I am the Mountain, the Mountain is Me

In Zen we have a saying, "sit like a mountain."  I understood that in my bones when Robert and I lived in Hawaii in the late ‘80s until 2001.  We had a magnificent backyard view of Mauna Kea also known as Mauna a Wakea.  She was breathtakingly majestic sitting there in great dignity and silence. Mauna Kea is that rare mountain - very tall and alone - in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Such attributes make it a perfect spot for the science of astronomy.

Astronomers love the clear air, low humidity and dark skies.  Many scientists have taken advantage of the mountain by building 12 telescopes in a special land use zone on the summit.  This zone is located on land protected by the Historical Preservation Act which recognizes it's significance to Hawaiian culture.

According to legend, Mauna Kea is the first born mountain child of Wakea (Sky Father) and Papa (Earth Mother).

My 'family and I lived on the Hamakua slide of her slopes for three generations.  Hawaiians who live in Hamakua take care of the mountain and also of Waipio Valley.

Recently, something big has happened in response to the building of the thirteenth telescope, known as the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).  A consortium of countries -  Japan, China, India, Canada and the United States coordinated through the University of Hawaii, has almost completed the hurdles needed to build TMT. Bulldozers and heavy equipment have reached the site.

A small group of Native Hawaiians calling themselves "protectors" have taken a stand and shown up on the mountain to respectfully block the way of the bulldozers.  They are conducting themselves in their culturally disciplined manner of peace, love and non-violence called 'Aloha 'Aina and Kapu Aloha.

'Aloha 'Aina literally means deep love of the land.  Kapu Aloha means respect towards others, under any and all circumstances.  It has been beautiful and inspiring to see people practicing these two spiritual principles given the great challenge they face against this $1.3 billion project. And they have been gaining support all over the islands and world-wide.  The governor has called a 2 week building moratorium as discussions have continued about building TMT.

It's not that the protectors disagree with science and telescopes.  It's just that they feel it's not the right place for one more.  The top of mountains are most sacred to native peoples because they are closest to the heavens.  So it makes sense that the actions of the protectors on the mauna (mountain) must be pono (right with themselves and with their god) and most respectful to all - even to people they don't agree with.

So how do we live 'Aloha 'Aina and Kapu Aloha everyday?  I take inspiration from the mauna and these 'Aloha 'Aina warriors.  Both exhibit strength and calm.  We know in our hearts when we are called to do something that we must listen.  That is fearlessness.

When we love something deeply, including ourselves, we do what must be done.  We malama (take care) in different ways.  We find our courage.   We are strong enough to listen to others who do not share our viewpoint.

We are calm and spacious (or we pause, breathe and regain composure) and we speak from our na'au (guts) and pu'uwai (heart). The response arises with truth and aloha so we can remain connected even in the midst of conflict.

We have to act alone sometimes or so it seems. Like when we sit, it can feel solitary. In reality, we are always deeply intertwined with each other and the 'aina (land).  And that knowing gives us strength and perseverance to continue to love and respect ourselves, one another and the land.

Sensei June Ryushin Tanoue