Hindu temple rises in Hawaiian rainforest

Craftsmen use hammers and some 70 different types of chisels to form the granite into intricate designs.

It was 8:30 a.m. on Black Friday, and many residents of Kauai were still waiting in lines for the tempting sales being held at the island’s few large retailers: Macys, Walmart and Kmart. However, more than 100 visitors were lined up with me to visit one of the local spiritual treasures – an anomaly among the usual visitor destinations of rugged coastlines, sunny beaches and resort hotels.
Located along the Wailua River near the island’s east coast, Kauai’s  Hindu monastery is situated on nearly 500 acres of lush rainforest. In 1990, this institution was established as home to some 20 monks from six nations. Its founder was the guru (spiritual leader) Gurudeva. He was born in Northern California, orphaned at the age of 11 and introduced to Hinduism by a family friend who had spent time in India and who raised him after his parents’ deaths.
In 1947, Gurudeva renounced the world and traveled to India to find Absolute Truth. While fasting and meditating in Sri Lanka, he found “enlightenment,” met holy man Siva Yogaswana and was initiated into Hindu monasticism.
Under his new religious name, Satguru Sivayua Subramuniyaswami, he taught the truths of Hinduism and wrote three books in English explaining the faith. Eventually he helped to establish 37 temples on several continents.
Visitors to the Kauai Hindu Monastery are invited to enter the Kadavul Hindu Temple, watched over by a 16-ton black granite statue of Nandi the bull. Inside the temple are large statues of other gods: the dancing Siva (also spelled “Shiva”), the elephant Ganesha and Lord Kattikeya, the god of the spiritual discipline of yoga. Along the walls are another 108 statues of Siva.
Several hundred yards farther along a winding, scenic path through an abundance of tropical flowers and trees stands the unfinished Iraivan Temple. At one time, stone carvers were engaged in putting the finishing touches on massive white blocks of granite that were rough cut in southern India and shipped here for completion. These stonemasons used the ancient skills and tools traditional to their craft (except for a forklift truck, which they call “an American elephant”).
Unfortunately, the recent economic recession has meant the carvers on Kauai have been laid off temporarily. Construction began on this massive building in 1990; although work is continuing in India, expected completion has been delayed to sometime in 2017. Crowning the 3,000 blocks of stone is a magnificent golden dome.
The resident monks do not guide visitors through the monastery’s beautiful grounds with ponds, waterfalls, groves and gardens. Instead, they are engaged in other tasks.
• Supervising the purchase, planting and care of tropical plants from around the world
• Creating and publishing “Hinduism Today,” a quarterly journal with 100,000 readers
• Broadcasting a daily news feed called “Hindu Press International” to writers around the word
• Publishing original books and translations about Hinduism
• Meditating, praying and engaging in other spiritual practices.
Hinduism is a religion developed over several thousand years in India. It emphasizes right-living (dharma). An important belief is “reincarnation,” the process of birth and rebirth continuing for life after life. The circumstances of rebirth are based on “karma,” the idea that consequences of actions within one life are carried over into the next. “One lifetime is not enough” to reach “atman” and release the soul from this endless cycle.
The Kauai Hindu Monastery and temples are open 365 days a year. Free tours are scheduled on a monthly basis. Call (808) 822-3012 or visit www.himalayanacademy.com for more information. Warning: Visitors (male or female) who wear “immodest clothing” will be asked to don a sari before joining the tour.

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