THE HEART OF KANJI: The power of the immune system


生 (Sei) means “life.” The bottom of this character indicates soil and above it is a bud or a sprout.

命 (Mei or inochi) means “life.” The top line represents a person. Beneath the person is “one.” Beneath this indicates “beating.” Collectively, the person’s heartbeat helps them to live.

力 (Ryoku, chikara) means power, which represents a person’s strong arm.

Seimei ryoku. calligraphy by
Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

The world has been threatened by the coronavirus. Many people have been following the tips to help prevent the spread of the virus. It is important to follow these guidelines so that we can save lives. I would like to share how we can strengthen our spiritual immune systems.

As this virus also takes its toll on our mental health, it is important to protect ourselves by continuing our spiritual practices and focusing on understanding the world around us. Now that we have more time and less distractions, we have a great opportunity to focus on the way we live. We can also consider how to improve our environment, as we are all interconnected.

As you know, in 1918 and 1919 the so-called Spanish flu became a pandemic that spread to the entire world. This virus continued for two years and killed approximately 50 million people. Today, I would like to explain how we can develop our spiritual immune systems. A strong immune system and spiritual health will help you overcome many challenges. Here are some suggestions on how to do this.

1. Say thank you for everything. Say “arigatou gozaimasu” 1,000 times a day. In Japan, people believe that words have spirit or soul. The words arigatou gozaimasu have the highest spirit. If you say this many times a day to the people around you and to first responders, before and after eating meals, as well as clean up your home and nature, you will feel a deeper gratitude for and awareness of the simple, but important blessings we receive from moment to moment. The opposite of this might be taking everything for granted.

2. Practice deep breathing for five or 10 minutes a day. Deep breathing has been known to lower ones blood pressure and help keep the mind and body calm. It also helps you to appreciate your breathing and make you aware your body’s great functions.

3. Exercise for 20 minutes or more a day. Exercise, including stretching, and walking or running, helps with circulation.

4. Laugh or find humor in something and smile 10 times or more a day. If you laugh or smile, your brain sends positive energy to your body and mind. There is a saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.”

5. Pray or meditate for 30 minutes or more a day. As you pray or meditate, you can improve your attitude or actions. Also, speaking with a minister or counselor about what is going on in your life is a great way to focus on what is really important, as well as ways to improve ones outlook.

6. Find ways to save Mother Earth. Simple things, such as growing a garden, cleaning up your community and educating our future generations to appreciate nature more are ways to help save Mother Earth. I’ve heard many people say that the coronavirus is a wake up call from Mother Earth. I feel that if we continue to harm the Earth, we also harm ourselves. If we understand our strong connection with the earth, we can support each other and improve our way of life.

These are some examples that can help us all to develop a stronger spiritual immune system. Please share with me other tips that have helped you to strengthen your spiritual immune system and helped you maintain balance during this challenging time.

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 or (415) 517-5563. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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