THE HEART OF KANJI: Human life is very precious


Ningen no inochi wa taihen omoi. calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

人 (Nin, hito) symbolizes “a person standing.”

間 (Gen, aida) means “among or between.”

命 (Inochi) means “life.” The top of this character shows a person and the bottom represents a finger. The rectangular character represents a mouth and a person who is bending down. Together this character means a person’s life is maintained by each beat of the heart.
大 (Tai, ookii) means “big,” which represents a big person.

変 (Hen) means “a difficult incident.” The top of this word represents a tangled thread and the bottom represents a foot. If you can imagine trying to untangle thread with your foot, you can see how difficult that would be.

重 (Omoi) means “heavy or precious,” which represents a person who is carrying a heavy object. When you put this altogether, “Ningen no inochi wa taihen omoi” means “Human life is very precious.”

There is an old Japanese saying, “Each person’s value of life is heaver than the Earth.” I agree with this. The lives of all people are so precious and should be greatly valued.

As you know, an African American man named George Floyd lost his life by a police man earlier this summer.  Seeing this on television was so disturbing and angered and moved thousands all over the world to stand up against racial violence and discrimination. People stopped what they were doing and banded together to protest, speak out and organize.

Earlier this summer, an African American church member shared with me, “Discrimination problems are very difficult to solve because it has been continuing for a long time in this country. It has deep roots. Many people do not like the color of black and look at it negatively (i.e. black sheep, black cat, blacklisted, etc.)” Right now, people are saying, ‘Yes, Black lives matter, but all lives matter too.’ However, right now, it is the Black people who are desperately in need of attention and support to stop the violence and killings.”

I feel that as a society, we tend to separate things based on their differences. When we go out, we sometimes base our opinions, for example, on tall and short people, smart and not smart, light and dark, fat and skinny, big and small, etc. Problems occur in many incidences when we don’t appreciate the differences. We need to try and see things with our hearts more and not just with our physical eyes.

One day, a Konko member criticized another religion to the Konko founder. Our Konko founder offered this teaching: “Our hand has different sizes of fingers, therefore our hands are very useful. If all fingers are the same size, our hand may not be so useful.

Likewise, there are many kind of religions, jobs, and different kinds of cultures. This world is able to co-exist because of these difference”

I believe that as humans, we will survive by mutual reliance on our differences. Since Kami/Universe creates all kinds of different people and things on this Earth, Kami/Universe respects and cares for all people and things on the Earth. We should try to have a heart of Kami or the Universe.

Since birth, we have been influenced by what we have learned at home, school or in our community about making comparisons between different people or things. Sometimes things that we learn in the past may have created suffering or confusion in our lives.

When I was  growing into a young adult, I had the chance to realize this through my spiritual training. Through this training, I have learned that I had created sufferings within myself and created problems with other people as well. I’ve been narrow minded often.

This Black Lives Matter movement has given us all a chance to review our world and our educational system and police systems. We have a chance to alter our educational systems at school, church, communities and home. Let us all appreciate, model and teach the great value of human lives. Differences and life are great and precious.

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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