THE HEART OF KANJI: What is the difference between concern and worry?


Kokoro kubari to shinpai towa. calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

心配り (Kokorokubari) means “concern.” The first character indicates the human heart. The second character’s left side represents a tokkuri (sake container) and the right side represents a person who is bending at the waist to serve it.

心配 (Shinpai) means “worry about something.”

心配り (Kokorokubari) and 心配 (shinpai). If you look at the kanji characters, they are the same, but the definition and pronunciation are different. Kokorokubari has a more positive connotation, while shinpai has a more negative one.

There is a Konko teaching that says, “As long as you do not have divine virtue, you will remain full of worry. If you accept divine virtue into your life, you will cease worrying.”

Worry and anxiety can lead to physical ailments or mental instability. If you are able to trust in Kami/God and have a heart of concern or kokorokubari, you can be mindful of the tough situation without feeling like it will get out of control or destroy you completely.

Your faith in Kami/God to help you sort out these obstacles will allow you to think on it with a calm and objective manner.

How can we practice having a heart of kokorokubari in our everyday life? Perhaps this next story will help illustrate how we can incorporate kokorokubari into our personal experiences.

Last year, Alice and I joined the Hawaii Konko Missions annual conference. The topic was “kokorokubari” and the main speaker was the Rev. Saijiro Matsuda, who is the head minister of the Minamimuro Konko Church in Japan. During his time working at the Konko Mission of Hawaii offices, he also took English classes after work to improve his language skills.

One day, his classmates wanted to go to lunch as a group. One person that everyone liked suggested a restaurant, and another student that many students didn’t like, wanted to go to another restaurant. The two students started to verbally fight and hurtful words were exchanged by both. Then the whole class started to take the side of the person who they liked better. The other student left the classroom very angry. The teacher witnessed this and saw that Saijiro-sensei always got along with all the students. The teacher asked Saijiro-sensei, “What should we do?” Saijiro-sensei noticed that all the students had turned to him.

He looked around and realized that his class represented many parts of the world. It was so diverse. The students asked him, “How do you manage to stay in good relationship with all the students, even the student that everyone has a problem with?” He said that in his religion, the founder always stressed getting along with all people. This is what he always tries to do with all people, no matter who they are, where they are from, or how they look.

The students changed their feelings and he could see them relax and not be so upset. Saijiro-sensei understood at that moment exactly what the founder meant by this teaching. To him, this was one example of kokorokubari.

This is a good way to choose concern over worry. During the discussion after Rev. Matsuda’s presentation, other members gave examples of kokorokubari. One person said, “At first I was angry at the homeless people that slept in front of our church because they made a mess and always asked for money. I realized one day, I should pray for them rather than be angry at them. It helped me to have peace of mind and I realized my feelings were less of worry for myself and the church and more of concern for them. I was able to then approach them and talk with them with a calm heart and mind.”

My suggestion was to say arigatou gozaimasu whenever we have feelings of anxiety or anger.

Switching our negative feelings to feelings of gratitude can help train our mind to have a healthier and more peaceful perspective when dealing with frustrating situations. Please try this and let me know if you change the way you handle obstacles in your life.

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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