Frederick Philip Lenz, III (aka Rama) & His Association With American Buddhism

Frederick Philip Lenz, III (aka Rama) & His Association With American Buddhism

Jun 26


Thanks to Duff McDuffee of Boulder, Colorado for discovering and reporting on many of the links listed below.


Wikipedia on Frederick Lenz


Summary Of His Beliefs & Work

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 teacher who propounded a syncretic blend of Tibetan Buddhism, Zen, Vedanta, and Mysticism which he called “American Buddhism”. Lenz was also an author, software designer, businessman, and record producer. The body and focus of his life’s work, including all his teaching and projects, was officially centered around conveying enlightenment to those who were interested. He based his teachings on ancient practices within a modern framework. He was considered to be a tough and demanding teacher by his students, who have compared him the Tibetan Buddhist teachers Marpa and Padmasambhava. He reportedly did not have hard and fast rules, other than to meditate, to live with etiquette (having honor and reverence for life and others), and to translate the enlightenment empowerments into a successful life, defined by him as a life of solitude, joy, oneness, and abundance. Lenz remains a controversial figure. His behavior drew much criticism from the anti-cult movement, but thousands of people from all over the world were attracted by his teachings.

Criticisms & Controversial Incidents

As he met with growing success as a teacher in the 1980s, he also he encountered growing criticism. Although many of his former students describe him as a fully enlightened teacher, more than two dozen news articles have appeared in national publications in which a number of his former students allege that he was an abusive cult leader. There were five areas where the allegations were focused:

• Sexual improprieties with female students.

• Excessive tuition charged to participate in his program.

• Students being asked to cut off contact with their families.

• Fraudulent resumés being used by former students seeking employment

• Claims that he was responsible for personal tragedies involving his students

Death & His Estate

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. With him at the time of his death was 33-year old model and devoted follower Brinn Lacey who, according the police report, was covered with bruises. Lacey contends that his 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 his body dressed in a suit and tie, with a dog collar around his neck.

He left an $18 million fortune, including several Learjets, mansions and luxury cars. His will has been a matter of dispute between the National Audubon Society and his former accountant/executor Norman Marcus, who created the Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism two months after Lenz died. This apparently fulfilled provisions of the will necessary for Marcus to retain control of the Lenz fortune. According the New York Times, the will was also 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.

His estate was eventually 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 990 forms (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 (Lenz’ father), although only Marcus and Oberstein have decision making authority. An advisory board consisting of former students Elizabeth Cecil (who runs RamaLila, an organization composed of former students), Dana Schwartz, Joaquin Lievano (a founder of the band Zazen), Walter Goodwin and Lisa Lewinson, as well as two leading Zen practitioners, has no decision making rights. The Foundation, and not Audubon, appears to have rights to most of Lenz’ intellectual property. In addition to selling CDs, books, and videos, the Foundation makes grants to non-profit organizations that it deems to be promoting activities consistent with American Buddhism as taught by Lenz. One of their major beneficiaries is Peacemaker Circle International, an outgrowth 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 Foundation, also serves on the Finance Committee of the Zen Peacemakers. Dennis Genpo Merzel, another student of Maezumi Roshi, sits on the Advisory Committee to the Board of Directors of the Foundation.

Read Wikipedia’s complete report here.


Diving To Conscience Bay
By John Gallagher
Psychology Today
November 1, 1998

Pays tribute to Frederick Lenz III, known as the New Age guru Zen Master Rama, who committed suicide at his mansion along New York’s Long Island shore. His accomplishments; Criticisms against Lenz; His personal background; How he got the name Zen Master Rama; Comments from some friends.

Will of ‘Yuppie Guru’ Inspires An Un-Zenlike Battle
By Debra West
New York Times
Sunday, March 28, 1999


Freedom Of Mind Resource Center On Rama

Rick Ross On Frederick Lenz The Rama Page


Adi Da Courts Former Devotees Of Frederick Lenz (Rama)


Originally published as “Daism Report #1 — April was the Cruelest Month” at the Lightmind website by Elias (Tom Weitch)

April 2000 was probably one of the weirder months in the history of Adidam. Two main events took place: Frank opened his arms to the devotees of Frederick Lenz, the young American guru who committed suicide in 1998 — and Frank himself suffered from a series of debilitating anxiety attacks, for which he was treated with meds like Valium.

I was able recently to have conversations with no less than three people who are relatively close to these events. I am going to summarize here some of the stuff I was told.

I also found out, for the first time, that this website is regularly monitored by Daists — people who keep track of what is going on here, and report back what is being said about Frank to group meetings. (I hope you’ve learned something, Da-guys…now you’ve seen life from both sides of the mirror. ;-)

First, here’s some info on Frank’s illness. As I understand it, on April 12, while visiting the San Juan Islands, in the Seattle area, he was unexpectedly overcome with numbness, cramps, pressure in the heart area, difficulty with breathing, and ringing in his left ear. The symptoms became so extreme that a Rescue Squad was called, and Frank was rushed to the hospital, where they gave him the full emergency treatment.

The Seattle doctors gave him nitroglycerine, assuming a heart attack. When the nitro had no effect on the symptoms, they concluded his heart was fine, and informed him he was having a classic “anxiety attack.” He was treated with Valium, and his symptoms promptly retreated.

The panic attacks continued in the subsequent weeks, and Frank continued a regimen of tranquilizers.

Almost immediately after the trip to the hospital, the whole thing became blown up into a huge mythological event — even an event upon which the entire future history of the world hinged. Frank went into apocalyptic mode, dusted off his best Doom and Gloom speeches, and laid waste to his community for abusing him, refusing to serve him, and generally making his life into a living hell.

The basic import of his tirades, I was told, was that the community has failed to bring in enough important people (they call them “contacts”) with whom he could do his Work. So he has nothing to do but “sit around and watch television”;. In consequence, the “dark forces” that he is fighting worm their way into his body and just have at it. It is a life-and-death struggle, and frank-ly these are momentous times — the balance could tip either way. If he dies from one these anxiety attacks, it is quite likely that the world will be destroyed, or at least become unliveable (due to, one supposes, nuclear firestorms and such).

So, as you can imagine, the devotees have a pretty big responsibility, to obey and please Frank and keep him healthy so the world won’t be destroyed! This is some heavy duty stuff.

Enter the followers of Frederick P. Lenz III, aka “Master Rama.”

For whatever reason, Frank has been assiduously courting the disciples and students of Lenz for the last few months. Some have speculated that he is attracted by their kick-butt approach to practical life. They know how to make money in the high-tech realm, and apparently they have made lots of it. Whatever the reason for his affinity for Lenzites, he has put aside any misgivings he might have had about Lenz as a person, or as a spiritual teacher, giving Lenz an unusual ammount of praise. (As we know, it is very unusual for Frank to heap praise upon another teacher — although to be honest, he sometimes takes them into his loving embrace once they are dead, usually to assign them a place of significance well-below himself.)

In the case of Lenz, Frank announced that Lenz was a reincarnation of Swami Ramatirtha, who was a disciple of Vivekananda. He also noted the similarities between himself and Lenz, in the abuse they had both suffered from the public media. He explained the suicide by saying that Lenz killed himself because the spiritual work just got too much for him — he lacked the siddhi that such work requires.

In a weird coincidence, Lenz is said to have taken his life on April 12, 1998. April 12, 2000 is the day that Frank suffered his Divine Anxiety Attack.

Lenz’s followers were told that Adi Da saw them as people who had come a long way on the path, people who would be sensitive to his spiritual needs. He longed to draw such people around him, creating a new generation of spiritually-evolved attendants who would give him the energy he needs for his Work.

Notes were sent, the red carpet was rolled out, darshan was quickly granted to “the New York students” as they were called. Many of them were flattered by the attention, and quickly signed on. They were granted positions and responsibilities that other Daists had only dreamed about. Frank was very upfront with them about their practical talents, too, telling them he was expecting that everything Lenz had taught them would be put to good use in Adidam.

(This could get interesting. Lenz followed the L. Ron Hubbard model, of charging lots of money for classes. The higher you went in the organization, the more you had to pay. The idea was to inspire you to go out and make more and more money, become more successful in the world, become a mover and shaker. Lenz’s followers were expected to wear business suits, drive nice cars, and live in great houses. So much for those yet-to-be Adidam charities!)

However you slice it, the followers of Fred Lenz were made to feel that they are “the real devotees” that Frank has been waiting for all these years. The old-timers were accused of “emasculating” him, and making his “circumstance” intolerable. Just so. Some heavy notes went down, you can be sure.

That’s pretty much it. I have some other bits and pieces of info I will probably post in a few days.


Frederick Lenz Website

The Frederick P Lenz Foundation For American Buddhism

Grant-Making Activity 2003-2008

Excerpts, as of June 26, 2009:

Since inception of its grant-making activity, the Foundation has funded or is committed to funding approximately $3,811,000 in grants, and is discussing the funding of an additional $1,274,000. The Foundation is pleased to report on its historical, current and prospective grant-making programs as follows:

1. Friends of Zen, Inc.
P.O. Box 326
East Brookfield, MA 01515
Telephone: (508) 333-6099
Attn: Jun Po Denis Kelly, Rev. Dai En Hi Fu George Burch

2. Big Mind, Inc./Kanzeon Zen Center
1274 E. South Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84102
Telephone: (801) 593-1771
Attn: Dennis Genpo Merzel Roshi

In the 2003-2004 period, the Foundation funded a $165,000 grant to support Kanzeon’s “Big Mind” program. This was supplemented in 2005-2006 with another grant of $200,000, and a further grant of $100,000 in 2008. These grants have been used to jump start an expansion of the “Big Mind” program, including the publishing of the book, “Big Mind-Big Heart/Finding your Way” along with DVD teaching devices on the same subject – both available on the Foundation’s Storefront. The “Big Mind Process” is an innovative technique developed by Genpo Merzel Roshi, who heads the Salt Lake City Zen Center. The process is designed to fast track participants towards achieving self-realization. The innovative and accessible approach taught through this process allows participants to awaken to a universal mind consciousness, creating a major shift in perspective: from a self-centered view of the world to one where all beings are seen as connected with one another. The Foundation’s grant has permitted Big Mind to train teachers and to offer the program in ever-expanding parts of the United States via “Big Mind-Big Heart” and the creation of the DVD teaching tool. The meditative process fostered by “Big Mind” represents a unique Western contribution to the traditional Zen foundations upon which this new practice is based. Genpo Roshi has been using Frederick Lenz’ writings to inspire his Dharma talks and teachings in the “Big Mind” workshops, and has integrated the Foundation’s musical offerings into this program. The “Big Mind” process was developed by Zen Master Dennis Genpo Merzel after 30 years of formal Zen training and 25 years of Zen teaching and counseling. The technique comes out of both the Western psychotherapy tradition and the Eastern Zen tradition, a 2600-year-old teaching of self-realization and actualization. The “Big Mind” technique is a very simple yet powerful and rapid way to help a person shift perspective and realize the wisdom that may take a meditator more than 15 or 20 years to accomplish.

3. Great Mountain Zen Center
1110 Sparta Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
Telephone: (720) 890-1800
Attn: Gerry Shishin Wick, Roshi, Spiritual Director

4. Osel Dorje Nyingpo
1630A 30th Street, #240
Boulder, CO 80301
Telephone: (303) 417-1718, ext. 216
Attn: Dana Schwartz, President

5. Naropa University
2130 Arapahoe Avenue
Boulder, CO 80302
Telephone: (303) 444-0202
Attn: Dana Lobell, Corporate and Foundation Relations Manager

6. Tricycle Foundation
92 Vandam Street
New York, NY 10013
Telephone: (212) 645-1143
Attn: James Shaheen, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review

7. Peacemaker Circle International
177 Ripley Road
Montague, MA 01351-9541
Telephone: (413) 367-2048
Attn: Roshi Bernie Glassman

Since 2006, the Foundation has made grants and loans to Peacemaker Circle in the cumulative sum of $825,000 to support its operations, with another $40,000 in potential grant fulfillment on the horizon.

The founder and Spiritual Director of the Zen Peacemakers, Roshi Bernie Glassman, is internationally recognized as a pioneer of the Zen Buddhist movement in America and is one of the founders of socially engaged Buddhism and social entrepreneurship. He has based his life’s work on a commitment to service, born from his practice and mastery of the 2500-year-old tradition of Buddhist compassion and wisdom.

Bernie created the Zen Peacemakers in 1980 to embody this commitment in a global network of 60 centers, affiliated with the Mother House in Montague, Massachusetts. What characterizes the socially engaged practices of Zen Peacemakers is how they extend Dharma practice from the meditation hall to the worlds of business, social service, conflict resolution, and environmental stewardship. Zen Peacemakers practice socially engaged Buddhism to transform individuals and communities, and have responded to some of the most difficult problems of our time – poverty, AIDS, homelessness, and a lack of skills necessary for employment.

Today the central project of the Zen Peacemakers is establishing Zen Houses: residential Dharma centers devoted to providing social services to underserved and impoverished peoples around the world. To support this effort, the Maezumi Institute, the study and training center of the Zen Peacemakers, offers a Residential Ministry Program for Leadership in Socially Engaged Buddhism to provide leaders and staff to run these Zen Houses.

In October, 2007, the Foundation held its first Buddhist Leadership Conference at the Zen Peacemakers’ Maezumi Institute’s study and training center at the Mother House in Montague, Massachusetts.

8. Ashoka, the eDharma university
Open Mind Foundation
303 Snyder Pond Road
Copake, NY 12516
Telephone: (646) 335-2674
Attn: Stuart Carduner, Director

9. Spirit Rock Meditation Center
P.O. Box 169
5000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Woodacre, CA 94973
Telephone: (415) 488-0164, ext. 224
Attn: Jack Kornfield and Evan Kavanagh

10. Vast Sky Institute, Inc.
1268 East South Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84102
Telephone: (801) 328-8414
Attn: Dennis Genpo Merzel Roshi

Vast Sky brings together the principals from Big Mind (Dennis Genpo Merzel Roshi), Integral Institute (Ken Wilber) and Peacemaker Circle (Roshi Bernie Glassman) in a joint effort to “. . . use the wisdom of the Buddhadharma, combined with the most effective technology available, to advance every conceivable area of our society towards a more awakened approach to life.” It is the object of Vast Sky to change the way America views spirituality so as to affect and impact the way society views religion, educates its children, approaches politics, conducts its business, and cares for the elderly, the homeless and the poor, as well as the way Americans relate to other nations, especially those which are different from our nation. By impacting the level of consciousness of America’s public officials and public servants, the Vast Sky project seeks a transformation through the instruments of technology and mass media in the way Americans view these important matters critical to our nation’s well being. The Foundation has made a seed money grant of $150,000 to create a program for the implementation of the project’s vision and to raise funds substantially in excess of the initial grant so that this vision may be realized.

11. The Bodhidharma Foundation of America, Inc.
16530 Ventura Blvd., Suite 205
Encino, CA 91436
Telephone: (818) 501-4224, ext. 1
Attn: Harold J. Stanton, President

12. Light of Berotsana
1500 Kalmia Avenue
Boulder, CO 80304
Telephone: (303) 443-4541
Attn: Jessie Friedman, Executive Director

13. The Tides Center (The Lineage Project)
P.O. Box 4668 #8375
New York, NY 10163-4668
Telephone/Fax: (781) 408-1492
Attn: Beth Navon, Executive Director

14. Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
199 Main Street, Suite 3
Northhampton, MA 01060
Telephone: (413) 582-0071, ext. 13
Attn: Philip Snyder, Executive Director

15. Prison Dharma Network
P.O. Box 4623
Boulder, CO 80306-4623
Telephone: (303) 544-5923
Attn: Fleet Maull

16. Upaya Zen Center
1404 Cerro Gordo Road
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Telephone: (505) 986-8518
Attn: Roshi Joan Halifax


The Foundation has instituted a Small Grants Program which generally involves funding of single projects up to a maximum of $10,000. The first such grant was made to EarthNest Institute (1706 Sonora Road, Sangre de Cristo Ranches, Box 521, Fort Garland, CO 81133; telephone 719-588-4109; website:; Attn: Nicole V. Langley, Director) for the purpose of filming a documentary entitled “Meditate ‘08,” which took place in Denver, Colorado, during the Democratic National Convention in August of 2008. The documentary will concentrate on the speakers, teachers, guides, participants and events surrounding a meditation retreat which took place in the midst of the Democratic National Convention, and focuses upon the potential impact which Buddhism and meditation can have upon society. The object is to create a documentary that focuses on the intersection of thoughtful inward guidance on the one hand, and the often more one-sided or entrenched perspectives that tend to occur in today’s high pressured daily life, as expressed, for example, in politics and the public media.

A further grant in the sum of $10,000 was made by the Small Grants Committee to Zen Hospice Project (273 Page Street, San Francisco, CA 94102-5616; telephone: 415-863-2910; website:; Attn: Chris Panos, co-President) to support its Volunteer Caregiver Program. This program is designed to bring essential support to low income and underserved populations that face socioeconomic barriers to care, such as the poor, underinsured and uninsured, as well as those lacking education or facing language barriers. For over two decades, Zen Hospice Project has pioneered an internationally recognized best practice model of end-of-life care and education that is based on Zen Buddhist principles of compassion, mindfulness and loving kindness. The Volunteer Caregiver Program integrates spiritual practice and end-of-life care training with service to the dying to embrace each moment of life and death as a pathway to self-realization and harmony.



  1. A

    I came to know Frederick Lenz after his death through vampirism that he took place in through one of his student, a woman named Leah Merriel [not sure of spelling] (who goes by the occult name of Sunyata or Sunny). I was abused for what I later found was purpose of vampirism and black magic. I suffered a lot and it took multiple suicide attempts, hospitalizations, and much therapy to repair some of the harm I suffered. Only after I dared actually look them up and found that the systemic way this cult abuses people has already been investigated and published. It was a like a page out of my life with the cult. These are very dark souls.
    Federick Lenz is refusing to go through the process of death. He is maintaining his etheric body in the astral plane and thus his trainees look for young victims (usually at reputable universities) to vampire on. They are engaged in “watching” (refers to using “the evil eye”) and many other black magic as well as simple abuse such as humiliation, exploitation, and harassment.

  2. B

    A, thank you for confirming something that I’ve suspected since 1998: that the abusive behavior often perpetrated by this group did not end with Fred Lenz’ physical death in 1998. I was an apprentice in the group back in the day but have continued to have abusive experiences with these people since he died. The group is indeed often very vampire-like: they drain people’s energies and then throw people away in a very cruel way once they’ve drained them. In recent years I’ve been keeping my distance from these people–and, of course, I’m not that young anymore and you correctly note, they do seem to specialize on finding new young people to use.

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