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Posts Tagged ‘Lawai International center’

Think of ‘pilgrimage’ and the palm-lined beaches of Kauai, Hawaii do not usually spring to mind! I have been here a week and DSC03912I find that the natural beauty surrounding me everywhere I look evokes a strong desire to respond to that beauty with a song — of joy! of gratitude! of praise! I have been singing “Namaste” (written by British bard Nickomo) to the dawn each morning. I have been singing the Taize song, “Confitemini Domino” to the trees and flowers. At the Lawai International Center I sang songs of peace at several of the Buddhist shrines. I have been singing softly in all cases in hope of not disturbing anyone else who might be within earshot. I knew there were others at the Lawai temple, but the song welling up inside myself could not be denied, so I sang softly in front of a lovely painting of a lotus flower. As I left, the attendant asked if I had been singing and I said yes, but I hoped I hadn’t broken any rules. She hastened to reassure me that she had enjoyed it! I only say this to encourage others who feel similarly moved to sing — to go ahead and sing! Don’t bottle the song within yourself, but sing (at least softly) and add your musical vibrations to the Universe that has called forth that song from your soul and heart!

For many centuries Buddhists (mostly practitioners of Shingon Buddhism) have been making pilgrimages to 88 temples on the Japanese island of Shikoku. The well-worn pilgrimage route is approximately 800 miles long. At each of these temples the pilgrims (who all wear conical hats to show they are on pilgrimage) first wash, then offer coins, incense and ‘name strips.’ Then they chant — first the Heart Sutra and then the Mantra of Light. One version of the Heart Sutra is included in the Singing Meditation songbook as “Gate Gate.” This sutra is apparently impossible to translate from the Sanskirt into English with any precision but overall it means something like — gone, gone, gone beyond.

In the early 1900s, Japanese immigrants to Hawaii wanted to emulate this pilgrimage route in Shikoku by creating 88 shrines,

Temple at Lawaii International Center

Temple at Lawaii International Center

each containing a sculpture of Buddha. This mini-pilgrimage route was on the side of a hill on a steep zig-zag path with a glorious view of the ocean. It is believed that this site was previously used for religious purposes by the ancient Hawaiians. The Lawai pilgrimage route fell into disuse by about 1960. The area quickly became overgrown. A dedicated group of volunteers sought to reclaim the area with chainsaws and fundraisers. They also built a small Buddhist temple using ancient building techniques that required chiseling each piece of wood with such precision that no nails were used to hold the structure together.

Tours are now offered the second and last Sundays of each month at 10am, noon and 2pm. They prefer it if you call ahead for a reservation. You can call 808-639-4300 or find more info on their website at lawaicenter. org When you arrive at the Lawai Center you will be greeted by a volunteer offering you a warm cup of jasmine tea and a small Japanese sweet bun. You begin by listening to a short introductory lecture about the site. Then you are encouraged to explore the site on your own. Incense sticks are available in front of a statue of Buddha and you are welcome to light one. Then you can enter the temple (after removing your shoes) to meditate and/or examine the architecture.

I started with meditation in the temple (and, as noted before, some singing softly). Then I made the trek to visit the miniature shrines. Each of these 88 shrines contains carvings and/or other small objects such as shells, stones, feathers, leaves, origami, or other objects meant to have spiritual significance.

The Lawai International Center is located not far from Koloa, in the lush Lawai valley of Kauai, at 3381 Wawae Road, Lawaii. There is no charge to attend. The pilgrimage trail is quite steep and narrow and has steps in several places.

Lawai pilgrimage to 88 shrines

Lawai pilgrimage to 88 shrines

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