Communities of monks have been living in monasteries for thousands of years. These complexes of living structures and places of worship serve as sanctuaries for religious orders. Buddhist monasteries are typically called viharas, while Tibetan Buddhists prefer the term gompa. Christianity has been flourishing in abbeys and priories. While many important Catholic monastic centers are found in Europe, there are places of note in the United States as well. A contemplative way of life may be too far removed from what you are used to, but seeing monastic life with your own eyes could enrich your experience of the world. Interacting with members of religious orders could widen your perspective. Scroll down and be acquainted with five must-visit monasteries in Hawaii, USA.
1. Kauai Aadhenam Hindu Monastery
Kauai, Hawaii’s “Garden Isle” is a remote tropical rainforest paradise. Kauai Aadhenam Hindu Monastery is a temple amidst flower gardens, shrubs and trees. It is one of the holiest sites of Hinduism in the West. The monks maintain gardens–their personal tributes to nature. Tourists who come across the monastery discover the potent de-stressing power of tree-hugging. A solo traveler sitting under a huge banyan tree finds solace and reconciliation. The tree stands firm and calm, its leaves swaying with the breeze blowing from the Wailua River. Monks living in the complex wear flowing orange robes, and practice traditions of piety and celibacy.
The temple was founded by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, who is one of the most influential advocates of the religion outside of India. The monks follow teaches of Hinduism, which originated in South India and Sri Lanka. The hand-carved Iraivan granite temple was constructed on the edge of a beautiful valley on landscaped grounds. The temple is a testament to the enduring beauty of natural stone, and it’s lush surroundings serve to accentuate the significance of the now-rare skill that shaped the Kauai Aadhenam Hindu monastery.
2. Nechung Dorje Drayang Ling Monastery
Located in Pahala, the Nechung Dorje Drayang Ling Monastery has been opening its doors to visitors since 1973. The retreats and seminars offered at Nechung Dorje Drayang Ling Monastery are worthwhile activities for Westerners who aspire to be schooled in Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhists seek to attain spiritual advancement through the schema of the five paths. Consider including a Buddhist retreat as part of your Hawaii itinerary.
The grand lama and the monks of the monastery were honored by a visit from the Dalai Lama himself in 1980 in the year when the temple was dedicated formally. The visit was repeated in 1984. You can top off a day trip to the Big Island’s Ka’u District with a visit to the site. The residents of the monastery engage in various activities to support their living and their claim to the land that the monastery occupies. Perhaps, you can help them out in this endeavor.
3. Benedictine Monastery of Hawaii
The Order of Saint Benedict (OSB) was founded in the Middle Ages. Today, each community is an autonomous organization united by a common purpose, and by the Rule of St. Benedict. To forge a personal intimacy with Christ, the religious men and women of the order live each day with a goal in mind. For the monastics of the Benedictine Monastery of Hawaii, the emphasis is accepting the charisms of the Holy Spirit.
The Benedictine Monastery of Hawaii overlooks Oahu’s North shore. It was established by the Pecos, New Mexico Benedictine community in 1987. In Hawaii, the religious men and women of the order offer visitors a glimpse at a way of life that has been followed by their members for 1500 years. If you are seeking inspiration and guidance, you can spend a day or two of your Hawaii vacation on a retreat. You might benefit from immersing in a community where contemplation is the order of the day.
4. Carmelite Monastery of the Holy Trinity
O’ahu (Oahu) is the third-largest island in the Hawaii chain and is home to Honolulu, the capital. Despite its modernities, Oahu offers tourists plenty of breaks from urban living. It is also home to places where they may be touched by the divine. A visit to the Carmelite Monastery of the Holy Trinity is potentially uplifting for you.
Mount Carmel in Palestine was the original home of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The nuns residing in Hawaii are Discalced Carmelites (OCD) abiding by the reforms introduced by St. Teresa of Avila. The Carmelite nuns who came to Kane’ohe from Hong Kong were eventually joined by cloistered sisters who are originally from the Philippines. Living a life of solitude and silence is the purpose of the Carmelite sisters wherever they may be. A life of unceasing prayer could be challenging in many parts of the world, but Kane’ohe’s tranquil surroundings supports this way of life.
5. Yun Hwa Sangha Lotus Buddhist Monastery
There is another must-visit monastery to add to the list. The Big Island is home to Yun Hwa Sangha Lotus Buddhist Monastery, which was founded in 1993. It also serves as a school where the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and Sok Ga Mo Ni Buddha are shared with students from all around the world. Students learn more about Social Buddhism and visitors are welcome to learn as well.
This monastery is a place where beauty and peace reigns. In order to promote its teachings, the Yun Hwa Sangha Lotus Buddhists erected a 62-feet (18.9 m) granite statue in 2006, known as the World Peace Kwan Se Um Bo Sal. The name translates to “the Perceiving World Sound, Wishes Come True Bodhisattva of Love and Compassion.” Temple visitors receive blessings to remove the tensions and conflicts they bring from the outside world.
Get a glimpse at the contemplative life in Hawai’i
Hawaii may not be the first place you think about on the subject of monasticism, but it is home to five important centers representing some of the world’s major religious groups. The Pacific group of islands is paradise for most tourists –it’s beaches and natural wonders are unparalleled. For the religious orders who call it their home, Hawaii is paradise on earth. Redefine a Hawaii vacation by choosing to spend a day or two in these sanctuaries.