Lawai International Centre - Uplifting the World with Aloha

Thunderous drums bellowed through the valley, welcoming us as we walked towards the magnificent shrine nestled into the wet green hillside.  A Hawaiian blessing of all-morning rain had doused the entire valley in dampness.  The special event was to celebrate the unveiling of the Hall of Compassion and the 13th annual Pilgimage at Lawai International Centre, and the place was abuzz with people and energy.  Smiling volunteers welcomed us as we found our way through a maze of white tents to the shrine where many people were gathered.    Everyone was silent except for the sound of the beating drums.

The Taiko drum performance was particularly captivating and theatrical as the musicians moved in a powerful and energetic way to engage with the large drums.  The performers took a wide, low stance - keeping the body stabilized whilst beating the drums powerfully with a steady pulse that echoed throughout the valley.  I watched them in awe and felt the beat of the drum resonate with the beat of my own heart.

The Hall of Compassion is a hand carved structure true to 13th century architecture that required 23 years of preparation.  In the past year, over 700 volunteers have dedicated their time and support to the creation of the extraordinary structure.  Lynn Muramoto, the Lawai International President, expressed in her welcome speech her deep gratitude for all of the help they had received.  'This is (a place) where you bypass time, space and matter - this place will open up your heart.'  The mission statement of the centre is to be 'the gathering place for all people to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen, to feel what cannot be touched, to know peace and to receive the true spirit of Aloha'.  The 13th Annual Pilgrimage on this wet October day certainly embodied that message.

Grandmaster flutist Riley Lee graced the ceremony with the deep and sweet sounds of the Japanese flute - the Shakuhachi.  The haunting but delicate tones washed over us along with another light rain shower blessing as we took our first steps on the short afternoon pilgimage along the beautiful pathway carved into the hillside.  In the shade of monkeypod and mango trees, the little shrines sat like tiny lighthouses guiding the way.

After making an offering of lighting incense and saying a silent prayer, we entered the path through a small tunnel that had been sculpted into the hillside.  Roots of a banyan tree wrapped around the cave and a tiny candle illuminated the inside.  As we emerged on the other side and began to scale the muddy path in silence, splashes of bright color filled our senses with delight.  Orchids of every color and description had been planted everywhere, and glistening with fresh raindrops their beauty shone amongst the shrines.  Deep magenta, bright orange and red, captivating pink and gold flowers everywhere.  Our daughter squealed with delight as she inspected each and every one.  Inside each shrine a small candle flame glowed and incense burned.

People from all walks of life made the short but beautiful pilgrimage along the path.  Some used walking sticks to help navigate the terrain.  Everyone was silent, walking in a sacred way with deep respect for the place.  It is certainly an uplifting experience to walk with others with loving intent.  It felt as though we were giving back to the land and simultaneously the land was giving to us.

Only the sound of Shakuhachi and footsteps graced the valley during the Pilgrimage and it was a powerful moment.  It felt wonderful to share the experience of connecting with sacred land in such a respectful way.  Slowing down and really feeling each and every step.  Taking the time to take in the intricate and divine detail of each carefully planted orchid.  Feeling the essence of the two cultures - Hawaiian and Japanese Buddhist - blended together in such a beautiful way and together carrying the message of compassion and aloha to the world.

After completing the walk, I felt a sense of deep gratitude that places of peace like this exist in the world.  That people like Lynn Muramoto cared enough to preserve something of great significance for future generations.  In our fast-paced world,  people are looking for respite from busy lives, and the Lawai International Centre is a place that can provide a quiet sanctuary to indeed 'uplift the world with aloha'.

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