Tenzin Choden
Image: Don Wallace

A local Tibetan Buddhist novitiate looks forward to the Dalai Lama’s Honolulu visit

A few weeks ago, Tenzin Choden, born Nicholas Kolivas (full disclosure: this author’s brother), returned home to Honolulu after being ordained by the Dalai Lama.

After studying Buddhism in the US, how did you get to India?

I went to Dharamsala to become a meditation leader for the Tushita Meditation Center. I met with a very high lama, Kyabje Denma Locho Rinpoche and asked his permission to be ordained by him as a Rabjung (first-level novice monk). Rinpoche gave me my Rabjung ordination name which was Losang Rinchen meaning “kind mind, precious.”

Tell us about the town.

Dharamsala is a very unique and oddly magical place. It is filled with monasteries and nunneries. It feels like you’re in Tibet . . .The Tibetans outnumber the Indians.

Describe your ordination.

The day of ordination was full with anticipation, excitement, and a little fear. It was a foggy morning. In our group, there were two chubby 11-year-old boys who were Tulkus, or reincarnated enlightened lamas. They seemed like ordinary children, laughing and fooling around.

[Then] we were called up in threes to have our robes blessed at His Holiness’ feet. He put his hands on the robes and our hands and blessed them. His hands felt like fine silk or satin, touching my hands and fingers with kind gentleness which reminded me of my grandfather’s hands. And then we bowed individually and received a maroon scarf from him, and he bonked our heads.

We were each given a new name for a new life as a renunciate and follower of the Buddha. His Holiness called out my old name, “Losang Rinchen,” and then called out my new name, “Tenzin Choden.” And a card was given to me. A kind Tibetan teacher behind me asked me if I would like him to translate the meaning of my name on the back of my card and I hurriedly agreed. He then wrote, “Tenzin Choden, the Examiner.” Sounds severe, but it really means that I am a careful and critical analyzer of the Dharma or scriptures, which is a good thing.

I was so happy with the ordination I just wanted to shout out my joy.

Are you excited about Sunday?

Yes, I will be there with all my energies focused on what His Holiness has to say. It will be a very great day for all of us here in Hawaii.

University of Hawaii at Manoa Stan Sheriff Center, Sat., April 14, 1:30pm, students; Sun., April 15, 1:45pm, general public, [Pillarsofpeacehawaii.org], 855-732-2300