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Shadkonam Garden Tour

Today we took a walk along the six-pointed start path that defines the Shadkonam (six points) Desert Garden at the monastery. It was built in the Northwest corner of Iraivan Temple, following vastu science (See slide #2). It is a rare creature on Kauai, where there is so much rain that most desert plants don't tolerate. But over the years we have found which ones will endure 100 inches or more of rain, and we know that of 10 we plant one will survive. But if you plant 300, then you have 30 survivors. So these are the brave ones. The resiliant ones. And many happen to be beautiful as well, as the slideshow from this morning proves. We also share a before and after slider below.

Bonsai Trees for Our Satgurus

Tandu brought a blossoming bougainvillea into the garden, a marvelous bonsai that is a bit of a show-stopper. It inspired us to go out today and capture the various shapes and species he has nurtured for decades. He placed them near each of the Satgurus, as you will see in the slideshow.

This collection of about 12 plants has added a third level of refinement to Siva's Sacred Gardens. Level one is the wild underbrush, the untouched-by-human-hands thickets, mostly wild guava. Level two is the cultured and cultivated sections, where we cleared, formed paths and ponds, planted thousands of tropical species. Now we have a third level, the bonsais, which are stunningly refined and elegant (and maintenance-intensive).

Enjoy the slideshow.

Path to Siva

Work continues today (and every day) on the upgrade to San Marga, the Straight Path to God that Gurudeva created back in 1975. Once Iraivan was completed, we could turn our attention, and resources/funds/time, to the future visitor experience, which will be a ten-minute walk from the Rudraksha Forest to the now-functioning Iraivan Siva Temple.
The path is roughly 3,700 feet long and required hundreds of truckloads of materials to lift the height so rains would shed off and not create potholes and swampy areas. First came an 8" layer of 6-inch rock as a base; once that was compacted, we added a special compactable gravel and compacted that as well. Next, we laid down a special polyurethane grid, which we call Geo Grid, and filled that with sand, compacting the sand. The final step, just beginning, is sowing grass seed. When complete, the 8-foot-wide Pilgrims' Path will be flat and dry and soft so the most devout can walk barefoot to Siva's Feet. Check out progress in the slideshow.

Acquiring More Hybrid Hibiscus

Now having two temples functioning, along with gradually colder winters, means we need to be attentive to growing more flowers to meet all the needs.

As part of efforts to plant additional hibiscus, we are expanding our collection of hybrids to achieve more variety. We have acquired plants from the local nursery and from the mainland. To save money, we are also trying out growing from seed.

Winter in Siva’s Gardens/Nepalese Rudrakshas

It's another brutal Kauai winter, with temperatures plummeting below 60 degrees on rare occasions. Even in those extreme conditions, Kauai plants sing their little songs and surrender their gifts of color and beauty for pilgrims to enjoy.

Yesterday we stumbled on one of our two Saraca indica trees in bloom. After some 25 years, it is flowering freely, not phased by the 68 degrees morning temperature. It is a famous tree in India, a sacred one. Pujaris love it, so efficient--you can pluck a single flower and have 300 florets to offer to Siva.

To celebrate this event, we offer other blossoms and plants that are happening now. At the end of the slideshow we see the first sprouting of the Rudraksha trees from Nepal, the miraculous expression of life.

Remember the adage (whose source is apparently lost in time):

"That nation is great in which the elders plant trees under the shade of which they will never sit."

Many Forms of Siva

Gurudeva would often tell us that "Siva is coming today, in some of His many forms." He saw each visitor as Siva in yet another form.

Today we share some of Siva's forms. Visitors from Canada and a local group called the Master Gardeners of Kauai.

One of the Master Gardeners recorded some of the stories shared by Sadasivanathaswami. It's a bit long, 32 minutes, but has some interesting insights into the magic land Gurudeva created. Here is the link:

Hibiscus Transplanting

Out near Hanuman and the rudraksha grove lies a huge pile of dirt brought in by the state project due to widening the main road. We are hoping their team can push the dirt south into the pasture so we have room to work on the parking lot preparations. There is a berm behind this pile with 200 feet of hibiscus planted, so we spent two mornings to transplant nearly 70 plants to another location near the monastery main buildings. Now the space is cleared for the dirt pile to be moved over.

Rudrakshas Arrive from Nepal

Nepal is the major supplier of Rudraksha beads to the world, and we did a feature story about that in Hinduism Today last fall. The story was told by journalist and photographer Nikki Tapar, who flew to the valley where most of the trees are grown to discover the amazing details for the feature article. For instance, did you know that the sale of the beads represents fully 6% of the nation's Gross National Product? Or that a single bead sold at auction for $84,000?

Since we have the West's only Rudraksha Forest here at the monastery, we have a special interest in the trees and their fruits. Nikki sent us some Nepalese beads, and we discovered they are different than ours, lighter in color and somewhat more detailed in texture.

So, we commissioned Nikki to acquire seedlings. She flew back to the valley and bought 16 saplings, about 3 feet tall, carrying them back to her home in Kathmandu. She and Sadasivanathaswami went through some months of permitting, planning, and preparing the trees for the flight to Kauai.

They arrived at the monastery yesterday, and the box was unpacked. The tall saplings had been pruned short for the shipping, but we are assured they will recover soon and in about 4 years, we will have our first harvest of these special botanical gems. And make them available in the MiniMela.

At the end of the slideshow, there is a QR Code leading to the full magazine article.
Thank you, Nikki, for your amazing help (and tenacity) with this international exchange of DNA.

Kauai Hospice Team Visit

When Gurudeva was on his fasting bed 22 years and 2 months ago, the team at Kauai Hospice guided the monks through his end of life journey. Every day for over a month they were on the phone, making Gurudeva's last days comfortable and understandable to those of us who had never been through the process. So selfless and knowledgeable, so compassionate they were.

A few days ago they visited, 28 of them, almost the entire staff. Many had never visited the monastery, so seeing Iraivan Temple completed, visiting the sacred gardens, it was a new and surprising experience.

They had many questions about the Hindu view of Death & Dying. Fortunately, we had prepared a somewhat complete dossier for their visit, taken from past Insights printed in Hinduism Today.

We also personalized it a bit, and had DALL-E paint some images. Our graphic experiments with artificial intelligence continue, and as you will see do not disappoint.

Here is a link to the illustrated 20-page PDF document. If you know anyone going through end-of-life experiences, you can share this PDF with them, as it is rich in knowledge of the process with a focus on Hindu practices and understandings. It also has stories of how ten Great Souls left their bodies, and ten reasons we should never fear death.

Paving the Other Side of Muruga Hill

On the San Marga path, one side of Muruga Hill had been paved with rock, and now the other will get the same treatment. With the weather getting drier, Dennis Wong is now laying down the first bed of larger rock, on which he will place gravel and compact it. He is halfway around the hill with the first layer.

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