3 Part Series on the ancient Hawaiian philosophy of life and how their beliefs then can help us now.

Part 1: Hawaiian Philosophy of Life: The 7 Principles of Huna (this page)
Part 2: Hawaiian Philosophy of Self
Part 3: Hawaiian Levels of Reality

Kualoha Valley, Oahu, Hawaii

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My favorite part of the world is Hawaii. Any island. The scenery is incomparable. The power of the elements, the water, the wind, the earth, all combine to form this awe-inspiring surreal experience that makes me feel so insignificant in the big scheme of things. The people have a spirit that is so free and loving and contagious that one can’t help feel at home here.

I can only imagine what it must have been like to experience this great place so many years ago before millions of tourists per year started visiting. I wish I could have seen Hawaii in the early 1900’s when the likes of Jack London was visiting and writing his, “Tales of Hawaii” stories. The culture, the people, the pure base experience of being in Hawaii during that time is beyond my imagination. I can read (and have) Mr. London’s stories over and over and over… each time soaking in the magical words and producing incredible visuals in my head of the characters and settings.

I lived in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu for 4 years while stationed in the U.S. Air Force at Hickam Air Force Base from 1985-1988. Then again on Oahu and Maui in 2002 and 2003. I’ve since returned as I can’t come up with any other place I’d rather spend the rest of my life. It is a truly magical place. Though many of the old traditions have been eroded through time one can still get in touch with those traditions through reading about the history of the islands as well as visiting many historical places located throughout “our” 50th state.

This is the first of a 3-part series focusing on the wisdom of Hawaiian people of long ago. These secret ancient beliefs, Huna, are still of great value and importance for our lives now, and though you may have heard of some of the ideas presented here, you’ve likely not heard them presented quite like this. Some of the ideas are new concepts to us even today. Never before under another name have we seen these concepts grouped together as a life philosophy or guide to knowledge about the world that we live in.

This first part in the Hawaiian philosophy of life series is about the seven principles of “Huna”…

Huna is said to have been developed tens of thousands of years ago by ancestors of present-day Hawaiians in Polynesia. Hawaiian beliefs, religion, or philosophy are linked strongly with their observation of nature, human beings, and flora and fauna around them. Through these observations they sought to make sense of themselves and the world around them and eventually developed some basic “truths” that explained life. These ideas, or this life philosophy one might call it, they named, “Huna”.

The word “Huna” means literally, “secret” and also it refers to the esoteric wisdom of Polynesia. But, like many Hawaiian words, Huna means more than just secret…it can mean “inner knowing” or “hidden knowledge”… it is sort of like the reason behind why all things are as they are. It is the ultimate knowledge about life and this world.

The Seven Hawaiian Huna
Principles of Life:


IKE (ee-kay).
What we believe is what is real for us. Our ideas create our reality. The world is exactly what you think it is. Nothing more, nothing less. Another way of saying it is that our experience of reality is coming from the inside… from our experiences, our memories, our thoughts, beliefs, ideas, our desires and ambitions. Everything that we experience is phenomenological – which means, specific to ourselves. IKE means that our reality that we experience here during life is flavored by all that we’ve experienced in the past and how the past has molded our minds and personalities to be the way that we are.

No limits exist. That which we see as limiting, that which we fear we cannot overcome or surpass… exists in our minds only. If we want to accomplish something we can accomplish it, but we must conquer the mind before the milestone. The limits of the mind are created by the past environment the individual experienced while growing up as a child and adult. All experience contributes to the state of the mind and personality, and it is through this mind that things are experienced and feared. The limits that we see are limits imposed on us by our own minds and are not factual limits imposed by the universe, or something outside of ourselves.

We can only create goals and make decisions related to goals by ignoring the limits that we set for ourselves. If we don’t change what we think are limits – then we never fully enjoy life outside the confines of what our own minds limit us to. If we don’t surpass the limits we live a generic life that could not compare to a life without limits.

Energy flows where attention goes. Wherever there is a flow of energy and attention, events are created. This is a fundamental principle of creating results. Attention + Energy + Ideas + Action = Results. Wherever your attention is, there is your life. If you focus on your business with the majority of your time then your business is the area of life where you will create the most events and results, both positive and negative. If your focus is primarily on your family life, then that is where energy flows and events are born.

Where does our attention naturally focus? For some, it is the result of their past and all that combined to create who they are. But, you know what? You can choose anytime to change your focus! I can change my focus today from being a blogger that talks about positive personal development issues to being an advocate for the homeless and never touch another computer in my life. It is entirely possible. Our attention, when left alone – will naturally gravitate towards that which has influenced our minds as “important” to pay attention to. For some this is a good thing because they naturally gravitate toward areas that will bring them incredible success and fulfillment in their lives. For others, they might gravitate toward alcohol or drugs and the short-lived pleasure they provide. Others might naturally put their attention on themselves and be withdrawn, anti-social, and selfish. Others might want to help the world live better. Every one of us has a different area our attention goes naturally. It is by choosing to focus our attention on what we WANT that we will break the natural flow of that process and snap us into a new focus for our attention.

Now is the moment of power. The past and future hold no real power because there is nothing we can do with either one of them. Think about it, what can we do with the past right now? Nothing. What can we do with the future right now? Nothing. There is no cause and effect action we can take right now to change the past or future directly. Impossible. So, what can we do?

Act now. All the power for changing your life exists only in the immediate present. There is no other time. It’s an abstract concept, and yet it shouldn’t be. The reason it seems foreign to us is that we are living in the past or the future for most of our lives. I’d say 99% of our lives is spent living in the past or future. Do you agree with that or no? Here’s why I think that. When you are eating your food at any meal… where is your attention? Where are your thoughts? You might guess that they are on your food, you’d be wrong in most cases. When we eat – our minds are on the future or past. When we talk on the phone to someone, our minds are in the future or the past. We are rarely really present with the person and listening and HEARING as they speak. Our thought runs off into the future as we formulate the next few sentences the speaker has inspired. We don’t listen and we don’t DO in the present.

Try this simple exercise. Try to keep your attention in the present for just one minute. Can you do that? No thoughts about the future, just experience what you are doing right now – for one minute.

That is what the present looks like. We are so rarely there! Can you see that the present is where we can perform action that matters for the future… and maybe erases the past? It actually becomes the past once we’ve done it – so we can positively affect the past and future by acting in the present – but not affect anything by being focused on the past or present.

Aloha means many things, but in one word perhaps it’s best described as “love”. Love is happiness. Aloha is a caring for others as well as or as much as for your own self. It’s an unselfish love, “agape love” it’s called by some. But in the spirit of Hawaii Aloha means so many things. It is like an underlying tone for living life. In Thailand where I spent some years they have an underlying tone of “mai pen rai” (may ba ly) which means, no matter. The Australians say, “no worries”. The Hawaiians use the idea of Aloha to define their society, their relationship with each other and their philosophy of life. It is with “aloha spirit” that all things are done. Not meant to harm and not meant to cause unhappiness to others.

Aloha has so many meanings, Hawaiian historian Serge Kahili King says…

The Aloha Spirit is a well known reference to the attitude of friendly

acceptance for which the Hawaiian Islands are so famous. However, it

also refers to a powerful way to resolve any problem, accomplish any

goal, and to achieve any state of mind or body that you desire.

In the Hawaiian language, aloha stands for much more than just

“hello” or “goodbye” or “love.” Its deeper meaning is “the joyful (oha)

sharing (alo) of life energy (ha) in the present (alo).”

Mana is power or energy. All power comes from within. Hawaiian belief is that Mana is the name for the one source of all the power that exists in the universe. This power is universal and flows through not only us, but through animals and plants, the foundation of the earth, the skies and planets, and everything that we know exists. It’s a life energy so to speak. This Mana flows through us and gives us the power to do what we believe we can do. The power to do anything that we decide to do and that we take action towards.

Vipassana meditation can bring an individual to the point of knowing this universal energy. After a couple months of practice I experienced some phenomena that were extraordinary and impossible to describe with words. The essence of the experience, and it recurred many times, is that I felt the connection between all things. I felt the energy and had a knowledge of this energy that was flowing through all things – or perhaps comprised all things. I wonder if there was some meditation type experience that the Hawaiians practiced. I must research that a bit.

KauaiDay6-58 by Lara Farhadi is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original.

Effectiveness is the measure of truth. A method, a plan, certain actions, when put in motion may work. If they work, that is all you need to be concerned with. There are many ways to do most things. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself into thinking that you can only accomplish something in one way or that there is only one truth. For instance, how many ways are there that someone could find happiness? A million? How many ways could someone cook a fish? Create a pyramid? Make money to buy a car? Because you see someone accomplish something using one method, do not believe that there is just that one method. There are likely many more ways to go about it. There are always alternatives to what you’re doing is the crux of “Pono”.

These 7 principles of life, these Huna, are so appropriate for living our lives even today, don’t you think? It’s a philosophy of life that is positive and helps us believe that there are no limits to what might be accomplished. Personally I love the ideas presented here and though I’ve heard some of them before it’s particularly fun to know that people over 30,000 years came up with these same ideas. It makes me think that the ideas have even more truth to them because we still believe them now.

I’d encourage you to research more into the ancient writings of Hawaiian culture. There are some fascinating topics. Did you know that the Hawaiian people of the past practiced human sacrifice? Yes, it’s true… Look up “Heiau” on the internet. These were sacred areas where Hawaiians gathered for prayers to the gods and where sometimes human sacrifices took place. I’ve seen Heiau’s on Oahu and Maui and they are quite eery places if one remembers some of what was said to have gone on there.


Peter Kay

In the next 2 parts of this series we will cover:

Part 2: Hawaiian Philosophy of Self
Part 3: Hawaiian Levels of Reality

Did You Ever Consider Moving to Hawaii to Live?