Rama: Lama? Ding Dong? Rama: Lama Dead and Gone
He had become
notorious most recently when his disciples were found to be
cross-collaboratively infiltrating computer programming firms, and
conspiring to lie about one another's resumes -- at Lenz's urging.
I have to confess that I'm one of those cult watchers. In 1995, my review of Lenz's "Snowboarding" book was the cause of several frantic e-mails and phone calls from the Washington Post (who were surprised to find out that I already wrote for them), from Wired Magazine, and from Newsweek, among others.
Why? Because, it seemed, several investigative reporters were looking into Lenz's seamy background of computer fraud, of drugging and draining the assets of his disciples, and of his nearly obsessive seduction of numerous female disciples. It seemed that, even though a massive advertising blitz was underway for the book, no book critics in the US had bothered reviewing the spiritual snake oil that Surfing The Himalayas turned out to be.
Myself and the Denver Post (who still owe me a catcher's mitt and a ten-color pen) were the ONLY critics who had taken seriously Lenz's fabricated "Tantric Buddhism." I must confess that I was gratified to see my little review quoted in the Washington Post, in investigative reporter Richard Leiby's exhaustive article on Lenz. Leiby is a crack investigator, who originally started out with the late Clearwater (Fla.) Sun, during the infamous attempt by Scientology to take over the town in the early '80s. Surely you recall L. Ron Hubbard's wife being sent to Federal Prison? No? Sadly, these events are poorly covered by media in this country -- ever fearful of accusations of "religious intolerance" when reporting on deadly, dangerous and abusive cult activities. Leiby, as you might recall, was the Post reporter sued by Scientology a couple of years ago, and whose pet rabbit's head was found on his back doorstep in a scene straight out of Fatal Attraction.
Don't feel bad if you never heard about it, just as you probably have never heard of Lenz. Starting as a disciple of Sri Chinmoy (whom you might recall from the collaboration of his famous disciples Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin on an album for the guru), while he was getting his doctorate in English at SUNY-Stonybrook (NY), Lenz was sent to San Diego, where he set up Chinmoy's operation there, and, according to ex-cult member Mark Laxer, hijacked the entire operation, declaring himself the reincarnation of the Hindu god Rama. Then he became "Zen Master Rama." And so on and so forth. He had become notorious most recently when his disciples were found to be cross-collaboratively infiltrating computer programming firms, and conspiring to lie about one another's resumes -- at Lenz's urging. Several former female disciples filed sexual harassment and abuse charges against "Freddie" but his high-powered attorneys managed to successfully quash or settle in nearly all cases. When the "Heaven's Gate" cult committed mass suicide, my phone began ringing off the hook again: reporters thought it might be Lenz's "computer cult." The ongoing tale is at: http://www. trancenet.org/ groups/lenz/index.shtml
I have spent much of my journalistic career fighting against spiritual quacks, charlatans and vampires, and it surely seems sadly ironic that only Lenz himself could ever put an end to years of abuse and exploitation. As for me, there are very few persons whom I consider that their leaving of Earth makes this a better place. Lenz is one. It isn't compassionate, or PC, perhaps, but that's how I feel, nonetheless.
copyright © 1998 Hart Williams