Introduction John Zak Biography Images by John C. Zak Contact Us Links Of Interest PULE WAILELE DOCUMENTARY FILM FRACTAL UNIVERSE POETRY AND MUSINGS Guest Book FLEETING IMAGES jzaksoulcards jzaksoulcards 2 Blog


PULE WAILELE, "HAWAIIAN WATERFALL PRAYER" is a documentary film about Hawaii's beautiful rainforests, waterfalls and natural settings, as well as an exploration of the lives of Hawaiians who are reconnecting to their culture through reconnection to the land. The film will be available on DVD through Booklines Hawaii (www.booklineshawaii.com) See "Links of Interest" page. The film is also available through amazon.com. We are planning on releasing the film in HD 1080i in the near future, but for now we are releasing in NTSC Widescreen.

For me as a filmmaker, each of these projects takes me into deeper connection with the people and the land of Hawaii. The actual process of recording the interviews is a spiritual experience. I will never forget the days I spent with Lawrence Aki and his uncle, Pilipo Solatorio in Halawa Valley, on Molokai. It was as if all time had come to a standstiil and the only things that existed were the mountains, the taro patches, and the breeze. To imagine that this Hawaii still lives on is touching to me.

How can I forget the day spent with Allen Alapa'i and his wife, Antoinette. We met in Lihue and had delicious beef stew at a local hang out..then they took us to the ocean where we prayed and cleansed ourselves before the filming. After that, we were taken to a place that can only be described as a modern-day Garden of Eden. As we sat before a gorgeous waterfall, Alllen shared his gentle mana'o, and he and Antionette played songs that they had written about ho'oponopono.

The next day we met Kawika Winter, Director of Limahuli Garden, who gave generously of his time and mana'o, talking story and taking us on a tour of the Garden. I can never forget the feeling of exhaustion and excitement as I lugged my heavy camera and tripod up the hills, while Brenda Ignacio struggled with the camera bag and sound gear....but I couldn't think of stopping for even a moment as Kawika shared stories of the ahupua'a of Ha'ena. I thought to myself, "What a blessing that there are young people who are keeping the culture alive and bringing it forward, whlle honoring and respecting the kupuna.

And who can ever forget Papa "K" Kepilino, in Hilo? Years ago he told the story of his animal visitors in the forest, and Brenda and I talked many times about the fact that it should be recorded. Through the kindness of Papa K, his wife, Rebecca, and his alaka'i, Mona, and with Brenda's invaluable assistance, we got to talk story one rainy day, and that story was but one of many he shared with us. Papa K is one of those amazing individuals who makes you feel better just by being around him. He has had some health issues over the years, and we visited him in the hospital a number of times...but the funny thing is that we went to cheer him up and he ended up cheering US up....that is the sign of a true healer. His passing left a hole in our hearts.

I have finally begun to articulate for myself the essence of what draws me here to these people, these traditions, and these ways. Hawaiians of the past, and those who are experiencing their own awakenings today, have a genuinely different way of being in the world and the universe, unlike so many of the societies that call themselves "civilized." My kumu have shared with me the truth that in times past it was not necessary to use much spoken language to communicate with other beings, be they human, spirit, animal, or natural elements. Knowledge was and is locked into everything in creation if we know how to read the ho'ailona (signs). That is not just a romantic outlook, it is a practical and everyday thing. Even today some of my kumu say "Pa'a ka waha." I now understand that it isn't just an admonition to shut a student up, but rather it is a caution that, when you are talking, you are not listening...the information is available, but you must attune yourself to it.

"What does all this have to do with the price of eggs?," you might ask. The truth is that so many of our "civilized" approaches to living are simply not working. We need to find another model. Hawaiians and other indigenous peoples have something to offer those who will listen: First, we humans are not the Masters of the Universe, free to pillage the land, the animals, and the water at our own whim. Second, our technological development can produce great comforts and mechanical marvels, but what good are they when we have not yet learned to respect our planet, our fellow residents, and ourselves? Humility is a cornerstone of Hawaiian sensibility. How often do you see a humble politlcal figure in our world? Rarely. Witness the arrogance and the sabre rattling on the part of some leaders, followed by surprised and indignant reactions from those same political leaders when they brand an entire nation of people as evil, enemies, and then they watch with incredulous disdain as these nations build up their defenses against invasion and attack. I refer to these current events to illuminate the truth that, without Aloha, Lokahi (balance) and humility, the cycle of judgment, separatism, hubris, and self-righteous anger will perpetuate itself.

Some have said that it is "natural and just" that indigenous cultures die out in order to make way for superior civilizations. I disagree wholeheartedly with that elitist assessment. To automatically equate technological advancement with spiritual and cultural superiority is, in my view, a gross error in reasoning, and I urge those who hold those misguided beliefs to rethink their position. Even on the purely practical side, many indigenous cultures, including Hawaiians, have an extensive understanding of their environment and natural plant medicines. Wholesale destruction of natural resources and the demise of traditional life ways doom all of us to suffer the consequences of destroying priceless knowledge gleaned from thousands of years of human interaction with nature and her countless gifts. 

Mars may be terra-formed in two or three thousand years if our society lasts long enough to create that opportunity. But in the real, present world where we live, the land under your feet is the only land you have, and the water you drink is the only water you will find. Listen to the kupuna (elders and ancestors), walk lightly on the land, and speak gently to your fellow voyagers on Spaceship Earth.

What will Hawaiians and other indigenous healers and practitioners share with us when we are ready to listen and act? They will give us the insight to realize that we, along with animals, plants, and the natural elements, are all neighbors and residents of this Ocean Planet, with shared rights and limitless contributions to offer toward the betterment of life for all. It means starting in the quietest places of our own soul to make a vow to live a life that embraces "pono," righteousness, goodness, consistency, and integrity. It means realizing, also, that "aloha" is not just a cute word to yell out at the top of your lungs at a tourist lu'au, but rather it is a sacred greeting, an invocation that can manifest harmonious change in the speaker and the listener, and in the physical and spiritual realms, as well.

 Aloha is a huge part of this Hawaiian way of being. Many meanings are secreted within those sounds. “Aloha:” “In the presence of "Ha," the divine breath of life."  That’s why it feels so wonderful to say it out loud! Hawaiians of the past knew the great truth that there is no separation between each of us and the rest of creation. With effort and correct, focused intention, so too, can we.







‘AINA: the land

HO’OPONOPONO: To put to rights, to put in order or in shape, to correct, to arrange, to rectify. In Hawaiian practices, Ho’oponopono is a very important component of life. When an issue arises between people that cannot be resolved through simple give and take discussion, ho’oponopono is sometimes requested as long as both parties agree to participate and to respect the outcome. This process is facilitated by a Kahu, who is usually an elder or a respected member of the community who has had training in this area. All concerned will meet and air their grievances. The layers of the “onion” are pulled back, bit by bit, to get to the core of the issue. This may take several days to accomplish. Once resolution is reached, all parties give and receive forgiveness and the issue is put to rest once and for all. Then there is a feast. If someone brings up an issue again after the completion of ho’oponopono, it is considered a very serious breach of protocol. In the days of the past, it could even result in banishment from the community for a period of time, or permanently. As with other Hawaiian practices mentioned in the film, ho’oponopono has many facets and elements. As Papa K states in the conclusion of the film, that to be pono, you must go inward and communicate with your inner self, then forgive yourself, and ask forgiveness of others. This is true in relation to all life, not just to human relationships. It requires a deeper level of awareness, not only of one’s self, but of the natural and spiritual worlds as well. The resultant state of “grace” opens a person to enormous possibilities and knowledge as the unrestricted flow of mana is experienced.

MANA: Supernatural or divine power, miraculous power. Mana can also be viewed as life force or healing energy, spiritual energy. Lomilomi practitioners work with mana in assisting their clients to heal. Any true practitioner will tell you that it is not he or she that is doing the healing, it is the mana, life force, or God-force that flows through them to the client that is healing. Through practice and intention it is possible to connect to this force to bring about healing and even “miraculous acts” in the outer world. Some say it is a form of magic, but others will say that these powers and abilities are available to those who have the gift, proper intention, and a willingness to study and learn. What we in the western world would view as magic, as supernatural, would be viewed as a part of daily life to Hawaiians of the past and to adept practitioners of today.

‘OHANA: Family. This can refer not only to the physical family, which is very important to Hawaiians, but also to a spiritual family of like-minded souls.

HANA: Work. Work was the centerpiece of daily life for Hawaiians. Rarely did people go hungry in the Hawaii of the past because farmers and fishermen were accomplished and resourceful. Some westerners had the audacity to view Hawaiians as lazy in times gone by because they had so much time for play and spiritual practices, such as chanting, lua, and hula. In truth, Hawaiians were so successful in their farming and fishing practices, that they were often done with their necessary tasks by midday, and thus had time to indulge in personal, cultural, and spiritual activities. We could learn a thing or two about that in modern western society.

TARO – KALO A staple food of the Hawaiians.. The taro or kalo plant is grown in lo’i, or taro patches, which resemble rice paddies to a degree. The plant has “elephant-ear” type leaves, a stalk, and a rhizome or corm that grows in marshy soil. When the corm is ready for harvest, the leaves begin to wilt back and lose their vigor. The plant is harvested, preserving the top of the corm and the stalk, which is called the “huli.” This is replanted to the lo’i. “Huli”, roughly translated, means to “turn, or to turn over.” Every part of the plant is used. The corms are cooked and pounded to make poi, a purplish paste loved by Hawaiians. This starchy substance has an impressive amount of nutrition and was truly a mainstay of Hawaiian diets. Today kalo is enjoyed in other ways: kalo bread, fried kalo patties, kalo chips, etc; but poi is the preferred favorite. The leaves are called lu’au leaves. They are steamed and eaten as a vegetable similar to spinach. They are also used as an edible wrapping for another favorite Hawaiian food, the lau lau. Inside lau’lau you will find steamed kalua pork, fish, vegetables or more chunks of kalo. Every family has its preferred way of preparing these delicacies. In Hawaii, lau lau are available in supermarkets, along with poi. However, there is no substitute for fresh poi, prepared lovingly by hand.

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of kalo to Hawaiian culture. In the film, Lawrence Aki recounts a version of the story of Wakea (Sky Father), Papa, (Earth Mother) and their union that produced a stillborn son, Haloa Naka, who was buried behind their house, and from whose remains grew the first kalo plant. They had another son, also named Haloa, who was the first Kanaka Hawaii (Hawaiian), but Haloa Naka (the kalo plant) was the older brother to Haloa and thus, to all Hawaiians. It should be mentioned that there is another, more commonly told version of the legend in which Haloa Naka was born of the union of Wakea and Ho’ohokulani, daughter of Wakea and Papa. Western minds might turn their noses up at this suggestion of incest. In Hawaiian culture of the past, incest was not frowned upon in certain chiefly circles, when it was thought that these unions would keep bloodlines pure. However, outside royal circles, it was not so common. Besides, we would do well to remember that we are not talking about physical beings, but rather mythical spiritual entities. It is also noteworthy that sex was not an issue that created a lot of emotional baggage or hang ups in the distant past, unlike in our current modern society. Boys and girls were expected to give joy to each other, and same-sex relationships were also accepted. Some healers embodied both female and the male principles.

AUWAI: Stream or ditch

KULEANA: Right, privilege, concern, responsibility, jurisdiction, interest, claim, also a piece of land.

MAUKA: In the direction of the mountains

MAKAI: In the direction of the sea

KUPUNA: Elders and/or ancestors

AKUA: Holy Spirit

HALE: House

KULA LAND: Open or dry country, pasture land. An act of 1884 distinguished dry or kula land from taro or kalo wet lands.

LO’I: Taro or kalo patch

AHUPUA’A: Land division usually extending from the uplands to the sea, so called because the boundary was marked by a heap (ahu) of stones surmounted by an image of a pig (pua’a), or because a pig or other tribute was laid on the altar as a tax to the chief.

MAKE: To die

OLELO HAWAII: The Hawaiian language, or to speak the Hawaiian language.

E NANA I KE KUMU: Look to the Source. In Hawaiian culture, the “source” consists of elders of the community, ancestors of the past, God, and Spiritual guides.

TUTU: A nickname for grandfather or grandmother. The actual names are Tutukane and Tutuwahine. Another nickname for Grandfather is “Tutuman.”

LOMILOMI: An ancient Hawaiian healing practice that incorporates prayer, massage, use of medicinal plants and Ho’oponopono to facilitate healing of Spirit, mind, and body.

PUA’A: Pig

KAMALI’I: Children or babies. Another name is, “keiki.”

KANAKA: The People

MAHI’AI: Farmers

LAWAI’A: Fishermen

KONOHIKI: Overseer of an ahupua’a.

MAKANA: A gift


For those viewers who are unfamiliar with Hawaiian words and phrases, I am including a primer that will give you a definition and a sense of the meaning behind what you hear in PULE WAILELE. Definitions are drawn from the Hawaiian Dictionary by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Ebert. I will also give some commentary on various terms from the context of research completed and interviews recorded for this and other films. I have chosen to list the definitions in the order that they appear in the film, for easier reference.

At the beginning of PULE WAILELE you hear opening lines of the KUMULIPO, the epic Hawaiian chant that chronicles the origin of all life forms, including humans, and specifically, the Hawaiian people. This brilliant chant which might, in a sense, be equated with the Book of Genesis in the Christian Bible, is also a remarkable creation in that it also takes into account the concept of evolution. Some may even interpret the early lines as describing the “Big Bang.” This is why I chose to portray these lines in juxtaposition with images of a primordial astral event, as hot gases coalesced to form our sun, eventually generating  our universe and our world. It is not known who actually created the KUMULIPO, but some Hawaiian Kupuna (elders) and scholars will say quietly, that it could find its origins in the deep prehistory of Hawaii. Some have said that Mu or Lemuria was an entire continent that was submerged through cataclysmic natural events such as vulcanism and resultant tsunamis, along with subduction and continental shifts. Others have said that Lemuria was a very ancient culture of Island nations that shared commerce, wisdom and knowledge. Still others do not accept that concept due to a lack of scientific evidence confirming its existence in pre history. Whether Lemuria figures into the picture of Hawaii's ancient history or not, no one can dispute or negate the brilliance of ancient Polynesian navigators, voyagers, and canoe builders who made routine ocean voyages across thousands of miles. Botanical evidence in the form of gourds grown from early times in Hawaii tends to substantiate theories that Hawaiians visited the Americas. Also, it is fascinating to ponder the almost universal legend of Noah’s Flood, especially when viewed with mounting scientific evidence for significant upheavals, subductions, and extinctions in our planet’s tumultuous past. What might our Earth and oceans have looked like in prehistory?

Behind the opening shots of the rain forest, you hear the song, “Ka Wailele ‘O Nu’uanu, performed by Makana and written by Jay Kauka. Translated from Hawaiian, the song is a haunting tribute to a waterfall in the Ko’olau Mountains, one that flows constantly:

There on the cliffs can be seen

The waterfall of Nu`uanu

It never stops flowing

It just keeps coming down

The waterfall is flowing

It keeps on flowing

Never locked

It flows forever

Here are other words and phrases in the film:

ALOHA: Love, affection, compassion, mercy sympathy, grace, charity, and many other meanings. It also means “In the presence of breath, the divine breath of the Creator. So when you are exchanging your “aloha” with someone, you are acknowledging the Spirit in the other person. Living aloha, is a way of life to many Hawaiians, especially healing practitioners, as it incorporates elements of self-forgiveness, forgiveness of others, and recognition of all forms of life in both physical and spiritual manifestations. It is a sacred invocation shared with warm feeling and intention.

LOKAHI: Unity, agreement, accord, harmony. It also means balance. In the traditional Hawaiian model the pyramid or triangle shape is very important. Each point of the triangle represents an element that contributes to balance and spiritual-physical well being. On one point of the triangle you find Nature, representing the elements as well as plants and animals. On the second point of the triangle, you find Mankind, and on the pinnacle of the triangle you find Akua, God, the “I”, or the Creator. In the Hawaiian model, health and healing forces flow when all these elements are in balance. When one leans too heavily toward one point of the triangle, a lack of balance can result, which can open a person to health challenges on the physical, mental, and spiritual levels. Even in relating to the ultimate joy of communing with the Creator, one must, while in this physical body, attend to its needs, attend to the needs of nature, such as conservation and respect for native species, and attend to the needs of other human souls by offering assistance and compassion whenever an opportunity arises.

LA’AU LAPA’AU: Medicine, particularly the use of natural sources for the creation of medicines. A la’au lapa’au practitioner has an extraordinary knowledge of healing and medicinal plants. He or she also possesses ancient knowledge of how to harvest and prepare them for use. Hawaiian medicine is not limited to plants. A native practitioner has knowledge of minerals and sea life that have healing properties. In the Hawaiian approach, medicine is not just used for relief of symptoms, as we find in much of Western medicine. Native Hawaiian medicine is part of an overall approach to holistic healing. A practitioner invokes the spirit of the Gods and ancestors through chant and prayer from the moment he or she seeks a plant in the forest, right up to and including the moment the medicine is administered to the patient. In addition, the patient is assessed for spiritual and emotional sickness. Hawaiians of old knew that sickness was very often tied to spiritual and mental disharmonies in a person, and they knew processes to resolve these issues as well as physical ones. In some cases spiritual power was misused toward another person in the form of death curses. Practitioners who were correctly attuned to look out for such things could send the curse back to the person who had originally initiated it. In the context of what we are learning now about prophylactic measures, psychosomatic illness, and the importance of positive mental outlook in the healing process, it is fascinating to realize that Hawaiians have had a thorough and complete understanding of these issues for thousands of years.

MALAMA: to take care of, tend, care for, preserve, protect.

MALAMA KA ‘AINA: to care for the land.

LA’AU: a plant

HUKI: to pull

PONO: Goodness, uprightness, morality, moral qualities, correct or proper procedure.
Like “aloha,” pono has many deep meanings within Hawaiian culture. To say that something or someone is “pono” is a compliment as well as a statement of high qualities and integrity. Hawaiians view living a life of “pono” as being as important a goal as living “aloha.” It means that one is truly in balance within the lokahi triangle. In the case of a human being, it signifies that someone is operating at a high standard of integrity and is dependable and impeccably trustworthy. Hawaiians, though very full of love and fun, have a strong understanding of protocol. Asking permission is a centerpiece of Hawaiian life. In days past, no one would ever think of approaching a group without offering a chant requesting to be admitted to the space occupied by the group. Today, that translates to calling out “Hui!” when approaching a house to warn that someone is approaching, requesting welcome. Hawaiians of integrity would not think of approaching or passing someone without some kind of greeting, smile or acknowledgement. Not to do so is considered very poor manners and poor upbringing. Many Hawaiians scratch their heads at haoles (Mainlanders) who walk right by them without offering a simple greeting or acknowledgement. Sadly, even a few Hawaiians have forgotten their manners and have now adopted some of these ways!

E KALA MAI IA’U: Excuse me.

PULE: prayer


In the concluding comments of the film, viewers have the opportunity to see and hear a true Hawaiian approach to living. All elements of life are tied together through prayer, respect, protocol, teaching, aloha, pono, and lokahi. The land, the plants, the water, and all life share equal status in this universe.

Brenda Ignacio says at the conclusion of the film: "To secure the future, we need to cross bridges. To forgive the past, we need to burn them." It is important to understand what Brenda intends with that statement. Burning bridges does not mean that we make enemies of or hold grudges toward those whom we judge to have harmed us. It means, and this distinction is very important, that it does not serve our highest good to rush back across emotional bridges in order to revisit old hurts, insults, or apparent injustices of the past. So, in the outer world, while there is no hope for a better past, as Brenda says, there is hope for a better past in each of our own inner worlds. We have the choice to decide how we view and react to hurtful incidents of the past. Inwardly, we can actually recreate our past through doing deep work of ho'oponopono (practicing forgiveness), through following principles of aloha, and through using our energies toward creating positive intentions and manifestations in our physical and spiritual lives.