By Virginia Beck
I first became aware of Hinduism at 9 years old, living in Karachi, Pakistan. That colorful culture was the mixture of Hindus and Muslims. Massive civil war between the two had shaken India, and Gandhi had helped restore order. Pakistan was divided from India, with mostly Muslims remaining in Pakistan.
What was unique about our home, was that all religions were tolerated. Catholics, Protestants, Sufis, Hindus, everyone learned that my mother would not tolerate prejudice.
Our ayah, or nanny, told of amazing temples and gardens, some of which we visited. And fabulous tales of how God speaks to each of us in different ways.
As a child you are learning to make sense of foreign cultures and foods, so a different way of experiencing God also seemed natural. Each culture has its own way of respecting life and embracing God, or the Spirit of Life that moves in all things.
In 1973, I met Gurudeva, who was then, Master Subramuniya, and his beautiful books on meditation. He was a warm presence, and an eloquent teacher. He founded the monastery, the temple in Wailua, and is responsible for setting up a highly sophisticated publication house, printing Hinduism Today, a global publication. Also, for directing many ancient texts to be preserved digitally for all time.
In 2000, I had the privilege to visit the Hindu Monastery, as locals refer to the Himalayan Academy, in Wailua. The 323 original acres are lushly planted, and lovingly tended. Resident monks maintain the entire property.
A friend came to visit me and her son, who is a monk. We went to visit with Gurudeva. He invited us to see the blessing of the foundations of the amazing San Marga Iraivan Temple. He explained to me the concept of “Kauaians, All one People”. He is responsible for the pink granite signs with this message, spread around the island.
The enormous foundation of one of the largest Hindu temples in the Western hemisphere was constructed with fly ash concrete, in order to support a massive white granite temple. The stonework is hand carved by silpis, traditional stoneworkers in Bangalore, India, and transported to Wailua. The carvings at the top are layered in gold leaf, which was restored by specialists from the Smithsonian Museum.
The smaller Kadavul Temple is the original temple, and is currently used for the monks, and for daily worship services, or puja.
Recently I went on a tour of the gardens and the temple, which is still under construction. A Buddhist landscape architect from Colorado was there, directing the placement of mammoth boulders. These were excavated from the Kaua‘i Coffee fields at Numila, and transported laboriously to temple site.
The Wailua River flows through the temple grounds, and the monks are planting a large tract of land to the west as a forestry project, to prevent erosion. This creates sustainable forestry for the temple grounds. The hard working monks regard service as a devotional aspect of their worship, and have extraordinary gardens and farming projects.
They grow 300 varieties of heliconia and ginger, and 250 kinds of ti plants, as well as medicinal plants. Many amazing varieties of fruits and flowers are cultivated for offerings in the temple, as well as to feed the monks.
It was great to hear a young local man say to his friend as we left, “ I nevah know there is one place like this on Kaua‘i.” Even those of us born here and raised here will always find new things to explore, and new things to learn from each other.
Visitors are permitted for worship or meditation between 9 a.m. and 12 noon, daily, except when the monastery is closed for monastic purposes. Once a week, guided tours, by reservation only, are available at 9 a.m.
Call 1-888-735-1619 to reserve one of the limited parking spaces. No fee, but donations are welcomed.
- Virginia Beck, NP, Certified Trager Practitioner®, does private Wellness Consulting and Trager ® practice at the YWCA Women’s Center in Lihu‘ She is part of the Women’s Health Team at West Kaua‘i Clinics, and can be reached at 635-5618.