When someone mentions Hawai’i, you immediately think of blue oceans, stunning sunsets and relaxing on the beach. None of that is incorrect. But the Byodo-In Temple on Oahu offers an experience unlike anything else on the Hawai’ian islands.
Byodo-In Temple is not something everyone is going to do when they hit Oahu. But those that do are in for a special treat, a calming experience that takes you away from the beaches. Just go there, and enjoy an aspect of Hawai’i you probably didn’t know existed.
Building Byodo-In Temple
The Byodo-In Temple on Oahu is a smaller replica of Byōdō-in, a world renowned Buddhist temple in Japan that was built in roughly the 11th or 12th century. The Byodo-In Temple in Hawai’i is, not surprisingly, much newer.
It was built in 1968 as a celebration of 100 years of Japanese culture first making its way to the islands. Anyone who has spent time in Hawai’i knows how much influence Japan has had on island culture over the decades. It’s an important piece of the region’s complicated history.
Byodo-In Temple was built in an area called the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. The grounds are incredible, and offer a variety of unique cultural experiences in addition to Byodo-In. It also doesn’t hurt that the park is located at the lush, green base of the Ko’olau mountains.
Unlike the Japanese temple it’s based on, Byodo-In Temple was made primarily out of concrete and designed to look like a classic temple. While the building material might not be the same, it feels like something that has been standing there for centuries.
The experience of Byodo-In Temple
First and foremost, it’s important to know that the Byodo-In Temple is not a functioning monastery. As previously mentioned, it is a memorial that anyone and everyone is encouraged to visit. That’s a nice way of saying that you shouldn’t worry about disturbing any Buddhist monks.
What you should do is explore the grounds thoroughly. Byodo-In Temple is surrounded by a massive koi pond that is teeming with life. In addition to the koi, various turtles and black swans call the grounds home. That doesn’t take into account the numerous wild birds in the park.
In addition to the koi pond, visitors can enjoy the incredible Japanese gardens. If you have never experienced the physical manifestation of the concept of inner peace, seeing these gardens is a great place to start. The second you walk up to them, a sense of calm washes over you.
Just outside of the temple is a three ton peace bell made of brass. You are encouraged to ring it, which is a surprisingly satisfying experience. The loud, cathartic sound that emits from it reverberates through your soul in an surprisingly authentic way.
The Buddha of Byodo-In Temple
At the center of the Byodo-In Temple is a massive statue. It is Amida, a golden Buddha believed to be the only one of its kind in the entire world. At 9 feet, it is an impressive sight to take in when you first enter Phoenix Hall. Shoes off, of course.
It was carved by Masuzo Inui, who then covered it in cloth and painted it with gold lacquer. Gold leaf was then applied over top of that. Surrounding the Buddha are 52 smaller sculptures depicting various Boddhisattvas.
While this fact has not been confirmed, it is believed that this could be the largest statue of Buddha carved outside of Japan. As such, this makes it an incredibly unique experience on Oahu as well as the Hawai’ian islands in general.
The Byodo-In Temple can be a busy place, filled with tourists and visitors of many kinds. But in spite of that, it still maintains a truly life affirming experience. You could be there with a thousand people, yet still feel centered and at peace.