Recently on ‘Ōlelo I watched a program about the Tongan Kava ceremony and I was struck by how liturgical the ceremony was with its prescribed ways of performing the actions of the ceremony. The participants are expected to perform the actions the proper way no matter what they might think or feel. Anything less is considered grossly disrespectful. Real things were accomplished by these rituals and precise manner implying that they were being done with attentiveness and a respectful ascetic effort.
It is odd but as much as we all yearn for prayer many fail to pray. And why? Mostly because we simply don’t “feel like” doing it at a particular moment, as if how we “feel” about it had anything to do with what actually feeds our soul! To be human is to be an enfleshed spirit… part divinity, part corporeal. If you don’t pray then you are not fully human… in that prayer connects us to the Divine and fuels our own divinity. Prayer is the connection to the Divine as well as our conversation with the Divine. Our own mana is fueled by prayer, by fostering and maintaining that connection with the Divine.
Westerners often tend to shy away from anything that involves self-restraint. Asceticism is at the heart of both the practices of the Orthodox Christian Lenten seasons and the ritualistic actions of the Kava ceremony. But there is a positive way that one can view the asceticism of self-restraint. Asceticism is a school, a training ground, bringing one to knowledge of what is real… of what is real about me, within me, and around me. Asceticism is not about denigration or destitution but about training so that one grows in control over the self, so that one learns to stop imposing oneself upon reality. It is not our place is to impose our will upon the Divine but rather to wait upon it, to listen for it, to reply to it.
Sometimes one’s relationship with the Divine can effect a sudden and violent change but more often it involves the asceticism of faithfulness… faithfully being present despite one’s mood or contrary inclination. In short, asceticism breeds in one a respectful stance towards life, towards others, and towards the Divine. And what could be more divine… or more Hawaiian… than the cultivation of an attitude of respect towards all things?