Where Tibet meets Hawaii – in the Forest near the Desert, Naturally

September 30, 2013

Luau w Temple

The first section of our Luau in front of the Nechung Temple was the solemn business, dedicated to the gods.

The Wood Valley Tibetan Buddhist temple sits nestled between two mountain sides about 20 miles inland from the south coast of Big Island (near Pahala). Every morning and evening the resident Lama leads meditation with his chants. I’ve never really given much time to Tibetan Buddhism – all that colour is a bit much for me, I instinctively preferred the black and nothing unadornment of zen. But listening to the Lama chant and glancing down at the prayer book he gives us, with English translations to the Tibetan chants, I got it. And it is really cool.

What they are doing, in that endless droning (which I found very comforting and noticed that it sounds a lot like Aboriginal songlines), is making peace with the spirits. That includes all the Buddhas, who teach compassion and wisdom and generosity and loving kindness; all the demons, who inspire us with the deadly sins of acquisitiveness and jealousy and so on and who must be resisted or placated; all the big and little things that afflict us; the nature spirits who either give or take depending on their whims; the voices within and the messages from above and beyond and below; the great and the sacred and the ordinary powers of life; they all get a guernsey, all get included, and we align ourselves in the best possible way with them, and we set ourselves in line with the ultimate harmony of the universe, which resides in our hearts and souls and minds and bodies beyond the everyday conflicts that are such an ongoing part of our realities, as well as in the actual natural world and wider cosmos about us, all the way out to the farthest stars as well as in to the quietest dreams and whispers of parts of ourselves we have forgotten. So I’m happy here. Oh yeah, along with the venerable Lama, there’s a colourful worshipful temple, koi carp in a pond with waterfall, huge clumps of bamboo and plenty of forest (it’s on 33 acres); and guest rooms, obviously.

Luau w LamaThe more tourist friendly section of the chanting and dancing features smiles. Note venerable Lama walking in background.

The conference started today so we are all talking ecopsychology. How does the way we think and act fit with nature? As far as the dominant paradigm of production and consumption goes, not very well. But we’re part of the move towards better relations, a nicer fit, an ecocentric vision instead of the old egocentric, anthropocentric view of humans using what they want, playing mastery games and trying to avoid paying the bottom line costs of our unrestrained appetites.

For us, here, it’s all about citizens of the world coming together to talk tactics, teaching, counseling, learning how to work together and how to inspire others to care more about the earth and all its life forms. There’s a healing aspect to all this, because once you’ve realized how disconnected your culture is from the life ways of the earth, you hit a kind of transpersonal grief. Joanna Macy wrote about this and the very effective ways we avoid it. But we are here to activate generative responses, not to dwell on the horrors of the industrial military complex and the machine-like way it is chewing through the beauty of the earth.

We’re also here to visit amazing places. Volcanoes and reefs and forests. And to gaze at stars (although it’s been pretty cloudy lately). And this is where the desert comes in. It’s logical when you think of it, although I doubt many people would instinctively think of this tropical island paradise and deserts in the same breath. It’s where there has been a relatively recent lava flow, which is eroding to form a kind of dusty black-brown sand, which attracts only the hardiest plants that don’t need much water. Three of us went for a drive out to the Ka U desert and walked about, trackless and aimless, for a few hours. The flow hardens into ropey waves, crusted bubbles, gnarly lava rocks, a new skin for new land. Big Island is still growing and is only about half a million years old (others in the chain are ten times that age and totally dormant).

There’s not much life here in Ka U; a few insects, some bird droppings, no mammals, not even a reptile yet. I guess they all come later when the plants have taken hold, broken down to create soil from the dusty sand, started to build up a biosystem that can sustain larger creatures. But the sky is wide open, just like in the deserts back in Australia, and it smells of sulphur, like only a lava field can. We see smoke in the distance and know we must visit the active Volcano soon.



  1. So kind of you to share the conference with us 🙂 I’ve been learning about the art of hosting this week http://www.artofhosting.org yet another set of tools to help move people and orgs from ego to eco. It’s basically ancient circle work in a modern package.

    • It’s so great to see the many different ways that people are finding to share tools designed for a better (more fair, more equitable, more resilient) world. And also good to know you’ll be using them for a better earth, Kiri; tnx.

  2. Egocentric is wanting to build a monument to your existence; to leave your mark upon the world so you are remembered long after you are gone. Ecocentric is recognizing the changing nature of life and moving with it, which is a dance. It is really hard to move (dance) with the changing nature of life when you desire to build permanent structures or “monuments.” In this sense, even building a modern home to pass on to your descendants is to build a monument.

    • I like your differentiation between wanting to make a mark and going with the flow Steve. And while i agree with your discernment, as usual, i think it is also part of the flow to leave fine things for your descendents, just as our ancestors wove garments of love and shelter for us. Personally, i’d like to leave a fully energy independent dwelling for my children, so they could be part of the revolution for a better world!

      • Extremes are often used to illustrate a point, but that should not be used as a reason to live an unbalanced life.

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