(Posting Zen aphorisms and poems on your own blog or Twitter page can get you into plenty of trouble if your online path happens to cross that of a crazed yet wealthy and politically well-connected cult group and if their deified Leader decides, for whatever reason, that she doesn't like you or that your ideas are incorrect -- or, even worse, that you sound a little like "somebody that she used to know"! Starting in the late autumn 2009 I experienced just such trouble.
The cult group in question is the Kunzang Palyul Choling, a bizarre American "Tibetan Buddhist" Temple near Washington, D.C. headed by a former alien-channeling hairdresser named Alyce Zeoli (aka Catharine Burroughs, aka "Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo") that has long been associated with extreme behavior such as threatening, stalking and "investigating" its perceived enemies, stockpiling weapons, physical assault and child rape.
I do not exaggerate. This cult's insanity is legendary and has been going on for a very long time. As Will Blythe, then Editor at Esquire Magazine, wrote in a 1998 article published in Mirabella:
There are unsettling rumors arising from Poolesville, Maryland, tales at shocking odds with kooky, feel-good narrative about class and karma taking shape in Hollywood. [A Hollywood script about Alyce Zeoli's life was at the time being developed into a movie which, for what one can only assume were the most excellent reasons, never got made.] From many sources connected with the Temple -- several insistent on anonymity for fear of reprisal -- come reports of beatings administered to monks and nuns by Jetsunma, of shady, even illegal financial dealings, of psychic abuse and manipulation eerily reminiscent of the early days of Jonestown . . . When it became known that Tenzin Chophak, a recently enthroned tulku and a translator for Penor Rinpoche, was talking openly to me about KPC, his electronic mailbox filled with anonymous hate messages and death threats, among them: "you better watch your back." "Testicular cancer will befall you, and in a hurry, I hope." "You will burn in vajra hell for many kalpas for what you are doing." . . . I, too, was warned, by a former Temple member who, while retaining a fondness for Jetsunma, blamed her for the near collapse of his marriage. 'She will fuck you royally," he said. "She has these people who think she's God. They might come burn your house down, put a bomb in your car. Or they'll put a hex on you and you'll have bad dreams for ten years."This short interview is a companion piece to "The Deadly Viper Assassination Buddhists" and also "Cult and Paste," which go into far greater detail about the insane behavior of the KPC and its psychopathic Guru who, at a time when my blog was still anonymous, announced to her frothing-at-the-mouth followers that I was a great enemy of theirs named "William Cassidy." It may surprise some people to learn that Buddhists have enemies! As I understand it, they are not supposed to.
As it turns out, "William Lawrence Cassidy" is a former CIA operative who has reportedly been involved in all sorts of shady things. He has written books on knife fighting, close combat, and pistol shooting. He did some secret work in Vietnam a long time ago. And I don't know the man. I've never met or spoken to him.
Cassidy became an enemy of the crazy religious people after, according to them, he got involved with the cult and stole some of its money along with embarrassing or incriminating items of the Temple's paperwork. It may surprise some people to learn that Buddhists worry about people stealing their money. As I understand it, they are not supposed to. As a result, the KPC went online with a massive multi-blog and Twitter campaign to defame Cassidy, along with an ex-Sangha member who'd run off with him -- portraying the man as a scheming criminal more frightening and devious than Fu Manchu and the nun as a brainwashed, sex-obsessed groupie. To my knowledge, this is the first time in history that any Buddhist lineage-holder has used the Internet not only to run a concerted and vindictive hate campaign but in a plot to legally entrap and punish a perceived enemy.
Unfortunately for me, Cassidy had been in some dust-up with the federal government in the past, before transforming himself into "Tenpa Rinpoche," and a grudge match was brewing.
Although Alyce Zeoli's reputation should have preceded her, since besides Will Blythe's piece there have been a number of other stark exposé type articles published about her bizarre misbehavior in the nationwide press, not to mention a critically acclaimed and widely-read biography exposing her as a mentally unstable and often violent sociopath, a gung-ho and easily manipulated FBI agent in Baltimore took "Jetsunma" at her word and set out to prove that my critical online remarks about the KPC were part of a plot engineered by this sketchy character "William Cassidy" or maybe even the cleverly disguised work of the nefarious Cassidy himself.
"Jetsunma's" cold blooded and psychopathic plan in a nutshell was to get Cassidy arrested and jailed for "tweets" he never even wrote -- specifically, a series of angry online tit-for-tat taunts by the ex-nun, who was apparently frightened out of her wits and overwhelmed by resentment at being cyberstalked by members of her former Sangha. I am still not sure where my tweets fit into this scheme. They weren't mentioned in the so-called Criminal Complaint against Cassidy, yet the FBI agent in charge seemed to believe I was in close communication with the man.
If any of my pointed comments about "Jetsunma" made in response to the KPC's endless cyber-harassment had been libelous she could have sued me. That's usually what wealthy people who care about reputation do if they're being subjected to libel and defamation. But no. Everything I wrote on my Twitter page was true. So, instead, "Jetsunma" contrived -- using her ultra-powerful, ruthless and expensive lawyer Shanlon Wu, former legal counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno -- to set the FBI after me for my supposed connection to this William Cassidy character. What nauseating horseshit!
The whole shameful business was an epic fail on the part of the post PATRIOT Act justice system. The FBI agent (who in her Wikipedia-researched Criminal Complaint against William Cassidy refers to Alyce Zeoli several times as "a reincarnate llama") was no doubt quite mortified when the federal judge threw her entire case against Cassidy -- well over a year in the making -- out of his courtroom as the stupefying pile of anti-constitutional cooked-up cult horseshit it was. Maybe she'll now have to go back to persecuting teenage hackers and anarchists. (Only federal agents, apparently, are now permitted to wear black hoods, terrorize people in their homes and destroy and confiscate property at will.)
In the end I was merely a footnote to the whole stupid mess, which would seem almost vaudevillian in its ludicrousness if William Cassidy had not spent 10 months of his life sitting in a Maryland jail and if the guns in the hands of the nervous young agents hadn't held live rounds. Still, one should not underestimate the risk that I took in confronting these brazen criminals. I risked my life. Was I right to do so?
We all do what we can. Even the people who do evil things can do no better until they are definitely shown how. As the Zen Masters used to say, take care of yourselves!)
Please be aware that the second part of this interview could be hard going for people suffering from PTSD.
Q. A weird paranoid blog I've read called "Protecting Nyingma" has made the persistent claim that you're an odd man with a supposed criminal past named Tenpa Rinpoche, aka William Cassidy. Would you care to comment?
A. Yes. I'm not him. That blog is ridiculous. As far as I know, Buddhism isn't about chasing external enemies and creating conspiracy theories. My name is Andrew Wilson. I live in Oregon. I do some Zen and Japanese style Ki and Hara training and I play the bamboo flute, no doubt quite badly.
Q. What explains the extreme claims made about you by this Tulku named Alyce Zeoli, aka "Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo" and her students online?
A. This person you're talking about, an American woman who used to be a trailer park psychic and who claims to be the reincarnation of a "wisdom dakini" from ancient Tibet, is on record as having publicly informed her students absolutely and beyond any shadow of a doubt that I, and all my successive Twitter avatars, am actually this man named William Cassidy, aka Tenpa Rinpoche. So much for psychics. So much for wisdom dakinis from ancient Tibet. This may have begun as a misunderstanding, but she made it into doctrinal truth. "Jetsunma's" students claim that she is infallible, a "Living Buddha" endowed with all perfect qualities and infinite wisdom. That's why, no matter how often I changed my Twitter name and blocked members of her group, they pursued me with insane obsessiveness. They even took it so far as to systematically harass and berate every single person who "retweeted" me or mentioned me favorably. Often, "Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo" herself would personally "reply" to a Twitter user who retweeted one of my tweets to warn that person that I am really a crazed "violent felon" and "con man." At the same time, an untold number of weird and creepy anonymous accounts sprang up to torment me using the same kinds of words, condemning me for my "defamation" of the Great and Perfect Teacher, and I had to waste my good time blocking them one by one. Keep in mind that these people wear Buddhist robes, enjoy tax exempt status, and raise donations to support a "sangha."
Only after "Jetsunma's" people came after me with endless challenges, attacks and claims connecting me to William Cassidy did I ever throw at the Kunzang Palyul Choling stalkers any harsh words, profanity, satire, mockery, or Zen-style sass. Yet, despite the fact that I'd blocked them all, they continued to find my tweets on the public timeline and comment on them derisively, not to mention posting selected screenshots on their foolish hate blog, "Protecting Nyingma." Sometimes the insulting and mocking and challenging KPC tweets about me rose over one hundred per day. I was being cyberbullied by smiling nuns in Buddhist robes. Most of the time I didn't know whether to laugh or cry about it.
I will cite just one particularly sad and egregious example of the cult's interference in my life during the year 2010: after a young man in England had appealed to me on Twitter for advice to help with severe anxiety attacks that were leaving him helpless and trembling, unable to function or make any decisions even as his mother died slowly in a hospital, I taught him some very simple Zen-derived "Mushin" techniques to clear his mind. He tried them, was immediately able to take control of his situation and to help ease his mother's crisis, and thanked me profusely, calling me "Sensei." At that point, "Jetsunma" and her monks and nuns, who had evidently been following my Twitter account even though they were all "blocked," jumped in to inform him that his "Sensei" was actually an evil man named William Cassidy &c. The young man direct messaged me saying that he didn't know what to believe, that his panic attacks were back even worse than before, and that he was emotionally shattered. I sent him my phone number and some proof that I wasn't this William Cassidy, but it was too late -- he told that he had never heard of Buddhists behaving this way and now felt he couldn't trust anyone. Thanks, "Jetsunma"! It was after this incident and four or five others like it -- along with a series of tasteless Twitter jokes by "Jetsunma" and the KPC thugs mocking me for my grief over the death of my animal companion -- that I shed the self-imposed muzzle, threw politeness like a handful of sand to the wind, and issued a series of "blistering" denunciations of the crazy crowned lady and her criminal associates. I will just add that they're all quite lucky, in my case, they were not dealing with a violent or mentally unbalanced person. They might not be so lucky with future stalking targets. For all their witticisms about how I sounded poised to "go postal" on their Temple, they might not be yucking it up so hard one fine morning in the future when some distressed person they've tormented online shows up in Poolesville to wipe the slate clean with a few well-placed bursts of righteous gunfire. It won't be me -- I'll be the one sitting here saying "I told you so."
Q. Please relate what went down in your house the morning after Valentine's Day -- February 15, 2011.
A. I woke in darkness to the sound of glass in the downstairs kitchen door shattering. A moment later I heard deranged-sounding male voices screaming "Get down here!" "Come out now!" "Show yourselves!" My girlfriend and I thought it was a home invasion. We were sure we were about to die. I stepped into the hall and saw, downstairs, red laser rifle sights darting around in the darkness. Another laser sight drifted onto my face when I glanced out a front window. Whoever it was they were in our kitchen now, screaming like maniacs. Then I heard "FBI." After that I heard: "Police." [Later on, the agents claimed they were shouting "Police" and "FBI" the whole time.] I didn't believe it and my girlfriend didn't either. We thought it was homicidal men shouting anything that came into their heads to get us to come out of hiding. In fact, about a year before this we had helped a battered woman living next door to us to file a police report that resulted in her boyfriend's arrest and imprisonment. We both thought that this man had been released from jail and come back looking for revenge. Don't federal agents and police have to show their badges and a warrant before entering one's house? Also, which was it? "Police?" or "FBI?" [As it turns out, a local police officer was accompanying the FBI agents on the raid.] So, we retreated into the main bedroom, barricaded the door with cat towers and suitcases and whatever else we could find, and my girlfriend put in a call to 911 on her cell phone. We heard footsteps coming slowly up the stairs, two or three men, and again the calls of "Police" and "FBI." More red laser sights drifted in through the windows from outside, eerily crisscrossing the ceiling. After a minute or so -- one of the longest minutes of my life -- the 911 operator told my girlfriend that she was speaking to a police officer on the scene and that it was, in fact, the FBI in our house. She advised us to surrender right away. [We later got hold of the tape of this call. After the 911 operator tells her that it is, in fact, an FBI raid there's a long silence . . . and then my girlfriend asks: "What?!"] I shouted through the door five or six times that we were not armed, and we were coming out. They shouted for us to come out one by one with our hands in front of us. My girlfriend went out first. They turned her around and handcuffed her. Then I went out. Same ritual. There is a long procedure to getting handcuffed. At least one agent had us covered with his rifle the whole time. They were all in dark "tactical gear." One agent kept demanding to know if anyone else was in the house. They stood us facing a wall and asked tense questions about the attic, the basement, the greenhouse. Was anybody hiding in any of those places? No, no, no. After they'd searched the grounds and outbuildings, they relaxed a little, took us downstairs still handcuffed, sat us in chairs in the middle of the room, and the female agent read the 16 page long search warrant. It was a federal warrant to search for "evidence related to crimes of cyberstalking." [This is what William Lawrence Cassidy, who was arrested on the same day, got charged with, and contrary to the incessant propaganda posted by Kunzang Palyul Choling Temple adherents online, I never got arrested for or charged with that or anything else. My record is clean as a bird's whistle.] After that they took off our handcuffs and we were graciously allowed a drink of water. I was asked if I knew "Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo." I said I knew of her. Then I was asked about the writings I'd posted online on this blog and others. Was it really my work? Yes. It was now sunrise. Our cat Jack boldly padded downstairs and lay down right in the middle of the living room, drawing astonished laughter from the police officer. One of the FBI guys busied himself snapping photographs of my hanging collection of Guatemalan animal masks. Two other "agents" rounded up all our computer equipment (laptops and cellphones, thumb drives, a computer tower we haven't used in years, even our Internet router, &c.) and put them it into boxes and evidence envelopes. Meantime, other agents asked me questions such as, Are you a Buddhist? (No, I said. I just do Zen.) Any contact with a man named William Cassidy? (None.) They wouldn't say anything substantial about why they'd raided us. While two agents questioned me in one room, two others were questioning my girlfriend in another, and they brought up the name William Cassidy with her a number of times, too. They asked her if I had joined any groups or gone to any secretive out of state meetings. Meantime, the agents questioning me showed me a sheaf of print outs from my Twitter page, only a few of which mentioned "Jetsunma" or her group, and asked me to comment on certain tweets. I did. (Note that the agents didn't show me any the hundreds of mocking and derisive tweets about me by "Jetsunma's" ugly and humorless monks David Williams and John Buhmeyer [aka "Palzang," an extremely unpleasant man now serving a 20 year sentence in Arizona for child rape], nor any of the ringing condemnations of me by "Jetsunma" herself, nor any of the savage tweets by her monks and nuns threatening me in all sorts of crazy ways). The agents then asked if I'd ever wished any personal harm to "Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo." I said, Miraculously, no. Finally they put a sheet of paper in front of me and asked me to sign it and to fill in my passwords. It was an "agreement" allowing the FBI to take over my blogs and Twitter account. I bluntly refused. In the ensuing awkward silence, I asked if I was charged with anything; they said no and wouldn't discuss "any further details." Finally they were satisfied they had all our computer equipment and, after giving me an inventory sheet of the various items they had stolen at gunpoint, left. The sun had now been up for about an hour. I got a broom from the closet and swept up the broken glass. This took a long time because they'd tracked it all over the house with their boots. I duct taped cardboard to the missing panes in the kitchen door. Then I put in a call to the American Civil Liberties Union.
[The ACLU opened a file on my case that very day and graciously promised free legal assistance if the government tried to take it any further, which it never did. US vs. Cassidy eventually got thrown out of court by a federal judge who had nothing but scorn for the government's bizarre attempt to deprive people of the right to free speech on Twitter. The FBI soon returned our electronic equipment sans explanation. "Jetsunma" not only failed to apologize for her central role in this crazed case of mistaken identity and paranoid delusion, but she and her charming "sangha" went on cyberstalking and slandering me for another year or so, even going so far as to claim that I was now flying mysterious helicopters over their Poolesville, Maryland compound, mentioning the name of my girlfriend in a threatening way, and suggesting that I ought to "feel the sharp edge of a knife" -- before my online appeals to Karma Kuchen Rinpoche and Gyatrul Rinpoche shut their yaps for good in May, 2012.]
See also my "Open Message to Karma Kuchen Rinpoche"