After the first time I visited the Byodo-In I have daydreamed of returning with my munchkin. I knew she would be just as stunned by it as I am. The last time I was here, I spent the entire day in a state of reverence and was taken in by a groundskeeper that didn’t know any English but seemed thrilled to have a captive audience in me who showed me the grounds. This time was a little different. There were multiple tour buses dropping people creating busy waves of people crowding the temple but even with the constant gonging of the bell and large crowds, it was still an amazing experience.
We took our time and wandered the grounds counter clockwise away from the crowds. An excerpt from the Byodo-In website states ‘The Byodo-In Temple is located at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. It was established on June 7, 1968, to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The Byodo-In Temple in O’ahu is a smaller-scale replica of the over 950-year-old Byodo-in Temple, a United Nations World Heritage Site in Uji, Japan.’ One of the coolest things I found is the temple was built without any nails! The temple surrounded my multiple koi ponds full of huge koi fish that were fun for Sloane to feed as well as black swan’s, peacocks and other birds.
With a large tattoo of a koi fish swimming up my back, I personally enjoy the ponds most of all. If you haven’t heard the legend of the koi fish the short story is that many moons ago, a brightly colored school of koi swam upstream in the Yellow River, or Huang He. Shimmering in the sunlight, their bright colors defied the intense current and the fish swam seamlessly up the river. Before too long, they came across a large obstacle: the Hokou waterfall. Some koi were discouraged by the enormity of the falls, but a select group of koi stayed behind and was determined to make it up the waterfall. Leaping and jumping, their well-muscled bodies strained to reach the top. Again and again their attempted to overcome this challenge, only to land back down at the bottom of the massive waterfall.
As in any legend, a demon must appear. And this legend does not disappoint. The legend goes that all the splashing and straining and jumping from the efforts of the koi caught the attention of the local demon. And like any villain, he reveled in the failed attempts of the koi. He decided to add insult to injury and through dark magic, increased the height of the waterfall, making the challenge seem even more insurmountable. But still, the koi would not give up and continued its effort for 100 years. Finally, one brave koi summoned all of its strength and made one final leap. And lo and behold, it reached the top of the falls.
The God’s praised the perseverance and strength of this little creature who defied reason, and reached incredible heights. As a reward, the koi was turned into a golden dragon, the very image of power and strength. This is also why the falls are often referred to as The Dragon’s Gate, and every time a koi reaches the top of the falls, it is rewarded by the Gods, and turned into a dragon. – Pretty amazing story right? I’ve been through enough in this lifetime to fill several and I felt a tattoo of a koi was pretty fitting.
Back to the Temple… It is gorgeous and inside there is a 9 foot gold plated Buddha inside that takes your breath away. Sloane’s has been lucky enough to have a teacher at school that has been very influential and has taught her a lot about India, meditation and yoga. The moment she saw the Buddha, she plopped down in front of it and started to meditate. It wasn’t until later on and I shared the photo with friends, that I found out sitting with your back to Buddha was disrespectful. I have a long religious history and being irreverent is that last thing I would ever want to do or encourage my daughter to be. Yet, I believe being true to your own self may be almost as important and respect of Buddha.
Other than our snafu, it was an amazing day! If you go, take bug spray and sunblock and plan to take your time so you can really experience the beauty of the temple and the grounds. You will not be disappointed!