One is Enough


Recently, my wife and I were talking about a certain famous pop singer. We agreed that this person sings really great, but wasn’t very attractive, then my wife said in Japanese:


Ten wa nibutsu ataezu

Basically this means “Heaven doesn’t bestow two gifts”. This is a proverb in Japanese and I think it’s a clever one.

The term “Heaven” needs some clarification though. In traditional Chinese thought, Heaven (天) was seen as a source of order and natural law. There is some overlap with the Western notion of Heaven, but not that much, hence translations can be confusing. As Confucius said in the Analects (trans. by Professor Muller):

[17:17] Confucius said: “I wish I could avoid talking.”

Zigong said, “Master, if you didn’t speak, what would we disciples have to pass on?”

Confucius said, “Does Heaven speak? Yet the four seasons continue to change, and all things are born. Does Heaven speak?”

You can see how in Chinese-Confucian thought, which influenced all of Asia, Heaven tends to work silently, and is responsible for Nature working the way it does. But then again, it also has some qualities of granting and favoring a person. Again, as Confucius said:

[3:16] Confucius said: “In archery it is not important to pierce through the leather covering of the target, since not all men have the same strength. This is the Way of the ancients.”

So, anyway the point is that people might be born with one gift, but may be deficient in other areas. It’s OK. It’s just the way things work. Having one gift is enough, and worth cherishing. 🙂


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

4 thoughts on “One is Enough”

    1. Hi Timetales, I think the etymology of the character does have a human in there (looking up to the heavens maybe?). I am not sure.


  1. Hm, the Chinese characters were developed centuries before Buddhism came to China, so they probably had a non-Buddhist meaning. I thnk it was more of a general “looking up at the heavens” meaning, but I could be wrong. 🙂


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