The Institute of Buddhist Studies is happy to announce that Rev. Dr. Takashi Miyaji has joined our core faculty this year. Rev. Miyaji teaches on Shin Buddhist doctrine, ethics, and history. Below, I ask him some quick questions about his life, teaching, and interests.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What brought you to the academic study of Buddhism?
A: I wanted to study Buddhism after I experienced the loss of my grandparents and I started wondering what life was about. I tried to study philosophy in college to see if that would help, but it was a big disappointment and I actually got more confused than when I got there. I then started talking with my dad about various issues regarding religion, life and death, etc. and that’s when I realized this religion provided much more guidance than I could get from anywhere else.
Q: I remember those confusing college philosophy classes! There’s definitely a tangible and practical quality to religion that is often absent in philosophy, I’ve found. What do you teach now?
A: This semester I teach the Works of Shinran. Next semester I will be looking at the Kyogyoshinsho.
What I find to be the challenge for me is to explain and persuade why a particular topic is necessary to know and why it is relevant to our lives now. Why does knowing about jinen
help me in my outlook on life? Why do I need to know about the issue of doubt in Shinran’s thinking? Etc.
Q: It sounds like you’re weaving together the emotional and the intellectual in a beautiful way. On a different note, what are your hobbies? Favorite food?
A: I have recently started gardening and I am hoping that would be something that would keep me busy during my leisure time. I have also been dabbling in taking hikes and walks. My favorite food is Japanese, big surprise there. My go-to is usually udon or tamagokake gohan, which consists of raw egg, shoyu, and rice mixed together. Very simple but a nice bowl of amazingness. Throw in some green onion and natto too!
Q: I love tamagokake gohan! I feel like it’s really an unsung, unappreciated Japanese food in the West. It hasn’t made its way into the hearts and stomachs of white Americans the way other dishes have. How about favorite music?
A: Favorite music right now is lo-fi…good study music. Also “old school” hip hop, but I don’t know when my music all of the sudden became “old school.” I did not get the memo on that one. I also like to listen to soulful house music, which is basically house music with singing on top of it to not make it so boring and redundant.
Q: I assume your favorite music became “old school” somewhere between 50 Cent and Cardi B… But no shame in old school hip-hop! That stuff’s great. By the way, a little bird told me to ask you if you still have a DJ name. Do you? Please explain!
A: I used to DJ a long time ago. I only play music now basically to entertain myself because it’s too much time and effort to keep up with the times. All the music nowadays is a bunch of nonsense anyway, which is most likely what the previous generation says about the music I listen to! I went by DJ Taka.
Q: Nice. What’s one book you think everyone should read about Buddhism?
A: Alfred Bloom’s book entitled Strategies for Modern Living. It is an English commentary on the Tannishō.
Q: Anything you want to brag about?
A: I make a pretty good yaki-udon dish, which is like yaki-soba but with udon noodles. I also do pretty good voice impersonations like Elmo, the Count, Arnold Schwarzenegger (who can’t do that one though…), Grover, Rev. Umezu, my dad, etc. I have to keep my family entertained somehow during the coronavirus…