Hall of Compassion rises

Old and new. Hall of Compassion rises as shrines bear witness. Courtesy photo

by Anne E. O’Malley

In the art of traditional 13th Century Japanese joinery, wooden blocks of the new Hall of Compassion at the 32-acre Lawai International Center are coming together. Backed by a hill in Lawai Valley with a path zigzagging upward and dotted with 88 tiny shrines replicating in miniature a 1,000-mile pilgrimage in Shikoku, Japan, the new building is close to completion.

Early this year, when the hall is completed, there will have been over 100 volunteers participating in the project. It will be a center for the world, non-denominational in nature and focused on aloha.

Lynn Muramoto, head of the Lawai International Center and a driving force behind the project, quotes from PilahI Paki’s definition of aloha, saying, “Aloha would be the key to the transformation of the planet.”

Muramoto adds witness. “This is the gift that has driven all of us,” she says.

“As the volunteers and supporters move with the flow of the artisans, as their perspiration is dripping from their foreheads, they do it because they want to help the next person, and that may be a stranger, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s the gift this host culture has given us, that is the aloha, that each person is your family — every person is important to the existence of all.”

Muramoto continues, “It is the remembrance that everyone has within them, that this kindness and generosity for the next person is present within every person on the planet, and Lawai is the place to reawaken that remembrance.”

Lawai certainly awoke something in Muramoto, who has spearheaded all that has happened there, from the purchase of the land to the refurbishing of the tiny temples to the current project. She is a reflection of the volunteers when she says of them, “It is their heart energy that is immersed in giving back to the community, to the world — that’s what this is about. It’s beyond shrines and a building.

“It’s all about the people and their hearts and their absolute kindness. Imagine there’s a place on this planet destined to bring kindness to the world. That’s what Lawai is about and always has been.”

There is a precedent for this. As the Lawai International Center website explains, “In ancient times, Hawaiians built heiau in the Lawai Valley only to be followed by the Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese and Filipinos and their structures of worship.”