My Unusual Monastery Experience
A young man’s taskforce seva at Kauai’s Hindu Monastery in Hawaii
TEMPLES, PILGRIMAGE, BEING RELIGIOUS, BECOMING a monk, taking vows, going to a monastery, no sugar at all—oh no! How am I going to survive this?
Hi, my dear friends, or should I say aloha. My name is Jagatheeshwar and I’m 13 years old. I live in Malaysia and I am a vidya shishya of Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, which is also known as Saiva Siddhanta Church. You guys may think I am talking about this particular Hindu monastery because I am a part of it, but it’s actually because of my spiritual and fun experience there.
In October, 2017, my father, his friend and I went to the monastery, which is located in Kapaa on the island of Kauai. Our flight from Malaysia to Honolulu took approximately 15 hours and 45 minutes. It goes without saying, we were jet lagged. A minor miracle actually happened at Honolulu airport when we almost missed our flight to Lihue, but with Lord Siva’s grace we made the flight. Back to the point, we traveled to this remote monastery to perform “Siva seva,” task force—that is, to help the monks for a month.
The first few days we took rest and didn’t start working, since we were so tired and needed to energize ourselves. On the fourth day we had to be in the Kadavul Temple, the main temple in the monastery. We were staying in a nearby house which is called the Subramuniya Ashram. When I was in Kadavul Temple, I always felt like the main Deity, Lord Nataraja, was dancing the dance of bliss. This dance is known as “Tandavam,” which we celebrate with abhishekam, and puja during Ardra Darshanam.
I even do not hesitate to tell that I am lucky because the time we were in the monastery was the time of our guru, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami’s, Mahasamadhi, the passing of an enlightened soul. During the day we celebrated our guru’s Great Departure, as it is called. I felt his presence everywhere. I also attended Skanda Shashti, a special day for Lord Murugan, one of the three main Deities. When I was in the temple for the abhishekam, I even felt like Lord Murugan was moving just in front of me, and the divine energy was spreading all over my body.
Something is missing here…oh, yes, it’s Iraivan Temple. How can I forget this? Iraivan is another temple which I was amazed by, mainly because while is still not fully built yet, I felt like it was completely done in its astral form. With the blessings of God the temple is being built by hand from pure crystal granite stone. I got to know that both of the monastery’s temples are powerful. When I had to pass by Iraivan Temple, the scenery of the rainforest was filled with rudraksha, albesia and monkeypod trees. The waterfall which on the Wailua River is so mesmerizing. I can’t find such scenery in any other place. I was the lucky one since I managed to swim in this sacred river. This was one of my thrilling, shocking and spiritual experiences.
Then came the day when we started to work. We woke up early in the morning, brushed our teeth, bathed and walked to the monastery. We took our breakfast there and we started working after our kulam (work group) meeting. At first I was in the Siddhidatta Kulam. That group’s three main priorities are growing and harvesting food, keeping the Narmada Stream flowing and general monastery maintenance. I was working in the hydroponic greenhouse. First, I thought that they just put a layer of nets on the top of the garden and called it a hydroponic greenhouse. But I learned that it was exactly like a professional greenhouse. It had all the equipment, such as the nursery channels, pH reading system and more. I had the job to help harvest vegetables to feed the monks.
On the way back from the greenhouse, I saw that everyone was moving around in all-electric vehicles called Rangers. I thought to ask for permission to drive one. I remember thinking, is this a monastery or a technology park? The next day I asked my team leader if I could drive the Ranger, and the answer was yes, but only with a monastic in the seat next to me. I gradually learned how to drive it with his guidance. It wasn’t a tough task, but controlling my foot on the accelerator took time. The next day was a retreat so I had a little bit more time to sleep in the morning, and we went to the beach. It was a lot of fun. I learned how to boogie board and I had an ice cream cone from one of the most famous ice cream shops in Hawaii.
After a few days, I was moved to the Ganapati Kulam, the magazine studio. It was totally different there, because I had to work with a computer. Another thing that I like to do is to chop vegetables for lunch or dinner. If you come to help here like I did, you won’t have to worry about the food because it’s so tasty that you may forget about sugary and fried foods for your whole life.
The monks here are the type of guys I have never seen before. They are so calm; they don’t even worry about anything. We can describe them is as calm as a millpond. They treat you just like we treat close family members. All of these encounters, experiences and places in the monastery are what makes this a special and unique place.
Even though I had lots of challenges and obstacles, I am happy because I learned many lessons. I managed to help the monks and learned a lot of new things from my mistakes.
To conclude, I wish that you guys don’t get a shock after listening to all of this. Everything that I just wrote is a motivation for you guys, but my actual message is that we who are young need to spend some time on God, religious activities, sadhanas, pilgrimage, practicing ahimsa, doing prayers and more. At least spend ten minutes a day on these things. It’s not as boring as you think. If you spend just 10 or 15 minutes of your time, God will give you twice the amount you gave. I hope the youth take this message as a start that links you to God or to your religion. Thank you for reading my story.
JAGATHEESHWAR ARAVINDRAJ, 13, son of Aravindraj Chandrasekaran of Klang, Malaysia, is a young student of Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami who came to the monastery to serve for one month