THE HEART OF KANJI: Polish your heart with shodo


Shodo de kokoro wo migaku ­— calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

書 (Sho) means “writing.” The top of this character depicts a person who is writing calligraphy, and the bottom represents a piece of paper.

道 (Do, michi) means “a way, path or road.” The right side represents a person’s head and face and the left side represents a crossroad.

心 (Kokoro) means “heart.” This word symbolizes a human heart.

研 (Migaku) means “polish.”

The left side of the character represents a rock, and the right side represents two sticks polishing the sharp rock to smoothness.

Many of the Japanese cultural activities or practices are considered “do,” the way or path. There is chado (tea ceremony), kado (flower arrangement), budo (martial arts) and many more. Many of you know that I practice and teach “Arigtato-Do,” the way of appreciation and gratitude.

On the outside, these activities seem straightforward. For chado, you learn how to make and present tea. For kado, you learn how to expertly arrange flowers and leaves. However, there are invisible lessons and paths that one must walk, and they must learn from the great masters if they are to truly understand these “ways.” While you practice your martial arts or shodo, you move your body or brush as the teacher instructs. However, these are also metaphors for how to live more fully in your daily life. You are learning cooperation, compassion, patience, diligence and focus.

There is an old saying, that words have spirits of their own. While you practice writing these positive and uplifting characters, you are reminded of their power, and perhaps subconsciously instill them in your day-to-day tasks and perspective.

When I was in elementary school, we had to take a shodo class every week from first through sixth grade. At the time, I did not enjoy it because I did not understand the full meaning of “do.” In high school, I began to take judo classes. Initially, it was extremely hard training, and one day I decided to go home instead of to the dojo after school. The senior judo students came to my house and dragged me to the dojo to train. I slowly began to realize that the dedication and determination that were required to be successful at judo, were also necessary outside of the dojo.

Since then, I have trained in various martial arts for the last 51 years of my 74 years of life.

The lessons you learn through different “do” will translate to your daily life and begin to polish your heart. I encourage you all to find your “do” and let me know how they have changed your perspective and attitude.

I hope that you can gain enlightenment through practicing shodo or other ways.

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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