Hundreds gather for 16th annual Pilgrimage of Compassion

LAWAI — For Linda Vass, following the Trail of 88 Shrines at the Lawai International Center is a walking meditation.

“It’s peaceful and very calming,” she said. “I’m not a super-religious person, but I like the energy here.”

Vass was one of hundreds who flocked to Lawai Valley for the Pilgrimage of Compassion Sunday afternoon. During the service, pilgrims walked along the hillside to take in the sense of serenity.

Riley Lee, a world renowned shakuhachi flutist, led the pilgrims on their journey. The free program celebrates the spiritual vision of a valley recognized as a healing sanctuary.

“I believe this place has healing properties,” said Larry Paille. “If you set the intention of being healed, you will be.”

Paille has attended the Pilgrimage of Compassion hosted by the Lawai International Center for the last four years.

“As soon as it’s scheduled, I put in on my calendar,” he said. “It’s a peaceful and loving place. I love it here.”

When Paille, a Wailua resident, attended the service four years ago, he said he felt a connection with the taiko drumming.

“Something about it felt so familiar, like I was remembering being a drummer in a past life,” he said. “There’s no other way to describe it.”

Members from Taiko Kauai opened the service with a half-hour musical performance, which impressed Jessica Irani.

“The drums were amazing; it made me want to take up taiko drums,” she said.

Irani, who lives in Kapaa, said it was her first time making the pilgrimage.

“I’ve always wanted to check out the shrines,” she said. “I liked how it connected you to the land and with each other.”

During the pilgrimage, participants paused at each Buddhist shrine, which were built in 1904. If they were so inclined, they left trinkets behind as an offering.

Vass found that fascinating.

“It’s nice to see what people have left behind,” the Kalaheo woman said.

Sunday’s pilgrimage was the first for Claire Lower, who is visiting Kauai from England.

“This place is really calming,” she said.

Lower has been on the Trail of 88 Shrines before, not just during the Pilgrimage of Compassion. She decided to watch the pilgrimage from below, rather than take part in it.

“It takes you on a spiritual journey, so it’s best if I do it alone,” she said.

After walking through the trail, Irani said she feels a connection to the island.

“I feel like a part of Kauai,” she said.

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