My Kind of Town

Don Chapman

Saved by a bigmouth

>> Liliha

The young substitute lama listened, as fascinated by Mayadharma Kharma's stories as the media pool reporters and photographers.

"So Mrs. Kharma, after little Frankie announces he's the reincarnate of Tsong Khapa, then what?" said Cruz MacKenzie, pool reporter for print media. "How does he get from here to the Himalayas?"

Mayadharma explained how she called Kagyu Thegchen Ling, the Tibetan Buddhist center in Nuuanu, started to speak in English, but the words sounded wrong, so she shifted to Tibetan, language of lamas, learned from her mother. Not that it helped much. The rough translation:

"Hi, my son says he's an incarnate."

"Ha ha ha."

"No, really. He's two and a half, and he just announced it."

"Ha ha ha."

"Seriously, he's never been to temple, my husband forbade any Buddhist instruction or Tibetan language, yet ..."

"Ha ha ha. Excellent imagination!"

"... he says he is the first reincarnation of Lama Jey Tsong Khapa."

"Ai yai yai."

Soon monks were coming to interview young Frankie Kharma, but it always turned into more of an audience. The child was exquisitely calm, thoughtful, with a kind of natural beneficence, totally lacking the ego of the usual me-me-me toddler. Plus there was the glowing head thing.

And then calls were made to India, and each roughly duplicated that first call from Mayadharma. More monks and even living Buddhas came to test the boy in Liliha, including a visit by the Dalai Lama.

"The Dalai Lama visited this home?!" Cruz said, astonished.

"Secretly, at night," Mayadharma said. "He asked Frankie 'Do you know me?' And he said 'You're my brother.'"

"So Frankie passed muster," Cruz continued. "But why wasn't anything said at the time? That would've been a huge story, the first Hawaii lama!"

"They didn't want the Chinese to know about him. Because of what the first Lama Jey Tsong Khapa accomplished in his lifetime, and the impact he still has, they said it would cause trouble Frankie didn't need. So we kept it a secret in our family."

Except me, his big brother Joe Kharma was thinking. Except for last year at the annual Free Tibet kegger during UH homecoming week when he had too much to drink and blurted to Kamasami Khan and Bodhicita Guzman that he was the brother of the lama who would soon be having his own homecoming. Good thing too. Because if it wasn't for Khan and his Free Tibet Warriors, the Chinese would have nailed his baby brother already.

And outside, Joe knew, they were prepared to strike again.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Don Chapman is editor of MidWeek. His serialized novel runs daily in the Star-Bulletin. He can be e-mailed at


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