Deistpedia: The Deist EnCyclopedia

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I   J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 0-9

Robert Baker Aitken

Robert Aitken and Anne Aitken
Robert Aitken and Anne 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.

In 1984 he published The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics, which was the first major book dealing with the application of the Ten Cardinal Precepts for Western Zen adherents.

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.

Today, the Diamond Sangha has affiliate zen centers in South America, Australia, the United States and Europe, while Aitken continues to publish and enjoy his semi-retirement in Honolulu.

Selected Works