By S. Sivathasan –
“If there is a heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here” – Persian Poem
A three day visit to the Hindu Temple at Kauai was rewarding. A few lines to describe it. In a verdant stretch of land complete with gardens, groves, glens, ponds and waterways, nestle two temples of exquisite beauty. It is here that heaven and earth meet, some others may say. As charming as the temples is the hill and dale and surrounding landscape of lush green foliage atop soaring trees. One would wonder whether it was any mystical intervention that helped select an abode for the Divine. An account answers in the affirmative.
This Hindu Monastery was founded in 1970 by Gurudeva Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (1927 – 2001). How is the choice of location explained? It is said that “This temple was inspired by a series of mystical visions of Siva that came to Gurudeva early in the morning on February 15, 1975”. In that vision “he saw Lord Siva seated on a boulder that was later discovered on the then overgrown property”. On this spot Iraivan (Tamil word for God) Temple designed to be worshiped a thousand years and more is being built. It is all of granite, black and white, sculpted by hand in famed Mahabalipuram and brought 10,000 miles to Kauai.
The first point of visitation for seekers is the Kadavul Temple. Kadavul in Tamil means, “He who is both immanent and transcendent” a private shrine where Siva as Nataraja is at the sanctum. In front of Siva is a large Sivalingam in white crystal. Once the Iraivan temple is completed it will be enshrined as the central icon. Two walls on either side of the temple display 108 statues depicting all the poses of Lord Siva’s cosmic dance. Ritualistically pujas are performed with Sanskrit recitations by monks of the monastic order. The pujas are continuous every 3 hours, 24 hrs. of the day, 365 days of the year for 41 years since the inception. Through the monk’s continual worship, the spiritual vibration is kept unbroken and strong. What is admirable is that Vedic rituals are followed with rectitude. Temple architecture too followed agamic rules and so did the sculpture.
Who is Gurudeva?
Gurudeva is an American born in California near Lake Tahoe. Orphaned at age 11, he was brought up by a family friend who with his years of stay in India was acquainted with the culture and beliefs of Hinduism. At age 20 when the spiritual search came, he renounced the world and the quest took him to India. In his sojourn in Sri Lanka soon after, he went to Jaffna where he met Siva Yogaswami the great Sage of Columuthurai. The story goes that in the late 1890s, when Swami Vivekananda came to Colombo and thence to Jaffna on his return from Chicago after the World Parliament of Religions, he stopped his horse drawn carriage, descended from his carriage and stood in reverence. This is the spot where the ashram later came up. It was at this Ashram that Gurudeva was initiated into Hindu monasticism. In 1949 When Yogaswami was 77 he ordained Gurudeva as his successor in the lineage of Kailasa Paramparai. The spiritual wisdom he attained through rigorous discipline and meditation, he has left behind in 3,000 pages of reading material. In addition several works of perennial value in Tamil are available in English.
After his Mahasamadhi, it is believed that Gurudeva continues to guide in magical ways those who embrace his teachings. It is also the faith that in their spirit and their striving for truth his light lives on.
Monastic Order of Monks
Gurudeva had ordained Bodhinatha Veylanswami (1942-) to pursue the mission. The monks of the Monastic Order he founded are devoted to a life of religious discipline and selfless service. The monks are lifetime renunciates leading their lives under vows of celibacy and also of poverty.
The monks gather round to sing devotional songs and to study the teachings of Gurudeva. In a bid to be non-dependent they grow much of their own food, manage a dairy and weave their own cloth for their white, yellow and saffron wear. To maintain an evergreen environment, a nursery provides the plants. Seen at first hand is simple living and high thinking both in perfect harmony. There is no relapse to ante diluvian ages. The monks are abreast of times with each having a Macintosh computer and iPhone. The thoughts and actions at the Monastery find easy transmission for a global reach. HINDUISM TODAY is a quarterly publication going to all parts of the world. It is reputed for carrying authentic and candid information on the Hindu view of life and for articulating Hindu culture and philosophy. A small brochure of 40 pages ‘All About Kauai’s Hindu Monastery’ provides quite an edifying account.
Even as Gurudeva changed his mode of life, his outlook and philosophy in his early twenties, his name also changed. How did he get his name? Yogaswami asked him for his name. When he mentioned it Swami said, that is not your name. You are Subramuniyam. Then with a strong tap on his back said “this will echo in America”. It is known that the echo reverberates in Kauai and radiates therefrom.
Kauai Garden Isle
A six hour flight takes one from Los Angeles to Kauai an enchanting isle. It is one of 7 populated islands in the Pacific, composing Hawaii. It is home to 65,000 people and has a flourishing economy. Reputed to be among the wettest parts of the world, the Island has the features of a tropical country in physical relief and in fauna and flora.
The enclave of 376 acres, accommodating the Temple is perhaps the choicest spot. What is unique is the presence therein of Rudraksha trees sacred to Hindus, producing a much sought after fruit. The seed is used as the holy prayer bead. It is said that these trees found in and outside the temple premises are the only ones in America. What explains the presence of the trees and the temple side by side?