LAWAI — Larry Paille was overwhelmed with peace and love as he journeyed along the Trail of the 88 Shrines.
“I don’t know that I can describe it on a three-dimensional level, but just that it brings me more in contact to who I really am,” he said.
Paille was one of hundreds who felt a sense of spiritual enlightenment on Sunday as they climbed the Lawai International Center’s trail during the organization’s 15th annual Pilgrimage of Compassion celebration.
A spiritual journey, the pilgrimage allowed individuals across Kauai to open their hearts and minds to the sanctuary’s healing energy and develop a sense of understanding about Japanese culture.
“It’s something that I would never miss,” Paille said. “Words can’t really describe it but just like a feeling of total love, unconditional acceptance, total peace; it’s the way that I want the whole world to be.”
The thunderous sounds of the drumming group Taiko Kauai echoed through the valley and through the hearts of visitors, as the drummers opened the pilgrimage with their songs.
“There’s something about that (taiko drumming) that I’ve just been drawn to ever since I heard them the first time I was here, and it’s just really powerful energy coming from their performances,” Paille said. “It’s just indescribable.”
A Hawaiian “oli” or chant was also sung to ask for blessings for all those present at the celebration.
Grand-master and world renowned Shakuhachi flutist Riley Lee played a soft, spiritual melody as he led guests along the pilgrimage walk.
“It was really great. It was an awesome event,” said Riley Gokan, a member of Boy Scout Troop 83, which lit candles within the shrines before the walk began. “It brings everyone in the community in and it’s kind of like a gathering place.”
Guests journeyed up along the spiraling path for half an hour while stopping and offering prayers before the shrines lining the walkway.
The shrines were built in 1904 to represent a pilgrimage of 88 temples in Shikoku, Japan.
Charles Woolfork and Trisha Cordes of Wailua Homesteads could feel the spiritual energy of the center envelope them as they touched the shrines’ stone surfaces.
“I felt very good energy and I felt very privileged to go on this pilgrimage because I know it’s not just an event that happens a lot of times during the year,” Woolfork said. “It’s very spiritual. It’s one of the reasons we’re here.”
Visitors also burned incense sticks at the bottom of the Trail of 88 Shrines.
Former North Shore resident Naoko Miura-Brandt, who now lives in California, went on the walk for the first time. She was filled with a sense of contentment as she finished the trail and lit an incense stick in memory of her parents.
“Just coming here, I feel like in silence I have more of a connection to my parents than I’ve had at any other place,” she said. “That’s why I lit the incense for them, because I feel like this is a place where I could do that, where if I lift this incense for them here it would be the strongest connection to them.”
Founder of the Lawai International Center Lynn Muramoto was ecstatic over the pilgrimage’s success.
“I didn’t think it, I felt it,” she said. “It’s very humbling that a place like this can spark the remembrance within all people — that we are all one.”
Many other cultural exhibits and activities were laid out for guests when the center’s gates opened at 1 p.m., including mochi pounding, a tea house, coconut weaving, and lei and origami making.
Many people who journeyed through the pilgrimage said they intended to return to the event next year.
“If more people were exposed to this kind of energy, we wouldn’t have the problems in the world that we have today,” Paille said.
Averie Soto, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or email@example.com.