Crippled by western disease and stripped of its land, language and culture by 167 years of determined Christian missionaries, the old Hawaiian inner way of the life seemed lost forever.
But the powerful "Aloha" spirit that has blessed and impregnated this enchanted island archipelago for two millenia (perhaps longer), was not to be so easily pushed into the ocean by even the biggest of evangelical bullies. Unbeknownst to most - especially to the haole (white foreigner) - the sacred knowledge of the Gods, Goddesses, nature spirits, mana "spiritual power," karma and reincarnation have for the last 200 years been secretly passed on by one mystic and another. Today, 1988, the old Hawaiian teachings - remarkably akin to Hindu teachings - are magically appearing in print, heiaus (temples) are being cleared of overgrowth for ceremony, dance and language revived, and a band of powerful, gentle mystic kahunas (priests and priestesses) roam the islands awakening the slumbering vision of the way it was.
That Fateful Day
On January 20th, 1778, exploring northward from Tahiti, Captain Cook's expedition came upon the dazzling island jewels of the mid-Pacific we call Hawaii. The peoples Cook met were bronze-skinned, attractive, clear eyed, powerfully muscular - many over over six feet tall. Sandalwood tree forests canopied the verdant, spectacular volcanic slopes. Sophisticated irrigation systems and fishery skills awed the Western explorer. The people were happy, healthy and generous beyond belief - gladly filling the storage holds of Cook's vessels with tons of food stuffs for his continued journeys.
These people loved the land and sea, befriended the nature spirits and worshipped many Gods/Goddesses including the "Ancient One," Kane, like Siva, with a upright, unhewn stone. Temples covered the islands. A priesthood trained in inner arts - especially chanting, astronomy, navigation and medicine - cared for all families were guided by the strong, wise counsel of their elders.
Following Cook, waves of traders greedily raced to the islands, rewarding the Hawaiians kindness and hospitality by quickly stripping their lands of all its sandalwood - leaving behind a trail of Western diseases that reduced the islands' population from one million in 1778 to 70,000 by the mid- 1800's! This massive human destruction shattered belief in the gods and ways of old. In 1819, a self-confident chiefhood suddenly destroyed the temples, and abolished the complex kapu system of "do's" and "don'ts." "They felt that it was in the best interest of the Hawaiian nation that they adopt 'western ways' as much and as quickly as possible," explained Hawaiian studies Prof. Kioni Dudley to Hinduism Today. The mystic priesthood quietly retreated from view.
In 1820, the first of fifteen companies of Puritan missionaries arrived from Boston anxious to "save the heathens from the pit of darkness." A small, traumatized Hawaiian population was easy prey. Churches were built, the Bible preached, English aggressively taught, and the melodic, soulful Hawaiian language soon vanished.
"They [the chiefs] did not consider missionaries their equal," writes Leilani Melville, and refused to tell them anything about their culture. And the priests' motto since the heiuas were destroyed was, continues Melville, "Conceal in secrecy, preserve in silence, disguise our inner teachings with a false outer mask, lest unholy unbelievers trample our pearls of wisdom beneath their feet and rend them to shreds."
So the missionaries penned their own portrait of the Hawaiians - a bizarre caricature of unclothed savages who needed the Word of God. These writing bled the Hawaiians of their own self-respect and stigmatized them "uncivilized and pre-Christian."
A Hidden History
Actually, when Cook arrived, Hawaii was the home of two peoples. One considered themselves always of Hawaii, "coming from the sky" long, long ago. Theirs was a mystical way, peaceful, subtly governed by seers who could see into "four spirit worlds and three heaven planes." Another peoples, originating possibly as far west as "South of the Himalayas," migrated over many hundreds of years through Indonesia and Polynesia, and arrived from Tahiti in 1200 A.D. Their way was distinctly aggressive and warlike and, though few in number, they were able to dominate the indigenous peoples. Where before ohanas (family groups) governed themselves, the newcomers imposed a rigid caste and kapu system with war chiefs, a militia, laws, taboos and corporal punishment. Over time, these two peoples greatly blended and amalgamated, but there still rubbed invisibly two "ways" - one of gentleness and mysticism and one of aggressiveness and strength. One was original, lived more in the ohana (family) way, and one was superimposed and live more in the chiefs' kapu system.
Hawaiian monarchs governed the islands until 1893, when a haole business/political faction deposed Queen Liliuokalani, took rule by force, and persuaded the US government to sanction their action by annexing Hawaii in 1898. 1.8 million acres of "crown" and "public" lands were given to the US government as part of the "deal." The Hawaiians' private lands gradually fell to missionary family estates.
Today, only 500 full-blooded Hawaiians speak their language, and they are mostly Christians. But another 200,000 have partial Hawaiian blood. Among them are a determined group of activist Hawaiians who love their ways of old and want their lands back. Transmuting bitterness and rage into intelligent political savvy, they have drafted a constitution to govern themselves on .85 million acres they want back from State and Federal governments.
The old stone-plinth heiaus are being cleared. Full ceremonies, employing powerful Hawaiian dance/chants, are again calling the Gods and Goddesses. The Makahiki festival, sacred to Lono (Lord Ganesha), is alive on all the islands. Hawaiian kahuna priests, including Kahili King and Kahu Kawai'i, boldly defy the islands' tough Christian grip and freely teach the ancient ways. Ancient Aloha wisdom is flowing again.
A Priestess Speaks
"Tales of the Night Rainbow," the words of Hawaiian priestess Kaili' ohe Kame' ekua, is clearly the deepest, rarest and most beautiful account of the natural, mystical life in pre - Christianized Hawaii. The book was published by her grandchildren last year. Kaili' ohe was psychically trained from birth and died in 1931, at the age of 115. Excerpts follow:
"The early ones believe there is one body of life of which we are all a part. Everything that grew on our land and swam in our ocean we called brother and sister. The old ones did not destroy. They spoke to a plant that was to be picked and explained why it was being done. A rock, before being used as a part of a new house platform or heiau, would be asked if it approved of being used in such a manner.
The ancient ones believed that all time is now and that we are each creators of our life's conditions. Any situation we might find ourselves in is brought about by us-in learning the many pathways of life. Any time we wish to change, all we have to do is let go of our present condition and it will be gone.
Our only law, if you want to call it that, was that all are one. Anything said to hurt another would hurt you. You cannot strike your brother without also striking your parents and your aumakua (the family's spirit god) so it was best to strike no one. The early ones had no kings, no war lords, no armies, no system of laws.
It was commonplace for people to lie down, and their mind go elsewhere - to check out weather conditions, to see a loved one far away, to fly with the birds - or to find the answer to a problem too hard for the mind in body."
The Bowl of Light
"Each child born has at birth a Bowl of perfect Light. If he tends his Light, it will grow in strength and he can do all things - swim with the shark, fly with the birds, know and understand all things. If however, he becomes envious or jealous, he drops a stone into his Bowl of Light and some of the Light goes out. Light and the stone cannot hold the same space. If he continues to put stones in the Bowl of Light, the Light will go out and he will become a stone. A stone does not grow, nor does it move. If at anytime he tires of being a stone, all he needs to do is turn the bowl upside down and the stones will fall away and Light will grow once more."
Love and the' Ohana
It was my belief that the' Ohana (family) system was the originator of what was later called the Aloha Spirit, for all life was founded on love. There was love of family, love of land, love of sea, and love and respect for yourself. Each family had an' aumakua, a spirit felt as a living part of the family - a presence."
The Christians and Sin
"The was the great difference between the Hawaiian beliefs and the beliefs of the foreign people who came to teach the Bible. They believed there was no river, no flow to life. It was a once or never trip. They meant well. They spoke love, they taught love, but they didn't know love. They taught "thou shalt not" - and they were angry with us all the time for having fun and for the laughter and joy in our lives. They were not allowed joy. Salvation came to them only through misery. The Hawaiian gods were far more kind, for they loved happiness and joy as much as they loved sun and rain. They loved bodies the way they were made, glistening with sweat or with water from the ocean. They saw what we were, and it was good. The foreign God wanted every man, woman and child covered up and hid from themselves and each other. He was ashamed of his children. The joy of yesterday was slipping away. There was no song in the land."
Many Lives to Learn
"The Hawaiian people have always believed in many lives, in a continuing river of life. A life that flowed in and out of the earth plane, learning something new each time, always moving forward. Never being put back for mistakes, but given a time to think things through and then continuing on, correcting errors and making new beginnings. There was no word for 'sin.' We had to invent one after we were told we were 'sinful.'
We were taught from the time we could understand that there are no accidents. All things happen for a reason. Be happy even for misfortune, for with it comes some wisdom that we could not have had otherwise.
Children in training in weather or star reading spent hours in contests of will, each concentrating against the other to make a cloud larger or smaller, to make it rain or clear up. Conditions would sometimes alter all day long as the children seesawed back an forth in their contest of will. Life was a school, life is still a school. People continue to learn as long as they live."
Modern Day Kahuna
Kahu Kawai'i is a native Hawaiian shaman priest, trained by his grandmother and grand uncle. The following excerpts are from a recent interview conducted by Mark Bachrach and published in The Source.
Mark: Can you give us one example of your training?
Kahu Kawai'i: We were walking along this path in the mountains and the instructor all of a sudden disappeared. At that moment, what we did was freeze everything - freeze our own thoughts and see where we were at the time - also freezing nature itself. We noted where the sun fell upon the ground (it fell upon this little rock with the water trickling along side of it) and where a bird was flying when we noticed he was gone (which pointed to a ridge about five ridges over from us). The three of us students agreed that that was what nature was saying to us. As we arrived five ridges over, there he was sitting on the big rock.
Mark: So you learn to adjust field of sensitivity?
Kahu Kawa'i: Right. This kind of training fosters an unshakeable relationship with nature. How you might feel toward a human being that you love is how you might feel toward a dry leaf on the ground and how you might feel toward the rain in the forest and the wind. There is such intimacy that goes on that everything speaks to you and everything responds to how are in being - almost like a mirror reflecting your feelings.
Article copyright Himalayan Academy.