THE HEART OF KANJI: Four worms in our heart


四 (yon or shi) means the number four in English, which comes from the shape of four fingers.

心 (Kokoro) means heart, which comes from the shape of a human heart.

虫 (Mushi) means worm, which comes from the shape of a worm.

A few years ago, my family went to pick fruits in Brentwood, Calif. We picked about 20 nice Japanese pears. After we came home, we anticipated the juicy taste of eating them. As we cut open the fruit, however, we found there were worms in them. Even though the pears were very nice and beautiful on the outside, worms had eaten them on the inside. We had to throw them away.

I soon realized that we also have worms in our heart. It is similar to (bonno) worldly passion or ego in Buddhism and (tsumi) sins in Christianity. Buddhism says that humans possess 108 bonno or egos within.

Yonhiki no kokoro no mushi, Calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

I believe there are four worms in our heart, including worms of anger, worry, hate and ego. Our clean and pure heart may be eaten by these four worms and become impure.

The Konko founder said, “whether you save or kill yourself depends upon your own heart.” So, four worms in your heart might be able to destroy your inner self.

Another teaching says, “Whether or not you can receive divine blessings depends on your heart. If you renew your heart, then you can reap infinite divine blessings.”

We should renew our heart by overcoming the worms of anger, worry, hate and ego. Many people think that because we’re human, we can’t help but be angry, worry about our problems, hate someone and have some kind of ego. However, we suffer so much because of the four worms in our heart, similar to the rotten pears we had to throw away.

Let us understand the four worms in our heart and let us strive to overcome them every day without giving up.

Rev. Masato Kawahatsu is a minister at the Konko Church of San Francisco and Konko Center of South San Francisco. He teaches shodo (Japanese calligraphy) and martial arts. He also gives spiritual counseling. He can be reached at

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