Nechung Dorje Drayang Ling on Hawaii

The following article is from the Autumn, 1988 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

On the island of Hawaii, where lava flows to the sea and where snowy mountain slopes and black sand beaches can be found, is a Buddhist templeNechung Dorje Drayang LingImmutable Island of Melodious Sound. Located in the foothills of Mauna Loa is a hidden valley called Wood Valley. The road there passes the rain forests of Puna and the active volcano Kilauea; through the Ka'u desert, macadamia nut orchards and swaying fields of sugar cane. Once there, the visitor experiences the magic and charm of Nechung Drayang Ling. Overlooking the Pacific is a classic Buddhist temple with a peaked roof, painted in vivid colors, against a backdrop of green eucalyptus and clear blue sky. A feeling of peace arises as one listens to the breeze rustling through the tall trees, the birds and windchimes in the silence and smells the fragrance of ginger and jasmine in the air.

Nechung Rinpoche, the grand lama of Nechung Monastery resided here for many years. His attitude towards the Dharma was open and nonsectarian, his vision vast and encompassing.

Following the direction that Nechung Rinpoche established, Drayang Ling regularly invites lamas of all the major lineages. In October, Lama Tarchin, a Nyingma lama, will speak on the nature of mind. The Sakya abbot of Ngor, Luding Khen Rinpoche, will give commentary and impart the blessing of Vajrayogini in a twelve-day retreat from November 1930. Programs here range from basic Buddhist subjects to the most esoteric practices and are taught at both weekend seminars and long retreats.

Nechung Drayang Ling is affiliated with Nechung Monastery, which houses the State Oracle of Tibet. The roots of Nechung trace back to the times of the Indian saint, Padmasambhava. Prior to the building of Samye, the first monastery in Tibet, there were many opposing forces to the new religion. Padmasambhava obtained the pledges of numerous gods to become protective deities of Buddhism. The most powerful one was Pehar of the Five Guardian Kings, emanations of the Five Buddha Families, whom the tantric master placed as the head of the hierarchy of guardian protectors of the Dharma and Tibet. Thereafter, Samye was built, the first monks ordained and Buddhism spread quickly throughout Tibet.

Eventually, a small shrine dedicated to Pehar was built to the west of Lhasa by an eminent Lama. Close to where Drepung Monastery was built a couple of hundred years later, it was named Nechung. When the Fifth Dalai Lama became the temporal leader in 1642, Pehar was instituted as the guardian protector of Tibet. A larger monastery was built surrounding the original shrine and some of the sacred vessels of the protector were moved from Samye to Nechung; thus this monastery became the official home of the State Oracle and remains a synthesis of the ancient and new traditions.

To this date, Nechung Monastery remains intact, now housing about 20 monks compared to the 115 that once lived there. The Nechung Medium lives at Nechung Monastery in Dharamsala, India with about 40 monks. There, daily rites to invoke the protector are performed, along with special ceremonies for His Holiness and the Tibetan government in exile.

The temple in Hawaii is the only branch of Nechung in the West. Built in the early 1900's by Japanese immigrants who worked for the sugar plantations, it was the center of a bustling community for many decades. One of the first Buddhist temples to be built on the islands, it was crafted with open verandas, a spacious shrine hall and ornamental carvings. With the changing of the times, most of the people moved away to the cities and to the neighboring town of Pahala, leaving the temple abandoned for a number of years.

It was discovered by some of Nechung Rinpoche's students, who had invited him to Hawaii and needed a suitable residence for him. Initial stages of restoration began in 1973 and Rinpoche arrived in 1975. Work continued gradually, with a small core of students clearing away the jungle and refurbishing the rooms amidst Tibetan language and Dharma classes.

Another vacant Japanese temple was found in Pahala and was moved to the temple grounds in 1978. This original structure, now occupying the upper floor of the two-story complex, has a roomy meditation/meeting hall with adjoining guest rooms. On the ground level are private and dormitory quarters, and a fully equipped kitchen and dining area. This facility is used for retreats and can accommodate up to 30 persons.

During periods when there are no visiting lamas and scheduled courses, the temple and retreat facilities are open to individuals who wish to pursue meditation and study on a personal basis. New Age, community and meditation groups have utilized the retreat center for Vipassana, health-oriented programs, women's meetings, yoga, and so forth. A reference library of books and audio/video cassettes on Buddhism and Tibetan Culture is available to guests. Also on the premises is a small store with a good selection of books, incense and items from the East.

Drayang, the temple's publication announces upcoming programs and news several times yearly. If you wish to be on the mailing list, further information on the Fall courses, or availability and rates of the retreat facility, please write to: Nechung Dorje Drayang Ling, P.O. Box 250, Pahala, HI 96777, (808) 928-8539.

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