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The Tulku-Not

December 11, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Criminal William L. Cassidy Masquerades as “Tulku Urgyen Tenpa Rinpoche”

“Tulku Urgyen Tenpa Rinpoche,” is the name under which William L. Cassidy, a convicted felon, writes a blog called “Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar.”  How do we know?  He told us!  (See story below.)  The titles he uses are self-conferred.  How do we know?  We sent inquiries to the Nyingma teacher who Cassidy claimed “secretly” recognized him.  (He is claiming recognition by a different teacher now, conveniently dead.)  We also had inquiries made throughout the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, in which he claims a place. (See story below.) As if that isn’t enough, Mr. Cassidy is notorious in the world of Las Vegas politics and crime as a double dealer.  (See these links.)

How We Came to Know Him

In September 2007 someone made contact with one of our monks, who had a blog called “Dreaming of Danzin Ravjaa,” and drew attention to his own blog, “Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar,” on which he had praised our teacher and KPC Spiritual Director, Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  Of course we were pleased!  But we could find little information about the writer, who claimed to be a secretly recognized American tulku in the Nyingma school (the same school of Tibetan Buddhist of which KPC is a part).  He called himself “Tulku Urgyen Tenpa.”

Correspondence ensued throughout the next month.  We were led to believe that this person was in ill health, and on the verge of death.  Because spiritual care at the time of death is one of the hallmarks of our teacher’s mission (Christians might call that “ministry,” but it’s not exactly the same thing), we invited him to our retreat center in the mountains of Arizona to be of assistance to him.  Our teacher went out to meet him.

Eventually, this person, whose American name we knew then as William Sanderson, was invited to Sedona specifically so that members of the ordained community could care for him in what we thought to be his final days.  In the process of retrieving his personal effects for him from his residence in Lucerne Valley, California, we discovered that his real name was William Cassidy.  When confronted, he did admit to that name, but had an explanation.

Details of His Scam

During his sojourn among the KPC sangha in Sedona, Cassidy pretended to be a doctor of Tibetan Medicine, and actually conducted consultations.  Under that guise, he proposed a joint practice with one of the KPC nuns, who had given up her chiropractic practice because of illness.  Meaning to take advantage of her very real Arizona license, he made every effort to convince her that she was well enough to take up her profession again.

Things came to a head in February of 2008 when the so-called “tulku” proposed an event at the Amitabha Stupa in Sedona, a monument prominent in the sacred practice of the group there and well-known in the community.  Although he did NOT announce in advance that he would participate, he did in fact do so, conducting a “ritual” and offering “blessings.”  The crowd of about 500 apparently made significant donations to the outdoor donation box that KPC maintains at the stupa.  For the only time in the five-year history of that stupa, the donation box was robbed that night.  Cassidy’s advice was NOT to contact the police.

Meanwhile, he offered to help us with various financial and legal challenges we were faced with.  We were so grateful (and, alas, so unsuspecting!) that we invited him to take on the job of Chief Operating Officer. He held this position only for about a week, but during that time, made every effort to gather information about the organization.  Later, files of financial documents that went missing from a house in which he was staying appeared as a zip file on his blog.  (He claimed the documents were “incriminating”; actually, they were nothing of the kind.  They did, however, contain sensitive data about donors, the kinds of records all charitable organizations keep.)

How We Discovered His True Identity

Meanwhile, our teacher, concerned about his penchant for offering spiritual advice to the sangha, had consulted with the senior lamas of our lineage about his recognition and authorization to teach.  Such authorization is extremely important in Tibetan Buddhism. She was told by her own teacher, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, the head of the lineage and former Supreme Head of the Nyingma School, that he could find no indication that a Nyingma lama had ever recognized such a person.  He advised us to be kind and continue to care for him, which we did.

Two weeks after the event at the Amitabha Stupa, our teacher, Jetsunma, wrote to William Cassidy informing him of His Holiness’s message.  Almost immediately, Cassidy left the household in which he was being cared for.

Soon after these events, Cassidy began posting defamatory information about Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo and KPC.  This information included the financial records he had taken.  We began to look for ways of defending ourselves, and in researching his past, discovered to our shock that he was a convicted felon.

Inadvertently, but happily, we supplied the impetus for local authorities to arrest him:  it turned out that he was in violation of probation, and was subsequently re-imprisoned in Nevada to serve out his sentence for assault and arson.  We were dismayed to realize that the person on whom we had lavished care and spent about $10,000 of our personal resources was a felon who was taking advantage of us.

Cassidy’s Campaign of Defamation and Slander

Once he was released in January 2009, he resumed his blog campaign of defamation and slander. So alarmed did we become that we sought and obtained an injunction against “workforce harassment” by him, issued by Judge Dorothy Little, Gila County Justice Court, in Payson, Arizona.

Cassidy’s internet harassment continued on multiple blogs, with more intense defamatory efforts, against our Palyul Lineage, our teacher (Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo), KPC as an organization, and even individual sangha members, with names and pictures.

Eventually, individual students in the sangha developed blogs in an effort to expose the lies, misrepresentations, and slander in which Cassidy was indulging.  Those blogs contain a great deal of information about his record and activities.

In August 2009, Mr. Cassidy participated with a woman with whom he was living, in using California law to harass Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  On completely baseless grounds, Jetsunma was served with a “Temporary Restraining Order,” which was subsequently thrown out of court.  (California law makes it extremely easy to obtain such a temporary order so that abused women can be protected while they seek legal redress.)  Of course, KPC again incurred needless expenses to respond in court.

Since losing in that case, Mr. Cassidy has removed names from his blog but has let his slanderous messages stand.

Don’t Let Him Make a Twit of You!

And now, again in the guise of “Tulku Tenpa Rinpoche,” Mr. Cassidy is using twitter in his campaign.  Do you still want to “follow” him?  Don’t say you weren’t warned!

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  1. mouse
    December 23, 2009 at 1:34 pm | #1

    he claims to have been head of security for HH the Dalai lama’s first US tour. I know for a fact, having been quite involved with that tour, that he was not.

  2. Razor wings
    December 31, 2010 at 9:14 pm | #2

    So nice, so nice.

    In the USA there are too few who know enough to easily suppress charlatans, unqualified, vow breakers, abusers and all manner of illegitimate teachers posing as vow holders. Thanks for your effort in protecting aspirants.

  1. June 27, 2010 at 11:54 am | #1

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