Lama Karma Rinchen

Lawrence Tabudlo photo

Lawrence Tabudlo photo

The scene at Kagyu Thegchen Ling in Nuuanu is serene.

Outside, the wind gently rustles branches in large trees that surround the Tibetan Buddhist meditation center that from outward appearances looks like any other neighboring home.

The facility is just as calm inside and for now is empty, though it sometimes welcomes up to 30 visitors weekly.

Expansions that were completed in 2009 allowed the center to enlarge its prayer room and add a bookstore. These are the most notable changes since its senior resident Lama Karma Rinchen was featured on MidWeek‘s April 12, 2006, cover alongside his assistant resident Lama Tempa Gyeltshen.

The duo continue to work alongside one another, teaching and leading meditation throughout the week. Though eight years have passed, Rinchen, one of the few remaining lamas who trained in Tibet, shows little sign of aging or slowing down. His soft smiles and calm demeanor are an infectious embodiment of the religion he teaches, and his goals remain simple and concise.

“I want to help people,” he says.

At the root of Tibetan Buddhism is a desire to discover and achieve inner happiness.

Contemplative meditation, Rinchen says, not only allows people to understand the causes of happiness, but also the unexpected suffering everyone encounters in life.

“(If you) only hear things (but don’t) contemplate, then you cannot learn,” he says. “But when you meditate and contemplate, then practice, sooner or later it works.”

Kagyu Thegchen Ling will host the North American Kagyu Monlam three-day prayer festival May 9-11 at Neal Blaisdell Center. The annual event takes place in eight different countries and began in North America in 2010.

This is the first year it will take place in Hawaii, and Rinchen expects approximately 200 attendees from various countries.

Open to the public for a fee, each day is scheduled to run from 8:30 a.m. to about 5:30 p.m. and will include prayers, meditation and Buddhist dharma teachings. On Sunday (May 11), a traditional Tibetan procession will take place and will include all monastic participants dressed in traditional garb and accompanied by Tibetan musical instruments.

“It feels good,” he says, of Kagyu Monlam coming to Hawaii.

Rinchen himself has lived in the Islands since arriving in 1976 after traveling to numerous countries.

“I think Hawaii has the best weather,” he says, his smile growing. “In Hawaii, (it’s) just slippers, shirt, you know, very nice.”

For more information on Kagyu Monlam, visit