The Spirit of Aloha – Origin and Meaning

Word meanings change over time, the word Aloha did not have its current prominence in old Hawaii, the word was not used much by previous generations. Although it was a way of life in Hawaii at the time, it was practiced only by the ‘ali’i’ (chiefs) it was not extended to the maka’ainana (commoners) in ancient times. The customary practice was when life was ending for a family patriarch or the Kahuna of a school of knowledge; he would call for his successor to come so he could pass his wisdom on to him.

The declaration of the rights of man was proclaimed by King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III in 1839 and was given freely as an act of benevolence. The first sentence of this declaration states the following; (Translated from Hawaiian to English) ‘God hath made of one blood all races of people to dwell on this earth in unity and Blessedness’. What a beautiful and eloquent concept.

This was a King whose right to dictatorial authority was earned by the conquests of his father, but whose heart was infused by his Love of God and the compassion he had for his people.

Hawaiians of old could not read or write it was the missionaries who introduced them to a written language. It is the early western explorers to Hawaii who first used the term ‘Aloha’ to describe their admiration of Hawaiians as the ideal natives. It is said that it was tourists who started to use it as a slang word.

Those who study Hawaiian culture know that the word ‘Aloha’ derives from ‘Alo’ and ‘ha’ and refers to the face to face sharing of breath. Metaphorically ‘Aloha’ has a much deeper meaning. It refers to the mutual experiencing (Alo) of each other’s Spirit or Soul (Ha).

The root word is found throughout Polynesia to mean Love, Compassion, Sympathy or Kindness, Early recorded uses in Hawaii emphasized that ‘Aloha’ meant Love of ‘Kin’, however, Today it extends to all people.

Aloha seeks to be good for a person, with no conditions attached. A person who has the ‘Spirit of Aloha’ Loves, even if the Love is not returned and such is the Love of God. Hawaiians today believe Aloha to be the most important of all ancient Hawaiian values.

‘The Aloha Spirit’ is another name for God. It is the immanence of a transcendent cosmic Spirit, infinitely powerful, and present at the core of every person. It unifies us, and makes us fundamentally equal as beings of infinite value, and calls upon us to treat each other and our environment with reverence, respect, and compassion.

‘The Aloha Spirit’ is an actual law, Hawaii revised statutes, section 5-7.5 states ‘The Aloha Spirit is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the Self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others’.

Aloha means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return. Aloha is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence. Aloha means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.

One of the most beautiful compelling beliefs about the Hawaiian culture is that there is no such thing as a bad person. People are born good. There is only bad behavior. This is a belief every person can choose to have and you don’t have to be of Hawaiian blood or ancestry to believe in the goodness inherent in humanity.

‘The Aloha Spirit’ is the welcoming and nurturing of all people. Aloha is a very active, nonviolent path, the practice of unconditional Love, kindness, harmony, and the elevation of the senses. Aloha is caring, respect, compassion, enlightenment, and international, with an attitude of ‘What can I give’ rather than ‘What can I get’

Aloha is the bridge between the Spirit and the heart, and If you embrace this attitude and practice it in your everyday life, you will soon realize that ‘The Spirit of Aloha’ is you.

Bob Toledo
April, 2014