By Tenzin Monlam
Ven Tenzin Dhonden
DHARAMSHALA, October 27: Venerable Tenzin Dhonden has been suspended from his duty as secretary and trustee of the Dalai Lama Trust, a charitable trust chaired by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, amidst investigation into alleged ‘extraction of unjustified payments’.
Seattle-based businessman and philanthropist, Daniel Kranzler has laid out the allegations against the 53-year-old monk of using his role to extract money claiming that he felt pressured into making those payments, some in cash to avoid trails. The alleged incident happened between 2005-2008.
The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama confirming the news said that Ven. Dhonden has been suspended since October 5. Besides that the office has refrained from giving further information regarding his alleged involvement. However, the official website of the Trust still has him as the secretary.
The monk, who has been associated with the Tibetan spiritual leader for over 15 years, strongly denies all the allegations put against him and has hired Patterson Belknap, a major New York City law firm to defend him.
The law firm told the Guardian that the allegation against their client ‘occurred nearly decade ago’, are largely ‘inaccurate’ and otherwise linked with conduct that is not ‘unlawful, unethical, or even inappropriate’.
Kranzler informed the Dalai Lama about it face-to-face first and later through two letters. The first letter sent in July alleged that Ven. Dhonden ‘threatened’ to cancel the Dalai Lama’s trip if he did not receive additional payment. Kranzler’s Kirlin Charitable Foundation organized a conference called ‘Seeds of Compassion’ in 2008 in Seattle.
It also contained the alleged payments made during that period. In the letter he alleged that he paid Dhonden more than $250,000 in connection with the Seeds of Compassion visit. He also alleged that following the event, Ven Dhonden asked him to buy a $850,000 house to continue to arrange events with the Dalai Lama in the future.
Confident of a positive outcome, a representative of the ‘personal emissary’ of the Dalai Lama, told the Guardian, “These false allegations, raised after nearly a decade, are an attempt to unfairly tarnish Lama Tenzin’s reputation. He has lived a modest life, working tirelessly to organize public events, which have enabled millions to connect with the mission of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”
In the second letter he sent last month to Gaden Phodrang, he revealed that the reason for his ‘silence’ for nearly a decade was because of his ‘own simple inept Dharma’. He said, “I felt that it was inappropriate to speak ill of someone. I changed my mind after asked by a number of people to tell the truth.”
The Guardian claims that the Dalai Lama has expressed his ‘deep disappointment and concern’ over the matter.
However, a source close to Ven. Dhonden anonymously said that the 53-year-old monk received significantly less than the alleged $250,000 payment and claims that it was for ‘legitimate work’ setting up the event.
The Trust was founded in 2009 by the Dalai Lama. It was established to support the advancement and welfare of the Tibetan people, the culture and heritage of the ancient civilization of Tibet, and the promotion of the deep rooted values associated with its culture and people.