In the morning we did not take the Pearl Harbor exit out of Honolulu leading to the historical sites but instead drove to the Ko’olau Mountain Range. This range is the western half of an original volcano that was destroyed in prehistoric times. It is 110,000 acres of beautiful forested slopes of unusual beauty where it rains abundantly. There were heavy clouds above as I mentioned in my last week‘s post on the North Shore of O’ahu.
Ko’olau Mountain Range - Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
It was not raining yet when we arrived at the Byodo-In Temple, which is located at the base of the Ko’olau Mountains in an area known as the Valley of the Temple Memorial Park. This Buddhist temple is in Kahalu'u on the windward side of O’ahu Island, near Kane'ohe. It is visited by worshippers from around the world. As I first glimpsed at this temple I almost forgot to take its picture as I was in awe of its beauty with the rugged cliffs rising as a background and the fog overhead.
The Byodo-In Temple, which means “Temple of Equaliy, not to discriminate” was established on the 7th of June, 1968, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. American businessmen in the Kingdom of Hawai’i actively recruited Japanese immigrants to work on the sugarcane and pineapple plantations. The Japanese, as well as the Chinese, Filipino, Korean and Portuguese labored from early morning to late evening chopping and weeding sugar cane on vast plantations. The temple was built entirely without nails and is a replica of the 950-year old Byodoin Temple in Uji, Japan, on the southern outskirts of the ancient city of Kyoto.
Byodo-in Temple in Uji, Japan, built in 998 and used jointly by the Jodo Shi and Tendai sects (courtesy of Sir Hallo)My husband had gone ahead to the temple and I followed him there. Walking on the path I passed the Meditation Pavilion.
Past the entrance and crossing over the wooden bridge into the grounds is like entering another world – a world of peace and serenity. Close to the bridge is the Bell House or kanetsu-ki-do. It contains a five-foot, three-ton brass Peace Bell called bon-sho (sacred bell.) It was cast in Osaka, Japan, by permission of the government of Japan. I went ahead and with the wooden log called “shu-moku” I rang the bell strongly to hear its deep tone. It is said that the pealing of the bell will purify the mind of evil spirits and temptation and bless you with happiness, long life and luck. Bells are typically rung in most Asian Buddhist and Hindu cultures before entering a place of worship. This bell has a very deep lingering sound wave that brings a message of calm and tranquility inspiring meditation. On the top of the bell are little knobs so as to have the sound of the gong generated outwards – all the way to the local town of Kahalu’u.
Walking by the sound of trickling brooks and the meditation niches on the immaculately maintained grounds I understood why this is called a place of serenity, for private thoughts and inner peace.
I removed my shoes to enter the temple. I had a lump in my throat when I saw the tall statue of Amitabha Buddha. It is called the “Lotus” Buddha as he sits on a giant lotus flower. It was carved of wood by the famous Japanese sculptor, Masuzo Inui. Painted with black and gold lacquer then decorated with gold leaf it is the largest wooden Buddha carved outside of Japan in over 900 years – it is over 9 ft tall (3m.)
Alone in the temple I meditated a few moments then tried to light some incense. It started to rain and was windy outside so my match would not light the incense. I must have tried at least a dozen times or more but then I had the idea to place the incense in the sand next to the others and it finally lit. The hush of the place enveloped me as I placed my offering of incense in homage of equality for which the temple is named. It was mystical and peaceful there with no one around, just the sound of the rain.
Then I went back out into the Zen-style garden toward the koi pond.
A visitor was feeding the birds and the fish were waiting below.
It certainly was relaxing to look at the large reflecting pond stocked with hundreds of Japanese koi (carp.)
Black swans were silently swimming by.
As I approached the pond the koi would follow me thinking that I may feed them. I did not have any pellets and was already behind.
The Byodo-In Temple is a Hawaii landmark that is not visited very often as visitors prefer to go surfing on the North Shore or in Waikiki. It may be recognized by people who watch television as I understand it was used in shows including Hawaii 5-O, Magnum P.I and Lost (home of the Korean woman Sun’s father.) It was also in the movie Pearl Harbor.
I walked to the original Japanese tea house which has been converted into a gift shop where my husband was waiting for me and I bought some postcards.
The Byodo-In Temple is not an active temple but funeral and memorial services as well as weddings can be conducted there for Hawaiians or Japanese visitors. It is a non-denominational Buddhist temple welcoming people to meditate in its sanctuary. For a time the body of Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos was interred in a private mausoleum overlooking Byody-In Temple until it was moved back to the Philippines.
Byodo-In Temple in the shadow of the mist covered cliffs of the Ko’alau Mountain Range rising to the clouds is a fascinating place of endless beauty. We could have stayed there many hours, but it was time to go. We left for the North Shore.