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Dalai Lama cancellation disappoints

April 8, 2009

Those who wanted to see spiritual leader here will have to travel instead
By BRIAN ETTKIN, Staff writer
Times Union
April 7, 2009

Jeanne Mathewson was keyed up when she heard the
Dalai Lama was scheduled to speak April 19 at the Times Union Center.

Turning Stone 
"I know several people were not going to buy
tickets to this event because of the
controversial sponsor; they were talking about
going to Boston or New York or another venue,"
said Mathewson, a member of Albany Karma Thegsum
Chöling, a Tibetan Buddhist group. "But I was so
excited about the Dalai Lama coming to Albany
that I just couldn't help it. I bought tickets."

As it turns out, Mathewson, an Albany resident,
will need to go to Boston or New York if she
intends to see the Dalai Lama in the near future.
As reported first in Monday's Times Union, the
Dalai Lama canceled his scheduled April
appearances in Albany, apparently because of
negative publicity connected to the sponsoring organization.

The Dalai Lama's April 18 to 22 appearances --
with events set for the University at Albany, The
College of Saint Rose and the Times Union Center
— were to be presented by the Ethical
Humanitarian Foundation. Its trustees and the
event organizers, Sara and Clare Bronfman, the
Seagram Liquor heiresses, are affiliated with
NXIVM, a Colonie-based company that conducts
personal-growth training courses. Keith Raniere,
EHF's "conceptual founder," is the founder of NXIVM.

Detractors say NXIVM (pronounced NEX-ee-um) is a
cultlike organization that employs
psychologically damaging mind-control techniques.
Raniere's supporters say those accusations are
unfounded. Numerous media accounts in recent
years have pointed to the controversy surrounding
Raniere, including those last week in the Times
Union, Albany Student Press and The Daily Gazette.

The Dalai Lama's appearances were to be the
inaugural event of the World Ethical Foundations
Consortium, which the Bronfmans also founded. On
Monday, the WEFC released this public statement:
"Understandably, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was
concerned that his message would not get through
in the current environment and has postponed his
trip to Albany. We look forward to welcoming His
Holiness in the future so that the Albany
community can benefit from his wisdom and leadership."

Phone calls to Clare and Sara Bronfman and NXIVM
were not immediately returned Monday.

Times Union Center general manager Bob Belber
said the EHF will lose a pair of nonrefundable deposits.

"I'm disappointed because it was a big event that
would have been held here, and the Dalai Lama is
an international spiritual leader that our market
doesn't normally see come into it," Belber said.
"From this standpoint I'm disappointed, and on
behalf of those people that bought tickets and
really wanted to hear what the Dalai Lama had to
say, we're obviously very disappointed, as I'm sure they are.

"From a business standpoint, if we had known a
few weeks earlier that this event wasn't going to
take place, we would have been able to book those dates."

Said Mathewson: "I'm hoping he will come back another time."

Brian Ettkin can be reached at 454-5457 or by e-mail at bettkin@timesunion.com.

Ticket refunds

Tickets for the event will be refunded at the
original point of purchase, according to the
Times Union Center. If ordered by phone, patrons
must call 1-800-30-EVENT to receive their refund.
If their tickets were bought at the arena box
office or an outlet, patrons must return to the
original point of purchase to receive a refund.
If tickets were purchased online, credit cards
will be automatically credited with refunds.

Convenience and handling and convenience charges
will be refunded too, Times Union Center general manager Bob Belber said.
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