Frederick Lenz

Frederick Lenz

Frederick Philip Lenz, III, Ph.D., also known as "Rama" and "Atmananda" (February 9 1950 in San Diego, California - April 12 1998), was a spiritual leader who propounded a syncretic blend of Hinduism, Zen, Vedanta, and Mysticism; he called this syncresis "American Buddhism". Lenz was also an author, software designer, businessman, and musician.

The body and focus of his life's work, including all teaching and projects, was centered around conveying the enlightenment trainings to those who were interested. He based his teachings on ancient practices within a modern framework. He was reported to be a tough and demanding teacher by students, and has been most compared to Marpa and to Padma Sambhava. He did not have rules for his students, other than to meditate, to live with etiquette (having honor and reverence for life and others) [ [ The Frederick P Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism ] ] , and to translate the enlightenment empowerments into a successful life , whereby one would, apparently, have the means to live a life of solitude, joy, oneness and abundance.

Lenz remains a controversial figure. Although many of his former students continue to describe him as a gifted spiritual teacher, more than two dozen news articles have appeared in national publications in which a number of his former students allege that Lenz was an abusive cult leader. Lenz drew much criticism from the anti-cult movement.


Childhood and adolescence

Lenz was born February 9th, 1950, at Mercy Hospital in San Diego, California. He was an only child. At the age of three, he and his family moved to Stamford, Connecticut. He spent the rest of his childhood and teenage years there, attending schools in the Stamford area. "Insights: Talks on the Nature of Existence", p. 299]

Lenz's father, Frederick Lenz Jr., worked as a marketing executive and later went on to become the Mayor of Stamford from 1973-1975. His mother, Dorothy Lenz, was a housewife, a student of astrology who was addicted to alcoholFact|date=April 2008. Lenz' mother and father divorced when he was five years old, the father remarrying six years later. His mother Dorothy died when Lenz was fourteen. [] Lenz spent his childhood living alternately with his father, grandparents, and aunt and uncle.

Lenz often spoke of getting so disgusted with his life in his late teens that he became pointedly committed to going beyond illusion forever. He states in his video "How to be a Straight-A Student", that in his teens his form of rebellion, as is the case with most teenagers, was self destructive. He eventually realized there was an intelligent way to rebel against the boredom and grayness of the human condition - that was with hard work, enthusiasm, curiosity and continually progressing into newness. After high school Lenz spent "a short period of incarceration in a work camp near San Diego on a drug conviction," according to "The Hartford Courant" ["Guru Mixes Money, Mystique; Ex-followers Say Students Exploited; Mysticism, Capitalism Combined by Computer Guru Seeking Talent; Former Followers Fault Computer Guru," by Gerald Renner, October 18, 1992] . "Psychology Today" reports that "Lenz was busted for selling marijuana and sentenced to a year at a work camp. (The arrest was later expunged, allowing Lenz to claim he had no criminal record.)" [ [ Find Articles 404 File not found ] ]


Lenz attended schools in the Stamford area, graduating from Rippowam High School in 1967. Lenz later attended the University of Connecticut, where he majored in English and minored in Philosophy. He supported himself through graduate school by building dulcimers.Fact|date=February 2008 He was inducted as a member of Phi Beta Kappa honor society and graduated Magna Cum Laude."Insights: Talks on the Nature of Existence", p 299]

After college, Lenz won a competitive State of New York Graduate Council Fellowship enabling him to coninue his studies. He earned a Master of Arts (M.A.) and a Doctor of Philosophy from State University of New York at Stony Brook. Lenz's doctoral dissertation, "The Evolution of Matter and Spirit in the Poetry of Theodore Roethke" [ [ iMeditate ] ] , was on the poet Theodore Roethke.

There were three members of Lenz' doctoral dissertation committee at Stony Brook: Lewis Simpson, Paul Dolan and Gerald Nelson.

* Paul Dolan reported that Lenz' performance on the Ph.D. oral exams was "slightly above average."]

* Lenz called Gerald Nelson one of the three most influential people in his life. Nelson reacted to news stories alleging that Lenz was a cult leader by saying: "This is the sort of thing you would expect from an intelligent, sensitive, abused child from a well-to-do family. Fred quite obviously needs help, but is probably too far-gone to realize or admit it." Nelson also said, "He was always coming to me with these book ideas and asking me, 'Do you think it will sell?' My honest opinion was that he was a hustler. But I thought he was goofy and harmless." []

Evolution as a spiritual teacher

Frederick Lenz was introduced to meditation in 1968. He meditated on his own for several years with the guidance of many teachers. According to his books, he first went into a conscious samadhi (a state of spiritual oneness and ecstasy) at the age of 19. [ The Frederick P Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism ] ] His autobiographical books,"Surfing the Himalayas", and "Snowboarding to Nirvana" claimed that travelling heightened his experiences in meditation and awareness. [ [ The Books, Album, Interview] ] [ [ Lenz as Author] ] [ [ Book Reviews] ] [ [ home ] ]

Beginning in 1972 or earlier, Lenz became a follower of Hindu guru Sri Chinmoy. [ Chronology/Biography, Frederick Lenz ] ] In 1979, after moving to San Diego, Lenz broke with Chinmoy, allegedly telling the other students that "Chinmoy has fallen." He took between 50 and 100 former Chinmoy students with him and formed the Lakshmi group, calling himself "Atmananda". Lenz has said to students: "It's necessary for you to have a strong base...the economic independence to live a life of beauty and meditative seclusion. The strength and freedom to live a life of oneness". [ [ On the Road With Rama] ] "A great deal of the teaching that I do is about money." [ Report on the "Rama" Computer Cult ] ] . In his estimation, money was a direct indicator of the student's level of success in the application of the teachings and usage of the energy received from empowerments. [ [] ("Zen", "On the Road", "Tantric Buddhism") ] During the first years of Lenz' teaching, he offered thousands of free public meditations, introducing numerous people to meditation, some of whom became students.

By 1983 Lenz had stopped calling himself "Atmananda" and began calling himself "Rama", which he interchanged with "Zen Master Rama" during a 1985 Zen seminar and tape series. Rama is the tenth incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. Reports vary on whether Lenz believed himself to actually be Rama/Vishnu, or merely borrowed the name. Lenz has claimed to be one of only twelve truly enlightened people on Earth. [ Frederick 'Rama' Lenz dies on Easter Sunday. (guru) - Skeptical Inquirer - HighBeam Research ] ] The enlightened twelve also, he claimed, included his dog Vayu. [ [] ] Lenz believed in reincarnation and suggested that through deeper awareness, one could remember past lives. He claimed to remember several of his previous reincarnations, including his life as a high priest at the Temple of Light in Atlantis, and a teacher/leader in ancient Egypt, India, Japan and Tibet. He often told his students that he was the reincarnation of Saint Thomas More, who coined the term "Utopia" in his 1515 novel of the same name. []

Former students of Lenz claim to have watched him performing miracles including levitation, teleportation, projecting light from his hands and transforming into a bearded old Asian man before their eyes.] Lenz also claimed to have the ability to heal people by touching them, control the weather, uplift people by sending them light, and pass through alternate dimensions. He told his followers that he "wielded the power to create and demolish the universes," and that "those criticizing him would invariably get hit by a car or contract cancer."

Lenz also began to speak of "negative force entities" and other ideas, which disgruntled followers say he borrowed from the work of Carlos Castaneda. Lenz supporters trace these ideas not to Castaneda, but Tibetan Buddhism's Ritual of Chod. [ [ Dharma Fellowship: Library - Chöd: An Advanced Type of Shamanism ] ] According to former student Mark Laxer, Lenz agreed with the basic idea of The Force from the Star Wars films, and described former students and others who disagreed with him as having "fallen to the Dark Side." [] According to Laxer, Lenz told him that "Star Wars creator George Lucas was wrong to have Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) prematurely leave a mystical apprenticeship, wrong to have evil unmasked by good, and wrong to portray Yoda as being gay."]

At the height of Lenz's teachings in 1988 he was estimated to have between 400 and 1,000 followers. In 1998, he offered monthly tuition options between $500 and $5,000 per person to attend his business seminars. [ Rama, Frederick Lenz ] ] In every aspect of Lenz' teachings, however, Lenz gives students the guidance to achieve on-going career success through mindful awareness, encouraging them toward continuing education and offering them strategic business and technology guidance. [ [] (books: "Zen", "Tantric Buddhism", "On the Road with Rama", "Enlightenment Cycle", "American Buddha")] Lenz supporters counter charges that Lenz was interested primarily in money with two main arguments: firstly, that Lenz regularly held free or low-cost classes for beginners, and secondly that he dismissed hundreds of students from his classes, explaining that he didn't think they were a match for his teachings. Lenz stated that his teaching priority was to promote independence, awareness, humor and strength. [("American Buddha")]

Basic teachings

The core teaching of Lenz surrounded the practice of meditation. Lenz taught a form of chakra meditation intended to help students gain greater happiness, achieve success in life, and attain Enlightenment. Lenz recommended the use of music to assist in meditation, especially meditation to the band Zazen (after it was founded) and Tangerine Dream (earlier in his teaching career). Beyond the core practice of meditation, Lenz was noted for placing a great deal of emphasis on career and on martial arts or other athletic endeavors. He also felt that being financially successful allowed students to build a buffer around them to protect them from what he termed the more abrasive energies of the world, and hence to meditate more effectively. Similarly, he recommended martial arts because of its strengthening effect on the body. Lenz also placed significant focus on the enlightenment of women. He felt many spiritual faiths have traditionally discriminated against women, in many cases even denying the possibility of enlightenment for women.

The following quotes, taken from public talks Lenz gave in the 80s and 90s, encapsulate some of Lenz' teachings:

· Enlightenment is a timeless void. It’s an emptiness that’s filled with the most excellent light. That light is suffused through every part of your being. It is your being. There’s no sense of separation between yourself and the light. There’s no self but the light. That’s enlightenment – timeless, stillness, perfection. [Lenz, Rama – Dr. Frederick: “Tantric Buddhism”, page 87. The Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism, 2003.]

· Only a pure heart, a completely pure heart can house eternity. Your heart has to be absolutely pure. You can only want that which is absolutely good. You have to live in goodness all the time, and nothing else can matter. There can be no thought of self, no apartheid in the inner world. No discrimination. It’s only with that absolute humility and purity that you can make friends with God because otherwise you’re just too busy with all your desires. [Lenz, Rama – Dr. Frederick: “Insights: Talks on the Nature of Existence”, page 127. The Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism, 2003.]

· What is self? What lies beyond self? Self is the perception of perception. Beyond self there’s no perception of perception. That’s the riddle. The only way to answer the riddle is to go beyond perception and, of course, then there’s no answer because there’s no perception, there’s only silence. [Lenz, Rama – Dr. Frederick: “Tantric Buddhism”, page 355. The Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism, 2003.]

· In meditation, in selfless giving, in anything that lends nobility to the soul, we rise beyond the limitations of our self-created illusions and we become perfectly what we are. [Lenz, Rama – Dr. Frederick: “Insights: Talks on the Nature of Existence”, page 283. The Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism, 2003.]

Adversity with cult watchdog groups, deprogrammers and former students

As Lenz met with growing success as a teacher in the 1980s, he also found that he encountered growing criticism. There were probably about five areas where the criticism was mostly focused: allegations about sexual improprieties with female students, allegations of excessive tuition charged to participate in his program, allegations that students were asked to cut off contact with their families, allegations of fraudulent resumes used by students seeking employment, and allegations that Lenz was responsible for personal tragedies involving his students.

One central defense offered by Lenz and his students against these allegations was that Lenz had a large number of students leading completely independent lives, and that any large group of people is going to encounter a wide range of human experience. Lenz' supporters felt that it was unfair to blame him for every personal problem encountered by his students. They also felt that most of the negative publicity originated with a small group of parents of Lenz' students (LenzWatch) and a small number of former students. Lenz' supporters made the unsupported claim that these critics represented a very small fraction (less than one percent) of the population of parents and students and were not representative of Lenz' teachings as a whole. They also alleged that complaints were coming from "persons who may have had private motivations for their actions."

Some incidents that occurred during the 1980s appeared to fuel some of the negative publicity.

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.' (Source: "Who Is This Rama? The master of Zen and the Art of Publicity is now having some very serious problems," Newsweek February 1, 1988)] It was noted by many who knew Donald that he was a depressive for many years before meeting Lenz.Fact|date=April 2008

Additionally, in 1989, Brenda Kerber moved from the San Francisco Bay Area (where she followed Lenz) out to New York to continue her work with him and subsequently vanished in early October, 1989. Also missing was her Ford station wagon. She left behind all her personal possessions, cash, credit cards, bank book, driver's license, purse and even her personal diary. To date, her family believes Lenz was either aware of, or responsible for, her disappearance, since her diary showed an impending mental collapse brought about by what she reported as Lenz's disappointment in her spiritual progress.Fact|date=April 2008

A sizable minority of Lenz' former students allege that he told his students (especially his male students) that they should abstain from sex, while at the same time he used his position as a spiritual teacher to privately coerce female students to have sex with him, then told them to keep quiet about it. Allegations that Lenz was a sexual predator are often the subject of Lenz news articles. By 1986 Lenz said he "needed to sleep with two or three women at a time; an individual, he maintained, had too little "energy" to stimulate him." [] According to Newsweek, "a 36-year-old graduate student from Los Angeles named Anny Eastwood" claims that Lenz "allegedly waved a loaded pistol and forced her to have sex with him." Lenz supporters make the allegation against Eastwood that her report of sexual assault should not be treated as the report of a sex crime, but as "a vindictive ploy based on her expectation to have a relationship with Lenz that never panned out."

Mark Laxer, a close student of Lenz from 1978-1985, published a book in 1993 about his time with Lenz called "Take Me For A Ride; Coming Of Age In A Destructive Cult". [ [ The Rama Page ] ]

Those supportive of Lenz describe him as an educator who held seminars in the same way a college professor would. It was general knowledgefact|date=April 2008 by anyone who attended a seminarfact|date=April 2008, that Lenz promoted total independence, strength, integrity of being, and continually encouraged people to leave and go out in the world to practice the teachings on their own. Some of his former students disagree, alleging that Lenz ran his organizations in the manner of a destructive cult. These disgruntled students became heavily involved withfact|date=April 2008 and aligned tofact|date=April 2008 self-described cult watchdog groups, in particular the CAN (Cult Awareness Network) and self-described deprogrammers,fact|date=April 2008 in particular Joe Szimhart,fact|date=April 2008 who allegedly kidnapped and imprisoned Lenz' student Karen Lever. [ [ CESNUR - Appendix A - Sampler of Deprogramming Cases] Lenz and his supporters label the cult watchdog groups as "hate groups" and deprogrammers as "kidnappers."

Musician / Composer

Lenz was the musical producer for rock band, Zazen. The band gained success among electronic and new-age music audiences, being set on par to Tangerine Dream by critics. [ [ fwap - who ] ] During the life of the band, Zazen produced 21 albums (many of which were re-release/re-produced) in 13 years. [ [ Music - Road Trip Mind by Uncle Tantra ] ] The group has also released several music videos. [] Although some of Zazen's albums were simply intended to be fun, new-age music, a number of their albums, such as "Enlightenment", "Canyons of Light", "Cayman Blue", "Samurai", and "Samadhi", were specifically intended to be meditated to. Many of Lenz' teachings were on a non-verbal, esoteric, level and the music was also intended to be a way of accessing those teachings.

Zazen is a central concept of Zen Buddhism. It might be defined as "quieting the ego-mind to reveal the Buddha Nature/divine self within."

Computer software entrepreneur

Much of Lenz' teachings, especially in his later years, focused around the computer industry. The large majority of his students worked in the software field during Lenz' later teaching years. There appear to have been multiple reasons for this. One was that Lenz felt that computer software was a way of keeping the mind sharp--it became, for Lenz and his students, a form of meditation that students could focus on during their working lives. Another factor was that, for much of Lenz' teaching career, incomes for computer programmers continued to rise, making it easier for students to earn an income sufficiently high to live a clean, silent, elegant lifestyle as well as contribute to the spreading of Dharma through tuition paid to Lenz.

Lenz ran various companies devoted to teaching basic software and business skills, and in addition recommended that his students pursue either an outside certificate in computer science from a school such as Computer Learning Center or a college/university degree in computer science. He generally recommended that his students follow three steps in their computer careers: First, the students were to learn a programming language such as C++, SQL, Visual Basic, Power Builder, or Java. Then the students would seek full time employment in the industry for about a year. Lenz viewed full time employment as a sometimes necessary first step but did not encourage long term full time employment on the part of his students. Next, the students would focus on consulting for another couple of years, with a strong emphasis on getting a series of contracts with ever-increasing hourly rates. Finally, the students would be encouraged to develop a software product, perhaps with a focus on artificial intelligence, and found their own companies. Lenz expected that his students would become millionaires through this program--he himself expected to become a billionaire through substantial shares in the profits of his students' companies.

Although not everyone became a multimillionaire and Lenz was continually pushing his students to do better, Lenz' students enjoyed considerable success with this programFact|date=April 2008. Many of his students--and all who stayed with the program for any length of time--did obtain good computer jobs and consulting contracts and in so doing greatly increased their incomes. Essentially those who put the continuing empowerments that Lenz gave made extraordinary progress with their careers although the program was not without its challenges. Some of the students did go on to success when it came to developing software products, the next stage in the program. Some of Lenz' students did become multimillionaires, notably William Arntz, one of the producers of What the Bleep Do We Know. One effort in artificial intelligence, namely Information Harvesting, attracted enough attention in the industry that it became a generic name for a time, along with data mining, for software that gleans non-obvious patterns from databases. This and other machine learning software engines were used as the basis for products designed to forecast stock prices, sports scores, and retail sales, some using a time series forecasting algorithm.

In 1994 he formed four large software companies with his students. In doing so he was following a tradition, also described in The Diamond Cutter, that a Buddhist monk should be a sage on the inside but a successful American businessperson on the outside. His more advanced students worked on cutting edge projects in entrepreneurship and artificial intelligence. The hard work was interspersed with parties such as raves at the Rainbow Room and luxury trips to the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas. In 1995-1996, Lenz had most of his students go into software sales. A recruiting firm that provided both job placements and recruiting jobs was also founded around this time. Also in 1996, Lenz did take the plunge into the Internet, founding VayuWeb, an early web browser named after Lenz' much beloved Scottish Terrier. Virtual Greenwich, a Web tour of Greenwich, Connecticut that was quite advanced for this time, was also founded in 1996. By 1997, he did recommend that his students found Internet companies, feeling that the necessary startup capital to found an Internet company was considerably less than for a regular startup. In 1998, one of Lenz' female students founded [ [ !Gorgeous Nude Amateurs: Nude Girls give you Softcore Porn! Fun Sluts! Amateur Angels! ] ] , a softcore website with photos of many beautiful topless and nude women students of Lenz.


Lenz died on Easter Sunday, April 12 1998. He drowned at his estate on Conscience Bay in Old Field, New York after taking a massive drug overdose: reports differ on whether Lenz took Phenobarbital or 80-150 Valium tablets. [ Rediff On The NeT: The guru, $ 18 million, and the bird people ] ] With him at the time of death was 33-year old model and devoted follower Brinn Lacey, who police found covered with bruises. Lacey contends that Lenz' death was part of a suicide pact. [] Three terriers owned by Lenz were also found at the scene, drugged with phenobarbital.] According to Psychology Today, police found the body of Lenz wearing a suit and tie and a dog collar around his neck.

Lenz left an $18 million fortune., including several Learjets, mansions and luxury cars. [ 2 Claims Complicate Tussle Over New Age Guru's Estate ] ] His will has been a matter of dispute between the National Audubon Society [ [ Audubon may be heir to guru's Bedford estate ] ] and Lenz's former accountant and executor Norman Marcus, who created the "Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism" two months after Lenz died, thus arguably fulfilling the provisions of the will necessary for him to retain control of the Lenz fortune. [ [ $18M Battle of Wills ] ] According the "New York Times" the will has also been contested by Diana Jean Reynolds, who claims to be Lenz' widow, and Deborah Lenz, who also claims to be Lenz' widow, by common law marriage.

Lenz' estate was settled in 2002. The [ Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism] shows substantial grant making activity from 2003 onwards, as well as a substantial donation to the National Audubon Society. As part of the settlement with Audubon, a gorge was named for Lenz at the Sharon Audubon Center in Northwest Connecticut. Neither of the two women alleging to be wives of Lenz received anything in the settlement. The IRS Forms 990, available for free from Guidestar, show a substantial infusion of cash to the foundation beginning in 2002. The foundation is run by Marcus, Norman Oberstein, and Frederick P. Lenz Jr (the father of Lenz), although only Norman Marcus and Norman Oberstein have decision making authority. An advisory board consisting of former students of Lenz Elizabeth Cecil (who runs [ RamaLila] ), Dana Schwartz, Joaquin Lievano (a founder of the band Zazen), Walter Goodwin, and Lisa Lewinson, as well as two leading Zen practitioners, has advisory but not decision making rights. The Foundation, and not Audubon, appears to have rights to most of Lenz' intellectual property. In addition to making this intellectual property (in the form of CDs, books, and videos) available for purchase, the Foundation makes grants to worthy non-profit organizations that it deems to be promoting activities consistent with American Buddhism as taught by Lenz. For example, one of their major beneficiaries is the Peacemaker Community/Peacemaker Circle International, outgrowths of the [ Zen Peacemaker Order] founded by Roshi Bernie Glassman, a student of the well-known Zen teacher Taizan Hakuyu Maezumi Roshi. Norman Marcus, President and member of the Board of Directors of The Frederick P. Lenz Foundation For American Buddhism, also serves on the [ Finance Committee of the Zen Peacemakers] . Dennis Genpo Merzel, another dharma-heir of Maezumi Roshi, sits on the [ Advisory Committee to the Board of Directors] of the Lenz Foundation.


External links

* [ The Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism]
* [ Official Web Site of Frederick Lenz]
* [ Frederick Lenz - Zen Master Rama] includes the brochures Lenz distributed in 1986 and 1987 to advertise for his Zen seminars.
* [ Daily quotes of Rama] - publisher of American Buddha - Direct Student Accounts of Studying with Rama.
* The [ Frederick Lenz/Rama] page at The [ Rick A. Ross Institute] For the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Cult Movements
* [ Rama page] , from the [|Ex-Cult Resource Center] . Includes the complete text to the 1993 book "Take Me For a Ride; Coming Of Age In A Destructive Cult", by Mark E. Laxer, a former member of Lenz' inner circle.
* [ Rama (a.k.a. Frederick Lenz 1950-1998)] page at Robert T. Carroll's [ Skeptic's Dictionary]

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