Lama’s aide faces bribery claim
For more than 15 years, Tenzin Dhonden has stood between the Dalai Lama and the multitudes of American philanthropists, celebrities, scholars and officials eager for even an instant in the revered Buddhist leader’s presence. The smiling Tibetan monk, widely known as Lama Tenzin, has introduced himself as the Dalai Lama’s ‘‘personal emissary for peace’’.
Now he has been suspended as secretary and trustee of the Dalai Lama Trust, a charitable organisation chaired by the Dalai Lama, pending an investigation into allegations by a prominent Seattlebased technology entrepreneur who claims that between 2005 and 2008, the monk abused his role to extract unjustified payments from him.
The Dalai Lama is said to have expressed ‘‘deep disappointment and concern’’ over the complaints about his gatekeeper, which include an allegation that he demanded payments in return for ensuring the spiritual leader appeared at a major event in Washington state.
Dhonden strongly disputes the allegations, and has contracted Patterson Belknap, a major New York City law firm, to defend him. Those lawyers are locked in a battle with Daniel Kranzler, the Seattle businessman and philanthropist who claims that for several years he felt pressured into making payments to the monk, including some he alleges were made in cash to avoid leaving a trace.
Kranzler first relayed his concerns to the Dalai Lama during a face-to-face meeting earlier this year, according to two other people present at the meeting. He has also laid out his accusations to the Dalai Lama in two letters, both of which have been seen by The Guardian.
Dhonden’s star has been on the rise since 1991, when he arrived in the United States and taught meditation and counselled terminally ill patients. In 2000, he founded a not-for-profit organisation called Friends of the Dalai Lama , based in La Jolla, California, near San Diego, which he still controls.
Over time, Dhonden became the Dalai Lama’s de facto emissary, a position that led to frequent contact with some of the Buddhist leader’s many rich and well-connected supporters. Many relied on him for access to the Dalai Lama.
Tenzin Dhonden, the Dalai Lama’s de facto emissary, has been accused of corruption.