By 2007, the Bronfman sisters had invested more than $100 million in Raniere’s ideas of how to make money in commodities and real estate. They also invested millions in litigation to sue his adversaries, some of whom were preventing NXIVM from reaching its full potential.
Some of the litigation was aimed at indicting adversaries, including two of Raniere’s ex harem members who left the NXIVM group.
In Idaho, in 2007, Sara Bronfman had a fortuitous meeting with the Venerable Lama Tenzin Dhonden, a special emissary of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The title “Venerable” is given to Buddhist monks who take a vow of celibacy and poverty and achieve a high spiritual status. He was a holy man.
Sara Bronfman told Lama Dhonden that his leader, the Dalai Lama, might find NXIVM’s tools useful.
Tenzin visited Sara in Albany and met with NXIVM members. Raniere thought that the Dalai Lama should come to Albany since his teachings were consonant with his own.
Despite allegations that NXIVM was a cult, Lama Tenzin intuited otherwise. He told the local media, “I have my own intellectual resource, capacity, to know persons, to feel persons. I can pick up like that, very easily.”
Lama Tenzin even arranged for Sara and Clare Bronfman and Nancy Salzman, president of NXIVM, to meet with the Dalai Lama in India. There, they expressed their desire to invite His Holiness to Albany to meet Raniere and offered to make a suitable contribution to the Dalai Lama for his worthwhile causes.
The Dalai Lama agreed.
Back in Albany, Clare, announcing the glad tidings, told the Albany Times Union that she had a vision of “bringing His Holiness together with Keith, believing that we may have certain tools that His Holiness would think would be good and beneficial for humanity.”
Venerable Lama Tenzin Dhonden lent his voice as well, announcing, “With the ethical tools developed by Keith Raniere, and the presence, wisdom and guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, we have the essential ingredients to transform our society.”
It wasn’t long before the Venerable Lama Tenzin Dhonden was transformed by Raniere’s ethical tools. The monk began having an affair with Sara Bronfman, according to numerous witnesses.
One night, a friend of Sara’s mother came to Sara’s house unexpectedly and found Sara and Lama Tenzin in the hot tub cuddling amorously, or, as NXIVM inner circle member, Kristin Keeffe called it, “canoodling.”
Barbara Bouchey, an ex-harem member, said, “Yeah, they weren’t having sex, but they were in the hot tub in a hot-necking embrace.”
From a monk in a hot tub with an heiress, it was mere paces to the bedroom.
Bouchey said, “I’ve showed up to her house a couple of times and the two of them came out of that bedroom.”
Keeffe said, “I’ve seen him come out of the… bedroom. It wasn’t even a secret.”
Raniere knew. So did his harem. Raniere used to say to Sara in front of others, referring to the monk, Lama Tenzin, ‘How’s your husband?’”
Sara Bronfman, smitten with her holy romance, even purchased a home for her lover Lama in Half Moon, a suburb of Albany.
While things were hot with the Lama and Sara, her sister, Clare, announced to the media that the Dalai Lama was to appear in Albany for four days of talks and meetings, side by side with Raniere, and capped by an appearance on Sunday, April 9, 2009, at the Albany Times Union Center, where His Holiness would give a public address on compassion and ethics and announce the confluence of greatness – the Dalai Lama and Keith Raniere, working together to save the world.
There was shock when it was reported. Stories in the Albany Times Union, the Albany Student Press, The Daily Gazette and Metroland reported people’s utter astonishment at the coupling of the Dalai Lama with Raniere.
Attempts to get a college to cosponsor the event failed.
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 an arena with a strict 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, in the Schenectady Gazette, summed up what many felt about the leader of NXIVM:
“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. Hearst said, “…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 his 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.”
But through the blessed teachings of Raniere, they had learned to be persistent.
Sara, Clare, Salzman and Raniere, himself, went to India to persuade the Dalai Lama to come..
While the Dalai Lama would not consent to the original four-day planned visit, to teach side by side with Raniere, he agreed to deliver a single lecture. [I was told that Bronfmans upped their original $1 million donation to the Dalai Lama to $2 million and the holy man agreed to make the lecture with Sara and Clare being permitted to sit onstage with him.]
The Dalai Lama was coming to the US for a Harvard University-sponsored engagement anyway and he could spare one day in Albany [for $2 million.[
Sara declared it a huge success.
Having announced the cancellation of the Dalai Lama’s original appearance, the media now announced the rescheduling, noting that the Dalai Lama event moved from the 7,500 seat Albany Times-Union Center to the smaller, 2,800 seat Albany Palace Theater.
“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.”
Meanwhile, critics took shots at the Dalai Lama. It was widely assumed Bronfman money changed his mind. There was still criticism of his Holiness – to the effect that he was a sellout.
When questioned if there was any financial incentive from the Bronfmans connected to his visit to Albany, a representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Americas, Lobsang Nyandak, told the Times Union that the Dalai Lama would not receive money for his trip.
When pressed for clarification, however, he said that whatever money was received would be “used for charitable and other purposes as per His Holiness’ guidance.”
Two days before the Dalai Lama’s appearance in Albany, the Dalai Lama Trust was registered in New York State and, according to sources at NXIVM, the Bronfmans donated $2 million to the trust.
Required filings show that $2 million was deposited into the trust shortly after it was registered.
On May 6, the Dalai Lama spoke at Albany’s Palace Theatre to a crowd of about 2,600.
Onstage, the Dalai Lama presented Sara and Clare with white silk scarves, called “kataks,” which, according to Tibetan culture, symbolize purity. Seated cross-legged on a chair, the Dalai Lama spoke about compassion for an hour and a half.
Then he asked the media to investigate Raniere and report the truth of their findings.
Then, the Dalai Lama called Raniere on stage and placed a katak around his neck.
After the event, Sara wrote on her blog, “As we stood in the rain to say goodbye to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he touched each of our cheeks and held our faces next to his with the words ‘thank you’ and ‘see you again.’ Tears started running uncontrollably down my cheeks.… his visit was a privilege we fought for….. It was a long road, and one paved with hardship, adversity, and tremendous growth…. However, my hope for humanity was restored by possibly the greatest leader of our time…. who has a strong enough sense of himself not to seek external security, and who conforms to truth as his standard …. It was a victory for us, for this region and for humanity. I feel proud to have been a part of this great feat.”
And Clare also wrote on her blog: “Due to the ongoing struggle, several of my closest friends and I have (had) here in Albany – how we have been portrayed in the media – his visiting and message was particularly moving. His coming brought about a certain contradiction: what is written about NXIVM, Keith, Sara and myself in the press – being labeled as a cult – and a world leader showing his support for us after thorough investigation.”
Despite the happy blog posts, the media thought little about the great feat of bringing the Dalai Lama to Albany.
Shortly after his visit, the Albany Times Union reported that the Bronfmans lost more than $100 million in bad real estate investments and commodities losses, plus detailed their serial litigation calling NXIVM a “litigation machine.”
The Dalai Lama had asked the media to investigate Raniere and the New York Post, Vanity Fair, Forbes, The New York Observer, the Nation, and other magazines and newspapers, especially the Albany Times Union, uncovered and reported many more items unknown to the public about Raniere. This included allegations of statutory rape, the efforts to hide the paternity of his son, the lovesick letters he sent followed by veiled death threats to ex-lovers, the suicide of an ex-lover, and lawsuits pursued against ex-lovers and more.
Indeed, the investigation had only just begun.
Some readers might ask what happened to the canoodling couple, Sara and Lama Tenzin.
Tenzin reportedly had enough of the foolish heiress and soon, after the flop with the Dalai Lama, the torrid affair became tepid, the hot tub sprung a leak metaphorically and the two split apart.
Sara married a Muslim, Basit Igtet, and the monk, Lama Tenzin, went on to further his spiritual journey, fully equipped with Raniere’s ethical tools. He was spotted with other rich heiresses and self-made women of fortune. It is not known if he enjoyed hot tub canoodling with them or not.
Viva Executive Success!