On Ichinen Sanzen

Ichinen SanzenMany thanks to that most learned of  fellows, Ken Hawkins, for providing the following explanation of the Chinese symbols of Ichinen Sanzen.

Ichinen Sanzen is the wish-granting gem.

There are as many sides to this gem as there are living beings. Like a gem, each side reflects its own reality. Our life is a wish-granting gem.

When we peer into our lives we can barely see our own reflection. But when we polish our lives through chanting and making efforts to improve ourselves, we can see ourselves reflected clearly.

When our gem is polished in this way we can see beyond our own reflection and see inside the gem that is the ultimate reality of all life.

Ichinen Sanzen in Chinese is composed of four main Chinese characters.



The first character (Ichi) is a horizontal line. It is the character one. It is both the beginning of the Chinese alphabet and  numbering system. In Buddhism, Ichi is the source of all beings.  The “Fundamental Essence” in the Japanese title of  Heritage of the Ultimate Law



Nen  is composed of three elemental characters. On top are three lines  forming a triangle. Under the triangle is a person bending to  completely enclose an object, and under the bending person is a  heart.

– The triangle is a convergence of the elements of one’s life.

– It combines with the bending person to form a compound meaning the  present moment. (All of one’s life is enfolded in the present  moment.)

– The character, Kokoro or shin. The heart, in this case, is the core of intention. The derived meaning is to make present the heart’s intent, reviving or making real a person’s intent.

In some sects, “Nen” means mindfulness – that is being aware of the Buddha in the present moment.



San is the number three, representing heaven (the cosmos), earth, and humanity (also known as the three realms).



Zen is ten times 100. Connected to this concept is the harvest of crops or a thousand grains. The character for 1000 is also used to indicate an uncountable number.

Putting it all together:


a single (Ichi) core intention in the present moment


makes real, enfolds, and harvests (Nen)


three (San)


thousand (Zen) – or uncountable – realms and possibilities.

A determination or decision (Ichi) at the core of your being makes real (Nen) that self-pledge or vow in all the realms (Sanzen) of your life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: