Hawaiian and American History

People sometimes discuss events relating to the annexation of Hawai`i by the United States without considering the historical context of those events in relation to American history – as if the United States existed long before the Kingdom of Hawai`i.

King Kamehameha I, the unifying monarch of the Hawaiian Islands, was a political contemporary of George Washington, the first president of the United States.  These great warriors became rulers one year apart.  George Washington was born in 1732 in Virginia. Kamehameha was born on the Island of Hawai`i — his birth date is reported by various sources in various years, around 1750.

On January 20, 1778, British Captain James Cook made land at Waimea on the Island of Kauai. The original thirteen American colonies were then fighting under Gen. Washington for independence from Great Britain (at that time Washington had made camp at Valley Forge.)

The population of the Archipelago of Hawai`i is estimated to have numbered as many as one million people in 1778.  In 1790, the population of the original 13 states was about 3.8 million people.

In 1787, the U.S. Constitution was adopted at a convention of the States.

Washington became the first President of the original thirteen colonies that comprised the United States in 1789.

Kamehameha became King of the Island of Hawai`i in 1790.

On December 14, 1799, at the age of 67, Washington died from an infection.

In 1810, Kamehameha became the first King to rule all the Hawaiian islands.  At that time the 17 United States consisted of the original 13 colony-states plus Vermont, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio.

During the first half of the 19th century, the United States expanded primarily in the Midwest and the South — Ohio (admitted in 1803), Indiana (1816), and Illinois (1818) were ceded to the United States by Great Britain, while Louisiana (1812), Mississippi (1817), and Alabama (1819) were obtained from France.

Kamehameha died in 1819 and Liholiho, Kamehameha II, became Mo`i (King.)

In 1820, the first American missionaries arrived in Hawai`i to spread Christianity.

In 1823, the Monroe Doctrine was expressed during President Monroe’s seventh annual message to Congress “… the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers. . . ”

In 1825, Kauikeaouli, Kamehameha III, became Mo`i and Ka`ahumanu became Kuhina Nui (Regent.)

From 1826 until 1893, the United States “recognized the independence of the Kingdom of Hawaii, extended full and complete diplomatic recognition to the Hawaiian Government, and entered into treaties and conventions with the Hawaiian monarchs to govern commerce and navigation.” (US Public Law 103-150.)

The mid-19th Century was a dynamic time in American history, due to the Civil War and its impacts, as well as a time of change in Hawai`i.

In two generations from the establishment of a written language, Hawai`i had the highest literacy rate of any country in the world.

In 1840 the first Constitution was enacted by Kauikeauoli, Kamehameha III.

In 1843 a British officer seized Hawai`i for Great Britain; 5 months later the Kingdom was restored.  In 1843 Great Britain and France also recognized Hawai`i’s independence.

In 1848, Kamehameha III proclaimed the Great Mahele, changing the concept of land  tenure in Hawai`i.

The 30th American State, Wisconsin, was admitted to the Union in 1848.

In 1854 Kauikeaouli died; he was succeeded by Alexander Liholiho, Kamehameha IV.

In 1861 the Constitution of the Confederate States was promulgated.

In 1863 Liholiho died and Lot Kapuaiwa, Kamehameha V, became Mo`i.

In 1864 a new Constitution was decreed by Kamehameha V.

On August 20, 1866, U.S. President Andrew Johnson declared the official end of the American Civil War.

The 37th American State, Nebraska, was admitted to the Union in 1867.

After the Civil War, America again turned its attention westward, annexing most of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states.

By the late 19th Century, American was establishing its post-Civil War presence in the world, ending the period of reconstruction of its previous domestic union.

In 1873-74 William Lunalilo was elected King; he then died and David Kalakaua was elected King.

Within one hundred years from the time of first contact with Western explorers in 1778, the population of Kanaka Maoli was reduced to less than 40,000.

King Kalakaua was forced to sign the “Bayonet Constitution” in 1887, sharply limiting his powers and diminishing Native Hawaiians’ voice in government.

The 39th American state, North Dakota, was admitted to the Union in 1889.

In 1891 King Kalakaua died in San Francisco and Lydia Kamaka`eha became Queen Lili`uokalani.

In 1893, U.S. annexationists overthrew Queen Lili`uokalani (a coup that U.S. President Grover Cleveland called “not merely wrong, but a disgrace.”)

The 45th American State, Utah, was admitted to the Union in 1896.

In 1898, the United States annexed Hawai’i.

Five states were admitted to the Union in the twentieth century: Oklahoma in, 1907; New Mexico and Arizona in 1912; and finally Alaska and Hawai`i in 1959.

In 1993, the United States officially apologized for the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai`i in U. S. Public Law 103-150 — describing  the circumstances and saying in conclusion that Congress “apologizes to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai`i on January 17, 1893 with the participation of agents and citizens of the United States, and the deprivation of the rights of Native Hawaiians to self-determination.”

Meditation

Meditation has three elements: (1) breathing, (2) posture and (3) contemplation.

Breathing is the most important part of meditation, just as it is in life.  Nothing is more immediately or consistently required.  From breath the body derives vital energy that permits conscious awareness, balance and movement.

Posture complements breathing.  Meditation postures are intended to facilitate breathing and the circulation of vital energy.

Contemplation is an awareness exercise intended to bring balance.  Contemplation methods include silent observation, chanting or any of the diverse approaches developed by various meditation schools.  Meditation can improve awareness and health.

Uninhibited awareness is a fleeting experience.  Unblemished perception is an uplifting moment that unfortunately will yield to distraction or lethargy.  Experience segments our thoughts into cubbyholes.  Waking or sleeping, we can be quickly drawn from refreshing lucidity into mundane details or restful repose.

A halo of light surrounds the world of the law.
We forget one another, quiet and pure, altogether powerful and empty.
The emptiness is irradiated by the light of the heart and of heaven.
The water of the sea is smooth and mirrors the moon in its surface.
The clouds disappear in blue space; the mountains shine clear.
Consciousness reverts to contemplation; the moon-disk rests alone.
Empty Infinity from Richard Wilhelm’s translation of The Secret of the Golden Flower, a Chinese Book of Life

Breathing

Breathing is the most important part of meditation (and life): from breathing we derive vital energy (known variously as chi [qi], prana, ki, etc.) that permits conscious awareness, balance and movement.

The image to the right, illustrating the internal path of breath energy during inhalation and exhalation, is from Richard Wilhelm’s translation of The Secret of the Golden Flower, with an included translation of The Hui Ming Ching (The Book of Consciousness and Life) a Taoist classic on the circulation of internal energy that says:

The most marvelous effect of the Tao is the circulation in conformity with the law. What makes the movement inexhaustible is the path. What best regulates the speed are the rhythms (kuei). What best determines the number of the exercises is the method of the intervals (hou). …

The holy science takes as a beginning knowing where to stop, and as an end stopping at the highest good.

The right side of the illustrated path depicts energy rising up the back during inhalation (inhalation and exhalation are compared with washing and bathing.) It is reasonable to associate the hou in this image with the chakras of yogic traditions. During inhalation, breath energy rises from the second chakra along the spinal column to the fourth chakra (distinguishable from some yogic traditions that describe energy [kundalini] passing through all of the chakras, from the base of the spine to the top of the head.)

The inhalation phase takes place in a rhythm of six counts, the first four counts involve the breath energy of inhalation rising from the second to the third chakra and in the final two counts energy reaches the fourth chakra.

The left side of the illustration depicts energy descending in front during exhalation, from the sixth chakra to the second chakra, also in a rhythm of six counts. During the first four counts, exhaling breath energy descends from the sixth to the fifth chakra and in the final two counts energy directly reaches the second chakra. This is consistent with the role of the xia dantian in Chinese traditions, a place where the cycle of internal energy circulation is completed.

The book describes rising energy of inhalation along the spine as the energy of control, and descending exhalation energy as the energy of function. In physiological terms, freely moving spinal energy can increase one’s mobility, balance and grace. Functional energy in the front path, the descending energy of exhalation, can be associated with digestion and related internal functions (e.g., heart rate) that may be represented neurologically by the vagus nerve.

There is no direct correlation between Western neurology and Eastern paths of internal energy (such as the meridians of acupuncture or yogic nadis.) However, the spinal cord and the vagus nerve are close enough as analogous approximations for at least part of the illustration above.

Shao Yong

The I Ching is a classic of Chinese philosophy consisting of 64 chapters, each dedicated to a gua.Korea flag

A gua is an image composed of yin and yang.  The flag of the Republic of Korea, shown to the right, is composed of a traditional circular yin/yang image surrounded by four gua of three yao (lines) each.

baguaLines (yao) that are solid represent yang while the broken lines are yin. The eight fundamental gua of three yao are known as ba gua (meaning ‘eight gua’), shown to the left.  The 64 I Ching gua each have six yao, as shown below right, consisting of one upper three yao image and one lower three yao image from the ba gua (64 possible combinations of yin and yang exist in a six yao gua.)

The essential I Ching text commonly used today is attributed to King Wen of the Zhou Dynasty. The text, referred to as the Zhou I, consists of a brief verse for each gua and yao.  The Zhou I text is usually published with additional commentary by sages such as Confucius. The most widely recognized of those commentaries are known as the Ten Wings.

Also attributed to King Wen is arrangement of the 64 gua of the I Ching in their most common presentation, referred to as the King Wen Sequence. Another sequence of the gua attributed by some scholars to Shao Yong, 1012-1077, is called Fu Xi’s arrangement.

Fu XiGottfried Leibniz (1646-1716, credited with refining the modern binary number system) was invited by a correspondent in China to examine Fu Xi’s arrangement.  He saw that upon substituting a zero for each yin line and a one for each yang line (starting from the top down), Fu Xi’s arrangement represented a binary numbering sequence.  The animated graphic to the right, created by I Ching scholar Steve Marshall, illustrates both the numerical sequence of the binary system and the sequence of the Fu Xi arrangement of the 64 gua.

Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita, meaning Song of the Lord (i.e., Lord Krishna), an epic poem of about 700 verses, is part of a larger epic poem known as the Mahabharata.  One of the most important texts in the literature and philosophy of India, the Gita arises within the story of an ancient feud over succession in the Kuru Kingdom.

Rival factions of royal cousins, the Pandavas and the Kauravas, are met on the Kurukshetra battle field.  Arjuna, a champion of the Pandavas, despairs at the prospect of killing his kinsmen and confesses that reluctance to his charioteer and teacher, Krishna.

The Gita recounts a philosophical dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna addressing some fundamental questions on the nature of the Soul (Atman) and how one may attain release from the cycle of birth and death.  Some quotations from the Bhagavad Gita:

   Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.

  As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.
(2:12-13)
   Neither he who thinks the living entity the slayer nor he who thinks it slain is in knowledge, for the self slays not nor is slain.
  For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.
  O Pārtha, how can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, eternal, unborn and immutable kill anyone or cause anyone to kill?
  As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.
(2:19-22)
O [Arjuna,] descendant of Bharata, he who dwells in the body can never be slain. Therefore you need not grieve for any living being.
(2: 30)

A first principle of Hinduism gleaned from the Gita: the true self or soul, the essence of an individual, is beyond identification with phenomena.

Yin and Yang

Yin and yang are a complementary duality found in nature (sky and earth, dark and light) depicted by the familiar symbol to the right.  The symbol has parts.  The first part is the circle, and within the circle a dividing line produces the yin and yang parts. 

The circle is known as wu chi, representing awareness complemented with a sense of emptiness, a condition that does not involve mental fragments.  However, the active mind is satisfied by dividing wu chi for the purpose of describing separate perceptions.  The first division of wu chi produces yin and yang, representing universal complementary duality.

From that starting point, ancient sages defined characteristics of yin and yang in relation to the ten thousand things (that is, in relation to the multitude of separated parts that can be found to occupy the undivided wholeness, or emptiness, of wu chi.)

Details and descriptions of quintessential parts are found in the I Ching, a classic text describing 64 gua, or images, containing six yao, or lines, representing yin as a broken line or yang as a solid line.

These 64 gua contain all possible permutations of yin and yang in a six yao structure and are themselves built from paired combinations of the three yao structures shown in the ba gua image to the right.

The I Ching’s detailed yet subtle analysis of yin and yang as found in natural conditions became a foundation for Chinese traditional arts and practices including medicine, ceramics, martial arts, cuisine, and many skills and crafts originally developed in earlier times. Plenty of material describes yin and yang in those contexts (it has been said that more than three thousand ancient Chinese scholarly works were based on study of the I Ching.)  As may be expected, this extensive material is not always consistent, various schools having developed differing views of how best to see and put into practice essential parts of their evolving nature.  Despite divergences of view and practice, the underlying concept of a cosmic complementary duality is the foundation of successful Chinese arts and practices that continue into modern times.

The progression of symbols from wu chi (the empty circle) to the 64 gua of the I Ching illustrates an ancient integrated science built upon a foundation of cosmic duality.

At its origin “consciousness reverts to contemplation [and] the moon-disk rests alone.” Then, rationally elaborating through the descriptive and analytical vehicle of yin and yang, the verses of the I Ching describe quintessential times and conditions one may experience (archetypes of life and human nature) and built upon that foundation are numerous competent and successful arts of traditional Chinese culture.

I Ching

The I Ching is a classic book of Chinese philosophy. The book’s 64 poetic chapters describe archetypal images containing various mixtures of yin and yang.

Six lines (yao) representing either yin (a broken line) or yang (a solid line) create a unique graphic image (gua) for each chapter.   For example, to the left is the gua of the eleventh chapter, known as Tai (or peace).

All possible combinations of the two elements of yin and yang in six lines (or 2 raised to the 6th power) are encompassed in the I Ching’s 64 chapters.

Each chapter describes a typical condition in human experience (such as father, mother, mountain, thunder, peace) with a poetic verse pertaining to the gua as well as a complementary verse for each of the six yao.

The simple foundation verses, traditionally attributed to King Wen of the Zhou Dynasty, are known as the Zhou I. Related commentaries ascribed by tradition to Confucius are known as the Ten Wings.  Most modern Western translations of the I Ching include the Zhou I, some or all of the Ten Wings and often some of the author’s ideas and interpretations.

Usual I Ching practice involves ceremonial random selection of gua for purposes such as contemplation and divination. A timely connection between randomly chosen gua and the practitioner’s situation is commonly part of the expected result.