Clare announced to the media that the Dalai Lama would appear in Albany for four days of talks and meetings in colleges, side by side with Keith Raniere. It would culminate with a lecture by the Dalai Lama on Sunday, April 9, 2009, at the Albany Times Union Center.
Stories in the Albany Times Union, the Albany Student Press, The Daily Gazette and Metroland reported people’s astonishment at the coupling of the Dalai Lama with Keith Raniere.
The Albany Times-Union reported that, despite the stature of the Dalai Lama as a religious leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Skidmore College and Raniere’s own Alma Mater, Rensselaer Polytechnic, declined to host the event.
A Rensselaer spokesperson explained, “While we have the highest respect for the Dalai Lama and his teachings, we chose not to accept the invitation based on a variety of considerations.”
The University of Albany agreed to rent out one of their arenas with a condition, “that by no means were we going to allow NXIVM to be part of our relationship with the Dalai Lama. NXIVM and the organization were not going to have any part with dealing with our students, or advertising or recruiting,” according to U. Albany’s vice president for development, Fardin Sanai.
Daniel Weaver, writing in the Schenectady Gazette, wrote “Keith Raniere has been involved in controversy for the last 20 years. He’s been the subject of lawsuits and investigations. He has initiated numerous lawsuits, many of which appear to be frivolous. He also harasses people…. He is hardly a poster boy for humanitarianism, peace and ethics; and his invitation to the Dalai Lama to speak makes one question the motive of the invitation.…. Raniere has not utilized compassionate ethical methods and solutions to address problems. Keith Raniere has brought anything but peace to the Capital Region.”
Following the negative publicity, the Dalai Lama canceled his appearance. Times Union Publisher George Hearst spoke with a representative of the Dalai Lama. Afterward, Hearst said in his newspaper, “There’s enough stuff out there that (they) don’t need to expose His Holiness to this kind of risk.”
For NXIVM, this was a PR nightmare.
Sara wrote on her blog:
“The highly paid media campaign designed to destroy our company, or any person or entity related to it, reared its ugly head at the news of [The Dalai Lama’s] visit. We had naively believed people would be excited about his visit and that our community would put their pettiness aside to unite for this momentous occasion. We were wrong. His visit was met with fear and cynicism and some of our local media sources worked ardently to destroy the honor faster than we could build it.”
Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman in the audience when the Dalai Lama appeared in Albany.
Raniere and Nancy Salzman flew to India to see the Dalai Lama and brought Sara and Clare with them. The Dalai Lama agreed to deliver a single lecture. He was coming to the US for a Harvard University sponsored speaking engagement and could spare a couple of hours in Albany.
Sara called it a success.
“After an onslaught of negative articles and powerful local personalities voicing their lack of support for his proposed visit, His Holiness postponed until the truth became evident,” Sara wrote on her blog. “In the end the truth prevailed, but in the process we lost participants, money and good faith.”
The press announced the rescheduling, noting that the Dalai Lama event moved from the 7,500 seat Albany Times-Union Center to the much smaller 2,800 seat Albany Palace Theater.
When questioned if there was any financial incentive from the Bronfmans connected with the Dalai Lama changing his mind about appearing in Albany, Lobsang Nyandak, representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Americas, told the Times Union that the Dalai Lama would not receive money for his trip. When asked for clarification, he said that whatever money was received would be “used for charitable and other purposes as per His Holiness’ guidance.”
Reportedly, two days before the Dalai Lama’s appearance in Albany, the Dalai Lama Trust was registered in New York State.
On May 6, the Dalai Lama spoke at Albany’s Palace Theatre to a crowd of about 2600.
Onstage, the Dalai Lama presented Sara and Clare with white silk scarves, called “kataks,” which, according to Tibetan culture, symbolize purity.
The Dalai Lama appears onstage with Clare and Sara Bronfman.,