THE HEART OF KANJI: Joy, even if you are in suffering


Komattemo Yorokobe. calligraphy by Masato Kawahatsu

困る (komaru) means “suffering,” and consists of two parts. The outside lines represent a box, and the inside lines represent a tree. The tree can’t get out of the box, so it suffers.

喜べ (yorokobe) means “joy,” and consists of two parts. The top part represents a drum or musical

Komattemo Yorokobe. calligraphy by Masato Kawahatsu

instruments on a stand. Below, the top lines represent a mouth. If the tree can get out of the box, it can grow continuously without suffering.

When we face many difficulties or sufferings in life, we feel stuck in the box and can’t get out. How can we get out? I’d like to share a story with you on the joy of suffering.

One day a long time ago, five moms were discussing their family problems dealing with their husbands and children. They were discussing mostly normal problems when one mother began to tell a tale.

Five men went to a faraway place to catch fish. Everyone caught many fish and their buckets were filled. During the long walk back to the village, they found all the fish had died except the ones in one bucket. They wondered why all the fish in this bucket were still alive. They inspected and found one big catfish in the bucket. The catfish had probably kicked around the other fish, allowing them to breathe, and keeping them alive. The catfish was a troublemaker for the other fish, but because of it, the fish were able to survive the journey.

The mother then said to the other moms: “Your husband and children may be troublemakers in your life like the catfish. But because of them, you’re able to survive.” All the mothers nodded in agreement and laughed out loud.

We face many hardships in life, like illness, relationship or financial problems, growing old and death. When we suffer, our heart and soul also suffers, and our condition worsens.

When I was 21, I became very ill and my heart and soul suffered. I grew sicker for six months.

Recently, I became ill again. But this time, I tried to maintain a healthy heart and soul by expressing appreciation and laughter often. This new illness was my opportunity to grow and develop my faith. Though I’m still not well, my heart and soul are much better than 44 years ago. The Konko founder said, “People are born amid divine blessings, live amid divine blessings, and die amid divine blessings.” The Konko founder went through many sufferings and hardships in his life, but he took everything positively. He was a professional in positive thinking because of a strong faith in Kami/God. Let’s train our heart and soul and maintain peace of mind under any circumstances. Don’t let your heart and soul down no matter what happens in life.

Rev. Masato Kawahatsu is a minister at the Konko Church of San Francisco and Konko Center of South San Francisco, who teaches shodo (Japanese calligraphy) and martial arts. He also gives spiritual counseling. He is the author of “An Eternal Journey.” He can be reached at or (415) 517-5563.

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