For those who are fortunate enough to live in Hawai'i, it is customary to utilize the term Aloha. It is used in greetings, farewells, and expressions of love. However, Aloha encompasses even more than that; it represents a way of life.
In addition to its common meanings, the word Aloha encapsulates all the necessary knowledge for righteous interaction with the natural world. These insights describe an attitude or way of life often referred to as "The Aloha Spirit" or "The Way of Aloha."
The spirit of Aloha was an important lesson imparted to the children of the past because it concerned the world of which they were a part. One early teaching goes as follows:
Aloha is about being connected to all, and all being connected to me. When there is pain, it is my pain. When there is joy, it is also mine. I hold deep respect for all that exists, as it is part of the Creator and part of me. I will not intentionally harm anyone or anything. When sustenance is required, I will only take what is necessary and explain why it is being taken. The earth, the sky, the sea are entrusted to my care, to be cherished and safeguarded. This is Hawaiian - this is Aloha!
As the child grew, the need for a fundamental code of ethics was instilled. This code is derived from an acronymic interpretation of Aloha:
A, ala, watchful, alertness
L, lokahi, working with unity
O, oia'i'o, truthful honesty
H, ha'aha'a, humility
A, ahonui, patient perseverance
Kahuna David Bray interprets this code as "Come forward, be united and harmonious with your true self, God, and mankind. Be honest, truthful, patient, kind to all life forms, and humble." He also states that to the ancient Hawaiians, Aloha signified "God in us."
Thus far, Aloha has provided an explanation of our place in the world and a code of ethics to guide our interactions within it. The only element remaining is our "prime directive" while we exist, and even that can be found within the root words comprising Aloha.
alo, 1. sharing 2. in the present
oha, joyous affection, joy
ha, life energy, life, breath
Following the rules of Hawaiian language structure, we can translate this literally as "The joyful sharing of life energy in the present" or simply "Joyfully sharing life."
Yet, delving deeper into the meanings of the root words in aloha, we discover further layers of significance. "A" signifies "to burn" (figuratively, to sparkle), and it is also the name of a mold found in fermented foods. "Lo" is a shortened form of lo'o and loa'a, meaning "to obtain or procure." Together, these indicate an energy transformation (burning, sparkling, fermentation), the result of that transformation (the mold), and an effort to acquire or manifest something. This concept aligns precisely with conscious manifestation or creation. Hence, another translation of Aloha emerges: "To consciously manifest life joyfully in the present." This is our prime directive.
An alternate translation of Aloha provides a primary method of acquiring Mana, or spiritual influence, for use in manifestation. It is through breathing in the present moment. Awareness of one's breath and proper, natural breathing amplifies Mana, and concentrated breathing enhances it even further.
I have always contemplated a grand existential question, which becomes easier to contemplate when broken down into smaller parts: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Thus far, Aloha has addressed three of these aspects. Who, of course, refers to you and me. What is the conscious creation of our reality. When is Now, the Present Moment, the space between the past and future where Reality truly exists. The answer to Where is Nature. The answer to Why is because we are here to cherish, protect, and care for this being we inhabit—the Earth.
Allow me to elaborate.
The Hawaiians lack a word for "nature" in the sense of "being outside in nature," but they do have a word for "world" or "Earth." This word is honua, which also means "background" or "foundation." The ancient Hawaiians did not perceive nature as something separate from themselves because nature was their reality. Thus, Where lies in Nature, the foundation of our physical world.
To unravel the answer to Why, we must delve deeper.
Examining the root words in honua, we encounter the term ho'o-nu a. Some of the meanings attributed to this word include: 1. to give generously and continuously; 2. to indulge as a child; and 3. surging, rising in swells, like the sea. Consequently, a deeper meaning of honua surfaces: the foundation of our physical reality, Nature, continually and generously provides to satisfy our needs and fulfill our desires. Yet, there is also a notion of reciprocity. Just as the rising swells of the sea recede to gather renewed energy, Nature must also "recede" to rejuvenate itself and grant strength to the foundation of our reality. As Nature bestows itself upon us, we must reciprocate and give back to Nature.
This truth can be found in one of the creation stories revolving around Papa and Wakea, the primary Earth Mother and Sky Father.
"From the initial union of Papa and Wakea, a male child is born prematurely. The child is stillborn and laid to rest. From his body sprouts a shoot that Wakea names Haloa. This shoot becomes the first taro plant. The subsequent male child born is also named Haloa in honor of his deceased sibling, and he becomes the ancestral progenitor of humanity."
Haloa signifies a "long, waving stem." This initial taro plant represents a staple of the Polynesian diet and all plants that grow on this Earth. Haloa also conveys "long breath" and, on an esoteric level, "everlasting cycle." The life and death cycle of plants sustains all creatures, including us. Plants provide food and medicine, while producing the oxygen we breathe. The first human is named Haloa to honor these plants and to remind us to revere and nurture the "everlasting cycle." The gift of life flows from humans to plants and then returns to humanity.
This story reveals that the quality of our existence is fundamentally tied to Nature. Nature's continuous transformative cycles of water, air, and growth are imperative for our survival. Nature embodies the essence of Aloha, and vice versa. It is no coincidence that Aloha and Haloa are anagrams of each other. In Nature, we can discover the marvels of our existence on Earth. Where else but in Nature is the spirit of Aloha easier to experience? Its beauty is awe-inspiring and invigorating, captivating us in the present moment, akin to the emotions evoked by love and joy.
Nature also serves as the source of wisdom that enables us to make responsible choices if we approach with Aloha in our hearts. With an attitude of Aloha, we can learn from the wisdom of the wind, the water, the soil, and the trees, and gain insight from the truths and revelations revealed by the non-human community.
Thus, we have witnessed that Aloha is indeed a way of life, an attitude, and it contains guidelines to assist us in our journey. It is truly a "word to the wise."
In conclusion, I would like to evoke an old saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words," and emphasize that in the Hawaiian language, sometimes the opposite of this saying holds true as well. Therefore, the next time you greet a friend with "Aloha," hold its meanings close to your heart and envision the picture you are painting. It is, unquestionably, a beautiful world.