There can be peace found in the places we explore; clarity of mind and of spirit if we allow ourselves to empty within a space, to feel safe, to feel whole, to be heard from a place of deep and true intention.
At the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains, nestled within the abundant forest-green Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, you will find Byodo-In Temple, an (almost) hidden gem of beauty and serenity within the divide of the Pali.
The non-practicing Buddhist temple brings individuals of all faiths and worship together for the purpose of personal reflection, meditation, and peace. When you step foot on the property, the mana (spiritual energy/power/strength) takes over and you feel a flush of calm begin to envelope your senses. Allow it to take hold, and you will transform to a place beyond the chaos of the outside world.
The temple was constructed in 1968 as a commemoration piece for the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawai’i. The temple is a small-scale replica of the original Byodo-In Temple located in Uji, Japan. The original temple is over 950-years-old and was built using traditional Japanese architecture, without a single nail, but the Hawai’i replica is actually constructed using concrete, with the exception of intricately carved decorative pieces.
In 2019, National Geographic named Byodo-In Temple in their top “20 of the world’s most beautiful Buddhist temples” and for good reason. Aside from being a breathtakingly beautiful (and undoubtably photogenic) infrastructure, the temple contains many spiritual elements that work together to elevate your experience; with black swans, specialty colors, and selective sounds and smells there is a perfect balance of elements that bring such a powerful positive presence to the temple and its grounds.
I conducted a deep dive into each symbolic piece for you to better gain a clearer picture of how remarkable each element is before your own visit.
Located just a few feet to the left of the bridge is a five-foot, three-ton brass bell, Bon-sho (Sacred Bell).
The shu-moku (soft wooden log) is used to strike the bell, creating a vibration within the atmosphere that travels through the valley bringing with it an overwhelming sense of calm.
Visitors are invited to ring the bell, in fact they are encouraged to do so prior to entering the temple. The deep, clear, vibrant sound of the bon-sho transmits purifying energy and peace. The sound is believed to calm the mind of temptation and evil spirits, placing you in the tranquil mindset meant for the experience.
Amitābha or Amida buddha is a celestial buddha representing infinite life and immeasurable light. Amida is a buddha of gentle, all-accepting wisdom.
Before entering the temple you slip your shoes off, leaving them and any bad energy you could be carrying at the door. The smell of sage is un-intrusively overpowering. Each guest is invited to light their own incense and place it in a bowl with a prayer or while setting an intension. Amitābha was captivating. I felt my mind ease, and this overwhelming inviting energy to just be present in the moment.
Amitābha is surrounded by Bodhisattvas (enlightened beings or those who have been able to reach nirvana). The Bodhisattvas float on clouds around Amitābha as each display their own perception of peace and joy – some playing musical instruments and dancing.
Hundreds of Japanese koi carp fill the reflection ponds surrounding the temple, some nearly 100-years-old. The pond itself is in the shape of shin (spirit). The Koi that inhabit the pond symbolize power, perseverance, and love.
The meditation pavilion is an isolated space nestled in its own corner behind the temple. The space was designed for guests who would like an extra quiet space for meditation among the lush topical forest. There is a small stream beside the pavilion that melds the mind with its gentle flowing channel.
Most visitors want to know, why is there paper tied to the trees?
There is a small “gift shop” located outside of the temple exit. There you can purchase omikuji (Japanese fortune-telling paper), among other really cool little trinkets. I bought a book (of course). Omikuji will either have a good fortune or bad. If you receive a fortune that you do not wish to come true you can tie it to a tree and leave it at the temple.
Why is the temple red?
In a captivating contrast from the robust tropical green that surrounds fire red of the temple, the lush forest truly grabs the eye and makes for fantastic photos. Aside from the aesthetics of the color, there are other reasons the temple is the bursting bright red that you see here.
In Japan, red is considered the color of life, a symbol of the sun and fire with the ability to reject evil spirits, danger, and bad luck.
“Black Swan is a graceful reminder to move from any position where you feel powerless and at the mercy of external forces; it is time to reclaim your personal power.” – Native Symbols
You can find this beautiful Abhaya Buddha next to the meditation pavilion. This specific Buddha represents the ability to let go of what is no longer serving you; the notion of fierce compassion; awakening into the life you want to live beyond obstacles.
Quick Travel Tips
Address: 47-200 Kahekili Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744
Hours of operation: 7-days a week 8:30am – 5pm
Cost: $5.00 per person
Like most places, I encourage an early arrival (opening is 8:30 am). While every experience I have had at the temple has been peaceful and respectful, regardless of crowd size, I prefer to explore the grounds when there are minimum individuals.
You can buy fish food for the Koi in the gift shop for $2 – worth it!
How long does the visit take?
I spent two hours here, which is honestly insane when you see the size of the place. I definitely think you could make this a quick stop if you just wanted to see it, but I encourage you allow yourself time to truly wonder the grounds and immerse yourself in the peace that washes over you while there.
If you want to learn more visit Byodo-In Temple.