Wairua is exercised through the practice of tapū. Tapū (awareness of the divine) and noa (awareness of mortality) pre-existed as natural conditions of the universe. Wairua is not religion. Wairua provides immortality when the physical body has died. Kahupō  is the state of having no familiarity with wairua. If you are kahupō then you are spiritually blind and already ‘dead’. You have no ulterior purpose or meaning life. Life is but a physical drudgery. If there is a term to emphasise spiritual blindness there must be a need for a spirit. If spiritual blindness is the most undersirable state for Māori, the most desirable state must be awareness of wairua and a passion for life. Inherent to a knowledge of wairua is the understanding of the states of tapū and noa and how they work together.

The existence of a spiritual truth/realm is fundamental to well-being from a Māori cultural frame of reference. The essence of our existence is as spiritual beings. To ignore or disregard wairua is to state that we are spiritually blind or kahupō. The wairua is the heartbeat, the core of Māori wellbeing. It has to be in balance with the tinana, hinengaro and ngākau in order for the person to be well.


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  • The transformative qualities of wairua are to bring perpetrators, victims, whānau, hapū and iwi to a state of recognition of themselves as interconnected spiritual beings.
  • Wairua is not an easy construct to define. It is a construct that is experienced although not always seen in a tangible way. The products or outcomes of wairua may be evidenced in physical ways such as an act of kindness and compassion.