Like coming home

It was her first visit to the Lawai International Center on Sunday. And yet, Susan Marigold said there was a sense of peace unlike anywhere else she had been.

“There is something that just makes you feel at ease here, like you can relax and not have to worry about everything,” she said. “There definitely is something here.”

The visitor to Kauai from California was of one of about 1,000 people who stopped at the center for the 14th annual Pilgrimage of Compassion. The opening drums of Taiko Kauai set the stage for what some called a spiritual encounter later when they went on a short journey to see the 88 shrines at one of the oldest Buddhist temple sites in the country.

Lynn Muramoto, president of the nonprofit center, said it’s no wonder guests feel so welcome. She spoke of peace of mind and “total balance.”

“That’s what this place is,” she said. “When people come here, it’s coming home.”

Today, after 24 years of preparation, the Hall of Compassion, a hand-carved structure true to its 13th century architecture, has been completed.

Over 1,600 volunteers and supporters dedicated time and support to the creation of the Hall of Compassion.

Muramoto looked around at the crowd as they wandered the property, stopped at exhibits, watched demonstrations and made new friends.

She wasn’t surprised guests could feel something special about the site.

The earliest inhabitants of Kauai, the ancient Hawaiians, traveled by foot from the distant reaches of Kauai to receive the spiritual benefits of the Lawai Valley.

“With all the things happening in this world, in one brief moment, we can just be together on this land with an open heart together,” she said.

Despite some rain, most everyone stayed for the afternoon program of music, song and inspirational talks.

The highlight, led by grandmaster Riley Lee, came when guests were handed walking sticks and followed the winding, hillside trail overlooking the valley that guided them before each of the shrines, which are miniature replicas of the 1,000-mile pilgrimage in Shikoku, Japan.

During the procession, some stopped at each shrine and bowed in prayer. Others peeked inside, reflected and moved along. There were young and old, each maintaining the requested silence, all seeming to recognize the significant of where they were.

Muramoto hoped the pilgrimage would help people discover more about themselves, about who they are, about what’s inside.

“That’s one of the gifts we have all been given,” she said. “It’s beyond humanity.”

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Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.

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