As readers know, NXIVM conducted “human potential and ethics” seminars in Albany and elsewhere.
Keith Raniere is the company’s founder. Clare and Sara Bronfman (two of heiresses of the Seagram’s fortune) started investing with Raniere around 2003.
By 2007, the Bronfman sisters invested more than $100 million in commodities, real estate and in litigation to sue adversaries who were preventing NXIVM from reaching its full potential.
Some of their investment was aimed at indicting adversaries, including one of Raniere’s harem members who left the NXIVM group.
In Idaho, in 2007, Sara Bronfman met 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 have attained a degree of spirituality that makes their teachings and their very presence a rare and unique treasure to the world.
Sara told Lama Dhonden that the Dalai Lama might just find NXIVM’s tools useful in his work of enlightening the world.
Tenzin, in turn, visited Sara in Albany and met various NXIVM members – including the master himself, Keith Alan Raniere.
Raniere himself thought that the Dalai Lama should come to Albany since the Dalai Lama’s teachings were consonant with his own.
Despite allegations that NXIVM was a cult, and hardly a group that the Dalai Lama should associate with, Lama Tenzin said, “I have my own intellectual resource, capacity, to know persons, to feel persons. I can pick up like that, very easily.”
Money was no object, Sara assured her new friend the Venerable Lama Tenzin. She understood that monks, like Tenzin and the Dalai Lama, depend on the generosity of people like herself who hope to promote the good works that they do.
Lama Tenzin arranged for Sara and Clare Bronfman and also the august president of Nxivm, Nancy the Prefect Salzman, to meet with the Dalai Lama in India. There they expressed their heartfelt 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, hardly able to contain her joy that at last Keith’s name would be coupled with the Dalai Lama, giving the lie to the claims he was a cult leader and fiend.
Clare 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 an affair with Sara Bronfman.
One night, Sara’s mother’s friend came to a home Sara was visiting and found Sara and Lama Tenzin in the hot tub canoodling. Both had evidently forgotten to bring their bathing suits and enjoyed the warm soothing bubbling waters in their birthday suits instead.
Barbara Bouchey, another (ex)harem member, said, “Yeah, they weren’t having sex, but they were in the hot tub in a hot-necking embrace.”
From monk in a hot tub with an heiress, it was for Tenzin to become monk with an heiress in a bedroom.
Bouchey said, “I’ve showed up to [Sara’s] house a couple of times and the two of them come out of that bedroom.”
Kristin Keeffe said, “I’ve seen him come out of [Sara’s] bedroom. It wasn’t even a secret.”
Raniere knew. He used to say to Sara in front of others, referring to Lama Tenzin, “How’s your husband?”
Sara 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, 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.
The reaction was not what Clare expected. Stories soon appeared in the Albany Times Union, the Albany Student Press, The Daily Gazette and Albany Metroland reporting people’s astonishment at the coupling of the Dalai Lama with Raniere.
Attempts to get a college to co-sponsor [at no cost] 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 teachings of Raniere, they had learned to be persistent.
Sara, Clare, Nancy Salzman and even Raniere himself went to India to try to persuade the Dalai Lama to come.
Still, the Dalai Lama would not consent to the original four-day planned visit, to teach side by side with Raniere in a variety of venues.
My sources tell me that in addition to the one million the sisters first offered the Dalai Lama as a donation, they upped it another million making the appearance worth two million to the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama agreed to deliver a single lecture. He was coming to the US for a Harvard University sponsored 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 that announced the cancellation, now 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.
Meanwhile, critics took shots at the Dalai Lama. It was widely assumed Bronfman money changed his mind
When questioned if there was any financial incentive from the Bronfmans connected to his visit to 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 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 $1 million to the trust.
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 sashes, 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.
During the question and answer session, the Dalai Lama, asked about his canceled visit, said of Raniere, “…. If you have done something wrong, you must accept, you must admit, change, make correction. If you have not done (anything wrong), make clear all these allegations (are untrue), truthfully, honestly, openly, transparently.’”
Then he asked the media to investigate Raniere and report the truth of their findings.
After his speech, 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.”
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 blogs, 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 on behalf of NXIVM, calling NXIVM a “litigation machine.”
During the speech, the Dalai Lama had said it was the job of the media to investigate truthfully and it is pleasing to note that the New York Post, Vanity Fair, Forbes, The New York Observer, the Nation, and other magazines and newspapers, and especially the Albany Times Union, reported many more items unknown to the public about Raniere – including allegations of statutory rape; the efforts to hide the paternity of his own son, the veiled death threats to ex-lovers, the suicide of an ex-lover, and lawsuits pursued against ex-lovers and much more.
Note: Some readers might ask what happened to the canoodling couple, Sara and Lama Tenzin.
Raniere may have decided to seek vengeance on Lama Tenzin and ordered Sara to break up with him after buying him a house and paying him and the Dalai Lama.
The once torrid affair became tepid, the hot tub sprung a leak, and the two split apart.
Others say that the Lama Tenzin had enough of silly Sara, realizing that with Raniere around he would never have total control of her fortune and went out in search of other wealthy women to fleece.
Sara was reportedly deeply distressed and promptly married a Muslim man, the gigolo Basit Igtet.
And Lama Tenzin went on to further his venerable spiritual journey.