Ho'oponopono is a Hawaiian word that is becoming quite well known all around the world. Unfortunately, all too often it is misinterpreted, misunderstood, and increasingly exploited. Recently, the French version of my book, Urban Shaman, which was called Chaman Aujourd'hui ("Today's Shaman"), received a new cover and title, Huna: a la Source d'Ho'oponopono (Huna: at the Source of Ho'oponopono"). This was a big surprise to me, since ho'oponopono isn't mentioned anywhere in the book. And a student even mentioned seeing "blue bottles of ho'oponopono" in a bookstore.
Let's go to the source.
The Hawaiian Dictionary, authored by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel Elbert, defines ho'oponopono as "to put to rights; to put in order or shape, correct, revise, adjust, amend, regulate, arrange, rectify, tidy up, make orderly or neat, administer, superintend, supervise, manage, edit, work carefully and neatly; to make ready, as canoemen preparing to catch a wave."
Language books on Hawaiian will often have a sentence like, E ho'oponopono i ka hale a me ka pa ("Tidy up the house and clean up the yard." This is the most common use of the word in Hawaiian.
In 1972 the Queen Liliuokalani Chldren's Center and the Liliuokalani Trust published a book by Mary Kawena Pukui called Nana I Ke Kumu ("Look To The Source"), intended to be "a source book of Hawaiian cultural practices, concepts and beliefs." On page 60 of that book Pukui introduces the concept of ho'oponopono.
In addition to the dictionary definitions, Pukui adds the meaning of "to restore and maintain good relationships among family, and family-and-supernatural powers." Also, "The specific family conference in which relationships were 'set right' through prayer, discussion, confession, repentance, and mutual restitution and forgiveness." She then goes on to give case studies and details of the practice. This form of it was from her own family tradition, but it became what might be called the "Classic" form of ho'oponopono for family and group reconciliation.
In 1976, according to the websites of Wikipedia and Amazing Women In History, Hawaiian healer Morrnah Simeona created a new system of ho'oponopono, influenced by her studies of Christianity, Eastern philosophies and the works of Edgar Cayce, but essentially based on her deep spirituality and broad knowledge of Hawaiian traditions. What made her system so different was that it was designed for individual practice without the need for a group.
The basic practice designed by Morrnah was simply to express forgiveness for something on behalf of someone else. She used to visit battlefields and forgive all the anger and pain and suffering that happened there, and she would walk down the street and connect with the people who had placed coins in parking meters and ask forgiveness on their behalf. As she herself said, "Clean, erase, erase and find your own Shangri-La. Where? Within yourself. The process is essentially about freedom, complete freedom from the past." Her work is being carried on by Dr. Hew Len, who has emphasized the extension of one's identity to include anything or anyone else who needs healing. He developed the formulistic phrase "I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you." By repetition of these phrases a person was supposed to connect his or her own light with the light of the Divine Source and, over time, dissolve disharmonious patterns in the subconscious. Today this is probably the most well-known version of ho'oponopono as a healing practice outside of Hawaii.
In the 1980s I began teaching ho'oponopono as a reconciliation technique the way I learned it from the Kahili family starting in the 1950s, and in the year 2000 I published the book Instant Healing in which I included a chapter describing that technique. To differentiate it from other forms of ho'oponopono I called it Kupono. It has both group and individual aspects. The group aspect resembles Pukui's version, but the individual aspect is for resolving individual problems.
No doubt there are other forms of ho'oponopono available now, but these are the ones I know best. The important thing to know is that the concept of ho'oponopono is based on ancient Hawaiian tradition. Also, the word does not mean "forgiveness." It means "to set things right" in a morally correct way, regardless of how you do it.