Lawai International Center hosts 17th annual “Pilgrimage of Compassion”

KALAHEO — The Lawai International Center’s annual Pilgrimage of Compassion cannot be described in words. It can only be felt.

“People used to walk from all parts of the island to go here. They would even walk from Hanalei, for 50 years,” said Lynn Muramoto, founder of the Lawai International Center. “The pilgrimage was created by the universe. And that’s what Lawai is — it’s flowing with the pulse of the spirit of the land.”

For the 17th time, the spirit of the land will be felt by an estimated 800-plus participants on Aug. 13 from 1-4:30 p.m. The program starts at 2:30 p.m.

An essential part of the celebration is music; specifically, the bamboo flute.

“Seventeen years ago, we could hear a bamboo flute playing inside of us,” Muramoto said. “We called all over looking for a Japanese bamboo player, but we couldn’t find anyone.”

Muramoto had resigned to playing CDs of grandmaster and world-renowned Shakuhachi flutist Riley Lee during the pilgrimage. But that all changed with one email.

“The same week we were going to have the pilgrimage, we received an email saying this world-renowned grandmaster would be on Kauai the same week,” Muramoto said. “We asked him if he would come and play his flute at this pilgrimage, and he said he’d be honored to.”

That grandmaster just so happened to be Riley Lee.

“Had I asked for help on Friday or Saturday, it wouldn’t have happened. Only that Sunday, it just so happened to be the only day he could help,” she said. “And he has come and played every year since for the past 16 years.”

Lee attained the rank of grandmaster over 30 years ago, according to Muramoto.

In addition to his performance, members of Taiko Kauai will also perform. Other features include a bonsai exhibit, ikebana and calligraphy demos, a bake sale, silent auction, and cultural and culinary demonstrations including mochi and taro pounding.

The event celebrates the essence of the spirit, the power of the land and the anniversary of the center itself.

“We cleared the grounds 17 years ago and were able to purchase the land,” Muramoto said. “Most events that you attend everywhere was created by someone’s thoughts. But part of the power of Lawai is that it’s untouched by human ideas. And that’s what this pilgrimage is. No one thought to have a pilgrimage, it just happened. It comes from the core of creation, that’s what’s most significant of this event.”

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