Minu Ga Hana — Not Seeing is a Flower 見ぬが花

Reality can’t compete with our imagined expectations; on the other hand, our imagination can power a new reality.

Minu Ga Hana [pronounced “min-ooo gah hah-nah”] literally means “not seeing is a flower.” This seemingly cryptic statement illustrates the dual notion that reality can’t compete with our imagination, and on the other hand, our reality can be built using our imagination.

Imagination Can Obscure Reality

Firstly, consider the conflict between our imagination and the reality around us. We may imagine the most wondrous things: peace and harmony in our personal relationships, humming productivity and accomplishment in our professional life, and success and achievement in all other parts of our lives. And yet… this is not a reality that is sustainable over any significant time period.

In English, we say “a little rain must fall into everyone’s life” — and that too is the lesson of Minu Ga Hana. The flower that we see in reality can’t compete with the magical flower that we imagine: it is just not realistic.

Does this mean we abandon our imagining of beautiful flowers — that we stop dreaming of perfect relationships, wonderful accomplishments, and achieving our goals? Absolutely not.

However, it does mean that we must be prepared to reconcile the difference between what we imagine, and what we see and experience in the real world. We must be prepared to still see the flower before us in real life as a beautiful flower, even if it has a torn petal or two.

To do less is to rob ourselves of the beauty of the imprefect world in which we live; but even more, to constantly see the world and be disappointed by it is a rather drab and sorry way to spend one's days.

Of course we should strive to mold the world to our liking. And yes we should work on fixing or changing the things that aren't quite right in our personal and professional lives.

But the starting point for molding the world, and changing it to our desires, is to first see how the world exists now. And then that can become the baseline for the changes we want to make happen.

To do less is to not see, and not have the flower that is our day.

Reality is Built By Imagination

On the other hand, we must also actively use and strengthen our imagination to imagine a world of beautiful flowers. We must look at a field of weeds and trash, and see the wonderful garden of flowers scenting the air and creating beauty for our eyes. We must imagine our perfect relationships, we must imagine our accomplishments, we must imagine achieving our goals and the success that this brings.

To have beautiful, but less-than-perfect, flowers in our lives, we must imagine perfect flowers; and then we must accept that when they arrive, they may not be exactly what we imagined. Yet, despite this, they are beautiful nonetheless, and so is the reality that we design and build using our imagination.

We can see the amazing flowers of our day in both our mind's eye, and in our actual eyes. Bringing the two images into focus, in many ways, is what our karatedo helps us to do.

Kanji/Katakana Meaning
See/you see (mi) (but note below for the modifier)
ぬが not (nuga) (combines with 見 to form "unseen" or "not seeing")
flower (hana)

Further translation note: It's important to understand that the best translation of this concept is exactly as above: "not seeing is a flower."

This concept is often incorrectly translated as both "the unseen flower" and "ignorance is bliss."

In the case of the former, "the unseen flower" misses half of the point of Minu Ga Hana – yes, the flower is unseen in the sense that we can create a flower (our reality) from our imagination, but it is also important to understand that our imagination creates false expectations of perfect flowers. This aspect is missed by translating Minu Ga Hana as "the unseen flower."

In the case of the latter, "ignorance is bliss" is generally the result of an improper mechanical translation of Minu Ga Hana – it most certainly doesn't mean that.

And as a final note regarding translation: Minu Ga Hana is sometimes written as Minuga Hana. This is correct as well, and simply is a result of stylistic differences in expressing kanji as "romanji" (and is a good example of the difficulties inherent in doing so.)

Editor's Note: This lecture was first delivered by Sensei in San Rafael, California on 4 June 2014, and then again at the Goju Karate NYC Dojo on 5 October 2022, and then once more at the Goju Karate NYC Dojo and via Livestream on 7 October 2022.