The Meaning of BEING 'PONO'
Language is the window through which fundamental foundational precepts of a society can be examined. If we look at the words used to describe human behavior we will see how a specific culture perceives a specific behavior. For instance, there are no obscene or even pejorative words in the Hawaiian language relating to the sexual act. None! That indicates to us that love making in all it's many forms are viewed as natural and acceptable in the traditional Hawaiian culture.
Conversely, there is not a word in the English language that expresses the meaning of "pono" in the Hawaiian language. The Hawaiian-English dictionary devotes one half page in the attempt to convey these layers of meaning in English. So, what does it mean to be pono?
In the Hawaiian thought, being pono means being in perfect alignment and balance with all things in life. It means one has the perfect relationship with the creative energy of the universe, however you might describe that energy: God, Goddess, prana, mana, chi - whatever that appellation is for you. Your every thought word and deed are in complete harmony with that divine energy. Pono means you are in complete harmony and alignment with your custodial relationship with the earth. That you operate on the earthly plane as one who is the caretaker of the land during your lifetime. That your stewardship of the land leaves it as good or better than you found it so that succeeding generations can enjoy the resources that were gifted to you in your lifetime and during your stewardship.
Pono means that you have a proper respectful relationship with your parents, with your spouse or significant other, with your children, with your extended family members and with your co-workers. Pono means that your relationships with others are just and fair and untinged by anger, jealousy, resentment or any negative energy. You are in harmony and in integrity. Discord is resolved with ho'oponopono - the setting right of bad feelings. Ho'oponopono must be entered into with a sincere desire by all parties to resolve differences - not an opportunity for "right fighting". A mutually respected arbitrator manages the process of making right so that all parties feel the matter is resolved and no longer exerts any negative energy on the parties involved. When the process is complete, the parties are pono with one another again. Harmony is restored.
In truth, every action in life is either pono ... or not. And humankind's assignment is to be pono in all things. An ali'i, or chief, who was not pono would not be tolerated for very long. The ali'i's job was to provide the best possible life for his people. If he consistently failed in his duty to do so, the people would find a way to dispense with him. Individuals who choose to be other than pono would find themselves outcast from the society as a whole.
Pono is a concept worth adopting in our own life. If each of us really aspired to be pono, if we accepted our implicit agreement to be a pono spiritual being, a pono guardian of the earths resources, a pono daughter or son, a pono spouse, friend, co-worker, employer, government servant - what a different world we could live in. I think it's a concept worth working for.