the DVD teaching tool. The meditative process fostered by "Big Mind" represents a unique Western contribution to the traditional Zen foundations upon which this new practice is based. Genpo Roshi has been using Frederick Lenz’ writings to inspire his Dharma talks and teachings in the "Big Mind" workshops, and has integrated the Foundation’s musical offerings into this program. The "Big Mind" process was developed by Zen Master Dennis Genpo Merzel after 30 years of formal Zen training and 25 years of Zen teaching and counseling. The technique comes out of both the Western psychotherapy tradition and the Eastern Zen tradition, a 2600-year-old teaching of self-realization and actualization. The "Big Mind" technique is a very simple yet powerful and rapid way to help a person shift perspective and realize the wisdom that may take a meditator more than 15 or 20 years to accomplish.
3. Great Mountain Zen Center
1110 Sparta Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
Telephone: (720) 890-1800
Attn: Gerry Shishin Wick, Roshi, Spiritual Director
The Foundation has provided grants in the cumulative sum of $61,250 to the Great Mountain Zen Center to support its program to develop for publication new teaching materials uniquely suited to train Zen practitioners and other meditators in an American context. By training new teachers and by writing and distributing books about its teaching process, the Great Mountain Zen Center hopes to attract new interest to Zen practice, including interest from those in the health, education and mental health fields. The grant has been used to author a book written by Zen teachers Ilia Shinko Perez and Gerry Shishin Wick with materials drawn from their years of experience with small groups of advanced students. Central to developing these new materials is to recognize and address unwholesome and unhealthy attitudes and behavior and to dispel them. The training program teaches meditation and nonjudgmental awareness, and from that experience students are taught how to dissolve negativity and bring about, through meditation and Zen principles, a thorough transformation of their lives in modern American society. The book has been published, and is now offered on the Foundation’s Storefront website.
4. Osel Dorje Nyingpo
1630A 30th Street, #240
Boulder, CO 80301
Telephone: (303) 417-1718, ext. 216
Attn: Dana Schwartz, President
The Foundation made a grant to this organization ("ODN") in the sum of $56,000 for the purpose of financing a pilot project which sought, in a scholarly manner, to reconcile modern American Buddhist and meditation practice with ancient Tantric Vajrayana Buddhism. The late esteemed Buddhist scholar and teacher Khempo Yurmed Tinly Rinpoche led a project to translate ancient Buddhist writings and analyze their contents with modern forms of American Buddhism, as represented by the works of Frederick Lenz. Upon Khempo’s passing, ODN determined that there were sufficient completed materials authored by Khempo to produce a single volume suitable for publication. Accordingly, the Foundation has made an additional $30,600 grant to complete the project. In 1997, Khempo was appointed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the post of Abbot of the Zilnon Kagyeling Monastery. In August of 2000, Khempo Rinpoche attended the United Nations Millennium World Peace Summit in New York City as one of a delegation of four senior religious leaders sent by the Dalai Lama. This capped an illustrious career as a teacher since receiving his Master’s Degree in 1975 from Sanskrit University in Benares, U.P., India. Since 1994 until his passing, Khempo had taught primarily in the United States, and was instrumental in forming Buddhist centers in Mount Shasta, California, and Boulder, Colorado.
In 2004-2005, the Foundation also provided seed money in the amount of $5,000, and made a $100,000 interest-free loan (now repaid), to present a successful four-day teaching event at Miami, Florida, conducted by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.
5. Naropa University
2130 Arapahoe Avenue
Boulder, CO 80302
Telephone: (303) 444-0202
Attn: Dana Lobell, Corporate and Foundation Relations Manager
The Foundation has established a permanent endowment fund and expendable scholarship program with Naropa University, a Buddhist-inspired, ecumenical, and non-sectarian university in Boulder, Colorado. Naropa’s Religious Studies Department has among its functions the training of Buddhist scholars and activists. The Foundation initially established a permanent endowment of $200,000 and an annual grant of $30,000 for three years for the purpose of supporting those students on an undergraduate and graduate level who will engage in scholarship or provide Buddhist-inspired leadership in communities throughout the United States. In 2006, and effective for the year 2007, the Foundation renewed this program for an additional three years, increased the annual grant to $45,000, and opened the undergraduate scholarship to students in all majors. In addition, the Foundation has established a student loan repayment scholarship with potential benefits of $20,000 per year. Naropa University has agreed to match funds for certain of the scholarship programs. Altogether, and from all sources (to wit, the Foundation’s annual payment, the Foundation’s endowed funds, and the University’s matching funds), there should be available annually to students, scholarship funds up to $95,000 per year. For further details concerning these scholarships and how to apply for them, visit Naropa University's website at www.naropa.edu and click on "Admissions & Financial Aid."
In addition to the scholarship programs funded by the Foundation, we have also funded a three-year, $145,428 grant to establish a faculty seminar on "Contemplative Practices in Higher Education." The object of the program is to support Naropa’s Center for the Advancement of Contemplative Education in the development and implementation of a summer institute on contemplative education for faculty from other colleges and universities who are inclined to incorporate contemplative techniques and practices into their own curriculum. The first two such institute programs were successfully implemented during the summers of 2007 and 2008 with 15 participants in the first program and 21 in the second. The program will be offered again in summer 2009. Applications are being accepted until April 1st. For more information, see www.naropa.edu/cace/seminar.cfm. The goal is to enable the program to become self-sustaining.
The Foundation has also funded a pilot program for the creation of a Naropa Fellowship Program in Buddhist Studies and American Culture and Values, together with a related Distinguished Guest Lecture Series, which will also afford Naropa students with course credit. This program will enable scholars from a variety of academic disciplines to reside in Boulder and affiliate with Naropa during their sabbatical or other professional leave, and to complete a research, social action or curriculum development project on some aspect of Buddhism’s contributions to American education and society. Participants will immerse themselves in the University’s various curricular and community offerings, including their own contribution to the Naropa community by way of public lectures in the area of their expertise. The program will also feature the presentation of distinguished American Buddhist academic scholars from the Zen and other traditions for a lecture series or a semester of classes. Both programs are designed to enlighten and diversify the Naropa experience and to establish Naropa as a beacon for Buddhist thought and action in contemporary American culture – all drawn from a broad spectrum of American Buddhist practice. The Foundation has funded this program with a $62,500 annual grant plus start-up costs of $20,000. It is contemplated that the program will continue for at least three years, with an eye toward endowing this program with a permanent grant of $1,250,000. It is the Foundation’s goal to enlist support for this program from the American Buddhist community at large so that $250,000 or more of the permanent grant will be funded from sources outside the Foundation, and to raise additional funds through use of this initiative as a "lead grant" to establish a broader, deeper and even more well-funded program.
6. Tricycle Foundation
92 Vandam Street
New York, NY 10013
Telephone: (212) 645-1143
Attn: James Shaheen, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
The Foundation has entered into a long-term partnership with a well-known magazine, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, which services the broad needs of American Buddhism and the American Buddhist community. Through Tricycle, the Foundation has donated in the past several years approximately $80,000 for distribution of meditation materials to prison inmates and to the confined elderly/disabled, and has funded approximately $154,000 for Tricycle’s annual "Change Your Mind Day" program. Change Your Mind Day is a national event, designed and implemented by the Tricycle Foundation for the purpose of providing members of the Buddhist community throughout America to join in sharing their wisdom and experience with those who might benefit from a change in their direction, with all the tools that the American Buddhist community has to offer in its collective wisdom. In 2007, Tricycle revamped these programs to provide online support for both projects, and received an additional $60,000 grant.
In addition, Tricycle requested and the Foundation granted the sum of $23,600 to further develop its website. The object is to provide a uniquely independent public forum for exploring contemporary and traditional Buddhist ideas and their integration with Western disciplines. The goal is to provide an online home for Buddhists of different traditions, who are given an opportunity to come together and find a voice in the dialogue between Buddhism and the broader American culture. Following Tricycle’s initial successful online expansion, the Foundation granted Tricycle a further $100,000 to develop the Ning Project, which will enable the magazine to launch an open-ended online social network where it can post "Tricycle Talks," podcasts, videocasts, blogs, and other interactive features in various media formats.
To view the Foundation’s advertisement in Tricycle’s May 2005 edition of its magazine, click here. To view the Foundation’s advertisement in Tricycle’s August 2007 edition of its magazine promoting its association with its grant partners (including Tricycle Foundation), click here.
7. Peacemaker Circle International
177 Ripley Road
Montague, MA 01351-9541
Telephone: (413) 367-2048
Attn: Roshi Bernie Glassman
Since 2006, the Foundation has made grants and loans to Peacemaker Circle in the cumulative sum of $825,000 to support its operations, with another $40,000 in potential grant fulfillment on the horizon.
The founder and Spiritual Director of the Zen Peacemakers, Roshi Bernie Glassman, is internationally recognized as a pioneer of the Zen Buddhist movement in America and is one of the founders of socially engaged Buddhism and social entrepreneurship. He has based his life’s work on a commitment to service, born from his practice and mastery of the 2500-year-old tradition of Buddhist compassion and wisdom.
Bernie created the Zen Peacemakers in 1980 to embody this commitment in a global network of 60 centers, affiliated with the Mother House in Montague, Massachusetts. What characterizes the socially engaged practices of Zen Peacemakers is how they extend Dharma practice from the meditation hall to the worlds of business, social service, conflict resolution, and environmental stewardship. Zen Peacemakers practice socially engaged Buddhism to transform individuals and communities, and have responded to some of the most difficult problems of our time – poverty, AIDS, homelessness, and a lack of skills necessary for employment.
Today the central project of the Zen Peacemakers is establishing Zen Houses: residential Dharma centers devoted to providing social services to underserved and impoverished peoples around the world. To support this effort, the Maezumi Institute, the study and training center of the Zen Peacemakers, offers a Residential Ministry Program for Leadership in Socially Engaged Buddhism to provide leaders and staff to run these Zen Houses.
In October, 2007, the Foundation held its first Buddhist Leadership Conference at the Zen Peacemakers’ Maezumi Institute’s study and training center at the Mother House in Montague, Massachusetts.
8. Ashoka, the eDharma university
Open Mind Foundation
303 Snyder Pond Road
Copake, NY 12516
Telephone: (646) 335-2674
Attn: Stuart Carduner, Director
The Foundation has made two grants totaling $96,000 to the Open Mind Foundation, doing business as Ashoka, the eDharma university, in support of the establishment of an online "meditation in action" curriculum, which is part of Ashoka’s web-based study center. Ashoka acquired DharmaNet International (www.dharmanet.org) and is in the process of redesigning this first of its kind Buddhist web portal, which now serves 50,000 visitors a month. Ashoka envisions this new Ashoka/DharmaNet combination as the foundation upon which to establish a premiere nonsectarian Buddhist informational and educational web portal that respects Buddhist traditions and yet is thoroughly modern in its approach.
9. Spirit Rock Meditation Center
P.O. Box 169
5000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Woodacre, CA 94973
Telephone: (415) 488-0164, ext. 224
Attn: Jack Kornfield and Evan Kavanagh
The Foundation has funded a $15,000 grant to benefit the "Path of Engagement" program at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, located in Northern California. This two-year training program is designed to cultivate greater wisdom and compassion in community and business leaders, service providers and activists, in an effort to help them develop the capacity to sustain momentum and involvement in the important issues of our day. Structured around a series of silent meditation retreats, the program worked to illuminate the connection between individual, relational and social transformation; providing a bridge between the secular perspective on outer change and more traditional Buddhist teachings focusing on inner change. Emphasis has been on developing an approach to and understanding of the world’s problems in a manner that maintains connection rather than the belief that we are alone in our efforts.
10. Vast Sky Institute, Inc.
1268 East South Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84102
Telephone: (801) 328-8414
Attn: Dennis Genpo Merzel Roshi
Vast Sky brings together the principals from Big Mind (Dennis Genpo Merzel Roshi), Integral Institute (Ken Wilber) and Peacemaker Circle (Roshi Bernie Glassman) in a joint effort to ". . . use the wisdom of the Buddhadharma, combined with the most effective technology available, to advance every conceivable area of our society towards a more awakened approach to life." It is the object of Vast Sky to change the way America views spirituality so as to affect and impact the way society views religion, educates its children, approaches politics, conducts its business, and cares for the elderly, the homeless and the poor, as well as the way Americans relate to other nations, especially those which are different from our nation. By impacting the level of consciousness of America’s public officials and public servants, the Vast Sky project seeks a transformation through the instruments of technology and mass media in the way Americans view these important matters critical to our nation’s well being. The Foundation has made a seed money grant of $150,000 to create a program for the implementation of the project’s vision and to raise funds substantially in excess of the initial grant so that this vision may be realized.
11. The Bodhidharma Foundation of America, Inc.
16530 Ventura Blvd., Suite 205
Encino, CA 91436
Telephone: (818) 501-4224, ext. 1
Attn: Harold J. Stanton, President
The Foundation made an $85,000 grant to finance the development and distribution of a film documentary known as "The Legend of Bodhidharma," which explains the origin and spread of Zen Buddhism to America and the benefits that Zen meditation brings to America. The documentary is approximately 30 minutes in length and is in distribution. It debuted at the Foundation’s Buddhist Leadership Conference held on October 4-7, 2007, at the Maezumi Institute in Montague, Massachusetts. The documentary will be made available to Zen centers around the country to promote education and Zen center membership, and will also be available as a general purpose teaching device. The DVD also contains bonus teaching elements. The DVD will be available on the Foundation’s Storefront website (in addition to such mass media distribution as The Bodhidharma Foundation of America is successful in securing).
12. Light of Berotsana
1500 Kalmia Avenue
Boulder, CO 80304
Telephone: (303) 443-4541
Attn: Jessie Friedman, Executive Director
The Foundation has funded a grant in the amount of approximately $73,000 for the purpose of enabling Jules B. Levinson to translate two Buddhist treatises composed by the 19th Century teacher, Jamgon Mipam, known as "The Lion’s Roar: Empty of Other" which explicates the Buddha’s fundamental and utterly central presentation of emptiness, and "The Lion’s Roar: Extensive Explanation of the Matrix of the One Gone to Bliss," which explicates the framework necessary for the revelation of the basic, clear light nature of mind. Taken together, these two treatises elucidate the deepest insights brought forward in the Mahayana traditions of Buddhadharma. It is anticipated that these translations will become an important addition to the libraries of American Buddhist scholars, including that of Naropa University, where these translations are eagerly awaited for use in its course studies. It is further anticipated that the translations will be published and made available to the public. Jules B. Levinson holds a BA in English from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia. He has been a member of the faculty in the Department of Religion at Stanford University, Hamline University and the University of Virginia, and has served as a translator for many renowned Tibetan teachers. He also provides oral translation for a variety of Buddhist teachers, and teaches on diverse aspects of Buddhadharma.
13. The Tides Center (The Lineage Project)
P.O. Box 4668 #8375
New York, NY 10163-4668
Telephone/Fax: (781) 408-1492
Attn: Beth Navon, Executive Director
The Lineage Project is designed to support at-risk and incarcerated youth, their families and communities, by offering yoga, meditation and other awareness-based practices. Those who staff The Lineage Project stress the importance of working with at-risk populations and the value of bringing yoga and meditation practices to nontraditional environments. Mayor Rudolf Guiliani in 2000 awarded the project the "Mayor’s Voluntary Action Award"; and it has been featured in the documentary, "The Fire of Yoga." By building awareness and uniting the body and mind through physical activity, at-risk youth can learn to consciously manage stress, pain, illness, and the demands of everyday life. Increasing self-awareness among young people helps them to cultivate passion and commit to nonviolent engagement with their communities. The Lineage Project operates under the umbrella of The Tides Center, which manages the tax and legal aspects of many 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations and extends oversight to each project. This project was initiated under the sponsorship and leadership of Dina Scalone-Romero, who served as Lineage’s executive director. Ms. Scalone-Romero is an adjunct faculty member at Metropolitan College’s Audrey Cohen School of Human Services, holds an MBA, and is licensed as a New York state mental health counselor, as well as a certified prana yoga instructor. The Foundation has made a grant in the sum of $97,650 to support this project.
14. Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
199 Main Street, Suite 3
Northhampton, MA 01060
Telephone: (413) 582-0071, ext. 13
Attn: Philip Snyder, Executive Director
The Foundation made grants totaling $130,000 to assist in organization, promotion, tuition and travel support in connection with "the Wise Action Program," a series of five very successful meditation retreats for American leaders, including those in higher education, law, and social justice activism, which were held from November 2007 through Fall 2008. The retreats offered training in personal contemplative practices as well as contemplative methods adapted for the classroom, featuring Buddhist meditation as the central practice. In addition, the Foundation’s grant funds were also used to sponsor the Fall 2008 Meditation Retreat for Academics in Higher Education, attended by 29 professors with a wide range of experience in contemplative practice, some of whom are currently teaching courses with a contemplative component and some who are exploring it for the future. The retreat continued to cultivate the Center’s newly formed Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education.
15. Prison Dharma Network
P.O. Box 4623
Boulder, CO 80306-4623
Telephone: (303) 544-5923
Attn: Fleet Maull
The Foundation made a grant for the work of Fleet Maull’s Prison Dharma Network in an amount up to $225,000 between 2008 and 2012, of which $75,000 has been disbursed. The Prison Dharma Network was founded in 1989 by Fleet Maull, a Buddhist then serving a 14.5 year mandatory minimum sentence in federal prison for drug trafficking. Through Buddhist meditation practices and spiritual teachings of various Buddhist teachings, Mr. Maull rehabilitated himself and dedicated his organization to provide meditation-based and/or contemplative prison ministry programs and outreach projects through a network which has over 70 organizational members and over 700 individual members. The purpose is to assure that every prisoner who is inclined toward employing meditation, contemplative spirituality and other transformative practices has access to the teachings and resources they need to realize their aspirations. The Prison Dharma Network works directly with prison chaplains and other corrections staff to assist them in understanding and providing for healing, educational and spiritual needs of the prisoners of their institutions in the context of a restorative and transformative approach to corrections. Prison Dharma Network supports prisoners in the practice of contemplative disciplines, with an emphasis on sitting meditation practice and the practice and study of Buddhist teachings and other wisdom traditions. It promotes these paths of wakefulness and nonaggression as ideal vehicles for self-rehabilitation and personal transformation.
In order to realize the full benefits of the grant, Prison Dharma Network is required to raise in new funds the sum of $150,000.
16. Upaya Zen Center
1404 Cerro Gordo Road
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Telephone: (505) 986-8518
Attn: Roshi Joan Halifax
The Foundation has agreed to donate $10,000 in grant funds to Upaya’s 2009 "Project on Being with Dying." This includes the professional training program in contemplative end-of-life care, the Metta Refuge Program supporting those who have catastrophic illness, Compassionate Friends, who serve those who are dying, and the training of local and national professional and family caregivers, including training health care professionals as educators in Upaya’s methods. Its programs include service and training for clinicians and training in various medical settings. The Foundation looks forward to renewing this grant in coming years and, subject to its economic capacities, expanding its commitment.
The Foundation has instituted a Small Grants Program which generally involves funding of single projects up to a maximum of $10,000. The first such grant was made to EarthNest Institute (1706 Sonora Road, Sangre de Cristo Ranches, Box 521, Fort Garland, CO 81133; telephone 719-588-4109; website: www.meditate08.org; Attn: Nicole V. Langley, Director) for the purpose of filming a documentary entitled "Meditate ‘08," which took place in Denver, Colorado, during the Democratic National Convention in August of 2008. The documentary will concentrate on the speakers, teachers, guides, participants and events surrounding a meditation retreat which took place in the midst of the Democratic National Convention, and focuses upon the potential impact which Buddhism and meditation can have upon society. The object is to create a documentary that focuses on the intersection of thoughtful inward guidance on the one hand, and the often more one-sided or entrenched perspectives that tend to occur in today’s high pressured daily life, as expressed, for example, in politics and the public media.
A further grant in the sum of $10,000 was made by the Small Grants Committee to Zen Hospice Project (273 Page Street, San Francisco, CA 94102-5616; telephone: 415-863-2910; website: www.zenhospice.org; Attn: Chris Panos, co-President) to support its Volunteer Caregiver Program. This program is designed to bring essential support to low income and underserved populations that face socioeconomic barriers to care, such as the poor, underinsured and uninsured, as well as those lacking education or facing language barriers. For over two decades, Zen Hospice Project has pioneered an internationally recognized best practice model of end-of-life care and education that is based on Zen Buddhist principles of compassion, mindfulness and loving kindness. The Volunteer Caregiver Program integrates spiritual practice and end-of-life care training with service to the dying to embrace each moment of life and death as a pathway to self-realization and harmony.
Finally, the Foundation expended $5,000 for a study group based at Naropa to recommend a grant program to establish a virtual online library dedicated to collecting and publishing American Buddhist teachings. The group’s report is in hand, and it is the Foundation’s desire to enlist the support of the broader American Buddhist community to implement the study group’s recommendations.
GRANTS UNDER DISCUSSION
The Foundation is engaged in discussions with Brown University to support ongoing and planned contemplative educational programs, and is considering a grant request from Insight Meditation Society to support its "People of Color and Young Adult Retreats." The Foundation is also in dialogues with U.C. Berkeley to eventually support its Buddhist Studies program.
Since first preparing this report, these two grants have been completed and funded along with grants to Faithful Fools in San Francisco, which operates a Buddhist street practice, Soji Zen Center in Philadelphia, and Youth Yoga Dharma in Daly City, CA.
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-1000
Insight Meditation Society
Barre, MA 01005
234 Hyde Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Telephone: (415) 474-0508
Soji Zen Center
2325 West Marshall Road
Lansdowne, PA 19050
Youth Yoga Dharma
PO BOX 3452
Daly City, CA 94015
Telephone: (650) 992-9642
The Foundation receives many requests for grant funding from a number of qualified and worthy organizations; however, the Foundation’s limited resources in these challenging economic times constrain the Foundation’s inclination to be generous. Accordingly, not all worthy funding requests can be
Upstairs, the master bedroom was empty and all of the motion detectors that guarded the room had been turned off. Then, in one of the guest bedrooms, police spied a fully dressed woman lying on a bed, unconscious. Police tried to rouse her, but she was incoherent. By her side was a picture of a man and another of a dog. In another room were two dogs, stiff but breathing.
Searching the grounds, one officer followed a narrow path down to a pier on the water. Thin metal rails guided walkers on the path; one of them was bent and broken. Police called in divers who, 10 hours later, pulled a man's body from the water. He was dressed in a suit and tie. Around his neck was a dog collar with a dangling rabies vaccination tag.
The man was Frederick Lenz, better known to the world as the New Age guru Zen Master Rama; the woman, Brinn Lacey, one of his devoted followers. Two nights before, in a suicide pact, the pair had drugged the dogs with Phenobarbital, downed fistfuls of Valium (at least 150 pills by Lenz alone) and stepped off the pier. By some miracle, Lacey and the dogs survived; Lenz did not. Lacey wrote in a note the police found by her side: We all tried to go too the other world last night, and only Rama made it..."
Lenz's death at age 48 brought to a close a life marked by spectacular accomplishment and enormous controversy. He won hundreds of followers to his self-invented brand of material Buddhism, earning a fortune in the process. A Ph.D. In American literature, he published two books, Surfing the Himalayas and Snowboarding to Nirvana, describing his experiences with a Himalayan monk named Master Fwap. A visionary, he anticipated the computer age, branching into programming before it emerged as the culture's second language. To his followers, Lenz was a brilliant teacher who brought them to new levels of spiritual awareness and an entrepreneur who guided them to lucrative careers. Newsweek dubbed him the "Yuppie Guru."
To his critics, however, Lenz was a charlatan who lied without compunction, fleeced his students and sexually exploited women. "For someone who theoretically lived his life to help others, he spent a great deal of his time looking out for his own interests," wrote Steve Kaplan, an ex-follower, in a letter printed in New York magazine after the guru's death. "Lenz was a walking contradiction."
Lenz cultivated followers, not friends; surrounded by disciples, he apparently felt closest to his dogs. He proclaimed himself, "one of the 12 truly enlightened beings on the planet," but seemed beset by private demons. And in what may be the supreme irony, Lenz, who never evinced a twinge of guilt, chose to die in a body of water known as Conscience Bay.
In many ways, Lenz's life was the baby-boomer experience writ large, covering everything from hippiedom to Reagan-era materialism (in this life, at least; on some resumes Lenz listed several past incarnations, including a 17th -century Zen master in Kyoto, Japan). Lenz was born to Dorothy and Frederick Lenz Jr. on February 9, 1950, in San Diego. He was to be the only child of the union. The couple's marriage ended when their son was just five years old. Frederick Jr., a publishing executive, remarried about six years later and did not seem closely involved in his young son's life.
For Frederick III, the center of his universe was his mother, a woman who dabbled in astrology and was addicted to alcohol. "No one loved me like my mother," Lenz was to tell one of his numerous girlfriends. Dorothy died when her son was just 14 years old, and Lenz moved in with his father and his new family, but he did not much care for the arrangement.
As an adult, Lenz kept his family ties to a minimum. He distanced himself, rarely phoning or visiting relatives. "He really didn't like his father and didn't want anything to do with him," says a former family friend. Nevertheless, after he grew rich, Lenz paid for an apartment for his father and bought him a Jaguar.
They may have not been close, but in an eerie way, the father's life presaged the son's. Lenz Jr. had charisma; he drew followers to his 1974 political campaign to become mayor of his hometown of Stamford, Connecticut, and enough voters to win the election.
He also acknowledge a contradictory attraction to the life of the spirit and the flesh. "I wanted to be a Holy Ghost priest & but then I found out that to belong to the order you had to take an oath of poverty, chastity and obedience," Lenz Jr. revealed in an interview shortly after he was sworn in as mayor. "I didn't want to do that."
Young Frederick showed a bent for the spiritual as a teenager. At Rippowam High School, where he was apparently well-liked, fellow students dubbed him "Crazy Fred" and jokingly described him in their yearbook as a "cut-rate philosopher."
After graduation, Lenz headed for the heart of the then-flowering hippie movement, San Francisco. He spent a year in the Haight-Ashbury district, where he later recalled using "power plants & based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead to experience Enlightenment."
Law enforcement authorities took a dimmer view of such "power plants." Lenz was busted for selling marijuana and sentenced to a year at a work camp. (The arrest was later expunged, allowing Lenz to claim he had no criminal record.) The light sentence was attributed to Lenz's father's influence. "The story in the family," recalls an observer, "is that the old man bailed him out and then beat the hell out of him for it."
Back in Connecticut, matriculating at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Lenz followed up an interest, first cultivated in San Francisco, in the teachings of Sri Chinmoy, a popular Hindu guru who combined traditional Buddhist practice with physical fitness. In Chinmoy, who ran an ashram in nearby Norwal, Lenz found a focus he had never had before. Soon he was recruiting followers to Chinmoy's teachings of humility, obedience and fidelity.
During the Storrs years, Lenz married, but the union lasted just two years. Reportedly, Lenz wanted the marriage to be celibate while he indulged himself out of wedlock. Physically, he seemed ill-suited to the role of womanizer. Thin and tall (six feet three inches), Lenz had an androgynous face topped by a kind of white man's Afro of blond curls, and a voice that The Washington Post described as resembling that of fitness missionary Richard Simmons. "He was a nerdy guy," says the editor of his books, Jim Fritzgerald.
Some nerds, like Lenz, seem to have a peculiar allure. "He was able to use that nerdiness to endear himself to women and those around him," says Joe Szimhart, a cult specialist who has deprogrammed dozens of Lenz's followers. "He presented this confident edge that had all this occult power, but at the same time people around him could feel comfortable because he was a little clutzy. You felt a little sorry for him. Those two things would disarm people and intrigue them."
Accepted to graduate school at the Stony Brook campus of the State University of New York, Lenz worked to earn a doctorate in literature. His dissertation was on the American poet Theodore Rorthke, whose lyrical works often celebrate the glories of nature. Thereafter, Lenz insisted on referring to himself as "Dr." in virtually every forum.
All during this time. Lenz was recruiting for Chinmoy, but eventually he began to chafe at the guru's strict rules. According to Mark Laxer, a former follower of Lenz who turned into his harshest critic, Chinmoy became fed up with Lenz's womanizing. In 1979, Chinmoy apparently decided to teach Lenz a lesson in humility and obedience by sending him to San Diego to open a Laundromat.
San Diego, the place of Lenz's birth, became the place of his invention, the first of several. The geographical distance further weakened Lenz's allegiance to Chinmoy. Lenz, who by then was calling himself by the Hindu name Atmananda, began to hint his own divinity. The final break with Chinmoy came one night when, as Laxer recounts it , Lenz summoned his closest follower to the oceanside house he and Laxer then sharing with three women and announced that "Something heavy has been going down in the inner worlds. Can anyone see what it is?"
The turmoil, as it turned out, was that Chinmoy had "fallen." In the ensuing uproar, Lenz lost most of his following, but soon he was recruiting throughout California--this time to his own teachings. Lenz's philosophy, which he expounded under his newly adopted name of Zen Master Rama, taken after an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, fit perfectly into the blossoming have-it-all ear of Reaganomics. Instead of Buddhism's traditional devotion to asceticism and removal from the vagaries of the world, Rama advocated a Buddhist-flavored materialism. The package included meditation and other Buddhist trappings but also money.
Indeed, Rama used financial success as a marker of spiritual growth. Lenz would have none of what he called the "begging bowl" mentality of traditional Buddhism. "He said that he had set up his program inwardly and outwardly so that our incomes would be a reflection of our spiritual progress," says Charles Rubin, who studied with Lenz from 1986 to 1991. "So not making enough money was a sign that we weren't doing well with the program and should go off and do something else."
This materialism showed up in Lenz's own life. His base of operations in 1982 was the rented Malibu home of Goldie Hawn. Over the years, he acquired expensive homes in Santa Fe and Bedford, New York. He owned Porches, Mercedes and Range Rovers. He dressed in Versace.
Not surprisingly, Buddhist teachers had little respect for Lenz. "I've never seen a serious reference to his man in all of my reading of Buddhist literature and discussion," says Melvin McLeod, editor in chief of the Shambhala Sun, an international Buddhist magazine. "He's not someone American Buddhism in any way recognizes, to my knowledge."
What little credibility Lenz might have had was obliterated with his suicide. "If he was a teacher of Buddhism, he never would have done that," says McLeod. "Suicide pacts, encouraging people to kill themselves, trying to kill dogs. None of that has anything to do with Buddhism."
Rama promoted his new philosophy by promoting himself. He had posters with his image plastered in Times Square. His photo appeared in ads he took out in Vanity Fair, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. The ads urged readers to "gain the competitive edge" through Rama's seminars. The campaigns did not come cheaply; in one blitz in 1987, Lenz spent $500,000.
Spiritual seekers who went to his meetings in the 1980s found him spellbinding. "There was soothing music, a couch up on the stage surrounded by flowers supposedly sent by followers," says one attendee. "He would talk about life and how to have a good career. People also claimed they saw light coming out of his fingers, or an aura around him."
"I had moments of clarity, of ecstasy, of superconscious awareness in his presence that I couldn't begin to describe," confesses Rubin. "He was a master at inducing these states in other people. You may try to describe it as hypnosis. That just seems like a way to belittle it to me. He was an amazing teacher in spite of his flaws."
In Rubin's opinion, Rama "got carried away with the money." Yet he attributes his own current financial success to lessons he learned while studying with Lenz.
The seminars served not only to recruit followers, but also lovers. Though Lenz preached that women needed to "detach" themselves from men in general, he separated himself from the rest of his gender. He freely admitted that he viewed the convocations as a dating pool. "It's like meeting somebody at church and you go out," he told the Washington Post in 1996. "I think it's called being a healthy American male." Lenz had numerous sexual encounters with female students, which he insisted were consensual explorations of "tantric sex," though his tactics were clearly manipulative.
"He considered his sperm to be liquid enlightenment and we should be very honored to have it in our bodies," says Nancy (not her real name). "I'm embarrassed to admit that I fell for that. I sure thought highly of myself until I began meeting all of the other women whom he had sex with." Nancy, who says the sex was "not very good," recalls one time when Lenz summoned three of his girlfriends together late one night. "He told us that we had psychically approached him with an interesting proposition, although none of us could successfully guess what it was. He told us that we all wanted to have sex with him together, but he wanted to do it one at a time. So two of us would clean his house while one of us would 'do' him. We all took turns."
"Lenz was very good to you when he was having sex with you," Nancy notes, "but if he decided to move on in his harem, then he would completely ignore you. We always assumed that it was because we were mentally bad or possessed."
Lenz led a sweet life for a considerable time, raking in millions of dollars annually. Students were charged fees, which escalated quickly and steeply. Rubin says that he started by paying Lenz $40 a month, which rapidly rose to $400. By the time Rubin was ousted from Rama's circle for being unable to keep up with payments, he was being charged $3,500 a month "basically to see Rama one night, albeit a long night."
Another group of followers was forking over $5,000 a month to see Lenz for two nights. Rama preferred to be paid in cash with crisp high-denomination bills, (preferably $100s); lower denominations, like $10s and $20s were "low vibed." Lenz also used to throw away all of his change, except for quarters, which he used to pay tolls. The coins, he declared, had "bad energy."
By the mid 1980s, Lenz had arrived at the conclusion that computers would reshape the economy. He founded a software development firm and instructed his students to train as computer programmers. It was yet another personal reinvention; now he was Rama the computer entrepreneur. "He was on the cutting edge of all these things," says Fitzgerald. "He had the terms down, although how involved he was, I don't know."
It was a curious enterprise. While some of the trainees turned out to be whizzes at programming, others plying their skills in Silicon Valley were dismal failures. A trade magazine dubbed Lenz's flubs "the California raisins." The raising' resumes were inflated, admit former followers, who say that Rama ordered them to "learn as they earn."
Even as Rama's wealth and influence was expanding, his inner strength seemed to be eroding. Throughout the 1980s, Lenz was using LSD and having his inner circle use it as well. He started to develop a belief in "negative spiritual forces" that only he could see and that could wreak physical and psychological havoc. Lenz became increasingly distrustful, even abusive. "I suspect Rama was deeply affected by all the hallucinogens he took," says Rubin. "They probably contributed to his mental fantasies about himself and to his paranoia."
Nancy recalls one incident when she commented on how appealing she found a seagull that was eating nearby. "Lenz said that it wasn't cute, that it might not even really be a bird, but might be something else," she notes. "He really had me getting paranoid, too."
Lenz began to believe that people wanted him dead and that even his followers were out to get him. "They were always trying to psychically kill him, he claimed," says Nancy. In response, the preacher of inner peace resorted to some decidedly non-pacive action. Says Nancy, "He proudly told me of a time when he put out a low grade 'kill energy' to anyone that wanted to mess with him, because he was tired of it. One of the men that was working on his house keeled over and died of a heart attack. Rama was very proud of the fact that he 'killed' him." (Lenz also had an un-Hindu-like affection for Stephen King and Clyde Barker novels and violent films).
Around the time the stock market crashed in 1987, so did Lenz's highflying life. Some of his students came forward with tales of outlandish behavior. "I got calls from people complaining about him," says Szimhart. "It was basically stuff he's been accused of all along: sexually manipulating women and taking a lot of money from an inner core of members."
Mercedes Hughes, who was deprogrammed by Szimhart, claimed that Lenz convinced her that one of her responsibilities was to perk him up after his seminars "and sex was one of the ways." Anny Eastwood charged that Lenz had threatened her with a pistol and forced her to have sex with him. But the heaviest blow came when Donald Cole, a UCLA student who studied under Rama, committed suicide by stabbing himself to death. In the note he left behind, Cole apologized for falling short of Lenz's standards. "Bye, Rama," the note read. "See you next time."
Though he denied all the charges, Lenz's image was badly tarnished. To most outsiders, Rama was now a cult leader, not a Zen master. The torrent of bad publicity affected Lenz deeply. "He almost went completely bald because of depression when the allegations came out," says one person who knew him. "He had these huge periods of depression because everyone was after him."
Lenz went after the media. "It seems to into and often grossly distort aspects of one's personal and professional life," he said in an interview published on his Web site. (Months after his suicide, the site had yet to note Rama's demise.) Lenz also attacked his accusers. He insisted that the charges were the work of a handful of disgruntled former followers, whose "motivation ranges from what you might expect-from the seeking of money and publicity, to those who genuinely suffer from chronic personal problems and have fixated on me as the cause of their frustrations and failures."
Lenz adopted a lower profile. He kept plugging away at his computer business but stopped making public appearances and moved back east to an estate on Long Island. Bought for $950,000 a decade ago (and now worth $2 million), it features a beautiful house of wood, mirrors and glass. But Lenz seemed to live in terror inside.
"He thought all of his students had terrible energy and that we contaminated anything we touched," says Nancy, who lived with him for a time (unlike most cult leaders, Lenz did not live with his band of disciples). Afraid of being poisoned-he claimed to have been poisoned to death in a past life by one of his students-Rama would not permit Nancy to cook for him. They ate most of their meals out, and when the multimillionaire guru did dine at home, he used plastic dishes and flatware.
Spiders terrified him. "They reminded him of 'entities,' " says Nancy. "When one crossed the floor he yelled at me to kill it. I covered it with a glass intending to take it outside, but he told me to kill it, because it might not really be a spider." Security was fanatically tight around the Long Island estate. Nancy remembers that she couldn't leave Rama's bedroom at night because she might set off alarms. Lenz slept with a rifle tucked under his side of the king-size bed.
By the early 1990s, Lenz's glory days seemed behind him. He was still a wealthy man. "I estimate that he had a hundred core followers that could send him at least $2,000 a month," says Szimhart. His remaining students still adored him, giving him a Bentley in gratitude one year.
But Lenz' knack for emerging in successful new guises seemed to be exhausted. "He was reinventing himself, but it was not working very well," says Szimhart. Still, Lenz had one more transformation left. After spending a few years in relative quiet, he burst back on the scene in 1995 as a novelist with Surfing the Himalayas: A Spiritual Adventure. The book is a detailed account of Lenz's putative encounter with a Tibetan monk named Master Fwap who reveals to him the keys to snowboarding down mountains. (Lenz had styled himself as a master of extreme athletics by this time.)
It was pure Carlos Castenada- with snow. Lenz often quoted the reclusive mystical writer, who is a favorite of New Age seekers. The book received scathing reviews. The Denver Post slammed it as "poorly researched crud" while the Santa Fe Sun derided it as "terrifically dull and stupefying." Still, heavily promoted by St. Martin's, its publisher, and $1 million of Lenz's own money that he used to publicize the book, it sold about 100,000 copies, making it onto the best-seller lists.
The book's success won Lenz some new followers, but it also led to publicity detailing the accusations against him. Unfazed, Lenz produced a sequel, Snowboarding to Nirvana. Published in 1997, the book added massive amounts of sex to the spiritual equation. The narrator's accounts of interludes, with a woman named Nadia in particular, combined cosmic consciousness and heavy breathing. ("As she opened her legs a little wider," goes one passage, "I thrust more deeply into her. We kissed, and then everything went white. I don't remember much of what happened after that, except for the two of us passing through countless cascading dimensions of color and ecstasy.")
The book was a failure, largely, in Fitzgerald's view, because Lenz bailed out of doing a tour or any promotional interviews. The reason: Lenz was devastated by the death of Vayu-his beloved dog.
By all accounts, Lenz's closest attachments were to his pet Scotties. They were his family-his "only family," claims one observer-and he took them everywhere. "He was wacky about them," says Fitzgerald. "He'd call me up at night and talk to me about his dogs. When he'd come up to see me in Manhattan, this great big limo would be out front with the dogs sitting in it, and I'd have to go down and see them."
Lenz's clear favorite was Vayu. He named the computer business after the dog and dedicated Snowboarding to the canine. An ardent environmentalist on his Web site, he ordered his groundskeeper to use the strongest pesticide available on the lawn just to keep fleas away from the dog. Lenz counted Vayu among the planet's 12 "enlightened beings." "When the dog would go out and bark at night, Rama claimed that he was barking at bad energy being thrown at the house," says Nancy.
It was Vayu's death, most agree, that pushed Lenz over the edge, into a deep depression that led ultimately to his suicide. He so couldn't bear to part with his pet that he reportedly watched the dog's body decompose on a couch for two days. "When the dog died, in a strange way, he died," says Fitzgerald. "It was a real alter ego with him."
"Rama taught us all how to deal with the physical world and how to deal with the spiritual world," maintains Rubin, "but he completely ignored the emotional world. He simply couldn't connect to other people as equals." When divers pulled Lenz's body from Conscience Bay, Vayu's tags were around his neck.
There are a multitude of reasons things come apart. Some are just the result of natural entropy in the universe and others are prompted in a more volitional manner.
Just because something is labeled Buddhist doesn’t mean we are obliged to support it if we are not in agreement with it’s policies, actions etc. Just because something’s been around for a long time does not mean it’s continuation is a necessity to the Buddhist community or at all. Just because one has become accustomed to a thing doesn’t mean one must cling to it for a lifetime.
That being said it also doesn’t mean the promotion of the destruction of a thing is a goal either. Nothing is that clear cut.
I don’t usually feel obliged to explain my motivations to anyone but in this case I am going to lay some of them out very clearly.
What is going on here is a violation of trust and the reaction to it.
Tricycle magazine has spent many years building a readership. The reader and the read are in a relationship. There are certain assumptions made in a mutually satisfying relationship. These assumptions are based on trust.
Assumptions of trust in this case on the part of readers, in general, include that there is:
*an editorial policy which includes fact checking for the material published
*a certain amount of respect for readers and non-readers. And that they will not be exploited to make cheap sensationalistic points
*an appropriate amount of research behind what is written in order to avoid taking statements out of context and recontextualizing them in a negative fashion
*a self-awareness of bias if a writer is simply writing an opinion piece
not a conflict of interest with writers, editors and their subjects and if so that should be disclosed accountability
Assumptions of trust in this case on the part of readers, due to the stated Buddhist nature of the magazine, it’s staff and writers, include that there is:
*a knowledge of Buddhist ethics as stated in precepts and elsewhere
*a sensitivity to the spiritual nature of the readers and a recognition that in this area *some may be vulnerable to coercive persuasion
*a respect for Buddhist practitioners of any sect, origin, class, method or manner of practice due to commonality in participating in fulfilling the Buddhadharma as their situations and abilities mandate
*a respect for all persons regardless of age, gender…(the basic human rights list)
Maybe these assumptions are too optimistic. Maybe the selling of the Buddhadharma by any and all means is more important than any of this
Let me take up Genkaku Adam Fisher’s point and his echo of the Buddha’s words,
It is not what others do and do not do that is my concern. It is what I do and do not do — that is my concern.
This has been cited to me in one form or another on this and other issues. It is very nice and comfortable to tend one’s own garden while watching others’ go to ruin. Or is it? And further is it even possible for someone on the Buddhist path?
What I do…” is always in relation to a larger whole. While I do agree with Genkaku Adam Fisher it is only insofar as it’s not used as an excuse to cop out and relinquish one’s self to fear. Actions have a context. They have a cause.
In concerning myself with “What I do…” I am also concerned with that which is the impetus of what I do as well as the possible results of what I do. Nothing happens in isolation.
Often we see exhortations, even from a few Buddhist teachers to remain silent, be above the fray, to back off.
This transcendental egotism, as I called it in a previous post is absolutely unrealistic. To attempt to limit one’s actions to a singular sphere wherein context is irrelevant is highly deluded if not psycho-pathological.
What more can be done?
Violations of trust are not healed by those who are on the receiving end of the violations. In the sense of transformative, or healing justice it is those who have committed the harmful actions who, by realizing the harm done, instigate dialogue and attempt amends with the help of the community. It involves all of us including those responsible for the article, those directly affected by the article, those of us with knowledge of the situation, those of us who feel some sense of offense and the larger readership of the magazine since their perceptions, either way have also been affected by this.
I can keep explaining and explaining but that’s just like some cry in the wilderness. By reacting, I and others of the community have actually initiated dialogue. Just not the dialogue Tricycle and it’s representatives want to hear right now.
There is room for amelioration of the situation. But it is going to take some work, honesty and soul-searching. (odd thing for a Buddhist to say?) I’m doing it. How about Michael, James, Philip and the rest of the Tricycle affiliates?
I really believe the people will listen to what these folks have to say. If only they’d say it. Straight." (end of Enlightenward quote)
Corboy urges interested readers to study this excerpted article in entirety and also the comments that follow. There are discussions on business models of most publications giving a larger context by which to examine that of Tricycle magazine.
More articles concerning this recent 'Dharma War' here.
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 12/22/2009 11:35PM by corboy.
Not surprisingly, Buddhist teachers had little respect for Lenz. "I've never seen a serious reference to his man in all of my reading of Buddhist literature and discussion," says Melvin McLeod, editor in chief of the Shambhala Sun, an international Buddhist magazine. "He's not someone American Buddhism in any way recognizes, to my knowledge."
What little credibility Lenz might have had was obliterated with his suicide. "If he was a teacher of Buddhism, he never would have done that," says McLeod. "Suicide pacts, encouraging people to kill themselves, trying to kill dogs. None of that has anything to do with Buddhism."
Psychology Today/December 1998
While the Blessed
One was living at Savatthi, it seems, a certain deity came to
him in the night, and in order to do away with his doubts he
asked this question:
‘The inner tangle and the outer tangle-
‘This generation is entangled in a tangle.
‘And so I ask of Gotama this question:
Who succeeds in disentangling this tangle?’ (S.i, 13).
2. Here is the meaning in brief. Tangle is a term for the
network of craving. For that is a tangle in the sense of lacing
together, like the tangle called network of branches in bamboo thickets, etc., because it goes on arising again and again up and down among the objects [of consciousness] beginning with what is visible. But it is called the inner tangle and the outer tangle because it arises [as craving] for one’s own requisites and another’s, for one’s own person and another’s, and for the internal and external bases [for consciousness].
Since it arises in this way, this generation is entangled in a
tangle. As the bamboos, etc., are entangled by the bamboo
tangle, etc., so too this generation, in other words, this order
of living beings, is all entangled by the tangle of craving-
\the meaning is that it is intertwined, interlaced by it. 
Lenz didn't accept just anyone. He was interested only in bright, diligent, presentable followers, so he required people to fill out lengthy applications - with photos attached. (Typical question: "Do you hear voices, or do you communicate with nonphysical beings?") Those who made the cut were taught what Lenz called American Buddhism, which included "what matters: making money."
Lenz had the foresight to recognize that computer programming for mainstream institutions, including Wall Street banks, held far more potential than, say, street-corner flower sales. He urged his flock to learn the basics of programming at Computer Learning Centers. Lenz said computer training was integral to practicing Buddhism; he insisted that writing code is like doing yoga, that it "puts you in a very high place."
"It was quite a radical thing to take people who were used to eating granola and send them down to Wall Street," recalls William Arntz, who was a Lenz student for 12 years, until 1994. "He said it was a warrior's task to go down there. He said the good thing about programming was that you can see how clear you are by how good your code works."
"In a lot of ways," says a current follower who, like several others, declined to be identified, "your computer career became a vehicle for studying Buddhism."
Lenz was certainly right about one thing: the shortage of skilled programmers in the early '80s. Coders like Arntz who were proficient in SQL or Fortran made $50 an hour, a rate that more than doubled by decade's end. From their earnings, followers would eventually pay Lenz a monthly tuition ranging from $125 for college students to $5,000 for the highest earners. Some would fork over as much as $1,000 to have dinner with the man who clued them in on everything from what to wear (Armani evoked authority, he said, while Calvin Klein was for wimps) to where to live (he endorsed certain "power" centers, like Westchester County in suburban New York).
Some disgruntled members charged Lenz with being a drug-ingesting charlatan.
Invoking a theme from Carlos Castaneda, Lenz told followers that their paths would be smoother if they made themselves "inaccessible" to outsiders who might drain their energy. That meant creating an elaborate shield to conceal their physical whereabouts: relying on post-office boxes, hiding behind email. Buying into the Lenz trip often meant moving every six months or so - whenever he requested it - and acquiring no more material goods than you could stuff in a car. It appeared that he mistrusted not only outsiders but his own students as well.
"This was a man who made you sign an eight-page form if you went out with him on a date," says a lapsed follower now living in the New York area. Lenz warned students that the backlash for leaving the group included personal tragedies like cancer and fatal car crashes.
And many smart people - smart grasping-at-spiritual-straws people - bought it. Typical Lenzies were (and are) educated, intelligent, ambitious. Lenz helped them fill a spiritual void while advancing their careers. So what if he sometimes berated them or peremptorily kicked them out - particularly when they couldn't afford the monthly tuition?
"It was almost like being a junkie," recalls a businessman who grudgingly admits that his own addiction to Lenz lasted 14 years. "You got hooked on him."
Word of Lenz's ways started leaking out in 1987, when he was living on and off in a house in Stony Brook - not far from the site of his eventual suicide. A few disgruntled members, like Mark Laxer, a former money collector for his operation, were taking their tales of life with Rama to the press, charging the so-called Yuppie Guru with being a drug-ingesting charlatan. A group of parents formed Lenz-Watch, and former female members reported stories of sexual coercion.
Lenz would lay low after each round of bad press, but he didn't abandon his lavish lifestyle. With hundreds of thousands of dollars a month flowing in by the early '90s, he flew in a jet between homes he occupied in the exclusive communities of Old Field, New York, and Tesuque, New Mexico. He organized elaborate dinners for his followers and "power trips" to the California desert, Europe, and the Caribbean. He led regular meditation sessions in hotel meeting rooms, backed by the music of Zazen, the group's favored band. Keyboardist Steve Kaplan, now a lapsed believer, doubled as a cash courier. "I would fly to New York and come back and deliver the money to Marcus," he says. "Like $400,000 in checks and money orders."
Kaplan is referring to Norman Marcus, who was - and still is, along with Norman Oberstein - the older, clearheaded power behind the Lenz enterprise. (Both declined to be interviewed for this article.) Marcus was a Los Angeles-based Ernst & Young partner when he became Lenz's accountant in 1993. Four years later he retired from the Big Five firm to work full-time for Lenz, taking charge of the group's financial operations, which had become increasingly complex as Lenz's wealth expanded.
Oberstein, a Los Angeles attorney, generated many of the numerous contracts Lenz supporters were asked to sign. Followers didn't object to contracts that restricted them from talking about the Lenz group, and they could afford to keep up with the fees because they were gaining ground in the world of computer programming. They were landing contracting gigs in the information-technology units of Wall Street companies like Salomon Brothers.
The Lenzies often did respectable work, but not always.
"I was one of the first people to give computer training, and I had only one year of data processing," recalls former member Mark Lurtsema. "Let's put it this way: Those courses were not college level." In the Consultants' and Contractors' Newsletter, whose readership includes managers who hire computer programmers in and around New York City, editor Wendy Vandame frequently reported on the impact of unseasoned Lenz followers at places like Nynex and Deutsche Bank. She estimates that, from about 1987 to 1994, Lenz's people caused millions of dollars in business losses in the New York metropolitan area, the result of missed project deadlines and spending on services that were inadequate or misrepresented.
Still, the Lenzies proliferated, in part because their technical training was backed with seminars about aggressive job hunting. One training document goes so far as to suggest, "Have a friend using a pseudonym act as your reference person."
As Lenz got richer, he dished out cash to turn himself into a high-profile celebrity. In 1995 he bought billboard space and full-page ads in Rolling Stone and The New York Times to promote Surfing the Himalayas, a fictionalized account of his "internal and external" experiences in Nepal. Lenz spent close to $1.5 million to promote his book and its sequel, Snowboarding to Nirvana.
Lenz encouraged recruits to start software companies, and more than 100 of them did.
Lenz also enjoyed a host of new business opportunities. He encouraged followers to launch software businesses, and more than 100 of them did. "To start a company became the major focus of things," recalls Arntz.
A handful of these companies became prominent in their fields. Under the direction of Arntz, AutoSystems, based in Boulder, Colorado, created AutoSys scheduling software, which became something of a Unix-industry standard. TeamAlliance, cofounded by Lenz follower Richard Harmon and a colleague, Mordy Levine, was a high tech industry-recruitment operation that grew to include 30 regional offices by 1995. While such Lenz-inspired companies as Retail Forecasting Systems and SportsCaster ended up in the ether, some of the products invented by Lenz's disciples in his name were quite good. Unisys, for instance, relies on a Client/Server Connection networking tool - whose patent lists Lenz as an inventor - to develop architectural road maps for its customers.
What many of these enterprises had in common, of course, was that the founders had agreed to turn over as much as 50 percent of gross revenues to privately held companies owned by Lenz. A typical Lenz software operation might consist of two separate entities: a "Ltd." company owned by the entrepreneur and an "Inc." affiliate owned by Lenz, which in some cases retained the intellectual property.
The entities were set up to keep Lenz awash in money. An entrepreneur whose business software is widely used - and who declines to be identified - gave Lenz 49.9 percent of his company in exchange for a nominal investment. He also passed along 50 percent of his revenues to a Lenz-owned consulting company he claims provided no services. TeamAlliance cofounders Levine and Harmon had to pass along 50 percent of their net to Lenz, who provided some investment capital and agreed to sign a bank letter of credit for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And Lenz was hardly a passive, name-only investor. For smart, motivated entrepreneurs, he was a pest. If a founder fell out of favor with the guru, Lenz would simply pull resources, including the cheap student labor he otherwise provided. "For Lenz it was like, 'If Icrash and burn the company because I don't like it, Istill get 50 percent of the software used by other companies,'" says a former student whose company is partly owned by the Lenz estate.
For the most part, too, the ownership arrangements ensured that when the companies were sold, Rama reaped the rewards. In 1996, when TeamAlliance was sold for roughly $9 million to Hall Kinion, a Cupertino, California-based recruiter, cofounders Levine and Harmon made good on a contract to give about half to Lenz - in cash. AutoSystems founder Arntz says he gave Rama one-third of the more than $14 million he received from selling his company - not because of any contractual obligation but because they had a handshake agreement.
As word of the group made its way into the business community, a link to Lenz could cause negative reverberations. Bill Slater, a nonfollower, observed that Lenz "had taught them very meticulously to deny him." But the Lenz outfits also staved off potential challenges by slavishly promoting one another.
"It was like a damn pyramid scheme, the way he got people to cover for each other and pump each other's companies," recalls Slater. (corboy boldface for emphasis)
It wasn't long before something else would surface: the will Lenz had signed in California on October 25, 1994. Norman Marcus was named as executor.
When he wrote out his will, Lenz had made it clear he was unmarried and that he wanted to leave his estate neither to his father - whom he was helping support in San Luis Obispo, California - nor a half sister. He'd told Gerald Lunn, his estate attorney, that he wanted his $18 million estate used to establish a nonprofit trust "to make Buddhist teachings more generally available and/or for the defense of American Buddhists who were being persecuted." But the will stipulated that in the event Lenz hadn't gotten around to taking "significant steps" to establish such a foundation, all the money would go to the National Audubon Society.
"Lenz loved birds," recalls Mark Laxer. "He told me that when he died he wanted the money to go there and to Amnesty International."
Two and a half months after the suicide, Marcus formed and registered the Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism, naming two officers, himself and Oberstein, and placing Lenz's father on the board. Marcus stood to benefit greatly from Rama's will. As executor of the estate (which includes $6.3 million in closely held companies and $5.9 million in T-bills), his compensation is at least 2 percent of its assets. He also assumes the role of president of at least two of Lenz's companies (Software Visions and Infinity Plus Consulting, according to an affidavit submitted by the National Audubon Society). Because those organizations are privately held, he isn't required to report how much, if anything, he is earning as their new president.
Since his client's suicide, Marcus has been hard at work keeping Lenz's business infrastructure intact, according to one source at a software company partly owned by the Lenz estate. The individual says Marcus pressured the company to continue to pay a share of its revenues to Lenz's company Infinity Plus Consulting, even after Rama's death. Marcus also started receiving an annual salary of $60,000 as director of the Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism.
But at a critical point along the way, Marcus crossed paths with a group of bird-watchers who wanted to know whether Lenz himself had done anything to establish the Buddhism foundation. Susan Bloom, an attorney representing the Audubon Society, would later argue that for six months the foundation's attorneys had failed to produce the evidence she requested. So Audubon started proceedings in court, prompting Marcus to provide evidence that Lenz had taken measures to start the foundation. Among the items Marcus submitted in January of this year: records indicating that he had researched trademarkable names for the foundation, letters of inquiry to Lenz's alma maters about endowments, and an affidavit from Lunn explaining that the guru was too distracted with his eye problems, too anxious and depressed, to work on the foundation.
Marcus' strategy was to get a summary judgment from Judge Albert J. Emanuelli of the Westchester County Surrogate's Court, thus avoiding a trial. For its part, Audubon tried a tricky legal maneuver: In addition to asserting that Lenz never directed his counselors to establish a foundation and that Marcus and Oberstein were acting in their own self-interest, it also submitted a collection of articles and testimony supporting the assertion that Lenz was a fraud and that in his final years his interest in American Buddhism had been waning.
On May 6, Emanuelli ruled against Marcus, denying his request for a summary judgment. Audubon and Marcus then embarked on the lengthy discovery process that may eventually lead to a trial.
Meanwhile, other claimants entered the fray. A few weeks earlier, Larchmont, New York, attorney Rita Gilbert took a telephone call from a woman in Texas who claimed to be Lenz's widow. "She just called me. I assumed she was referred to me by someone," says Gilbert. "I asked her to give me proof of what she was telling me." Until that moment, the attorney had never heard of Fred Lenz.
What Gilbert soon received was a California marriage certificate from 1980 indicating that Lenz and Diana Jean Reynolds had been married by a minister of the Universal Life Church in San Diego. One of the two witnesses was Mark Laxer. "They may have been married, but I don't know," says Laxer, who now writes software for the US Customs Agency. "Nor do I remember being witness to a marriage." (Laxer was also named as a defendant in the libel suit against Wired regarding its 1994 Lenz story; the magazine paid for his defense.)
"She's a very private person," says Gilbert of her client. "This was hard for her to do." (Reynolds declined to discuss the case.) Before meeting the alleged wife in person, Gilbert agreed to try to help her claim one-third of the Lenz estate. She adds that Reynolds is on disability, but won't indicate what for. Gilbert also admits that Reynolds, a former Lenz student, may not have ever lived with the guru. "They stopped seeing each other in the 1980s," reports the attorney. In Take Me for a Ride, his book about his years in Rama's inner circle, Laxer refers to Reynolds without naming her. She is described as an extremely attractive former dancer and flight attendant with long brown hair. No longer a member of the Lenz group, according to Gilbert, she now lives quietly and sees few people. Of course, claiming her share of Lenz's millions will likely mean drawing plenty of attention in a three-way contest in a White Plains, New York, courtroom.
On May 27 she encountered additional competition: another woman claiming to be married to Rama - only this one shared his name. A woman calling herself Deborah Lenz had phoned White Plains attorney Anthony DeTommasi on the last possible day for applying to New York State for the one-third share she could be entitled to as a surviving spouse. She claimed to have had an 11-year marriage to Rama, whom she asserted would visit her periodically in her Colorado condominium. In 1989, during a time she claimed to be deprogramming Lenz followers, she was quoted in an Aspen Daily News article (where she used the name Deborah Haines), describing Lenz as dangerous and saying "he'll do anything he can to stop me and shut me up."
The market for Lenz wannabes has opened up. But no one is getting rich.
Like Diana Reynolds, Deborah Lenz will have to prove she was Rama's spouse. The attorneys representing Marcus hired a private investigator, who found that no marriage certificate was filed in San Diego. Reynolds' attorney claimed the certificate could have been legally filed elsewhere in California, and she promised to produce other evidence of the union at a future hearing.
"It appears he may have had relations with many women during the course of his life," says DeTommasi. "To some of these women he may have extended promises of marriage. Deborah Lenz is contending that, in her case, the promise of marriage came to fruition."
With Lenz long gone, his followers seem to be trapped in a state of suspended animation. Many of them are still inaccessible, still gathering privately in small groups, and slaving to keep Lenz alive - in cyberspace. Despite the splintering effect, every day still is greeted with new postings on www.ramalila.com - lengthy elegies, endless memories of moments with Rama, screensavers, poems. There's even a collection of his favorite jokes.
Hundreds of former Lenz followers are bereft of their spiritual leader, but fewer than a dozen have stepped forward to offer classes in meditation and career advancement. And it's clear that none of them has the charisma - not to mention salesmanship - to fill Rama's shoes. Fifty-two-year-old Tony Chester, based in Los Angeles, is one of eight teachers promoting themselves to Lenz's students on www.ramalila.com. David Ash, a Lenz student with a PhD in computer sciences from Stanford, has led meditation sessions at New York's Millennium Broadway Hotel. Ash runs the Rae-Chorze Fwaz Mystery School (named for a school of enlightenment mentioned in Surfing the Himalayas) and plans to take students on skydiving adventures. Roger Cantu also holds classes, which he says are attended by former Rama students, among others, in a conference room in the back of the Half-Price Bookstore in Arlington, Texas. He plans to spread his influence by teaching regularly in Houston, Los Angeles, and New York. "It's interesting. David is in the East. Tony's in the West. And I'm in the middle," he says, adding, "I've got more students than Tony."
A few other former students have jumped into the fray. Ken Frazee, who has led meditation sessions in Boise, maintains a page on www.ramalila.com that says he has studied with Chester for the past seven years and that "about four years ago, Tony gave to Ken an empowerment to teach." Meanwhile, a stream of followers is now drifting off to other spiritual leaders. Some have flocked to Adi Da (formerly Franklin Jones), the Fiji-based guru who, like Lenz, has faced accusations of sexual abuse by former followers. Some have headed to India to sit at the feet of Sathya Sai Baba, a guru known for sharing what money he collects with the people of his neighborhood.
But a year and a half after the market for Rama wannabes opened up, none of the candidates is getting rich. In California, Tony Chester, with all the trappings of a budding spiritual leader, appears to hold the center. He sells audiotapes and calls his business Expanded Awareness Seminars. He imported a teacher from New York to run a career workshop. He hosts desert retreats. A former schoolteacher who became a minister with the Church of Religious Science, Chester came under Rama's spell in 1981 and later took up computer programming. He was a formal student of Rama's on and off until about 1994. But unlike Lenz, Chester downplays the influence he may exert on his pupils. "Any spiritual teacher worth his salt," he declaims, "needs his students to have an open heart in order to make this work."
A Harley-Davidson enthusiast, Chester is becoming something of a fixture on the Southern California meditation circuit. Clinging to his framed photograph of the leather-jacketed Lenz, Chester keeps the Rama business alive in a grueling meditation schedule that brings him before different groups of meditators throughout the week. One night he's at Westwood's Body Mind Institute, another at San Diego's Dharma Center, located in a second-story room in the funky, surfer-trash Ocean Beach neighborhood.
Dharma Center cofounder Jenna Walsh, another meditation teacher, has met with Chester during some of his sessions in San Diego. She says he "does a great meditation." But she makes it sound like a spiritual consolation prize. "Rama was just such a full-rounded teacher," she explains. "He had it all down. He could talk to us about business, about résumé writing, about advanced meditative practice. I've gone and seen several Tibetan lamas, and none of them could pull all of that off."
"With Rama leaving the body," she says, "it's forced us to look at each other and learn from each other instead of just relying on him for the answers."
In a recent meditation session in Los Angeles, Chester sounded a similar theme, acknowledging that he cannot carry the mantle alone.
"Jesus couldn't cure a headache in Nazareth," said the Rama follower-cum-teacher. "He had cured lepers, but when he got to Nazareth their hearts were closed, so nothing could happen."
On this night, Chester was renting space for his meditation classes from the Body Mind Institute in Los Angeles, a single, dimly lit room above a furniture store off Santa Monica Boulevard. Chester, a bald man with a perfect Buddha body, sat on a chair in front of a dozen meditators - most of whom, like the leader himself, were former students of Rama. The New Age music of Zazen, emanating from a CD player on a marble-topped Asian table, set a mystical mood. To Chester's left stood an altar containing a vase of flowers, a candle, and a framed photograph of Lenz, with his golden curls and leather jacket.
As the meditation continued, Chester aimed his eyes at those of a Brazilian high schooler in the group, one of the few non-Lenzies, telling the young man to focus on the area of Chester's pale green silk shirt where his chest meets his protruding stomach. Then he slowly instructed the youngster to look at his face.
Soon Chester started talking about how we don't need to concern ourselves with anger. "Don't be angry about what's happening in Washington," he intoned. "It will only drain your energy. Emotions are draining. Anger is draining. So is frustration. So is being a victim. So is love."
At the end of the two-hour session, he hugged the framed picture of Lenz, tears dripping down his cheeks. Then he plucked flowers from the vase to his left and ceremoniously handed them out, one to each student in the group.
"..the Lenzies proliferated, in part because their technical training was backed with seminars about aggressive job hunting. One training document goes so far as to suggest, "Have a friend using a pseudonym act as your reference person"