Robert Baker Aitken
Robert Baker Aitken (born 1917 in Philadelphia) is an American teacher of Zen Buddhism in the Harada-Yasutani (or Sanbo Kyodan) tradition, a blending of Soto and Rinzai schools. He was a student of Nyogen Senzaki, Sõen Nakagawa, and Haku’un Yasutani and was a disciple of Koun Yamada.
The grandson of astronomer Robert Grant Aitken, he attended the University of Hawai'i before and after World War II, earning degrees in English and Japanese Studies. During these studies, he worked closely with a number of academic teachers, including D.T. Suzuki. His involvement in Zen academia would continue throughout his life.
While in a wartime Japanese prison camp (he had been captured as a civilian in Guam), he became interested in Buddhism. In 1950, Aitken made the first in a series of ongoing trips to study Zen as a spiritual student, beginning with Sõen Nakagawa at Ryutaku-ji monastery. Over the next twenty-four years, he would travel to Japan. to study with Zen masters, and to Los Angeles to study with Nyogen Senzaki
In 1959 Robert Aitken and his wife Anne Hopkins Aitken moved to Hawai'i to be near his young son Thomas Laune Aitken. There they established a Zen Center, the Diamond Sangha , which had two zendos in Hawai'i. Aitken was authorized to teach by Kõun Yamada in 1974. He was given full transmission by Yamada in 1985.
His most well-known book is Taking the Path of Zen, published in 1982, a practical guide to zazen and Zen practice. He has since published numerous works, including several translations, teishos and commentaries on koans.
Aitken has been a noted peace activist, demonstrating against nuclear arms, the Vietnam War and violence in general. He was a participant in founding the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and the Hawai'i chapters of the ACLU and AFSC, and has always been an advocate of interreligious dialogue. He is notable in his teachings and writings for his views on the moral implications of Zen.
- (1982). Taking the Path of Zen, North Point. ISBN 0865470804.
- (1984). The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics, North Point. ISBN 0865471584.
- (1991). The Gateless Barrier: The Wu-menkuan (Mumonkan), North Point. ISBN 0865474427.
- (1992). The Dragon Who Never Sleeps: Verses for Zen Buddhist Practice, Parallax. ISBN 0938077600.
- (1994). Encouraging Words: Zen Buddhist Teachings for Western Students, Pantheon; Reprint edition. ISBN 0679756523.
- (1996). The Ground We Share: Everyday Practice, Buddhist and Christian, with David Steindl-Rast, Shambhala. ISBN 1570622191.
- (1997). The Practice of Perfection: The Paramitas from a Zen Buddhist Perspective, Counterpoint. ISBN 1887178406.
- (1997). Original Dwelling Place: Zen Buddhist Essays, Counterpoint; Reprint edition. ISBN 1887178414.
- (2002). Zen Master Raven: Savings and Doings of a Wise Bird, Tuttle; 1st ed edition. ISBN 0804834733.
- (2003). A Zen Wave: Basho's Haiku and Zen, Shoemaker & Hoard. ISBN 1593760086.
- (2003). The Morning Star: New and Selected Zen Writings, Shoemaker & Hoard. ISBN 1593760019.
- (2006). Vegetable Roots Discourse: Wisdom from the Ming, with Daniel W.Y. Kwok, Shoemaker & Hoard. ISBN 1593760914.