"Who Is This Rama? The master of Zen and the Art of Publicity is now having
some very serious problems." Excerpts:
"He has been a temple elder in Atlantis, a teacher of the occult in ancient Egypt and a Tibetan lama. In the here and now he is Frederick Lenz, 37, of Malibu, Calif., and Stony Brook, N.Y. Lenz is known to his followers as "Zen Master Rama" and to the public as Oh yeah, that guy--the one who advertises his meditation seminars with stylish two-page ads in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Vanity Fair; the one who plastered his face on giant posters in Times Square last fall, the one who looks like Richard Simmons. A strong believer in Zen and the Art of Publicity, he spent an estimated half-million dollars on advertising in the last six months. ...
"Lenz claims to be one of the 12 truly enlightened beings on the planet.(Obvious question: who are the other 11? 'I'm not at liberty to say.')What he promises is an easy way to Nirvana. Buddhist tradition holds that there are two paths to enlightenment, the fast and the slow -- the slow one takes thousands of lifetimes, while the quick one can lead to enlightenment in just one. Lenz's path, a third, might be called the express lane. He claims techniques so powerful that an hour with him is worth 100 years of traditional meditation." ...
"...A former disciple of Hindu guru Sri Chinmoy, Lenz holds a doctorate in English Literature from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He moved to California from Long Island in 1980, under instructions from Sri Chinmoy to open a laundromat and learn humility. Instead he started his own group, switching from Hindu to Zen doctrine in 1986. Today he rents Goldie Hawn's home in Malibu, owns two Porsches and likes to travel by Lear jet. Most of the money seems to come from his core group of followers, with whom he meets in Palo Alto or Los Angeles; each of the 400 pays $600 for a monthly session. (Rama Seminars Inc. is a for-profit corporation and so pays taxes on its income.) Most recently Rama's traveling seminars have been offered free to the public, although in the past he has charged up to $400 a head for a four-night session. For awhile Lenz had a cash-only policy at the public seminars, and high denominations at that, because smaller bills are "low vibed"; now he also takes credit cards.
"Two ex-followers recently gave reporters their versions of what it was like to study with Lenz. One, a 36-year-old graduate student from Los Angeles named Anny Eastwood, claims that Lenz invited her to Malibu for a 'private meditation.' She was taken aback when he began to ask personal questions. This went on for six hours, she claims, at the end of which time he allegedly waved a loaded pistol and forced her to have sex with him. She stayed with the group for 11 months after the incident. Another, Mercedes Hughes, 24, says she was seduced by Lenz in Los Angeles and became his mistress. He bought her $17,000 worth of clothes and moved her into his New York house, where, she claims, 'he gave me LSD. He said that I had gone over to the dark side and that he was the only one who could save me.' Donald Cole, 23, committed suicide in 1984 because he was disappointed at his progress in the program. He left a note that read,'Bye, Rama, see you next time.'
"Lenz admits that he had affairs with both Eastwood and Hughes, calling them 'voluntary' and adding, 'They wish to discredit me for whatever emotional reasons they might have.' He claims that profit-hungry deprogrammers are behind a campaign to discredit him...."
Frederick Lenz, guru to up to 5,000, was found deceased April 15th floating in the waters off his Long Island home. Tests found over 150 sedative pills in his body. Lenz's female companion Lacy Brinn and his three dogs had also been drugged, but were alive. According to Brinn, Lenz fell off a dock and could not be rescued. Lenz had long been accused of using mind control on his disciples, pushing his own form of Buddhism. But even over the past year he sought credibility, teaching college Shakespeare courses and launching a Westchester-based software company.