THE HEART OF KANJI: I have and I do not have


Aru to Nashi. calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu
Aru to Nashi. calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

有る(aru) means “I have” or “to possess,” which consists of two parts. The top line represents a person’s hand and arm and the bottom represents a piece of meat.

無し (nashi) means “nothing,” or “I do not have,” which consists of three parts. The bottom represents a fire’s flame, the middle is a house and the top is a new plant that grows from the ground. If the house burns, then it becomes ash or nothing but a new living plant grows from the ground.

A Japanese woman named Hisako Nakamura lost both her arms and legs to frostbite when she was 4 years old. Her father also died when she was young. She had a lot of difficult times in her life. Eventually, she wrote about her experiences, publishing her book “Arms and Legs of the Heart.” As a result, she soon became well known by many people not only in Japan, but also throughout the world. Although she had many tough experiences, she did not see her situation negatively; rather, she saw everything positively. She wrote a poem titled: “Aru, Aru, Aru” which means, “I have, I have, I have.” She wrote: “I lost my arms and legs but still have many other parts of my body and many other great things.”

After reading about her story, I realized that many people and Kami-sama have supported me; we are not living alone. No matter what kind of dire situation we have, we can still find a way to live with hope. There is no such thing as being without hope in this world.

While I have not met Hisako Nakamura, I was impressed by her great, positive attitude.

Her story reminds me of a woman I met at the Konko headquarters in Okayama, Japan.

A long time ago, I worked at the Konko seminary school as an assistant teacher. One day, I went to a paper shop. The shopkeeper, an old woman, began to tell me about her own experiences: She had lost her only son and was in a hopeless and helpless condition. At that moment, she wanted to talk with the Konko head minister’s wife. With many tears, the shopkeeper explained her situation to the head minister’s wife. His wife helped the shopkeeper, lending an understanding ear and a compassionate heart. Then she said, “You have a very tough and sad life now, however, can you find one good thing in your life?” At first, the woman did not understand what the wife was talking about. After she left the head minister’s house, she thought about one good thing. Then to her surprise, she soon was able to understand that there had been many great things in her life. She too started to say, “Aru, Aru, Aru” (“I have, I have, I have”). She began to dance on the street with a joyful heart. I was also impressed by the shopkeeper’s story and will never forget it.

Let us find good things in our life with a joyful and grateful heart. If you cannot find good things in life now, you will never be able to be happy — regardless of what you gain in the future.

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. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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