Hawaii is a place of mulitcultural diversity, where people from many nations gather to share their gifts on these beautiful islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Kauai is home to a variety of spiritual centers and churches. The Lawai International Centre is a non-denominational community project whose message is to bring cultural understanding, education and compassion for all people. According to the Lawai Centre website their vision is to 'foster educational and public awareness...of Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese and other cultures' and to 'spread the concept and true meaning of Aloha'.
Many years ago, the ancient Hawaiians journeyed by foot to receive the spiritual benefits of Lawai Valley. They built a heiau(temple) which was a pu'uhonua - a place of sanctuary, and was considered very sacred. They were followed by the first immigrants of Japan who had travelled to Hawaii to work in pineapple canneries and sugar fields, and in 1904, they built 88 small shrines nestled into the hillside. It is a scaled down replica of a famous 1000 mile pilgrimage in Shikoku, Japan, and is one of the oldest Buddhist temple sites in the USA.
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For 50 years, people travelled to Lawai from all over Kauai - to walk the path connecting the 88 shrines and to receive healing and offer prayers. But when the cannery closed in the late 1960's, people moved away and the sacred place was forgotten and became overgrown with weeds.
In 1990, Lynn Muramoto, a second generation Japanese American and now President of the Center, rediscovered the shrines. Since that day, she has dedicated herself to the project. As she undertook the work to clear the land, she saw a vision to share the place with all people, and that it would become a place to uplift humanity through compassion and aloha. Lawai translates as 'forgiving waters'.
A non-profit organisation was formed, and over the next 15 years Lynn worked tirelessly to raise funds to purchase the land. Eventually, with the help of volunteers and numerous donations, they were able to make an offer and succeeded in acquiring the land.
The recently completed Hall of Compassion embodies Lynn's vision. It is a stunning piece of architecture true to traditional Japanese 13th century design. The amazing thing is that it has been hand-carved entirely of cedar, with no nails using a tongue and groove method and it has taken 23 years to complete. On October 6th 2013 the structure was blessed and opened in a'Dedication and 13th Annual Pilgrimage'. The theme of the event was 'Uplifting the World with Aloha'.
The center is open the second and the last Sunday of every month with tours at 10:00am, 12:00pm and 2:00pm, or by appointment. A visit to the center is a worthwhile and uplifting experience indeed.