While boarding the flight for the remote island of Kauai, we did not expect to come across a very unusual Saivite monastery. But more of that a little later!
Kauai is regarded as one of the most beautiful spots on Earth. Sparsely populated, from horizon to horizon one can only see vast stretches of green landscapes, punctuated by hundreds of waterfalls and rivulets against a backdrop of imposing volcanic mountains. It is famous for its breathtaking Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Hollywood movies ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ have been shot there. As we drove around, we saw numerous golf courses on either side of the roads. Each had its own small landing strip with a small control tower. This is the playground of the rich. Golf enthusiasts fly down in their small private planes to play and fly back in the evening.
It was during one of our drives through this green paradise, that we saw a modest dangling signboard, announcing ‘Hindu monastery’, about which we had not known anything. We patiently waited at the gate and saw not a soul. Finally, a white brahmachari,in lungi sporting the sacred thread appeared and welcomed us in. Surrounded by exotic trees and a waterfall cascading inside the premises, the locale was out of this world. This is what he narrated:
“Once, Lord Shiva appeared in a dream to a white American in Oakland, who had no knowledge of Hinduism, at that time. Inspired, he went to Sri Lanka and later to India, to learn about Hinduism. In that dream, the Lord had asked him to install an idol of Dakshinamurthy (an aspect of Shiva), at a spot similar to what he had seen in the vision. He assumed the name of Sivaya Subrmuniyaswami and donned saffron. He scouted around for the dreamt of location. Finally, he found the spot on the remote island of Kauai, which also had the tree, just as he had seen in the vision.
A stone sculpture of Dakshinamurthy was ordered from Bangalore. On arrival the idol was installed and consecrated under the same tree (see the inset picture). The monastery was founded in 1970. At one time, this American Sivaya was called by a commentator as “the single-most advocate of Hinduism outside India”.
The followers of the sect whom we saw at the ashram were all Americans or Europeans. We did not see a single Indian among them. Yes, we did meet a Tamillian from Malaysia! He had come to help assemble the 3000-piece hand sculpted stones, which were arriving from Bangalore for the temple.
As per instructions, no machinery was to be used for sculpting the temple, or for its assembly. All was handcrafted. The assembled temple was crafted without the use of electricity. Also, no electricity is used inside the temple. Only natural lighting or ghee lamps! The temple is earthquake resistant and has two rows of musical pillars. Every aspect of shilpi shastra has been followed.
One of the American brahmacharistook us around in a golf cart, to show the beautiful campus. He showed us the plants which had been brought from India. He offered us ‘paan’, too! We were told that they planned to turn this campus into the biggest school for Hinduism and also the largest pilgrim centre, for North America and the Pacific.
We had gone to Kauai to roam around in nature’s lap. We never expected this sort of surprise, which was truly a bonanza! Wonders never cease!