Press Room

Hawai‘i’s Monastic Hermitage: HIMC is Moving Forward – A Summer Update






Dear Sangha Members and Friends:


Thank you all for your support during the last few months, quietly in the background or actively participating, far away or right here on Hawai‘i Island: Together we are moving forward! Much good news. 


Building HIMC:

On June 20, 2013, the Hawai‘i County Planning Commission approved a five-year time extension for Vipassana Hawai‘i’s special permit to establish its long-awaited Hawai‘i Insight Meditation Center (HIMC). While we now have until July 1, 2018, toteam celebrationcomplete, we are well on our way: HIMC is situated on 15 acres within Vipassana Hawai‘i’s 254 acres of spacious, coastal land in Hālawa, in North Kohala on the northeastern tip of the island. In November 2011, we obtained approval for HIMC’s final site plan, which anchors the Center around an agricultural farming area serving the kitchen. The plan includes 40 private monastic cottages (called kuti in Southeast Asia) as well as teacher cottages and, of course, a meditation hall. We are ready to launch HIMC’s pre-construction steps, such as drawing up architectural plans and implement the infrastructure. A locally-based architect who deeply understands the area has begun preliminary work. HIMC will be simple, sustainable, serene, much like a monastic hermitage. It will belong to the land, breathe with the trade winds, effortlessly serve the sangha. 


Preserving Hālawa:

Preservation of the land has made steady progress over the last months as well. As you may already know, the land harbors great cultural and environmental significance. Here’s a rocky stream bed, which opens to a narrow bay, home to monk seals, crashing waves and ancient sites. Rolling pastures, salty winds and shoreline cliffs bear witness to the vastness of the Pacific, soaring sea birds, the spaciousness of wild nature over centuries. On April 22, 2013, the Governor of Hawai‘i approved a grant through the Legacy Land Conservation Program, securing a partnership with Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, Vipassana Hawai‘i, and the US Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that has long been in the works. The partnership enables among other things a conservation plan that was approved by the NRCS with a federal grant through the Farm and Ranchland Protection program back in September 2012. 




We are grateful to everyone who has supported us in these efforts, and while we cannot name everyone by name, we wish to thank especially the HIMC team: Charles Oldfather, our land manager, Nicole Milne, agricultural planning specialist, Jesse Vega-Frey, resident teacher, Ricky Gordon, resident land steward, Sophie Schweitzer, project coordinator, and Michele McDonald, Trent Cornell, and Steven Smith, visionary Board members who came together for three long days to get us through the special permit hearing. A special thank you to Betsy Cole, Michael Kramer, and Rhoady Lee for sharing your knowledge with the team. We needed your guidance! We also wish to thank Connie Kiriu and Tom Yeh for long nights and weekend hours, and Beth Thoma Robinson, William Bennington, Charles Oldfather, Ted Pirsig, Norman Piianaia, Linda Elliott, and so many others of the local sangha for coming to the hearing, providing testimony, or otherwise contributing support. Thank you, dear sangha. We also appreciate so deeply everyone who sent in a spontaneous donation during this time. Thank you Diane Ornstein for quietly keeping track of the books. A great mahalo, finally, to Robyn Skudlarek, former executive director, for her invaluable role during the early phases of the conservation easement partnership, and to Bob Martin, our former project coordinator, for securing the final plan approval way back when. 


Vision with Challenge: Michele McDonald and Steven Smith, Vipassana Hawai‘i’s founders and guiding teachers, began acquisition of the Hālawa land in 1999, intending to build the hermitage and preserve the land. At last, this twofold vision is being realized. We are so pleased. Thank you all! These are such exciting times. But truth is, now we need your continuing support for the next challenge: Securing the twofold vision has depleted our resources. The easement grants’ funding has been set aside completely until the easement process has finished, which may take until the spring of 2014. Vipassana Hawai‘i asks you humbly for donations to sustain daily operations and follow through on hermitage pre-construction steps. Its existing funds will run out before the spring. Will you consider a gift at this time? Your contribution helps us through a critical period. It’s about survival so we may realize Hawai‘i Insight Meditation Center, on this sacred Hālawa land, for you and future generations to come to and find ease. 


Long ago, the Buddha taught outdoors, practiced outdoors, and encouraged his monks to practice outdoors. We strongly believe that it’s the land itself that can teach us best how to live. We are immensely grateful to each and every one who can contribute at this time. 


Thank you!






Thank you for your generous support. Your financial gift is vital at this time and provides a hard-needed bridge for Vipassana Hawai‘i to be able to continue. 


You may choose for your gift to go specifically toward: 


  • Steps to establish the hermitage. 
  • Daily operations. 


Your generosity today will make a difference. Please visit our secure website donation page or write a check to Vipassana Hawai‘i. (Address: PO Box 551681, Kapa‘au, HI). If you wish to set up a recurring gift, please contact us. 


Thank you for your support! 




Vipassana Hawai‘i ~ Supporting the teachings of classical Buddhism, making them relevant to the issues of our day, giving them roots through the land in our stewardship. ~ 

Board of Directors  ~  Steven Smith, Michele McDonald, Trent Cornell. ~ ~ 

PO Box 551681, Kapaau, HI 96755  ~ 808-889-0567



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