Where did you grow up? I was born in Los Angeles, but my father took the family to Tokyo when I was 2 to finish his graduate studies. Since then, I’ve moved about 25 times to different places in the US and Japan. I feel like I’m coming home when I travel. We’ve been in Eugene, Oregon, for 22 years, the longest I’ve lived anywhere.
When did you become a Buddhist and why? I’m the fourteenth-generation ordained Shin Buddhist priest in my family lineage. My grandfather came to this country in 1935 as the twelfth-generation priest in his family. In some ways, I’ve been Buddhist for many lives, for millions of years. In other ways, it was a conscious process that began with an existential moment in my twenties. Buddhist in my mind does not refer to a thing but a becoming, a path.
What’s your daily practice? The heart of practice is to listen for the voiceless voice of boundless compassion, illuminating, enveloping, and dissolving this “I.” I set aside time every day, every morning to sit quietly to hear this voiceless voice, coming to me as the Name: Namu Amida Butsu, “I, this foolish being, entrust myself to the awakening of infinite light.”
Favorite aphorism? I have two: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” –Shunryu Suzuki
“Even the person of good karma attains birth in the realm of oneness beyond words; how much more so the person carrying the burden of great evil karma.” –Shinran Shonin
Favorite musician? Miles Davis, Kind of Blue phase.
What do you like to do in your free time? Take walks, do a little weeding in the yard.
What non-Buddhist do you look to for guidance? The Taoist classic philosopher Zhuangzi.
Favorite breakfast on retreat? Fruit cup with yogurt mixed with oatmeal, nuts, and raisins.
What were you voted in high school? Biggest Goofball.
In February, watch Mark T. Unno’s Dharma Talk series, “The Heart of Great Compassion: The Path of Shin Buddhism” at tricycle.org/dharmatalks
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.