Maui Huelo Stupa

copyright "kaua" MHS 2005

In June of 1976 Gyaltrul Rinpoche was invited for a visit on Maui. While he was here he asked if he could build a stupa and permission was granted for this project by the owners of private land in Huelo. Huelo is an area of Maui located on the north shore about 18 miles east of the airport. Rinpoche attracted Dharma students, including Sangye Khandro, and he asked these students to participate in building a stupa. They agreed and so it was under Rinpoche's direction that the stupa was begun.

In August 1976 the site was chosen, leveled and prayer flags were flown. Rinpoche helped gather ocean rock for the base of the stupa. A lath and plaster structure was constructed with plaster applied over a wooden frame. The students worked tirelessly for the next three months to finish it. It was completed in November of 1976 just in time for its dedication.

The Maui Huelo Stupa is situated on a beautiful knoll facing directly east with the ocean on the north side and Haleakala crater on the south. It is dedicated to Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava.

On November 15, 1976 His Holiness the 16th Karmapa visited Maui and while he was here he performed rites and a ceremony to formerly dedicate the stupa. He arrived at the site from a hill above the stupa walking down a long path with 4 monks on either side of him blowing konling horns. A large silk umbrella covered him, carried by another monk, as he proceeded to the stupa.

From 1976 to the present the stupa has been open to visitors and many lamas and dharma students have visited the stupa. Khenpo Tsultrim Gyaltso Rinpoche danced around the stupa singing dharma songs. Lama Tenzin gave several teachings and students were invited. Tulku Thupten Rinpoche buried 4 treasure vases, and Lama Gyaltsen has given fire pujas. Many lamas have given their blessings. There have also been weddings, funerals and small gatherings. All who know about the stupa feel that it is a great blessing to the community and are inspired by its presence in its splendid environment.

In 1999 it became clear that the stupa was deteriorating. One day the step above the throne buckled and caved in. This was a very serious event. It was evident that if the stupa were to survive it would need major repair. The original construction was built of lath and plaster. Over time this type of construction did not hold up. The tropical climate of wind, rain, sun and ocean air took its toll. It was determined that it would need to be partially rebuilt in cement.

The Dharma community here on Maui rallied by raising funds and with a small crew and very hard work rebuilt the stupa during the next two years. The metal door frame and the bhumi were ordered from Tibet and then these pieces were hand delivered to Maui. The final presentation of all the parts of the stupa was presided over by Lama Rinchen. He assembled and brought all the ritual ingredients such as tsa tsas, Dharma books, statues, and offerings that go inside and which are essential for empowering the stupa. Lama Tarchin Rinpoche contributed a new Guru Rinpoche to reside permanently in the gau box. This restoration was completed in August 2001.

We were pleased and honored to have Gyaltrul Rinpoche revisit Maui and the stupa in the spring of 2003 and give the Maui dharma community and the Maui's Huelo Stupa his blessings.

There is a core group of dharma students who have been the ongoing primary participants and contributors to the building, restoration and management of Maui's Huelo Stupa. Their stories will be added to the site in a kind of patchwork presentation by historical date. Pictures will also be included.

There are also many other dharma students and friends of the stupa who have contributed a great deal in time and funds to this splendid site.

The following is a list of the lamas who have visited Maui Huelo Stupa:

His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa
3rd Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche
Khabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche
Yangsi Kalu Rinpoche
Gyaltrul Rinpoche
Nechung Rinpoche
Yangsi Nechung Rinpoche
Thupten Kalsang Rahob Rinpoche
Lama Tharchin Rinpoche
Tulku Thupten Rinpoche
Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rinpoche
Khenpo Orgyen Thinley Rinpoche
Khentrul Lodro Thaye Rinpoche
Tulku Zangpo Rinpoche
Yantang Tulku Rinpoche
Tulku Lama Lawa
Geshe Jamstel
Lama Chonam
Lama Dhondrup
Lama Gyaltsen
Lama Kunga
Lama Rinchen
Lama Tempa
The All Good Lama Tenzin
Lama Yeshe Wangmo

The following were major participants in creating the stupa but are no longer living.

His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa Philip Gronquist
Khabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche John Harvey
Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche Carmen Westcott
The All Good Lama Tenzin  

"I built a Shakyamuni statue in Massachusetts the size of a human being and also a stupa out of wood with the help of some dharma friends. Then Ann (DeWeese) and Phil Gronquist invited me to Hawaii and after staying there at their lovely place close to the ocean on a cliff I decided it was a perfect place to build a stupa. At first I had hoped that the stupa could be very large but they checked and we were told that it had to be a much smaller size so we decided to go ahead with the stupa. My cousin, Thubten Kalsang (Rahob Rinpoche) was in Hawaii at the time and so together we performed the ground-breaking ceremony.

Gyatrul Rinpoche and Tubten Kalsang Rinpoche

When we were ready to build, some students showed up to help, especially a guy named Yasha (James Marshall). Thubten Kalsang Rinpoche helped with everything including the inner consecration for the stupa. As you know a stupa must be filled with many sacred substances and according to tradition we were able to place many very sacred substances inside. Here is a list of what I know for sure went inside this stupa:

  1. From the place where Lord Buddha pased into paranirvana, Kushanagara, there is a tsa tsa made from some of Lord Buddha's bone relics. I happened to be visiting there at a time when the Indian government was excavating and they unearthed some of these precious tsa tsa stupas and I was given one to keep. I put this inside the stupa.
  2. A portion of the tree of life from the Bouddhanath stupa in Nepal that Trichang Rinpoche gave me.
  3. From the place of Buddha's birth, Lumbini, some seeds from the bodhi tree where Buddha was born.
  4. From the sacred place of Buddha's enlightenment, Bodhgaya, some seeds from the actual bodhi tree that I got from the great master Kunnu Rinpoche.
  5. In addition there are samples of soil and water from all the sacred pilgrimage places and holy grounds where great mahasiddhas achieved realization in ancient India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.
  6. Dongkar Tulku Rinpoche gave me a small piece of one of his tormas that included several strands of Guru Rinpoche's hair which I put inside this stupa.
  7. There are some bone relics that issued forth from Garab Dorje's mother's skull and some bone relics from a Bodhisattva who takes seven successive incarnations which were given to me by Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche.
  8. His Holiness the 16th Karmapa gave me one of his special pills from his own gau (amulet worn around the neck) and I placed that inside the stupa.

We were able to complete the stupa just before His Holiness the Karmapa came to Hawaii, but then I suddenly fell sick in Honolulu and had to have an emergency surgery. His Holiness was there and he actually was so kind to come to the hospital and bless me before I went in to the surgery. Later he came again when I was recovering and promised to perform the consecration when he went to Maui. I was unable to go and join due to recovering from the surgery.

Completed Maui Huelo Stupa 1976

While they were on Maui, His Holiness Karmapa and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche performed the consecration of the stupa and many children came so they could receive their blessings at the same time.

It had been my deepest wish for His Holiness to consecrate the stupa. When I saw His Holiness later in San Francisco he told me, "Don't worry Gyatrul! No one has built a stupa in this vast and open land where there is no dharma until now, but you managed to do so. It is beautiful and I blessed it along with all your little children just like you asked me to. Very good! No need to worry."

Consecration of the Stupa, November 15, 1976. His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, seated. Next to him on his right, the 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. Phil Gronquist standing on the left.

Later when Kalu Rinpoche came to Maui he also blessed and consecrated the stupa and remarked that the proportions were very accurate.

Since that time I have not been living in Hawaii and Phil (Gronquist) has passed away. Ann (DeWeese) continues to take care of the stupa and she will know about all the other lamas who have come over the years to bless the stupa. When I returned there for a short visit several years ago, I was pleased to see Ann again. I was pleased to see what a wonderful job she has done all these years to keep the land nourished with love and protect the little stupa so that it can continue bringing blessings to sentient beings and the planet for countless generations."

Gyatrul Rinpoche
Tashi Choling, Spring 2008

Seated front row: Gyatrul Rinpoche and Lama Jigme. Standing back row: Sangye Khandro, Lama Chornam, Ann DeWeese, Lama Rinchen, and Jeff Munoz. Spring 2003

"In 1976 a dear friend, John Harvey, offered me a spot on his new Huelo land. After looking the length and breadth of his twelve acres, I found a Java plum tree favorably located on a slope just above a small pool of the Honokala Stream that flowed down through the land to the ocean. I approached my closest neighbor Gyatrul Rinpoche who happily came and blessed the tree. Having quickly constructed a simple platform that stepped off the slope into the spreading branches of the tree with a butterfly wing roof of green phylon lightly suspended above. Rinpoche returned to bless my new home. He was most impressed with the door that opened onto the platform with no walls, no windows, no screen, just the babbling brook and sweet pool below. We had tea, a twenty-minute nap, then Rinpoche sat up, pronounced, "Very good?" and ran home.

A few weeks later while walking down to my tree, I saw Rinpoche with his host, Phil Gronquist, messing around with some bamboo poles close by. I diverted over to inquire, "What are you guys doing?" With Rinpoche's inimitable smile he twinkled, "We're going to build stupa here!" I followed with "Can I help?" The rest is history and up went the prayer flags. I had the enthusiastic support of my landlord, John and soon rolled his rotor tiller down to the site, broke up the ground and leveled it. Over the ensuing days I took Rinpoche in John's old jeep pickup truck out to Honomanu Bay where we loaded up with heavy beach rocks, rolled smooth by the ocean waves, to form the stupa foundation.

Then Yasha (James Marshall) showed up on the island to help Rinpoche as he was the proclaimed expert stupa builder. He had assisted Dodrupchen Rinpoche in constructing a small stupa in New Mexico. Yasha was a fireplug of an Irishman who had taken up with Russian dancing thus the name. Only Rinpoche called him Yaksha or yak meat (sha=meat) or Hamburger for short. So with lots of joking and laughter, the Huelo Stupa took form over the next few months.

Gyaltrul Rinpoche and Yasha building the Stupa

Since I was a devotee of the Hindu path at the time and carried the name Krishna Ram, at the completion of the basic stupa (of which, of course, many people had helped with), Rinpoche, with a big grin, pointed at himself, then Yasha and toward me and said, "This is a Buddhist, Christian, Hindu Stupa!"

Jeff Munoz, May 2008

"The first time I visited the Huelo Stupa on Maui, Hawaii was in December 1981 when I translated for the late Venerable Lama Tenzin about the meaning of stupas.

Lama Tenzin (front and back view) teaching at the Stupa with Georgiana Cook and neighborhood children, 1981

I was particularly surprised at the location of the stupa as it was so beautifully and remotely tucked away in the tropical forest of Huelo. So this was the genesis, the center of mandala from which the dharma on Maui would develop.

That day was a reflection of how dharma history had already been destined to arrive here, in this faraway place, on a small island, among a chain of island which are known to be one of the most isolated land masses in the world, similar to ancient Tibet.

On that day the Huelo Stupa had the unique distinction of being the first stupa built in the United States. Tibetan Buddhism had arrived in America! For those of us that are still around, the Huelo Stupa is an extraordinary symbol of the fragile roots of dharma taking hold in a new land and the longer the Huelo Stupa remains the deeper those roots must grow.

Because of the Huelo Stupa there will always be refreshed inspiration and responsibility for the care and welfare of the dharma. We will always be forever grateful to those whose idea it was to build the Huelo Stupa, the benefactors of the land, the supporters and caregivers of the Stupa and most of all the blessings of our root and lineage lamas."

Georgiana Cook, May 2008

"In the early part of 1978, I moved to a remote ridge on Maui's north shore. At the time there were no road signs and no visible houses in the area. The only thing we could see, other than trees, was a small white structure on top of a ridge to the west of us. Being curious, I headed out on a walk one day to find it. There were several small paths off of the main dirt road with a few simple cottages tucked in the trees. I picked a path which eventually lead me to the point with the stupa on it. I was awed by its white symmetry, gold rings, and handmade tiles around the base. The Buddha sitting on the largest shelf seemed immanent serenity . The view of the ocean and mountain vistas was expansive. I remember sitting on a bench for a couple of hours, filled with a sense of gratitude, and I wondered what it was and who put it there. This was the first of many dharma experiences and connection to the Huelo Stupa I've had.

The next year I moved to a screened one-room cabin on Honokala Stream, just above the stupa. My gardens and out-house were across the river with a small V-shaped view of the ocean and on the left ridge was the Stupa. I lived here for seven years and spent many moonlit hours sitting on the ridge with the Buddha.

About 13 years later Ann DeWeese called me and asked if I could repair the sun and the moon on top of the stupa. A couple of days later while climbing on the stupa to access the problem, the widest shelf on the right side of the Stupa fell into itself about 2 inches. Carefully climbing down, I went to inform Ann that the situation was much bigger than the problem with the sun and moon. This was the beginning of the rebuilding of the Stupa.

Further examination revealed that the original structure was wood with about an inch of cement over it and rusting metal edges. The wood was beginning to rot. Knowing that there were treasures and rellics in the Stupa I was hesitant to proceed without some sort of permission. Originally being a Nyingma stupa, I called Lama Tharchin Rinpoche. He remembered Chogdud Rinpoche transferring energy into a mirror to repair a stutue and agreed we should do something. I then asked our resident Lama Tenzin who came out and performed a ceremony clearing the way to work on the repairs.

The Stupa being prepared for repair

The first step was to save the bhumpa (bell) by cutting holes, inserting beams under it, and jacking it back up to its original position. With the beams secured, I was able to take the center selves apart. We retrieved several jars of treasures and in case we missed anything, we put all of the removed pieces of wood and cement back inside the bottom of the stupa and built a solid rebar reinforced cement box around it as a new foundation for the upper shelves.

Jeff and Rick working on the Stupa

At this point Jeff Munoz starting coming down from Kanaio to help. Jeff worked on the original stupa and had built the Kanaio stupa and temple so he had much more knowledge about the protocol and inner parts of the upper stupa, the center cedar post, the placement of the mandala, the gau, etc.

(Left: Lama Rinchen, Rick Bickford and Jeff Munoz putting the ornaments on the Stupa)

We sent a pattern of the window frame, and the Stupa measurements with Terris and Leslie Temple to Tibet, and they were able to get the craftsmen from Tserpu (His Holiness Karmapa's monestery) to make new copper bhumis and an amazing hand-stamped window frame. They hand carried the pieces back to Maui. We were missing the bottom shelf for the window fram and Ann was able to have one made in Nepal by Sakya craftsmen. Through the Maui Dharma Center we raised enough money to have the copper pieces gold-plated in California.

Po Estes came up and helped with the plaster, painting and finishing touches. After we secured the bhumis and we were ready to close up the front, Lama Rinchen came to help with the ceremony of placing all the statues, relics, prayers, umbrellas, dharma texts, and tsa tsas in the inner chamber. A group of us said prayers and sealed the top with Jeff's hand-made gold leaf gau and then the Guru Riinpoche statue, the glass and the new gold frame.

Since we all had full lives this process took a couple years and a few more after that to make a cement curbed mandala around the stupa filled with crushed coral and the solid pedestals for the snow lions. Terris Temple hand painted the snow lions in traditional colors. With the help of Anam Rinpoche. we buried treasure vases from Lama Tharchin in the four corners.

Throughout the whole rebuilding and enhancement of the Stupa, Ann DeWeese, in her graceful way, worked many hours, days, years at holding the vision, encouraging the process and making sure everyone had the materials they needed. This included incredible lunches, cold drinks, cloth napkins, china, and silverware in the shade of the Huelo jungle trees.

There were many other helping hands along the way and the timing was amazing and joyful. I feel grateful to have been a part of the process and pray that it continues to manifest love and understanding for the now and in future generations."

Om Ah Hung Vajra Guru Pema Siddhi Hung

Blessings to all,
Rick Bickford, May 2008

After the stupa was reconstructed, the grounds around it were in need of serious repair. When Lama Tharchin Rinpoche visited Maui in 2002 I asked him how he thought the grounds should be finished. He made a very simple sketch of a mandala pattern. I had that pattern put down in wood knowing it wouldn't last. It did, however, establish a finished look that everyone liked.

Rick Bickford, Lama Tharchin Rinpoche, and Ann DeWeese

When Rick suggested the cement curbing we knew that was the right direction to go. It was another major effort but when it was completed, we knew we had accomplished our finished goal. The lawn took time to establish, of course, but the entire new look is very pleasing.

Ann DeWeese, July 2011

The builders of the Huelo Stupa in 1976 were:

Gyatrul Rinpoche, designed and supervised
James Marshall (Yasha), construction engineer
Jeff Munoz, prepared and leveled the site, collected foundation stones, made tiles for the grounds around the Stupa
Po Estes, plastered and painted the Stupa
Jamie Woodburn, constructed the bhumi (gold stepped tiered spire)
Suzanne Wolfe, constructed the nyida (the sun and moon ornament on top of the bhumi

The reconstruction team in 1999 was:

Rick Bickford and Jeff Munoz, construction engineers
Po Estes, surface finishing and painting
Terris and Leslie Temple, brought copper ornaments (the bhumi, nyida and window frame) from Tibet
Terris Temple supervised painting the snow lions in traditional colors and provided consultation on various aspects of the finishing work

The Maui Dharma Center, Georgiana Cook and Rinchen Hand, raised the funds.

Many more people have contributed time and/or money to the stupa. All contributions have been greatly appreciated.


Philip Gronquist (1976 to 1997)
Ann DeWeese (1976 to 2011)
Cameron and Megan Livingston (2011 to present)

Double rainbow over the Maui Huelo Stupa. Photographer: Jeff Munoz

All text and photographs copyright Maui Huelo Stupa 2008