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Dr. Frederick Lenz/Zen Master Rama -- Current and Former Member Remembrances

Look to trancenet.net for up-to-the-minute news on cults and pyschological freedoms.

Under RAPID Construction

Thanks for your condolences regarding the death of Zen Master Rama. I spent 5 years in the group, and have now been out of it for seven. I find it hard to believe that he would kill himself. I'm still kind of stunned. Guess I always thought that I would see him again someday. It's like the Grateful Dead - I kept meaning to see them, and then all of a sudden they were gone.

Anyway, your remarks are well-taken, because in spite of his numerous flaws, and all the things he did wrong, he was also a very inspiring spiritual mentor to many people, and meant an awful lot to them, myself included. Believe me, he had his good points, or we wouldn't have all hung around... It kind of reminds me of that scene in 'Rambo - First Blood' (one of Rama's favorite movies), where they bring in the colonel who was Rambo's commander in VietNam. The commander says to the local police, who just think Rambo is some lunatic, that 'No matter what may have happened to Rambo since 'Nam, there was a time when he was very special." Rama was a very special person to a lot of people.

I suppose the press will focus again on his sexual exploits, and how he became rich off his students, but they will probably never mention how Rama could take a roomful of hundreds of people, and make everyone's mind go silent. They won't mention the states of indescribable ecstasy that he could create in us, a feeling that we were touching the mind of God. Nor will they mention how he inspired us to meditate long and hard, work intensively on our careers, run every morning, study martial arts, clean our rooms, and just basically get our lives together in most every way.

Rama was warped, I think. He allowed his ego to grow out of control, and a guru has no checks and balances, because he only interacts with people who think he can do no wrong. Nonetheless, studying with him was the most exciting time of my life, and I had many incredible experiences, before the painful letdown occurred.

I hope that a memorial gathering of some type can be organized for all those people whose lives he touched. I think it would help a lot of people to meet and talk with other ex-students (I guess there are only ex-students now). Perhaps your web site could act as a vehicle for publicizing such a gathering if it happens.

Charles D. Rubin, falcon@ulster.net

This is all so very strange. I keep wondering about how people are doing. I imagine that some of them are suicidal. I wish I could talk to some of my old friends...

I also wonder silly things, like - what will his students do now?

What shampoo will they use?

What kind of clothes will they buy now?

Will some of them invest in a bed to sleep in?

Will they get a boyfriend or a girlfriend?

Will they talk to their parents again?

Will they try a new brand of paper towels?

Will some of his students start their own cults worshiping the drug-overdosed guru?

What will they decide to spend all of their money on now that he is no longer around to tell them what to do with it?

Will some of them buy Calvin Klein underwear?

I know that some of these sound funny, but his students all take them very seriously.

What do you do when your whole life has been dictated to you, and now the dictator is dead?

I was exposed to Frederick Lenz back in the fall of 1992, when I was becoming disenchanted with Eckankar, the group that I had been a member of for almost four years. At that point, I was beginning to wonder why I was doubting that group I was in, and I thought one possibility might have been that I didn't do a very thorough search before I went into Eckankar. At my university, I saw posters for free meditation classes; although Eckankar discouraged "meditation" as passive (Eckankar really had the same thing, only they called it "contemplation"), I figured that it couldn't hurt; I could easily put it aside if it didn't work for me. (Which, coincidently, was the same thinking I had when I got into Eckankar!)

The posters didn't attract many people, and by the end of the fourth week I was the only one left. I don't remember the names of the people, but what follows is essentially what happened.

The woman who led the hour-long meditation classes introduced herself as a student of an enlightened guru who had taught her to meditate. He had taught her many practical things as well, such as the need to keep one's self clean, even if only by washing one's face in the middle of the day.

Her guru had composed several tapes of music to meditate to (including "Canyons of Light" and "Enlightenment," which are now sold by Miramar records), which had a very high vibrational rate (spiritual tone). It was by a group called "Zazen," made up of a few of his students. The music seemed at least pleasant, but its repetitiveness and melodic/rhythmic structure made it difficult to meditate to. From the linear notes on the tapes, they were produced by Rama; whether this was her guru or someone they just channeled, I had no idea.

I got these tapes free of charge, but my questions as to who this guru was, or who funded those expensive tapes and laminated posters were simply ignored.

By the third week, I had grown very suspicious of them. The instructor's intensive stare and passive, almost dismissive manner towards the world seemed very self-righteous, I was hesitant to share any experiences I had with her form of meditation, because she seemed dismissive of any meditative or "contemplative" experiences I had before I came in contact with her; and I really wasn't sure how much I should trust them, since they didn't trust me with very much information about themselves.

At the third meeting, a young, blond man came in a blue suit and tie. He was extremely enthusiastic, and he and the instructor hit it off so easily that I knew that they weren't exactly strangers. He pointed out that his hands had creases in them, which indicated that he was an old soul. After the session ended, I was angry at him and the woman, as I saw them walk together behind me.

Fortunately, I didn't express that anger, for I might not have been allowed to attend the fourth and last meeting, which was held in a larger room than the previous three. I knew that I was only attending it out of a morbid curiosity. The blond man and instructor were the only other ones there; as I arrived late, the instructor showed more emotion than she had in the entire previous three weeks, indicating to me that I was the only reason they were there.

My morbid curiosity was satisfied: her guru was a Frederick Lenz, who had the power to show people to enlightenment. In fact, I had the opportunity to meet Lenz within a few days at the Beverly Hills Hotel (which is "freeway close" from where I live). As if I needed it, I got further verification that the woman and the blond man were acquainted, as they talked incessantly about their guru.

There were only a couple of catches if I wanted to see Lenz. One, I would have to go on a bus with other people; I could not take my own car, which sounded very suspect to me. Two, I would have to sign a waver, giving up my right to sue. I pointed out that was one of the dumbest stipulations I've ever heard about; that people who lecture all the time don't require people sign a "contract." The blond man told me that people sue all the time, for no reason; the instructor agreed, enthusiastically.

What bothered me was not that I got heavily involved (I didn't), or that I had wasted four hours on fruitless meditation courses. What bothered me was that I had been led on a string, and that they obviously wanted to build my interest while telling me as little as possible, hoping that I would be receptive and unquestioning. I found out more about them very soon afterwards, when a friend lent me his copy of the latest Cult Awareness Network newsletter; an article described Lenz, and how he was recruiting on campus, using names like "Pacific Meditation Center" (which was the front that I dealt with; its sparse literature that I was given gave absolutely no mention of Lenz or Rama).

If there is anything I was grateful for, it was that the experience opened my eyes to the fact that I was vulnerable. It made me much more skeptical, and not much more cynical. It also made much easier my decision to break from Eckankar a few months later.

[^]David D. Rogers (drogers@lightlink.com)
David Rogers is the newsletter editor for trancenet.net.

Flatline Meditation

On April 13 I heard that Frederick Rama Lenz died sometime the day before. Officials found him in twenty feet of water in Conscience Bay behind his Long Island mansion. By April 17 circumstances surrounding his death were inconclusive, but evidence shows that he ingested 150 tablets of Phenobarbital, floated on his back from a pier sixty feet off shore, and wore the "dog tag" around his neck. (It was that of his deceased dog, Vayu's[^]Ed.) The police found an incoherent woman inside the mansion sometime after midnight early Monday. She was reportedly a Lenz student and a model, 33. They took her to a hospital where she was treated for a drug overdose ("50 tablets") and she was released. Drugs were a factor according to police, but they are not ruling out "foul play." His students knew Lenz suffered from a serious illness, and it may have contributed to his actions on Easter Sunday. If he was dying anyway--why not go out in an auspicious way on an auspicious day? Why not take a girlfriend and pet dogs along? Happily, the latter all survived. Since his earliest days as a cult figure around twenty years ago, Lenz had a penchant for times and places of power, astrological signs, and participation with the occult imagination through drugs and other risky activities.

Foul play may be an apt description of Rama Lenz's lifestyle for most of his adult life. My first encounter with his teaching methods came in 1987 when a family flew me to California to help their daughter. She had been Fred Lenz's private "student" for several months that summer. After several months as a new student, Lenz had first convinced Mercedes to break up with another student, then he secretly invited her to his plush home for private instruction. According to her, despite initial resistance, Mercedes succumbed to her guru's sexual advances that same day. She also succumbed to his bizarre teaching techniques that employed LSD trips with him and other students in private sessions. She said it was "exciting" for the most part initially. Mercedes told me that Lenz wined and dined her and spent $13,000 in one day on clothes that he chose for her. He often spent $12,000 a pop to fly with her and his dog, Vayu, via private jet for pleasure and business. By the end of her spiritual tryst, Mercedes was suicidal. The LSD trips, Rama's bizarre ranting at her when she was tripping, "downer" drugs he had her take, and isolation from family and friends took their toll. Lenz had convinced her that she was aligned with demons against him, she had blown enlightenment, and he wanted her out of his life.

With help from Sara, a former Lenz devotee she dared to call from his New York residence (Rama demanded she not tell anyone about her relationship with him), Mercedes left Lenz and contacted her family. They flew her home immediately and arranged for me to see her the very next day. They had no contact from her for nearly three months. I listened to her story, patiently taking notes and for several days helped her to start the process of sorting out what and who Lenz really was. We were able to begin dispelling all notions of magical power she thought he had. Once the tricks of the mind are explained, the hypnotic illusions are no longer powerful. In fact, we had many good laughs about Lenz's shenanigans. Through the now closed Unbound rehab facility in Iowa, follow-up therapy and reunion with her former boyfriend (whom I also helped to exit from Lenz), Mercedes pulled her life together again.

Since 1987 my colleagues and I have assisted many Lenz devotees to break with their guru through family interventions and individual consultations. Only two of my interventions were begun coercively by the concerned families -- they both failed and gave Lenz fuel to accuse me of criminal activity in his propaganda against "deprogrammers" after 1988. That year was the only time I encountered Lenz in a personal conversation via satellite on the television show "A Current Affair." Essentially, I called him a fake and he called me a criminal. We were scheduled to appear live on a Boston show soon after, but Lenz backed out when he heard I would be present in person. They canceled the show. Since 1991, I no longer assist in coercively initiated "deprogrammings," but I have assisted many Lenz devotees break with him through non-coercive meetings and discussions. The story told by Mercedes was one I heard in variations from many more former "lovers" Lenz had as students. Drugs were a common factor as was spiritual threat. Lenz devotees nearly all believe that he has (his students probably believe that Lenz still operates from the "inner planes" though he is dead) occult powers. They view him as an initiate of some obscure Tibetan sect and as an incarnation of the Hindu god, Vishnu -- hence the name Rama. Through hypnotic meditation practice and a deep psychological link with Lenz as their guru, Lenz students tend to feel and experience trance-like visions of Lenz's power. As always such experiences cut two ways: the student may feel empowered by the experience, but he or she will also develop phobias about what Lenz might do with that power if crossed or doubted. In his two recent novels about his occult exploits as a snowboarder, Lenz lets it be known clearly that he has incredible occult powers that could obliterate his enemies.

Of course, I've heard similar power stories over the years about any number of magical gurus (many I experienced in person) who I have consistently and publicly criticized as charlatans. If any of Lenz's students are questioning or yet fear this alleged occult power, I offer myself as evidence that it is not there. It's an illusion in the mind of the devotee, albeit a powerful "maya." If any of the dozens of fake power gurus or "Ascended Masters" that I dismiss had any occult electricity to speak of, I should have been toast by 1980.

I imagine that the Lenz devotees are scrambling as I write to gain perspective and regroup. I can envision a power grab over his assets and copyrights if Lenz had not written a coherent will. Whether he had or not, we may find a second phase of Lenzism appearing among a core group of devotees who will maintain that Lenz is directing them from the other worlds they contact in meditation. It would not surprise me if someone "channels" messages from Lenz to devotees in the future. Lenz followers already believe in psychic connections as well as spirits and demons. During the mid-seventies Baba Ram Dass (Richard Alpert) fell under the spell a woman cult leader in New York who allegedly channeled his dead guru, Neem Karoli Baba, who died in 1973. The Hari Krishnas were left without a clear leader after Swami Prabhupad died in 1977, but the group has utilized lifelike statues of the swami that they worship almost as a living presence. It is a common fact in the history of religions that cults of worship form around revisioned dead gurus and messiahs. Why should Lenz devotees be any different?

Already, on their website "Ramalila.com" the Lenz devotees are singing his praises and shoring up their emotions from the inevitable fallout of not having a living god to guide them. They already indicate his "presence" from occult worlds in their lives and offer a "joyful noise" about how wonderful he was and "is." Experts who feared Lenz student suicides might be encouraged by Ramalila.com as evidence of self-support for the grieving group. I imagine some students might wake up as time goes on to recognize that stories from ex-members like Mercedes are more than atrocity tales. Devotees have much to gain from seeing their wizard, Rama, as just Freddy Lenz pushing their mind buttons behind a curtain. For some brave hearts, it might be time to wake up from the dream and go home to a richer, fuller life. Just click your heels three times and repeat the mantra--if only it were that easy exit counselors like myself would be out of work.

If you care to read my reviews of Lenz's novels, check out my web site at http://www.users.fast.net/~szimhart. Or look them up in the Skeptical Inquirer.

Joe Szimhart
Pottstown, PA
April 17, 1998

Rama is dead. He died just as he lived. A coward of a man afraid of truth and love, unable to handle his own weaknesses. He thought he was a God, but he was just a very greedy man who knew what people wanted to hear. His Enlightenment came from drugs, not meditation. His words of "wisdom" came from books, not life experience. His visions of the demons that were always possessing those around him, and even the very furniture of his house, were by-productsof the LSD he took, not his wonderful enlightenment that the devil wanted to kill him for. This is my opinion based on my personal experiences with him and from those people whom I've talked to over the years. The rest of this Eulogy are my true memories of what I did experience. You may choose to believe them or not, I don't really care. This is my truth, not his lies. You should know this.

The house that Rama was found dead at is a beautiful but cold place. It has walls of glass doors all around the bottom floor so that he may see anyone coming; and great walls around the yard with security cameras to keep out the "possessed" people that were always out to kill him. I know this house because I used to clean it. I cleaned all of those glass doors, and I cleaned his black-colored toilet that he had in his master bathroom. I polished his brass fixtures and Ajaxed the coffee stains out of his kithen sink. When I would finish cleaning the house then I would move on to him, giving him massages and anything else that he wanted from me. I felt so priveledged. Not only did I get to clean the shit out of his toilet, but I got to be intimate with him. I had such good Karma he told me. I thought I was so special. I had no idea how many other women had "cleaned his toilets" for him in the past.

I was a new student at the time, fresh flesh for him to use. It was so exciting, but then I cleaned his house one day with the "wrong state ofmind." He yelled at me for a long time telling me that I had messed up his room with bad energy. "Look at what you did!" he yelled. I looked at the walls but I couln't see anything. "They are covered with thick, black energy. It will take me a long time to get this cleaned up. What a disgusting mess you have made of things you stupid bitch!" How could I defend myself? I must be a really low-level person to do such a horrible thing, what was I thinking? (What WAS I thinking!) It was my state of mind that did this he said, but all I was doing was scrubbing his walls and listening to music. How could I be so very awful? He yelled and lectured me for hours on the dangers of being possessed, then he went upstairs to clap his hands and yell at the bad energy to go away, and then he sent me home. I guess he had no one else to clean his house at the time because he called me back next week to do it again, but this time there was another women to help. Eventually there were four of us. Three of us did more than clean his house for him.

I remember one day when I came to his house I noticed that he had purchased new stereo speakers. He explained that the "entities" had tried to trick him. They had stolen his old speakers and then disguised themselves as his speakers. "They were pretty tricky all right, but they couldn't fool me. I threw those suckers out and bought some new ones." Those entities couldn't pass anything over on Rama.

I think it was that stereo speakers incident that made me begin to question his sanity. Sometimes he would dart his eyes around the room, following unseen specters. "Don't try to see what I see," he would tell me. I felt so inferior to this great man.

He was terrified of spiders. Once when one crawled across the floor, he yelled for me to "get it!" I put a glass over it so that I could put it outside. He insisted that I kill it though, so I turned the glass over and smushed the big, hairy thing. "Everything in the spirit world has it's physical representation in the physical world," he explained to me. "Spiders are the physical representation of Entities." I was terrified of spiders, too, for a longtime after that.

He blamed his students for everything in life. I remember when he was wanting to purchase his first boat, but the computer industry was slow that month, and many of his students couldn't pay their tuition. He was so angry with them. "They really screwed me over", he said. "I was going to buy my boat this month but now I can't. They will all pay for this." The next month tuition went up.

He had big calluses on his feet that he blamed his students for. "Allthat negative energy they throw at me is doing this to me," he said. "A person like me should never have something like this on their body." His greying hair and wrinkles, any headache he had were because of his bad students. We were just awful.

When his dog would bark outside it was because he was barking at negative energy that was coming to the house. The whole world was out to get him.

I remember once asking him while we were in bed together if he had ever gotton a girl pregnant. He paused for a moment and then said "no." I have since met someone who did get pregnant from him and heard of several others. He always made them get abortions though, promising that it wouldn't hurt that he would take care of things. But of course it did hurt, it hurt a lot and in many ways. He just got very angry at them if they talked about it though. Shouldn't a man who claims to be God be able to tell if a woman is ovulating or not? There were so many lies....

His "insights" would come from anywhere. I once asked him if the reason his students were with him and not someone else was because they were like him (the whole "like attracts like" theory). His immediate response was no, but at his next lecture he talked at great length about how the reason we were his students was because we were so much like him. So -- some of his insights came from his toilet cleaner. Hmmm....

All of his students were so mean, and angry, and paranoid. They were just like him. I would listen to my peers talk with such pride in thier voice about something rude or mean they did to someone. No one messes with one of Rama's students. They were so hard to be around, too. I remember once working with a small group of women on a computer project he had assigned us. Suddenly one of them turns to me and accused me of "slamming" her with negative energy. I had no idea what she was talking about, but she had to leave because she was getting nauseous. I didn't really care one way or the other, but it was starting to get to me, all of these accusations about thinking and feeling things that were "bad." How can you defend yourself? Everyone under Lenz was supposed to be so psychic, you couln't trust anyone, we were constantly accused of bad energy, by our peers or by him.

One day while I was clapping the bad energy out of my bedroom, I stopped to look at myself. What was I becoming? Was this paranoid and lonely road the way to happiness? To enlightenment? Rama was not a happy man. I saw that over and over. He was angry, paranoid, and lonely. Was this what I had to look forward to? Everyone always out to get me? Watching my furniture to make sure an Entity wasn't waiting for me in it? No -- I had to leave for the sake of my mental freedom and my sanity. I began to suspect that I was starting to go crazy.

I wonder now about his students. How will you deal with life out in the world without him? It took me years to "come back to life" -- so to speak. He told us what products to use, which ones to avoid. Not many people had furniture or even a bed because they couldn't afford it -- they gave most of their money to him, and since they were always moving, it made life simpler to not have much anyway.

The more money people made, the more spiritually advanced they were, but don't get materialistic and greedy! Give your money to the Dharma, give it to Rama. The more you give the more you get, sort of buying your way to enlightenment.

I could go on, I have many more such stories, but I think this is enough. I hope that his death will bring some people to their senses. Will the Mothers and Fathers that gave up their children (and, oh, with what pride they had when giving them up, all for the Dharma!) contact them again; will people call their families and their parents now that they have nothing to hide anymore (we had to get rid of ANY interference, of course); will you buy yourselves furniture, or try other products that he discouraged -- like Calvin Klein? Will you eat garlic (it was a low-vibed food)? You should be celebrating!You're free! The King is dead! He cannot tell you what to do or not to do anymore. But then again, maybe you like that sort of thing....

Celebrating my Freedom! Celebrating his death!
Just sign me,
Happily Unenlightened

I have been a friend of Rama's for 16 years. There is a lot of speculation out there about potential suicides, students attempting to take over and start new groups, and even speculation about students beginning to channel Rama now that he is dead. Having known him well, and knowing most of the other students, I don't see any of this happening. Yes, there are at least two former students who have been teaching meditation on their own for a while, but doing it in a way as to "carry on" Rama's teachings or to be his replacement, I think not. Channeling is something I can say with confidence won't be coming from anyone who studied with him for any length of time or who understood his core teachings. There is a lot of misinformation out there and misunderstanding of his teachings. A lot of things that he said in humor in some hotel room in the middle of the night over snacks after a public workshop have been put out as gospel. Much of it is absurd.

I have to say that I could have imagined any number of things from Rama, but suicide is not one of them. Even if I could have imagined suicide it would have been with much more style. At least I would have seen it taking place in one of his favorite power places or with some profound statement or words of encouragement left behind. It really doesn't make sense to me. I do know that he had been on various prescription drugs and had recently had a very serious adverse reaction to an antibiotic. I wonder how much of his state of mind may have been due to the meds. It just isn't like him. He was always very deliberate and did everything with great style designed to inspire or annoy.

I attended Rama's memorial. It was done very well, in good taste. We all (500 or so and about 45 family members) visited for a couple of hours afterwards. In the end we all went our separate ways. There was no updating of mailing lists or talk of any new organization, way for us all to keep in touch, or to get news about the foundation that is being set up by his attorneys to distribute his funds to various charities, etc. It was more a good bye and good luck with the rest of your lives kind of thing. As strange as it may sound, Rama was really not into the group dependance kind of thing. It was done as he would have wanted. Leaving us all to be strong and independent individuals getting on with the rest of our lives.

Be well.

Lissa EuDaly

I was an 'intermediate' follower from 1981 to 1988, which seems like a long time ago but this man cast a long shadow over those he 'taught' ('conned' would be more accurate).

A couple of thoughts:

  • Even back in 1983 Rama claimed that he was suffering from some 'mysterious' ailment that was causing him more pain than a terminal cancer victim. Of course he blamed his ailment on the bad karma of his followers, and he claimed that his followers (all of them! not just a few!) were trying to psychically kill him. To read some of the news posts from his current followers, I see that he still was passing off that story of an ailment that doctors could not find. It is interesting to see that the coroners report proved once and for all that he was healthy, and that his mysterious ailment was either his own paranioia or part of this bag of tricks to make his followers feel guilty.

  • It is very ironic that Carlos Castaneda died just a few days after Lenz. I was drawn to Lenz' group when I was a student at UCSD by Lenz' lectures on 'Carlos Castaneda's World of Power'. I think that at least 50% of Lenz' philosophy was based upon the Cataneda books. Rumor had it that Carlos Castaneda himself despised Lenz and thought that he was a fraud. Even stranger, according to the press releases Castaneda died of liver disease, which is what Lenz claimed to have! (Then again, these coincidences are probably no more meaningful than the famous 'Lincoln/Kennedy' coincidences - but they are interesting).

  • Lenz actually told people that he HAD in fact walked on water (and his followers definitely believed that he could). His death by drowning (guess he couldn't really walk on water!) seems to have been on or near Good Friday. I think that there must have been some sort of Jesus symbolism going on in his mind to kill himself on that day. A part of me wonders if he had actually convinced himself that he could rise from the dead like Jesus. As bizarre as this may sound, remember that this is a man who claimed to be the Last Incarnation of Vishnu and had a book written about it. He frequently compared himself to Jesus in front of his students (with Jesus taking the lesser evaluation, of course). We probably will never know for sure WHAT the guy was thinking of all along, or how much of his delusional claims he actually believed himself.

'Imagination is NOT the same as Truth' -- Todd

Web links

*Frederick Lenz official site: http://www.fredericklenz.com
*Frederick Lenz unofficial site: http://www.ramalila.com
*Zazen official site: http://www.zazen.com
*Lenz literary site: http://www.himalaya.com
*Mark Laxer's Take Me For a Ride ; autobiography of a former Lenz deovtee: http://www.killyourtv.com/freeride/

*Trancenet Rama-Llama-Ding-Dong Home Page: site: http://www.trancenet.net/crazyfred
*Wired magazine: "The Code Cult of the CPU Guru"; 1994 article about Lenz's then-growing influence in the computer consulting industry: http://www.wired.com/wired/2.01/departments/electrosphere/lenz.html

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