The Deeper Meaning of Aloha
by Curby Rule
For those who follow the path of Huna, or are fortunate enough to live in
Hawai'i, it is common for us to use the word Aloha. We use it in greetings and
farewells and in expressing love. But the word means even more, it is a way of
Besides these common meanings, the word Aloha holds within itself all one needs
to know to interact rightfully in the natural world. These insights describe an
attitude or way of life sometimes called "The Aloha Spirit" or "The Way of
The spirit of Aloha was an important lesson taught to the children of the past
because it was about the world of which they were a part. One early teaching
goes like this:
Aloha is being a part of all, and all being a part of me. When there is pain -
it is my pain. When there is joy - it is also mine. I respect all that is as
part of the Creator and part of me. I will not willfully harm anyone or
anything. When food is needed I will take only my need and explain why it is
being taken. The earth, the sky, the sea are mine to care for, to cherish and
to protect. This is Hawaiian - this is Aloha!
As the child grew, the need for a fundamental code of ethics was taught. This
code is found within a deeper layer of the meaning of the word Aloha. The code
is derived from one of the acronymic meanings of Aloha.
A, ala, watchful, alertness
L, lokahi, working with unity
O, oia'i'o, truthful honesty
H, ha'aha'a, humility
A, ahonui, patient perseverance
The kahuna David Bray interprets this code as "Come forward, be in unity and
harmony with your real self, God, and mankind. Be honest, truthful, patient,
kind to all life forms, and humble." He also stated that to the Hawaiian of
old, Aloha meant "God in us."
So far, within Aloha, we have found an explanation of our place in the world
and a code of ethics to help us with our interactions in the world. The only
thing we are missing is our "prime directive" while we are here, and that too
can be found within the root words that make up Aloha.
alo, 1. sharing 2. in the present
oha, joyous affection, joy
ha, life energy, life, breath
Using Hawaiian language grammatical rules, we will translate this literally as
"The joyful sharing of life energy in the present" or simply "Joyfully sharing
But another layer of meaning can be found by factoring in the meanings of the
roots words in aloha. "A" means "to burn" (figuratively, to sparkle) and it
is also the name of mold found in souring foods. "Lo" is short for lo'o and
loa'a which mean "to obtain or procure". Together these indicate a
transformation of energy (burning, sparkling, souring food), a product of an
energy transformation (the mold), and an effort to get or obtain something. To
me this sounds exactly like consciously manifesting or creating. This brings
us to another translation of Aloha. "To consciously manifest life joyously in
the present." This is our prime directive.
Another translation of Aloha gives us the a prime method of acquiring the Mana
or spiritual influence, to use in manifesting. Breathing in the present moment.
Awareness of your breath and correct normal breathing increases Mana and
concentrated breathing increases mana even more.
I have always had a Big Cosmic Question about our existence, which is much
easier to contemplate when broken down into smaller parts. The parts are Who,
What, When, Where, and Why. Aloha has answered three of these, so far. Who, of
course is you and I. What, is the conscious creation of your Reality. When, is
Now, the Present Moment, that place between past and future, which is the only
place Reality exists. The answer to Where, is Nature. The answer to Why, is
because we are here to cherish, protect and take care of this being we live
upon, the Earth.
I will explain.
The Hawaiians have no word for "nature" as in the sense of "being outside in
nature", but they do have a word for "world" or "Earth". The word is honua and
it also means "background" or "foundation". The ancient Hawaiians did not view
nature as being something separate from themselves because nature was their
reality. So, Where is in Nature, the foundation of our physical world.
To find the answer to Why, we must look deeper.
If we look at the root words in honua we find the word ho'o-nu a. Some of the
meanings of this word are: 1. to give generously and continuously; 2. to
indulge as a child; and 3. surging, rising in swells, as the sea. So, a deeper
meaning of honua is that the foundation of our physical reality, Nature, is
continuously and generously giving to satisfy our needs and fulfill our wishes.
But here is also a meaning of give and take. Just as the rising swells of the
sea recede to gain renewed energy, Nature must also "recede" to renew Itself
and give strength to the foundation of our reality. So, just as Nature gives of
itself to us, we must give of ourselves back to Nature.
This truth can be found in one the tellings of the creation story about Papa
and Wakea, the prime Earth Mother and Sky Father.
"From the first union of Papa and Wakea, comes a male child who is born
prematurely. The child is dead at birth and is buried. From his body grows a
shoot that Wakea names Haloa. This shoot becomes the first taro plant. The next
male child to be born is also named Haloa in honor of his dead sibling and he
becomes the prime ancestor of mankind".
Let me explain the meanings behind this story.
Haloa means "long, waving stem". This first taro plant represents a staple of
the Polynesian diet, but also all plants that grow on this earth. Haloa, also
means "long breath" and on an esoteric level, "everlasting cycle." The life and
death cycle of plants sustain all creatures, including us. Plants are a source
of food and medicine, and they produce the oxygen we breathe. The first human
is named Haloa in honor of these plants and to remind us to honor and tend the
"everlasting cycle." The gift of life passes from a human to the plants and
then back to humanity.
This story tells us that the quality of our existence is ultimately tied to
Nature. Nature's continuous transformative cycles of water, air and growth are
necessary for existence. Nature is an embodiment of the meaning of Aloha, and
vice versa. It is no coincidence that Aloha and Haloa are re-spellings of each
other. It is in Nature that we can discover the wonder of our existence here on
Earth. Where else but in Nature is the spirit of Aloha easier to experience?
Its beauty is awe-inspiring and energizing and draws you into the present
moment, not unlike the feelings brought on by love and joy.
Nature is also where we can gain the wisdom to make responsible choices if we
approach with Aloha in our heart. With an attitude of Aloha we can gain from
the wisdom of the wind and the wisdom of the water and the wisdom of the soil
and the wisdom of the trees and learn from the truths and revelations presented
by the non-human community.
So, we've seen that Aloha is indeed a way of life, an attitude and it even
contains guidelines to help us in our lives. It is most definitely a "word to
In closing, I'd like to bring to mind another old saying, "a picture is worth a
thousand words" and point out that Aloha is a perfect example that in the
Hawaiian language sometimes the opposite of this saying is true as well. So,
the next time you greet a friend with "Aloha," hold its meanings close to your
heart and think of the picture you're painting. It is indeed a beautiful
Copyright Huna International 1999