The Heart of Kanji: Chikyu Ni Kansha: “Appreciate the Earth”

地 (chi) means ”ground.” The left side indicates soil and the right side indicates a moving snake. Together, these characters represent the uneven and changeable nature of the ground and the Earth.

Chikyu Ni Kansha ­— calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

球 (kyu) means “round ball” and this character represents its shape.

感 (kan) means “feeling.” The top lines indicate a fruit tree, the center box represents a mouth and the bottom character is a heart. Together, it shows the desire of a person wanting to eat the fruit from the tree.

謝 (sha) means “appreciation.” The left side indicates talking, the center character represents the body and the right side represents an arrow. As one character, it means that one should spend every moment appreciating the world as if this was their last arrow to shoot.

This past November, I traveled to Japan with my wife Alice. We were also accompanied by a member of the Konko Spiritual Center of South San Francisco named Bruno.

We attended the 160th anniversary of the Konko faith and an international gathering at the Konko headquarters.

During this event, I had the chance to talk with Dr. Koichi Takada. He told me that he felt that many people appreciate the blessings of heaven, but not of the Earth, and this is why we are facing many problems such as global warming and pollution.

I shared that I hadn’t given much thought to the Earth until I had my painful experience with prostate problems eight years ago. I wholeheartedly felt the great pain of the Earth. Since then, I have picked up 150,000 cigarette butts and try to be as mindful and caring toward the Earth as possible.

I also met my teacher, the Rev. Kouda, who shared his wife’s book with me. She had gone to Konko-sama (the Konko head minister) during a difficult time in her life and was surprised to receive a simple question during mediation. Konko-sama asked, “Are you expressing gratitude everyday?” She was shocked that he did not provide a more complicated answer, but she tried her best to show more appreciation in her regular day-to-day activities, and slowly saw the transformation of her perspective toward her friends, family and the world’s greater community. At the end of the book, she shares that she has been bedridden. I realized that if she is able to practice gratitude from her position, we should all take inspiration from her to do the same.

In Konko town, we also spoke at the Konko Seminary, and afterward, I attended a high school reunion in Matsuyama. It had been more than 60 years since I had seen many of my classmates!

Our trip was also an opportunity for us to visit many churches and speak about my newly published book on appreciation and gratitude.

We had many wonderful conversations with people and I realized that I am not alone in wanting to share the message of arigatou with the world. At the Otojima church in Okayama, I met the Rev. Iwamoto whose nickname is “Arigatou Sensei.” I also learned that my book has been translated into Braille for those that are visually impaired. It was comforting knowing others are trying to spread appreciation and kindness as well.

I had the opportunity to speak at the Konko churches in Uchiko (Ehime-ken), Karasuma (Kyoto) and Minami Ogaki (Gifu). We also visited the Tookei School, which belongs to the Itooen spiritual group in Kyoto. They go door -to-door asking to clean bathrooms as spiritual training.

My last speech was at the Konko Church of Honolulu. I shared some of my ideas about how to take care of Mother Earth and show appreciation for our life. I did a short calligraphy demonstration to illustrate some of my points, and had some translated excerpts read from the book in English by Bruno and my daughter’s friend, Sterling. We also visited the Honolulu Museum of Art where my daughter works.

I was so grateful to share the deep meaning of arigatou and appreciate the Earth with those in Japan and Hawai‘i. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, everyone!

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). He can be reached at konkosf2@sbcglobal.net or (415) 517-5563. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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