Revered Hawaiian kapuna Nana Veary was an embodiment of the true meaning of aloha. She was born in 1908, and reared by her Hawaiian elders in an environment where language, fishing, healing, building and all aspects of life were firmly rooted in nature. In her insightful book “Change We Must” she recounted her spiritual journey from Hawaiian ‘aumakua to Pentecostalism to Unity to Zen Buddhism.
“Words have great power and should be used carefully,” Nana said. “Aloha, for example, should not be seen as just a frivolous tourist greeting. Alo means the bosom of the center of the universe, and ha, the breath of God, so to say this word is to appreciate another person’s divinity.”
Recounting a childhood rooted in native spirituality, Nana in her book includes a startling tale of her grandmother feeding and riding a “pet” shark. (sharks are considered sacred ‘aumakua – family gods – in Hawaiian culture).
“Her real mother died when she was 6 and her grandmother raised her,” her daughter Emma Veary told me in an interview. “She would ride Ka‘ahupahau. She took care of the shark in Pu’uloa. She was born there, and mother was a grown woman when she found out about it.”
“Whatever my mother was studying, we all studied together,” Emma noted. “We participated in her spiritual journey and lived it. We were chanting in Chinese, we were chanting in Japanese, and in Tibetan, whatever she was doing we were practicing, which made for a very interesting childhood.”
“I was just reading something of mother’s and it sums up what we were taught and how we lived — it’s in the book. ‘Guard your thoughts; keep them free from doubt and fear, accepting only good. Prepare your mind to receive the best that life has to offer. Become increasingly aware of the one presence, the one life, the one spirit, which is God. All sense of lack or limitation should have no place in your consciousness. Everything is possible according to your acceptance and the way spirit works through your belief.’ ”
Some quotes from Nana: “This use of language vanished long ago. Hawaiians today speak the missionary language, a literal type of Hawaiian. The riddle is gone. This is tragic, for when you lose the language, you lose your identity. When you land in Japan, Japanese is spoken. When you land in France, French is spoken. The Hawaiians have nothing, nothing but aloha, and even that they have to re-learn.”
Wisdom teacher Brugh Joy studied with Nana and reported that she was such an embodiment of the spirit of aloha that when she would stand before a crowd and merely speak that one word “aloha,” her spirit was so strong that many in the audience would spontaneously begin weeping with joy.
Before her passing in the mid 1990’s, she was designated a “Living Treasure” by the Hawaii State Legislature.
“A lot of people have asked, “What is metaphysics?” I like to say metaphysics is all about love. Love is an innate power you have within you that can change your life. Love is the nature of the inner self, your real self. In Christianity, all of the laws that we must abide by have been resolved into two commandments. There were ten, but thank goodness now we have only two, and they are beautiful.
“One says, ‘Thou shall love thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.’ The second is, ‘Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.’ Love actually is a fulfillment of the law, and that simplifies everything. If you love others, you do not want to kill them or lie to them. Love is the key, and love is the law. It is love that releases us from all bondage of any kind.”
Overlooking Kalalau Valley from Koke’e State Park, where Nana Veary held silent retreats