Even though I read every guide book I can lay my hands on, when ever I travel I always discover a surprise. On this trip, my surprise is the result of a conversation with my good friend M.R. Rangaswami, who has one foot in the high-tech world and the other in a green one. As he knew I was going to Kauai, he told me that I shouldn’t miss going to the temple that is being carved in India and hand-built in Kauai for a Hindu monastery. I’m always a sucker for a good suggestion and as it worked out we would be going to the monastery on the last day of our trip.
As Kauai is a very multicultural place, there were lots of hints of what was to come. Near the pool at our condo, one of the residents had decorated a statue with flowers and fruits every morning. Perhaps that is why we never had any rain except during the evening.
As we spent our days driving, hiking and swimming around Kauai, it was impossible to not sense that we were in a place very special with limitless amounts of different plants. You can’t swing a dead rooster (the standard bird) and not hit a new plant that you had never seen before. Butterfly bushes looked dowdy and dull when placed next to the more exotic bird-of-paradise. Plumeria and hibiscus rained flowers on our rental every night; after a while I began to tire of these flowers as they required a good brushing off every morning before we set out.Iraivan Temple is being built with a hoped for completion in 2012. Progress is a function of money and time as everything is being carved by hand in India and shipped for fitting and assembly in Kauai.
As we entered the grounds of the monastery we could feel how the environment calmed us down. A traditional gardener would call the grounds a bit weedy and unkempt, but to me there was a strong sense of unity and calm as everything came together in a complex but beautiful mosaic. It challenged the view of what a traditional garden should be like as it mixed simple plants like coleus with elephant ears and pineapple. Just being in the garden in this environment was a healing experience that stimulated all my senses yet brought an inner peace to my psyche.
Upon introducing himself, our guide on the tour told us about how this area was special and holy to Hindus as it was selected by the monastery's founder, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (Gurudeva, 1927-2001), who had the vision and drive to raise the money to buy the land and build the temple. As he guided us through the grounds it was easy to lose yourself among all the tropical plants and the serenity that radiated from the garden. I have been in many gardens throughout my life but there have been few that have been as calming as those on these grounds.
To practice horticultural therapy at this site all you need to do is to be part of the garden; we feed the plants CO2 by breathing in and out in a simple pattern and they pay us back with scented oxygen and serenity. Over two dozen monks have a wonderful and tranquil place to live and meditate. Their being and peacefulness permeates the plants and all the surroundings. We are enveloped by the land, the water and the plants. We don’t want to leave.
This tour was the perfect end to our trip. It’s now time to go home to our garden.