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The Buddha’s Birthday

A celebration of prayers, peace and compassion.

August 22, 2013
Cindy Schumacher - Contributing Writer , Maui Weekly

On the full moon of May 25, the Maui Tibetan Buddhist Dharma Center on Baldwin Avenue in Pa'ia and the Venerable Lama Gyaltsen welcomed the community to honor and celebrate the Buddha's birthday. Although it was a rainy Saturday evening, many came to give, receive and share blessings and prayers.

The Buddha's birthday is a day of rededication to the dharma, the eightfold path of Buddhism. It is a gesture that is meant to represent the Buddha's bringing of enlightenment to the world along with the hope of peace.

Lama Gyaltsen, a Tibetan Buddhist monk for over 40 years, is the resident teacher at the Maui Dharma Center. Born in Darjeeling, India, he studied in a monastic setting from age 5, and learned Eastern philosophies, language, Buddhist logic and arts that include sacred painting, dance, music and sculpture.

Article Photos

Lama Gyaltsen, a Tibetan Buddhist monk for over 40 years, arrived on Maui in 2003. He continues the work of the late Venerable Lama Tenzen by upholding a lifestyle of study, practice and selfless service to benefit others.
Photo: Cindy Schumacher

Lama Gyaltsen arrived on Maui in 2003 to continue the work of the late Venerable Lama Tenzin. His commitment to the community upholds a lifestyle of study, practice and selfless service to benefit others.

The evening began with a recitation of prayers of compassion and loving kindness in the spirit of the Buddha. Additional prayers were offered for long life for the spiritual teacher, for all suffering people and for the world.

"We are here tonight to celebrate, preach and spread the dharma," said Lama Gyaltsen.

Lama explained that people do not understand Buddha's teaching, and so they go on suffering from illusion, worldly desires and passions.

"Timeless compassion is the wisest method of relief," Lama Gyaltsen said. "The working of Buddha is everlasting, while the depth of ignorance is bottomless."

Tibetan Buddhism has spread to many Western countries, where the tradition has gained much popularity. Among its prominent exponents is the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, who is well known for his affirmation, "My religion is kindness."

His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave his blessing at the Pa'ia Dharma Center on the morning of Tuesday, April 24, 2007, praying that the land be used to further the cause of peace and love throughout the world. In addition, his historic two-day visit to Maui brought over 10,000 people to War Memorial Stadium in Kahului to hear him speak.

The goal of Tibetan Buddhism's spiritual development is to achieve enlightenment and to help all other sentient beings attain this state. Buddhahood is defined as a state free of obstructions to this liberation.

"When one is freed from all mental obstructions, one is said to attain a state of continuous bliss," Lama Gyaltsen said. "In this state, all limitations on one's ability to help other living beings are removed."

The evening celebration provided lotus lights for additional prayers to honor important events in the historical Buddha Gautama's life, birth, death and attainment of nirvana.

"We pray that all will persevere on their spiritual journey," Lama Gyaltsen said. "Developing deep inner qualities requires study and living a way of life that comes from kindness, good-will, awareness and wisdom."

From a Buddhist point of view, the principal of awareness has to do with always developing and always using these inner qualities in a deeper way.

"You can use awareness in a worldly way, as well, "said Lama Gyaltsen. "You should make a point every day at increasing your intelligence and wisdom."

"The purpose," Lama said, "is to sustain a happy, stable life." However, if we are to make this world beautiful, all must respect and pray for others. Our aspiration or wish should be to benefit all creatures.

"Wherever you go, respect is up to you, so give genuine respect to all," Lama said. "The reason for this is that all beings have a Buddha nature; they just have to awaken to it."

It appears, Lama explained, that there are too many concepts and too many wrong ideas. We live in so much ignorance that we can't see our own nature.

The birthday evening event, known in Tibetan as Saga Dawa Celebration, came to a close around the stupa, the outdoor shrine that sits at the center's entrance. All were invited to circumambulate the stupa three times as a reminder of the Buddha's teachings on non-violence and the collective wish for peace.

"The very presence of a stupa in the community dispels negativity and brings benefit and merit to the environment and all beings," said Lama Gyaltsen.

Tibetan Buddhist Novice Monk Palden Sufficool noted, "Everyone can spin the prayer wheel inside the stupa. It represents all compassionate aspirations and deeds; a collection of one good thought for the benefit of all."

"For over 35 years, the center has been dedicated to the hopes of bringing people together for spiritual nourishment, which the Dalai Lama and Lama Gyaltsen both promote," said Georgiana Cook, member of the board of directors of the Maui Dharma Center.

"Any time we gather together for something like this is a good thing," she said.

"The entire island is welcome here," said Lama Gyaltsen. "We are open to all members of the community."

For more information, contact the Maui Tibetan Buddhist Dharma Center at (808) 579-8076, visit or email



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