When the Dalai Lama came to Albany on May 6, 2009, he came at the invitation of Keith Raniere and his trip was funded by Clare and Sara Bronfman. He spent several hours with Nxians and spoke in the afternoon at the Palace Theatre for more than an hour, before a crowd of about 2700.
His lecture was entitled “Compassionate Ethics in Difficult Times.”
Clare and Sara Bronfman sat on stage with the Dalai Lama, along with Bishop Howard Hubbard of the Albany Diocese and Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings.
In the audience were Keith Raniere, Nancy Salzman and many of the high rank of Nxivm.
At the beginning of the speech, the Dalai Lama presented the Bronfman sisters and Mayor Jennings and Bishop Hubbard with white silk scarves called “kataks,” which, according to Tibetan culture, symbolize purity.
At the end of his talk, he addressed several questions submitted earlier by audience members.
At the end of the lecture, The Dalai Lama presented Raniere with the white scarf of purity and placed it around his neck.
In promotional material and in their sales pitches, the Nxivm organization used the Dalai Lama’s appearance on stage as if it was an endorsement of Nxivm and Keith Raniere.
The press release put out by Clare and Sara Bronfman for the event went so far as to say the Dalai Lama showed his support for Raniere and the foundation he conceived of – and the Bronfman sisters funded – the World Ethical Foundations Consortium [WEFC].
The press release reads in part, “When asked why he decided to come to Albany, His Holiness said he met with representatives from WEFC and determined their genuine focus was to promote ethics and it was his moral responsibility, given his commitment to promoting basic human values and secular ethics, to support others doing the same. The afternoon’s events were concluded by His Holiness showing his support for Keith Raniere, conceptual founder of WEFC, by calling him on stage and placing a katak around his neck.”
Judging by the words the Dalai Lama said, however, it was not exactly an endorsement, though arguably his acceptance of the invitation can be construed as a de facto endorsement.
The Dalai Lama explained his position on Nxivm with carefully chosen words.
The following is a partial transcript of what the Dalai Lama said about why he chose to speak in Albany despite the controversy with Nxivm, with my comments and clarifications in bold.
Dalai Lama (DL): I received an invitation that, in principle, I accepted. Then I received some request that I should not go there because of this is controversial, some allegations.
Frank Report (FR): The Dalai Lama originally agreed to make a four-day appearance in Albany and attend a series of Nxivm-sponsored events. The visit was to be capped off by the Dalai Lama speaking during a conference at the 17,500 seat Times Union Center in Albany. A raft of negative outcry ensued, following coverage by the Albany Times Union of the Dalia Lama’s visit sponsored by Nxivm.
In response to the controversy, Clare Bronfman told the media, ‘His Holiness spent an entire year vetting us out. I believe him to be an incredibly well-educated man of deep critical thought who considers his participation in anything he does very deeply. Given the data of who we are and the research he has done on us for a year, he is still coming.”
But the controversy was too intense. The Dalai Lama canceled his originally planned four day appearance. He said he could not come at all. But he changed his mind, after Raniere, Nancy Salzman, Sara Bronfman, the Lama Tenzin, and Mark Vicente went to Dharamsala to film the historic meeting of what Nxians believed was the two great spiritual leaders of the world.
DL: Then we carry further investigation. Then finally, including this organization’s teacher, and his, some friend, came to see me in Dharamsala and I discuss, I observe, basically, they are carrying some kind of movement about ‘ethics.’
FR: After the Dalai Lama canceled his appearance, Keith Raniere, Nancy Salzman, Sara Bronfman and her friend, the Lama Tenzin Dhonden, flew to Dharamsala, India, the headquarters of the Dalia Lama to persuade him to reconsider.
DL: Then, as I mentioned earlier, it is my moral responsibility to support any movement by any person who carry, who are working for ethics…I felt, I feel it is my moral responsibility, but, at the same time, these allegations
FR: There were many allegations of Raniere being an unethical person and of Nxivm being a cult that the Dalai Lama got wind of. This was offset in part by the donation that the Bronfman sisters planned to make. The Dalai Lama is fighting the most vicious monster the world has ever known – the Chinese Communist Party – who seek to destroy him. He needs donations to continue to keep the Tibetan culture alive. The CCP stole Tibet and made their people slaves. The Dalai Lama lives in Dharamsala as the leader of the Tibetan government in exile. I was told at the time arrangements were first being made to secure the Dalai Lama’s presence in Albany that a donation of $1 million was offered.
DL: So when I met them personally in Dharamsala, I told them very friendly, very openly, ‘As far your sort of work for promotion of ethics, I fully support. Is my moral responsibility, but, at the same time, those allegations you must make very clear. If you have done something wrong, you must accept, you must admit, and change, make correction. If you not done, make clear all these allegations, truthfully, honestly, openly, transparently.’
FR: According to the Dalai Lama, he told Raniere and company to be transparent. I think it is fascinating that while he was so doing before him was his own monk, Lama Tenzin Dhonden, and Sara Bronfman. Bronfman was bankrolling Tenzin and also having a secret affair with him in contravention of his vows as a monk, which are chastity and poverty.
DL: “Then some media, I always telling media people, ‘media people should have long nose, as long as —
FR: At this point, on stage Clare Bronfman breaks out in side-splitting laughter.
FR: Sara also laughs once she gets the joke, or so she thinks.
FR: In the audience, Nancy Salzman and other Nxians are laughing exultantly.
FR: They all missed the point. They thought the Dalai Lama was calling the media, as a class, liars – and that the reference was to Pinocchio, the wooden puppet whose nose grows longer with each lie. The Dalai Lama perceived that some of the audience misapprehended his meaning…
… wait, wait, wait…
FR: The applause dies down.
DL: ….as long as an elephant nose and smell, in the front and behind. That’s very important. And make clear to the public what’s going on…. I want to tell the media people, ‘please carry continuously, all these spots where you have some doubt, thorough investigation.’
FR: In short, he is advising the media to investigate Nxivm and report truthfully.
DL: “And those concerned people’s side: ‘Also make clear. All your work must be transparent.’
FR: He is advising Raniere to make his work transparent. It is ironic that the very thing that caused his downfall was a secret group called DOS that purported to be a sorority. DOS branded women on their groins with Raniere’s initials and hid the fact that a man, Raniere, led the sorority.
DL: So, that’s my view. So, I feel, no problem, come here, meet people, and talk. Because of some criticism remain distance? Not much use., Come face to face and talk, friendly, bluntly. Truth always win. So, more talk, more investigation, truth will become more clear clear, clear, like that. So, that’s my answer.
FR: Applause followed this remark. There was more investigation, which I might immodestly assert, I had a hand in, and also in making the truth more clear. It resulted in the cratering of Nxivm and the conviction of Keith Raniere, Clare Bronfman, Nancy Salzman and others in Nxivm. Raniere is serving a 120-year sentence. Bronfman an 81-month sentence. Salzman is awaiting sentencing.
It is my understanding that the Dalai Lama got an additional donation from the Bronfmans, over and above the $1 million. My investigation into the roundabout way the donation was made suggests that $2 million was donated to a US-based charity in his name and under his control. Based on the examination of the non-profit tax returns, it appears that the money was donated by the Bronfman sisters.
The Lama Tenzin got into hot water for his own alleged deeds and was almost defrocked. Somehow, he managed to survive his removal as a monastic associated with the Tibetan Buddhists.