THE HEART OF KANJI: Each meeting in our life is (a) once in the lifetime chance


人(Jin) means “person.” This character represents the shape of a person.

生 (Sei) means “life.” The bottom lines indicate the ground and the top lines indicate sprouts.

一 (Ichi) means “one.” This represents one finger.

期 (Go) means “term or time.” The left side represents boxes stacked on top of each other and the right side represents the moon.

会 (E) means “meet.” The top lines represent people and the lines below represent gathering.

Jinsei wa ichigo ichie de aru. calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

People commonly call lucky connections a “once in a lifetime meeting” since they seem fated or because they occurred despite strange or difficult circumstances. However, I want to take a moment to consider this idea from a different perspective. What if we observed all of our meetings and relationships as if they were special and “meant to be” in that particular moment? Would we treat each other and the situation differently? Consider how you would speak to a friend or family member if you weren’t certain you would meet them again. What words of kindness or gratitude would you share with them?

Senno Rikyu was the master and founder of tea ceremony or cha-do 500 years ago during the civil war era in Japan. In those days, before a samurai would venture out onto the battlefield, they would calmly sit and enjoy a cup of green tea. They took the time to meditate on the fact that that cup of tea might be their last, so they were mindful of enjoying the tea and the moment. The family also took this time to serve the tea ceremoniously to the samurai as it could be their last cup of tea. Everyone involved in the moment felt the importance and fragility of life and thought about how to make every moment count.

Now, consider applying this method to your current life in modern society. We often eat, go to work, exercise, go grocery shopping, and spend time in front of the TV with family as if we are on autopilot. Do we recognize moment-to-moment that this might be the last time we eat our favorite meal or hug our wife or husband as we head to the office for the day? I was reminded of the importance of living every moment as if it were our last when our neighbor recently died in a car accident. He left home for a morning walk and never returned to his wife and children.

I thought back to a similar experience I had 30 years ago. I had visited my second eldest brother and his family in Japan. I had enjoyed a wonderful time with them and left to spend the remainder of my trip with my eldest brother and his family. A few days later, I received a phone call from my sister informing me that my second eldest brother had just been killed in a car accident. I was shocked and could not control my emotions. I was temporarily overwhelmed by those feelings, but then I sought to change my perspective.

My brother was 47 years old; he had been given the blessing of those 47 years of miraculous life each moment he lived. He was able to have a family and I felt grateful that Kami/God or Universe allowed me to see him before he passed. I expressed arigatou gozaimasu with all my heart and spirit. This brought me profound peace, and although I was still sad that I would not see him in his physical form anymore, I knew he would always guide us in his spiritual form.

I am so glad that I had been seeking inner spiritual peace and happiness since I was 20 years old so I could overcome that tough situation.

Let us remember to live every moment and every interaction as if it were our last. Speak kindly to others and remember to also be kind to yourself when you are speaking to yourself. Please practice this mindfully and let me know if your emotional and spiritual well being shifts or changes for the better.

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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