Japanese Proverb: Three Heads Are Better Than One

By Greg Beck

Today’s Topic: 諺 / ことわざ / Proverb
Kanji: 三人寄れば文殊の知恵
Kana: さんにんよればもんじゅのちえ
Translation: Three heads are better than one.

Okay, so the English equivalent is “two heads are better than one,” but the Japanese say three instead of two and, rather than comparing it negatively to one person, they compare three people favorably to a bodhisattva. In Buddhism, there is a Buddha (or “bodhisattva”) of Transcendent Wisdom named Mañjuśrī, or “文殊” in Japanese. This deity wields a flaming sword of wisdom that slices and dices through ignorance and hypocrisy.

But even outside the Asian group-oriented mindset, it is common knowledge that when you are stuck with a problem it helps to ask others for advice. By consulting your peers, you will 寄る (attract) more 知恵 (wisdom). Even if you fancy yourself a “lone wolf” or don’t wish to burden others with your problems, ultimately those who do will benefit from combining intellects. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to “A Little Help from My Friends” by The Beatles.