When I visited the Byodo-In Buddhist Temple on the island of Oahu, it was a somewhat off-the-beaten-track attraction that did not draw large crowds. Over the past couple of years its popularity has grown because its location was used during the filming of the TV series “Lost.” Even so, I suspect that not even hordes of tourists could detract from the spirituality of this amazing landmark.
Built in the 1960′s to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrant workers in Hawaii, Byodo-In is a replica of the 900-year-old temple of the same name in Japan. The grounds are exquisitely landscaped, featuring traditional Japanese gardens, Koi ponds, and graceful bridges over burbling streams. The first structure that visitors encounter is a small open-air pagoda sheltering a three-ton brass Peace Bell. Ringing the bell is said to bring happiness, blessings, and a long life, while ridding the mind and body of evil spirits.
The Lotus Buddha, so named because he sits upon a lotus flower, dominates the inside of the temple, as it is the largest wooden Buddha carved in more than 900 years. Worshippers light incense and prostrate before this black lacquer and gold leaf Buddha, leaving offerings of flowers or food at the base of the statue in hopes that their prayers will be answered.
Byodo-In is located on the eastern side of the island of Oahu, in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, overlooking the small town of Kaneʻohe. Just the scenery along the way is worth making the trip. On the inland side, lush green mountains soar to dizzying heights, their sawtooth-topped peaks often ringed by low-lying clouds. Offshore, tiny emerald isles float on aquamarine waters that are almost always placid on this windward side of the island. Many families combine a trip to the temple with other activities, such as snorkeling in Hanauma Bay or kayaking to Chinaman’s Hat, a conical-shaped island named after the straw coolie hats used by immigrant workers. Byodo-In is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily and admission is $2 per person.
Photos courtesy of Barbara Weibel
Article by Barbara Weibel of Hole In The Donut Travels