Robert Baker Aitken

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Robert Baker Aitken
Robert Baker Aitken.JPG
School Zen Buddhism
Lineage Harada-Yasutani
Education University of Hawaii
University of California
Born (1917-06-19)June 19, 1917
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Died August 5, 2010(2010-08-05) (aged 93)
Honolulu, Hawaii
Spouse Anne Hopkins Aitken
Children Tom Aitken
Senior posting
Title Roshi
Predecessor Yamada Koun
Religious career
Teacher Soen Nakagawa
Nyogen Senzaki

Robert Baker Dairyu Chotan Aitken Rōshi (June 19, 1917 – August 5, 2010) was a Zen teacher in the Harada-Yasutani lineage. He co-founded the Honolulu Diamond Sangha in 1959 together with his wife. Aitken received Dharma transmission from Koun Yamada in 1985 but decided to live as a layperson. He was a socialist advocating social justice for gays, women and Native Hawaiians throughout his life, and was one of the original founders of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.[1][2]


Robert Baker Aitken and Anne Hopkins Aitken

Robert Aitken was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1917, then was raised in Hawaii from the age of five.

Living in Guam as a civilian working in construction—at the onset of World War II—he was detained by the Japanese and held in internment camps for the duration of the war.[3] In one such internment camp in Kobe, Japan in 1944 he met the scholar Reginald Horace Blyth,[3] with whom he had frequent discussions on Zen Buddhism and anarchism. At the conclusion of the war he returned to Hawaii and obtained a B.A. in English literature and an MA in Japanese from the University of Hawaii.[4][5]

In the late 1940s, while going to classes briefly at the University of California in Berkeley, California, he met Nyogen Senzaki.[6] Originally in California hoping for an encounter with Krishnamurti, he began to study with Senzaki in Los Angeles. It was during this period that his commitment to leftist social issues - such as pacifism and labor rights - became more vocal. As a result of his advocacy, he was investigated during this period by the FBI.

In 1950 he went back to Japan, under a grant to study haiku and followed Senzaki's recommendation that he study Zen there.[3] There he took part in his first sesshin at Engaku-ji, a temple in Kamakura, Japan.[3] Soon after, he met Nakagawa Soen, who persuaded him to come for a stay at Ryutakuji for the next seven months. During this period Soen took over for the ailing abbot of the temple, Yamamoto Gempo.[3] Aitken then came down with a case of dysentery, and returned home to Hawaii. He married his second wife Anne Hopkins in 1957 and made occasional trips back to Japan. In 1957 Aitken met Hakuun Yasutani and sat with him for the first time.[6][7][8][4][5]

In 1959 he and Anne began a meditation group in Honolulu at their residence, which became known as the Koko-an zendo. The community that gathered at this zendo were then named the Diamond Sangha by the two. The Diamond Sangha has affiliate zen centers in South America, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Europe and is known for making the rigors of traditional Zen accessible to lay practitioners.[9][10]

In 1960 Soen Nakagawa Roshi asked young monk Eido Tai Shimano to travel to Honolulu to assist at the Diamond Sangha center.[11]

In 1961, Aitken made an extended stay in Japan to study under Haku'un Yasutani, eventually ending his studies with Soen. He then worked in various capacities at the East-West Center and the University of Hawaii until 1969, when he and Anne moved to Maui, Hawaii to found the Maui Zendo in Haiku-Pauwela. Koun Yamada Rōshi was invited to lead the Diamond Sangha and he moved to Hawaii in 1971. In 1974 Aitken was given permission to teach by Koun Yamada, receiving full Dharma transmission from him in 1985.[6][12]

Robert Aitken was a social activist through much of his adult life, beginning with against nuclear testing during the 1940s. He was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War,[13] and became a strong opponent of the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. He was among the earlier proponents of deep ecology in religious America, and was outspoken in his beliefs on the equality of men and women. In 1978 Aitken helped found the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, an organization that advocates conflict resolution globally.[5][14]

Aitken Roshi died after a brief bout with pneumonia on August 5, 2010 in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii.

Dharma heirs

Robert Aitken appointed a number of successors, several of whom also appointed successors:[15]

  1. Alcalde, Augusto Nyo'ei Gen'un Roshi (b. 1950). Teacher at the Vimalakirti Sangha, Shobo-an, Cordoba, Argentina, and a visiting teacher at the Melbourne Zen Group, Melbourne, Australia. In April/March 2001 he has formally resigned from the Diamond Sangha, has discontinued most of his teaching engagements and has given up the use of the title "Roshi."
  2. Barzaghi, Subhana, Gyo Shin, Myo-Un-An Roshi (7 Aug 1954-). Also a teacher appointed by John Tarrant.
  3. Bobrow, Joseph. Teacher at the Deep Streams Zen Institute (formerly known as The Harbour Sangha), San Francisco, US]
  4. Bolleter, Ross Roshi (18 Jul 1946-). Also received Transmission from J. Tarrant. Teacher at the Zen Group of Western Australia, Perth, Australia. Teacher at the Maitai Zendo Nelson, New Zealand.
    1. Jaksch, Mary Jise Roshi (1947-). Teacher at the Maitai Zendo, Nelson, NZ
    2. Murphy, Susan Myo Sei Ryu'un An Roshi (17 Jun 1950-). In 2001 she also received Transmission from J. Tarrant. The founding teacher of Zen Open Circle group in Sydney, Australia [96]. Together with Subhana Barzaghi, teacher of the Melbourne Zen Group since 2001.
    3. Sweetman, Ian. Teacher at the Zen Group of Western Australia, Perth, Australia.
    4. Joyner, Robert G. Roshi (9 Apr 1937-). Teacher at the Adelaide Zen Group in Adelaide, South Australia.
    5. Wallis, Glenn Roshi(1960-) Dunedin, New Zealand
    6. Rhydwen, Mari Roshi (b. 1951-) Teacher at Zen Group of Western Australia.
    7. Wells, Arthur Roshi (1945-) Teacher for the Christchurch Zen Group, New Zealand
      1. Weaver, Sean Sensei (1965-) Teacher at the Golden Bay Zen Group, New Zealand
  5. Henry, Michael Danan Roshi (b. 1939-). This appointment follows that by Philip Kapleau. Teacher at the Denver Zen Center [28]
    1. Kempe, Karin Sensei. Teacher at the Denver Zen Center. In 2008 the Head of Zendo at Zen Center of Denver.
    2. Morgareidge, Ken Sensei. Teacher at the Denver Zen Center [186]. In 2005-2007 the Head of Zendo at Zen Center of Denver.
    3. Sheehan, Peggy Sensei. Teacher at the Denver Zen Center [186]. In 2001-2005 the Head of Zendo at Zen Center of Denver.
  6. Dawson, Geoff. Assistant teacher within R. Aitken Line, gone independent. Following the separation from R. Aitken Roshi and J. Tarrant Roshi, Geoff Dawson became, in late 1990s, a student of Joko Beck Roshi. Received Dharma Transmission from Joko Beck in 2003 [257]. Teacher at the Ordinary Mind Zen School Sydney, Australia.
  7. Drosten, Rolf Rev. Roshi. Teacher at the Leverkusen Zen Group, also known as the "Wolken und Mond Sangha" (Clouds and Moon Sangha), Leverkusen, Germany.
    1. Haffer-Penther, Amelie Roshi.
    2. Jung, Franz Xaver Roshi.
    3. Zill, Burkard Roshi.
  8. Duffy, Jack Kenzan Kan'un Ken Roshi (b. 1951-). Teacher at the Three Treasures Sangha, Seattle, US.
    1. Zeedyk, Jana (b. 1953-) Associate teacher
  9. Foster, Nelson (b. 1951-). Teacher at the Ring of Bone Zendo, California, and at the Honolulu Diamond Sangha, Hawaii, US.
    1. Kieran, Michael. Co-teacher at the Honolulu Diamond Sangha, Hawaii, US.
  10. Hawk, Pat Seisho Shin'un Fr. Roshi (1942-2012). Teacher at the Zen Desert Sangha, Tucson, AZ US. Teacher at the Mountain Cloud Zen Center, Santa Fe, NM, US.
    1. Dorsey, Dan Roshi. Teacher at the Zen Desert Sangha, Tucson, AZ US.
    2. Larson, Kristen Roshi. Teacher at the North Olympic Sangha (NO Sangha), Port Angeles, US.
    3. Marcel, Leonard Roshi
    4. Dharan, Saudi Arabia, Guest Teacher at the Leverkusen Zen Group, Germany]
    5. Saalfeld, Joan SNJM
    6. Walker, Robert (Bob) Roshi
      1. Sanders, Paul. Assistant teacher
    7. Weimar, Susan Roshi. Teacher at the Zen Desert Sangha, Tucson, AZ US, The Flagstaff Zen Group, and Empty Sky Sangha.
  11. Gyger, Pia Jinji Sr. Roshi (b. 1940). Teacher at the One Ground Sangha, Luzern, Switzerland.
  12. Morgan, Marian. Assistant teacher. Founder and teacher of Clear Spring Zen in Charlottesville, VA, and teacher at the Zen Center of Reading, PA.
  13. Steger, Manfred B. (b. 1961-). Assistant teacher, gone independent in mid-1991. Co-teacher, together with his wife, Perle Besserman (a Robert Aitken's student, did not receive from Aitken Roshi a sanction to teach) of the Princeton Area Zen Group, Princeton NJ, US.
  14. Tarrant, John Nanryu Ji'un-ken Roshi (b. 1949). Left the Diamond Sangha in the late 1999. Head and teacher of the California Diamond Sangha, an organization renamed in January 2000 as the Pacific Zen Institute, US.
    1. Barzaghi, Subhana Gyo Shin, Myo-Un-An Roshi (b. 1954). Also received Transmission from Robert Aitken. Teacher (Diamond Sangha) at the Sydney Zen Centre, and visiting teacher at the Melbourne Zen Group, Melbourne, Australia.
      1. Burke, Sexton (b. 1944-). Assistant teacher. Teacher (Diamond Sangha) at the Sydney Zen Centre, Australia.
      2. Coote, Gillian Jitsu Mu Roshi (b. 1944) Teacher (Diamond Sangha) at the Sydney Zen Centre, Australia.
      3. Davison, Ellen. Assistant teacher
      4. Gluek, Maggie Seiryu Roshi. Teacher (Diamond Sangha) at the Sydney Zen Centre, Australia.
      5. Maloney, Paul Roshi(b. 1939-). Teacher (Diamond Sangha) at the Sydney Zen Centre, Australia.
      6. Mayer, Justine Mu Gen Kai Roshi (b. 1963-). Teacher (Diamond Sangha) at the Darwin Zen Group, Australia.
      7. Marett, Allan. Assistant Teacher. Teacher (Diamond Sangha) at the Sydney Zen Centre, Australia.
    2. Bolleter, Ross Roshi (b. 1946-). Also appointed by Robert Aitken.
    3. Ford, James Ishmael Zeno Myoun Roshi (b. 1948). Also a Soto teacher appointed by Jiyu Kennett Roshi. Taught at the Desert Lotus Zen Sangha, US. An adjunct teacher at the Pacific Zen Institute in Santa Rosa, US, and the teacher at the Boundless Way Zen.
      1. Blacker, Melissa Keido Myozen Sensei (b. 1954). A co-teacher of the Worcester Zen Sangha, an affiliate organization within Boundless Way Zen.
      2. Ross, Lanny Sevan Keido Sei'an Sensei (b. 1951). Also holds the Dharma Transmission in the Philip Kapleau lineage bestowed on him in 2001 by Bodhin Kjolhede Roshi.
      3. Port, Dosho Roshi (b. 1956). Also holds the Dharma Transmission in the Daicho Hayashi lineage bestowed on him in 1984 by Dainin Katagiri. Abbot and head priest at the Nebraska Zen Center.
    4. Mansfield-Howlett, Rachel. Head teacher at Santa Rosa City Zen, US. Teacher and at the Desert Lotus Zen Sangha in Phoenix, CO, US.
    5. Murphy, Susan Myo Sei Ryu'un An Roshi (b. 1950-). An adjunct teacher at the Pacific Zen Institute in Santa Rosa, US. Also received Transmission from Ross Bolleter.
    6. Saint, Deborah. Sensei. A teacher at the Desert Lotus Zen Sangha, Phoenix, AZ. and at the Pacific Zen Institute.
    7. Sutherland, Joan Roshi (b. 1954). Co-founder of and teacher at the Pacific Zen Institute, Santa Rosa, guiding teacher of the Springs Mountain Sangha in Colorado Springs, CO. and a teacher of the Mountain Cloud Zen Center, Santa Fe, US.
      1. Bender, Sarah Masland Sensei (b. 1948). A resident teacher for the Springs Mountain Sangha in Colorado Springs, CO., and also a Cadet Chapel Buddhist Program Leader at the United States Air Force Academy. A teacher at the Springs Mountain Zendo, CO.
      2. Palmer, Andrew Sensei (b. 1971).
    8. Terragno, Danièl Ki-Nay (b. 1947-) Roshi. Teacher at the 'Rocks & Clouds Zendo', Sebastopol, CA, US. Also, the visiting teacher for the Yellow Springs Dharma Centre and the Columbus Zen Corner in Ohio, and in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
      1. Parekh, Antoinette Kenjo Shin (b. 1959) Apprentice teacher.
    9. Twentyman, Craig. Independent teacher
    10. Weinstein, David Onryu Ko'un (b. 1949-) Roshi. The guiding teacher of the Oakland Zendo of the Pacific Zen Institute. The guiding teacher of the Fair Oaks Sangha, Menlo Park, Ca., an affiliate of the Pacific Zen Institute. A teacher of the Springs Mountain Sangha, Colorado Springs, CO.


See also


  1. Seager, Richard Hughes (1999). Buddhism in America. Columbia University Press. p. 95. ISBN 0-231-10868-0. 
  2. Woo, Elaine (August 10, 2010). "Robert Aitken dies at 93; American Zen master". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 15, 2015. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Fields, Rick (1992). How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America. Shambhala Publications. pp. 201–202. ISBN 0-87773-631-6. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Aitken, Robert, Merwin, W.S. (2003). A Zen Wave: Basho's Haiku and Zen. Shoemaker & Hoard Publishers. p. xi, xii. ISBN 1-59376-008-6. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Queen, Christopher S (2000). Engaged Buddhism in the West. Wisdom publications. pp. 70–73. ISBN 0-86171-159-9. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Prebish, Charles S (1999). Luminous passage: the practice and study of Buddhism in America. University of California Press. pp. 19, 20, 21. ISBN 0-520-21697-0. 
  7. Yasutani, Hakuun (1996). Flowers Fall: A Commentary on Zen Master Dogen's Genjokoan. Shambala. pp. XXVI. ISBN 1-57062-103-9. 
  8. Wenger, Michael (2001). Wind Bell: Teachings from the San Francisco Zen Center (1968-2001). North Atlantic Books. p. viii. ISBN 1-55643-381-6. 
  9. "Honolulu Diamond Sangha". 
  10. "Affiliates of the Diamond Sangha". Archived from the original on 2010-01-10. 
  11. Ford, James Ishmael (2006). Zen Master Who?: A Guide to the People and Stories of Zen. Wisdom Publications. p. 114. ISBN 0-86171-509-8. 
  12. Chappell, David W (2000). Buddhist Peacework: Creating Cultures of Peace. Wisdom Publications. p. 93. ISBN 0-86171-167-X. 
  13. Fields, Rick (1992). How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America. Shambhala Publications. p. 256. ISBN 0-87773-631-6. 
  14. Burke, Daniel (August 13, 2010). "American Zen master Robert Aitken dies". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved April 15, 2015. 
  15. Sanbo Kyodan: Harada-Yasutani School of Zen Buddhism and its Teachers

External links

Historical people list

Historical people

Main subcategories of People are: Historical people - Living people - All people - People categories ... (Is a bio not here, or minimal?)

Masao Abe Robert Baker Aitken Ron Allen (playwright) B. R. Ambedkar Ananda
Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Thero Angulimala Aniruddha Mahathera Anuruddha Nauyane Ariyadhamma Mahathera
Aryadeva Asai Ryōi Assaji Atiśa Nisthananda Bajracharya
Benimadhab Barua Joko Beck Sanjaya Belatthiputta Charles Henry Allan Bennett Hubert Benoit (psychotherapist)
John Blofeld Bodhidharma Edward Espe Brown Polwatte Buddhadatta Thera Buddhaghosa
Acharya Buddharakkhita Marie Byles Ajahn Chah Rerukane Chandawimala Thero Channa
Chokgyur Lingpa Edward Conze L. S. Cousins Brian Cutillo 1st Dalai Lama
2nd Dalai Lama 3rd Dalai Lama 4th Dalai Lama 5th Dalai Lama 6th Dalai Lama
7th Dalai Lama 8th Dalai Lama 9th Dalai Lama 10th Dalai Lama 11th Dalai Lama
12th Dalai Lama 13th Dalai Lama Bidia Dandaron Alexandra David-Néel Marian Derby
Devadatta U Dhammaloka K. Sri Dhammananda Dharmaditya Dharmacharya Dharmakirti
Dharmapala of Nalanda Anagarika Dharmapala Dharmottara Dignāga Dōgen
Dongchu Dongshan Liangjie Khakyab Dorje, 15th Karmapa Lama Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, 16th Karmapa Rangjung Dorje, 3rd Karmapa Lama
Heinrich Dumoulin Düsum Khyenpa, 1st Karmapa Lama Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö Walter Evans-Wentz Family of Gautama Buddha
Frederick Franck Gampopa Gelek Rimpoche Gö Lotsawa Zhönnu-pel Gorampa
Maha Pajapati Mahapajapati Mahapajapati Gotami Rita Gross Gurulugomi
Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo Tsangpa Gyare Gendun Gyatso Palzangpo Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso Dolpopa
Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen Gyeongbong Han Yong-un Thich Nhat Hanh Walisinghe Harischandra
Eugen Herrigel Ernő Hetényi Marie Musaeus Higgins Raicho Hiratsuka Shin'ichi Hisamatsu
Hsuan Hua Huiyuan (Buddhist) Christmas Humphreys K. N. Jayatilleke 2nd Jebtsundamba Khutughtu
9th Jebtsundamba Khutughtu Jeongang Kadawedduwe Jinavamsa Mahathera Ken Jones (Buddhist) David Kalupahana
Dainin Katagiri Katyayana (Buddhist) Bob Kaufman Kaundinya Jack Kerouac
Bogd Khan Khema Ayya Khema Dilgo Khentse Dilgo Khyentse
King Suppabuddha Jamgon Kongtrul Kukkuripa Kumar Kashyap Mahasthavir Kunkhyen Pema Karpo
Drukpa Kunley Trevor Leggett Arthur Lillie Karma Lingpa Robert Linssen
Longchenpa John Daido Loori Albert Low Luipa Taizan Maezumi
Mahakasyapa Mahākāśyapa Mahamoggallana Mahasi Sayadaw Jyotipala Mahathera
Nagasena Mahathera S. Mahinda Gunapala Piyasena Malalasekera Marpa Lotsawa Peter Matthiessen
Maudgalyayana Maya (mother of Buddha) Maya (mother of the Buddha) Gustav Meyrink Edward Salim Michael
Milarepa Mingun Sayadaw Sōkō Morinaga Hiroshi Motoyama Mun Bhuridatta
Myokyo-ni Nagarjuna Nagasena Soen Nakagawa Bhikkhu Nanamoli
Matara Sri Nanarama Mahathera Nanavira Thera Nanda Naropa Nichiren
Kitaro Nishida Gudō Wafu Nishijima Nyanaponika Nyanaponika Thera Nyanatiloka
Thothori Nyantsen Ōbaku Toni Packer Padmasambhava Sakya Pandita
Paramanuchitchinorot Pema Lingpa Prajñāvarman Punna Rāhula
Thotagamuwe Sri Rahula Thera Walpola Rahula Paul Reps Caroline Rhys Davids Sonam Rinchen (Buddhist geshe)
Hammalawa Saddhatissa Kazi Dawa Samdup Chatral Sangye Dorje Ajahn Sao Kantasīlo Sariputta
Sayadaw U Tejaniya Seongcheol Seungsahn Shantideva Shavaripa
Sheng-yen Zenkei Shibayama Takamaro Shigaraki Silabhadra Sīlācāra
Shin Maha Silavamsa Śrāvaka Subhashitaratnanidhi Subhuti Suddhodana
Śuddhodana D. T. Suzuki Shunryū Suzuki Taklung Thangpa Tashi Pal The ten principal disciples
Tiantong Rujing Tilopa Chögyam Trungpa Tsangnyön Heruka Yeshe Tsogyal
Upali Uppalavanna Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo Xuanzang Yasa
Yashodhara Yasodharā Linji Yixuan Zanabazar Śāriputra

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