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Spiritual leaders answer on kupuna

Editor’s note: Every Friday a question is printed at the end of this column inviting a response. If you are a religious leader on Kaua‘i please send in your thoughts or suggestions for future topics. Next week’s subject is on fatherhood. The suggested topic at the end of the column is for the following week.

by Pam Woolway – The Garden Island

Paramacharya Palaniswami

Kaua‘i Hindu Monastery

Elders are the children of our far past and the mothers and fathers of our future. They are the embodied voices of ten thousand generations of human experience, collected and archived in the greatest google system known, the human mind. In Hinduism, elders are, to this day, deeply respected. Grandchildren bend to touch their feet. Other voices in a room fall silent when they speak. Yes, in many ways it seems old-fashioned, but elders are treasured and given a place of privilege — even those who may not, by someone else’s reckoning, deserve it. Gurudeva, who lived for three decades on Kauai, wrote this:

“Old age is as much a state of mind as of body. Today young people are taught that when you become old and gray, you are in the way. Not a nice thought. It is the older folk, the wiser folk, the experienced elders, who have lived longer and therefore can see further, to whom youth should be listening. But in our present times, young people have become the spokesmen, and they are allowed to learn by their own mistakes. What a perverted way to learn! They should be learning, if they ever become open to it, from the mistakes of their elders, that is if elders are willing to admit them.

In the Western world, the elderly are not respected. They are shoved aside, considered useless, as they interfere with the pursuit of the life and liberty of the younger people by giving advice and direction based on their experience. That’s why Western people have to learn by their own experiences, because they have relegated the older generation to obscurity. It has become part of the culture. Not so in Asia. In Asian cultures traditionally the aged are venerated more and more each year for their knowledge, their guidance, their wisdom, their compassion, their existence.”

Rev. Rita Mekila Herring

Universal Brotherhood


We all have a lot to learn from our kupuna. This country bases a lot of importance on youth. As the years go by we see more and more focus geared toward the youthful. Often we see favoritism to youth based on the fact that they will one day be the new leaders. But the true leaders are our kupuna. They have walked before us. They carry knowledge we can only hope that through their sharing we will obtain a portion of. It is from the kupuna that the youth will learn the lessons necessary to become our new leaders.

In this day and age families are spread out with miles and states and often countries between members. The core family rarely stays geographically in the same location. As these separations occur, it seems the collective culture moves away from remembering the respect that our kupuna deserve.

We are more fortunate here in the islands. The reverence for our kupuna has remained more alive than in many other parts of the country. The true essence of ‘ohana is a large part of what attracts those of us not born here. Still even we can do better. We must cherish the wisdom, the perseverance, and the courage contained within our kupuna. We must look to them, learn from them, love and cherish them and finally live our lives such that we will be honorable in their eyes.

Next week’s question:

• Will you speak to us on dreams?

• Spiritual leaders are invited to e-mail responses of three to five paragraphs to

• Deadline each week is Tuesday, by 5 p.m.


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