Sunday, October 3, 2010


There is a Hawaiian legend to the effect that when the first ha'ole [pronounced ‘hao' leh’] (Hawaiian slang for Caucasian), presumably one of Captain Cook's crew, arrived at Kealakekua Bay on the Hawaiian island now known as Hawai'i (the ‘Big Island’), he came ashore, and asked the first native Hawaiian he saw, ‘What's the name of this island? Where do you live?’ The Hawaiian purportedly replied, ‘Hawai'i’.  Not long thereafter the ha'ole went to another part of the Big Island and asked the next Hawaiian he saw, ‘Where do you live?’ The second Hawaiian purportedly replied, ‘Hawai'i.’ In due course other native Hawaiians gave the same answer, so the island was named ‘Hawai'i’.  

What each Hawaiian was really saying was, ‘I live in the supreme mana [‘life force’, life’s force, energy, power, the very livingness and essence of life] that rides on life's breath’.  (Ancient Hawaiians called the trade wind makani, the life-giving spirit of air, which supposedly brought the god Lono, the god of fertility and healing. The wind is also called ha, the breath of life.)

Later, when the ha'ole visited the next island in the Hawaiian chain, he asked the first native Hawaiian he saw, ‘Where do you live?’ The Hawaiian replied, ‘Hawai'i’. The same thing happened when the ha'ole visited the other islands in the Hawaiian chain. Always the same answer - ‘Hawai'i’. So Captain Cook (who, in 1778, became the first European to visit the Hawaiian Islands) supposedly named all the Islands ‘Hawai'i’. (Actually, Cook named the islands the "Sandwich Islands" after the 4th Earl of Sandwich, the acting First Lord of the Admiralty.)

Now, I have some important news for you ... Hawai'i isn't just a set of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It's a state of consciousness within you.

The meaning of Hawai'i

Here, then, are the various layers of meaning that are said to be embedded in the word Hawai'i:

ha: breath, or the breath of life,
wai: water, but also a code word for mana or ‘life force’, and
'i: supreme.

You see, the native Hawaiians saw themselves as living in the stream of life’s supreme life force riding on life’s breath. What about us? Yes, we, too, are part of life’s self-livingness. Although for the most part we aren’t consciously aware of it, we all live in the stream of life’s supreme ‘life force’ that rides on life's breath which we ‘carry’ with us, and with which we can ‘connect’ at any time and anywhere. We carry ‘Hawai'i’ with us.  It’s a state of spiritual consciousness, a state of Being, a way of life. ‘For in him we live, and move, and have our being’ (Acts 17:28). 

The meaning and spirit of aloha

Most, if not all, of you would be familiar with the traditional Hawaiian word of friendly welcome, aloha (love, mercy, compassion). As a greeting, the word means hello, welcome, goodbye and farewell.  However, there are several layers of meaning embedded (some say encoded) in the word. No one English word can adequately capture the meaning of the word, the derivation of which is most interesting and instructive.  What follows is a brief but by no means complete exposition of some of the layers of meaning embedded in the word:-

alo: to be with, to face or to front, or, simply, face-to-face
ha: the breath of life, life, energy, life energy, creation 
Thus, alo-ha, face, or turn to, the breath of life. 
The word is, however, even richer:-
a: burn, sparkle, ferment [cf the spiritual flame that is said to burn within each of us; also a reference to the two supposed pathways of alchemy, viz heat (burn method) and fermentation (wet method) reportedly used to obtain the pure white life energy, the animating breath of life]
lo: claim, obtain, procure; lo also refers to the front part of the cranium encasing the brain or consciousness
Thus, a-lo-ha, consciously seek the source of life’s animating energy. Then we have oha ...
oha: joy, happiness.
Putting all of the above together we get alo-oha-ha ... to be with joyfully, or, more fully, the joyful (oha) sharing (alo) of the life energy (ha) in the present (alo). 
In full, the composite multilayered expression aloha then becomes, “Eye to eye, face to face, consciously, I greet you and joyfully give to you my peace and my breath of life,” or “My conscious self joyfully gives you the gift of my life's breath [or my breath/my life].”

For more on Hawaiian spirituality, as well as Hawaiian meditation, see this 2006 article of mine entitled "Hawaiian Spirituality and Meditation":

1 comment:

  1. Brings back many happy memories of our holidays in Hawaii.



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