Kahuna: Keeper of the Secret

By S. D. Smith
Peace is in the sky
Peace is on earth
Peace is in the waters
Peace is among the plants and trees
of the forest
The gods are peaceful.
Peace is in the nature of Reality.
All is peace.
Peace alone is peace.
May that peace, real peace, be with us all.
Peace, peace, peace be unto us and unto all the
beings of the Universe.

Aloha. When a Kahuna prays this prayer, he prays from his High Self — Aumakua, his divine and godly Self — that Self which he is able to enter and leave at will: a practice for which he has been purified and prepared since birth.

Huna is the predominant pre-Christian spiritual tradition of the people of the Polynesian Islands. Huna, literally, means "a secret," "a profound message," or "that which is hidden." It is sometimes referred to as the Hidden Reality or Hidden Knowledge.

The Polynesian Islands comprise the Hawaiian Islands, Phoenix Island, Samoa, Tonga Island, Cook Island, Society Island, Tahiti, Tubuai Island, Marquesa, Pitcairn Island, and Easter Island. The Huna tradition is also practiced by the Maoris of New Zealand. (Maori means "the true people" of the land. The Maori spiritual leader is called Tohunga.) In Hawaii and Tahiti, the spiritual leader is called Kahuna and Tahuna, respectively.

Huna is neither a religion nor a philosophy. It is a practical way of life based on intuitive knowledge and inner guidance where everything about oneself, about others, and about matters outside of oneself, is placed under constant study and observation for the purpose of mastery in all aspects of life. Huna is, therefore, a tool used to live life more effectively.

The Kahunas are the keepers of Huna: keepers of "the secret." They are the transmitters of the teaching, maintainers of the spiritual tradition and its practices in law, science, the arts, medicinal and spiritual healing, architecture, education, engineering, meteorology, and agriculture. They are persons of high moral fiber and of real abilities. They usually come from the ruling class (ali'i): select children of royal families who are chosen for high intelligence and exceptional spiritual skills which have been observed and validated since childhood. Most importantly, they would have shown sustained interest in matters of the spirit and a willingness continuously to learn more. On rare occasions, the "secret" has been given to a child of the common people of the islands who has exhibited exceptional abilities and self-discipline. The Kahuna may be male or female.

The highest Kahuna (puhi-okaoka) is one who has perfected and mastered himself or herself in all branches of knowledge and understanding. Kahunas of younger ranks are said to be those who are predominantly either intuitional, or intellectual, or emotional. Depending on their area of mastery, the younger Kahunas have been said to belong to an unchartered "Order."

According to Serge King, author of Kahuna Healing (pp. 33-4), the Orders are:

1. The Order of kane. This group of Kahunas are intuition-centered. Their approach to life is predominantly intuitive. They emphasize understanding and integration of spirit, mind, and body, and have mastery over life. Their teaching lays stress on the power of thought and its attendant imaginative and creative resources. They work with "alternative states of consciousness."

2. The Order of Lono. This group of Kahunas are intellectually-centered. They emphasize medicinal healing, astronomy and astrology, navigation, meteorology, and other "life sciences." In the healing arts, this group emphasizes "the use of herbs and drugs, diet and natural resources of healing energy such as sunlight, sea salt, crystals and . . . geomancy (a form of divination using supposed energy currents in the earth). They see the environment as something to be manipulated by understanding the mechanics of its operation . . ." (Ibid., p. 33).

3. The Order of Ku. This group of Kahunas emphasize the sensual and emotional aspects of life. Highly ritualistic and passionate, these Kahunas are predisposed to being open about their skills in healing which involve physical exercises, massage therapy, psychic healing, and psychotherapy. Their form of psychotherapy emphasizes overt expression of repressed feelings and traumas.

Unlike the Kahunas of the above Orders, the high-ranking Kahunas have no temples or shrines, no overt exposure, no written laws of teachings, and no large following. They have mastery over the intuition, intellect, and emotions, and are balanced in all three; able to utilize whichever of the three qualities is appropriate for the need of the moment. These Kahunas go within, into the very depth and silence of their High Self in their quest for mastery of their own nature, for harmony with nature, and service to others. The high-ranking Kahunas have survived censure from the Christian world.

Pre-Christian Polynesians were spiritually-minded. The Kahunas believe they are of the islands since the beginning of the human race. There is a belief in a Heavenly Father (Teave), whose Breath or Essence (Mana) permeates all space and supports all life. It is similar to the Buddhist's "All is Tathagata." Mana is the vital energy and the vital force of all that is, all that was, and all that will be. It is sacred and an accepted and practiced part of every living being. Teave's Breath brought forth creation out of chaos — Teave who is both male and female, mother-father of creation. (Te'a means "deepest root," "founder" or "that which is permanent"; ve means "one who is just and sees all.")

There are as many versions of the story of creation as there are islands. They all center around a hierarchy of divine beings who created, maintain, and preserve heaven and earth. Then, there is the Kahuna's version which is kept sacred as the story itself holds the tool for the mastery of the forces of light and darkness. In the wrong hands, this sacred knowledge can be used as a powerful tool of destruction and disservice. In a nutshell, among the Kahuna's major teachings are: harm no one and no thing with hate; think and say exactly what you mean; use positive speech; and take full responsibility for your life. These are simple teachings, simple rules.

A Kahuna speaks: "over the centuries, . . . we have abdicated our personal responsibilities for our thoughts and actions to power-hungry people who have piled mountains of 'don't do(s)' and 'thou shalt not(s)' on top of what were originally a few simple sentences. That is what has made these more complicated complexes possible. But they can still be removed, using the special Kahuna technique of going into the Silence where the subconscious can be dealt with directly without interference" [Dr. Allan P. Lewis, Clearing Your Lifepath Through Kahuna Wisdom, New and Revised Edition, 1983, p.45].

The Kahunas survived the spiritual massacre by early Christian missionaries. While Christianity is the predominant religion of the present generations, the seeds of Hunaism continue to germinate and grow within the very essence of the people. The constant and prevailing message inherent in the hearts of all the islanders is that divinity is in each one — man and woman — from birth, and that the shrine is in each person's heart. The Kahunas hold that the tradition is a science of creation, preservation, and dissolution of life; and, most importantly, a science of rebirthing into one other next life — a chance to make perfect what was left unperfected in the life before.

The tradition maintains a triunal view of life: a higher or divine self; a middle or unfolding self; and a lower or initiatory self. The lower self is not subordinate to the middle self; nor is the middle self subordinate to the higher self. All are conditions that are each equally necessary for efficient living. No value judgment is attached to the differentiation as they are considered guideposts for self-observation. In the higher self (Aumakua) there exists no duality: all is one, all is peace, all is love. When in this self, the Kahuna is master over life, light, darkness, nature, death, and immortality.

The Kahunas do not believe they can transfer this condition of the higher self to another through outright transmission. They can only teach the techniques and skills which they know have worked for them so that the student may personally experience the transformation and unfolding of his or her divine nature. Once this mission is accomplished, the Kahuna lets go the studentship of the protege and protegee, and each begins the new relationship of being a friend and lifetime protector to the other.

The divine self of the Kahunas is not God; it is the divinity within each one. The interplay of actions and reactions between the three selves is similar to the interplay of the three aspects of the Supreme Being which are designed to create, preserve, and dissolve. When a Kahuna enters his High Self to pray, prayer is directed toward his self. The Kahuna knows the Supreme Being to be perfect and not needful of praises, petitions, or thanksgiving. The Kahuna also believes that the Supreme Being has given each one the tools needed to gain all the knowledge, skills, and power available in the universe.

There is also a belief that man need not ask for forgiveness from the Supreme Being as no mortal can do the Supreme Being any harm. One does harm only to one's self, to others, to nature, and to the elements. Forgiveness may be obtained only from that person, nature, or element to whom or to which the harm was committed.

In Huna: A Beginner's Guide, "There is only one sin in the Huna concept. That is the sin of hurting another self. The Huna way of life is a harmless, hurtless way. Working with one's sin, awareness is focused on the acts and omission of acts that result in hurt to another human being. There are Huna techniques to make amends or gain forgiveness for each and every sin committed, so humans can live free of guilt" (pp. 15-16).

The Huna tradition is detailed, systematic, rational, direct, and simple. While many have speculated that the power of the Kahuna teaching lies in the words used in the tradition, the truth is that the essence of the teaching and the way it is lived have essentially to do with sound and with the Huna alphabet. This is a science, a divine science.

(From Sunrise magazine, February/March 1987; copyright © 1987 Theosophical University Press)


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