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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, January 12, 2002

Where We Worship
Community pursues ascent to enlightenment

By Mary Kaye Ritz

Tibetan Buddhists study scriptures at the Kagyu Thegchen Ling meditation center in Nu'uanu. The sangha, or spiritual community, studies the teachings of Buddha. Tibetan Buddhists also follow the teachings of the Dalai Lama.

Lama Karma Rinchen was sent by a prominent India teacher to guide the Buddhist community in Hawai‘i.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

• Name of center: Kagyu Thegchen Ling.

• Our denomination: Tibetan Buddhist.

• Where we are: 26 Gartley Place, off Old Pali Road in Nu'uanu.

• Our numbers: 35-40 dues-paying families. Mailings go out to another 650 people.

• Our spiritual leader: Lama Karma Rinchen (lama means spiritual guide).

• What we believe: Members of the sangha, or spiritual community, follow the teachings of Buddha on their path to enlightenment.

By studying the sutras, or readings, and mantras, or studies that are part of meditation practice, they ascend through the different levels of enlightenment.

Karma, or action, is important for the journey: Good karma produces happiness; bad karma has negative results.

Patience and meditation are key, too, said Rinchen: Through them, the spiritual community is freed from daily problems.

Tibetan Buddhists also believe in reincarnation and follow the teachings of the Dalai Lama, their supreme leader, who visited here in 1994 from India to consecrate the building.

• Our history: According to the Concise Dictionary of Religion, after Buddhism failed to become the prominent religion in its native India during the 12th century, many Indian Buddhist traditions were passed on to Tibetan monks. From Tibet, Buddhism spread to China, Korea and Japan, where the Mahyna tradition flourished to produce Pure Land, Zen and a host of other schools.

Tibetan Buddhism spread to the West in the 1950s after the Chinese invaded Tibet.

Tibetan Buddhism was informally studied in Hawai'i through the 1970s, but it wasn't until 1974 that members of the sangha here asked His Eminence Kalu Rinpoche, a highly placed teacher in India, to send them a lama of their own. They collected $2,000 to buy a ticket for a flight from India for their current lama, Rinchen, in 1976.

Rinchen, at that point, was a 47-year-old Tibetan monk who had lived about half his life in Tibet and the rest in India.

He stayed in a rented house in Manoa with a Chinese family for about 12 years. The home on Gartley Place, which serves as his residence as well as the Tibetan Meditation Center, was purchased 11 years ago.

Now there are also meditation centers Maui, Big Island and Kaua'i.

• What we're excited about: "Not much (gets Tibetan monks) excited," said Rinchen with a laugh. "Excitement is more agitated."

But some things of interest happening this year include the lama's 25th anniversary in Hawai'i, which occurred while he was in India last month but will be celebrated in June.

Tibetan New Year occurs at the beginning of next month. The sangha is about to embark on an ambitious project to build its own Tibetan-style temple, but plans are still in the concept stage.

• What's special about us: What differentiates Tibetans from other Buddhists are their belief in reincarnation, celibacy for their monks and nuns, and their practices of chanting and meditation.

• Contact: 595-8989.

If you would like to recommend a faith organization for a Where We Worship profile, e-mail faith@honoluluadvertiser.com, call 525-8035 or write: Where We Worship, Faith Page, The Honolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802.