Kenny the Babbling Buddha rides on


Ken Hemphill, the legendary Babbling Buddha of Cortes Island, has passed on. He died at his home, Dorje Ling Dharma Centre, on Monday, Sept. 21. The cause of death was coronary failure. He was 68 years old.

Kenny was a familiar fixture on Cortes, glowing like a furnace as he pedalled his golden bicycle uphill and downhill in the searing heat, snow, and rain. He was a trickster, a rogue, and a controversial character. But his heart was enormous, his eccentric wisdom deep, and his energy unstoppable.

Kenny built Dorje Ling, his ersatz Tibetan fantasy (in his words, “a Buddhist theme park”) mostly from film-industry castoffs and found objects, and it is a magnificent creative work in progress. Dorje Ling was his dana, his offering to the world, and over the years hundreds of grateful wayfarers found peace and refuge there.

According to the lore of Tibetan Buddhism, one’s spirit travels through the bardo for about 40 days after death, looking for a new landing spot. Anyone expecting a Hallowe’en baby had best beware.

Kenny-La will be missed deeply by many, on Cortes Island and beyond. Long may his spirit ride.

Gate gate paragate, parasumgate bodhi svaha!



The meditation hall at Dorje Ling is open. All community is invited as ever, to come and sit, offer flowers or incense, chant, contemplate the stupa, or simply enjoy the divine serenity of this very special place: Kenny’s heart.


Kenny’s daughter Kalyani is currently making preparations to travel from Germany; she will be arriving in Vancouver on Wed. Sept. 30. She is working with her mother Lamme on plans for an appropriate memorial ceremony soon, where no doubt many, many entertaining Kenny stories will be told. An announcement will be forthcoming soon.


Please contribute your comments, stories and creative testimonials below. To share your PHOTOS of Kenny or Dorje Ling, please send them to me at and I will post them for viewing on this site.

With deepest bows,

3 Responses to Kenny the Babbling Buddha rides on

  1. carmenmills2 says:

    The kind folks at HOLLYHOCK have expressed their deep regrets at Kenny’s passing. They have offered anyone who identifies themself as friend or family of Kenny may stay at HH for 30% off meal/accommodation packages. May be helpful for those who might want to come to Cortes Island for Kenny’s memorial, or otherwise.

  2. Debbie Geaghan says:

    At a very low point in my life it was Kenny who suggested that going to Hollyhock might be helpful. It was life changing, I will forever be indebted to Kenny and the wonderful folks at Hollyhock. What a generous offer.

    Thank you
    Debbie Geaghan.

  3. carmenmills2 says:

    More musings on my teacher, Kenny-La:

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