Last week, here on the island of Hawaii, we visited an interesting historical site called “The Place of Refuge.” The old Hawaiian culture was hierarchical, with the king at the top, the warriors and artisans beneath him, and then, at the lowest level, the vast majority—those who fished and worked the land. There were many laws concerning what was “kapu,” or forbidden, and someone breaking one of these rules could easily receive a death sentence. However, one could avoid certain death by fleeing to a temple at “The Place of Refuge,” where the offender would be absolved by a priest and freed to leave.
This may be a portrayal of ancient Hawaii, but it is really the story of mankind. Throughout recorded history, including modern times, we see variations of these same forces at play. The desire for power and status is one of the strongest of all the drives of ego. It is expressed by animals establishing a “pecking order,” as well as by playground bullies and greedy tyrants. Lurking behind many of today’s headlines you can see power struggles that are not very different from ancient times. The difference is that, in today’s world, there are few “Places of Refuge.”
Why? Because the outer world is always an expression of inner consciousness. In these restless times, if we have no place of refuge within, we will find none without. People often spend a fortune and a lifetime vainly looking for security in an unsafe world. Unfortunately, they rarely find it in the dream of maya, for as Shakespeare said, life is only a tale “filled with sound and fury signifying nothing.”
Can a place of refuge be found anywhere? Yes, but nowhere on the face of the earth. It is in your heart when it is filled with devotion, and in the light at your spiritual eye.
Here is the tricky part for most people: In the realm of consciousness, we are both the condemning king and the absolving priest. God does not condemn us, nor does the guru. They are pure love, pure friendship. We condemn ourselves by transgressing against the “kapu” areas of the law of karma.
In order to move on, we need to start by absolving ourselves of our ignorance. If you find it hard to accept yourself with all your kinks and blemishes, start by accepting and loving others. Begin with those closest to you: your family, friends, and coworkers. When you create a place of refuge for one person, you automatically create the same space for yourself. If you need more safety and security, then widen your circle of acceptance to everyone around you. If that still is not enough, if you still don’t feel an unshakable security, then create a place of refuge for everyone and everything. Judge no one, love everyone.
Then, perhaps for the first time ever, you’ll find an inner kingdom of peace in the midst of your own paradise island.